Reality Will Provide : Tell Me More Uwem Akpan's exhilarating, heartbreaking collection ...
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Reality Will Provide

A colleague of mine who loves the news business more than anybody I know (a business which has not always loved him back, by the way -- but that's another story) used to say the same thing whenever we were fretting about having a slow news day or week, worrying that we'd have nothing to keep people interested.

"Reality will provide," he'd say.

The phrase popped into my head because, as we left on Friday, we were debating exactly what we should focus on for today's program. At that point, there were so many things percolating:

1.) U.S. mayors were meeting at a conference in Miami. So many of the issues they were talking about are things we talk about every day -- like crime, the foreclosure crisis, poverty and the environment. Sen. Barack Obama and Bill Clinton talked with the group of city leaders over the weekend.

Would anybody want to hear more, we asked?

2.) Floodwaters in the Midwest are receding. Do we need to check in on recovery efforts?

If you don't live there, do you care?

3.) And, we normally check in on Mondays with The Washington Post Magazine. We had our eyes on a riveting story about those who literally keep watch in the interagency watch center that evaluates possible security threats on air travel, clearly a matter of urgency in the wake of Sept. 11.

Could we get the reporter on the line? In the studio?

... And then a bombshell. In Zimbabwe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who heads the Movement for Democratic Change -- whose party mounted the most serious challenge to Robert Mugabe in his 28 years of presidential rule -- announces on SUNDAY that he is withdrawing from the race. As of right now, NPR's Morning Edition is trying to reach him for an interview. They are first show up, as we say (heard earlier in the day than other NPR programs), but we're next.

Clearly a story to which we have devoted much time and energy is a priority.

Who can we get? Who is on the ground? Who knows what's going on?

We were very fortunate to reach reporter Jeffrey Barbee, who is reporting on the ground in Zimbabwe. We also heard from Open Society Institute analyst Akwe Amosu for more analysis.

Still, we did want to hear more about the mayors' meeting in Miami. Michael Nutter of Philadelphia was our guest.

And we also reported on a study (pdf) about the problem of long emergency room waits and how they affect patients needing mental health services.

Finally, Say You're One of Them. It's a book of short stories from a fresh and unexpected new African voice, Uwem Akpan. We hope to bring you a number of conversations about new fiction from Africa over the course of the summer. But here's a start.

Uwem Akpan's exhilarating, heartbreaking collection. The stories so moved singer Angelique Kidjo that she composed a song about it. Agbalagba closes the show.

We did not have time for Laura Blumenfeld's fascinating piece about the Homeland Security watch group. So here it is.

Does it change the way you think about having to take off your shoes at the airport?