Oct 062005
 

Radiolab

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60 Words

This hour we pull apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

Last weekend President Trump authorized a strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. The news had us thinking about an episode we produced in 2014. We pulled apart one sentence, written in the hours after September 11th, 2001, that has led to the longest war in U.S. history. We examine how just 60 words of legal language have blurred the line between war and peace.

In the hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a lawyer sat down in front of a computer and started writing a legal justification for taking action against those responsible. The language that he drafted and that President George W. Bush signed into law - called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -  has at its heart one single sentence, 60 words long. Over the last decade, those 60 words have become the legal foundation for the "war on terror."

In this collaboration with BuzzFeed, reporter Gregory Johnsen tells us the story of how this has come to be one of the most important, confusing, troubling sentences of the last two decades. We go into the meetings that took place in the chaotic days just after 9/11, speak with Congresswoman Barbara Lee and former Congressman Ron Dellums about the vote on the AUMF. We hear from former White House and State Department lawyers John Bellinger & Harold Koh. We learn how this legal language unleashed Guantanamo, Navy Seal raids and drone strikes. And we speak with journalist Daniel Klaidman, legal expert Benjamin Wittes and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine about how these words came to be interpreted, and what they mean for the future of war and peace.

Finally, we check back in with Wittes, to see how the AUMF has trickled into the 2020s.

Produced by Matt Kielty and Kelsey Padgett with original music by Dylan Keefe. 

Watch Congresswomen Barbara Lee's speech here

 
 

Man Against Horse

This is a story about your butt. It’s a story about how you got your butt, why you have your butt, and how your butt might be one of the most important and essential things for you being you, for being human. 

Today, reporters Heather Radke and Matt Kielty talk to two researchers who followed the butt from our ancient beginnings, through millions of years of evolution, and all the way to today, out to a valley in Arizona, where our butts are put to the ultimate test.  

This episode was reported by Heather Radke and Matt Kielty and was produced by Matt Kielty, Rachael Cusick and Simon Adler. Sound design and mixing by Jeremy Bloom. Fact-checking by Dorie Chevlen.

Special thanks to Michelle Legro.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 
 

There and Back Again

Here's a simple question: When an animal disappears in the winter, where does it go? Oddly enough, this question completely stumped European scientists for thousands of years. And even today, the more we learn about the comings and goings of the animals, the deeper the mystery seems to get. We visit a Bavarian farm with an 11 year old, follow warblers and wildebeests around the world, and get a totally new kind of view of the pulsing flow of animals across the globe.  

This episode was reported by Robert Krulwich and Jackson Roach and produced by Pat Walters, Matt Kielty, and Jackson Roach. 

Special thanks to Allison Shaw, David Barrie, Auriel Fournier, and Moritz Matschke.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

And check out:

The Truth about Animals by Lucy Cooke

No Way Home: The Decline of the Great Animal Migrations by David Wilcove 

The migration video Jad and Robert watch in this episode!

 
 

Things

From a piece of the Wright brother's plane to a child’s sugar egg, today: Things! Important things, little things, personal things, things you can hold and things that can take hold of you. This hour, we investigate the objects around us, their power to move us, and whether it's better to look back or move on, hold on tight or just let go.

 
 

Breaking Bongo

Deep fake videos have the potential to make it impossible to sort fact from fiction. And some have argued that this blackhole of doubt will eventually send truth itself into a death spiral. But a series of recent events in the small African nation of Gabon suggest it's already happening. 

Today, we follow a ragtag group of freedom fighters as they troll Gabon’s president - Ali Bongo - from afar. Using tweets, videos and the uncertainty they can carry, these insurgents test the limits of using truth to create political change and, confusingly, force us to ask: Can fake news be used for good?

This episode was reported and produced by Simon Adler.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 
 

Breaking News

Today, we're re-releasing an old episode about how hard it is getting to decipher fact from fiction. Because next week, we’ll be putting out a story showing what happens when certain reality-altering tools get released into the wild. 

Simon Adler takes us down a technological rabbit hole of strangely contorted faces and words made out of thin air. And a wonderland full of computer scientists, journalists, and digital detectives forces us to rethink even the things we see with our very own eyes. 

Oh, and by the way, we decided to put the dark secrets we learned into action, and unleash this on the internet. 

 

Reported by Simon Adler. Produced by Simon Adler and Annie McEwen.

Special thanks to everyone on the University of Southern California team who helped out with the facial manipulation: Kyle Olszewski, Koki Nagano, Ronald Yu, Yi Zhou, Jaewoo Seo, Shunsuke Saito, and Hao Li. Check out more of their work pinscreen.com

Special thanks also to Matthew Aylett, Supasorn Suwajanakorn, Rachel Axler, Angus Kneale, David Carroll, Amy Pearl and Nick Bilton. You can check out Nick’s latest book, American Kingpin, here.

Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.

 
 

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss

Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly’s actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad’s first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 
 

Songs that Cross Borders

Coming off our adventures with Square Dancing, and Jad's dive into the world of Dolly Parton, we look back at one our favorites. About a decade ago, we found out that American country music is surprising popular in places like Zimbabwe, Thailand, and South Africa. Aaron Fox, an anthropologist of music at Columbia University, tells us that quite simply, country music tells a story that a lot of us get. Then, intrepid international reporter Gregory Warner takes us along on one of his very first forays into another country, where he discovers an unexpected taste of home.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Aaron Foxes book: Real Country: Music And Language In Working-Class Culture 

Gregory Warner's podcast Rough Translation 

 
 

Birdie in the Cage

People have been doing the square dance since before the Declaration of Independence. But does that mean it should be THE American folk dance? That question took us on a journey from Appalachian front porches, to dance classes across our nation, to the halls of Congress, and finally a Kansas City convention center. And along the way, we uncovered a secret history of square dancing that made us see how much of our national identity we could stuff into that square, and what it means for a dance to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. 

Special thanks to Jim Mayo, Claude Fowler, Paul Gifford, Jim Maczko, Jim Davis, Paul Moore, Jack Pladdys, Mary Jane Wegener, Kinsey Brooke and Connie Keener. 

This episode was reported by Tracie Hunte and produced by Annie McEwen, Tracie Hunte, and Matt Kielty.

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

 

Check out Phil Jamison's book,  “Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance

Watch this 1948 Lucky Strike Cigarette Square Dancing Commercial

A rare image of Black Square Dancers in 1948

The Square Dance History Project

Read “America’s Wholesome Square Dancing Tradition is a Tool of White Supremacy,” by Robyn Pennachia for Quartz

And Pennachia’s original Twitter thread

Read “The State Folk Dance Conspiracy: Fabricating a National Folk Dance,” by Julianne Mangin

 

 
 

Radiolab Presents: Dolly Parton's America

Radiolab creator and host Jad Abumrad spent the last two years following around music legend Dolly Parton, and we're here to say you should tune in! In this episode of Radiolab, we showcase the first of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this intensely divided moment, one of the few things everyone still seems to agree on is Dolly Parton—but why? That simple question leads to a deeply personal, historical, and musical rethinking of one of America’s great icons. 

We begin with a simple question: How did the queen of the boob joke become a feminist icon? Helen Morales, author of “Pilgrimage to Dollywood,” gave us a stern directive – look at the lyrics! So we dive into Dolly’s discography, starting with the early period of what Dolly calls “sad ass songs” to find remarkably prescient words of female pain, slut-shaming, domestic violence, and women being locked away in asylums by cheating husbands. We explore how Dolly took the centuries-old tradition of the Appalachian “murder ballad”—an oral tradition of men singing songs about brutally killing women—and flipped the script, singing from the woman’s point of view. And as her career progresses, the songs expand beyond the pain to tell tales of leaving abuse behind.

How can such pro-woman lyrics come from someone who despises the word feminism? Dolly explains.  

 

Check out Dolly Parton's America here at: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/dolly-partons-america 

 
 

Silky Love

We eat eels in sushi, stews, and pasta. Eels eat anything. Also they can survive outside of water for hours and live for up to 80 years. But this slippery snake of the sea harbors an even deeper mystery, one that has tormented the minds of Aristotle and Sigmund Freud and apparently the entire country of Italy: Where do they come from? We travel from the estuaries of New York to the darkest part of the ocean in search of the limits of human knowledge.

This episode was produced by Matt Kielty and Becca Bressler. 

Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate

Further reading:

Lucy Cooke's book The Truth about Animals!

Chris Bowser's Eel Research Project

 
 
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