Penny Nelson

Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment, co-organizers of Times Square New Years Eve, along with presenting sponsor, Planet Fitness test the air worthiness of the New Years Eve confetti from the Hard Rock Cafe marquee on December 29, 2016 in New York City.

After a divisive U.S. election season, a surprise Brexit and ongoing geopolitical tensions across the globe, the approach of New Year’s Eve and the end of 2016 might come as a relief to some. We speak to Bay Area artists and thinkers about what they’re looking forward to in 2017 and hear about the health benefits of optimism. And we’ll open the phone lines and invite you to share: What are you optimistic about for 2017?

U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions during a news conference.

In a dramatic response to alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, the Obama administration on Thursday expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the Washington D.C. embassy and the consulate in San Francisco. The U.S. will also close two Russian intelligence-gathering compounds. Despite recommendations from his foreign minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Friday that he would not retaliate. Russia continues to reject the allegations of hacking. We discuss escalating U.S.- Russia relations with the New York Times’ David Sanger.

John Fleck at Morelos Dam at the start of pulse flow.

Water. It’s always been a source of conflict and crisis in the West, sparking violent clashes over ownership and, more recently, inspiring drought anxiety. But in the 25 years John Fleck has spent covering environmental issues, he’s observed another narrative surrounding water in the West — one of conservation and cooperation. In his recent book, “Water is for Fighting Over and Other Myths about Water in the West,” Fleck presents a history of collaboration and sharing in the Colorado River Basin and explores current efforts to solve the environmental threats the region faces. Fleck joins us to discuss the complex and often misunderstood history of water in the West.

Related Links: 

Elephants roam through trees and low bush on Septemebr 19, 2016 at the Pilanesberg National Park in the North West province, South Africa.

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund says global wildlife populations are on track to fall by 2/3 by 2020. The Living Planet Report states that mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish populations declined 58 percent between 1970 and 2012. Animals in lakes, rivers and freshwater systems were hardest hit, declining 81 percent. We analyze the report and discuss what it means for endangered species and conservation efforts.

More Information:

Living Planet Report 2016 (

Monterey Fish Guide (

Ecological Footprint in Living Planet Report 2016 (Global Footprint Network)

a stylist works on the make-up for Japanese model Rina Fukushi in back stage before a show by Japanese designer Tae Ashida during the Tae Ashida 2017 Spring/Summer collection show in Tokyo.

When Alicia Keys stopped wearing makeup back in May, other celebrities followed suit and started posting selfies with the #nomakeup hashtag. But forsaking makeup is easier said than done for many women, who often feel intense societal pressure to enhance their appearance. In this hour, we’ll talk about makeup and shifting beauty norms and we want to hear from you: What’s your relationship with make-up?  Does it improve or damage your self esteem?

Michael McCaul

President Obama’s decision to lift sanctions on Iran will bankroll terrorism and put the US at risk, Rep. Michael McCaul said this week. The Texas Republican, chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear agreement. McCaul joins us in the studio to talk about that deal and his new book, “Failures of Imagination: The Deadliest Threats to Our Homeland and How to Thwart Them.”

Water drips from a low-flow shower head.

More than two-thirds of California remains in an extreme drought. Gov. Jerry Brown recently announced the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions. Many of us in the state want to cut back on our water use, but simply aren’t sure how. As part of our Drought Watch series, a panel of water conservation experts will provide tips on the most effective ways to save water.


When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana last year, it opened the floodgates to $700 million in legal sales, orchestra “weed concerts” and the world’s first pot credit union. So what would California look like if it legalized recreational marijuana use? The issue could be on the ballot as early as next year, and a task force led by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is studying how the state should prepare for possible legalization. Would pot be sold, as some entrepreneurs envision, in high-end marijuana resorts? Would enforcement become comparable to that of alcohol? In this hour, we imagine a future California where marijuana is legal and examine the economic and cultural implications.

Bottled water

Environmental groups are accusing Nestle of exploiting the state’s scarce water supply after reports that the company is bottling water from a Southern California national forest. When it comes to overall water usage, experts say bottled water is a drop in the bucket compared to things like agriculture and lawns. But critics contend that bottled water is inherently unsustainable, and that the state’s precious groundwater should be off limits, drought or no drought.

California Aqueduct

A Southern California appeals court ruled earlier this week that San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rates are unconstitutional. The city had been charging its heaviest water users nearly four times what it costs to provide the water in hopes of spurring conservation. The decision could have statewide implications as about two-thirds of California’s water districts use tiered pricing. Gov. Jerry Brown recently encouraged local water agencies to utilize tiered pricing to help meet a 25 percent reduction in water use.

Aasif Mandvi

Since 2006, Aasif Mandvi has been The Daily Show’s self-described “Senior Foreign-Looking Correspondent,” covering news and racial issues with the show’s trademark satire — or as he puts it, “launching scud missiles against ignorance from a basic cable network.” The actor talks about growing up as an Indian in England and Florida, and about his varied career from Broadway to Hollywood in his memoir, “No Land’s Man.”

Video: 5 Questions with Aasif Mandvi

Evacuation of CIA station personnel in Saigon on April 29, 1975.

In the closing days of the Vietnam War, Saigon erupted into chaos as the North Vietnamese forces moved in and people scrambled to escape. US troops were ordered to evacuate only American citizens, and iconic photos from the time show South Vietnamese civilians and soldiers desperately trying to climb aboard Marine helicopters. Award-winning filmmaker Rory Kennedy, whose own father Robert F. Kennedy was a critic of the war, explores those stories in her new documentary “Last Days in Vietnam.” She join us in the studio to discuss the film.