In the first half, Stephen F. Cohen, a Professor of Russian Studies and History Emeritus at NYU, discussed the events happening at the NATO summit and the latest news about the Trump and Putin meeting. While President Trump has faced criticism for his stance at the NATO meeting, Cohen remarked that the 29-nation organization has been in search of a purpose and more funding since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, and that Trump points to some valid issues with the alliance. But even though NATO has become a vast bureaucracy, Cohen conceded that the member nations do end up buying a lot of weaponry from the American defense industry.
Regarding the upcoming Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki, he noted that US-Russian summits are a long tradition going back to the FDR days, but some of the liberal media has been portraying this more like a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler. The 'Russiagate' charges against Trump are unproven, said Cohen, and there is no evidence that Trump wants to sell out American interests to Russia. Instead, he suggested, we should be focusing more on peaceful and cooperative US-Russia relations, rather than whipping up animosity between the two superpowers. For more, see Cohen's article for The Nation.
In the latter half, writer, broadcaster and entertainer Max Cryer now living in Auckland, talked about his latest work on superstitions and how some are so ancient and have been practiced for so long that they're now regarded as customs, without people realizing they are basically superstitions. For instance, the placement of a wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand dates back thousands of years and is based on the idea that a vein in that finger leads directly to the heart, and so it will secure love and marriage.
Crossing your fingers for luck is also based on an ancient tradition, he said, going back to the time when Christians had to be secretive about their worship and would make this sign with their hand to reveal to someone their belief in the cross. The superstition of knocking on wood also dates back thousands of years, when people believed that trees had living spirits in them, and a person could knock on one and make a wish. The idea of throwing salt over the left shoulder, he detailed, has to do with warding off the devil (who approaches on the left and is blinded by the salt). Similarly, the tradition of clinking glasses as a toast was begun as a way to drive away evil spirits with the piercing sound.