March 20th: What's On Today's Show

In our second hour, at look at how soldiers' mental health is evaluated before deployment.

In our second hour, at look at how soldiers' mental health is evaluated before deployment. Sean Locke/iStockphoto hide caption

itoggle caption Sean Locke/iStockphoto

China's Unusually Public Political Drama
A political scandal within China's Communist Party is playing out in an unusually public forum this week. The Chinese political landscape was shaken Thursday when Bo Xilai, a Communist Party chief from Chongqing, was replaced by deputy prime minister Zhang Dejiang. A report detailing why he was pushed out was released online. The scandal could affect how people view the transition of power this fall when the executive committee of the Chinese Communist Party names seven new members. Xilai, who was popular among farmers in the Chongquing region, was widely expected to get a spot on the coveted committee. Host Neal Conan speaks with Rob Gifford, China editor for The Economist, about the latest developments in internal Chinese politics and what, if any, effect it may have on Chinese foreign policy.

Wendell Pierce: From TV To The Grocery Business
Many celebrities give back to their community through charitable foundations, cash donations or even opening neighborhood restaurants. When actor Wendell Pierce returned to his native New Orleans to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, he noticed a "food desert" in the area; a lack of grocery stores selling fresh food. Now, Pierce is opening Sterling Farms — a chain of stores in the Ninth Ward that will sell food at affordable prices for low-income shoppers. Neal Conan talks with Pierce about his long career on The Wire, Treme and other shows, his latest ambitious project and his plans to revive the food culture of New Orleans.

The Military And Mental Health
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is expected to be charged tomorrow with the murder of sixteen civilians in Afghanistan. An investigation and court martial may eventually explain what happened and why, but there are other questions that arise from this atrocity that need answers, including how did Sgt. Bales pass through mental health screening prior to deployment. No test can be perfect, of course, but how does the military screen troops, how good are these evaluations and can the tests identify men and women who need help and maybe prevent them from harming themselves or others? Host Neal Conan talks with former Surgeon General of the Army, Ret. Lt. General Eric Schoomaker, and Ret. Brigadier General Steve Xenakis about how the military assesses who is mentally fit for deployment.

Three Generations Race The Iditarod

Dallas Seavey won this year's Iditarod race across Alaska, beating his father and grandfather in the process. The grueling dog sled race took off from Willow, Alaska on March 4th, Seavey's 25th birthday. Nine days, four hours and 29 minutes later, he crossed the finish line in Nome as the youngest musher to win the race. Also in this year's race were Mitch Seavey, Dallas's father and 2004 Iditarod winner, and his grandfather, Dan, who competed in his fifth Iditarod. Host Neal Conan talks with Dallas Seavey about the extreme conditions of the race, from freezing dogs to sleepless nights. He'll also speak about what it means to be in a legacy racing family.


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