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Press Play with Madeleine Brand


Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.

Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.


Santa Monica, CA




Host Madeleine Brand looks at news, culture and emerging trends through the lens of Los Angeles.




‘Torn’: Balancing family at home and risky adventure far away

“Torn” is a new documentary about world-renowned mountain climber Alex Lowe and how his family coped following his 1999 death in the Himalayas. “When his body was discovered and our family made the decision to go back to Tibet together to recover his remains and put him to rest, it brought all that [trauma] back to the surface for me. … I think coming out of that trip was really the impetus for me in wanting to make ‘Torn,’” says filmmaker Max Lowe. With the Omicron variant in the U.S.,...


NRA seems powerful. But it’s disorganized and easily played, says ‘Misfire’ author

The story of the National Rifle Association involves infighting and backstabbing, million-dollar corruption, and a red-headed Russian spy. Little did the organization know, Donald Trump’s election would trigger their downfall. NPR’s Tim Mak chronicles it all in his new book called “Misfire.” The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. The six conservative justices seem ready to uphold that law, overturning the precedent...


Abortion on TV: Storylines affect our real-life views and laws

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case about a Mississippi law that bans almost all abortions after 15 weeks and punishes doctors who violate that law. The high court is also looking at Texas’ law that prohibits abortions even earlier — once a heartbeat is detected. TV has lied about abortion, says Tanya Melendez, a researcher at the University of Illinois. “We were taught that women should feel badly because every woman we saw felt badly. I think we were taught...


How 1 mom recovered from facial paralysis, and US faces Omicron variant

Playwright Sarah Ruhl has spent 10 years recovering from Bell’s palsy, a mysterious and sudden facial paralysis, while juggling motherhood and a writing career. She shares her journey in a new memoir. The Omicron variant of COVID has spread to about a dozen countries after being discovered in South Africa this month, and scientists don’t know how contagious it is or whether today’s vaccines can protect against it. High-profile criminal cases start today for Ghislaine Maxwell, the long-time...


Guilty verdicts in Ahmaud Arbery murder trial: Analysis

Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael, and their neighbor William Bryan were deemed guilty today for murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a Black 25-year-old, when he was out jogging in February 2020. The three men face sentences of up to life in prison, and they face another trial for federal hate crime charges early next year. Thanksgiving celebrates the American settler myth. Press Play looks at the violence, cannibalism, white-washing, and truth cover-up that happened 400 years ago. We...


Thanksgiving air travel: Long lines, stressed workers, lax COVID attitudes

AAA expects more than 53 million people to travel for Thanksgiving this year, nearly matching pre-pandemic levels amid hopes of a semi-formal holiday season. But with COVID rising, how can you protect yourself if you’re flying? Governor Gavin Newsom says “substantially more” law enforcement officers will be near busy retail stores this Thanksgiving week. That’s because high-end luxury stores have been recently robbed. Fewer real Christmas trees are available for sale after months of...


Kyle Rittenhouse and men who killed Ahmaud Arbery: How do trials compare?

Closing arguments began today in the trial against the three white men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, in Brunswick, Georgia. It takes place days after the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, a young white man who shot three white men last year, killing two of them and injuring the third, during an anti-police brutality protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. KCRW breaks down both cases and their similarities. Also, a new documentary looks at how Janet Jackson’s fans helped turn around...


How fentanyl and meth saturated the US and led to more LA homelessness

For the first time ever, more than 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in just one year, according to preliminary numbers released by the CDC this week. Most deaths were from fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 100 times more potent than morphine. For decades, fentanyl was only used in hospitals, but now you can find it anywhere. Meth is also available cheaply, is stronger now than ever before, and is a big reason why so many people are living on the streets in LA, according to...


Why so many health care workers have quit, where it leaves the rest of us who need medical aid

Nearly one in five health care workers have left their jobs since the COVID pandemic began in spring 2020, according to Ed Yong, science writer at The Atlantic. “Health care workers have been assaulted at work, they've been insulted and billed as incompetent for not prescribing drugs that we know don't do anything for COVID, like hydroxychloroquine. They are having to save people who are refusing even basic aspects of medical care because they don't believe that they have COVID, or because...


How to curb America’s shopping addiction without taking away the joy

The supply chain is still clogged and inflation is at a 30-year high, while the U.S. has been importing more overseas goods than before the COVID pandemic. The main issue is an intense spike in demand, driven by affluent people who already have what they need. That’s all according to Amanda Mull, author of The Atlantic’s “Material World” column. She suggests people should look at whether compulsive shopping is the best use of time, energy, and resources. She says psychological research...


VP Kamala Harris’ low approval rating: How she got here, what it means for reelection prospects

Just 28% of voters approve of the job Vice President Kamala Harris is doing, according to a recent poll from USA Today and Suffolk University. Also, “exasperation and dysfunction” is how President Biden’s team views Vice President Kamala Harris’ team, reports CNN. “Ever since Biden designated then Senator Harris as his running mate, the Republicans and their co-partisans and supporters in the media have really been attacking her. … I think race and gender is part of it, but not the whole...


Adele is stronger than ever as she releases ‘30,’ says music critic

Six years after Adele’s last album, the British superstar is releasing “30” this Friday, a record aptly named for her age when she started songwriting. “Adele is now exceptional. … She's a brand. People know what they're getting when they get an Adele album, and they are more than happy to consume her,” says Chris Molanphy, music critic for Slate. Former White House advisor Steve Bannon turned himself in at the FBI field office in Washington D.C. today — after his indictment on contempt of...


What’s driving up prices on daily goods like gas and food?

Today the U.S. Labor Department said prices in October were 6.2% higher than they were last year, which is the biggest jump in three decades. High prices and shortages are hitting food banks too, and some are concerned they won’t have enough supplies to give out for the holidays. Frustration with school boards is brewing nationwide and affecting elections. San Francisco Mayor London Breed endorsed the recall of three progressive members of her city’s school board, citing fed-up parents as...


Why workers are striking, how to navigate back-in-the-office etiquette

More than 30,000 Kaiser Permanente workers along the West Coast are expected to walk off the job on November 15, citing staffing and safety concerns. John Deere and Kellogg’s employees have been striking for weeks. “There's kind of this sense among workers across the United States that … they're owed big time because they worked so heroically during the pandemic. … They're also encouraged that, ‘Hey, we have President Joe Biden, who is clearly the most pro-worker, pro-union president since...


CA epidemiologist on vaccinating kids and staying safe during another potential winter surge

California is trying to smoothly roll out a version of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5-11 that the CDC green-lit nearly a week ago. Dr. Erica Pan, California’s state epidemiologist, talks about schools as vaccination sites, the ongoing presence of misinformation, and how to stay safe during the holidays. Also, as the U.N. climate change summit wraps up this week in Glasgow, what can other countries learn from California’s experience with regulating methane emissions? And Press Play gets...


New COVID vax mandates are taking effect. Here’s a breakdown

In LA County as of today, people must show proof of full vaccination when they enter a bar, nightclub or brewery. Within the City of LA starting November 8, people will have to show their vaccine cards at most public places, including restaurants, movie theaters, museums, gyms, and hair salons. On a national level, January 4, 2022 is the deadline for all U.S. companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or can show a negative test...


Why the Hastings law school in SF may change its name

UC Hastings College of the Law is California's oldest law school, and its board of directors voted unanimously on Tuesday to change the institution’s name. This comes after news that its namesake and founder, Serranus Hastings, orchestrated the most violent state campaign against Native people in California history, killing nearly 300 members of the Yuki tribe. For the school name change to be official, it’ll take an act of the legislature and the governor. Cities nationwide elected...


How to cut methane emissions globally and at your own home

President Biden was at the United Nations climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow today, announcing that more than 90 countries will try to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by the end of the decade. “This is low-hanging fruit in the emissions battle. … It's a very clear way to reduce future warming, just looking at methane,” says Paasha Mahdavi, UC Santa Barbara professor who studies energy and environmental politics. KCRW looks at how human industrial activities produce methane, and how we...


Snail Mail: How Lindsey Jordan quickly became a world-touring musician after high school

Press Play also talks to Lindsey Jordan (a.k.a. Snail Mail) about touring her debut music album after her high school graduation, and how being in rehab fueled her passion to produce new songs. Her sophomore album, “Valentine,” comes out this week. Meanwhile, California has sent two dozen lawmakers, climate officials, and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis to the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. And the Supreme Court today heard oral arguments in...


New doc dives into inmate riots for better living conditions at Attica state prison

At the maximum security state prison Attica in upstate New York, more than 1000 inmates overwhelmed dozens of guards and civilian prison workers, and took control of the prison 50 years ago. They killed one guard and took the rest hostage. The prisoners demanded better treatment and living conditions. A new documentary looks at the biggest prison uprising in U.S. history. It’s called “Attica,” and is directed by Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry. Also, critics review the latest movie...