18-29 Segment 1: The Italian Mothers Who Stood Up To The Mafia

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While we know about the Sicilian mafia from the Godfather movies, another more powerful Italian mafia has recently come to light: the ‘Ndrangheta. Established in the late 1800s from a group of 140 families, the secret to this mafia’s success is secrecy. But, their secret was revealed when four women from the clan testified against their own families to bring their works to light. Alex Perry, author The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World’s Most Powerful Mafia, gives more details about this mafia and the brave women who exposed it.

The ‘Ndrangheta are highly influential globally and part of practically all our lives at one point or another. We work in their businesses, eat in their restaurants, and vote for their candidates, but most of us have never even heard of them. They are responsible for running 70% of the cocaine industry in Europe, running global arms businesses, dumping nuclear waste in the Red Sea, and much more, earning themselves 50-100 billion dollars a year. The reason for their success is a reliance on a brutal family structure, where betrayal becomes unthinkable.

The secrecy and misogyny in this mafia are what ultimately led to their exposure. The men in the family are raised to run the business and be killers, but the women are treated as slaves. They are confined to the home from birth and married off at a young age to clan alliances, where beatings are a regular occurrence. Any misbehavior or unfaithfulness will result in their murder, where their bodies are dissolved in acid to get rid of the family shame. But, a few courageous women went against their families to expose this mafia. Two of them were murdered, but their legacy stands behind them, as they exposed the ‘Ndrangheta for the first time and were able to put 64 of their members behind bars. While these women made a difference, the mafia is still alive and well, due to their adaptability. Perry says they are concealed in every part of the financial market, and you could be doing business with them any time you make a transaction.

For a copy of Alex Perry’s book, visit the links below.


  • Alex Perry, author of The Good Mothers: The True Story of the Women Who Took on the World’s Most Powerful Mafia

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18-29 Segment 2: Learning How To Identify and De-bunk Actual Fake News

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Fake news has been a hot topic in recent days, but it’s often misunderstood. Stories written by non-journalists to intentionally mislead readers are a real danger to our society, especially when those in power are misusing the term or employing it for their own benefit. Dr. Robert Probst and Dr. Kylene Beers, educators and co-authors of the book Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters, explain more about how we can identify fake news and stop its progress.

Fake news does not apply to stories, satirical or otherwise, from a credible, professional organization. Rather, it refers to fictitious stories, although sometimes loosely connected to real events. They are usually written in order to create bias, start controversy, or serve as clickbait for an organization’s profit. Dr. Beers explains how sharing news started as a way to encourage an informed democracy, but it has now become a way to chase profit.

Many students, adults, and teachers are untrained in how to recognize fake news stories. Dr. Beers says this is largely a result of seeking a simple answer to a complex problem with many perspectives. Learning to think critically, ask questions, and have an open mind are the crucial skills needed in our digital generation. Those growing up in the digital environment or those with age and experience are not immune to being tricked by fake news. By asking three questions of a news story, readers can spend more time noticing suspicious details and thinking about its validity: How does it look? What does it say? How does it make me feel?

To learn more about spotting fake news or to get a copy of our guests’ book, visit the links below.


  • Dr. Robert Probst, educator and co-author of the book Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters
  •  Dr. Kylene Beers, educator and co-author of the book Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters

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Culture Crash 18-29: Bo Burnham’s Brilliant New Film, Eighth Grade

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture.  What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

2014 had Boyhood, last year had Lady Bird, and this year has Bo Burnham’s new film, Eighth Grade.

Coming of age stories can be truly phenomenal, but sometimes they can come off a bit idealistic. It’s a complaint I have with John Hughes movies. I can’t remember a time growing up when the nerd, the princess, the jock, the basket case and the criminal sat in a circle pouring their hearts out. I know that’s part of those movie’s charm, and they’re classics for a reason, but if you prefer your coming of age movies with a realistic edge, Eighth Grade is in your lane.

The film tells the story of Kayla, an eighth grade outsider with a YouTube channel and a penchant for making you cringe and breaking your heart at the same time. Writer/director Bo Burnham has said he wanted to make a movie that reflects the reality of current eighth graders and not the reality of his time in middle school, and it appears the work paid off. This is a story of smartphones and webcams, of teens who wear earbuds at the dinner table. But of course some things never change, so it’s also about going to a pool party you’re dreading attending, feeling like no one likes you, and longing to be just a few years older.

The movie is funny, and also scary at times. There are several sequences that make the audience uncomfortable- the theater I was in was full of actual squirming and people yelling at the screen. I can see those moments taking certain audience members out of the movie. But it reflects the reality of youth, for better or worse.

Bo Burnham is a former YouTuber himself and, at 27, already has a catalogue of comedy specials on Netflix. Now, he’s turned his attention to directing and, like Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig before him, has hit it out of the park on his first outing. Eighth Grade is in theaters now.

I’m Evan Rook.