S3E2: Robots, WikiLeaks & The Fight Against Human Trafficking

This episode is the second of a three-part series, New Ideas for Policy in the Developing World. In this episode, how diplomacy and public shaming are helping shine a light on a problem that depends on secrecy to survive.

Each year, the U.S. State Department releases the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The report ranks how well or how poorly countries are tackling human trafficking.

Duke professor Judith Kelley was studying the report's effectiveness when she stumbled on an unlikely source of help: the WikiLeaks documents. She found first-hand evidence that countries get really upset when they are ranked poorly. In fact, such rankings can often cause countries to make change.

Also: For years, tiny children were trafficked in the Middle East and forced to become camel jockeys. But a surprising new solution has been created: robotic camel jockeys.

Music: Theme music by David Schulman. "Cases to Rest," "Denzel Sprak," "Base Camp," "Stale Case," "Are We Loose Yet," "Inamorata" by Blue Dot Sessions. "That Kid in Fourth Grade Who Really Liked the Denver Broncos," by Chris Zabriskie. "Disco Sheik" by Sound of Picture.

This three-part series, New Ideas for Policy in the Developing World, is supported by the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

S3 Episode 1: Slum Detectives

Today, for our Season 3 premiere, we begin a three-part series, New Ideas for Policy in the Developing World. In this episode, high-tech meets high-need. How researchers are using Google Earth to find the undocumented slums of India.

Duke Professor Anirudh Krishna has been studying slums in India for the past several years. When he first began, he got an official map from the government, and he traveled from slum to slum. The ones he saw didn't seem very slum-like. They were concrete structures with electricity and water.

"And so we realized after having gone to about 15 of these settlements that we got off the official list, that these aren’t the real slums of Bangalore," Krishna said. His team now focuses on finding and documenting the undocumented pop-up slums that are proliferating in this one Indian city.

This is one of the homes from the slum the team visited in Bangalore, India. [Credit: Anirudh Krishna]

This is one of the homes from the slum the team visited in Bangalore, India. [Credit: Anirudh Krishna]

Professor Anirudh Krishna estimates there were 200 homes in the slum the team visited, and around 1,000 people. [Credit: Anirudh Krishna]

Professor Anirudh Krishna estimates there were 200 homes in the slum the team visited, and around 1,000 people. [Credit: Anirudh Krishna]

Music: Theme music by David Schulman. "Celestial Navigation," "Luchuza," "Algea Trio," "City Limits," "Algea Tender," "Outside the Terminal" by Blue Dot Sessions.

This three-part series, New Ideas for Policy in the Developing World, is supported by the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

S2 Episode 7: Secret Life of Muslims

Ahmed Ahmed is an American-Muslim comedian who was typecast as a terrorist. Khalid Latif is a Muslim chaplain for the New York Police Department who was saluted in uniform, but harassed as a civilian. Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins fought Islamophobia with doughnuts and conversation.

There are as many different stories about being Muslim in the U.S. as there are Muslims. In this episode, we listen to stories from some American Muslims. We also explore how hyper-vigilance about the possible threat of Muslim-American violence might be making all Americans less safe.

Guests include Evelyn Alsultany of the Arab and Muslim American Studies program at the University of Michigan and Sanford School of Public Policy faculty member David Schanzer.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture. Also, Driftwood, Rythn, Skepto and Light Touch from Sound of Picture; Heliotrope by Blue Dot Sessions; Wrap my Hijab by Mona Haydar.

Watch Ahmed Ahmed's story:

Watch Mona Hadar and Sebastian Robins' story:

Watch Khalid Latif's story:

S2 Episode 6: Flimflams, Scams and Ripoffs

John Rusnak was a currency trader in Baltimore when he was convicted of one of the largest bank frauds in American history. He made some poor bets, and rather than telling his boss or others at the bank, he tried to cover the losses up. When he was finally discovered, the bank had lost close to $700 million dollars.

On this episode we look at the case of John Rusnak through an historical lens. It turns out fraud has been a key feature of American business from the beginning. We’ll explore why, and why it’s more urgent now than ever that we pay attention to the rules and regulations our policymakers are creating and taking away.

Episode features Edward Balleisen, associate professor of history and public policy and vice provost for interdisciplinary studies at Duke University. His new book is Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff.

Music: Theme music by David Schulman. Also, “The Zeppelin,” “The Caspian Sea,” “Lacquer Groove,” “Decompression” and “On Three Legs” by Blue Dot Sessions. “Fingernail Grit” by Sound of Picture, “La Duquesa del Bal Tabarín” by Rondalla Usandizaga (Library of Congress National Jukebox), “Commanderism” by Irving Aaronson and His Commanders, and “There is a Sucker Born Every Minute” by Jim Dale for the musical “Barnum.”


S2 Episode 5: Bootstraps and Silver Spoons

Most of us prize stories of people who start with nothing in life, and then become rich. Americans even have a saying for it: pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  However, new economic research is revealing how wealth is actually built in the US and how difficult it is for some people to gain wealth, even when they do everything right.

This episode features William "Sandy" Darity, Professor of Public Policy, African American Studies and Economics at Duke University. Darity also directs the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture. Also, Memories of the War 1861-1863 Conway’s Band from the Library of Congress National Jukebox; Begin the Beguine from the 1938 short Artie Shaw and his Orchestra; Pick Yourself Up performed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, 1936.


Professor William "Sandy" Darity is tackling important issues in society through his research. He tries to make "what many people might view as impossible, possible," he says.

S2 Episode 4: 7 Concerns About Teens and Phones, Unwrapped

Ninety percent of adolescents in the U.S. now either own or can access a mobile phone with the internet. Parents worry about how much time teens spend with their devices -- and it is a lot. Teens look at screens an unprecedented eight hours a day and cell phones are a major part of that; a quarter of teens say they are online almost constantly. 

On this episode we look at seven major concerns parents have about teens and their mobile devices and whether those concerns are justified:

  1. Is my teen at risk for stranger danger and/or cyberbullying?
  2. Does time online affects real-world relationships?
  3. Are phones causing a digital divide with parents?
  4. Are teens posting too much personal information online?
  5. Is multitasking bad for you?
  6. How pervasive is sexting?
  7. Are phones affecting teens' physical health?

Candice Odgers is the Associate Director of the Center for Child & Family Policy at Duke University.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture.

S2 Episode 3: Crazy Districts, Lopsided Elections

In the 2012 election, Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives nationally got 1.5 million more votes than Republican candidates but the Republicans emerged with a 33-seat majority in the House. Why? Because of gerrymandering. That’s when politicians draw voting districts to favor one political party or another.
The practice is nothing new; politicians were doing it back in the 1800s. But gerrymandering has reached a whole new level in recent decades. Computers have done more than simply streamline an old-fashioned process. Hedrick Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has studied the issue.
"The software of computers has now gotten so sophisticated that strategists for either party can go in and they can analyze the voting records or voting patterns literally neighborhood by neighborhood or street by street and they can figure out in great detail exactly where to draw the lines to their maximum advantage,” Smith says.
In this episode, we’ll hear about some stunning gerrymandering feats, and how reformers across the nation are trying to restore the power of your vote.

S2 Episode 2: Who is White?

Very often, we toss around the terms “black," “Latina,” and “white” as if we all agree on what they mean. Yet a look at history shows that ideas about our nation’s racial categories – what they are and who fits into them – are always changing. And in particular, answers to the question “who’s white?” have never been simple.

In the early 20th century, for example, many of the country’s new immigrants to the U.S. were from Finland. They had blonde hair, blue eyes and light skin. But the Finns, who some today might consider the epitome of whiteness, were not considered “white” at the time.

In this episode, we explore the shifting ideas about who is considered “white” in America – how it’s changed, what it means, and how it may be changing still.

Guests include journalist Pilar Marrero; Gunther Peck, associate professor of history and public policy at Duke University; and Sarah Gaither, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture. Also, Chopin Waltz in A minor B.150 Opus Posth. P. Barton, FEURICH piano performed by Paul Barton. Licensed under Creative Commons.

S2 Episode 1: Can Government Really Change?






One thing remains constant in our political discourse: talk of how much we need to change. Every four years, candidates for office make their pitch to voters, including a laundry list of things they promise to change once elected. In this episode of Ways & Means, Dan Ariely, James. B Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, talks about what gets in the way of change in government, and what we need to know about ourselves to make something new work.

NOTE: Dan Ariely hosted an Ask Me Anything on Reddit as a part of our season premiere. Look at the questions he answered here.

We referenced this episode of the Glad You Asked" podcast in the story. We also referenced this essay, about an effort to start an innovation lab at the local level, in Durham, NC. If you're interested in local government innovation, here's a short conversation on the topic.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture.

Episode 5: The Extraordinary Search for Ordinary Politicians

On this episode of Ways & Means, we explore one of the most vexing issues in politics - how to get more ordinary people to run for office. We attend a school for wanna-be politicians, and follow teacher Jeremy Hachen as he launches a bid for state office.

Also: Nick Carnes, assistant professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, talks about his research into "white collar government."

"It really matters that almost none of our politicians come from the working class jobs that most Americans do every single day," says Carnes. "That made me want to understand what exactly is keeping ordinary Americans from getting into politics."