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News, Politics, & Media Programs


How Infrastructure Works: Inside the Systems That Shape Our World

Monday, December 4, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

From bridges to reservoirs, transformers to pipes, the infrastructural systems we rely on are breaking down in ways that range from the minor to the catastrophic, leaving no communities unaffected. Engineering professor and author Deb Chachra reveals how these essential utilities work, what it takes to keep them running, and how we can transform our shared infrastructure to be functional as well as equitable, resilient, and sustainable.


Slavery, Secession, and Redemption: The Story of Ulysses S. Grant

Tuesday, December 12, 2023 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Captain Ulysses S. Grant resigned from the U.S. Army after facing charges of excessive drinking in 1854. In 1864, he became general-in-chief of the army. How did this turnaround happen? Historian John Reeves explains how Grant developed his latent skills to be a skilled commander while he was in the West at the beginning of the Civil War without the pressure faced by commanders in the East.


Drawing the Outlines of the Middle East: A History Rooted in Bad Faith

Monday, December 18, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

During World War I, Britain made a series of conflicting promises to Arab leaders, French diplomats, and Zionist representatives regarding the future of the Middle East, pledging to help establish an Arab empire, then offering to divide the same land with the French. Historian Ralph Nurnberger examines the figures involved in the often-contradictory secret negotiations, as well as how the results contributed to more than a century of conflicts in the region and the establishment of the modern states of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.


Three Pillars of Chinese Culture: Architecture, Film, and Ideology

Tuesday, December 19, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Chinese culture has a long, rich history. In this series, historian Justin M. Jacobs delves into the sweeping changes enacted in the realms of gender, language, education, and architecture during the Mao years.


The Court at War: FDR, His Justices, and the World They Made

Wednesday, January 10, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

By 1941, Franklin Roosevelt had molded his Supreme Court by appointing seven of the nine justices and handpicking the chief justice. But the wartime court had two faces: one bold and progressive, the other supine and abject, cowed by the revered president’s charisma. Cliff Sloan, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, examines how FDR forever altered America’s most powerful legal institution, with consequences that endure today.


The Secret History of Women at the CIA

Thursday, January 11, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Created in the aftermath of World War II, the Central Intelligence Agency relied on women even as it attempted to keep them down and channel their talents, argues journalist and author Liza Mundy. She reveals how women at the CIA ushered in the modern intelligence age and how silencing them made the world more dangerous in her new book, The Sisterhood: The Secret History of Women at the CIA (Penguin Random House), which is available for purchase.


Surviving the Climate Crisis: Lessons from the Earth’s Past

Thursday, January 11, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

The emergence of the first proto-humans a little more than 2 million years ago was made possible, ironically, by the same thing that now threatens us—climate change. Climate scientist Michael Mann examines the conditions on Earth that allowed humans to both exist and thrive, how they are imperiled if we veer off course, and how we can best understand the gravity of the unfolding climate crisis­—and find ways to meet it.


The Bone Wars

Tuesday, January 23, 2024 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

In the mid-19th century, a rivalry dubbed the Bone Wars emerged in the fledgling field of paleontology between two young scientists, Othniel Charles Cope and Edward Drinker Marsh. Their long and bitter turf war was complete with theft, corruption, and sabotage. Hans Sues, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History, discusses the struggle between Cope and Marsh, plus their contributions to the field of paleontology and to the Smithsonian.


The Japanese Empire: From Politics to Baseball

Wednesday, February 7, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Though it lasted for only 50 years, the Japanese empire forever changed the geopolitical balance in Asia and left a complex legacy that endures to this day. In a winter series, historian Justin M. Jacobs takes you on a thematic tour of five fascinating topics in the history of the Japanese empire. This session's focus will be on Japan’s feudal castles and its politics


Behind the Handshake: The Oslo Peace Process

Monday, February 26, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

As a framework for negotiations between Israel and Palestine, the 1993 Oslo Accords were intended to last five years. But grim conflicts have persisted for more than three decades, with genuine peace remaining elusive. Historian Ralph Nurnberger unravels the intricate web of secret diplomacy, alternating periods of hope and despair, and the conflicting goals and objectives among supporters and opponents of the Oslo Peace Process.