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Every week Chris Hayes asks the big questions that keep him up at night. How do we make sense of this unprecedented moment in world history? Why is this (all) happening? This podcast starts to answer these questions. Writers, experts, and thinkers who are also trying to get to the bottom of them join Chris to break it all down and help him get a better night’s rest. “Why is this Happening?” is presented by MSNBC and NBCNews Think.
 
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show series
 
Here in the United States, things are closer to normal than they have been in a long time. Businesses have reopened, gatherings have started to resume, and COVID cases and deaths continue to fall to levels that we have not seen since the very beginning of the pandemic. But even three months ago, it was not clear that this would be the point we are …
 
How does the human body take in and use energy? It is a simple question, but one that we still do not have a definitive answer to. This week Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, Herman Pontzer, joins to shed light on these evolutionary mysteries. How did our bodies get to be the way they are? How do we take in and expend energy? And ho…
 
What we call history isn't a fixed thing; it's a narrative, contested and fought over, changing over time. Right now, the United States is in the midst of a massive historical battle over its own narrative, specifically the legacy of slavery and race in America. The backlash to that fight is spilling into public policy as Republican state legislatu…
 
What is gender-affirming health care? Around the country, there’s a Republican campaign to legislate and regulate the lives of trans youth. The most destructive of these efforts would bar trans youth in certain states from accessing gender-affirming treatment. Dr. Izzy Lowell runs Queer Med, a private clinic that specializes in providing accessible…
 
What causes violent crime rates to rise? It probably won’t surprise you to learn that 2020 was the deadliest year in American history but what you may not know is that 2020 also saw a staggering rise in homicides and violent crime. It’s impossible to separate the two – the indefinite closure of crucial community spaces and abrupt economic upheaval …
 
We largely hear about China in the news through the lens of what the Chinese government is doing, but it is a country with billions of people and a history thousands of years old. For as large and influential as it is, Americans do not consume Chinese cultural exports in the same way that China does in the reverse. Chinese made movies are not scree…
 
Back in 2019, a panel of health experts declared that of every country in the whole world, the United States was the most prepared for handling a pandemic. So what went wrong? Acclaimed author Michael Lewis is unparalleled in unearthing the most compelling characters to tell an unexpected story – it’s no wonder he’s had multiple books turned into m…
 
How does bitcoin work? Where did it come from, why does it exist, and will it ever be used for everyday purchases? Far from some passing fad, bitcoin has been around for more than a decade now and shows no signs of going anywhere. We figured it was long overdue to understand the most well-known cryptocurrency and the problem it is trying to solve. …
 
Racial hierarchy in America is deeply embedded in big structural institutions. From housing to criminal justice to education, there’s decades of scholarly work and research dissecting the lasting legacies of policies that disproportionately disenfranchise people of color. Now, tax law scholar Dorothy A. Brown has a mind-blowing new book about race …
 
Wikipedia is not like a lot of our current internet. It’s not like sites like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube that mines its users’ attention and tries to capture it through push notifications and algorithms in order to maximize profits. Wikipedia is a vestige of an earlier de-commodified, open sourced internet. It’s an amazing well of knowledge buil…
 
What happens in your body after you get a vaccine? The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines feels like the first positive mile marker in the pandemic but folks have a lot of questions – How were they developed? How do they work? Is there anything we should worry about? Dr. Peter Hotez has been a leading voice over the last year, lending his expertise i…
 
Over the past few years a broader conversation around speech has intensified in the United States. It is a conversation about speech, taboo, social justice, power and hierarchy, penalty about what things people can or can't say, should or shouldn't say in what environments, and what censure should attach to that kind of speech. It’s an incredibly t…
 
Amazon puts just about everything you might need one click away and over the last year, people have been turning to the tech giant more than ever. But all that frictionless efficiency comes at huge social costs. In his new book “Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America”, ProPublica Reporter Alec MacGillis investigates Amazon’s impact on…
 
What happens when you raise the minimum wage? The almost decade long push for a federal 15$ minimum wage made new noise in the last few weeks when Democrats tried to include it in the American Relief Act. Although this new push failed, the policy remains incredibly popular even though there are even some Democrats who are opposed. So, what are the …
 
We have reached the point where we are hitting anniversary markers in this pandemic. It was just about this time a year ago when all of our lives completely changed. Businesses went dark, schools went remote, we separated ourselves and hit pause on daily life in order to slow the spread of a once in a century pandemic. It is a rare event that has b…
 
Critically acclaimed playwright and actress Anna Deavere Smith crafts groundbreaking art at the intersection of journalism and theater. Her explosive one-woman plays centered on the Los Angeles riots and the Crown Heights riots, “Twilight: Los Angeles” and “Fires in the Mirror” respectively, took shape from hundreds of interviews conducted by Smith…
 
This conversation starts at Grid Talk 101 (what even is an energy grid) and ends at the fragility of modern life. That can only mean one thing – David Roberts is back. An energy and climate journalist, Roberts explains that we have every reason to believe that we’ll see an increase in the freak weather events like the one that wrought havoc on Texa…
 
A short while ago, you may have seen posts crossing your social media feeds from celebrities and activists like Rihanna or Greta Thunberg showing support for farmers in India. Right now, one of the world’s largest protest movements is taking place across India. Millions of farmers are demonstrating against a set of policy proposals passed by Narend…
 
Roughly 19 million acres of eastern Oklahoma hung in the balance in the summer of 2020. Before the Supreme Court was a case asking a question crucial to Native land rights - does the United States still honor the treaties signed in the 1800s promising that land to indigenous tribes? And in a landmark 5-4 decision penned by conservative justice Neil…
 
Come on a journey with us, dear listener, as we learn the little-known origins of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s beloved obstruction tactic. Turns out, we owe the filibuster to the efforts of John C. Calhoun, a virulent racist and spiritual father of the Confederacy, as he tried to protect the power of a minority of Senators who represented slave states. S…
 
Content warning: This episode discusses the recent federal executions and details the circumstances of some related crimes, including abuse, assault, rape, and murder. For 17 years, the federal execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, sat dormant. Then, with only six months left in his Presidency, Donald Trump and AG Bill Barr oversaw an unpreced…
 
We have a lot to get to with legendary tech journalist Kara Swisher this week: the deplatforming of President Trump, the conservative obsession with Section 230 (what even is Section 230), why Parler went dark (what even is Parler), and why some Republicans would rather complain about losing Twitter followers than address the deadly attack on the C…
 
One day after the attack on the Capitol, Chris Hayes and author Ta-Nehisi Coates sat down to process what we witnessed as a nation and what it reveals about the fragility of American democracy. RELATED READING: Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Chris Hayes We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates The …
 
What can bourbon teach us about legacy, nostalgia, and consumer trends? Pappy Van Winkle is some of the most coveted bourbon in the world, but it took three generations of labor and loss to reach this pinnacle. Author Wright Thompson spent years with the third generation Van Winkle, who brought the family business back from the brink, studying the …
 
In June 2018 Donald Trump posed with then Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou at a ground breaking ceremony for the new Foxconn facility in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin. Touted as “the eighth wonder of the world” by the president, the multi-billion dollar deal was supposed to produce a 20-million-square-foot manufacturing comp…
 
Congressman Max Rose says he has no regrets. Elected in the 2018 blue wave, he flipped New York’s conservative-leaning 11th district, which includes all of Staten Island and a corner of Brooklyn. Now, two years later, he’s one of the frontline Democrats who lost their reelection left wondering what went wrong. In our continuing dissection of the 20…
 
What were the shifts in the 2020 election? Why was the polling so off? How did the coalitions change? As the dust settles, and we can dive into official numbers, a clearer picture is forming of what actually happened during this election cycle. David Shor is a political data scientist who works to help elect Democrats. This week, David joins to loo…
 
The local newspaper is dying. Across the country, newsrooms are either shuttering completely or struggling through massive staff layoffs. It's becoming increasingly clear that in the void left by trusted local reporting, misinformation is taking root. A sweeping investigation by the New York Times uncovered a conservative pay-for-play network that …
 
What happened to the down-ballot Democrats? Going into election day, Democrats were expecting to pick up seats and expand their control of the House. Instead, they suffered consequential blows, still managing to hold the majority but ultimately losing seats. It was a shock that launched a bevy of post-mortems trying to figure out what went wrong. F…
 
Has online activism and doomscrolling through twitter turned politics into just a hobby for people? At what point is it just a way to spend time rather than affect meaningful change? This week Tufts University professor, Eitan Hersh, joins to talk about what he diagnoses as “political hobbyism”, what real political engagement looks like, and argues…
 
Are Republicans losing their grip on Texas? Election night saw Democrats largely unable to build on the gains made in 2018 when an insurgent Beto O’Rourke ran a grassroots senate campaign that gained national attention. But despite frustrations from Democrats that they didn’t perform as well as they hoped this November, there’s still cause for conc…
 
The U.S. just surpassed 10 million confirmed cases of coronavirus as infection rates spike across the country. If you look at the charts tracking the reported cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, it shows the country on a dangerous trajectory. How did we get to this point? Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has spent time studying the sociology of pandemic…
 
What is the deal with all those fundraising emails? The ones with increasingly dramatic subject lines and maybe a dash of emotional manipulation – they’re everywhere, but do they work? There’s a science to the fundraising email, a lot of data, research, and trial and error. It’s something Michael Whitney’s spent a lot of time thinking about, first …
 
Why is Donald Trump doing better with Latino voters in 2020 than he was in 2016? The central tension in even asking that question is – who exactly are Latino voters? As campaign veteran Chuck Rocha points out, beneath that label is a deeply diverse group. Still, Rocha found success in reaching Latino voters as senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders 2…
 
What does the world think of us right now? Former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power says it isn’t surprising that our standing in the world has dropped, but rather just how precipitous those drops have been. This conversation, conducted as part of the Texas Tribune Festival, unpacks the sources of humiliation and isolation brought about by the…
 
We are just weeks away from an unprecedented election day. In order to vote safely during the pandemic, more people than ever are voting by mail or early in person, and early numbers point to a strong likelihood of record turnout. There are hundreds of lawsuits across the country centered on access to polling places, ballot drop boxes, and deadline…
 
How do we stabilize an economic crisis? Years before we faced the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic crises of the 21st century, the theories of British born economist John Maynard Keynes helped lead the United States out of the Great Depression. His ideas revolutionized how we looked at scarcity and invented our understanding macroeconomics. Th…
 
Here by popular demand – all your QAnon questions answered with two of the best reporters on the beat. Is QAnon a cult, a religion, a conspiracy theory, a state of mind? Who or what is Q? How did it gain such prominence and capture the minds of so many? Is it harmless – or is it dangerous? NBC reporters Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins help us pull …
 
Barbara Smith has been doing The Work for decades. Born into the era of Jim Crow, Smith joined the civil rights movement as a teenager in the 60s, volunteered at the Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland right out of high school, canvassed for housing rights, became part of the women’s movement after graduating college, and then co-founded a bla…
 
Did we learn the right lessons from the Iraq war? Before we can answer that, we must understand why we went into Iraq in the first place. Author and journalist Robert Draper’s new book “To Start a War” chronicles with incredibly painstaking research and reporting how the most consequential foreign policy disaster of our time came to be. Listen to h…
 
What does it take to keep a restaurant alive in the time of coronavirus? In March, restaurants across the country closed their doors in order to combat the spread of Covid-19. Left behind is an industry that is largely made up of small business owners scrambling to figure out how they can stay afloat. This week, Tony Bezsylko, co-owner of the local…
 
How did America’s modern conservative movement come to power? Historian and author Rick Perlstein’s prolific work has traced the arc of modern electoral politics, and specifically has laid out how modern conservatism arose. This week, he sits down to talk about his newest book “Reaganland” and how the ideological shifts and circumstances that lead …
 
Whether it’s refrigerating your food or turning on the lights or connecting to the Internet, having access to power is what makes modern society possible. And yet, you likely have no choice in which company you get your power from. Whether the service is bad or they lobby against your own policy interests, it doesn’t matter – if you want power, you…
 
Originally Aired April 2019 Did you know there are roughly one million people currently held in internment camps in China? One million people detained against their will, facing no criminal charges, cut off from the outside world. This is the story of the Uyghurs, a small insulated ethnic minority in Western China. The predominantly Muslim group ha…
 
Does the United States have a caste system? In her research on the Jim Crow South, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Isabel Wilkerson found that the word ‘racism’ fell far short in capturing the depth and totality of oppression people existed under. In her powerful new book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”, Wilkerson uses caste a…
 
Did Donald Trump hijack the Republican party, or is he the party’s logical conclusion? Having spent decades as a political operative putting Republicans in office, Stuart Stevens argues it’s the latter. His new book “It Was All a Lie” sifts through the party’s decades-long march that led to the election of President Trump and reckons with what rema…
 
How did wearing a mask become a polarizing issue? If you’re paying close attention, the arguments against masks might sound familiar: denying the science, cherry-picking data, cries of infringing on personal freedoms. It’s a page out of the Republican establishment’s playbook for weaponizing climate change denial. Back in 2018, Chris spoke with Vox…
 
Who should we be building monuments to in America? Few figures have pushed for a truly fair and equal society in this country like Frederick Douglass. A man who saw the full promise of American democracy even years before the start of the Civil War. This week Chris sits down with professor and historian David Blight to talk about his Pulitzer winni…
 
How do you unseat a 16-term member of Congress? Ask Luke Hayes who is fresh off his role as campaign manager for Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal poised to defeat New York Congressman Eliot Engel. Now, Luke’s here to talk about the nuts and bolts of campaigning and it absolutely doesn’t come up at all that Luke is also Chris’s younger broth…
 
Dr. Carl Hart wants to challenge the way you think about drugs. As a neuroscientist studying the effects drugs have on the brain, a lot of Dr. Hart's research undercuts some of the most pervasive stories we’ve been told about drugs. How much of our reaction to illicit drug use is based in the pharmacological facts versus social coding and moral jud…
 
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