Interviewing a sitting president is no small deal. There are the physical logistics of it getting together the interviewer, editors, producer, engineer, and a five-person video crew, plus all that audio and video equipment. And then, importantly, the preparation that goes into asking timely, tough and interesting questions.
Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep has interviewed the president eight times, and he stopped by the NPR Politics Podcast to take you behind his latest, year-end interview with Obama. He s joined by political editor Domenico Montanaro, visuals editor Kainaz Amaria and campaign reporter Sam Sanders.
One of the toughest things about a presidential interview to balance, Inskeep said, is respecting the office while still asking hard questions.
They have an aura about them because they are president, you have to respect that, Inskeep said. Yet, on another level, this is a democracy. You are a journalist. Your job is just to say hello like they re just anybody and ask them the rudest question that s on your mind. You want to be respectful, but if you ve got a hard question, you ve got to ask it.
Amazon has released a glimpse of what its much-anticipated drone deliveries could look like, although it warns the service is still very much in a testing phase. A video released over the weekend shows a drone being loaded with a small package on a warehouse conveyor line. It then floats through a suburban neighborhood to a house, hovers over a yard, slowly lowers itself onto a small landing pad and deposits the package, all in about 30 minutes.
It looks like science fiction, but it s real. One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road, the company says in a news release. The drones will fly no higher than 400 feet from the ground low enough to avoid other aircraft but high enough to bypass traffic-clogged streets. They will be able to carry packages of no more than 5 pounds and travel distances of 10 miles or more, Amazon says.
In the next 30 years, the American population will increase by 70 million, to 390 million people. Thanks in part to all the crap those new people will order from Amazon, freight volume will grow 45 percent, to 29 billion tons a year, according to a February report by the DOT. We are not well equipped for that. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, and we re not setting aside the money to fix them. Trucks, which move nearly 70 percent of American freight, already waste $27 billion a year in time and fuel while stuck in traffic. Those trucks, BTW, aren t going electric anytime soon.
We need new ways to transport people and the stuff they crave, and drones can help out. Amazon is hardly the only big company looking into drone delivery. In October, a video surfaced showing a drone developed by Google that can fly five miles in five minutes. The Australian drone manufacturer Flirtey recently partnered with NASA to deliver medical supplies to a Virginia airport from its base in Nevada. Still, regular drone deliveries are a long way from becoming reality, Amazon says:
We are testing many different vehicle designs and delivery mechanisms to discover how best to deliver packages in a variety of environments. We have more than a dozen prototypes that we ve developed in our research and development labs. The look and characteristics of the vehicles will evolve over time.
One hurdle the company has to overcome involves regulation: It can t start drone deliveries until the Federal Aviation Administration finishes drawing up regulations to govern the commercial use of unmanned aircraft.
We will deploy when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision, the company says.
- ^ a news release (www.amazon.com)
- ^ the delivery drone (www.npr.org)
- ^ Wired notes (www.wired.com)
- ^ according to a February report by the DOT (www.transportation.gov)
- ^ roads and bridges are crumbling (www.wired.com)
- ^ we re not setting aside the money to fix them (www.wired.com)
- ^ a video surfaced (www.youtube.com)
- ^ to deliver medical supplies (www.forbes.com)
- ^ drawing up regulations (www.npr.org)
The Canadian government has had to scale back ambitious plans to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year. The pledge by Canada s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to bring in the refugees helped sweep him to power in last month s elections. But the Paris attacks and the daunting logistics of the plan forced Canada to extend that deadline. The government unveiled its updated plans on Tuesday. Its says it hopes to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year and another 15,000 by the end of February.
Harjit Sajjan, Canada s defense minister says hundreds of refugees will be airlifted from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
The Royal Canadian air force is preparing to provide transport of refugees to Canada every 48 hours in support of this operation. We remain prepared to provide temporary lodging for up to 6,000 Syrian refugees at military bases in Ontario and Quebec and more if necessary, he says. Like any other new refugee in Canada, the Syrians will be given health care, language classes and financial assistance from the government. Peter Goodspeed is with Lifeline Syria, a grassroots organization that helps sponsor refugees. He says churches, universities and whole communities have been pitching in to help raise money, find housing and employment for the refugees.
Goodspeed says the scale and the speed of the operation to welcome the refugees caught the government off guard, forcing it to push back its January 1st deadline. He says that s not a big deal.
They re going forward to bring people in and doing it as rapidly as they can. And I don t think anybody is really going to hold them to task for a January 1st deadline. If it s February or March, as long as they re still trying to help I think people will be happy with that, he said. Goodspeed says support for the operation suffered a setback after the Paris attacks. There were questions about a potential security risk in an effort to hit the deadline. Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale says the Syrians will be heavily vetted by the UN refugee agency as well as Canadian intelligence and security forces before getting on a plane to Canada.
They will be examining the biographical information, the biometrics, the results of the interviews. If they sense there s anything there that causes them concern or discomfort or doubt, they will set aside that file and move on to the next applicant, he says.
Goodale says the most vulnerable will be chosen to be settled in Canada that includes women, children, families and the elderly. Goodspeed says that makes sense if they re trying to get large numbers of refugees in, but it could mean single unaccompanied men may have to wait.
The easiest ones to screen and process would be families with children and elderly people whereas the single young males might need more detailed background checks, he says. But there are all kinds of single young males that are vulnerable too and need to be resettled. So they ll be in the system but I m sure probably coming in later.
The first Syrian refugees will begin arriving next week.