Gangs, Gays and a Charming Mellow Guy with a Guitar

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A member of the MS-13 gang shows off his tattoos in a Honduran prison. Credit: Elmer Martinez/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Credit: Elmer Martinez/AFP/Getty Images

Do you like alliteration? How about rhetorical questions? We've got both, plus the newscast, on today's Bryant Park Project.

— The media are freaking out about MS-13. We talked to gang expert Celeste Fremon of Witness-L.A. for background on MS-13 and what involvement may mean for immigrant teenagers. Is it "The Most Dangerous Gang in America?" Fremon says, "Oh, please."

— Twenty-two Americans died in the aftermath of two big storm systems that beat down the Upper Midwest and Plains. Hurricane Dean is moving into Mexico for the second time. Thirteen people died in the Caribbean as the result of Dean. Officials in China are still trying to reach the 181 men trapped in a flooded coal mine. Luke and Alison check in with Mother Nature.

— Oh, poo. A rich middle aged couple was charged with animal cruelty after 113 cats were rescued from their New Jersey home. Officials found up to six inches of cat dung in the 20 room mansion. In our quest to be everything NPR is and more, we booked not one, but two experts to crack this developing story. We called James LaGrossa, chief of law enforcement for the Bergen County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and forensic psychiatrist Steven Pitt. Quiz: Do you know whether an insanity plea can be used in an animal cruelty case?

— Piggy? Ralph? We ask Television Without Pity's Sara Bunting if CBS hit reality gold when they dumped 40 kids between the ages of 8 and 15 in the middle of nowhere New Mexico for a month and let them start their own town. Some parents and their labor attorneys cry foul.

— What is "Gay," Alex? If Merv Griffin was gay, how come it wasn't mentioned in any obituaries? It was mentioned on the website of the Hollywood Reporter, then taken down, then put back up. What's the deal? We ask Merv Griffin biographer David Bender — and he takes us to task.

— Alt-country singer songwriter Josh Ritter brought his guitar with him to the studios of the BPP this morning. He talks with us about growing up in Doug Martsch country and plays two songs, "To the Dogs or Whoever" and "The Temptation of Adam."

— Plus an arm-wrestling arcade game in Japan — called "Arm Spirit", vegetarian friendly ballparks in America, and much more!



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I would've liked to hear an interview with a climate specialist during the top story segment at about the crazy weather. How about a weather historian for something that's slightly out of the norm for this type of story?

James LaGrossa said that animals are reliant upon us for their survival. This is an interesting place to springboard into the ethics of domestication. Granted, we need animals like cows and horses for food and work, but do we really need animals that serve as pets like cats and dogs? Granted, dogs are great guards in a variety of situations, and there are other cases. However, by domesticating them we have made them very dependent upon us; does the value that we gain from them more than compensate for the situation that we've placed them in? Matt, this reminds me of the "discussion" we had about dog strollers back in April.

Luke, I agree. I think that we need the music to "Things that Make You Go Hmmm" by C+C Music Factory playing during The Ramble.

Kid Nation sounds like the stingy parent's version of summer camp for those who don't mind exploiting their children. To quote Lord of the Flies: "Kill the beast! Cut his throat! ... Spill his blood!" Yikes!

I've heard of MS-13 a few times before in the last month or two. Apparently, it's taking root here in DC. As I'm listening to this segment, the discussion about how the gang spread from LA to Newark along with the MySpace that makes me wonder if there are connections between gangs and the "Internets." Are social networks allowing gangs to spawn "affiliates" in geographically distant areas? Perhaps UC Berkeley School of Information PhD candidate danah boyd [sic], who studies teen behavior and class behavior on social networks, is a good person to interview about this.

Concerning The Hollywood Reporter story alleging that Merv Griffin was gay, I wonder if there's a chance a libel lawsuit could crop up concerning the article?

I'm diggin' the "This is NPR" sound effect and newscast music.

Josh Ritter seems like a cool gent.

Sent by Steve Petersen | 7:07 PM | 8-22-2007

This may or may not be constructive, but I feel like quips such as "In our quest to be everything NPR is and more..." are unnecessary and a bit pompous. In my opinion, you should stop -talking- about how good you want to be and just -do- it. Everything else just stinks of overcompensation or egoism.

Anyway, that was the criticism part. I do really like the other stuff. Keep it up.

Sent by T.L.O.G. | 5:30 AM | 8-23-2007

This morning I heard a couple of (radio and TV) stories about Kid Nation that mostly covered the same ground you did yesterday. You guys are so bleeding edge.

The Merv Griffin discussion really interested me. Sexuality one of those issues in our culture that you almost can't touch without offending someone. That's why the question of whether to mention it or not in an entirely respectful and affectionate bio/obit is so fascinating. Everybody heaps their own baggage on and you find folks getting upset about what was said or wasn't said or should be said, regardless of the author's intent. I like this covering the coverage kind of thing. As a listener it's nice to be let in on the conversation when you media makers think critically and reflect on media coverage in general and on your place in it.

Sent by Maura | 11:51 AM | 8-23-2007

merv griffin was GAY!!!!!

lets call a spade a spade!!!

for far too long gay men and lesbians have been written out of history!!

Sent by andrew darlink | 1:18 AM | 12-29-2007

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