Throughline The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.
Throughline
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Throughline

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The past is never past. Every headline has a history. Join us every week as we go back in time to understand the present. These are stories you can feel and sounds you can see from the moments that shaped our world.

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The Kaaba in the centre of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 1979. Every year, millions of Muslims complete a Hajj, or pilgrimage, to this sacred spot. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Mecca Under Siege

Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, is effectively canceled this year, due to concerns around the spread of the coronavirus. But, for two weeks in 1979, visits to the holy site were also upended when a group of Islamic militants seized Mecca, taking thousands of visitors hostage.

Mecca Under Siege

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An article on Mary Mallon where she was infamously labeled "Typhoid Mary." She was the first healthy person identified as a carrier of typhoid fever in the United States. Library of Congress hide caption

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Library of Congress

There's Something About Mary

When a cook who carried typhoid fever refused to stop working, despite showing no symptoms, the authorities forcibly quarantined her for nearly three decades. Perfect villain or just a woman scapegoated because of her background? What the story of Typhoid Mary tells us about journalism, the powers of the state, and the tension between personal responsibility and personal liberty.

There's Something About Mary

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Republican Party members wave placards bearing the name 'Nixon', in support of Richard Nixon, at the 1968 Republican National Convention, in Miami Beach, Florida. Archive Photos/Getty Images hide caption

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Archive Photos/Getty Images

Why 2020 Isn't Quite 1968

Protests, racial divisions, political polarization, and a law-and-order president – it's easy to draw comparisons between 2020 and 1968. But, Adam Serwer, who covers politics at The Atlantic, says that a much better point of comparison actually starts a century earlier – 1868. This week, we share an episode we loved from It's Been A Minute with Sam Sanders that explores a moment when white Republicans fought for years for the rights of Black Americans, before abandoning them to pursue white voters.

Why 2020 Isn't Quite 1968

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The signing of the Constitution of the United States, with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Artwork by Howard Chandler Christy. GraphicaArtis/Getty Images hide caption

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GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

Presidential Power

What can and can't the president do, and how do we know? When the framers of the U.S. constitution left vague the powers of the executive branch they opened the door to every president to decide how much power they could claim. This week, how the office of the presidency became more powerful than anything the Founding Fathers imagined possible.

Presidential Power

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A line of policemen take aim. Bettmann/Bettmann Archive hide caption

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Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

American Police

Black Americans being victimized and killed by the police is an epidemic. A truth many Americans are acknowledging since the murder of George Floyd, as protests have occurred in all fifty states calling for justice on his behalf. But this tension between African American communities and the police has existed for centuries. This week, the origins of American policing and how those origins put violent control of Black Americans at the heart of the system.

American Police

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A young student protester in Tiananmen Square wears a sign which reads: "I love life, I need food, but I'd rather die without democracy." On June 3, 1989, Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping ordered a crackdown and unknown numbers of demonstrators and bystanders were killed. Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images hide caption

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Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Hong Kong

Last week, the Chinese government made the latest and perhaps the most serious move yet to crack down on Hong Kong's semi-autonomy. It's just the latest such effort by Beijing in the decades-long tensions between China and Hong Kong and it seems to take advantage of the quarantine calm that has subdued months of protests. But when did these tensions begin and what have Hong Kongers been fighting for?

Hong Kong

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A man stands before the American Flag. Hokyoung Kim for NPR hide caption

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Hokyoung Kim for NPR

Conspiracy

Since the beginning of the pandemic, conspiracy theories about the coronavirus have exploded. But conspiracy theories themselves are nothing new - in fact, they're fundamental to American life. In this episode, how conspiracy theories helped to create the U.S. and became the currency of political opportunists.

Conspiracy

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A plague doctor in protective clothing. The beak mask was filled with incense thought to purify air and the cane was used to avoid touching patients. Artwork by Paul Furst. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Mask

The N95 respirator has become one of the most coveted items in the world, especially by medical professionals. But how did this seemingly simple mask become the lifesaving tool it is today? From bird beaks to wrapping paper to bras, we follow the curious history of one of the most important defenses in our fight against COVID-19.

The Mask

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South Korean mothers and children shield themselves as they watch U.S. 105mm howitzers blast enemy positions across the Han River. The attack occurred during the U.S. drive from Gimpo to Seoul on Sept. 24, 1950. FRANK NOEL/AP hide caption

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FRANK NOEL/AP

Endless War

North Korea's famous for being a black box, one of the most secretive and authoritarian countries in the world. It has a nuclear stockpile. A history of erratic behavior. And a particular fixation on antagonizing the outside world — especially the United States. This cycle of antagonism isn't an accident – the U.S. has played a formative role in the history of North Korea. And North Korea's leaders have been invoking that history from the very beginning.

Endless War

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The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant two days after a meltdown forced a temporary closure of the plant. Bettmann/Bettmann Archive hide caption

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Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

Meltdown

In the early hours of March 28, 1979, a system malfunction began what would become the worst nuclear accident in American history. What ensued punctured the public's belief in the safety of nuclear energy and became an awful study in the consequences of communication breakdown during a crisis. This week, the fallout of who and what to trust when a catastrophic event occurs.

Meltdown

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