David Remnick is joined by The New Yorker’s award-winning writers, editors and artists to present a weekly mix of profiles, storytelling, and insightful conversations about the issues that matter — plus an occasional blast of comic genius from the magazine’s legendary Shouts and Murmurs page. The New Yorker has set a standard in journalism for generations and The New Yorker Radio Hour gives it a voice on public radio for the first time. Produced by The New Yorker and WNYC Studios.
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Thomas McGuane Reads “Balloons”
Thomas McGuane reads his story from the May 10, 2021, issue of the magazine. McGuane has published more than a dozen books of fiction, including the story collections “Gallatin Canyon,” “Crow Fair,” and “Cloudbursts: Collected and New Stories,” which came out in 2018.
Three Women Who Changed the World
“The Agitators” is a book about three women—three revolutionaries—who changed the world at a time when women weren’t supposed to be in public life at all. Frances Seward was a committed abolitionist who settled with her husband in the small town of Auburn, in western New York. One of their neighbors was a Quaker named Martha Coffin Wright, who helped organize the first convention for women’s rights, at Seneca Falls. Both women harbored fugitives when it was a violation of federal law. And, after they met Harriet Tubman, through the Underground Railroad, Tubman also settled in Auburn. “The Agitators,” by The New Yorker’s executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden, tells their interlocking stories. “These people were outsiders, and they were revolutionaries,” Wickenden tells David Remnick. “They were only two generations separated from the Declaration of Independence, which they believed in literally. They did not understand why women and Black Americans could not have exactly the same rights that had been promised.”
Are U.F.O.s a National Security Threat?
In June, the director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense are expected to deliver a report about what the government knows on the subject of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” more commonly known as U.F.O.s. The issue is nonpartisan: while he was the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat, secured funding for a secret Pentagon project to investigate the subject; John Podesta, a chief of staff in the Clinton White House, argued for government transparency on the topic; most recently, the Republican senator Marco Rubio introduced language in last year’s Intelligence Authorization Act calling for the forthcoming report.
This is a shocking turn of events. For generations, U.F.O.s were in the purview of late-night call-in radio shows and supermarket tabloids, not the Department of Defense. Gideon Lewis-Kraus reports on how this change came about. The journalist Leslie Kean, who published a bombshell story in the New York Times, explains how the C.I.A. got involved in casting doubt on U.F.O. sightings. Reid tells Lewis-Kraus that the Pentagon refused to authorize his inspection of contractor facilities which, it was rumored, held U.F.O. crash debris. And a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Christopher Mellon, says that the phenomena observed in many sightings cannot be explained as advanced technology built by one of our rivals. “I really doubt that the Russians or Chinese could be that far ahead of us,” he says. “It looks like centuries ahead.” So, whereas the word “aliens” still seems like taboo in serious conversation, he adds, “it's hard to come up with a hypothesis to explain that without considering the possibility that some other civilization is involved.”
Gideon Lewis-Kraus’s “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously” appears in the May 10th issue of The New Yorker.
This segment features scoring by Pablo Vergara. Additional archival clips were provided courtesy of James Fox.
A Surge at the Border, and the Children of Morelia
Nearly a century ago, during the Spanish Civil War, a group of parents put five hundred of their children on a boat and sent them across the ocean to find safety in Mexico. Few of the refugees ever saw their parents again. The youngest of the children was Rosita Daroca Martinez, who was just three. On this week’s show, her granddaughter, the writer and radio producer Destry Maria Sibley, traces the impact of her grandmother’s trauma down through the generations. Plus, the immigration reporter Jonathan Blitzer ties the story to today’s refugee crisis at the U.S. southern border, where a surge in arrivals has put the Biden Administration on its heels.
Jelani Cobb on Derek Chauvin’s Conviction and the Future of Police Reform
The murder of George Floyd galvanized the public and led to the largest protests in American history. Even Donald Trump said of the videos of Floyd’s killing, “It doesn't get any more obvious or it doesn't get any worse than that,” presumably referring to the use of force by police. America waited anxiously for the outcome of the murder trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin. The prosecution’s case was notable for the unusually candid and definitive statements against Chauvin’s actions that were made by senior figures in the Minneapolis Police Department. The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb covered the trial and says that this testimony sends a message to law enforcement. “There are now circumstances where public scrutiny and public outrage and egregious offenses that come to light can actually generate enough outrage that you actually will not be defended by your fellow-officers,” he tells David Remnick. “It may seem like a low bar. But, given what we’ve seen previously, that’s a pretty astounding development.”
What Is Happening in the Internment Camps in Xinjiang
In a special episode on the crisis in Xinjiang region of China, the staff writer Raffi Khatchadourian investigates Xi Jinping’s government’s severe repression of Muslim minorities, principally Uyghurs and Kazhaks. Accounts from a camp survivor and a woman who fled detainment show how, even outside the camps, life in the province of Xinjiang became a prison. The crisis meets the United Nations’ definition of genocide, and the U.S. State Department has also made that determination. With the 2022 Winter Olympics coming up in Beijing, what can the world do about Xinjiang?
I am a podcaster and immigrant. I find the story of asylum seekers extremely intriguing and eye opening. What is taken for granted by the residents in the USA is a great privilege to the immigrants risking their lives to come to USA for protection and end up being thrown out anyway! Thank you for covering and sharing the story!
As an podcaster, I REALLY HAVE TO commend the audio producer and editor of the episode for creating such an engaging episode. The background music, transition of the hearing recording and podcast recording were aptly planned and executed. What a sheer joy to listen to a well edited episode!
Thank you for sharing great information!
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This is one of my favorite podcasts.