Virginia Prescott

Host, Word of Mouth

Virginia Prescott invites listeners to take a break from breaking news and explore a world of under-reported stories on New Hampshire Public Radio as the host of Word of Mouth, a daily radio program and podcast. Prior to joining NHPR, she was editor, producer, and director for NPR programs On Point and Here & Now, and directed interactive media for New York Public Radio.

Throughout her radio career, Virginia has worked to build sustainable independent radio in the developing world and has trained journalists in post-conflict zones from Sierra Leone to the Balkans. She has been honored for her contributions with a Gracie award for her work on Word of Mouth, a Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University, and was a member of the Peabody Award-winning production team for Jazz from Lincoln Center with Ed Bradley. Virginia loves working in public radio, but regrets that so many good outfits go unnoticed.

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smithsonianmag.com

Everybody can benefit from taking a field trip. And here’s your chance… this Saturday is Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live. Follow this link: Smithsonian's Museum Day Live to download a free ticket that will get you and a guest into any participating Smithsonian museum, including the McCauliffe-Shepard Discovery Museum in Concord, the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire in Manchester, and the Strawberry Banke museum…where you can learn – among other things – about Portsmouth’s long love affair with beer.  And while brewing may not be the focus of 7th grade class trip, there is plenty more to learn at Strawberry Banke.

NASA HQ PHOTO via flickr Creative Commons

Chalk up another casualty to the economic crisis of 2008…The American Orchestra. Throughout the 1990s, major orchestras grew inside of an economic bubble of their own -- with donors and corporations funding generous contracts for musicians, and underwriting new concert halls and designing ambitious programs to court bigger audiences.  That bubble has since burst, exposing some of the nation’s premiere institutions to bankruptcies, foreclosures, lockouts and strikes. Philip Kennicot art and architecture critic for the Washington Post and he wrote about the current crisis facing America’s orchestras for New Republic.

Anthony Kelly via flickr Creative Commons

Adopting a child is for many people the culmination of a dream. But it takes work, and money – international adoptions can run from $15,000 to $40,000, and involve years of vetting and paperwork. Still, things don’t always work out.  A network of internet groups has become an underground market for advertising and discarding unwanted children – most of them adopted from abroad.  The process is called “private re-homing,” and it involves little or no government oversight. It’s the topic of an 18-month investigation by Reuters. Megan Twohey is investigative reporter at Thomson Reuters, and among those who worked on the 5-part series and multimedia presentation called, “The Child Exchange.”

Worklife Siemens via flickr Creative Commons

Of all the features on Apple’s newest iPhone, the one generating the most buzz by far is the finger print scanner.  The iPhone 5s allows people access to their phones without entering a passcode or even a swipe. So, is this the latest gimmick to sell phones or the beginning of the end of the password? David Ewalt writes about technology, games, space, and other geeky stuff as senior editor at Forbes…which is where you can find his blog, “Spacewar.”

Vermario vis flickr Creative Commons

Humans are vastly more social than most other mammals. Neuroscientists point to the development of our social brain as key to the survival of our species; early humans survived by cooperating with each other in the rearing of children, by hunting in bands, by organizing night watches. A battery of research reveals that people still need people.

Image courtesy Smith College

This year marks the 50th anniversary of poet Sylvia Plath’s death by suicide, the singular lens through which many readers and academics have viewed her life, writing, and marriage. Now, a new generation is re-discovering Plath from a fresh perspective, one not colored by her sad and macabre death. 

The mass retirement of baby boomers could trigger yet another housing crisis. Boomers were responsible for roughly 80% of home construction in the 80’s and 90’s, and many of those homes were big, too big for empty nesters transitioning to a fixed income. Enter a housing solution that’s been with us all along: mobile home communities, or trailer parks.

via ecologypad.com

As the curtain falls on another season of superhero blockbusters, Hollywood is already hard at work re-booting  "Batman," "Captain America," and the "Fantastic Four" franchises.  More than sixty high-profile superhero films have been released since the surprise success of "X-Men" in the year 2000.

Joe Hanson points us to a more enduring source of awe-inspiring acts: nature. Hanson is a biologist who writes and hosts the PBS. video series “It’s Okay to Be Smart.”

via scalisto.blogspot.com

Werner Herzog is one of the leading figures of world cinema. In addition to making more than 60 films, he’s produced more than 20 operas, published books and screenplays and articles, acted in films and produced art installations.

His films are known for their unnerving originality and difficult locations. He’s shot films deep in the jungles of Thailand and Brazil, through bone chilling temperatures in Antarctica, and under strained conditions from political coups to maneuvering in a cave of prehistoric art with only hand-held cameras and minimal crew.

His latest work is extreme in a different way… a startling public service announcement about the dangers of texting while driving. Herzog joined us from the studios at Dartmouth College, where he’ll be in residence this weekend.

Greening The O.R.

Sep 18, 2013
Flickr Creative Commons

Reduce, reuse, recycle? Not in the medical profession. While recycling has become the aspiration or even the norm in most areas of our daily lives, an operating room is the one place where recycling feels like a dangerous practice. Recent studies provide staggering statistics of the amount of waste produced by hospitals on a daily basis; one conservative estimate puts annual hospital waste at five point nine million tons, with operating rooms accounting for twenty to thirty percent of that total. In light of these numbers, there is a growing effort to bring sustainability into the health care sector while still maintaining the highest level of hygiene.

Curtis Gregory Perry via Flickr Creative Commons

Activism and innovation among Greeks started long before that country's debt crisis. In 2002, an Athens community fed up by slow and expensive service set up its own private internet. More than 1000 members of the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network have free access to the web with speeds up to 30 times faster than commercial telecom carriers in the area. Given global concerns over the extent of the NSA’s surveillance program, independent “mesh” networks like the one in Athens could be adapted in other communities.

Joe Kloc is a reporter for The Daily Dot.

Photo Credit KP Tripathi, via Flickr Creative Commons

Congressional approval ratings are currently scraping the floor at about 15%. Voters report feeling frustrated at the dominance of political posturing over action. The exasperation has many wondering what our Legislature does exactly, and what in the Sam Hill are they talking about on the hill. A new web-based tool allows citizens to track congressional discussion, bills -- including state bills -- and regulations concerning issues they care about. From raw milk to education bills to campaign finance, Scout is designed to deliver real time results and encourage a more informed public. Our guest is Tom Lee the director of Sunlight Labs, the technical arm of the Sunlight Foundation – which works to make government transparent and accountable. He and his team helped develop Scout.

Rakka via Flickr Creative Commons

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder caused by a reaction to a gluten protein affecting one in one-hundred Americans. Despite the low percentage of those intolerant to wheat products, more people are experimenting with the anti-gluten diet and claim to enjoy health benefits like better skin and fewer allergies.  But is this fad just that...or is there some medical substance behind these claims?

danceforparkinsons.org

A few years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, writer, producer, and Public Radio host Dave Iverson learned that the Mark Morris Dance Group was teaching dance to people with Parkinson's at its Brooklyn headquarters.  Dave was touched - and produced a special on the dance group for the PBS Newshour and the PBS series Frontline.

More recently, he's rounded up a team of pros to film students preparing for their first public performance. He’s launched a Kickstarter project called “Capturing Grace" to finish the film.

Also joining us is David Levanthal – who until recently was one of the Mark Morris Dance Group’s most celebrated dancers. He’s now focusing entirely on dance for PD, the program working with Parkinson’s patients.

The "military-entertainment complex" has been quietly developing for decades.  The Pentagon helped sponsor the first personal computers, a few big-budget hollywood films and funded the M.I.T. graduate students who created the first video game, called Spacewar!, in 1962. And for decades, the military has used video games and digital simulations to train troops.

The U.S. Army-developed video game America’s Army was originally invented as a means of re-branding the military in the eyes of teenagers. It is now the Army’s go-to tool and has even worked its way into public school lesson plans. Corey Mead is Assistant Professor of English at CUNY’s Baruch College, and author of War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict.

via sadp.ku.edu

Lance Rake is Professor of Industrial Design at the University of Kansas and the creative force behind “The Semester Bicycle,” a sleek and durable bike  made of bamboo grown just three blocks from an assembly shop in Greensboro, Alabama. He’s collaborating with community development organizations in Greensboro to create more than an innovative bike, but a new manufacturing model to pull a town in an economic standstill back into the race. 

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

The Saturday show is jam-packed jelly-tight with the best from the Word of Mouth archives. Sit back, relax and let the sweet sounds of this public radio audio sandwich be your weekend treat. On this week's show:

  • Would a mirror change your shopping habits? Michael Moss is investigative reporter for the New York Times and winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. He told us about some interesting new tactics supermarkets are using to influence shoppers.
  • This Soylent is NOT made of people. A new 'food' product is meant to be the perfect replacment for all your daily nutrients. Lee Hutchinson is senior reviews editor at Ars Technica. He lived on Soylent for a full week, and blogged about the experience.

Courtesy Kingdomcounty.org

When people talk about shopping local, they’re usually referring to buying food, books, and other goods and services  from a regional supplier as opposed to buying online or from big box store.

P. LeBlanc via Twitter

Phil Sands is Syria correspondent for The National, an English language daily newspaper based in Abu Dhabi.  He was living in Damascus when the uprising began in March of 2011, and has continued reporting on the escalation of the rebellion and civil war in the two years since. Earlier this year, Phil returned to the US with a pair of unlikely refugees – two dogs, saved from the war-torn streets of the Syrian capital. He sat down with Virginia Prescott this past February to talk about the puppies, which he called Mr. Brown and Mr. White.

Zach Stern via flickr Creative Commons

Science is supposed to be objective, value neutral, a noble pursuit of truth – whatever that may turn out to be. In recent years though, some science skeptics have sought to associate objectivity with amorality - and meanwhile, a few well-publicized academic frauds and political battles over funding have revealed that researchers are just as capable at deception as anyone else.  Despite these setbacks, research at the University of California Santa Barbara reveals that people do indeed carry deep and positive associations with the scientific method. Piercarlo Valdesolo wrote about the experiments for Scientific American.

via filmonic.com

According to recent reports published by the New York Times, Britain’s Guardian and the non-profit news site Pro-Publica, the National Security Agency, in concert with the British government, has cracked a large portion of the digital encryption used by businesses and everyday web users. These reports also outline the billions of dollars the NSA has invested in powerful technology that allows the government unfettered access to nearly all user’s information before it gets encrypted. Our resident tech expert, Rob Fleischman says these alarming reports are not quite true.

Rob Fleischman is chief technology officer at Xero-Cole, and our chief explainer of all things wired. He sat down with Virginia Prescott to explain.

(Photo courtesy Paula Poundstone)

For many public radio listeners, the weekend begins with NPR’s oddly informative, extremely funny program Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Comedian Paula Poundstone is a frequent panelist on Wait Wait, and she’ll be performing  at the Colonial Theatre in Bethlehem, New Hampshire this Thursday.  Paula spoke with Virginia Prescott last year about what it’s like to be in the business of comedy.

tadophoto via Flickr Creative Commons

Banish the bridge game, and shove off the shuffleboard… competitive table tennis for seniors is the subject of the new film “Ping Pong”, which airs tonight on PBS’s POV series.

The film shows the arch rivalries and individual motivations of the traditional sports drama, ramped up by the presence of cancer, dementia, and the physical deterioration at the end of life. The film’s producer is Anson Hartford, and he joins us to talk about it.

Courtesy Ars Technica

Imagine a world where eating and preparing food was a thing of the past. Sounds like the stuff of science fiction, right? Well, that world might be closer than we think. A new product, Soylent, claims to provide the body with all the nutrients it needs. The creator of Soylent sees it as not only a solution to the inefficiency of producing and preparing food, but potentially the world’s hunger problems.

Lee Hutchinson is senior reviews editor at Ars Technica. He lived on Soylent for a full week, and blogged about the experience.

ratterrel via Flickr Creative Commons

With more than a third of Americans classified as obese, behavioral scientists are experimenting with ways to ‘nudge’ grocery shoppers away from the chips and dip aisle and into the produce section.

Michael Moss is investigative reporter for the New York Times and winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. He wrote about research going on in American Supermarkets. 

Leo Reynolds via flickr Creative Commons

Welcome to the Word of Mouth Saturday show where we take all our freshest content, pop it in the audio blender and pour out a refreshing glass of public radio awesome. On this week's show:

  • Hogwarts for orphans? Natasha Vargas-Cooper tells us about San Pasqual Academy, a new kind of group home that is trying to create a stable environment for teenage foster kids.
  • A Disney convention for die-hard fans. Move over Comic-con, Disney is trying to create the ultimate fan event. Jordan Zakarin covered this years D23 event in Anaheim for Buzzfeed.
  • Vietnam through the eyes of photographers. Curator Kurt Sundstrom stopped by the studio to tell us about the Currier Museum of Art's new exhibit, "Visual Dispatches from the Vietnam War."

Jessica Verma

Vaud and the Villains is the 19-piece group known for putting on rollicking musical theater and cabaret shows with a "New Orleans in the 1930s" twist. The band is performing this weekend at The Music Hall in Portsmouth.

Joining us is bandleader Andy Comeau, also known as "Vaud Overstreet," as well as his wife, Dawn Lewis, A.K.A "Peaches Mahoney."

Indiana Public Media via Flickr Creative Commons

Like most touchy issues, few people agree on precisely how to cope with America’s public school system.  Proposed solutions for some failing districts include switching to charter schools, installing fresh leadership, stricter curriculum, and more.  Union City, New Jersey has defied the odds – once on the brink of being shut down, Union City has become a model district simply by going back to the basics, and sticking with them.  David L. Kirp, is a professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley and author of eighteen books on education and urban issues. His latest is Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.

purpleslog via Flickr Creative Commons

In a down economy, most folks are happy to find a crumpled fiver in a jacket pocket, or fish out quarters to pay for parking.  Not David Wolman. David is a contributing editor at Wired magazine, and author of the book The End of Money, for which he attempted to spend a year without touching or passing any paper money.  We spoke David when the book was first released.  It’s being released on paperback in October.

loveiswritten via Flickr Creative Commons

Statistically speaking, American foster children face a steep uphill battle. A 2010 study showed nearly 25 percent of foster care children end up homeless at some point after exiting the system, and teen girls in foster care were more likely to become pregnant than to get adopted. One fledgling foster care experiment has done away with the foster family system in favor of a mutually supportive group-home. The San Pasqual Academy is a $14 million dollar nonprofit based in San Diego that houses 180 foster kids. Natasha Vargas-Cooper is a freelance journalist who wrote about San Pasqual for Pacific Standard.

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