Today, Explained

Today, Explained

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News comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Monday to Friday. All killer, no filler. Hosted by Sean Rameswaram. Featuring the finest explainers from Vox and more.
Ireland’s great divide
May 21 • 22 min
This Friday, Ireland holds a historic vote that could overturn one of the strictest abortion policies in the world. The race is razor-tight: Facebook and Google have banned foreign political ads, U2 has weighed in, and there’s been a massive uptick in…
A cynic’s guide to the royal wedding
May 18 • 22 min
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you might have heard that there’s a royal wedding happening this Saturday. (Even Sean’s mom is tuning in!) England’s Prince Harry is set to wed American actress Meghan Markle with great fanfare, to the ballpark cost…
Go ahead. Legalize it.
May 17 • 20 min
This week, the Supreme Court of the United States fundamentally changed… sports. It struck down a 1992 law that prevented states from legalizing sports gambling. Now, New Jersey is at the head of a long line of states looking to allow their citizens to…
Hawaii versus the volcano
May 16 • 18 min
Explosions are ramping up on Hawaii’s Big Island this week, as the Kilauea volcano continues to spew lava and blow a 12,000-foot plume of ash into the air. The volcanic gas and lava have already destroyed 25 homes and prompted the evacuation of nearly…
What you need to know about Gaza
May 15 • 21 min
Sixty Palestinians were killed at the Israel-Gaza border yesterday, the day the U.S. moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Vox’s Yochi Dreazen breaks down the conflict, the history, and whether there’s a way forward.
Jordan Peterson explains himself
May 14 • 25 min
Jordan Peterson has gone from being an obscure Canadian academic to a kind of political rock star for the right. Overnight. Vox’s Zack Beauchamp unpacks Peterson’s controversial ideology and explains how the clinical psychologist gained a following of…
#MeToo’s big betrayal
May 11 • 21 min
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned Monday after four women accused him of physical assault. The news was a rough blow to the #MeToo movement, where Schneiderman was aiding an investigation into Harvey Weinstein. Today news broke that…
Dial C for Cohen
May 10 • 16 min
Stormy D, AT&T, and nine Fabergé eggs. The investigation into the president’s personal lawyer keeps getting more colorful. This week, it was confirmed that a shell company set up by Michael Cohen received payments from AT&T as well as a company linked to…
No deal!
May 9 • 17 min
President Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Everyone else - including France, Russia, China, even Iran - has insisted on staying in. Vox’s Yochi Dreazen explains the implications of Trump’s move, from a spike in…
“We tortured some folks”
May 8 • 20 min
Tomorrow is the Senate confirmation hearing for Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the C.I.A. The 33-year veteran of the organization would be its first female director, but standing in her way are reports of her involvement in torture…
This is America
May 7 • 20 min
The NRA announced a new president today: Fox News contributor and Iran-Contra alum Oliver North. The news caps a big weekend for the organization. Tens of thousands of Americans (including President Trump) descended on Dallas for the National Rifle…
The $5,751 ice pack
May 4 • 23 min
Imagine a world where a Band-Aid costs $629. Bad news: you live in that world. Vox’s Sarah Kliff explains how American hospitals tack on “facility fees” to cover their expansive costs. Then, a Kentucky doctor gives us his perspective on those costs from…
Too Juul for school
May 3 • 25 min
On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to 13 companies that appear to market their vaping products directly to kids. E-cigarettes are a gangbuster business but one device, the sleekly-designed Juul, has really captured the…
Nowhere to go
May 2 • 21 min
Forty-nine Central Americans seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border were granted entry today. They’re part of a caravan of around 200 migrants who arrived Sunday and camped in the rain, after traveling 2,000 miles and fleeing gang violence and other…
Golden State Killer opens Pandora’s box
May 1 • 19 min
After 40 years, police say they have finally caught the Golden State Killer, a man responsible for at least 12 murders, 50 rapes, and 100 break-ins in the 1970’s and ’80s. They found him using a genealogy site — a relative uploaded DNA and unwittingly…
There’s something about Sean
Apr 30 • 24 min
Sean Hannity is curiously close to President Donald Trump — so close that some say he may as well have a desk in the Oval Office. In recent weeks, the Fox News host has gone from covering the news to being in the headlines. Nicole Hemmer, author of…
Just call us “Korea”
Apr 27 • 18 min
For the first time in history, the leader of North Korea took a trip to South Korea today. Kim Jong Un met with President Moon Jae-in to talk unification and denuclearization over some cold noodles. NPR’s Elise Hu was there. She tells Sean Rameswaram what…
Oh, SNAP!
Apr 26 • 21 min
Next up on the chopping block? Food stamps or SNAP as it’s now known. A new farm bill, fresh out of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, could force over two million people off the program. Vox’s Tara Golshan explains why Republicans want to put SNAP…
Don’t drink the water
Apr 25 • 23 min
Four years ago today, Flint, Michigan switched water supplies to save a few million dollars. To date, that decision has cost over $400 million. Governor Rick Snyder says Flint’s water is finally safe again, but residents remain skeptical — they’re…
SEE YOU IN COURT
Apr 24 • 20 min
The Supreme Court wraps up its term with a bang tomorrow: Trump v. Hawaii, the travel ban case. The Court will hear arguments on whether the ban exceeds the president’s powers under federal immigration law, and whether it violates the establishment clause…
Too little, too latte?
Apr 23 • 19 min
On May 29th, Starbucks will shut 8,000 locations and lose millions of dollars to provide racial bias training for employees. The training comes after the arrest of two black men, who were waiting in the store for a business meeting, prompted nationwide…
Yes we cannabis
Apr 20 • 21 min
Today Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a plan to decriminalize marijuana federally. But the debate over legalization rages on at the local level. Sean Rameswaram speaks with a Massachusetts mayor who wants marijuana to fund schools, and a…
“I don’t get confused”
Apr 19 • 19 min
Nikki Haley has had a rough week. On Sunday, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations announced sanctions against Russia. On Monday, the White House said there would be no sanctions. Then, the president’s economic advisor said Haley was simply…
Congress just broke the Internet
Apr 18 • 18 min
Donald Trump signed FOSTA into law a week ago today. The “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” looks good on paper, but Vox’s Aja Romano says it alters fundamental freedoms online. Plus Alex Levy, a Notre Dame Law School professor, says it won’t do much to…
The $43,000 phone booth
Apr 17 • 23 min
Scott Pruitt, the embattled head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is facing a host of new scandals: a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, a security detail to Disneyland, and even using a siren on his car to get to a restaurant faster. But Vox’s Umair…
Why did the U.S. just bomb Syria?
Apr 16 • 20 min
President Trump and United States allies bombed chemical weapons facilities in Syria on Friday. The attacks came in response to President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people. Vox’s Alex Ward explains why the United States escalated…
Mile-high mutiny
Apr 13 • 24 min
When its corporate owner introduced new budget cuts and layoffs, journalists at The Denver Post decided to fight back. They ran a front-page editorial calling the owners “vulture capitalists”. Chuck Plunkett led the secret revolt, and tells Sean…
He said, she said, she said, she said….
Apr 12 • 17 min
Today is Day 4 of Bill Cosby’s retrial. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but this time things are different. Five new women are testifying, accusing Cosby of sexual assault. Vox’s Jen Kirby offers the latest, and Vox’s Laura McGann explains why…
The raid
Apr 11 • 23 min
President Trump today called the raid on the office of his personal lawyer Michael Cohen “unthinkable.” Vox’s Zachary Fryer-Biggs explains what the FBI was looking for, and Vox’s Andrew Prokop reveals Cohen’s complicated past.
What’s my wage again?
Apr 10 • 21 min
Today is Equal Pay Day. Vox’s Sarah Kliff reveals the real reason why working women earn about 82% as much as men. Then Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute explains why things get a lot more complicated when race comes into play.
1, 2, 3, 4… I declare a trade war
Apr 9 • 19 min
President Trump said he would “always be friends” with China’s leader, but the two countries have been acting anything but these past few days. First, the U.S. slapped China with $50 billion in tariffs. Then, China retaliated with $50 billion in tariffs…
It’s never too late to understand the war in Syria
Apr 6 • 22 min
President Trump announced this week he wants to withdraw US troops from Syria over the next six months. The country’s civil war has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced around 13 million. Vox’s Zack Beauchamp explains how an uprising led to…
They’re not gonna take it
Apr 5 • 20 min
The West Virginia teacher strike has ended, but walkouts are just getting started in Kentucky and Oklahoma, where lawmakers are scrambling to pass bills that would supplement school funding. Vox’s Alexia Fernández Campbell explains why public school…
20 shots and a cell phone
Apr 4 • 25 min
289. That’s the number of people who have been shot and killed by police in 2018 alone. One of them was Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old black man from Sacramento. His death sparked a wave of protests and renewed scrutiny of the police. But less than one…
Mark Zuckerberg Explains Himself
Apr 3 • 22 min
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seldom gives interviews, but in the wake of the massive Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, he made an exception to speak with Vox’s Ezra Klein. Mark tells Ezra why he’s hopeful about Facebook’s future before privacy advocate…
Gerrymandering 101
Apr 2 • 23 min
The Supreme Court is currently deliberating two cases that could reshape the entire country’s political maps. At issue is partisan gerrymandering—the practice of drawing districts that benefit one party over another. Dave Daley, author of “Ratf**ked: Why…
Quitting the Border Patrol
Mar 30 • 19 min
Mexican-American Francisco Cantú never expected to become a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. But for nearly four years, Cantú both detained and rescued migrants stranded in the desert. He tells Sean Rameswaram about his experiences policing a border his own…
Chief Wahoo Strikes Out
Mar 29 • 18 min
It’s Opening Day — peanuts, cracker jack, and for some, racism. Sundance, a Native American activist, has been protesting the Cleveland Indians mascot, Chief Wahoo, for years. The team recently announced it would be removing the caricature from its…
The New Abortion Wars
Mar 28 • 18 min
Kentucky just joined a wave of states attempting to severely limit when a woman can terminate her pregnancy. Vox’s Anna North surveys the growing restrictions on women’s reproduction under the Trump administration, and explains why the landmark abortion…
Bolton’s Back
Mar 27 • 17 min
President Trump announced John Bolton will be his new National Security Advisor just as the White House prepares for historic talks with North Korea. Just last month, Bolton called for pre-emptive strikes on North Korea. In 2015, he endorsed war with…
The Survivors
Mar 26 • 25 min
Dantrell Blake traveled from Chicago to Washington, D.C., to join hundreds of thousands for the March of Our Lives on Saturday. Sean Rameswaram spent the day with the survivor of gun violence to find out why he needed to see the march for himself. Also, a…
Flagrant Foul
Mar 23 • 20 min
The FBI is investigating over twenty colleges for paying athletes under the table, reigniting the age-old debate: Should college athletes be formally paid? Sean Rameswaram talks to former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and The Nation’s Dave Zirin, who…
Me Too, Mr. Trump
Mar 22 • 19 min
A judge gave the green light this week for a woman to sue President Trump for defamation. Summer Zervos claims Donald Trump sexually assaulted her; he called her a liar. Vox’s Laura McGann explains why this might change the game for other Trump accusers,…
Cambridge Analytica
Mar 21 • 20 min
Today Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted the social media giant “made mistakes” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and vowed to fix them. The UK-based company improperly acquired the data of some 50 million Facebook users, and revealed how easily our…
It’s Been Six Months
Mar 20 • 17 min
Today is the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Maria, one of the worst natural disasters in American history. But Puerto Rico remains without fully-restored power or an exact idea of how many people died because of the storm. Latino USA’s Julio Ricardo…
One Man vs. InfoWars
Mar 19 • 19 min
The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville sparked outrage when a driver barreled through the crowd, killing one woman and injuring more than 30. Brennan Gilmore filmed it, and everyone saw his video. Then came the conspiracies, backlash, and death…
Lady and the Trump
Mar 16 • 19 min
A president. A porn star. A lawyer with a $130,000 payoff. The allegation is Donald Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels and his lawyer paid her to keep quiet. Now, she’s suing so she can talk freely and just today, Daniels’ attorney says someone…
The Colder War
Mar 15 • 19 min
There’s a new Cold War being fought in the North Pole between the United States and Russia (but also China, Finland, Norway, Canada, Greenland and more). Fueling the battle is the melting Arctic, which just had its warmest winter in recorded history.…
Default in Our Loans
Mar 14 • 21 min
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told states to back off regulating the nine private companies that lend money to students last week. That could mean more student debt and more student defaults when both are already at record highs. Vox’s Libby Nelson…
Rexit
Mar 13 • 21 min
Twitter. That’s how Secretary of State Rex Tillerson found out he was fired today. The news came on the heels of Tillerson calling Russia “an irresponsible force of instability”. He hands over the reins to CIA director Mike Pompeo - who is now in charge…
The United States vs. California
Mar 12 • 16 min
Donald Trump takes his first trip to California as president tomorrow. Making matters awkward, his administration sued the Golden State last week over SB 54, a law that limits how much the state helps federal immigration agents. KQED reporter Marisa Lagos…
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Mar 9 • 16 min
After months of name calling and test missiles, Donald Trump will be the first sitting United States president to meet with a North Korean leader. Vox’s Yochi Dreazen lays out what to expect from the historic meeting. Plus, he shares some negotiation tips…
The Disability Belt
Mar 8 • 19 min
Out of the ten counties with the most adults on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), nine voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. But in the president’s new budget, he’s calling for $72 billion in cuts to the program over the next ten years. It’s a…
That’ll Teach ‘Em
Mar 7 • 18 min
An historic walkout in West Virginia ended yesterday. Teachers managed to shut down every single public school in the state for nine days to demand higher pay. Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky may be next. Sean Rameswaram speaks with West Virginia Public…
What’s the Deal with Steel?
Mar 6 • 20 min
President Trump announced that he’s okay with a trade war late last week and he’s got the tariff proposals to prove it: 25% for steel, 10% for aluminum. It’s another campaign promise fulfilled, but the decision flies in the face of Republicans in Congress…
Inclusion Riders, Explained
Mar 5 • 3 min
Quick bonus episode! Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for Best Actress last night for her performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” In her memorable acceptance speech, she asked all the nominated women to stand up and left them…
President for Life
Mar 5 • 19 min
China’s National People’s Congress opened its annual two-week meeting today. The country’s parliament is expected to change China’s constitution to allow President Xi Jinping to abolish term limits. Sean Rameswaram speaks to Fordham professor Carl Minzner…
The Gun Problem No One Wants to Talk About
Mar 2 • 19 min
It was a week of whiplash in the national fight over gun control. First, major retailers like Dick’s and Walmart raised the gun-buying age from 18 to 21, and companies like Delta dropped their NRA discounts. But then pro-gun rights legislatures pushed…
The Deep Fake
Mar 1 • 19 min
There’s a new kind of algorithm that allows you to take a video of one person and map the face of another person onto his or her body. Not surprisingly, it’s being used to map celebrities’ faces onto the bodies of porn stars having sex. Vox’s Aja Romano…
The Quiet War on Obamacare
Feb 28 • 17 min
A coalition of 20 states filed a lawsuit claiming Obamacare is unconstitutional yesterday. Vox’s Sarah Kliff says that’s just the latest pushback on the Affordable Care Act. Idaho has been quietly allowing insurance plans that don’t comply with…
Mueller 101
Feb 27 • 19 min
Today, special counsel Robert Mueller dropped over 20 criminal counts against former Trump campaign official Rick Gates, just days after Gates agreed to a plea deal. Mueller’s Russia probe has a lot of people and moving parts, so how do we keep them all…
Give Us Your No One
Feb 26 • 17 min
Today, the United States Supreme Court denied a request from the Trump administration to expedite a decision on DACA. This keeps the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on life support for a few more months, but also keeps its 690,000…
This Time Could Be Different
Feb 23 • 24 min
Something changed this week. Teenagers managed to break the deadlock over gun control. Marches, walkouts, and serious policy debates are on the way. To understand what’s different about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sean…
Countdown to Day Zero
Feb 22 • 20 min
Cape Town is just a few months away from being the first major city to shut off its taps in the history of the modern world. Day Zero - the day Capetonians in South Africa will need to line up at water distribution points for daily water rations - is…
Breaking the Ice with North Korea
Feb 21 • 17 min
North and South Korea are on opposite sides of a demilitarized zone, separated by barbed wire, tank traps, and guard towers. But in the 2018 Winter Olympics, they came together on the rink. Is hockey the key to peace with North Korea?
Black Panther Is the Most Important Movie of 2018
Feb 20 • 16 min
“Black Panther” is the biggest movie in the world, but what makes this comic book adaptation more important than the nearly 20 Marvel movies that came before it? Sean Rameswaram attends a “Black Panther”-themed engagement party and speaks to Evan…
Six Easy Steps to Nuclear War
Feb 19 • 21 min
Today we launch our show, but it turns out it’s a lot easier to launch a nuclear weapon. Vox’s Alex Ward walks us through the six easy steps and tells Sean Rameswaram about the time we accidentally dropped a nuke on North Carolina. Twice.
Let’s Explain “Today, Explained”
Feb 7 • 1 min
Please enjoy the trailer for “Today, Explained” from Vox. This podcast will help you understand the news every afternoon, Monday to Friday, beginning February 19th. Sing along!