Spy balloon deepens political divide, deadly earthquake in Syria and Turkey: 5 Things podcast




  • In Politics
  • 2023-02-06 12:45:06Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: Spy balloon deepens political divide ahead of Biden's State of the Union

The U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon over the weekend, deepening tensions between the two countries and splitting a political divide at home. Plus, USA TODAY Education Reporter Alia Wong explains how more colleges are offering degrees in DEI, the Grammys are in the books, more than 600 people are dead after an earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and USA TODAY Health Reporter Karen Weintraub explains the link between air pollution and mental health.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Monday, the 6th of February 2023. Today the political ramifications of Biden's balloon decisions. Plus, degrees in DEI, and the latest after a devastating earthquake slams the Middle East.

The US military shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday. US officials say the balloon carried a large payload of spy gear and flew over several strategic locations, including nuclear missile silos. The balloon had been moving across the US for days, but President Joe Biden said, "It would be safest to shoot down once over the water."

President Joe Biden:

On Wednesday, when I was briefed on the balloon, I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible without doing damage to anyone on the ground. They decided that the best time to do that was that it got over water outside, within the 12-mile limit.

Taylor Wilson:

The week's balloon saga marks the latest tensions between the US and China. And it now deepens a political fight stateside ahead of tomorrow's State of the Union. On the Sunday talk shows yesterday, Republicans said the incident reflected Biden's weakness toward an increasingly aggressive China. Others, like Democratic Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, praised Biden for a show of what he called strength and patience for taking down the balloon once it passed over the ocean. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken canceled a diplomatic trip to Beijing this week after the discovery of the balloon. And tensions were already high between the US and China after China stepped up threats to an independent Taiwan in recent months.

More colleges are offering up degrees in DEI. USA TODAY Education Reporter Alia Wong, has more on diversity, equity, and inclusion in academia. Alia, welcome back to the podcast.

Alia Wong:

Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Taylor Wilson:

So let's start with the basics. What is DEI?

Alia Wong:

So, DEI stands for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. DEI applies to policies and practices, and this can be in a business setting, an education setting, beyond that. And these policies and practices are typically designed to make all people - regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs - to make sure they feel welcome and ensure everyone has been enabled to fulfill their potential. It's really about helping different individuals achieve representation and participation and a sense of belonging in the respective setting.

Taylor Wilson:

So a growing number of colleges are offering degree programs in DEI. Tell us about these programs.

Alia Wong:

In my own analysis, I found at least half a dozen universities across the country that either currently, or will soon offer degrees in DEI. So these are bachelor's programs or master's programs. There's also been a proliferation of certificate programs in DEI. And these programs aren't as rigorous. They're typically a lot more narrow and focused and perhaps more efficient.

There are also many colleges that offer minors in DEI, for example, or diversity studies. And there are also degree programs in sort of broader areas that could be considered or could encapsulate DEI, things like intercultural or multicultural diversity studies. There's some research that shows that the number of schools with programs in areas such as multicultural studies has more than doubled in the past decade, and now surpasses a hundred.

Taylor Wilson:

So what are some of the students saying about their experiences in these programs?

Alia Wong:

I think it's important to note that these programs are extremely intersectional. Some may be more focused on the liberal arts, like social sciences or humanities. Some are more sort of in the business school, so taking more of a sort of corporate approach to it. They really spoke of how this opened their eyes to just how broad this field is and how much more there is to learn.

And one student in particular also talked about how joining this degree program, she's doing a bachelor's program on DEI, after spending several years on campus, not really finding her footing, it really allowed her to find her sense of place in her campus community. So there is something to be said about the benefits to the climate on campus.

Taylor Wilson:

What are some of the program directors and the professors saying about how these programs can actually help students in the real world after college?

Alia Wong:

We know just from various analyses, recent analyses, that positions in DEI have skyrocketed. There was one study that showed between 2015 and 2020, diversity inclusion rules increased 71% globally. And in particular, we've seen a significant uptick in the past couple of years, particularly in the aftermath of the racial reckoning of 2020 and the murder of George Floyd. According to Indeed, DEI job postings increased 123% between May and September 2020. So there is a huge demand for this in the workplace.

And I think beyond that, we know that in this moment, society is really grappling with a lot of identity related conflict. And observers argue that there's an urgent need for professionals who are trained in the skillsets of how to prevent and address that conflict. It's not even limited to people who are, say the chief diversity officer. Arguably any leader, any educator, any person who's working with a really diverse group of people or interacting with them, would benefit from formal training on how to apply this DEI skillset.

Taylor Wilson:

Alia, do programs like these have any critics? And what are they saying?

Alia Wong:

One DEI expert I spoke with, and who's written about and consulted on diversity/inequity matters in the workplace, he pointed to those inconsistent definitions of the concept as a major obstacle to progress. And he suggested that these degree programs could simply muddy the waters absent a real consensus and a clear understanding of what DEI means and what it's meant to achieve.

I think more broadly, of course this larger backlash against DEI as a concept that's epitomized by the likes of Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida and other critics - the same people who are criticizing critical race theory and just various efforts at better appreciating and correcting for systemic racism and discrimination; these critics, who've in some cases pushed to altogether ban DEI initiatives - say these programs indoctrinate students and promote so-called woke ideology. So the criticism has been fierce. But generally I think there's just a lot of misunderstanding about what DEI means, and that's really the root of the criticism.

Taylor Wilson:

All right, great info USA TODAY Education Reporter Alia Wong. Thanks so much as always. Appreciate it.

Alia Wong:

Thank you.

Taylor Wilson:

At least 641 people are dead after a devastating earthquake on the border between Turkey and Syria. Hundreds of people are also still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the death toll will likely rise over the next few days. In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said that three buildings near his home collapsed after the magnitude 7.8 quake. One survivor beneath rubble was heard, calling out, saying he didn't have the strength anymore. As rescue workers desperately tried to reach him. On the Syrian side of the border, the quake slammed regions packed with some 4 million people, largely displaced from other parts of Syria by the country's long civil war. Many live in buildings that are already wrecked from past bombardments.

Air pollution is bad for our mental health. New research finds a link between depression and anxiety, and exposure to relatively low levels of pollution. So what can we do about it? USA TODAY Health Reporter Karen Weintraub fills me in. Karen, thanks for coming on.

Karen Weintraub:

Thanks for having me.

Taylor Wilson:

So a new study found a link between mental health conditions, and even relatively low levels of air pollution. Karen, what did this study specifically find?

Karen Weintraub:

So it tracked people in the UK over a decade, almost 11 years, and found that where they lived at the start of this study predicted their mental health 10, 11 years later. And the people who lived in areas with high pollution ended up having more mental health problems, more depression and anxiety diagnoses than people who didn't.

Taylor Wilson:

And how does this study compare with other research around the world when it comes to pollution and mental health?

Karen Weintraub:

So every one of these studies is flawed in some way because you can't do the perfect experiment where you expose half the people to air pollution and half not and see what happens to their mental health. But a number of studies now, probably at least a dozen, are all pointing in the same direction, which is finding a connection between air pollution, between the air we breathe and our mental health.

So on bad air days, for instance, more people end up hospitalized and end up with mental health conditions than on other days in very polluted places. And again, in this study, people who lived in more polluted environments ended up with more diagnoses than those who didn't.

Taylor Wilson:

So what can people do to help limit their exposure to pollution? I'd imagine this is kind of difficult for someone in a congested city, but are you hearing any tips from experts on this, Karen?

Karen Weintraub:

Yeah, some of it people can't avoid, right? Obviously, we all breathe the air and it comes from different directions or whatever. But things like where you choose to exercise, maybe don't jog along the busiest road in the neighborhood or bike along that road. Maybe choose to run inside a park instead of on city streets. If you have an air filtration system at home, use a good filter and keep it clean. If you're in an apartment building, make sure they change the filters or keep the air handling system clean. I also cited another new study out of University of Southern California, that found that electric vehicles are actually making a difference in air pollution. So maybe over time as we get more of those, that will help.

Taylor Wilson:

All right, Karen Weintraub, thanks so much.

Karen Weintraub:

Thanks for having me.

♦Taylor Wilson:

The 65th Grammy's are in the books, and Beyonce made history. Her win for Best Dance Electronic Album for "Renaissance" brought her career Grammy haul to 32, the most of all time.

James Corden:

We are witnessing history tonight, breaking the record for the most Grammy wins of all time.

Beyonce:

I'd like to thank my beautiful husband, my beautiful three children, who are at home watching. I'd like to thank the queer community for your love and for inventing this genre. God bless you.

Taylor Wilson:

But Beyonce didn't win Album of the Year. That went to Harry Styles. And the award was announced by a 78-year-old grandma super fan from Canada. She was already on stage with others, who were invited to share why their favorite performers should win. And after host Trevor Noah opened the envelope, he told the fan to read out Harry's name. Other big winners include Lizzo, who won for Record of the Year, and Bonnie Raitt won for Song of the Year. You can find a full list of winners on USAtoday.com.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us every day right here, wherever you get your audio. I'm back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Spy ballon politicized, Grammy highlights: 5 Things podcast

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