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A weekly discussion about politics, hosted by The New Yorker's executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden.

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A weekly discussion about politics, hosted by The New Yorker's executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden.

    To Test a Vaccine for COVID-19, Should Volunteers Risk Their Lives?

    To Test a Vaccine for COVID-19, Should Volunteers Risk Their Lives?

    When he was eighteen, Abie Rohrig decided that he wanted to donate a kidney to save the life of a stranger who needed it. At twenty, he put his name on a list of volunteers for a human-challenge trial that would test the efficacy of a COVID-19 vaccine. A human-challenge trial for a vaccine would be nearly unprecedented: it would entail giving subjects a candidate vaccine against the virus, and then infecting them deliberately to test its efficacy. The side effects would be largely unknown, and the viral infection could be deadly. But, if successful, this experiment could shave months off of the process of vaccine development and save countless lives. In a conversation with his mother, Elaine Perlman, Rohrig points out that many occupations involve taking on risks to help others. But how much risk is too much? Larissa MacFarquhar, who has written extensively about altruism, talks with Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist who co-authored a journal article calling for human-challenge trials, and Angela Rasmussen, a virologist who feels that SARS{: .small}-CoV2 is too unknown for any volunteer to meaningfully give informed consent about its risks.

    • 17 Min.
    Could the Coronavirus Pandemic Change Iran’s Political Future?

    Could the Coronavirus Pandemic Change Iran’s Political Future?

    Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamanei, has failed to cover up the extent of damage posed to the country by the coronavirus crisis. Dexter Filkins travelled to Iran in February, just as the outbreak was metastasizing. He joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss what Iranian doctors and young dissidents told him, and why people think this could be a breaking point for the generation of aging revolutionaries.

    • 18 Min.
    Mayors Describe the Challenge of Safely Ending Lockdown

    Mayors Describe the Challenge of Safely Ending Lockdown

    With non-essential business starting to reopen in many states, elected officials have to make a call on a series of impossible questions: How soon is too soon? How safe is safe enough? What will the cost be, in new cases of the disease and in deaths? 

     

    To get a sense of how mayors are handling the reopening of America’s cities, David Remnick spoke with Quinton Lucas, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri; Andy Berke, of Chattanooga; and Marian Orr, of Cheyenne. They expressed frustration with the guidance or lack of it from the state and federal levels. But Mayor Orr said that some of the changes of the lockdown could point the way to the future—including a reassessment of how her own City Hall operates. “We don’t need this massive building, with HVAC issues and electrical costs. We need technology,” she told Remnick. “Perhaps the way we do business and deliver government services shall be changed forever.”   

    • 16 Min.
    Trump’s Day at the Supreme Court, Remote and Live-Streamed

    Trump’s Day at the Supreme Court, Remote and Live-Streamed

    This term, for the third time in recent U.S. history, the Court is considering just how far executive privilege extends. On Tuesday, the court heard two cases relating to President Trump’s financial records—one brought by the House of Representatives and another by the New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance. During the coronavirus pandemic, for the first time, the court is hearing oral arguments remotely, and the arguments are being live-streamed to the public. Jeffrey Toobin joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss the cases against the President and what they could mean for Trump and for the country.

    • 19 Min.
    Governor Gretchen Whitmer on COVID-19, Trump, and the Accusations Against Joe Biden

    Governor Gretchen Whitmer on COVID-19, Trump, and the Accusations Against Joe Biden

    Michigan is the tenth-largest state by population, but it has the third-largest number of COVID-19 deaths. Governor Gretchen Whitmer enacted some of the country’s most stringent stay-at-home orders, even forbidding landscaping and fishing. Furious and sometimes armed protesters became national news. Meanwhile, Whitmer’s outspoken criticism of the Trump Administration’s efforts on behalf of the states made her a frequent target of the President. “I didn’t ask to be thrown into the national spotlight,” Whitmer tells Susan B. Glasser. “I’m just trying to do my job, and I’m never going to apologize for that. Because lives are at stake here.” Whitmer’s national visibility has brought rumors that she is on the short list for Joe Biden’s Vice-Presidential pick. Whitmer is a sexual-assault survivor herself, and she explains why she stands by Biden despite the accusation made by his former aide Tara Reade.   

    Susan B. Glasser also speaks with David Remnick about the tensions that have emerged between the federal government and the states. While mostly targeting Democratic governors, Trump has also criticized some in his own party.  

    • 23 Min.
    Loneliness, Tyranny, and the Coronavirus

    Loneliness, Tyranny, and the Coronavirus

    Though some economies have begun reopening, many people around the world are battening down for an indefinite period of extreme social distancing. Loneliness can be a destructive force. The toll of isolation on people’s health has been well documented, but isolation can also be a potent political tool, one often wielded by autocrats and despots. Masha Gessen joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss how the pandemic is reshaping politics, for better and for worse.

    • 18 Min.

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