White House Decor, Tracking Hate Crimes, & NASA's Planetary Defense

Dec 2, 2016

The Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court, the Paris Agreement. The Trump administration is sure to bring lots of changes, among them: White House decor. On today’s show we’ll take a historic tour of how first families have put their stamp on the executive mansion, including President Teddy Roosevelt, who created the west wing.

Also today, we'll speak with NASA's planetary defense officer about teaming up with FEMA, the Air Force and other government agencies for a simulation of what could happen if an asteroid crashed into a densely populated region -- and how they'd respond.

Listen to the full show: 

Decorating the White House

First families have a lot of leeway for living quarters on the top two floors of the 132-room White House, and there have been some famous—and infamous—large scale changes over the years.

To find out what's allowed, we called Edward Lengel, Chief Historian of the White House Historical Association to find out what's permitted.

A Picture Emerges

In January Melania Trump will become the second American first lady to have been born outside of the United States. The first was Louisa Johnson Adams, wife of John Quincy Adams. Melania will be following in the footsteps of another historic first lady, Michelle Obama, the first African-American to hold the title and position. Our next story explores Michelle Obama's early life, expectations surrounding her ascendency as First Lady, and the impact she will leave on the office. It comes to us from producer Josh Swartz.

You can listen to this story again at prx.org: A Picture Emerges

Subway Therapy

Election 2016 was a bitter slog, and while many Americans looked forward to the end of the ads, mailers, and campaign rhetoric, that bitterness didn't simply dissipate once the results came in. In the days of street protests and hate crimes that followed, many Americans searched for signs of hope or messages of comfort. Some found them underground.

Activists in New York City encouraged commuters to post notes on subway platforms. Soon, walls were covered with colorful little squares scribbled with positive messages. It's a big project of small gestures called "Subway Therapy" and it's since spread to Boston thanks to Venita Subramanian, a user experience designer and urban activist.

Related: SubwayTherapyBoston.org

Tracking Hate Crimes

Reports of hate crimes have soared since the bitter national election. “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes,” was spray-painted across a wall in Durham, North Carolina a day after the election. That same day, two students at a Pennsylvania vocational school were videotaped parading with a Trump sign shouting "White Power".  A flurry of swastikas and variations of  "Trump Nation Whites Only" have popped up on public buildings. All of these incidents have been confirmed or are under investigation by law enforcement, as have several incidences of harassment and intimidation of Muslim women, including forcing them to remove their hijab. But still many incidents have not been independently verified and may never be reported

Ken Schwenke and A.C. Thompson have been tracking the surge in hate crimes for Pro Publica, and have been looking into how these offenses are tracked and reported.  

Share your tips on hate crimes with A.C. via email: ac.thompson@propublica.org

Related: "Hate Crimes Are Up — But the Government Isn’t Keeping Good Track of Them"

NASA's Planetary Defense Plan

Here's a scary scenario: an asteroid hurtling towards greater Los Angeles. That’s not the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, but a worst-case planetary protection exercise conducted this fall by representatives from NASA, FEMA, the Air Force and other government agencies. The group simulation was designed to run through likely consequences, defenses and on the ground responses to an asteroid colliding with a densely populated region. We spoke with Lindley Johnson, Planetary Defense Officer at NASA HQ.