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
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
2
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
3
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
4
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
5
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
6
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
7
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
8
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
9
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
10
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
11
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
12
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
13
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
14
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
15
“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
16
The queen is dead
Long live the king.
23 min
17
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
18
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
19
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
20
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
21
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
22
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
23
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
24
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
25
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
26
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
27
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
28
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
29
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
30
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
31
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
32
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
33
The fatwa against Salman Rushdie
Was never about Salman Rushdie. Journalist Robin Wright explains.
23 min
34
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
35
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
36
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
37
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
38
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
39
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
40
Raid-a-Lago
Florida man's beach house searched by FBI.
24 min
41
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
42
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
43
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
44
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
45
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
46
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
47
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
48
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
49
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
50
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
51
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
52
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
53
Wrestling with Vince McMahon
The CEO who turned World Wrestling Entertainment into a global brand has retired after nearly 40 years, amid allegations of sexual assault and infidelity. Journalist Abe Riesman explains the rise and fall of Vince McMahon.
23 min
54
Dry Hot American Summer
As the world heats up, the American West is dryer than at any period in the past 1,200 years. But don’t expect people to stop watering their lawns.
23 min
55
FYI those telescope photos are kinda fake
But the images from the Webb Space Telescope still provide our best look yet at the formation of the universe. NASA astrophysicist Amber Straughn and science journalist Josh Sokol unpack humanity’s newest glimpse at the cosmos.
23 min
56
BA.5 and DIY Covid
Surging cases, Paxlovid rebounds, and apathy everywhere. Vox’s Dr. Keren Landman explains how to navigate the do-it-yourself era of the pandemic.
23 min
57
What the January 6 committee has found (so far)
A congressional committee set out to offer the definitive story of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Things got dramatic.
23 min
58
The Island of Explained: The missing firefly
Luz the firefly is missing, and producers Izii and Sara want to know why. They take a trip to the Island of Explained, where they learn why whole species are losing their habitats and what humans can do about it.
20 min
59
“To [REDACTED] a Mockingbird”
Some conservative parents are trying to get books about race and sexuality banned from libraries and schools. Author Clint Smith says it’s dangerous to ban books to eliminate discomfort.
23 min
60
Shinzo Abe’s call to arms
The assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe may have given his agenda to militarize Japan new life. Abe biographer Tobias Harris explains.
23 min
61
The case of the fake Basquiats
Art crime is booming and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings (or at least some very realistic forgeries) are the loot du jour. Reporter Brett Sokol and a guy who used to forge Basquiats explain.
23 min
62
Joe Biden’s Saudi vacation
Candidate Biden said he would make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” on the world stage. Now President Biden is traveling there, asking for the kingdom’s help on gas prices.
23 min
63
Joe Biden’s tampon shortage
No, President Biden didn’t cause the tampon shortage — or any of the recent shortages. But that won’t stop him from taking the blame.
23 min
64
UFOMG
Congress just had its first hearings on UFOs in over 50 years. We revisit a 2021 episode where the New Yorker’s Gideon Lewis-Kraus explained why the US government started taking sightings seriously.
23 min
65
What if you could talk without speaking?
A groundbreaking new study claims to have found a way for a fully paralyzed person to communicate entirely via thought. But as we learned in an episode earlier this year, the scientists behind it have a checkered past.
23 min
66
How the US learned to love sanctions
The US hoped sanctions would end Russia’s war in Ukraine quickly. We revisit our conversation with historian Nicholas Mulder who explains the surprising history of economic penalties as a weapon of war.
23 min
67
Ask for Jane
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
68
This country is a lot right now
The past week/month/year/pandemic has taken a toll on a lot of people’s mental health. And the US has proven woefully incapable of dealing with mental health for years.
23 min
69
Roe v. Wade v. God
A rabbi, a priest, and an imam walk into the abortion debate. The priest wins.
23 min
70
Abortion pills
It’s safe and easy to end a pregnancy during the first trimester using a pair of FDA-approved pills. Accessing them is the latest abortion battleground. Vox's Rachel Cohen explains.
23 min
71
Trigger bans
The Supreme Court’s decision was most immediately felt in states that pegged abortion bans to the fall of Roe v. Wade.
23 min
72
The end of Roe v. Wade
The Supreme Court overturned a 49-year-old precedent that secured the right to an abortion. Irin Carmon from New York magazine breaks down the case and Vox’s Ian Millhiser argues the Supreme Court is undermining democracy.
23 min
73
Is Ukraine losing now?
The US is spending billions to arm Ukraine against Russian invaders. But without the proper training or supplies, Javelin missiles can only do so much.
23 min
74
The rise and fall of the “millennial lifestyle ...
Venture capitalists spent years subsidizing the price of things like Uber rides and food delivery. The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson explains why they’ve stopped.
23 min
75
From Russia with cash
Oligarchs from Russia and beyond stash their cash in British banks, which play a central role in the global offshore economy.
23 min
76
What if we saw the gunshot wounds?
John Temple was the editor of Rocky Mountain News in April 1999, when two students committed mass murder at Columbine High School. The photos he published that day would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize and enrage Daniel Rohrbough’s mom.
23 min
77
A gun policy game-changer
America’s gun violence epidemic is a public health crisis. After 24 years of blocked funding, Congress is finally starting to treat it like one.
23 min
78
Gun laws that work
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says tougher gun laws wouldn’t have stopped the Uvalde shooter. He’s wrong.
23 min
79
Let’s untangle the Second Amendment
It wasn’t until 2008 that the US Supreme Court established what a confusing sentence in the Constitution really meant for gun ownership. Sean Rameswaram reported on District of Columbia v. Heller for Radiolab’s More Perfect.
23 min
80
Has the gun control movement failed?
You might look at school shootings and think “Yes, obviously.” But two people who have been studying and participating in the movement for decades explain how its success isn’t obvious.
23 min
81
ConGRADulations, fellow kids
Ten months ago the faculty of Cramer Hill Elementary set out to get their kids back on track after a year of mostly remote learning. Today, Explained’s Miles Bryan attended eighth-grade graduation to see how they did.
23 min
82
Adderall via Instagram
The mental health startup Cerebral benefited from pandemic-era changes to federal telehealth laws. But its easy-to-get prescriptions for tightly regulated stimulants — heavily promoted on social media — have sparked a Department of Justice investigation.
23 min
83
Ugraine
Russia is weaponizing food by blockading Ukraine’s grain exports and withholding its own until other countries come to Putin to ask for it.
23 min
84
Boris Johnson presents: Motel Rwanda
The British government will deport UK-bound migrants to Rwanda. It’s part of a larger trend of rich countries offloading asylum seekers to poorer countries.
23 min
85
Innocence is not enough
The Supreme Court is going to let Arizona kill Barry Jones, a man whose rape and murder convictions were vacated in 2018.
23 min
86
Let’s vent about guns
We opened up our hotline. You called and asked questions. We found answers.
23 min
87
Why the economy feels bad right now
The stock market tumble and crypto crash are symptoms of a broader shift in the US economy. Jacob Goldstein explains the end of the “Goldilocks Era.”
23 min
88
How often can you get Covid?
Does your immunity still last for months? We asked a researcher who has been studying omicron reinfections.
23 min
89
Can women fix the police?
Police departments across the US are signing a pledge to increase the share of women in their ranks, hoping the move will help reduce excessive force by officers. Researchers say it’s not that simple.
23 min
90
The shooters were 18
Writer and parent Joanna Schroeder wrote a guide for parents about what to look out for and how to intervene.
23 min
91
Monkeypox!?!?
Good news: Epidemiologists don’t think monkeypox will be as bad as Covid-19. Bad news: We stopped vaccinating people against this type of disease decades ago. Vox reporter (and resident epidemiologist) Keren Landman explains.
23 min
92
How to not give up on gun control
Vox’s Marin Cogan, who lived through a school shooting herself, explains why she hasn’t given up on a solution to our gun problem yet.
23 min
93
Why the internet hates Amber Heard
It’s not just Johnny Depp’s fans — it’s Amber Heard’s anti-fans, too. The Atlantic's Kaitlyn Tiffany explains the Depp-ressing social media hate campaign.
23 min
94
Finland and Sweden have entered the chat
Their admission to NATO would further isolate Russia, leaving it the only Arctic country outside the alliance.
23 min
95
Why the right is thirsty for Hungary
The Conservative Political Action Conference, which is like Republican Coachella, is usually held stateside, but this week it's throwing a party in Budapest, Hungary. Noel King got kicked out.
23 min
96
So I elected an autocrat
Noel King traveled to Hungary to talk to people who voted for Viktor Orbán, people being persecuted by his government, and an American just along for the ride.
23 min
97
How to lose a democracy in 10,000 days
The same man who helped usher in democracy in Hungary is the one who’s chipping away at it now. American conservatives want to know how Prime Minister Viktor Orban did it.
23 min
98
Formula None
Millions of US parents are struggling to feed their infants due to a nationwide shortage of baby formula.
23 min
99
Dr. Oz and the celebrity politician
This week Pennsylvania voters decide whether to give Dr. Oz a shot at the US Senate. To mark the occasion, Sean Rameswaram tries to understand what makes a celebrity candidate viable, from “the Gipper” to “the Governator” to “the Donald.”
23 min
100
Is abortion in the Constitution?
Not explicitly, no. But neither is the right to travel from New York to New Jersey. NYU law professor Kenji Yoshino explains our unenumerated rights.
23 min