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The Current Transcript for February 14, 2018
Host: Laura Lynch
STORIES FROM THIS EPISODE
Listen to the full episode
They were going to kidnap 20 major Jewish figures including the director Busby Berkeley. They were going to bring them to an abandoned park and hang them there.
LAURA LYNCH: Seemingly wild tales of dark plots to murder of widespread networks of fascist spies and operatives trying to disrupt Hollywood and de-stabilize the United State. This was the 1930s and as Hitler rose to power in Germany a small band of women and men in California risked their lives to infiltrate those networks led by one American Jew who saw the growing threat. The story is now told in detail for the first time by historian Stephen Ross and he'll speak to us in an hour. Before that though, no more whispers of espionage.
I do believe me it is a country without the rule of law. And I don't believe that I would want our assets to be managed by companies without the rule of law but that's probably not a consideration.
LL: Billionaire investor Stephen Jarislowsky has been sounding the alarm warning against allowing a Chinese-state owned firm to buy Canadian construction company Aecon. Jarislowsky worries about the potential for problems arising from corruption allegations against the Chinese firm. Others though say national security is at stake and now Ottawa has decided to take a closer look. It will do that as well this morning, after that.
Streaking away already. It's Bolt all the way![Unintelligible] Watch the clock [unintelligible]. And again! He's done it again! A new world record for Usain Bolt!
LL: Usain Bolt tearing up the track, shattering records along the way. Watching elite athletes break new barriers in competition is just one of the reasons why so many find the Olympics so compelling. But some are suggesting competitors have reached what they call peak performance, meaning the possible end of the phrase higher, faster, stronger. The race to find a new way to win without drugs in half an hour. I am Laura Lynch sitting in for Anna Maria Tremonti. And this is The Current.
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'We don't need to be paranoid': Security concerns over Aecon deal unwarranted, says expert
Guests: Wesley Wark, Wenran Jiang
Communist China's proposed takeover of Aecon has raised serious concerns from security experts, the construction industry and everyday Canadians. This is a bad deal for Canada and a threat to national security.
LL: A huge deal proposed in the Canadian construction industry is stirring debate in the House of Commons. Last year a Chinese state on company offered a one point five billion dollars to buy Canadian firm Aecon group. It’s the construction and infrastructure development firm that was involved in the building of some of Canada's most iconic landmarks including the CN Tower in Toronto. It also built Vancouver Sky train. It employs more than 12,000 people across the country. But concern for the deal is growing in different quarters of Canada. Other construction firms question the Chinese company's record on safety and corruption but it is the implications for national security that have the politicians raising red flags.
VOICE 1: Will the Minister of Industry put Canadian national security ahead of any economic considerations
VOICE 2: Once again, I reiterate to the honourable member that we never have and we never will compromise our national security. The fact of the matter is is that we have a multi step process in place, under the adverse candidate. We rely on the expertise of our national security experts and we will get to a good result.
LL: And that was Liberal MP David Lametti, parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation Science and economic development, responding to questions from Conservative MP Tom Kmiec. This week the government expanded the security review of the deal under the Investment Canada Act, giving it more time to review potential national security implications. No one from Aekon was available for an interview today but this is what CEO John Beck told BNN late last year.
We don't believe that we have any new security issues. We are in the construction business. We have no secret IT or patents. We have no security activities. So we believe that if there is security review will end up confirming everybody's position which is there are really security issues.
LL: Well Wesley Wark is one of the people raising concerns about the proposed deal. He's an expert on national security issues and an executive in residence at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and we have reached him in Ottawa. Hello.
WESLEY WARK: Good morning Laura.
LL: You had called on the Canadian government to do this security review. Why do you think it ultimately decided to go ahead with it?
WESLEY WARK: It's difficult to know but there are ministerial guidelines and the investment Canada Act which indicate the kinds of criteria that the government must follow when it looks at a major foreign investment. And these are criteria for a national security review. And in my view there are actually nine criteria. It's a fairly long list. In my view the Aecon takeover ticks a lot of those boxes. And above all ticks the box that lists concern about impact on the sensitivity and security of Canada's critical infrastructure and that is the business that Aecon is really in.
LL: Well in that sense then what's the threshold for giving the sale a green light under the process?
WESLEY WARK: Well what's happening now is that there is always an initial phase they call it a national security review which has been conducted by the government. And then the government can make a decision through a cabinet decision to go to what we often call a full scale national security review which they have just done according to Aecon press release. So this means that the government has the opportunity to dig deeper into the intelligence that they have available to them to pull it all together even to allies and ask if you know, they say 'we're taking this matter seriously. Do you have any information you can share with us that might be relevant?' It does give them time and access to greater pool of intelligence to make the decision as to whether there are overriding national security considerations in this investment. If they decide that there are major national security implications in the investment they take over by what's called the China Construction Group then they can do one of three things. They can decide to approve the deal. They can decide to approve the deal with conditions or mitigating conditions or they can deny the deal and the clock is now ticking on the government's decision. They have 45 days at least to get initially, they can extend it but to decide on the outcome of that full national security review.
LL: But where evidence is there that you know of, that this purchase could pose a potential national security threat?
WESLEY WARK: I think again there are a number of issues that are potentially involved. The one that really stands out for me is the major role that Aecon plays and has played in the construction of what is called critical infrastructure. I think perhaps the tendency to think of you know the construction business as being involved in the pouring of cement and so on, but it's really the information space that they can get into - any company can get into when they're involved in sensitive critical infrastructure projects. In Aecon's case, quite apart from being a builder a kind of iconic elements of Canadian landscape, Aecon has been involved in some major construction work on Canadian military bases, naval bases in particular, on the East and West Coast, at CFB Trenton in Ontario. They have a lot of projects that are in the energy sector, including in nuclear energy and oil and gas.
LL: But you heard the CEO saying that Aecon doesn't have any intellectual property related to things like nuclear energy or sensitive proprietary technology.
WESLEY WARK: No that's true. I'm sure Mr. Beck is accurate about that. They may not have it at the moment that is in the sense that they own intellectual property. It's impossible to predict the future in terms of whether they may own such property in the future. And that you know is true in general for the profile of Aecon. It's a major construction company. The purpose behind its investment is to expand its capital in its reach and it's difficult to predict where it may go. But the point again is that a company like this involved in critical infrastructure doesn't just pour concrete. It operates in what I call an information space. It has access to a lot of sensitive information particularly on the defence side but it can also be true of the energy side. And we have to kind of step back from this and ask ourselves...
LL: What kind of access are you talking about? What could they get their hands on?
WESLEY WARK: Well let's take one example. I mean they recently, in 2014 announced a major infrastructure project at CFB Halifax which involves the construction of a residence and training facilities for junior officers at CFB Halifax. So that means they are building these facilities. They are on site within the secure perimeter of a Canadian naval base. They have access to personnel. Some of their personnel may require security clearances and it is, without being paranoid about this, it is an opportunity that could be taken to engage in some activities that can be contrary to Canadian national security interest. They are also - just to take one example from the new work that they do - they're involved in the shipment of sensitive nuclear modules to the United States for use by Westinghouse. And again that's a supply chain that is very sensitive and of critical importance. You know there is no demonstrated evidence at this point that Aecon has ever been touched by espionage but this is I think an important test case. And we see that we have a buyer, in the case of trying to construction which is very closely linked to the Chinese government to steelyard enterprise. It has been involved in military projects for the Chinese government. We know a lot about how China behaves globally in terms of cyber-attacks and intelligence gathering. And so you just have to put those pieces of the puzzle together.
LL: But Aecon has also said that the Chinese company - It is called China Communications Construction International - has successfully by companies in Australia and the U.S. and has been in compliance with national and local laws there. So why can't we call you paranoid for the kinds of alarms that you're raising? Your saying you have no record of them doing anything.
WESLEY WARK: Yes
LL: well first of all just to put the acquisitions that this Chinese company has made in the past in context.
WESLEY WARK: I wrote an op ed for The Globe and Mail and I said that this is going to be an important advance in terms of the China company trying to construction companies' global footprint because it hasn't done much business relatively little business among our Five Eyes partners. They have done business in the U.K., no business as far as I'm aware of in Australia, the business that they've acquired seven years ago or eight years ago now in the United States is a small engineering firm. And they did buy the John Holon construction company which has kind of a similar size to Aecon in Australia in 2015. Some of the work that we have substantively done in Australia has been controversial but I think the main thing to say is that since 2015 and in an Australian context, there has been a huge political controversy about Chinese investment and foreign influence and interference in Australia. And the Australian since that acquisition have really tightened up their own national security review process around [crosstalk].
LL: Is there any evidence of espionage in Australia?
WESLEY WARK: Not that I'm aware of so far. But you know one has to look to the future and the potentiality. What you're protecting against is a potentiality of harm being done to a major element of what's called critical infrastructure. It's a kind of new calculation for Canada and we are, to a certain extent, catching up with some of our allies in terms of how we deal with it the Australians and the Americans included.
LL: Mr. Wark just briefly. We've seen a number of Canadian political leaders go to China and court Chinese business interests and court Chinese investment in Canada. What's the point of doing that if we shut the door to them once they try to come?
WESLEY WARK: Well listen, Laura, we're not shutting the door to all Chinese investment. Far from it. I mean what we are simply saying is - and this is the reason why these guidelines and national security review have been around since 2009 - We're saying that Canada has a national security interest in major foreign investments and we go through a process of adjudicating these foreign takeovers to see if they might have a harmful impact on Canadian national security. That's a very legitimate, it seems to me, process to apply for any country as long as the guidelines it clearly set out. And my point on this is that we just have to take a look at this and have to take it seriously. There's always a tension between national security calculations and economic benefit. But people have made the argument that if we decide to disallow this investment this would be deeply harmful to Canada Chinese economic relations and I just don't buy that argument.
LL: Wesley Wark, thank you for your time.
WESLEY WARK: Thank you Laura.
LAURA LYNCH: Wesley Wark is an executive in residence at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. And he was in Ottawa this morning. For another perspective on the Aecon deal, I am joined by Wenran Jiang. He is a senior fellow at the Institute of Asian Research at UBC. He is in our Edmonton studio. Hello.
WENRAN JIANG: Hi good morning.
LAURA LYNCH: How concerned should Canadians be about the national security implications of this deal?
WENRAN JIANG: I don't think we need to be concerned that much at all. I am glad you pressed the previous speaker Wesley Wark about what exactly the national security threat that we have and he couldn't come up with any details. This is the problem. If we look at this current case and we look at Mr. Wark own op ed in The Globe and Mail last week, if you replace CCC, the Chinese Construction Company, with the Senok, or you replace Aecon with Nexon, well can go back all the way to 2012 and 2013.
LL: You're referring to a previous deal where a Chinese company bought a Canadian company.
WENRAN JIANG: 15 billion dollar takeover of Nexon. Five years later the sky has not fallen. They perform not well economically but they bear those problems and they continue to operate in Canada with very little problem. They follow our regulations and laws.
LL: But Mr. Jiang, can I press you as well, because I think Mr. Wark's point is that even if there is no evidence, Canada is beholden to actually check these things out to make sure there is no risk, given that Aecon is involved in sensitive and critical infrastructure projects.
WENRAN JIANG: Well make no mistake about it. I am in full support of a national security review. For such a case, it is good for Canada and that's what the Canada investments are in place for such a purpose. We need to go through the review but we don't need to be paranoid like what Mr. Wark did. The article and his concluded interview with you, he not only presented a very weak argument against the takeover, he presented misleading facts. Let's take the example about the nuclear technology what he talked about. The nuclear technology, [unintelligible] involvement in construction and the shipment to the US side is in fact a very little aspect of the whole thing. By the way the Americansa are...
LL: Isn't it even a little something to be concerned about?
WENRAN JIANG: We shouldn't be. Why shouldn't we cooperate with China on better use of nuclear technology? Remember this: China is a highly sophisticated nuclear power on both military and the civilian side. Canadians have been appealing China's nuclear market. We built Condo reactors with right. We should be welcoming this kind of cooperation, a nuclear technology cooperation because you know what? The White House, United States, you know as Mr. Wark mentioned that were shipping nuclear materials to, has far more extensive cooperation in China with the Chinese.
LL: Why does this Chinese company want to make this acquisition?
WENRAN JIANG: Well they're expanding globally. They have what 10 times more workers than Aecon, as 120,000 workers. They are operating in 145 countries. They operate in Australia. Extensive business, unlike Mr. Wark said, they're not doing business there. They acquired [unintelligible] group which has been doing extremely well since taking over. The Australian Government has no issue with that takeover and they continue to give them exactly what Mr. Wark is saying, it's critical infrastructure. The other part of this is what is critical infrastructure? Is building the landmark iconic you know architects. That's what the Chinese does. They do. They do all those things around the world and now they want to come to Canada. It is not a national security threat in ways that we think it is.
LL: Let's talk about something else. The company does have a rocky business record. The World Bank banned the company from bidding on its construction project for eight years because of the bid rigging scandal in the Philippines and that was just lifted a year ago. And other subsidiary of the company was blacklisted in Bangladesh for offering bribes. Why should Canada even entertain doing business with a company that has a record of what the World Bank is bluntly fraudulent practices?
WENRAN JIANG: Okay I'm glad you raised that question because that's one of the things about potential corruption or substandard may come to Canada. We need to look at the details on the cases. The devil is in the details. In the Philippines case, it was shortly after the CCCC - the China Communications Construction Co. group was formed with different entities in 2006. And they had a problem with one of the surprises. There is very small support there is in the Philippines. It got sanctioned by the World Bank but you know what. The other way around of the story is they learned there licence. They updated their standards over the years since the group first and now that that is lifted. They are on the standard of the World Bank.
LL: What about Bangladesh?
WENRAN JIANG: Bangladesh is a very small individual case involving the subsidiaries of the subsidiaries. I looked into this through my Chinese sources and done investigation on this. We are rooking situations that not only the CCCC as one of the largest construction companies in the world, you can only isolate two of these small cases and the World Bank cases actually lifted. So therefore we're dealing with a company that's not only learning to do international business. I think we can have a chance to use the Aecon take over the merger and cooperation, joint venture, take over as a good way of influencing Chinese behavior to do better standards and just take a step back. We are not saint here. We have, in our own country, some bad scandals involving construction companies and here in Canada we have very high standards, that still happens.
LL: I just want to ask you this though. If this deal does go ahead or sorry, I want to go back another step. What are the potential ramifications for Canada's relationship with China if Canada were to block the deal?
WENRAN JIANG: Well first of all we do not see any reason even by the most severe critics to come up with any evidence that we should block the deal based on national security concerns. If we do block it based on national security review this will send out bad signals not only to the Chinese. They're wrong; the critics are saying it doesn't matter. It matters to the international community when they look at Canada making excuses to block a deal that shouldn't be blocked, based on national security concerns. We consider that a state intervention in the free market place for abuse. And not only that, we are influencing the FTA, the Free Trade Agreement negotiation process with China.
LL: We'll have to leave it there, Sir. Thank you very much.
WENRAN JIANG: Thank you for having me.
LL: Wenran Jiang is a senior fellow at the Institute of Asian Research at UBC School of Public Policy and global affairs. He was in our Edmonton studio. We contacted the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa but we haven't heard back. Well the CBC News is coming up next. Then the science behind peak performance and the growing challenge to smash world records. With all eyes on the feets of Olympians, we'll look at how far the human body and mind can go. I am Laura Lynch sitting in for Anna Maria Tremonti. And you are listening to The Current.
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Retired at 50: How five-time Olympian David Ford pushed the limits in sport
Guests: Alex Hutchinson, David Ford
LL: Hello I'm Laura Lynch sitting in for Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current.
Spreading hatred and terrorism to mask the [unintelligible] plots of its leaders, confessions of a Nazi spy.
LL: How Hollywood studios bankrolled an operation against Nazi espionage in Los Angeles. Stay tuned for the riveting story of how a Jewish spy ring foiled Nazi plots against Hollywood and America. But first going beyond the limits of athletics performance.
Oh she is going for it! For [unintelligible] 1080! She has done it! No one has ever done back to back 1080s in Olympic history for women in snowboarding.
LL: Athletes are making history at the 2018 Pyongyang Olympics. American snowboarder Chloe Kim, now Olympic gold medalist, landed the Olympics first ever back to back 1080s and if you don't know what they are, have a look because I didn't know before I saw it last night in the snowboard half fight competition on Sunday night. And she is not the only ones setting records this year.
81.06, that is a new world record for the women in the short program.
And that was Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva with a new world record score in the ladies figure skating short program. And on a different rig, Canadian speed skater Charles Hamelin set an Olympic record yesterday during a qualifying heat for the men's 1000 meter event.
His strength is being tested here. He is [unintelligible] ahead of Wu. He'll push and make it to the line ahead of Wu and it looks like it is Hamelin and Wu. That is a new Olympic record. Olympic record on that heat for Hamelin, on a speedy night, he has found his way into the Olympic books with that Olympic record here in heat number five
LL: The Olympics are clearly the pinnacle of sport, human strength and endurance. These athletes are competing at the top of their game. But how much faster, higher and stronger can we get? How many more records can we break? In a few minutes we will talk to two people who study the physical and mental limits of athletic performance. But first we're going to hear from someone who knows firsthand what it's like to push his body to the max. In nearly three decades as one of Canada's top white water kayakers David Ford has shattered stereotypes about age and high performance. A five time Olympian he retired last year at age - wait for it - 50. He joins us now from Canmore, Alberta. Hello.
DAVID FORD: Good morning. You made the Canadian team last year at the age of 50 and one of your teammates was 18. What was that experience like?
DAVID FORD: One of the special things about our sport I think is that it is so technical or also being physical that you have a wide range of people that are able to do them. It's one of the things that brought me back the all the time is I dance with the river and it is exciting to kind of share the enthusiasm of an 18 year old being on the team which kind of pushes me to get better every year.
LL: Well we're talking about the years that you've been involved in it and obviously gather some inspiration from an 18 year old, just how much of a mental barrier is your age?
DAVID FORD: Well for me my age wasn't really a mental barrier at all. Every year kind of I like finished the year as world champion, or whether I had struggled all season and you look at that kind of puzzle high performance you try and figure out do I have all the pieces, and if I have the pieces, am I put in that together the right way. And that's really what gave me inspiration. I never really thought about my age so much through that whole process surprisingly. It was more than just that reassessment every year and whether I still had the passion for it.
LL: Well what about the physical part? What did you do differently than other athletes to stay competitive as you got older?
DAVID FORD: I think one of the things that happens with athletes especially high performers is you do something well and you get kind of stuck in a rut and you think 'well if that got me what I wanted then I need to just keep doing more of that or just keep doing that,' and I think I sort of stayed away from that. In that kind of reassessment every year, I was willing to kind of be open to what was happening in the world of high performance and sports science. And I got the opportunity to work with people much much smarter than I am. And I was able to adopt more modern training techniques as I moved through and I think that saved me from falling into that rut which I think would have really limited a disability to get better every year.
LL: Tell me what your training routine looked like?
DAVID FORD: Well when I first started I think the mantra was if something works then do more of it. And we just do a little bit then do more. And we would train five days and six days and seven days and you train for three hours and six hours and eight hours and I think a lot of that was just we were tired all the time. And I think one of the things we learned and were learning more and more is through the science is periodisation is critical.
LL: What does this mean?
DAVID FORD: Well, you start your year and you look at where you need to perform. And so you periodise your year and look at- okay, I can be training here in these energy systems, so that in June, July, August or whenever you're main competitions are you're going to be your best. And what we're doing now is a lot fewer workouts, like shorter, a lot more intensities. You are spending a lot more time in what we call the pain cave. But we're also sort of really planning the rest. We've learned that rest is really important so your body can recover and I think that's what gave me some longevity is I was able to learn that giving my body the opportunity to have a break, let it build itself back up so I was stronger and also let me compute more longer.
LL: Now you did say that you didn't see many mental barriers but what you did you do to prepare mentally?
DAVID FORD: I said my age wasn't really a mental barrier. There are all kinds of mental barriers and I use sport psychology and I think that has become a huge part of a lot of athletes preparation process, is making sure that they understand sort of the optimum mental performance state and that involves dealing with all of the barriers that exist for everyone in life, not just athletes but especially for athletes. And being able to sort of learn your own mental psyche and how to compartmentalize things, how to put things away for later, how to deal with things on the spot and how to be sort of mentally pliable so that when things come up you're able to overcome them very quickly rather than let them hold you back.
LL: I wanted a recent is some tape now. We spoke to the Olympic medalist Elvis Stojko yesterday is a figure skater, about his experience with pushing the boundaries.
They said you know, 'Oh won't be able to do it. He won't be able to win again'. Whatever it is I used that as fuel to make me push beyond what I thought was possible. You never know what someone is going to do mentally to charge their body to reach their goal. That's why I say, you say 'Oh, it can never be done'. I'm like really? Never say never. That's the next stage. Being able to remove those limits of the mind.
LL: Does that resonate with you the idea of surpassing limits of the mind?
DAVID FORD: It absolutely does. When I was 15 or 16 years old I was told I'd never be a Canadian world champion. There is just too many obstacles to that happening and I just remembered that planting a seed in the back of my brain that just wouldn't go away. And when you're working that hard at things you need that something to keep you motivated. For me for a long time it was that. And I think as we learned to remove those mental barriers and take away those things that kind of make us lazy or hold us back that's when things really sort of explode and growth really happen.
LL: Can you recall a time when you were challenged either mentally or physically and what you did to get past it?
DAVID FORD: Sure at the Olympics in 2004. I had kind of a rocky Olympic history and in the qualifying event I had a very bad first run and you need two runs that are added together to move on. I was lucky to have my sports psychologist and my coach there and we sat under the bridge there and on the course and we had a long discussion about what I wanted my legacy to look like, how I wanted to be defined. And not having the ability to work with somebody like that and really put things in perspective I probably would have crumbled. It gave me the opportunity to kind of step up and step out of myself. I was way behind the eight ball but I was able to fight back to fourth place which was my best Olympic performance, it would have been great to get a medal but it would have been far worse to not qualify and finish last or something like that. So that was a moment where I really had to dig deep and use all of those mental skills we work on all the time to kind of flip the page.
LL: I'm interested in your perspective on this. Records are being broken and Pyeongchang but do you think there is a limit to how much more of the human body can be pushed?
DAVID FORD: Well from an anecdotal point of view I find it hard to believe there's a finite limit. We are learning so many new things all the time we don't know what's going to move the human condition forward, where the end of human potential is. And technology changes, the way we train changes, sports are changing. I think because of all of that we're going to see athletes always moving it forward just a little bit.
LL: How can a competitor know, though when they've reach their own limits, when they have peaked?
DAVID FORD: I think that is the hardest thing for an athlete, probably why I retired at 50, is I waited until my body told me for sure it was over. And I think one of the things that makes athletes really great is the ability to have optimism and to think the next thing is going to be better. And so that is a question I think a lot of athletes struggle with, certainly I did, for a long time and I don't know that there is an answer for everybody.
LL: Well yes there have lasted a long time; I'd say that for you. Thank you very much for speaking to us.
DAVID FORD: Thank you.
LL: That was David Ford five time Olympian and a world champion in whitewater slalom kayaking and we reached him in Canmore, Alberta. Well as the Winter Olympics have already shown there are world class athletes who have the rare ability to break world records. But a recent study suggests we have reached the boundaries of what the human body can do in sport. Published in the journal Frontiers of physiology, the study reviewed data going back to the beginning of the 20th century and concluded that athletic performances began to plateau in the 1980s. Does that necessarily mean we won't see any more firsts. My next two guests have each spent a lot of time studying and contemplating athletic performance and its limits. Stuart Phillips is a kinesiology professor and director of the Physical Activity Center of Excellence at McMaster University. He is also a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in skeletal muscle health and we reached him in Hamilton. Alex Hutchinson is a physicist, a distance runner and an Arthur. His new book is called Endure: Mind Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. He is in Toronto. Hello to you both.
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Hello Laura.
LL: Stuart Phillips let me start with you. What do you make of the recent journal article published in frontiers of physiology?
STUART PHILLIPS: It's an interesting perspective. I'm not sure that I would call it a study as much as I would call it more of a narrative comment when looking at world records and indeed noticing the trend. You know we are sort of beginning to see a plateau in a few events. So I think it’s a degree of speculation by the authors that were kind of, you know, were at the limit or we are close to it anyway.
LL: So to what extent do you think we've seen a peak and athletic achievement?
STUART PHILLIPS: Well I think in certain track and field events. And I used for example the 100 meters. People have done their fair degree of analysis about the biomechanical and physiological variables that you could fit in to what determine performance in that event. And they have come up with you know it's likely that were going to ever get below, say nine and a half seconds for example, with a human being.
LL: Alex Hutchinson what about you, what do you think of the study?
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Yeah I think what's interesting in this study is what it doesn't talk about in terms of what it has allowed us to get to the point we're at now. If you look at- So 100 meters, yes we're faster than we were 60 years ago. But Jesse Owens was running on a dirt track in 1936 with very different shoes and conditions. So I think a lot of the progress that we saw in the 20th century kind of hides technological change or inventing sports as we go. So when you talk about the records we're seeing at the Winter Olympics, a lot of those records are in sports that were invented 10 years ago. So of course were not going to see rapid change to the extent we saw when these sports were young. But I have a hard time believing that were going to start seeing world records.
LL: Can you give me some examples of sports where you still see room for four record breaking performance?
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Yes. Well I'll give you an example of one of the reasons I think. One of the things that technology's athletes are using in the Winter Olympics is electric brain stimulation. It's sort of making its debut this year.
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Yes. I have mixed feelings about it. I don't know that it is where we want to go but it’s an example of the kind of technology that you don’t see until it’s the air and that has relatively robust evidence that it can help your brain push your body a little bit farther. So in 20 years we may say 'well these records, but they were all done with sort of technologies we didn't anticipate' but the same for the past progress.
LL: Alex, you have to describe what you’re talking about.
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Yes well, there is a technique called trans cranial direct current stimulation which basically is equivalent to taking a nine volt battery and hooking up a couple of electrodes to your brain. There's a lot of research on it these days, some of it is very poor quality but there's also some reasonably high quality research showing that you can enhance endurance by it by a few percent. There are some examples of athletes like just a couple of brothers, the Fletcher Brothers from the U.S. Nordic combined team who have been using this technique in preparation for Pyeongchand.
LL: It is more of a mind over matter issue in that case?
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Well what it does is it alters the way the threshold at which your neurons are under fire. In effect you can change your perception of the effort. So you can be pushing your body to a given degree and it will feel a bit easier and as a result you'll allow yourself to keep pushing others farther.
LL: And clearly there is no question about it being a performance enhancing drug. There is no bar against doing it.
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Well there isn't right now. I would argue that there probably should be but it's a tricky tricky thing to regulate because it's hard to detect.
LL: Stuart can I get back to you? Can you tell me what sports you see having a room for more achievement, for more rigorous breaking?
STUART PHILLIPS: I think a lot of the support that Alex mentioned that have quite a high skill component to them are probably ripe for world records and different scorers etc. being set. The pure physiology of running a marathon for example under two hours which is another sort of mythical barrier much as the four minute mile was for a long time. They seem to be very difficult to break the physiology sort of limits this and it probably matters a little bit less about some of the other factors. But in some sports where skills involved - you know you heard Dave Ford talk about you know something like slalom kayaking. Certainly there is room in those types of sports for different records to fall and to be broken.
LL: Aside from things like nine volt batteries and cranial stimulation, Stuart, what other factors can go into limits being stretched? I mean one thing we haven't talked about is how athletes eat.
STUART PHILLIPS: Yes you know I would want to believe, as somebody who talks about nutrition and sports performance, that we've probably got that pretty much dialled in to the level where I don't know that we can squeeze too much more out of the cloth so to speak. But there is always, within a given individual, room for change. I think as you heard in David's piece, he tried different methods along the way. In athletes’ talks, I think with longevity about training not maybe Florida but training smarter. It could be - nutrition for example is something that one athlete gets right one time maybe doesn't another, but then eventually settles in a place where they're like 'you know what this is that these are the sorts of things that are working. There's unlikely to be something more that I can get out of it.
LL: Now I have a clip here from Canadian athlete Dara Howell who was awarded gold in slope style skiing at the 2014 Winter Games when she was just 19 years old. As she told the CBC's The National recently, it took her a while to regain that mental confidence she needed to head into these current games.
COMMENTATOR: All of her tricks nailed, [unintelligible] performance. And it rewarded by the judges and how, 94.20 the score Dara Howell has only just realized she takes the lead by a massive margin.
DARA HOWELL: For me at the time was just like 'Well I think I'm done. I don't really even want to go there because what if I fail? What if that doesn't work out?' So I really shyed away from that and now I am kind of like why not? Why not me?
LL: So we're heading back into more of a discussion about the mental side of things. Alex Hutchinson how hard is it for young athletes to master that mental side of competing?
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Yes I mean I think when you look at the person who is standing on the top of the podium; it is often the person who has gotten it right. But they got it right on their day. And it's I think it's very difficult for people to get it right consistently when it counts and to master their doubts and to have confidence. So as David said, David Ford said the sports psychologists have been working with athletes for a long time and they have a lot to say but I think we can learn a lot more about how to optimize that and get it right on the day.
LL: Stuart, what do you think of the idea that the leading athletes can be trained to ignore - I guess we call - stop signals that they're brains sends them in order to squeeze that extra bit out of their performance?
STUART PHILLIPS: Well I mean Alex mentioned a very new technology that is maybe if you like messing with that ability to be able to ignore pain. But I think that most athletes at the top level have some sort of psychology or definitely what we call toughness above the knack, an ability to be able to push and endure where most mere mortals and myself very much included in that would say 'you know what this is too much'. Dave mentioned the pain cave and I think that's just a euphemism for you know the point where most of us would say 'I've had enough' and you know Dara Howell is an interesting case study for somebody who peaks so to speak. Got her gold medal very young and then thought 'Jeez, like where do I go from here?' So you know then we talk about the long term psychology of being able to endure more training, more sessions and think 'four years hence I'm going to give it another run.' And that's really tough. I think Alex hit the nail on the head when he said 'I am always impressed by gold medal winners of course but people who can stay at the top of their game and it's gold, gold, silver, you know time after time. That's true putting the puzzle together.
LL: In the hierarchy then factor that go into an athlete's performance where would you place the mental technique compared to other factors?
STUART PHILLIPS: I think it's very sport dependent. I mean I can probably point as a physiologist to numbers, [unintelligible] take for example that would be cut offs for a marathon runner for a 10,000 meter runner and say 'you know what? You're in the ballpark with this number, with this value'. But clearly the psychology in the mental toughness if you like are aspects that play into performance and longevity in sport, in another skill sport or the ability to be able to shrug off as David said that bad run and compete again are clearly a huge factor. So I think the more that skill comes into it the more psychology would play a larger role.
LL: This is to both of you. Do you think athletes are more receptive to sports psychology than they used to be? Alex I'll start with you.
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Yes. I definitely think so. I was I was a competitive athlete, middle distance runner 20 years ago, and we had a sports psychologist with us at university and we thought it was a great joke. All these sort of these ridiculous negative thoughts stopping processes that we were tired and we just laughed them off, and now I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone of the Olympics who isn't working with a sports psychologist. .
LL: And Stuart, what do you think?
STUART PHILLIPS: I agree a 100 percent. I think the sports psychologist is sort of a bigger part of the team now and most athletes these days if they don't work with one regularly will definitely check in and say you know what, when things were going well I just have to say you know it's great, it's going well. But when things don't go so well that may well be the person that you know rescues you and allows you to put your mind back in a state ready to compete again.
LL: Well given that then, with all of this talk that we're having now about certain sports reaching their peak, could that have a negative impact on an athlete`s psychology?
STUART PHILLIPS: Well I think that athletes have to take a very- I think a much different sort of methodical approach and prepare themselves and they understand that the psychological preparation is as big a part as just you know training hard and resting and recovering and getting ready. So I think most athletes now realise that there is - you know there's another aspect to performance. But I think given the supporters that are out there I am in agreement with Alex that I think we're going to see more records fall and maybe in some sports we're very close to the limit, but I don’t think in end everything out there for sure.
LL: Okay then, Stuart, in that sense then what are you going to be watching for during the rest of these games?
STUART PHILLIPS: Well I mean as a Canadian I'd be remiss to say that I wasn't watching ice hockey, but the Olympics showcase the sports that we only ever get to see every four years. So you know speed skating, long track and short track, a lot of the luge, the bobsledding, things that we don’t get an awful lot of coverage of. But I find all of it fascinating and despite a lot of the politics and drug scandals that center around the Olympics I still find the whole event quite inspiring.
LL: Alex Hutchinson what are you going to be looking for?
ALEX HUTCHINSON: I`d say I've got a soft spot for cross country skiing where we have a couple good medals shots and also biathlon which is just a fascinating sport combining cross-country skiing and shooting. And you know at the end of those races you want to talk about pushing pushing limits, people have been there for 20, 30, 50 K you'll see them dig deeper than just about anybody you ever see anywhere. So I always enjoy that.
LL: Does it matter to either one of you as spectators and just briefly on this whether records are broken when you're watching these competitions?
ALEX HUTCHINSON: I'll jump in and say I am really glad you asked that question because they think in some ways the focus on records takes away from what's really fascinating about the Olympics. And maybe the future of sports is not to hold our breath waiting for a tiny record but appreciate the amazing and you know head to head competition between the best athletes in the world.
LL: And Stuart, you've got 10 seconds.
STUART PHILLIPS: I absolutely agree. It's a personal interest story every time somebody steps up and wins and it's fantastic to see. I don`t care if a record is broken.
LL: Really interesting discussion, gentlemen. Thank you very much.
ALEX HUTCHINSON: Thanks Flora.
STUART PHILLIPS: Thank you.
LL: Stuart Phillips is a kinesiology professor and director of the physical activity center of excellence at McMaster University. He's also a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in skeletal muscle health. He was in Hamilton. And Alex Hutchinson is a physicist, distance runner and after his new book is called Endure: Mind, Body and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance. He was in Toronto. Well coming up in our next half hour Hollywood's secret undercover war against Nazi terror on U.S. soil. I'm Laura Lynch sitting in for Anna Maria Tremonti. And you're listening to The Current.
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Hitler in L.A.: How private spies foiled a Nazi Hollywood takeover
Guest: Steven Ross
LL: I'm Laura Lynch sitting in for Anna Maria Tremonti and you're listening to The Current. Up next: Nazi Hate the United States. This is from February the 20th 1939.
We the German American Bund organized as American citizens with American ideals, and determined to protect ourselves, our homes, our wives and children against the conspirators who will change this glorious republic into the infernal of a Bolshevik paradise. We, I say will not fail you when called upon to give every lawful support in our power in the fight to break the grip and the parasite hand of Jewish communisms in our schools, our universities, our very homes.
LL: That was Fritz Kuhn the German born leader at the German American Bund speaking to 22,000 Hitlerites at Madison Square Garden in the tense months leading up to World War 2. The Bund was the biggest and best known of the American Nazi organization's secretly sponsored by the Third Reich. But there were others. And one of the cities that most interested Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels was Hollywood, California. And like something out of a Hollywood thriller, a Jewish spy ring, financed by big movie moguls, carried on a secret war infiltration and disruption against the Nazis and fascists that secretly plotted revolution and murder on US soil. Steven Ross is a professor of history at the University of Southern California and he tells this story in his new book Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots against Hollywood and America and Steven Ross in Los Angeles. Hello.
STEVEN ROSS: Hi.
LL: This is such a strange and amazing story. How did you first hear about it?
STEVEN ROSS: Well the previous book I did was called Hollywood Left Right: How Movie stars Shaped American Politics and I was writing a chapter. Edward G Robinson and I got very interested in the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League which was really the first major political uprising of Hollywood after 1932 in the presidential election. And I thought I am going to come back to it. I discovered it was the story of a spy ring that was run by this Jewish attorney Leon Lewis from August 1933 until the end of World War 2. I knew I had a book.
LL: So let's start with Leon Lewis. Tell me more about him.
STEVEN ROSS: Well Leon Lewis was born in Wisconsin in the late 80s, went to university, got a law degree from Chicago in 1913. Then rather than go to work in a law firm, he believed in the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam which has healed the world. He became the founding executive secretary of the Anti-Defamation League that was founded the same year he graduated law school. So he worked in the Anti-Defamation League, went off to war, came back and persuaded the rest of the league that they needed to open international division to monitor the rise of hate groups in Europe and particularly the rise of these brown shirts in Germany. So there was no one in the United States who was monitoring Hitler's rise to power more closely during the 1920s than Leon Lewis. During this time he lived in Chicago. He eventually moved to L.A. around 1930-31 and then Hitler becomes Reich's Chancellor in January 1933. While Jewish groups are debating, they actually do have strategies but they're very divided. Well Leon Lewis is willing to tolerate that until July 26, 1933 Nazis hold their first open meeting and like your opening clip from Fritz Kuhn, they tell those were gathered that they are going to save America from its two greatest threats Jews and communists. Once he hears about this Leon Lewis goes to patriotic hall which had been founded by the county supervisors of LA to house all the veteran groups. And he proceeded to recruit four World War One veterans and their wives to go undercover and spy on every Nazi and fascist group.
LL: Was this a moment where he sort of had a light bulb go on and he thought 'I have to create a spy network?
STEVEN ROSS: It was a moment when he felt no one in authority seemed to be taking the Nazi seriously. Again having studied their rise in Europe he was afraid Hitler was trying to duplicate the strange strategy in the U.S. which is to recruit disgruntled World War One veterans who had had their military benefits cut by the government. And that's why he recruited military veterans to join these groups because the Nazis wanted to build an army of unhappy American war veterans so they could persuade to rise up to defend their country against communism and Jews.
LL: So who was the first spy that Leon Lewis recruited?
STEVEN ROSS: It was John Schmidt who was a captain and he was particularly intriguing to the Nazis because he is a German born American citizen whose father had been a general in the Bavarian Army. His brother was a officer in the German army. He had in fact been a German cadet until age 16. Then he went to America fought with [unintelligible] in Mexico and then fought against his own relatives in World War One. He is persuaded by Lewis that the Nazi threat is real. He hates what the Nazis have done to Germany and so he agrees to go undercover in spy, along with his wife who also speaks German.
LL: What sort of plots did he learn were being hatched by the Nazis in California?
STEVEN ROSS: Well the first plot they discovered within weeks of joining the friends in new Germany, the four spies discovered they meet this man Dietrich Geffken who had fled Germany in the twenties after murdering two communists and wound up joining the National Guard in San Francisco. He had told them how he had created a blueprint of the National Guard armory in San Francisco. He knew where all the weapons were, where all the ammunition were, where the hospice's quarters were. And he had also obtained plans down in San Diego and now he wanted the four spies to get him the plans for the LA armory and to get him machine guns. And the plot was on an appointed day, Nazis and their American fascist allies, the Silver Shirts, were going to rise up and seize the armouries in San Francisco, L.A., San Diego and he told them that any soldier who were to join their cause would be welcome and any soldier who resisted would be shot on the spot. And Geffken was convinced that when the public heard about the narratives rising up seizing the armoury and then beginning to kill Jews that there would be pogroms throughout America and that all Americans would rise up against - as Geffken called it - the Judaeo and overthrow the Roosevelt government.
LL: That obviously criminal activity, was local law enforcement told about the plans?
STEVEN ROSS: Yes the first thing Leon Lewis did is he never planned to be this long term spymaster. He figured he would go to the authorities and then they would take over the spying. And he did. He went to the police chief and about two minutes into describing Geffken plot, the police chief stopped him and said 'You don't get it. Hitler is only doing what he has to do to save Germany from the Jewish problem and that in L.A. the real threat is not the Nazis'. The real threats are all those Jews and communists who live in Boyle Heights - which was then the Jewish neighbourhood. He basically throws Lewis out of his office and then Lewis goes to the sheriff who equally doesn't care. And finally he goes to the Justice Department and they tell him that they cannot do anything unless they were ordered to by Washington. But J. Edgar Hoover was so obsessed with jailing communists that he refuses to put any of his FBI agents dedicated to tailing the Nazis. So Leon Lewis has to keep his spy ring going.
LL: During the 1930s there were a number of fascists, racist, paramilitary organisations like the Ku Klux Klan, the Silver Shirts, cleared of coordination between the Nazi agents and these other homegrown racists?
STEVEN ROSS: There is a great deal of coordination. Many of these groups adopted patriotic sounding names like the American Nationalist Party, the American Rangers, the American Blue Buds. And by the mid-30s they formed what I call a fascist front that is led by Herman Schuman who was the head of the friends of new Germany that 1936 renamed itself the German American Bund and they held the meetings with the Silver Shirts, the Nazis, the White Russians and all these homegrown, the Klan and all these homegrown American fascist groups with the again idea that they collectively would ultimately create an army that they predicted would rise up to fight the communists on the day that the communists were going to try to overthrow the government. They would then defeat the communists and they would take over the government on behalf of the American people.
LL: As you say Leon Lewis had to continue his spying network. He brings in the Jewish heads of the big Hollywood studios. What role did they play in supporting Leon Lewis's work?
STEVEN ROSS: Well once he realized that no one in authority was going to do anything, and when I mean do nothing. The FBI Herman Schwinn who's the head of the Bund in L.A. is the number two Nazi in America. He's in charge and I'll leave L.A. but the entire western United States. Hoover does not allow even those agents to finally ask Hoover for permission to put him under surveillance and Hoover refuses. He doesn't tell his local agency to put Schwinn under surveillance until November 1941, three weeks before Pearl Harbour. Leon Lewis knows that he has no support and so he goes to one group who he thinks will be sympathetic and that the moguls. He has a very small inner circle of Irvin Folberg who's the number two person in MGM Rabbi Edgar Magnin who's the rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple which is the temple to the Jewish stars and moguls, then finally Mendel Silberberg who is the most powerful entertainment attorney in America. Those three contact the studio head and in March 1934, 40 of them show up at Hillcrest Country Club which is the Country Club Jews founded after they were kicked out of every Christian country club. They go to a private dining hall where Leon Lewis proceeded to tell them how in fact the Silver Shirts and the Nazis are firing every one of their blue collar employees secretly and replacing them with followers of either Hitler or the American fascist William Dudley Peli and that the moguls know nothing about this because all they are concerned with are their directors, their directors, their staffs. And he then proceed to tell them that some of them are on the hit lists and by the end of the evening he walks out in the equivalent of 424,000 dollars in 2018 dollars.
LL: Which is a lot of money.
STEVEN ROSS: The moguls proceed to fund while they are publicly doing business with the Hitler regime, privately they're working to undermine it in whatever way they can.
LL: Obviously this must have surprised the moguls to learn this kind of information of the people who were infiltrating their ranks. I just want to be clear. You said they were firing blue collar workers, were they specifically Jewish blue collar workers or all of them?
STEVEN ROSS: Yes. In fact he tells them Paramount is virtually 100 percent Aryan, MGM virtually 100 percent Aryan. In fact at one point because Leon Lewis alert them, Hermann fires one of its foremen on the grounds that he was "trying to introduce Hitlerism into the studios".
LL: In this environment there is also a German consul in Los Angeles during the 1930s because as we know the U.S. and Germany were not yet at war. What was his mandate from the Nazi government?
STEVEN ROSS: Yes his name is George Kisling. And he was sent by Hitler and Goebbels to Los Angeles to stop Hollywood from making any anti-Nazi, anti-German films. Hitler and Goebbels both believed that Germany had lost World War One in part because Hollywood and British film industries had been so effective in their anti-German, anti-Hun propaganda. Kisling was sent to L.A. and told to threaten the moguls with the ability to invoke Article 15 of the German Kuroda law of 1931 that said if any studio makes a film that in any way denigrates the German government or people that studio's films will be banned in Germany. And if enough films come from any single nation that the entire nations product will be banned. That was a serious threat because Germany was the number two market for Hollywood in Europe, only Great Britain did more business. And so they basically agreed and a year later Hollywood reacting to public outcry against licentiousness of American film created their own production code that heard Article 10 saying you could not make a film that attacked, marked or in any way denigrated a foreign nation or leader. So Kisling was able to prevent Hollywood until 1939 from making any Nazi film.
LL: I want to get to that. But I just want you to answer this question why would big Hollywood studios that were headed by Jews, that knew exactly what was going on, why would they buckle to this kind of pressure?l
STEVEN ROSS: Because they are in industry. They are in the money making business not the consciousness raising business. They are part of corporations that answer to their stockholders.a You know when we talk about collaboration [unintelligible] or sending war materials to Germany. War materials and no one is going after them but people have accused the moguls of collaboration because they do business. They also believed that Hitler would not last in office very long, that he would be such a buffoon that the people would throw me out or he would calm down his policies towards Jews and become more statesmen like. And they got it wrong.
LL: You mentioned that this happened - this kind of censorship or relation to what Germany wanted - up until 1939. And I want to play right now a bit of audio from the trailer of the 1939 movie that finally broke this mold. It was called Confessions of a Nazi Spy. Listen to this.
I am a Nazi spy. I am one of thousands stationed in every part of the United States to steal the secrets of your national defence. There are spy stations in all of the Navy yards in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, New Port News. There are Nazi agents in the aeroplane in the ammunition factories at [unintelligible], Baffalo, Seatle, Boston. The Chief United States inspector that one of your factories is burning secret aeroplane parts is a German spy
LL: Now presumably Stephen Ross, [unintelligible] didn't like this Warner Brothers' film very much. How did Warner Brothers manage to get this made and put it in theatres?
STEVEN ROSS: The reason that they could get it made is it was based on a true story of a spy ring that had been broken by the FBI in the spring of 1938 and eighteen people were put on trial. The trial ended with the conviction in December. And a month later, Warner Brothers sent a script to the production code administration. And what's interesting is I went through the records in the letter from the censor who watched the film to the head of the production code Joseph Breen, started off by saying "technically this film meets the criterion of the code because it's not marking a government or a leader it is simply reporting on a trial of Nazi spies. Therefore it's telling a true story. But do we really want this film to be made when Hitler has done such wonderful things for the German people". And the censor suggested that the Warner Brothers be asked to back off. Well the Warners told the code that they weren't going to back off and they opened the movie in April 1939 to wide acclaim.
LL: Back to Leon Lewis as spy network. Some of his spies were unmasked in the course of doing their work, how did the Nazis and fascist groups respond when they were in that they were being infiltrated?
STEVEN ROSS: Well they knew they were being infiltrated right from the start. I am convinced they learned about it from the head of the Los Angeles police red squired William Hines who was trading information with the Nazis. Lewis, they referred to him as the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles but they didn't know who his spies were. In fact both the friends of new Germany and the Klan station people outside Lewis's downtown office. They would stand across the street waiting to see if anyone they knew went into the building. Well they never never completely knew who it was until 1939 when Neil Ness testified - one of Leon Lewis's two A spies - testified before the House on American Activities Committee, openly talking about him having infiltrated the Nazis. And the Nazis had sworn if they ever call any of Lewis spies they would be dead men. And in 1942 either 42 or early 43, I forget now. Neil Ness died under highly suspicious circumstances. A few months later, John Schmidt - the first spy who is going to testify in Washington D.C. of a sedition - trial suddenly died of stomach issues and his wife was convinced and I am convinced he was poisoned because the symptoms were the same as somebody they had discovered a few months earlier who had been poisoned by the Nazis. And a third spy, it was said he fell on the sidewalk and cracked disco. I don't believe he just fell. So three of the spies died under highly highly suspicious circumstances.
LL: And we should note that these were not spies that were trained for years in spy craft. They were doing this because of their commitment to a cause, much as Leon Lewis was. How did he manage to survive? Because I imagine he too was in danger.
STEVEN ROSS: Yes it's a question I kept asking myself, why didn't they go after Leon Lewis and I think the answer is they know where he lived. And at one point there was a plot that never came to being to kidnap his children to get him to back off. But one of the kidnappers chickened out afraid that he was going to be turned in by the other person. I think they knew Leon Lewis who is so deeply connected to the Jewish power network in LA that if they ever killed him I believe the entire Jewish community - I mean the power community from Mendell Silverbird to the studio heads - would have put the most enormous pressure you've ever seen on the city leaders to close down the Bund and I think they knew that.
LL: You talked about a plot against Leon Lewis. There or other serious plots to murder Jews in California. Tell me about those.
STEVEN ROSS: Well there were two major plots. One was they were going to kidnap 20 major Jewish figures including the director Busby Berkeley. They were going to bring them to abandoned park and hang them there, and then as they were hanging and dying they were going to shoot the bodies with machine guns so that the bodies would be destroyed. And in the morning when people came and found these bodies, these bullet ridden bodies hanging, it was going to lead other anti-Semite around America to rise up and create blood baths. And a second plot was going to be to blow up the homes of 24 major Hollywood figures. Studio heads like Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B Mayer and two famous actors who they believed were too close to Jews; Charlie Chaplin and James Cagney. And the idea there was blow up the homes on the same night and this would create such outrage amongst one part of the community but it would incite anti-Semite throughout America to rise up and murder Jews. Least that's what they believed would happen. And in both cases they were foiled by Leon Lewis A spy [unintelligible].
LL: Eventually, though, Leon Lewis left the spy business behind in return to the practice of law and I'm wondering what you think his greatest legacy is.
STEVEN ROSS: Well I think his greatest legacy was protecting the city during a time it was incredibly vulnerable, that only one of all his spies - he had roughly two dozen serious spies. Only one was Jewish. You know the question I kept asking myself is why would these people do this, risk their lives for a Jew, in a Jewish cause. The answer was Leon Lewis never presented it as a Jewish cause and the spies never thought of it as a Jewish cause. What they thought of it as an American cause and what they all believed, they were upset with a group of Nazis and Fascists wielding hate and plotting murder against Jewish Americans, Catholic Americans, black Americans. And what they understood is that in these hyphenated identities everything that came before the hyphen was imaginative and that the only thing that really mattered was the noun, that they were Americans. And they were not going to allow any group whether foreigners are native born to come in and threaten to kill another group of Americans no matter who they were. This is not how we do things in America. We don't allow hate to come from the margins to the mainstream. So they were willing to protect other Americans because they believed that was the American way.
LL: Both of your parents survived the Holocaust and I was wondering when you were looking into the story of Leon Lewis and is Jewish spy network and how it all developed. Did it resonate for you as you learn more and more information about it? Did you think about your parents and what the Nazis had cost you personally?
STEVEN ROSS: Yes it certainly did. I grew up wondering how Jews could have kept silent. Then why do Jews do more to stop this, stop the rise of Nazism and fascism if not in Europe at least in America. In the course of writing the book what I realized is they did and that I had been asking the wrong question along with generations of historians and that the right question to ask is not why didn't Jews to do more, but why do American government authorities do more to stop the rise of Hitler. In the course of writing the book I both felt satisfied that people did something, that Jews did rise up to do something. Then at the same time infuriated with American authorities who simply sat back and allowed hate to fester in their country without speaking out against it.
LL: Stephen Ross it's a remarkable book and I thank you for talking to us about it.
STEVEN ROSS: Well my pleasure. Thank you for having me on today.
LL: Bye bye. Steven Ross is a professor of history at the University of Southern California. His new book is Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots against Hollywood and America. And he joins me from Los Angeles. That is our program for today. Stay tuned to radio one for Q. Misha Glenny is the investigative journalist behind the blockbuster nonfiction book McMafia. He is now the executive producer of a BBC One series that has turned his reporting into fictional drama. He'll speak with Tom Power about that transition. And as you heard earlier in the show falling world records may become a rarity. But one of the greatest moments in sporting history truly happened in 1954 when a young medical student from the UK named Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile. It was a feat people thought was beyond human reach. So let's turn back the calendar to May of 1954. Here is the pathe newsreel from that memorable race. I'm Laura Lynch sitting in this week for Anna Maria Tremonti and thank you for listening to The Current.
25 year old Roger Bannister [unintelligible] gets away at the [unintelligible] ground Oxford for the race of his life. For years he has dreamed of becoming the first man to run the mile in less than four minutes, and now with Chris Bradshaw setting the pace in front he's decided that this is the right moment. Bannister's old friend and rival Chris Chataway is in third place waiting his time to take over as pacer. After two and a half laps, Bradshaw gives way to Chataway. Banniser, a superb tactician has suffered some criticism in the past for adopting his own rather unorthodox training methods but they're paying dividends now. Despite the slight wind, he's plotting great time. [Music] Any moment we'll see the famous Bannister burst. And here he comes. Bannister goes streaking forward with about 250 yards to the tapes. [Cheers and applaude] Just look at his action as his long legs carry him nearer that world record. Bannister has done it. Now he's out on his feet. His coach and team manager tell him he has achieved his ambition, the mile in three minutes fifty nine point four seconds. A magnificent win for Great Britain.
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