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We start today with a look at the Exide battery plant in Vernon, which is closing and cleaning up its site after decades as a notorious polluter. How did the company escape prosecution? Also, where will all those batteries now go to die? Then, we talk to a photographer who unwittingly became a character in a piece by the bestselling Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard. Next, a new documentary, 1971, details a break-in at an FBI office more than 40 years ago that revealed the bureau’s extensive spying operations and shocked the American public. We hear from the director and discuss why we’re not having the same reaction to the Edward Snowden revelations. And finally, in our weekly film segment, our critics discuss Alex Gibney’s documentary about Scientology, Going Clear.

Banner Image Credit: Touring Club Suisse

Exide Battery Plant to Close in Vernon 7 MIN, 11 SEC

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura announced this week that after more than 90 years, the Vernon battery recycling plant a few miles from downtown L.A. is shutting down for good. It was a notorious polluter. Now, after years of complaints and a federal investigation, Exide, the company that operates the plant, has made a deal to demolish the plant and pay for the cleanup. That’s estimated to cost at least $50 million. But under the agreement, the company will not be prosecuted. We look at how the settlement came about.

Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times (@tonybarboza)

The Bigger Problem of Battery Waste 6 MIN, 44 SEC

So what’s going to happen with all those batteries now that the Exide plant is closed? Where will they be recycled? We take a broader look at the system of battery disposal -- a bigger and bigger issue to deal with these days.

Mark Murray, Californians against Waste (@cawrecycles)

What It’s Like to Be Written About by Karl Ove Knausgaard 8 MIN, 14 SEC

A depressed Norwegian novelist. An enthusiastic young American photographer. A road trip through the midwest… it sounds like the plot of an indie comedy. But it’s real: The New York Times hired novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard to write a two-part travel piece in North America. Knausgaard is famous for his six-volume novel -- in fact thinly disguised memoir -- called My Struggle, in which seemingly every detail of his life is recorded. The second part of Knausgaard’s U.S. travelogue is published in the New York Times Magazine this weekend, and it’s less about America than it is about Knausgaard and his own struggles to report the piece. Perhaps unwittingly, the photographer assigned to take pictures for the story ended up being a major character in it. We hear from him about what it’s like to get the Ove Knausgaard treatment.

Peter van Agtmael, Magnum Photos (@pvanagtmael)

'1971': Documentary Profiles Activists Who Uncovered Hoover-Era Surveillance 14 MIN, 52 SEC

Thanks to Edward Snowden, we all now know about the N.S.A.’s massive electronic spying program -- though it’s surprising how many people seem to have responded to the revelations with a shoulder shrug. We were a lot more shockable back in 1971. That was the year when a small group of activists broke into an FBI office and ultimately exposed documents about a program called COINTELPRO that would stun the nation. COINTELPRO was J. Edgar Hoover’s systematic campaign of spying and intimidation against civil rights activists, anti-war protesters and others. The documents, as well as the Watergate break-in a year later, led to restrictions on the government’s spying activities. Now, the people who broke into that FBI office have come forward. They’re featured in a new documentary called 1971. Madeleine speaks with the director.

Johanna Hamilton, director, '1971' (@JHamilton71)

Friday Film: 'Cinderella,' 'Going Clear,' and 'Run All Night' 9 MIN, 4 SEC

It’s Friday, which means it’s time to talk about film. This week catches us during an “in-between” moment in the movies industry, post-Oscars and pre-summer blockbusters. But there’s a genre for everyone this weekend, from a sugary sweet princess story to Liam Neeson’s latest action movie -- kind of a genre unto itself. We also discuss Alex Gibney’s new documentary about Scientology, Going Clear.

Justin Chang, LA Times (@JustinCChang)
Tim Grierson, Film Critic (@TimGrierson)

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