#159 Blockchain: The Next Big Thing? Dan Patterson

Blockchain technology was created a decade ago as a new kind of database for the digital currency, Bitcoin. Within the next ten years, it may transform the internet. 

Today, the blockchain is emerging into a business of its own with many different potential applications. 

Information can be stored and transferred by networks of computers without a central system being in charge. No single large entity can abuse or lose control of the data. Industries, governments and other institutions are investing in blockchain technology to share unique digital records and transactions in a decentralized way that is really hard to hack.

"This code is truly novel. It is something the world had never seen before, because it strengthens itself over time," says our guest, Dan Patterson, a senior reporter for TechRepublic and CBS News. "The chain is strengthened by multiple computers, by tens of thousands or millions of computers, pointing their processing power back at the chain."

In this episode we look at how blockchain technology works and why it may revolutionize real estate transfers, healthcare records, financial transfers, and even the diamond industry. 

More useful links: This article by Nathaniel Popper covers more potential uses for blockchain technology. We also speak about Ethereum in our episode of "How Do We Fix It?"

#157 Our Towns. Solutions & Reinvention: James Fallows

Congress sank to a dismal 10% approval rating in a new poll.  Most Americans believe the nation is heading in the wrong direction. But ask people about their own lives and local communities, and you are likely to get a very different answer.

According to a Gallup poll, well over 80% of Americans are satisfied in general with the way their personal lives are going.

Despite negative media coverage of "fly-over country" and the "rust belt", exciting things are happening in towns and cities across the country.

"This still can be the country people would like to think it is," says well-known journalist James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine and co-author of "Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America." He says that most people don't realize how fast the country is moving toward becoming a better version of itself.

The book and our interview offer a surprising portrait of the civic and economic reinvention taking place. James and his wife Deborah Fallows wrote the book together, traveling to 31 towns and cities over four years in their single engine plane.

The America they saw is deeply conscious of its problems-- from the appalling opioid epidemic to decades of economic dislocation. But many communities are coming up with practical, lasting solutions, in contrast to the rigid paralysis of national politics. 

#154 Fighting Gang Violence: Jonathan Green

From the streets of Chicago and Los Angeles, to indictments this month targeting criminal networks in Savannah, Georgia and white supremacists in Grand Prairie, Texas, tens of thousands of gangs are responsible for drug crimes, brutal killings and other forms of violence.

According to one recent estimate, nearly one-and-a-half million people are members of gangs in the United States.

In this episode, we look at the lessons learned from the successful police and federal crackdown against Sex Money Murder (SMM), New York City's most violent drug gang in the early 1990's. The Bronx had one the highest murder rates in the country. The notorious SMM was the most violent gang in the city.

Our guest, Jonathan Green, is the author of the new book, "Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood and Betrayal." He tells the hair-raising story of how SMM brutally dealt with rivals and anyone else who got in their way, as well as the economics of the crack epidemic, which brought great wealth to gang leaders.

This episode looks at the work of Detective John O'Malley, housing cop Pete Forcelli. federal prosecutor Liz Glazer and others who risked their lives to take violent crews off the streets and win convictions against SMM'S leading members. Jonathan also tells the story of gang leader "Pistol" Pete Rollock and two his top lieutenants, Suge and Pipe. 

We look at what works today in the fight against gangs, including the use of federal RICO laws, and intervention by local communities.