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Boston Calling


How the world looks through American eyes, and the myriad and unexpected ways that the world influences the United States.


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How the world looks through American eyes, and the myriad and unexpected ways that the world influences the United States.




Last call

After almost eight years on the air, and more than 400 episodes, this is the final episode of Boston Calling with Marco Werman. We have three unforgettable stories that touch on some of the central themes of the program: justice and race, the environment and immigration. We have some heartfelt messages to share from some of our fans from around the globe, and also Marco’s parting words to the loyal listeners of Boston Calling. Image: Host Marco Werman high-fives a fourth-grader at Curtis Guild Elementary School in east Boston (Credit: Steven Davy/The World)


In retrospect

In the penultimate edition of Boston Calling, we’re looking back at some of the moments, from the past eight or so years, that have shaped the world and this programme. We start in 2012, also an election year, finding out how the role of the US presidency and American power looked to the world then. We also take a look back at the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. We reflect on the US role in the Middle East, and the impact that military deployments have on the lives of US soldiers. Finally, we revisit a conversation with comedian Trevor Noah, from the day after the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Photo: Passengers pass through the main concourse at St. Pancras Station, in April 2018, in London, England. Credit: Richard Baker/Getty Images Images


Black lives matter

The homicide of George Floyd has led to widespread protests in the US. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have been hitting the streets daily, from Minneapolis to New Orleans, and from New York to Los Angeles. But the protests aren’t limited to the US. For the past few weeks, protests and demonstrations have spread across the globe. Issues of police brutality, racism and injustice have plagued nations around the world, including Greece, where people are protesting in solidarity with the death of Geroge Floyd, while also advocating for systemic change in their country. Also, in France, the killing of George Floyd has invoked the memory of Adama Traoré, a black man who died in police custody there; protests in Belgium target statues of King Leopold II, the brutal colonizer of Congo and other countries in Africa; in Kenya, the death of George Floyd strikes a chord, as Kenyans look at police violence in their country; more than 100 African authors have signed a letter condemning the killing of African Americans at the hands of US police forces - Nigerian author Lola Shoneyin is one of them; and US based Nigerian writer, Sefi Atta, shares her experience of race and racism in America. Image: Youth protest with placards in front of riot police officers in Athens, Greece, during a rally against racism and police brutality and in support of the protests in the US, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis (Credit: Dimitris Lampropoulos/Getty Images)


I can't breathe

The homicide of George Floyd, an unarmed man, while he was in police custody has sparked demonstrations and protests in the US and across the globe. From London and Berlin to Australia and the Netherlands, thousands marched in solidarity after a video showed a white police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes before he died. The incident touched off outrage in the United States, amid a polarizing presidential campaign and the coronavirus pandemic that has thrown millions out of work. Darnella Wade, an organizer for Black Lives Matter in St. Paul, Minnesota, hopes that this becomes a galvanizing moment for lasting change. Also, black Americans once largely fought alone against police brutality, but as Somali American kids grew up in the same environment, they began to join Black Lives Matter; Dr. Michelle Morse, a professor of medicine at Harvard University explains why the racism in public health is so harmful in the age of Covid-19; America's adversaries are using global attention on the George Floyd protests as anti-US propaganda; and America’s foreign adversaries are also using social media to deepen division in the US.


Point of entry

The pandemic has not stopped children and teenage migrants from showing up alone at the US border, hoping to apply for asylum. But US policy has changed dramatically, and critics say that the Trump administration is using the pandemic as a way to halt any entries across the border. Also, Guatemalans who have been deported from the US are being shunned at home over coronavirus fears; the coronavirus pandemic has also forced refugee resettlement worldwide to grind to a halt, dividing families and stranding them thousands of miles from each other; the US has a long history of xenophobia in times of crisis, which often influences immigration policy; Canadian nurses cross the border to work in the US every day, but the pandemic could change that; and the US-Canada border is closed for all non-essential travel - as a result, businesses in the Niagara region that depend on American tourists are suffering. Photo: Honduran migrants wait to cross the international border bridge from Ciudad Tecun Uman in Guatemala to Ciudad Hidalgo in Mexico. Credit: Johan Ordonez/Getty Images.


Looking out for you

The race to find a dependable vaccine for Covid-19 is on. More than 100 laboratories worldwide are competing to try to get there first, and that makes it more likely that a way to halt the pandemic will be found sooner. But with so many competing interests, it's far from clear that all of the world's citizens will have equitable access to a vaccine, once it is in production. Also, immigrant ‘digital first responders’ provide vital services, informing people about coronavirus and helping local communities, but now they're in a financial crisis; the coronavirus pandemic is also disrupting remittances, and as a result immigrants' families are losing their safety net; many Filipino Americans are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, so a new initiative is bringing free meals to hospitals heavily staffed by Filipinos; and the surprising cultural contributions of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Image: A scientist examines Covid-19 infected cells at a laboratory in St Petersburg, Russia (Credit: Anton Vaganov/Reuters)


The world stage

We all have similar questions about the coronavirus pandemic. When will it end? How do we recover? Is it safe to visit friends and extended family? Most of us look to medical experts and our elected officials for guidance. Historically, as a superpower, the US has taken a lead in times of global crisis. Former NATO ambassador Nicholas Burns says this is not currently the case. Female leaders are being praised for the way they are leading their nations in these uncertain times, so does gender affect governing style? Jon Huntsman, a former US ambassador to China says that during this pandemic the ‘stakes are high’ for the US-China relationship. Russia expert Fiona Hill explains how President Vladimir Putin has become a ‘wild card’ in Russia's political system. And cybersecurity chiefs, from Facebook and Twitter, explain what they are doing to combat false information in the age of the coronavirus. Photo: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC (Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


Extra credit

Adam Carter was awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to teach English to teenagers in Beijing. When the coronavirus outbreak hit, his school there was shut down. Carter is still teaching his students remotely, but he also came up with an idea for a side project: trying to broker deals of Chinese-made personal protective equipment - things like masks and gloves - to American hospitals in need. It's been far more complicated than he imagined. A group of Harvard university graduate students have also created a new PPE supply chain from China to Boston, while other students are on the front lines of debunking Covid-19 misinformation; international students continue to face uncertainty over what the coming school year will look like; while yet another student, her friends and her family, find a unique way to celebrate her graduation; and professional athletes find creative ways to train from while staying at home. Photo: From left, statues of Lucy Stone and Abigail Adams are heeding the advice of the CDC by wearing face masks on Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images)


Life goes on

Government officials and health experts are starting to imagine what life will look like when we venture out again. Former US Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem says that we may emerge into an altered world of nose swabs at airports, face shields for fans at sporting events, airline flights specifically for low or high-risk passengers, and temperature screenings at restaurants. Also, New York City shop-workers continue going to work risking infection, as they lack proper protective gear; world-renowned chef Massimo Bottura goes virtual during lockdown, broadcasting live cooking classes from his kitchen; a Mexican-American teen worries about prom and graduation; and many gamers are using Animal Crossing, a simulation video game, to live out experiences and routines disrupted by the pandemic. Image: A United States Postal Service worker delivers mail in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. New York City remains the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States (Credit: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)


Coronavirus conundrums

Strict physical distancing measures in response to the novel coronavirus have disrupted economies and lives in massive ways. But as shutdown measures stretch from weeks into months, many communities across the globe are now wrestling with when and how to relax those policies. Experts around the world warn that there’s no simple transition for countries looking to ease restrictions, and reopen their economies. Also, an epidemiologist shares his thoughts on President Trump’s phased plan to reopen America’s economy; there’s a massive effort underway to help Indian nationals who are stranded in the US due to the pandemic; top cybersecurity officials are issuing warnings about Covid-19 related scams and phishing attacks; cybersecurity volunteers are stepping in to fight back; and Singapore has been seen as a model for the way it has confronted the coronavirus outbreak, but now the number of Covid-19 infections has increased again. Image: A health personnel is seen giving the coronavirus test to a person at the Salus Gracia Geriatric in Barcelona, Spain. (Credit: Miquel Benitez/Getty Images)


Keeping faith

The coronavirus has fundamentally changed how we live our lives, but perhaps most heartbreakingly, how we deal with death. Around the world, centuries-old burial rituals have been abandoned. Even something as simple as a hug for a grieving friend is now essentially out of bounds. We look at how communities and individuals are adapting. Also, writer and lawyer Wajahat Ali talks about faith in times of turmoil; many religious leaders are turning to video conferencing as an alternative to in-person services, but for orthodox Jews, that is problematic; we hear a Buddhist perspective on isolation and enlightenment in the time of Covid-19; and religious leaders tackle the big question: why. Image: Pallbearers bring the coffin of a deceased person to be stored into the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, near Bergamo, Lombardy. (Credit: Piero Cruciatti/Getty Images)


Coronavirus coping

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, medical equipment is in short supply, and health workers in countries around the globe have had to ration care. Now, doctors and nurses in New York are treating patients in overcapacity intensive care units with dwindling supplies of equipment. The issue of how to ration scarce medical resources is forcing healthcare workers to make impossible decisions. But is there a best way to make those decisions? This is the subject of a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine; one of its authors, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, has some thoughts. Also, we visit a primate research centre in Louisiana where scientists are working on a potential Covid-19 vaccine; we ask how temperature and humidity affects the spread of the coronavirus; we find out how people around the world are stocking up their pantries; and we check out the dating scene to find out how it’s surviving in this global pandemic. Photo: Mirian Fuentes (L), a medical assistant, and nurse Laurie Kuypers check paperwork during a COVID-19 screening at an appointment-only drive-up clinic set up by the University of Washington Medical Center Northwest Outpatient Medical Center. Credit: Karen Ducey/Getty Images.


In this together

The US military is increasingly assisting the US government's domestic response to the coronavirus pandemic. So far, the military is setting up field hospitals in Seattle, New York, and Boston and has put additional units on prepare-to-deploy orders. US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, has issued a stop-movement order to the US military, halting travel and movement abroad in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Former Secretary of Defence and CIA Director Leon Panetta tells Boston Calling that balancing the challenge of limiting the movement of US troops while also maintaining global security will be difficult. Also, the history of the World Health Organization and how it’s coordinating global efforts to combat Covid-19; the US and Mexico have shutdown all non-essential travel across the border, local businesses are feeling the hit; how a hospital in California's rural heartland is producing informational videos to reach immigrant farmworkers in the area; and families around the world struggle to find ways to explain coronavirus to their children. Photo: Members of the Ohio National Guard help pack food and supplies at the Mid Ohio Foodbank in Columbus, Ohio. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and rising unemployment, the demand placed on food banks has grown rapidly. (Credit: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)


This pandemic life

The US has been planning for catastrophe on a national scale since the beginning of the Cold War and the advent of the nuclear age. Now, with the new coronavirus, the US and the world face a very different challenge, but the approach is similar. Author Garrett Graff examined this intersection between national security and national emergency in his book Raven Rock, named after one of the major bunkers used by the US government in times of emergency. Also, more than 300 million students in China are stuck at home and getting their schooling through online classes - how are they coping? As more people across the globe work from home, the team-messaging application Slack is having a big moment. International students in the US, displaced by COVID-19, face new challenges with online classes. In the US, farmworkers are considered essential so they still go out and work, but there are increasing concerns about their safety on the job. And Mr. Motivator wants you to have fun while exercising under quarantine. Photo: An American flag is seen at sunrise at the Pentagon. Credit: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images


Refugee island

Nine years have passed since Syrians took to the streets to demand the ouster of the government of Bashar al-Assad. During those nine years, thousands of lives have been lost, many have been displaced and much of the country is in ruins. For many Syrians, displacement has led them to look for a new life in Europe, which has meant spending time on the Greek island of Lesbos. Tens of thousands of Syrians and migrants from other countries have passed through Lesbos. We’ll hear from Syrians reflecting on the crisis in Syria and from migrants who are now seeking asylum, while waiting in limbo in makeshift camps on Lesbos. Photo: A drone image shows a displaced camp in the town of Kafr Uruq southwest of the town of Sarmada in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Credit: Omar Haj Kadour/Getty Images



The World Health Organization says every effort is now needed to contain the coronavirus disease, COVID-19. Some nations have well-developed plans for dealing with the outbreak of a new virus, others are just starting to catch up. Jane Halton, the former health secretary of Australia, and a past chair of WHO’s executive board says there’s a lot to be learned from models that simulate similar outbreaks. Also: health officials have warned people not to touch their face, but that’s easier said than done; understanding personal versus collective responsibility around coronavirus; millions of kids are home from school and they have some thoughts to share; after being on lockdown, a California family stranded in China ventures outside; and three Mexican nurses have become heroes in the global fight against coronavirus, thanks to a video they made on the correct way to wash hands. (From L) World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme Director Michael Ryan, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove attend a daily press briefing on COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. Credit: Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images)


Exchange and influence

Late last year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology signed a five-year extension of a multimillion-dollar partnership with Skolkova, a Russian technology research institute. This partnership has long raised espionage fears among foreign policy experts and the FBI. The contract renewal was a reversal in an MIT-Russia partnership that appeared to be dormant. The extension came just three months after the US federal government announced it is investigating MIT’s compliance with reporting requirements for the Russian money it has received in connection with the project. Also, the Trump administration is taking a closer look at funding from Chinese donors because it suspects widespread economic espionage; and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines says he's following through on a promise to kick US troops out of his country. (Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Viktor Vekselberg (L-R centre front), Renova Group Board Chairman and Skolkovo Foundation President, visit the Skolkovo Technopark in Moscow. Credit: Alexander Astafyev/Getty Images)


Every 30 seconds

Approximately every 30 seconds, a United States citizen of Latin American descent, reaches the voting age of 18. This year, 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote. Latinos are one of the largest demographic groups in the US. We’ll learn about the history of the ‘Latino vote’ in the US, we’ll meet young Latino voters, and we’ll look into how both major US political parties are trying to gain young Latino support in the lead-up to the election. (From left, Kathleen Hilibish, 68, and Judi Longacre, 79, volunteer at the voter registration booth at the Perry Township Oktoberfest at Hartwick Park in Canton, Ohio. Credit: Dustin Franz/Getty Images)


Leading the way

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has made a pledge to dole out $10 billions worth of grants to help slow down climate change. Environmentalists tell us where the money should go. Also, an aid worker knows first hand the danger of landmines; American basketball fans say Slovenia superstar Luka Doncic is the game’s future; an update on why one American couple decided to stay on a cruise ship under quarantine rather than be evacuated; plus, a college course on the late Mexican American singer Selena and what we can learn about Latino identity and culture. (Photo: Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, Jeff Bezos (R), tours the facility of the Amazon Spheres, in Seattle, Washington on January 29, 2018. Amazon opened its Seattle office space which looks more like a rainforest. Credit: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)



There are many considerations to take into account when naming a new disease. We hear about some of the pitfalls the World Health Organization avoided when it came up with Covid-19. Also, an American couple tries to make the best of their cruise ship quarantine; some Chinese people travelling in the US are getting tired of being asked if they’re sick; the long and unfounded history of migrants bringing disease to the US; plus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US has deployed disease detectives to combat the coronavirus. (Photo: Passengers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia at Los Angeles International Airport, California, on January 29, 2020. Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)