Virginia Prescott

Host, Word of Mouth

Prior to joining NHPR, Virginia Prescott was editor and producer for the nationally syndicated programs On Point and Here & Now, produced at WBUR in Boston. Virginia grew up in New Hampshire, but began her radio career at WWOZ Radio in New Orleans. She moved to New York City and worked for the team behind NPR’s Peabody Award-winning Jazz from Lincoln Center series with Ed Bradley. Virginia then joined WNYC to launch the station’s website and oversee all its interactive media sites. Throughout her radio career, Virginia helped set up independent radio stations in developing regions in southern and West Africa. She has also trained journalists in post-conflict zones from Sierra Leone to the former Yugoslavia. She was awarded a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University where she studied how broadcast media could spark dialogue and build community across terrestrial borders.

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Word of Mouth
12:10 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

NSA Caught Spying In Online Video Games

Credit snooze via Flickr Creative Commons

With 7.6 million subscribers, more people play the multiplayer online game World of Warcraft than live in the state of Massachusetts. According to NSA documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, at least some of those slaying dragons on World of Warcraft are posing as elf mages and dwarf warriors, but are actually American and British spies. The leaked NSA docs identified Worlds of Warcraft, Second Life and some Xbox games as a potential “target-rich communication network” allowing suspects “a way to hide in plain sight. The snarky comments following the leak charge intelligence agents as just wanting to play video games. Joining me now to talk about this discovery is Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security for the New York Times, and reported on the strategy.

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Word of Mouth
11:18 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Why Jury Duty Matters

Credit NYU Press

One day you check the mail, and flipping past the usual assortment of bills, credit card offers, and shopping catalogs, you find a letter that begins “Dear citizen"—a summons to serve jury duty. Whether met with annoyance, anxiety, or a burning desire to game the selection process, this (albeit inconvenient) civic duty is an intrinsic part of being an American.

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Word of Mouth
11:18 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Farmers Return To Conventional Seeds For Crops

Credit Jen Goellnitz via flickr Creative Commons

While an increasing number of states and retailers are looking to pass GMO labeling laws, planting genetically modified corn, soybeans, and cotton remains the norm among North American farmers.  Seed makers claim that of modified – or treated – crops resist pests and disease, reducing the need for expensive herbicides and pesticides. In pockets across the nation, however, farmers who once championed GMO seeds are complaining that they no longer deliver on those claims. Some are reverting back to conventional seeds for their commodities crops.  Elizabeth Royte is a contributor for Fern, The Food and Environment Reporting Network.  Her article, “The Post GMO-Economy” is featured in the winter issue of Modern Farmer.

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Word of Mouth
9:51 am
Wed December 11, 2013

Why Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) Failed

Credit Corie Howell via Flickr Creative Commons

Sebastian Thrun, the man behind perhaps the most disruptive idea to hit higher education -- massive open online courses or more commonly... MOOCs -- has decided to pack it in. While some traditional educators might be saying “I told you so”, proponents of online education are worried about what this shift means for its future. Rebecca Schuman is education columnist for Slate and adjunct professor at the University of Missouri. She wrote about Sebastian Thrun -- the acknowledged godfather of MOOC’s -- and his pivot away from them.

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Word of Mouth
11:34 am
Tue December 10, 2013

The Case For Compensating Bone Marrow Donors

Patient donating bone marrow.
Credit David Grove via flickr Creative Commons

In 1984 Congress passed the National Organ Transplant Act to address the nation’s critical organ donation shortage and improve the organ matching and placement process. The act made it illegal for anyone to give or acquire an organ for material gain. Now, almost three decades later, the act is making headlines again but this time in response to the push to rescind a ruling by the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit. The court ruled that certain types of bone marrow donors could be compensated. Now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to overturn the decision, arguing that bone-marrow is subject to the 1984 act and as such, may not be compensated.

Dr. Sally Satel is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and a practicing psychiatrist and lecturer at the Yale University School of Medicine; she examines mental health policy as well as political trends. She wrote the article “Why It’s Okay To Pay Bone-Marrow Donors” for Bloomberg.com.

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Word of Mouth
11:27 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Live Free Or Sci-Fi: Speculative Fiction Set In The Granite State

In early September, 1965 a UFO sighting was reported near Exeter, New Hampshire.  Air force investigators were sent to question several eye witnesses who reported a “big orange ball” and a “huge dark object as big as a barn with flashing red lights” in the sky.  They dismissed the sighting as “nothing more than stars and planets twinkling…owing to a temperature inversion.” The incident is one of the best documented accounts of an alleged close encounter with the paranormal.  New Hampshire’s brush with paranormal fame makes it the perfect setting for a new compilation of short stories called Live Free or Sci-Fi. The book features stories that bend science and reality together into hair raising tales of speculative fiction.

Rick Broussard is the editor of Live Free or Sci-Fi and creator of the New Hampshire pulp fiction series. He is also the editor of New Hampshire Magazine.

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Word of Mouth
10:57 am
Tue December 10, 2013

The Hazards Of An Unregulated Sperm Industry

Credit Iqbal Osman via Flickr Creative Commons

In the new movie “Delivery Man,” Vince Vaughn discovers that his “donation” has been used hundreds of times without his knowledge. Far-fetched plot? Maybe not. The United States does not track sperm donations. We have no idea how many there are, how often they're donated, nor how many children are born from those donations. Rene Almeling is an assistant professor of sociology at Yale. She wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times about “The Unregulated Sperm Industry.”

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Word of Mouth
10:40 am
Mon December 9, 2013

The Not So Dirty Job Of Toilet Testing

Credit Sustainable Sanitation via Flickr Creative Commons

More than a third of the world’s population don’t have access to clean, safe toilets. It’s a humanitarian and global health hazard, that the world bank drains $260 billion off the global economy each year. The Gates Foundation challenged engineers to develop commodes that are clean, cheap, and don’t require electricity, a sewage system, or even water. But as with and new product, you have to test it. That’s where John Koeller comes in. He’s principal engineer at Maximum Performance, a company who tests toilet efficiency, using its own – ahem—patented material.

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Word of Mouth
10:21 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Invasion Of The Tumbleweeds

Skeletons of Russian thistle, better known as tumbleweed, pile up in a yard in Lancaster, California.
©Diane Cook and Len Jenshel/National Geographic

Tumbleweeds rolling? Must be a western. The cinematic signal of high plains desolation has an even more pernicious side: it’s an invasive species known as Russian Thistle, and it’s wreaking havoc across the United States. George Johnson is a writer based in Santa Fe, and a regular contributor to National Geographic, where he wrote about fighting the tumbleweed menace in his own backyard. To see more photos click here.

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Word of Mouth
9:55 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Inside The World Of Competitive Laughing

Credit Arnett Gill via Flickr Creative Commons

We all know laughter can be contagious. But can it be a good workout?  A form of therapy?  Even a skill?  Many happy devotees think, yes. Inspired in part by the growing popularity of laughter yoga, filmmaker and journalist Albert Nerenberg hosted the first official laughing contest in Montreal back in 2011. He’s also the director of the 2009 documentary, Laughology.

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Word of Mouth
9:34 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Bad Eating Habits Form Before You're Born

Credit Rafael Viana Araujo via Flickr Creative Commons

You may be familiar with the ordeal of introducing children to broccoli and spinach.  Two new studies suggest that finicky eaters might have picked up their discriminating habit in the womb. Forget genetics, personal responsibility, and discipline. Your taste for junk food and soda may have a lot to do with how your mother satisfied her cravings.

Kristin Wartman, is a food, politics and health journalist. She recently wrote about the new science of food choices for the New York Times.

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Word of Mouth
10:36 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Word Of Mouth 12.7.2013

Credit Logan Shannon / NHPR

The Word of Mouth Saturday show is like a big bowl of hearty soup on a blustery day. It warms you up, has all the ingredients you love, and is the right combination of healthy and indulgent. We pack our Saturday show with the good stuff, interesting and fulfilling stories, you can always feel free to have an extra helping. On this weeks show:

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Word of Mouth
4:31 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

“I promised myself I wouldn’t wish for Jacoby Ellsbury to get hurt.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin joined Word of Mouth’s Virginia Prescott at the Music Hall in Portsmouth for Writers on a New England Stage. Goodwin was there Wednesday to talk about her best-selling book, “The Bully Pulpit: Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism.”

But the first question for the famously rabid baseball fan was what she made of Red Sox centerfielder and lead-off hitter Jacoby Ellsbury jumping to the New York Yankees. The author of “Wait Till Next Year” and “Team of Rivals” said that, in light of the team's championship run in 2013, she's not willing to second guess the decision to let him go.

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Word of Mouth
11:51 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Buying Stamps For Profit, Popular Science Ends Comments, & A Typewriter Causes An Internet Stir

Credit Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

On today's show:

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Word of Mouth
1:49 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Ted Williams' Complicated, Immortal Life

Credit via benbradleejr.com

“The Kid”, “The Splendid Splinter”, “Teddy Ballgame”; Ted Williams went by a few nicknames while playing for the Boston Red Sox.  Maybe none so fitting as: “The Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived.”  Williams was the last player in the major leagues to achieve a batting average over .400--which he did in 1941–in his third season in the majors. Ted Williams was obsessed with hitting, taking meticulous care of his bats, and was often observed swinging or posing for a pitch, whether he had a bat in his hands or not.

Off the field, the measure of Ted Williams is not so easy to follow. A private and mercurial man, he was moody and prone to bouts of rage. He would blow up at the press, his teammates, and his family. Williams married three times and had three children, but struck out as a father or husband. Ben Bradlee Jr., former editor and reporter for the Boston Globe, spent ten years trying to find out exactly why Ted Williams was the way he was. He interviewed more than six hundred people who knew “The Kid” going all the way back to his childhood. Ben Bradlee Jr.’s new book is called “The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams.”

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