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Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.

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  • Friday, April 20, 2018 1:05am

    Border Trilogy:

    While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh.

    This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness.  In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migrant deaths shot up dramatically and have stayed high since. Jason traced this increase to a Border Patrol policy still in effect, called “Prevention Through Deterrence.”

    Over three episodes, Radiolab will investigate this policy, its surprising origins, and the people whose lives were changed forever because of it.

     

    Part 3: What Remains 

    The third episode in our Border Trilogy follows anthropologist Jason De León after he makes a grisly discovery in Arivaca, Arizona. In the middle of carrying out his pig experiments with his students, Jason finds the body of a 30-year-old female migrant. With the help of the medical examiner and some local humanitarian groups, Jason discovers her identity. Her name was Maricela. Jason then connects with her family, including her brother-in-law, who survived his own harrowing journey through Central America and the Arizona desert.

    With the human cost of Prevention Through Deterrence weighing on our minds, we try to parse what drives migrants like Maricela to cross through such deadly terrain, and what, if anything, could deter them.

    This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte and was produced by Matt Kielty and Tracie Hunte. 

    Special thanks to Carlo Albán, Sandra Lopez-Monsalve, Chava Gourarie, Lynn M. Morgan, Mike Wells, and Tom Barry.

    Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

  • Thursday, April 5, 2018 9:31pm

    Border Trilogy 

    While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh.

    This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness.  In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migrant deaths shot up dramatically and have stayed high since. Jason traced this increase to a Border Patrol policy still in effect, called “Prevention Through Deterrence.”

    Over three episodes, Radiolab will investigate this policy, its surprising origins, and the people whose lives were changed forever because of it.

     

    Part 2: Hold the Line

    After the showdown in court with Bowie High School, Border Patrol brings in a fresh face to head its dysfunctional El Paso Sector: Silvestre Reyes. The first Mexican-American to ever hold the position, Reyes knows something needs to change and has an idea how to do it. One Saturday night at midnight, with the element of surprise on his side, Reyes unveils ... Operation Blockade. It wins widespread support for the Border Patrol in El Paso, but sparks major protests across the Rio Grande. Soon after, he gets a phone call that catapults his little experiment onto the national stage, where it works so well that it diverts migrant crossing patterns along the entire U.S.-Mexico Border.

    Years later, in the Arizona desert, anthropologist Jason de León realizes that in order to accurately gauge how many migrants die crossing the desert, he must first understand how human bodies decompose in such an extreme environment. He sets up a macabre experiment, and what he finds is more drastic than anything he could have expected.

    This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte, and was produced by Matt Kielty, Bethel Habte and Latif Nasser.

    Special thanks to Sherrie Kossoudji at the University of Michigan, Cheryl Howard, Andrew Hansen, William Sabol, Donald B. White, Daniel Martinez, Michelle Mittelstadt at the Migration Policy Institute, Former Executive Assistant to the El Paso Mayor Mark Smith, Retired Assistant Border Patrol Sector Chief Clyde Benzenhoefer, Paul Anderson, Eric Robledo, Maggie Southard Gladstone and Kate Hall.

     Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

     

    CORRECTION: An earlier version of this piece incorrectly stated that Silvestre Reyes's brother died in a car accident in 1968; it was actually his father who died in the accident.  We also omitted a detail about the 1997 GAO report that we quote, namely that it predicted that as deaths in the mountains and deserts might rise, deaths in other areas might also fall. The audio has been adjusted accordingly.

     

  • Thursday, March 22, 2018 11:40pm

    Border Trilogy:

    While scouring the Sonoran Desert for objects left behind by migrants crossing into the United States, anthropologist Jason De León happened upon something he didn't expect to get left behind: a human arm, stripped of flesh.

    This macabre discovery sent him reeling, needing to know what exactly happened to the body, and how many migrants die that way in the wilderness.  In researching border-crosser deaths in the Arizona desert, he noticed something surprising. Sometime in the late-1990s, the number of migrant deaths shot up dramatically and have stayed high since. Jason traced this increase to a Border Patrol policy still in effect, called “Prevention Through Deterrence.”

    Over three episodes, Radiolab will investigate this policy, its surprising origins, and the people whose lives were changed forever because of it.

     

    Part 1: Hole in the Fence:

    We begin one afternoon in May 1992, when a student named Albert stumbled in late for history class at Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas.  His excuse: Border Patrol. Soon more stories of students getting stopped and harassed by Border Patrol started pouring in. So begins the unlikely story of how a handful of Mexican-American high schoolers in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country stood up to what is today the country’s largest federal law enforcement agency.   They had no way of knowing at the time, but what would follow was a chain of events that would drastically change the US-Mexico border.

    This episode was reported by Latif Nasser and Tracie Hunte and was produced by Matt Kielty, Bethel Habte, Tracie Hunte and Latif Nasser. 

    Special thanks to Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, Estela Reyes López, Barbara Hines, Mallory Falk, Francesca Begos and Nancy Wiese from Hachette Book Group, Professor Michael Olivas at the University of Houston Law Center, and Josiah McC. Heyman, Ph.D, Director, Center for Interamerican and Border Studies and Professor of Anthropology.

    Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

  • Thursday, March 15, 2018 2:00pm

    One of our most popular episodes of all time was our Colors episode, where we introduced you to a sea creature that could see a rainbow far beyond what humans can experience.

    Peacock mantis shrimps are as extraordinary as they are strange and boast what may well be the most complicated visual system in the world. They each have 16 photoreceptors compared to our measly three. But recently researchers in Australia put the mantis shrimps’ eyes to the test only to discover that sure, they can SEE lots of colors, but that doesn't mean they can tell them apart.

    In fact, when two colors are close together - like yellow and yellow-y green - they can’t seem to tell them apart at all.  

     

    MORE ON COLORS: There was a time -- between the flickery black-and-white films of yore and the hi-def color-corrected movies we watch today -- when color was in flux. Check out this blog post on how colors made it to the big screen from our director of research, Latif Nasser. 

    Our original episode was produced by Tim Howard and Pat Walters. This update was produced by Amanda Aronczyk.

    Special thanks to Chris Martin of Creative Aquarium Nation, Phil Weissman, David Gebel and Kate Hinds for lending us their colorful garments. Also thanks to Michael Kerschner, Elisa Nikoloulias and the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, as well as Chase Culpon and The Greene Space team.

    Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.

  • Friday, February 23, 2018 2:00pm

    The shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, reignited an increasingly familiar debate about guns in this country. Today, we’re re-releasing a More Perfect episode that aired just after the Las Vegas shooting last year that attempts to make sense of our country’s fraught relationship with the Second Amendment.

    For nearly 200 years of our nation’s history, the Second Amendment was an all-but-forgotten rule about the importance of militias. But in the 1960s and 70s, a movement emerged — led by Black Panthers and a recently-repositioned NRA — that insisted owning a firearm was the right of each and every American. So began a constitutional debate that only the Supreme Court could solve. That didn’t happen until 2008, when a Washington, D.C. security guard named Dick Heller made a compelling case.