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.

Daily News
Paying ex-gang members to stop shootings
Policymakers across the country are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on “violence interruptor” programs to try to stop shootings before they happen. WBEZ’s Patrick Smith spent a year with some Chicago-based interruptors for the podcast “Motive.”
23 min
Sickened chickens
Poultry farmers are in flock-down. The bird flu known as H5N1 is being called “the largest foreign animal disease outbreak in US history.” Vox’s Benji Jones and Johns Hopkins University researcher Tom Philpott say the virus underscores the poultry industry’s shortcomings.
23 min
Dry February?
New national health guidelines in Canada say any amount of alcohol consumption could lead to serious health risks. The guidance comes as more and more young people across Western nations are choosing Canada Dry.
23 min
The police killing of Tyre Nichols
Memphis braced for an explosive reaction to footage of the deadly police beating. It never came. Wendi Thomas, founder and publisher of the nonprofit newsroom MLK50, wasn’t surprised: “I know this city.”
23 min
“Okay, Google, what’s a monopoly?”
The Department of Justice wants Google to break up its advertising business. The Wall Street Journal’s Keach Hagey explains how the DOJ’s antitrust suit could reshape the internet.
23 min
Why are businesses acting like there’s a recess...
Wealthy companies like Google and Microsoft are announcing unprecedented layoffs — all while the economy is trending in the right direction. Vox’s Emily Stewart explains.
23 min
Peru’s democracy crisis
Dozens have died in anti-government protests in Peru. Journalist Simeon Tegel reports from Lima on how the mounting anger over corruption and inequality has implications for the entire hemisphere.
23 min
Fine dining isn’t fine
Chef René Redzepi said his Copenhagen restaurant, Noma, deemed the best in the world, isn’t sustainable and will close next year. But if an establishment charging top dollar can’t survive, what restaurant can?
23 min
Why Mexico’s top cop is on trial in NYC
The US and Mexican governments trusted Genaro Garcia Luna to crack down on the drug trade. Now he’s on trial for conspiring with El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel. Peniley Ramírez, co-host of the new podcast USA v. Garcia Luna, explains.
23 min
Thanks but no tanks, Ukraine
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine desperately needs tanks to fight Russia. The US, which has provided many other weapons, is refusing.
22 min
The politics of India’s biggest blockbusteRRR
Most people watch RRR and see one of the greatest action epics in the history of cinema. But some see an insidious brand of Hindu nationalism that’s been creeping into Indian culture.
23 min
It’s debt ceiling season
House Republicans are refusing to raise the US debt ceiling without huge concessions. Vox’s Dylan Matthews explains why we have a debt ceiling to begin with (and how President Biden could bypass it).
23 min
The half-baked gas stove debate
No, the government isn’t coming for your gas stove. Vox’s Rebecca Leber explains why you might want to switch anyway.
23 min
Compost yourself
Remember you are dirt and to dirt you shall return. Science journalist Eleanor Cummins and law professor Tanya Marsh explain the rise of human composting, now legal in six states, as an alternative to burial or cremation.
23 min
What’s up, docs?
What do a Delaware garage and a Florida palace have in common? We dig into Joe Biden’s classified document mess.
23 min
Too much water for California
Rain is good for California, but the state was not prepared for what might be a megastorm. KQED’s Dan Brekke assesses the damage from the San Francisco Bay Area and the Pacific Institute’s Peter Gleick explains how we can be better prepared for future storms.
23 min
The Taliban vs. women
When the Taliban took power, it promised a place for women in its new Afghanistan. Now, hardliners are embracing policies that do the opposite.
23 min
Brazil’s January 6?
Except it was on January 8. The Brazilian Report’s Gustavo Ribeiro explains from São Paulo.
23 min
Andrew Tate: The king of toxic masculinity
Controversial manfluencer Andrew Tate is in a Romanian prison, accused of rape and human trafficking. Vox’s Rebecca Jennings and sociolinguist Robert Lawson explain why his brand of grotesque misogyny appeals to millions of men.
23 min
Will Kevin McCarthy become speaker?
The 118th Congress has begun with a showdown over who will be elected House speaker. Vox’s Andrew Prokop argues that this is the culmination of a decade-long trend of stonewalling in Congress.
23 min
Why we’re all on antidepressants
Ray Osheroff was a successful doctor in the DC area until his depression became debilitating. The way he was treated — and not treated — changed psychiatry. Rachel Aviv tells the surprising story of the rise of psychiatric medication.
23 min
The many lies of George Santos
George Santos is supposed to become a member of Congress this week. We still have no idea who he is.
23 min
Let’s eat lab meat
Happy New Year! Maybe you’re interested in trying new things? Sean and his mom are. In today’s episode, they drive to Alameda, California to try “hybrid meat” — a mixture of lab-grown meat and veggie meat substitute that could deliver a more sustainable (but still meaty) future.
23 min
Abortions before Roe
Before Roe v. Wade, Eleanor Oliver was a Jane: a member of a group in Chicago that helped women get safe but illegal abortions. Sean Rameswaram sat down with her on the day Roe was overturned.
23 min
How to save kids from online extremism
A lot of IRL violence starts with online radicalization. We revisit our conversation with writer and parent Joanna Schroeder, who wrote a guide for parents about what to look out for and how to intervene.
23 min
Why the Ukraine war happened
Vladimir Putin believes Ukraine belongs to Russia, and he used that a pretense to invade. In an episode originally released in February, historian Timothy Snyder explains why Putin is wrong.
23 min
What’s the dill with pickleball?
Pickleball is bringing America together. Pickleball is tearing America apart. Sports Illustrated’s John Walters explains.
23 min
Why gaslighting is the word of the year
It’s sooo 2016, but the word still mattered a lot in 2022. Merriam-Webster explains.
23 min
Criminal referrals for Donald Trump
The January 6 committee sent the Justice Department four criminal referrals against the former president, who it alleges engaged in an elaborate criminal conspiracy to remain in office after his 2020 defeat. Vox’s Andrew Prokop explains what happens next.
22 min
The case against movie trailers
Movie trailers are misleading audiences. Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson says you should stop watching them.
24 min
Do I have to care about the Twitter Files?
Maybe not, but you’re going to be hearing about them for a while anyway. Republicans are saying they’ll use them to investigate the Biden administration.
23 min
Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion is everywhere, including in court trying to convince the world she was shot by the rapper Tory Lanez. Vox’s Fabiola Cineas and Northwestern University professor Moya Bailey explain why so many are struggling to see Thee Stallion as a victim.
23 min
Throwing soup at art
Tensions are simmering in London as climate protesters turn up the heat on their soup-flinging activism. Rishi Sunak’s government is attempting to keep the situation from boiling over.
23 min
Art-ificial intelligence
Between chatbots and image generators, artificial intelligence has gotten scary good lately. The Verge’s James Vincent explains what’s behind the latest wave of AI-powered creations.
23 min
Hint of crime
Tostitos chips without real lime. Root beer made with fake vanilla. Instant mac and cheese that isn’t so instant. These products are among the hundreds targeted by lawyer Spencer Sheehan, who wants Big Food to stop misrepresenting its products.
23 min
R-E-S-P-E-C-T (for Marriage Act)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin managed to rally bipartisan support for a marriage equality bill, but she’s the first to admit the legislation is “humble.” An activist wonders if there’s an overemphasis on the institution of marriage.
23 min
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Little influencers, big business
Parents are turning their kids into influencers on social media. What could go wrong?
23 min
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
Ticketmaster (Taylor’s Version)
It’s me, Ticketmaster. I’m the problem, it’s me.
23 min
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
#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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
The queen is dead
Long live the king.
23 min