Today, Explained

News comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Today, Explained is your all killer, no filler, Monday to Friday news explainer co-hosted by Sean Rameswaram and Noel King. Every episode features the finest reporters from the Vox Media Podcast Network and beyond.

News
Daily News
Politics
1
The prisoner swap for Brittney Griner
US officials are sending the “Merchant of Death” — a notorious arms dealer named Viktor Bout — back to Russia in exchange for the WNBA star’s release. We revisit our conversation with author Douglas Farah, author of “Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible.”
23 min
2
Power-tripping sheriffs
A growing number of county sheriffs believe they hold ultimate power in their jurisdictions. Some have even stopped enforcing state and federal laws they deem unconstitutional. The Marshall Project’s Maurice Chammah explains.
23 min
3
The Moscow murders
Investigators are still trying to solve the brutal November killings of four college students in Moscow, Idaho. Making their work harder: the hordes of online sleuths who’ve latched on to the case.
23 min
4
Digging tunnels for cars
Elon Musk created The Boring Company to fix traffic, but his fantasy of underground Tesla tunnels is running on empty. Curbed’s Alissa Walker and author Paris Marx explain.
23 min
5
8 billion humans
The United Nations says humanity has reached 8 billion, but Western nations are worried about population decline. Africa isn’t, though. The continent is about to shape the rest of the century.
23 min
6
China’s biggest protests since Tiananmen Square
The protests in China might force the government to back down from its extreme Covid restrictions and ramp up its extreme surveillance programs. The Wall Street Journal’s Josh Chin explains.
23 min
7
Disney’s boomerang CEO
Disney’s board wished upon a star and brought back former CEO Bob Iger, who replaced his own replacement, the now-axed CEO Bob Chapek. The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters explains.
23 min
8
Nancy podcast
Democrats vote on new leadership this week, meaning Nancy Pelosi is out. Time’s Molly Ball explains why the country might really miss her.
23 min
9
Can you spare some climate change?
In a UN-brokered agreement, more than 190 countries agreed to pay for “loss and damage” caused by climate change. But determining who owes what — and for what and to whom — will be a real challenge.
23 min
10
NASA wants to live in space
NASA’s Artemis mission is the first step toward a long-term human settlement on the moon. Vox’s Unexplainable examines whether humans are even capable of living far from Earth for an extended period of time.
30 min
11
Little influencers, big business
Parents are turning their kids into influencers on social media. What could go wrong?
23 min
12
Gen Z in the House
Florida’s Maxwell Frost, 25, is the first member of Generation Z elected to Congress. He tells us what he plans to get done.
23 min
13
Ticketmaster (Taylor’s Version)
It’s me, Ticketmaster. I’m the problem, it’s me.
23 min
14
World Cup: How 2 B a legend
Pelé. Maradona. Ronaldo. Soccer’s greats are so good, they’re typically known by one name. How winning the World Cup can turn a player into a legend.
23 min
15
Pushing the Russians back
In its biggest victory yet, Ukraine retook its vital port city, Kherson. The Guardian’s Luke Harding calls Russia’s retreat a turning point in the war — but a long, cold winter awaits.
23 min
16
An inconvenient glacier
While the world’s leaders are meeting at COP27 to discuss climate change, Antarctica’s massive Thwaites Glacier is melting. The world’s coastlines face catastrophic consequences. Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell went to see it with his own eyes.
23 min
17
The FTX cryptocalypse
With the collapse of one of its largest exchanges, crypto’s having its very own Lehman Brothers moment. Semafor’s Liz Hoffman explains the repercussions for the real world.
23 min
18
The tech boom is over
Mark Zuckerberg fired 11,000 employees at Meta. Elon Musk axed half his staff at Twitter. Other tech giants are slashing jobs and eliminating perks, too. Recode’s Peter Kafka says the era of big tech growth is over.
23 min
19
World Cup: They built this city
The people who built Qatar’s stadiums, hotels, and transit systems were employed under the country’s exploitative migrant worker system. Officials promised things would change before the World Cup, but a one-time worker says it’s only better on paper.
23 min
20
A vaccine for RSV
A respiratory virus called RSV has a lot of kids in critical condition and hospitals overwhelmed. Vox public health reporter and epidemiologist Keren Landman explains newfound hope for a vaccine.
23 min
21
No red wave
The midterms weren’t a clear victory for Republicans, and it’s still too early to know who’ll control Congress. Vox’s Andrew Prokop explains.
23 min
22
What if you HAD to vote?
Midterm elections are a tough sell in the United States. Half of eligible voters show up in a good year. On Election Day, we’re revisiting an episode about how things work down under, where “sausage sizzles” and “bathers” make mandatory voting feel like a party.
23 min
23
Kari Lake is MAGA’s rising star
Perhaps the most consequential midterms in US history are this week. Arizona’s Kari Lake, a former news anchor turned gubernatorial candidate, embodies much of what’s at stake. Stacey Barchenger from The Arizona Republic explains.
23 min
24
World Cup: Welcome to Qatar!
Soccer is sometimes called “the second religion of the Arab World,” and Qatar is the region’s first country to host the World Cup. But FIFA’s pick of the desert nation comes with boundless controversy.
23 min
25
Elon’s Twitter hell
Twitter is about to suck for you. But it’s going to suck for self-proclaimed “Chief Twit” Elon Musk too. Recode’s Shirin Ghaffary and The Verge’s Nilay Patel explain.
23 min
26
How does the war in Ukraine end?
The next Congress could be a whole lot less willing to keep spending billions on aid to Ukraine. It’s time to talk about how this war could end.
22 min
27
The teen’s gambit
The chess world is in chaos after its top player accused 19-year-old Hans Niemann of using AI to cheat. Niemann is responding with a $100 million lawsuit against his accuser and the chess website that says he likely cheated in scores of games.
23 min
28
A win for Lula (and democracy) in Brazil
Incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro vowed he wouldn’t accept the results of the Brazilian election if he lost. Then he lost. Samantha Pearson, Brazil correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, reports from a country on edge.
22 min
29
Our annual Halloween hysteria
This year’s fear of rainbow fentanyl in kids’ trick-or-treat bags is just the latest unfounded Halloween candy freakout. But the yearly panic has its roots in a very real crisis: the 1982 Tylenol murders.
31 min
30
Supermarket supermerger
Grocery story giants Kroger and Albertsons want to become one mega-company. The chains say merging will allow them to lower their prices, but antitrust researcher Ron Knox says we should be skeptical.
23 min
31
Teflon Ron
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has hit on a winning — if possibly unethical — campaign strategy: prosecuting people who accidentally committed voter fraud. The Tampa Bay Times’s Lawrence Mower explains.
22 min
32
A police sketch based on DNA
A police sketch based on DNAEarlier this month, police in Edmonton, Canada, released a sketch of a suspect. The issue is, no one knows what the suspect looks like.
23 min
33
Investigating women’s soccer
Allegations of misconduct have rocked US women’s soccer for the last year. The Athletic’s Steph Yang breaks down a new report on the degree to which league officials ignored complaints and protected abusers.
23 min
34
On with Kara Swisher (and Stacey Abrams)
Stacey Abrams is running for governor of Georgia, again … against Brian Kemp, again. The two last faced off in a heated contest in 2018, with Kemp’s win hanging on 54,723 votes. This time, he’s an incumbent and even further ahead in the polls. So, in this recent episode of her new podcast, On with Kara Swisher, Kara asks Abrams: what is different now?
31 min
35
Nikola (not Tesla)
The bombastic founder of an electric truck startup (no, not Elon) has been convicted for his role in his company’s “intricate fraud.” But even without the crimes, getting EVs to market has proven a lot harder than everyone thought.
23 min
36
Truss fall
Liz Truss accomplished at least one thing in her 45 days as prime minister: She set a record for the shortest term in office. The Atlantic’s Tom McTague explains her disastrous tenure.
23 min
37
The devil’s bargain on inflation
The Federal Reserve knows raising interest rates disproportionately hurts Black people. It just doesn’t have any better tools, says the Minneapolis Fed’s Neel Kashkari.
23 min
38
The Los Angeles city council meltdown
Leaked audio revealed elected officials, including City Council President Nury Martinez, making xenophobic, homophobic, and racist statements about their colleagues and constituents. The city has united in fury.
23 min
39
Legal weed’s half-baked promise
Pro-pot Californians said legalizing marijuana would end the state’s black market for reefer. Instead, says LA Times investigative reporter Paige St. John, the illegal market is bigger than ever.
23 min
40
Made in China
Chinese President Xi Jinping is a product of Mao Zedong’s revolution. On Sunday, he'll become the most powerful Chinese leader since the Communist Party’s founder — and maybe the most powerful person in the world.
23 min
41
A new law to “save the animals”
The Endangered Species Act was transformative in protecting animals from extinction. Vox’s Benji Jones says its proposed successor, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, would be the most significant conservation law in decades.
23 min
42
#MahsaAmini was just the beginning
The 22-year-old Iranian died in police custody after being arrested for wearing her hijab improperly. Her death has sparked a protest movement calling for the end of a regime that has for decades ruled Iran with an iron fist.
23 min
43
If Republicans win the midterms
They’ve got a few legislative ideas and a LOT of investigative ones. Vox’s Rachel Cohen and Ben Jacobs explain.
23 min
44
Fettermania
John Fetterman, the 6-foot-8, hoodie and cargo shorts-wearing Democratic candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, may be the model for how progressives can win elections. He just needs to beat Dr. Oz.
24 min
45
Small nukes
Vladimir Putin keeps threatening to use smaller nuclear weapons to win his war. Author J. Peter Scoblic says “there’s no such thing as small nukes.”
23 min
46
Student loan forgiveMESS
President Biden’s plan to forgive billions of dollars in student debt is both historic and controversial. Now some red states are suing to block it. NPR’s Cory Turner explains.
23 min
47
Puerto Rico’s power crisis
Days after Ian, most Floridians now have their power back. Weeks after Fiona, more than 100,000 Puerto Rican households and businesses are still coping with blackouts and an outdated grid. The Washington Post’s Arelis Hernández explains.
23 min
48
The Supreme Court is back and “even more conseq...
According to Vox’s Ian Millhiser (and no, he hasn’t forgotten they just overturned Roe).
23 min
49
Brett Favre and the Mississippi welfare fraud
An extraordinary case of fraud is unfolding in Mississippi, where a chummy cadre of nonprofit leaders, elected officials, and professional athletes redirected tens of millions in welfare funds toward their own pet projects. Mississippi Today’s Anna Wolfe explains.
23 min
50
The ’90s throwback no one wants
Elvedin Pasic lived through the Bosnian genocide in the early 1990s. So why is one of Bosnia’s leaders saying it never happened? And what happens if that leader, Milorad Dodik, wins a national election this weekend?
23 min
51
Europe’s looming energy crisis
Pipelines are leaking, winter is coming, and concerns over an energy crisis in Europe are growing. Vox’s Jen Kirby heads to Oktoberfest to find out more.
23 min
52
Can Beto flip Texas?
Republicans have firmly held the Texas governorship since 1995. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign is both a long shot and Democrats’ best challenge in decades.
23 min
53
Putin’s fake elections
The Russian president is calling on reservists and holding fake referenda to legitimize his war. Washington Post reporter Mary Ilyushina explains.
23 min
54
I wish I was a little bit taller
I wish I was a baller. I wish there was a doc who’d break my legs, I would call her.
23 min
55
Johnson & Johnson’s “bankruptcy”
Thousands of people say Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder gave them cancer. They’re suing — but the consumer giant is using a bankruptcy strategy called the “Texas two-step” to limit its liability.
23 min
56
Pakistan wants climate reparations
After catastrophic flooding, Pakistani people are demanding better disaster management from their government. Their government wants reparations from wealthy countries.
23 min
57
Is Patagonia fleecing the IRS?
The billionaire founder of Patagonia is giving away his company to fight climate change. He’s also getting a giant tax break.
23 min
58
You can’t spell “dysfunction” without the UN
The war in Ukraine has demonstrated just how dysfunctional the United Nations is. Uri Friedman, managing editor at the Atlantic Council, explains how to fix it.
23 min
59
The true story of The Woman King
The historical epic The Woman King, in theaters today, is set in the Kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century. The kingdom’s elite all-female fighting force was evidence of its enlightened attitude toward women, but its participation in the transatlantic slave trade is a stain on its history. Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and economist Leonard Wantchekon, a descendent of the women fighters, explain.
23 min
60
I should have applied for a fraudulent PPP loan
As the coronavirus pandemic disrupted business in the US, the government sent billions of dollars to people and businesses that were affected. That led to an epidemic of financial scams.
23 min
61
Is Ukraine winning now?
A recent Ukrainian counteroffensive seems to have caught Russia on its back foot. That could have consequences for Putin in the war — and at home. The Washington Post’s Mary Ilyushina explains.
23 min
62
When an election denier becomes election chief
A quartet of 2020 election deniers are running for secretary of state this year in key swing states, raising questions about whether they could fairly administer the 2024 presidential election.
23 min
63
“Bringing the border to Biden”
Texas and Arizona's governors are giving migrants bus tickets to the capital. The mayor of Washington, DC, says it’s causing a humanitarian crisis in the city — and that the White House isn’t helping.
23 min
64
The queen is dead
Long live the king.
23 min
65
The water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi
What’s happening in Jackson is hardly unique: Cities and states across the US are setting themselves up for failure by postponing expensive but critical work on aging water infrastructure. Climate change is making things worse, faster.
23 min
66
Your long Covid questions, answered
Millions of people have long Covid; countless more could get it. Dr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez answers question from Today, Explained listeners about the condition that has even doctors bewildered.
23 min
67
Curious Georgia
Prosecutor Fani Willis and a special grand jury have some questions for the man with the yellow hair. Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Stephen Fowler explains Fulton County’s election interference investigation that appears to be closing in on former President Trump and his allies.
23 min
68
It ain’t over 'til the crawdads sing
Delia Owens’s runaway bestseller Where the Crawdads Sing tells the story of a killing in North Carolina’s marshland. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg explains Owens is wanted for questioning in Zambia regarding a real-life killing that bears striking similarities to the novel.
23 min
69
Heat waves been faking me out
As devastating heat waves like the recent one in China become more common, we’re going to need new ways of talking about them. Vox’s Neel Dhanesha explains a proposal to name heat waves.
23 min
70
What do we owe future humans?
A new wave of philanthropists wants to make charity more effective. They’re focused not just on the present day but also thousands of years into the future. Vox’s Dylan Matthews explains how “effective altruism” became a multibillion-dollar philanthropic force.
24 min
71
Instagram’s identity crisis
If you think Instagram sucks now, it’s by design. Vox's Rebecca Jennings and Platformer's Casey Newton explain.
23 min
72
The Island of Explained: It’s electric!
A magical theme park ride on the Island of Explained demonstrates the damage done by fossil fuels and why renewable energy might be the best way to power the future.
22 min
73
Is Russia a state sponsor of terror?
Six months into its escalation of war with Ukraine, the calls to declare Russia a state sponsor of terror have never been louder. Delaney Simon from the International Crisis Group makes the case against doing so and Kira Rudyk, a member of Ukraine's parliament, says the United States has nothing to lose.
23 min
74
Health care’s post-Roe nightmare
The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe has implications far beyond abortion; it complicates access to vital drugs and delays essential care for pregnant people. The president of the American Medical Association explains how the chaos is hurting health care providers and their patients.
23 min
75
RIP OAN
A cable news network tailor-made for the former president is getting canceled. The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona chronicles the demise of One America News.
23 min
76
Putin’s war comes to Russia
A car bomb killed Russian commentator Darya Dugina over the weekend. The bomb may have been meant for her father, the far-right, pro-Putin, pro-war philosopher Alexander Dugin. The Guardian’s Andrew Roth explains.
23 min
77
FREE YSL
Two of the biggest rappers in the world, Young Thug and Gunna, are behind bars. And their bars will likely be used as evidence when they go to trial.
23 min
78
Hollywood’s IP industrial complex
Noel and Sean join Sam Sanders to kick off the third episode of his new Vulture show, “Into It.” Sam then speaks to TV titan Damon Lindelof about Hollywood’s difficulty with letting stories die.
35 min
79
You know nothing, HBO
HBO hopes to win the streaming wars with House of the Dragon, a prequel to Game of Thrones. But GoT’s disastrous finale disappointed viewers, and the prequel is being released as HBO’s parent company, Warner Brothers Discovery, undertakes massive cost-cutting measures. Still: DRAGONS.
23 min
80
Merrick Garland’s dilemma
The Justice Department is investigating Donald Trump, but the ex-president's still-large base likely won’t want him prosecuted under any circumstances. Vox’s Zack Beauchamp explains the ongoing fallout from the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago.
23 min
81
The fatwa against Salman Rushdie
Was never about Salman Rushdie. Journalist Robin Wright explains.
23 min
82
Dark Brandon
A meme that mocks President Biden has been transformed by supporters to celebrate his recent wins. But questions about whether he should run for reelection remain. The Washington Post's Matt Viser explains.
23 min
83
Russia’s back-to-school plan for Ukraine
Russia is paying teachers big bucks to teach a pro-Kremlin curriculum in Ukraine. It’s part of a campaign to formally annex occupied Ukraine into the Russian Federation.
23 min
84
The Island of Explained: Listen up!
Kiarra and Izii are having an argument when they are unexpectedly transported to the Island of Explained. There, they meet an Engin-Ear and a magical unicorn who teach them how hearing works and why actively listening with empathy is key to resolving arguments between friends.
19 min
85
Liz Cheney is losing (and winning)
The Wyoming Republican will likely lose her primary, but she’s winning over a lot of Democrats in the process.
23 min
86
The New Right’s pay pal
From politicians to podcasters, one man’s money unites the New Right. Bloomberg’s Max Chafkin explains how Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel is shaping the fledgling conservative movement in his own image.
23 min
87
Meet the New Right
The newest conservative dissidents want to radically reshape the Republican party and American democracy. Journalist James Pogue explains the confounding movement, which includes Senate candidates Blake Masters and J.D. Vance.
23 min
88
Raid-a-Lago
Florida man's beach house searched by FBI.
24 min
89
Brittney Griner for the Merchant of Death
Viktor Bout might be the most successful arms dealer in history. The US could let him go free if Russia releases the WNBA star, who was just sentenced to nine years in prison. Bout’s biographer, Douglas Farah, explains.
23 min
90
Authoritarianism, baby!
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán traveled to Texas for CPAC this week. Back home, he’s trying to fight population decline by paying some citizens to have more kids. But a real solution involves one weird trick Hungary — and US conservatives — hates.
23 min
91
Monkeypox is a queer emergency
Gay men, queer people, and their partners represent an overwhelming majority of monkeypox cases. But even though the WHO just declared the disease a global health emergency, resources like vaccines, testing, and treatment remain largely out of reach. Health reporter Keren Landman and virologist Joseph Osmundson explain.
23 min
92
Did Joe Manchin just save the planet?
Probably not, but he did finally compromise on the Inflation Reduction Act (née Build Back Better), which could be the most significant climate spending bill in US history. Vox’s Li Zhou and Rebecca Leber explain.
23 min
93
Pelosi in Taiwan
China didn’t want Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan. Neither did the White House. Politico’s Alex Ward explains why she went anyway.
23 min
94
America has Afghanistan’s money
The US froze billions in Afghanistan’s central bank reserves when the Taliban took control. Now it’s wrestling with how to trust the Taliban with the Afghan people’s money.
23 min
95
The Island of Explained: Plant-based party
An invitation to a vegan party sends producers Kiarra and Izii to the Island of Explained, where a giant who once ate people explains why he switched to a plant-based diet — and why that diet might be beneficial for humans, too.
16 min
96
Fighting climate despair
Climate change has driven some environmental activists to extremes. We talk about overcoming despair with Terry Kaelber, whose husband David Buckel took his life to protest inaction, and Tim DeChristopher, who was imprisoned for his activism.
23 min
97
Are we in a recession?
The US economy has shrunk for two consecutive quarters. That’s technically a recession. But economists aren’t so sure we’re actually in one. Madeleine Ngo and Jacob Goldstein explain.
23 min
98
Riding in Cars with Robots
The data is in on autonomous cars: They are crashing, but they're still doing a lot better than regular cars driven by humans. The Verge’s Andrew Hawkins and Vox’s Marin Cogan take the wheel.
23 min
99
Replacing Boris Johnson
Britain’s Conservative party is spending the summer choosing its next prime minister. The Atlantic’s Tom McTague introduces the candidates vying to replace him.
23 min
100
McMoscow
The 1990 opening of a McDonald's in Russia heralded not just burgers and fries but, get this, a new era of peace and prosperity. The Economist’s Patrick Foulis explains how the promises of globalization never entirely materialized.
23 min