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    The New Yorker Radio Hour

    Profiles, storytelling and insightful conversations, hosted by David Remnick.
    arØTmãn Nabolitano17 Episodes

    Episodes (17)

    The Joy of Beach Reads

    The Joy of Beach Reads
    Our guest host, Vinson Cunningham, looks at the joys of the beach read, hitting Brighton Beach on a hot, muggy day to peer over readers’ shoulders. He relates his own fortuitous encounter with Lawrence Otis Graham’s “Our Kind of People,” after finding the book in a rented house on Martha’s Vineyard. Plus, Rachel Syme feels that “books have a season that they tell you to read them in,” and “summer is the season of the classic Hollywood memoir”; she shares three favorites with David Remnick.

    Liesl Tommy, Director of “Respect”

    Liesl Tommy, Director of “Respect”
    Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul, the greatest voice of her generation, an eighteen-time Grammy Award winner whose career spanned five decades. She was also a famously private person, which makes the project of directing a film about her life challenging. The job of telling Aretha’s story went to a South African-born director named Liesl Tommy, known for her work in theatre and nominated for a Tony, in 2016. Tommy had also directed episodes of TV shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Jessica Jones,” but the movie about Franklin—called, almost inevitably, “Respect”—is her first feature film. Tommy’s long-standing passion for the singer, she says, made the job relatively easy, even though she first fell in love with Franklin’s voice as a child living on a different continent.  “I don’t think I ever thought of her as American,” she told Vinson Cunningham. “I thought of her as a woman that I wanted to grow up to be.” As a small child, she recalls, “Even if I don’t understand the feelings specifically, I understand how the way she sang them made me feel. And that was, excited to be alive.”

    Atul Gawande on the COVID-19 Resurgence

    Atul Gawande on the COVID-19 Resurgence
    For a few brief moments this summer, in places where the vaccination rate was high, we could imagine life after COVID-19: restaurants and theatres were filling up, gatherings of all kinds were taking place, and many businesses were planning to return to their offices after Labor Day. Then the story changed, as the highly contagious Delta variant began sweeping the nation. Atul Gawande, a professor of medicine and an internationally recognized expert on public health, tells David Remnick that the Delta surge has also caused a vaccination surge, which is promising. They discuss the idea of booster shots and the possibility of a future variant that would resist the vaccine and cause more severe breakthrough infections. The Lambda variant, Gawande says, has already reached the U.S., but little is known yet about how it responds to the vaccines in use here. Plus, forget the big white tent and the plate of rubber chicken: the real New York style is a City Hall wedding, complete with metal detectors. Vinson Cunningham tells us what it’s all about.

    (Gawande has been nominated by President Biden to lead global health development, including COVID-19 efforts, for the United States Agency for International Development. The appointment awaits confirmation in the Senate.)

    John Kerry on the Battle Against Climate Change

    John Kerry on the Battle Against Climate Change
    With the world overheating, glaciers melting, and landscapes in flames, it’s difficult to think of a harder or more important job than John Kerry’s. The former senator and Secretary of State is now the special Presidential envoy for climate, a Cabinet-level post created by President Biden. Kerry talks with David Remnick about reasserting the United States’ fitness to lead on global climate action in the wake of Trump Administration policies, and about how to get allies and adversaries to engage in the battle together. He is heading to Glasgow for talks that aim to hold the warming level to 1.5 degrees Celsius. “Imagine what happens at 1.5, if you already see what’s happening at 1.2,” Kerry exclaims. “Is that what we want? You would think not!” Plus, an evangelical historian who is the wife of a pastor breaks from her church’s doctrine, arguing that Biblical readings of female submission are mistakes. She has felt the personal consequences of taking this stance.

    An Iranian Plot Grew in Brooklyn, and the Revelations about Pegasus

    An Iranian Plot Grew in Brooklyn, and the Revelations about Pegasus
    The indictment reads like a not-so-great spy novel: the operatives would kidnap the dissident from her home in Brooklyn, deliver her to the waterfront to meet a speedboat, bring her by sea to Venezuela, and then move her on to Tehran—where she would, presumably, face a show trial, and perhaps execution. But this was no potboiler. The Iranian nationals charged in the indictment were allegedly researching an audacious plot to capture a naturalized American citizen, on U.S. soil. The target of the scheme was Masih Alinejad, a journalist and activist who has been critical of the Iranian theocracy and particularly vocal in speaking out against the compulsory wearing of hijab; she has a large following on social media and a show on Voice of America. Her brother has been jailed in Iran, and her sister was forced to renounce her on television. The F.B.I. took the threat to Alinejad seriously enough to sequester her and her husband, Kambiz Foroohar,  in a series of safe houses, where they stayed for months. Alinejad and Foroohar spoke about their ordeal with David Remnick, and explained why the regime regards her as such a threat. “For Iran, hijab is like the Berlin Wall was to the Soviet system,” Foroohar points out. “The narrative of the Islamic Republic was that women are choosing to wear hijab, and Masih is challenging that narrative.” Plus, the revelations about Pegasus. Marketed as a tool against terrorism, the spyware was also deployed by governments against journalists and activists. Isaac Chotiner interviews one of the targets, the Indian journalist and scholar Siddharth Varadarajan.

    Jon M. Chu on “In the Heights”

    Jon M. Chu on “In the Heights”
    It’s easy to see why the director Jon M. Chu was adamant that the release of “In the Heights” wait until this summer, when more people could see it in theatres: it’s big, it’s colorful, the dance sequences are complex—it’s a spectacle in the best sense of the term. “In the Heights,” based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit stage musical, is a love letter to the largely Latino community in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan. The characters are dreaming big and wrestling with what happens when those dreams start to pull them away from the neighborhood. For Chu, who directed the enormous hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” directing the film was a risk—it’s said that Miranda teased him by writing “Don’t fuck this up” on his copy of the script. As an Asian-American from California, Chu “was already one step removed from this neighborhood,” he tells David Remnick. “How do you make sure you don’t miss a detail? The director is probably the only person on set who can stop everything and say, ‘Let’s discuss this.’ . . . That’s what made me nervous, making sure I was always present to hear those things.”

    Clubhouse Opens a Window for Free Expression in China

    Clubhouse Opens a Window for Free Expression in China
    Clubhouse is an audio-only social-media platform offering chat rooms on any subject, allowing thousands of people to gather and listen to each other. Jiayang Fan, who often reports on China, tells David Remnick that the chance to talk in private and without a text trail has opened a window of free expression for Chinese users. (Recently, some questions have been raised about whether the app is as secure as its makers claim.) Suddenly, in chat rooms with names like “There is a concentration camp in Xinjiang?,” Chinese users are able to address politically taboo subjects out loud in large groups. A Clubhouse chat-room moderator explains to Fan that for Han Chinese, who are the beneficiaries of the government’s persecution of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, the app offers a space for reckoning and protest comparable to America’s Black Lives Matter movement. The government has clamped down on Clubhouse, but tech-savvy young people are used to finding workarounds.

    Congressman Jamie Raskin on Impeaching Donald Trump—Again

    Congressman Jamie Raskin on Impeaching Donald Trump—Again
    Tommy Raskin, a twenty-five-year-old law student, took his own life on New Year’s Eve, after a long battle against depression. His family laid him to rest on January 5th, and, the next day, his father went to the United States Capitol, where he serves in Congress. Representative Jamie Raskin, who represents Maryland’s Eighth District, had an enormous task ahead of him: he was mounting the defense of the Electoral College vote. When a violent mob incited by Donald Trump breached the building, Raskin’s life was in danger, along with the lives of his daughter and son-in-law, who had joined him that day for support. Just weeks later, when the House impeached Donald Trump for his role in inciting that insurrection, Raskin was the lead manager prosecuting the case. Raskin told David Remnick about the devastation of a suicide in the family, his condolence calls from President Biden and Vice-President Harris, and how he believed the entire Senate would unite to convict Donald Trump.

    The People Who Will Decide Donald Trump's Fate on Facebook

    The People Who Will Decide Donald Trump's Fate on Facebook
    Facebook created the Oversight Board to adjudicate high-level claims about what can and can’t be posted, independent of the company’s leadership. This is a big deal: when Donald Trump was displeased by one of the board’s appointees, he contacted Mark Zuckerberg directly, as Kate Klonick learned in her reporting. And then Trump himself became the new board’s biggest test case. Facebook asked the board to rule on whether the former President should be reinstated, after he was banned from the platform for his role in inciting the Capitol riot. Klonick, an assistant professor of law at St. John’s University, had an unusual degree of access to Facebook to document the creation of the board. She talked with David Remnick about how independent the Oversight Board can be, how it may rule on Donald Trump, and why it’s so hard to get Jewish space lasers off Facebook.

    Amanda Petrusich Talks with the Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman

    Amanda Petrusich Talks with the Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman
    Amanda Petrusich describes herself as a “diehard fan” of folk music, but not when it feels precious or sentimental. That’s why she loves the Weather Station, whose songs, she thinks, “could take a punch to the face.” A solo project of the songwriter and performer Tamara Lindeman, the Weather Station’s new album, “Ignorance,” focusses on the theme of climate grief: Lindeman was responding to a devastating report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the consequences of elevated carbon levels for human societies. If that sounds heady, Lindeman tells Petrusich that it may be her heritage. “There’s this thread in Canadian music of philosophical songwriting, and that’s how I like my lyrics to be. I like them to be about ideas as well as stories. . . . Most people want songs that just tell a story; they don’t want the complicated ideas. But I do.”
    The Weather Station performs “Robber” and “Tried to Tell You,” with Evan Cartwright on percussion and Karen Ng on saxophone.Â

    Trump Closed the U.S. to Asylum Seekers. Will Biden Reopen It?

    Trump Closed the U.S. to Asylum Seekers. Will Biden Reopen It?
    Immediately after Inauguration, the Biden Administration began trying to unwind some of Donald Trump’s most notorious policies on immigration. But, over four years, Trump’s advisers made more than a thousand seemingly bureaucratic, technical rule changes that have had profound consequences. Sarah Stillman reports on the case of a mother and daughter who arrived at the southern border from Honduras. After the family ran afoul of local politicians and crime figures, the father was assassinated and an older daughter was raped in the presence of a police officer. Yet their appeal for asylum was rejected by a Trump-appointed judge, who went to unusual lengths to explain her reasoning. Replaying a recording of the hearing, Stillman walks through the series of legal barriers designed to send the women back into severe danger. “In order to qualify for asylum,” Stillman remarks, “you almost have to have been murdered to show that you could be murdered.”  
    (Many of the Trump Administration policies were driven by Stephen Miller, the ultra-hard-line immigration adviser; The New Yorker Radio Hour reported in 2020 on Miller’s influence.)Â

    Jane Mayer and Evan Osnos on the Balance of Power at the Start of the Biden Administration

    Jane Mayer and Evan Osnos on the Balance of Power at the Start of the Biden Administration
    With Donald Trump rated the least popular President in the span of modern polling, President Biden might feel confident in claiming a mandate to advance his progressive agenda. Yet Democratic majorities in Congress are slim in the House of Representatives, and razor-thin in the Senate. That gives a small number of Democratic conservatives and moderate Republicans outsized influence over what legislation can pass. Senator Mitch McConnell, in a power-sharing arrangement with the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, remains a force to be reckoned with. What will this balance of power mean for the new Administration? David Remnick poses this question to Jane Mayer, who has reported on McConnell’s tenure as a political operator, and to Evan Osnos, who covered Biden’s campaign and wrote a biography of the new President.

    How Far Has the F.B.I. Gone to Protect White Supremacy?

    How Far Has the F.B.I. Gone to Protect White Supremacy?
    Today, Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s work on civil rights is celebrated as bringing about one of the turning points of the twentieth century in America. But, in his own time, King was a divisive figure, unloved by millions of Americans—many members of government among them. The F.B.I. surveilled him constantly. President Lyndon Johnson worked with King to shape benchmark civil-rights legislation, but, after King spoke out against the Vietnam War, he was effectively alienated by the Administration. Meanwhile, J. Edgar Hoover’s agents at the F.B.I. began active measures to destroy King’s reputation and end his public influence, threatening to expose an extramarital affair. The documentary “MLK/FBI,” directed by Sam Pollard, examines this low point in the federal government’s abuse of power. Pollard tells Jelani Cobb that Hoover must have wondered, “ ‘How dare a Black man try to change the America I grew up in?’ The America he knew and loved was on a road to change. And he was totally against it.” Even today, as a leaked document shows, some within the F.B.I. see Black activists’ calls for justice and recognition as potential dangers to be watched carefully.

    Bruce Springsteen Talks with David Remnick

    Bruce Springsteen Talks with David Remnick
    Bruce Springsteen, an American music legend for more than four decades, published his autobiography, “Born to Run,” in 2016.  David Remnick called it “as vivid as his songs, with that same pedal-to-the-floor quality, and just as honest about the struggles in his own life.” In October of that year, Springsteen appeared at the New Yorker Festival for an intimate conversation with the editor. (The event sold out in six seconds.) This entire episode is dedicated to that conversation. Springsteen tells Remnick how, as a young musician gigging around New Jersey, he decided to up his game: “I’m going to have to write some songs that are fireworks . . . I needed to do something that was more original.” They talked for more than an hour about Springsteen’s tortured relationship with his father, his triumphant audition for the legendary producer John Hammond, and his struggles with depression. As Springsteen explains it, his tremendously exuberant concert performances were a form of catharsis: “I had had enough of myself by that time to want to lose myself. So I went onstage every night to do exactly that.”
     
     This episode originally aired in 2016. Â

    Lawrence Wright on How the Pandemic Response Went So Wrong

    Lawrence Wright on How the Pandemic Response Went So Wrong
    The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine mark what we hope will be the beginning of the end of the global pandemic. The speed of vaccine development has been truly unprecedented, but this breakthrough is taking place at a moment when the U.S. death toll has also reached a new peak—over three thousand per day. How was the response to such a clear danger mismanaged so tragically? The New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright—who has reported on Al Qaeda and the Church of Scientology—has followed the story of the pandemic unfolding in the United States since the first lockdowns in March. Wright walks David Remnick through key moments of decision-making in the Trump White House: from the response to the first reports of a virus to botched mask mandates and testing rollouts, up through the emergency-use authorization of the vaccine. The Trump Administration bears much responsibility for the bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic, but Wright also finds ample evidence of larger, systemic breakdown. “The magnitude of our failure,” he tells David Remnick, “is unparalleled.”Â

    Looking Back at an Unimaginable Year

    Looking Back at an Unimaginable Year
    It’s a cliché now, but by no means an overstatement, that the past twelve months have been unimaginable. This week, we’ll hear four short reflections on the events of 2020. Dhruv Khullar describes the early days of the pandemic, when he was taking care of patients in a COVID-19 ward. Anna Wiener visits California’s Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which burned during the catastrophic West Coast fire season that destroyed acreage close to the area of Massachusetts. Simon Parkin waxes nostalgic—already!—for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a video game that occupied untold hours of families at home together. And Kevin Young, The New Yorker’s poetry editor, picks two poems that stand as monuments to what we have lived through: “George Floyd,” by Terrance Hayes, and “The End of Poetry,” by Ada Limón, both of which were read by the authors.

    Ayanna Pressley and Abigail Spanberger on the Rift in the Democratic Party

    Ayanna Pressley and Abigail Spanberger on the Rift in the Democratic Party
    In November, when the Democratic Party lost seats in the House and a hoped-for victory in the Senate fizzled, centrist Democrats were quick to blame left-leaning progressives. Rhetoric about democratic socialism and defunding the police, they said, had scared away moderate voters and was costing the Party its influence. David Remnick speaks with two prominent House members on opposite sides of this debate: Abigail Spanberger, a centrist whose caustic comments about progressive rhetoric were leaked to the press; and Ayanna Pressley, one of the four progressives known as “the Squad,” who insists that “impact,” rather than compromise, is the best way to sway voters.