Miami, Climate Change and Marco Rubio

008 – Miami, Climate Change and Marco Rubio

On March 4, twenty one mayors from the state of Florida wrote to debate moderators demanding that they ask Republican Senator Marco Rubio a question about climate change. “It would be unconscionable,” they wrote, “for these issues of grave concern for the people of Florida to not be addressed in the upcoming debate you will be hosting in the state.”

Why are these mayors – especially the mayor from Miami – so incensed about climate change? What danger does climate change pose to their cities? Were Senator Rubio was asked about climate change, so how did he answer?

Miami, Climate Change, and Marco Rubio – today on The Context.

Want to dig deeper? Here’s more information.

These are some of my sources, plus some great articles and things that you might enjoy.

Well this is cool: NASA has a dashboard for the latest in climate change data.

And while we’re talking about data, here is some great, detailed data about sea level rise in and around Miami specifically, by the University of Miami School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Want the whole kitchen-sink? Read this: “Trends in Global CO2 Emissions (2015 Report)”, by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European Commission Joint Research Center.

Excellent longform investigative journalism about Miami and Climate Change:

TIL Florida has coastal nuclear plants:

From Florida Mayors to Senator Rubio:

Senator Marco Rubio’s Question and Answer about Climate Change, March 10:

007 – #OscarsSoWhite?

This year – for the second year in a row – all twenty nominees in the acting categories for the Academy Awards were white.

Why? What about the other categories? What about the previous 86 years of Oscars? Who chooses the nominees in the first place, and how? Is this blatant racism, or is something more subtle happening in Hollywood?

#OscarsSoWhite? Today on The Context.

Want to dig deeper? Here’s more information.

These are some of my sources, plus some great articles and things that you might enjoy.

How white are the nominees? Two infographics:

Two Studies on Diversity in Hollywood:

Minorities and movie-making:

Lastly, Star Wars and Ghostbusters:

006 – Bill and Melinda Gates: Time, Energy and Poverty

Here is the gist of a letter published by Bill and Melinda Gates on February 22, 2016: “Poverty is not just about a lack of money. It’s about the absence of the resources the poor need to realize their potential. Two critical ones are time and energy.”

But what does that mean? What kind of time and energy are we talking about? Who specifically is lacking time and energy? How big are these problems, and what are their consequences? And what can be done about it?

A poverty explainer, today on The Context.

Read the letter from Bill and Melinda Gates »

Here’s a short video by John Green describing the problem in a nutshell.

Want the longer version? John Green did a Q&A with Bill and Melinda. It’s long, but interesting.

A correction

More data about women & unpaid work

More data about energy and poverty

005 – Apple, Encryption, and the FBI

On February 16, a federal judge – at the request of the FBI – ordered Apple to unlock a phone belonging to the man who shot up an office party in San Bernardino, California in December 2015. Apple released an open letter challenging that order, claiming it would set a dangerous precedent.

Would it? What exactly is the FBI demanding that Apple do? What legal basis do they have for demanding it? How is this different from other requests they’ve made in the past? What’s really at stake here? What’s really going on?

The technological and legal implications, today on The Context.

Extra Reading

Want to read more about encryption, or the FBI’s order, or Apple’s position? Here are some of my sources, and some things that I didn’t have time to elaborate on in the podcast.

The Play-by-Play

Technical Details

Implications in… China?

Code as “Speech”

Parting Thoughts…

The Context - Gravitational Waves and LIGO

004 – The Discovery of Gravitational Waves

On February 11, 2016, researchers announced that they had directly observed gravitational waves for the first time. But what are gravitational waves? How exactly did we detect them? What does Einstein have to do with it? Why is any of this important?

This week we delve into the history and the science of gravitational waves.

Extra Reading

Want to read more about the discovery of gravitational waves? Here are some of my sources, and some things that I didn’t have time to elaborate on in the podcast.

Explainer video from LIGO/Caltech:

Things I left out:

Finally, here’s Neil deGrasse Tyson doing what he does best:

The Context - The Trans-Pacific Partnership

003 – The Trans-Pacific Partnership

In early February 2016, representatives from 12 Pacific nations signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as the TPP.

But what is the TPP? What’s in it? Who wrote it? What effect will it have – not just on jobs, but on industries, on incomes, on prices, and on people?

This week we look at the origins of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Extra Reading

Want to read more about the TPP? Here are some of my sources, some corrections, and some things that I didn’t have time to mention in the podcast.

The Obama Administration has put the full text of the TPP online, here.

A Correction about Environmental Standards in the TPP:

It appears that in at least some ways, the language in the TPP is a step backward from stronger language in previous US trade agreements, at least according to the Sierra Club, which has posted a detailed, slightly legalistic description of those issues.

More information:

About the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system:

About Labor in the TPP:

About the TPP’s Intellectual Property provisions:

Finally, about Fast Track/Trade Promotion Authority:

The Context - The US Presidential Primaries

002 – The US Presidential Primaries

Citizens of the state of Iowa just participated in caucuses to choose their preferred nominees for President. New Hampshire will vote in a primary next week. But why is one a caucus and one a primary? And why do Iowa and New Hampshire vote first? How did we get this system?

This week we look at the origins of the US Presidential Primaries.

Extra Reading

Want to read more about the primaries? Here are some of my sources, and some things that I didn’t have time to mention in the podcast.

More information:

Here’s a video about the Iowa Caucuses:

And one last thing: let’s talk about Senator Estes Kefauver (pronounced KEE-foh-ver):

Lastly, here’s Senator Estes Kefauver on “What’s My Line” in 1951. (Fast-forward to abut 15:50)

001 – Flint’s Water Crisis

In 2015, residents of Flint, Michigan discovered toxic levels of lead in their water supply. How did that happen? Who was responsible? In this episode, we go back half a century and tell the full story.

Extra Reading

Want to know more about what happened in Flint? Here are some of my sources, and some things that I didn’t have time to mention in the podcast. is the ultimate source for all water news coming out of Flint. If you really want detail, this site has all the detail you would ever need.

Other interesting tidbits:

Here are a few interviews with key players that you might find interesting:

I found these articles over at the Atlantic to be particularly good reads, though not especially detailed:

And remember that scandal that derailed the pipeline project in the 60s? Here is the story on that.

The Context - Introduction

What is The Context?

Welcome to The Context, a new weekly podcast.

If there’s something happening in the world, The Context will to tell you why it’s happening: its immediate causes, its deeper origins, and its implications.

What, then, are the origins of this podcast?

My name is Joey Brunelle, and for the last two years I have made a podcast called Born Yesterday, in which I told interesting, little-known stories from history.

Born Yesterday was a lot of fun, but there was just something missing something. That something turned out to be relevance. As I produced episodes of Born Yesterday about the Aztecs or the history of the game Monopoly, I would hear about the ongoing war in Yemen, or the contraction of the Chinese economy, or the massive forest fires in Indonesia – and I realized I knew basically nothing about these things. And these are important things, things that affect people today — not people who lived a thousand years ago.

And while there’s plenty of information out there about what is happening, there isn’t a lot about why.

That the gap that The Context will fill. Every week I’ll take some news item and dig deep into its origins. I’m not here to tell you what I think about things, I’m here to arm you with comprehensible, need-to-know historical background so you can speak intelligently about things that are happening in our world.

For example, here are some episodes I have planned:

  • How long has there been animosity between Sunni and Shia Islam, and why?
  • How does China manipulate its currency – what does that even mean – and why do they do it?
  • How did North Korea become the peculiar state that it is, and how did they get nukes?
  • How did the War on Drugs start, and why?

A new episode of The Context will drop each Friday. You will be able to find episodes on iTunes, or on this blog (with notes or transcripts from each episode).

Also on the blog you can sign up for what I’m calling the Episode Footnotes — an email that I’ll send out with each new episode with some extra reading about that topic. It will include links to the best sources I used in researching, and also any interesting information that ended up on the cutting room floor.

Welcome to The Context.