Mobsters, crappy food, Vatican scandal and more on Fresh Air

    I shoulda posted this yesterday, but I’m spending the week hosting “Fresh Air” while Terry Gross catches her breath, and there’s plenty of good stuff.

    Monday’s interview, still available online and on podcast is with two veteran Boston journalists about the legendary criminal Whitey Bulger. You might know that he’s the guy who inspired the Jack Nicholson’s character in the film “The Departed.” But Bulger’s story is extraordinary in many ways. While he was becoming one of Boston’s most notorious criminals, his brother Bill was climbing the political ladder, becoming one of the most powerful men in the Massachusetts legislature.

    Whitey ran guns for the IRA, once firebombed John F. Kennedy’s birthplace to protest school busing in Boston, and repeatedly took LSD in prison as part of a CIA-sponsored experiment.

    But the most troubling part of the story is the complicity of FBI agents in covering up Bulger’s crimes, because they used him as an informant and because he gave them cash and gifts. It’s incredible stuff, and Boston Globe reporters Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy tell the story both on the show and in their book, “Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That  Brought Him to Justice.”

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    Tuesday’s show is all about how American food companies use sophisticated research to make snacks, desserts and prepared meals you can’t resist, and which stand a decent chance of making you fat, sick or both. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Michael Moss talks about scientists finding the “bliss point” of added sugar in foods, and how the “mouth feel” of cheese will keep you coming back.

    His book is called “Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.”

    Wednesday I’ll talk with veteran Vatcan reporter John Thavis about papal succession and the hints of financial and sexual scandal swirling around the Holy See. He has an interesting book called “The Vatican Diaries.”

    And Thursday, it’s Israeli filmmaker  Dror Moreh, who’s documentary “The Gatekeepers,” was nominated for an Oscar. If you care at all about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the film is a powerful reflection on the country’s occupation of the West Bank by six past leaders of Israel’s top secret Shin Bet security agency. There’s also fascinating stuff in the interview about Ariel Sharon.

    Friday we re-run my interview with Robert Zemeckis, who directed the film “Flight,” and many others, including the “Back to the Future” series and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

    And in the vault, we have my interview with former catcher Mike Piazza, who has a new memoir called “Long Shot.” He tells stories about getting beaned by Roger Clemens and refusing to take his call afterward, being inaccurately outed as gay, and more. I’ll let you know when that one is scheduled.

    Fresh Air is on at 3 and 7 at WHYY, 91FM. If you’re outside the Philly area, find a station here.


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