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April 8, 2010

Host: Ted Simons

Alien Life

  |   Video
  • Alien life could exist on earth right under our noses, or even in our noses. That’s some of what Arizona State University cosmologist Paul Davies covers in a new book, “The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence.” Davies will talk about alien life and his new book.
  • Paul Davies - Arizona State University cosmologist
Category: Science   |   Keywords: extraterrestrial life, extraterrestrial, extraterrestrials ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Could there be E.T.s among us? That's the question that Arizona State University professor Paul Davies tackles in his new book, "The eerie silence. Renewing our search for alien intelligence." Here to talk about the search for alien life is Paul Davies. Good to have you back on the show. Biologically-based alien organisms, could they be here?

Paul Davies: What I'm suggesting is that up to now, it's all life on earth is the same life and even the microbes that we don't notice are the same life as you are me, but I'm suggesting that it could be that some of them belong to a separate tree of life and maybe originated separately on earth a long time ago, maybe from space, but they could be among us.

Ted Simons: Have we been looking in the right ways heretofore?

Paul Davies: Nobody has been looking. Talking microbes only and the thing about microbes, 99% has not been touched. It's a mystery. And so I think among those microbes could be some which represent a separate event.

Ted Simons: We've been caught in a trap searching for E.T. who look like us?

Paul Davies: Most people think of intelligent alien life. Bacteria would be descended from a separate event. If life is formed twice on earth, then surely it's formed on many earth-like planets around the universe.

Ted Simons: When you write a shadowed biosphere, is that what you’re referring to? Explain that.

Paul Davies: It’s known as a shadowed biosphere because we don’t see it, the idea is they’re intermingled among the organisms we know and love could be microorganisms representing a separate form of life. A different type of life, it could be life but not as we know it.

Ted Simons: The idea being if that could happen here, it could happen anywhere.

Paul Davies: If it can happen twice on earth, it can happen all around the universe. We have life 1.0, we're looking for life 2.0.

Ted Simons: How long have you been looking for life 2.0?

Paul Davies: A number of different research programs. One taking place at mono lake in California. Could use arsenic in the place of phosphorus. But we’re trying to make educated guesses where the life could lurk, deep in the ocean, up in the sky, all sorts of places we might look and it's only recently that people have begun doing that.

Ted Simons: I know the book coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first attempt to turn a telescope.

Paul Davies: Today is the 50 anniversary of the courageous attempt to turn a telescope on a nearby star to see if E.T. might be sending a message. It's been 50 years of silence, all that they've got so far is a eerie silence. Are we alone in the universe after all or looking for the wrong thing at the wrong time?

Ted Simon: Answered your own question there. What do you think?

Paul Davies: I think we should be looking for much more than radio signals. Up in the heavens and down here on earth as well.

Ted Simons: And when we were talking, if somebody were to register right now, if we got some sort of radio wave, or intelligent life force -- hi, I'm here, where do I park? That means this life being would have had to broadcast this message how long ago?

Paul Davies: You could guess how near they are. But most optimists would say the closest would be about a thousand light-years. If they're sending a message, they would have had to send it a thousand years ago to get a reply. The milky way galaxy is a thousand light-years across.

Ted Simons: They would have had to see by way of a thousand years first, a thousand years to register and another to send, they would have seen the earth with pyramids.

Paul Davies: As they were there before there were radio telescopes so the big problem about this search for alien messages, they're going to have to wait another thousand years before they hear my words so this conversation is going to leak out into space. There's nothing we can do about that. It's going to travel at the speed of light, we can't get it back, and they'll pick up the conversation and say, ha! There is intelligent life.

Ted Simons: We talked about this before, and I know you're writing about this in the book. Are we ready psychological if we get a tap, tap, tap?

Paul Davies: I am. Whether anyone else is, I don't know. I chair a taskforce and it's our job to think about the consequences to society and religion and science and technology and people generally if we suddenly discover we're not alone because it will be the biggest discovery in history.

Ted Simons: Would there be panic in the streets?

Paul Davies: I don't think so. It profoundly changed our view of ourselves and view in the universe. I don't think anyone panicked.

Ted Simons: Again, 50 years of radio silence. You're saying that's like picking up a pebble here and not seeing the big lizard over there. When you concentrate on a corner of space, you're likely not going to get much.

Paul Davies: The people who use the radio telescope to listen in night after night -- give us a chance, it's only 50 years. We've only searched a tiny corner of the universe. We need to look for other things as well. Any signs of technology, they may be very subtle.

Ted Simons: Are we committed to doing that?

Paul Davies: If by we, the United States government, they're not spending money at all. It's privately funded. But there are scientists who think this is a good way to go. And continue for another 50 years.

Ted Simons: Good to have you back on the show.

Paul Davies: My pleasure. Thanks.

Hate Crimes

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  • Hate crimes have gone up locally and the number of hate groups has gone up considerably nationwide. Bill Straus of the local Anti-Defamation League will talk about hate crimes and the expansion of hate groups.
  • Bill Straus - Anti-Defamation League
Category: Culture

View Transcript
Ted Simons: According to the southern poverty law center, the number of militias and like-minded groups increased 244% in 2009. One of those groups, the Hutaree militia, recently made headlines when it was raided because of its plans to kill law enforcement officers. In the city of Phoenix, hate crimes were up 30% last year. Even so, the city's career criminal unit, which does undercover work among hate groups, is being disbanded due to budget cuts here to talk about hate crimes is Bill Straus, of the regional director of the anti-defamation league. Good to see you.

Bill Straus: Always a pleasure.

Bill Straus: Let me correct you, I got a phone call that it's not being disbanded.

Ted Simons: It's not?

Bill Straus: This is a result of the community organizations. The record is unbelievable in a two-year period and focused on the people we're talking about here tonight. Career criminals, repeat offenders, violent criminals and with a propensity to attack racial ethic and religious groups.

Ted Simons: One incident where public outcry and concern made a difference?

Bill Straus: I think it did, yeah.

Ted Simons: Before we go further, I want you to define terms here. I think people get these confused. You've got hate groups and -- are they all under one umbrella?

Bill Straus: They're all the same species but different breeds. We define hate groups than southern poverty law center. And we're not so quick to give numbers. I remember their numbers, there are 19 active hate groups in Arizona. There are probably more. There are probably some that the southern poverty law center and ADL are not aware of. You don't have to be a group to represent a threat. An individual, as we saw in the case of Timothy McVey, represents a bigger threat today than armies used to represent. That's one thing. But let's talk about the terms. Hate crimes. Hate crime is a crime. It's not the thought police. It's a criminal activity. Motivated in whole or part by the victims belonging to one of the protected categories. Race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability. This is in Arizona. Sexual orientation. The federal hate crime law was expanded. It did not include sexual orientation or identity.

Ted Simons: What fuels these individuals and fuels these groups?

Bill Straus: We could be here for hours talking about this. They're fueled by affirmation from like-thinking individuals. They're definitely fueled by people in the media, that espouse viewpoints that seem to affirm what they've always believed and they're also fueled by incidents and event, news events, that tend to confirm what they've been saying all along. Example, Bernie Madoff, swindled so many people out of so much money. I mean, it's going to be a famous crime for as long as we're alive. Fact he was Jewish was jumped upon by every antisemitic group we monitor. Bernie Madoff was their poster boy. Until just recently. He was on the front page of every website and the message was -- we told you. Bernie Madoff. The conclusion being that Bernie Madoff is Jewish and all Jews will swindle you out of your money.

Ted Simons: Let's go back to the 1990s, the last time we were talking about these things was in the 1909, a rough decade for domestic extremist groups.

Bill Straus: We saw things building up. Here in Arizona, the viper militia was at the zenith. You were in the media then and you remember the media went hook, line and sinker for this being a major blockbuster story. It turned out not to be. Not much of a story. But Timothy McVey and Oklahoma city, really did signal the decline of the militia movement. People saw this is a dead end rode. These militia tend to be paramilitary. Not every hate group is paramilitary. But one of the things that these groups -- that fuels them is what they perceive as a government out to get them. Out to do them in. Out to ruin the tradition of what this country has always stood for and that's how Barack Obama is being portrayed. Not justifiably to these groups and people not in hate groups and on the fringe of mainstream and extreme.

Ted Simons: And those people, comparing back to the 1990s, you didn't have the blogosphere and TV talk shows and these things. Certainly, the speed and the ability of these kinds of messages and -- we have free speech but you also have folks who hear it and go off on a tangent. None of that seems to be as quick and powerful as it is right now.

Bill Straus: That's a tremendous point and what's really sinister, is hate crimes send a message. Every hate crime, it's the only kind of crime that sends a message to groups. First, you're different and we don't want you here. Get out. And the third layer is get out or else. That message is now communicated so quickly. When there's a hate crime against -- let's use the Sikh community around the world -- the Sikh community knew about that. And I was in communication with every community. And we --

Ted Simons:There's Straus again, he's confusing dissent with extremism and the idea that you hear the dissent and you will, A, necessarily means B. You'll go out and commit violence.

Bill Straus: I'm a dissenter, you are. I know that. Dissent is an American pastime. Criticizing the president and the administration in power is what we do in this country. I'm 61 years old, I don't ever remember an administration that went out that kind of ongoing, harsh criticism. That's different from trying to convince your friends and neighbors and family they're going to be put in concentration camps for dissenting political opinions. Or they don't remain somehow detached from government access and that's what we hear all the time now. When I talk to people -- I've got friends with lots of guns and I ask them, why do you have so many? I can't believe how many give me the answer: For when the government comes to get me.

Ted Simons: We're going to stop right there.

Bill Straus: What if I overpower you?

Ted Simons: We'll handle it in our own special way. Trust me.

Bill Straus: I do trust you.

Health Reform Lawsuit

  |   Video
  • Arizona has joined more than a dozen other states that are suing the federal government over the new health care reform law. ASU law professor Paul Bender discusses the merits of the case.
  • Paul Bender - Professor of Law, Arizona State University
Category: Medical/Health

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The state has joined more than a dozen others in suing the federal government over healthcare reform. The suit alleges that states have the right to regulate healthcare and that the federal government overreached by requiring people to buy insurance. Here to discuss the merits of the lawsuit is Arizona State University law professor Paul Bender. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Paul Bender: Good to see you.

Ted Simons: This has two components.

Paul Bender: The lawsuit.

Ted Simons: We want to make sure that's clear.

Paul Bender: One is the so-called individual mandate which will require a few years from now, everybody to have a health insurance policy. A standard, minimum federally required health insurance policy. And the other part is to challenge the part of the bill that says states must maintain their Medicaid rolls -- here it's AHCCCS -- must maintain those programs with the current -- when the act is passed -- coverage, of people. And they can't diminish it. If they do, all Medicaid funding will be cut off. The states are challenging that threat to cut off all Medicaid funding.

Ted Simons: What are your thoughts on that?

Paul Bender: The second aspect?

Ted Simons: The federal mandate.

Paul Bender: In a spending program, congress can condition its spending as long as the condition is related to the program. Here, the spending program is Medicaid and it's a big program. A federal-state cooperative program and congress has always conditioned that money on the states chipping in and keeping up to certain standards. So it would seem that this lawsuit doesn't have much of a chance because there are conditions on spending. If every government says you want this money, do it, don't, then don't -- we're not forcing you to do anything. But the states argue, in fact, you're forcing us and we've had the Medicaid program for a long time and the people rely on and we can't afford to run it by ourselves so we're being coerced and that to my mind is not frivolous. If it succeeded, it would be the first time it succeeded but seems to me it has substance because the state is caught in a bind. It cannot practically get out of Medicare and in order to stay in, it has it trim its rolls. So that federal lawsuit is one that's going to be taken serious. The other one, the individual mandate, I don't think will be taken serious for three reasons. One, this is a suit brought by the states to prevent the federal government from compelling individuals to buy health insurance. What's the state's standing to challenge that? The people who should challenge it would be the people who don't want to get health insurance. We don't know if there are any such people. It doesn't take effect for a few years. So I don't see the state's standing to raise it and it's premature. I would think you would wait until the program goes into effect and see if there are people who don't want to do it and see how they're treated. And the challenge won't work anyway, because the federal government has power under the commerce clause to impose that kind of requirement on people. It's important if you want a coherent, workable national health insurance policy that everybody gets covered.

Ted Simons: In terms of being a tricky aspect of the lawsuit, you're saying the de facto mandate to the states regarding Medicaid as the one that could possibly raise eyebrows and get some attention?

Paul Bender: To me, that's the more substantial part. And raises what the court has never really decided but hinted it would. The leading case is a case that chief justice Rehnquist wrote which involved the cutoff of federal highway funds to states that didn't raise the drinking age to 21. But at the end, he says this isn't coercing the states because they're only losing 5% of the highway money. That's not a lot. So they really have a choice. If we were really coercing them, it might be a problem. And then the question becomes, can the federal government force the states to do Medicaid coverage? There are some who say that the federal government can't force the state affirmatively to do something. They can't make the states legislate or cover somebody. But to force a state to do that is co-opting the states is what the Supreme Court has said. If you add the coercion to the co-opting effect, you got to do this, it seems that would be a lawsuit taken seriously.

Ted Simons: Arizona officials decided to go ahead with this, that Arizona is uniquely challenged, the Medicaid aspect of it, is he correct?

Paul Bender: We have a more sympathetic case because our Medicaid has been more expansive because of the initiative that expanded the rolls so the legislature wants to cut it back to where a lot of other state programs are. And they're going to argue, we voluntarily did more, why can't we cut back? And in my view, the legislature is cutting 300 people off the AHCCCS rolls violates the state constitution. That programs adopted by the voters through an initiative election, the legislature cannot repeal or change. Significantly. And this would be a repeal of that addition to the rolls. They have a theory how they can do this. But I think probably they're not -- they are repealing it. And I think that violates the state constitution and they can't do this. So the lawsuit most important here would be a lawsuit saying that the state cutting back the rolls violates the state constitution and the state has to find some way of funding those things because it was adopted by the voters and can only be repealed by the voters.

Ted Simons:If one of two aspects, if it succeeds, probably won't, but if it does happen, is that a house of cards? You pull one away and the whole thing tumbles?

Paul Bender: No, that doesn't happen. They have severability clauses. The rest will be there. That one is so closely related that one can't stand without the other, that's not true here. If the mandate failed and Arizona can keep -- the healthcare bill would still stand.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thanks for joining.