Weekly Wrap: "Truth Will Out." NPR Asia Correspondent Elise Hu (@elisewho) and Weekend Edition Editor Barrie Hardymon (@bhardymon) join Sam to talk through the week that was: Facebook and Twitter executives testifying in front of Congress, President Trump's Asia trip, the resignation of NPR Senior Vice President of News Michael Oreskes — plus a check-in with a listener who just moved to Antarctica. It's all capped off with the best things that happened to listeners all week. Email the show at samsanders@npr.org or tweet @NPRItsBeenAMin with your feedback. Follow Sam on Twitter @samsanders and producers Brent Baughman @brentbaughman and Anjuli Sastry @AnjuliSastry.
NPR logo

Weekly Wrap: "Truth Will Out."

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/561951399/561998636" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Weekly Wrap: "Truth Will Out."

Weekly Wrap: "Truth Will Out."

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/561951399/561998636" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AUNT BETTY: Hey, y'all. This is Sam's Aunt Betty. This week on the show, Asia correspondent for NPR Elise Hu and NPR Weekend Edition editor Barrie Hardymon. All right, let's start the show.



I liked that one.


SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. All righty. Hey, y'all. This is NPR's Sam Sanders here - IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. Each week, we start with a different song. I'll explain this song in a second. It's one of my favorite songs of all time. But first, as Aunt Betty said, today, here with me, Barrie Hardymon, editor with NPR's Weekend Edition, a show that you can hear on your radio Saturdays and Sundays.

HARDYMON: I know. It's like - it's that thing with the knobs.

SANDERS: And all the way from Seoul - the capital of South Korea - NPR's Asia Correspondent, Elise Hu. Hi. It's late there, huh?

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Oh, hey. Yeah, annyeonghaseyo to all of the Korean speakers out there. It is 11 - yes, 11 p.m.


SANDERS: Well, thanks for staying up late for us.

HU: Happy to do it.

SANDERS: So this song - I want you guys to hear some more of it.

HU: Yeah.

SANDERS: It makes my heart sing.


ANDRE 3000: (Singing) Remember what I taught you. Keep your heart three stacks. Keep your heart...

SANDERS: Keep your heart three stacks. Such a good sample.


ANDRE 3000: (Singing) Keep your heart. Man, these girls is smart - three stacks - these girls is smart. Play your part.

SANDERS: You know this song?

HU: No.

SANDERS: You know that voice.

HU: I know the voice. I know the sample, but I can't - Andre 3000.


HU: Oh, my God.

SANDERS: Yes, so this is probably Andre 3000's best guest verse ever. He was on a song called "International Player's Anthem" by a rap duo called UGK. But the song, which is...

HU: Also from Houston.

SANDERS: Also from Houston to represent - you know. But this song is so great. Andre's verse is so great. And I play this song because Andre 3000 had a wonderful profile in GQ this week, kind of like a check-in with him...

HARDYMON: Oh, nice.

SANDERS: ...Because it's been years.

HU: Yeah. I was - yeah.

SANDERS: He hasn't had an album out since "The Love Below," which was, like, '04.

HU: Oh, my God, and which occasionally still plays in my car (laughter).

SANDERS: As it should. As it should.

HU: It's '04 in my car sometimes.

SANDERS: Yeah, my favorite quote from the whole piece is he's asked about why he's been so out of the spotlight, and he says, quote, "hip-hop is about freshness. You can always hop, but you won't always be hip."

HU: Oh, my God.

SANDERS: He was just like, you got to know when to sit out. What's your favorite Outkast song, Elise?

HU: So I was about to throw you another quote that we use in journalism a lot, which is also from Outkast, which is, "you're only as funky as your last cut."


HU: So if you haven't had a good story on in a while or something that you're proud of, you know, you can kind of get down in the same way. So that's another life motto.

SANDERS: From Andre 3000. He's such a star.

HU: Yeah.


ANDRE 3000: (Rapping) Hate to see y'all frown, but I would rather see her smiling. Wetness all around me, true, but I'm no island. Peninsula maybe.

SANDERS: All right, we are here to talk about what happened this week. There's so much to talk about - a terror attack in New York. Indictments came down in the investigation of President Trump's campaign and possible ties to Russia. Reps from Facebook and Twitter testified on Capitol Hill, also about Russia. And the Astros won the World Series.

HU: Go Astros.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. There's a lot more to talk about besides that. We'll get to it all. But first, let's begin the week as we always do. I ask my guests to describe how this week of news felt in only three words. I know Elise is up to the challenge. You're first.

HU: Up and down. So it was a mesmerizing World Series. Congratulations to the Astros. I don't know if y'all saw this photo of a couple in a flooded-out home celebrating the Astros win.


HARDYMON: Wow. Wonderful.

HU: But it was so moving, and it was like, OK, got to give it to Houston. There were lots of highs there. Same with Halloween. I love Halloween.

SANDERS: It's a great holiday.

HU: And so things had started out really great and then took a real turn for us, you know, as a company, and then...


HU: ...And news events - yet another terror attack in New York, of course, which was really, you know, difficult to deal with at just - as the same time we were dealing with, you know, a crisis at NPR, which I'm sure we can hit a little in a little bit as well. So this week felt exhausting in that way because it was all over the place.

SANDERS: Yeah. I'm going to go next. My three words are bigger and bigger because one story that I've been low-key obsessed with the last several months keeps growing, and this is the story of Russia's use of platforms like Facebook and Twitter to affect last year's election here in the U.S.

So we know that this week, for two days, reps from Facebook and Twitter were on Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress. And every week, it seems the extent to which they reveal how much Russia was involved on their platforms grows. This week, Facebook said almost 150 million people on Facebook and Instagram were exposed to Russian influence or ads. That is up from just a few days ago. And if you'll recall, months ago, Facebook was saying, don't look over here. It just keeps growing, right? On Twitter, some 2,700 accounts were tied to a Russian group called the Internet Research Agency.

HARDYMON: I love that name.


HARDYMON: (Laughter).

HU: These are, like, those lobbying firms - like so-and-so for freedom. You have no idea what it really means.

HARDYMON: (Laughter) Yes, yes.

SANDERS: Exactly. And Twitter had first said that it was just about 200. Like, so the numbers keep growing. There's some 1,100 videos on YouTube that were Russia-created, a bunch of Facebook groups for liberal and conservative causes that were Russia-related.

And my question with this is, like - all right - which of the versions of this story that Facebook and Twitter tells us is true? If the numbers are so big now, and months ago they said there was none, were they lying to us, or were they just not informed either about the full extent of Russia's influence? I do not know.

HU: Well, it shows the extent to which platforms control our lives, right? And that we are essentially - and our democracies are essentially - dependent on companies and their benevolence and their, you know - and their - we're essentially trusting Google and Facebook and Twitter with making good decisions for society.

And I don't know that companies can carry that sort of responsibility.


HU: And what it shows about algorithms - the formulas that help decide what you see on your news feed, for example - is that a lot of developers and a lot of tech companies assume or have this general faith that algorithms can be neutral, or that they aren't biased. But, of course, algorithms are programmed by people, right?


HU: So there's decisions going in here. And so these great American companies that are making products that the world is starting to use - they're also not quite grappling or sufficiently grappling with the consequences of their creations.

SANDERS: Oh, yeah.

HU: And I think that's really dangerous and hasn't been interrogated enough.

SANDERS: All right, Barrie, you're last. You have three words to describe this week of news - go.

HARDYMON: So I'm going to go with - truth will out.

SANDERS: That's a weird wording.

HARDYMON: It's actually...

SANDERS: I'm used to hearing truth comes out.

HARDYMON: Yeah. No, well, actually that's from "Merchant Of Venice," she says nerding (ph) out.

SANDERS: Oh, look at you.

HARDYMON: That's a Shakespeare quote.

HU: We're so lowbrow...

HARDYMON: You're like, I got to edit for that guy.

HU: ...That we try to make fun of Barrie.

HARDYMON: Let me edit that guy.

HU: Oh, your English phrasing was not great there.

SANDERS: I need to talk to William.

HU: Oh, actually, that was Shakespeare.


HARDYMON: That was like - that felt really good. I'm not going to lie to you. It felt really good.

HU: I don't know if you've heard of him - this guy Bill Shakespeare.

HARDYMON: Right, from London. Good guy.

SANDERS: So truth will out. What does that mean?

HARDYMON: Yeah, which is that no matter what you do, your secrets are going to come to life. And I think this is the week we saw that in a couple places...


HARDYMON: ...I mean, certainly, with the federal indictments in the Mueller investigation. This is maybe a case in which the truth did come out at exactly the time and place that Robert Mueller wanted it to.


HARDYMON: But these things are going to come out. And then, of course, you know, we've seen over the past couple of weeks sexual harassment stories coming to light from, you know - certainly starting with Weinstein. This week, the allegations against Kevin Spacey...


HARDYMON: ...Became - got deeper and deeper and worse and worse. And then, of course, here in our own institution, our VP of news, Michael Oreskes, also stepped down. Actually, he was a VP, as well - a senior VP.


HARDYMON: He was extremely high-level.

SANDERS: He was the top of our newsroom.

HARDYMON: Exactly.


HARDYMON: Exactly.

SANDERS: So he stepped down this week. Catch us up on the allegations in the reporting that led to his resignation.

HARDYMON: So I think some of that reporting isn't quite wrapped up yet.


HARDYMON: I think it's not quite clear what happened. But on Halloween, The Washington Post's Paul Farhi broke the story that two women at The New York Times had accused Oreskes of forcibly kissing them. And, obviously, that's bad. But what was worse also is that it was in the context of job interviews. And then, also, a story...

SANDERS: But that was at The Times.

HARDYMON: ...That was at The Times, which was, like, 20 years ago.

SANDERS: This was, like, 20 years ago. OK.

HARDYMON: And then, you know, I guess hours later, David Folkenflik, our media reporter, caught up and reported that a producer here had also had an experience with him that wasn't physical contact, but was still...

SANDERS: A very inappropriate conversation.

HARDYMON: ...An extremely inappropriate...

SANDERS: Over dinner.

HARDYMON: ...Three hours.

SANDERS: Sexual in nature.

HARDYMON: That was sexual in nature.


HARDYMON: That she had - to her very, great credit - reported immediately because it's really hard to report...

SANDERS: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

HARDYMON: ...Which is a thing, I think, we're finding out in the next couple weeks. So this is - yes - this has sort of dominated. And since then, more dominoes have fallen - women who had contact with him in both professional arenas outside of the building and inside the building. I think there have been now five...

SANDERS: Oh, wow.

HARDYMON: ...Women that have come forward since then.


HARDYMON: And yeah, it's been a week in this newsroom.

SANDERS: And so, you know, Michael Oreskes is gone now. But I think there are more questions about when top brass at NPR knew about Mike and his behavior, and whether they acted as quickly as they should have. A lot of folks say they didn't act until The Washington Post story came out.

HU: Well - and especially for those who don't want to, or might not sort of know these individual characters, I want to broaden this conversation because in these situations, companies tend to instinctively do two things which NPR did here. And we see this with companies that we cover. But now we're seeing it with our own. They silo information. And then they centralize decision making about how to respond. So with the siloing of information, employees were asked a few weeks ago to start alerting management individually if they personally experienced anything. So when there's behavior that's, like, pernicious or ambiguous, that means you have a lot of individual managers and employees making a bunch of individual decisions about how to respond to isolated acts. And so what that means for the company is that that limits the company's ability to essentially detect patterns.

HARDYMON: Right. Right.

HU: And so managers are forced to make these individual decisions in isolated incidents to say, like, oh, well maybe that was one-off. And I'm not sure whether it crossed the line. And I'm having to personally make an individual decision about where the line is instead of having, like, wide values as an organization, right?

HARDYMON: It brings up a thing that I think is really interesting because I'm a woman, so I'm part of a whisper network.


HARDYMON: I think people that know me might just call it...

SANDERS: You're whisper.

HARDYMON: ...A busy ladies Bible club.


HARDYMON: But, you know, I'm part of a whisper network. So at least I - you and I have talked about this. That - it was well-known that, you know, I wouldn't take a meeting alone with him. This was well-known. And I will also say that that's - I understand. That's a hard thing. You know, you heard Jarl say a couple of times in that interview, we can't act on rumors and gossip. And I think what we're going to have to start struggling now with in the age of Weinstein and Oreskes and, you know, the many, many, many more shoes that are going to drop - what is a company to do about gossip and rumors because it's been called gossip, I think, in order to diminish it. It's women's stuff. It's gossip. We're just talking. But what it was really doing was protecting us. We were all telling each other...

SANDERS: Watch out.

HARDYMON: ...Be careful. That's a bad guy. We know that's a bad guy. So what - I honestly don't know the answer. What are you to do when there are rampant rumors? I don't know, and I have - you know, I had asked. I have - you know, there have been times before October 31 that I did ask senior management...

SANDERS: What they're going to do.

HARDYMON: ...You know, what they were going to do. And I don't know the answer to that, and I suspect we're all going to struggle with that.

SANDERS: That's another question I have. Like, not to speak ill of any of our HR staff here at NPR. I'm sure they're doing their job the best that they can. But there have been multiple instances in organizations besides NPR where it seems like HR is the place complaints like these go to die.

HARDYMON: Because the HR - their job is to protect the company. Their job - you know, we do say go to HR. But, you know, it's interesting - on our show a couple of weeks ago after Weinstein broke, we talked to an HR - an old HR rep who had been watching, you know, at Uber and all of these other - I mean, this has been going on for a while, right? And she - it was interesting. She said HR is totally neutered. You should go to HR, but your best bet is to band together with other women and go to the press.


HARDYMON: Now, what that means, again, is we're going to have to find better ways to do this because, you know, again, I think many women, like - you know, I've been here for 12 years. I met my husband here. This institution is important to me.


HARDYMON: I don't want to go outside of - you know, like, I want a method...

SANDERS: To handle it inside the house.

HARDYMON: ...That isn't HR...


HARDYMON: ...And isn't the press but protects it. And I think that's the thing that we are going to have to find out - what - like, how to bring those silos together, like you say, at least, into a place that we can all trust.

SANDERS: Yeah. You know, it's - after we tape this show, there's going to be an all-staff meeting on Friday. This is the first all-staff meeting that's happened since this week of news about Michael Oreskes. We'll see what comes out of that. But the latest reporting from our NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik - he has reported that two senior staff members raised concerns about Michael Oreskes - nonspecific but still concerns - in the recent past. And that was known, and those complaints were raised before The Washington Post story. As of right now, the latest that we have from CEO Jarl Mohn came from a note to staff yesterday. He said, quote, "I let you down. I should have acted faster and more decisively. I'm committed to fixing what is broken. As one step, I am hiring an outside law firm to conduct a review of how we handled the matter." So more to come.

HARDYMON: Yup. I'm wearing a Betty Friedan T-shirt.


HARDYMON: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Coming up, more news of the week - a long-distance call to someone even further outside of the U.S. than you, Elise. You are listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll be right back.

: Hey, it's Guy Raz here, host of How I Built This, with the recommendation for another podcast for you to check out - namely, How I Built This. Every week, I talk to the people behind some of the most inspiring companies and brands in the world with stories of incredible persistence, grit and insight. You can find How I Built This on the NPR One app or wherever you get your podcasts.

SANDERS: All right. We're back. You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR, the show where we catch up on the week that was. I'm Sam Sanders, here with NPR foreign correspondent covering Asia, Elise Hu in South Korea. Hi.

HU: Hello.

SANDERS: And Barrie Hardymon right here next to me in D.C., editor with Weekend Edition.

HARDYMON: That's me. Hello.

SANDERS: Thanks for being here.


SANDERS: All right. Before we get to the next segment, quick yes-or-no answer. This week, Disney announced a live-action version of "The Lion King" coming out in 2019. I'm usually against remakes of classics like this, but the casting is kind of awesome. Donald Glover is Simba. Beyonce is Nala. James Earl Jones is Mufasa. And Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner is Timon and Pumbaa. So yeah or nah?

HU: Oh, yeah.

HARDYMON: I think this means no worries for the rest of our days.


HARDYMON: True story. True story.

SANDERS: I can co-sign this. I can totally co-sign this. I'm about it. And I want to hear, like, a formation rendition of the "Circle Of Life."

HARDYMON: Oh, yes. Yeah. All my lions get in formation.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: That's right. I'm such a nerd. Yeah.

SANDERS: I love it. All right. Now it's time for something that we call Long Distance...


SANDERS: ...Where we call a listener somewhere in the world and talk to them about the news in their neck of the woods. There was so much going on this week, all over the place. We wanted to call someone who's far, far away from all of it. So we are connecting via Skype to Brooke Marshall (ph). Brooke, you there?

BROOKE MARSHALL: Yeah, I'm right here.

SANDERS: Hey, how are you?

MARSHALL: I'm doing good. How are you?

SANDERS: I'm good. You're on the line with my friends Elise and Barrie. Tell them where you are right now.

MARSHALL: Hi, guys. I'm calling from McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

HARDYMON: Whoa. What's the weather like?


MARSHALL: (Laughter) Yeah, it's cold and sunny right now.

SANDERS: How cold?

HARDYMON: Oh, that's the dream.

MARSHALL: Probably, like, 9 degrees. So not that bad.

SANDERS: Oh, that's bad.

HU: Wait. In Antarctica, do you use Celsius or Fahrenheit?

HARDYMON: Oh, good question.

MARSHALL: Oh. You know, I feel like I should make the switch, but I'm still stuck on imperial.

SANDERS: So it's 9 Fahrenheit.

MARSHALL: Yeah, it's 9 Fahrenheit.

SANDERS: Below freezing. OK. OK.

HU: So that's super cold.

SANDERS: That is cold. That is cold.

MARSHALL: That's no joke.

SANDERS: Yeah. So you're at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. It's a U.S. research facility with - what? - like, a thousand scientists and researchers and support staff.


SANDERS: And so you're a part of the support staff there. Tell me how you got that job.

MARSHALL: Yeah. So I'm a steward in the galley.

SANDERS: What does that mean?

MARSHALL: And I wash dishes. I scrub pots. I refill the food when it runs out. I mop. I deep clean.

SANDERS: So you went all the way to Antarctica to do those things.

MARSHALL: Well, I agreed to do all of these things so I could be in Antarctica.


HARDYMON: Uh-huh, I get it.

MARSHALL: (Laughter)

SANDERS: How long was the application process?

MARSHALL: Long. I first applied in March of 2016, got rejected and then basically rearranged my entire life to fit the qualifications that I needed to get this job - so about a year and a half total.

SANDERS: How did you have to rearrange your life to become qualified for this job?

MARSHALL: Well, they require that you have three months of relevant experience, so I had to become a server, become a waitress.


MARSHALL: And so I did that for - yeah, for about nine months.


MARSHALL: ...To get all the relevant qualifications, yeah.

SANDERS: That's so cool. How long have you been down there?

MARSHALL: This is just about three weeks.


HARDYMON: Oh, you're new.

SANDERS: How long are you there, Brooke?

MARSHALL: Through February.


HU: You've got to tell us about the menu because you're serving food - right? - in a cafeteria. And I happen to love cafeteria food because there's theme days, right? There's, like, chicken fried steak Friday.


HU: So tell me a little bit about the menu and what's actually delicious.

MARSHALL: We have these awesome action stations. So today was burger bar. We have taco Tuesday. There's a burrito bar.

HARDYMON: Taco Tuesday - nice.

SANDERS: I love it.

MARSHALL: We always have, like...

HU: Big fan of that taco Tuesday.


MARSHALL: We had a macadamia nut tart today and this cake that was just flying off the shelves.

SANDERS: Can I go to Antarctica?

HARDYMON: I know. I was going to say...

HU: I know. We got to come and visit you.

MARSHALL: (Laughter) Yeah, you're most welcome.

SANDERS: So three weeks in, how have you - or have you - kept up with what's going on back in America?

MARSHALL: I really haven't. There are - someone prints out copies of The New York Times Digest and scatters them around the galley. So sometimes you might find one from, like, October 28, and that's kind of your news or, like, you might overhear a snippet of the news on the radio if it's not too staticky. But yeah, for the most part, I've been out of touch, and it's kind of nice.

SANDERS: Yeah, and there's no Wi-Fi right?

MARSHALL: No Wi-Fi. You have to get on a actual computer that's, like, hooked up to the wall.

SANDERS: Is it, like, the dial-up sound still?

MARSHALL: No (laughter).

SANDERS: OK, I was hoping.

HU: You think it's that bad.


SANDERS: So then if you're not consuming as much news as you have been about America, what's been the biggest change you've noticed in yourself, being that unplugged in the last three weeks?

MARSHALL: I'm a lot less stressed.


MARSHALL: There are so many extracurricular activities here. Like, I'm a part of a club we call the old ladies' card club where we play UNO and talk noise. And this summer, I was listening to a lot of news - like, just multiple podcasts per day. And I'd have to, like, take a break and listen to Bob Marley every now and then to just de-stress.


MARSHALL: Now I - yeah, it's just not there anymore.

SANDERS: So this is a lesson to our listeners. Once you're done hearing this podcast, turn everything off.

HARDYMON: But do go all the way through this one.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. So what are your plans for the weekend? You're going to have some fun?

MARSHALL: Yeah, I'm going to do some writing and go to brunch with some friends.

SANDERS: There's brunch down there.

MARSHALL: Oh, my God. We have the best cheese bar. It's amazing.

SANDERS: (Laughter) But, like, is it bottomless mimosas? What are we talking about? Is it, like, brunch brunch?


MARSHALL: No (laughter).

SANDERS: OK. I'm going to send you some Korbel.

MARSHALL: No mimosa.


SANDERS: I need to have a mimosa this weekend. Hey, well, I am glad that you're enjoying your kind of detoxed life down there - or news detoxed, at least. And I hope you have a wonderful brunch this weekend. And what time is it there? You should get some rest. It's late, huh?

MARSHALL: It's 3:30 a.m.

SANDERS: Oh, my goodness.

HARDYMON: Thank you for staying up with us.

SANDERS: Be safe. Send some pictures.

MARSHALL: Yeah, absolutely.

HU: ...Of the food.

MARSHALL: Thank you so much, you guys. Oh, OK.


SANDERS: Thank you so much. Bye.

MARSHALL: Yeah, have a good one.

HU: Bye, great to chat.



SANDERS: I don't know when's the last time I've been unplugged from the news for three weeks.

HARDYMON: Oh, I can't think of it. I haven't. I don't know what that would be...

SANDERS: Elise, do you? Have you been unplugged from the news for three weeks before?

HU: Never done it. Attempted it during a maternity leave - I think I lasted about 3 1/2 days.

SANDERS: Oh, wow.

HARDYMON: But still, that was a long time, especially in these news cycles.

HU: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Totally.

SANDERS: Listeners, I want to talk to you for this segment. If you want us to give you a call and hear about anything going on where you live, drop us a note. Email me at any time. Tell me what's going on in your neck of the woods - SamSanders@npr.org.


SANDERS: All right, it's time to talk about our main story of the week. This is the president's big foreign trip to Asia. It's going to be an 11-day trip all throughout Asia. Elise, you're in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Trump will be in South Korea on his way throughout the region. Where all is he stopping?

HU: This is November 3 through November 14 - five different countries in Asia - U.S. allies of Japan, and then South Korea and then over to Beijing, China. And then there are summit meetings - ASEAN and APEC - which are really key regional conferences. Those are going on in the Philippines and in Vietnam.

SANDERS: That's a lot.

HU: So this is the longest time a president - a U.S. president has spent in Asia in a couple decades.

SANDERS: So why are they doing this long, long, long trip?

HU: Well, every year, the U.S. president tends to go to APEC.

SANDERS: That's the Asia-Pacific...

HU: Asia-Pacific Economic...

SANDERS: ...Cooperation.

HU: Yes, I think that should be right. And then the other one is ASEAN, which is Association of Southeast Asian Nations. And those two conferences happen together because so many heads of state go to them. And so those are in Vietnam and the Philippines. And I've covered APAC and ASEAN the last couple of years, and they tend to be pretty important just for heads of state to show up and affirm that these alliances matter - right? - across this region where half of all of humanity lives.

And then the other part of the trip is Japan and South Korea. Japan and South Korea need a lot of - they are longtime U.S. allies. There's a lot of military assets in both of those countries. And then, you know, this is a tense time with regard to North Korea, and Japan and South Korea are North Korea's neighbors. So that's happening. And then, obviously, China, being the major player in Asia - and what the U.S. needs to be a partner in the North Korea issue - that's going to be discussed when the president is over in Beijing.

SANDERS: Yeah, I want you, briefly, to catch us up on the latest with this North Korean nuclear standoff, I guess you could call it. It hasn't really been front-page news in the U.S. for a few weeks because of other stuff. But, like, I feel like the last we checked in on this, there was an escalating war of words between North Korea's leader and our own. North Korea was kind of successful in launching some bombs. But what is the latest of the status of their nuclear program?

HU: Well, we should back up. They haven't tested - I guess they were fairly successful in these bombs (laughter). I mean, I don't know what successful means.

HARDYMON: (Laughter) Right.

SANDERS: A little bit pregnant, you know...

HU: So I guess...



HU: I guess I'm just, like, being lawyerly here.

SANDERS: No, that's fine. Correct them, yes.

HU: But yes, they have tested, now, six nuclear devices and the most powerful one yet earlier this year and also launched several - test launched several ballistic missiles - their first intercontinental ballistic missile this summer, which coincided with U.S. Independence Day. And so it's just been a series of provocations throughout the year in which North Korea's capabilities seem to be improving.


HU: And that makes the neighbors in the region a lot - very nervous. We had two flyovers of Japan by North Korean missiles this year. And so Japan had to put out emergency sirens and emergency text alerts warning people...

SANDERS: Oh, wow.


HU: ...To take cover and be careful of possible missile debris. So this was really kind of Cold War-type stuff going on.

HARDYMON: Elise, I'd - because you've spent so much time, I know, also in Japan - when - have you talked to anybody about what it felt like to get that text message? (Laughter) Because that's...

HU: Yeah, I went right over there. So after that happened, I flew over to Hokkaido, which is the - a northern island of Japan. And a lot of senior citizens happened to be awake that - because it was early in the morning. It was, like, 6 o'clock in the morning. And I don't know if you've - for those of y'all who haven't been to Japan lately, like, the Japanese population is quite old, so there's a lot of elderly...

HARDYMON: Right, yup, yup, yup.

HU: ...And especially in Hokkaido. And so I interviewed some of these folks who were attending a missile-alert drill - a missile drill (laughter) in the wake of the flyover.

SANDERS: Oh, wow.

HU: And yeah, it was - the one lady is really at the front of my mind. She said it reminded her of when she was a little girl during World War II, and she had to actually do an evacuation. And so to have that dredged up was really difficult.

SANDERS: My question for you, Elise - you know, we have seen President Trump engage in this war of words with North Korea. I think just before he boarded a plane for Asia, he had been tweeting and saying some stuff that was a bit provocative. And that makes it seem as if there is no negotiation happening right now between North Korea and the U.S. But from what I understand, there's still some back-channel diplomacy happening between the two countries. What do we know about that?

HU: The back-channel communication is largely limited to humanitarian purposes. For instance, there had to be communication in order to get the release of the U.S. college student from UVA who grew up in Ohio, Otto Warmbier, who came back in, essentially, a coma and then died several days later here in the United States. And so there was definitely communication between the U.S. and North Korea in order to get him back.

But beyond that, there is no - at least, as far as my sources understand, there's no engagement happening in terms of trying to return to the table, offers on either side of concessions in order to kind of get to a place where negotiations can be happening about the nuclear program. North Korea doesn't want to put nukes on the table. It doesn't believe that what they're doing is wrong because they argue that this is justified because they have to defend themselves against the evil imperialists of the United States.

And as the rhetoric increases in the public and as this gets more and more dangerous as the people in D.C. talk about the military option, like, there really needs to be an offramp, and there doesn't seem to be a path to an offramp right now.

SANDERS: You know, another thing that I am watching right now is how Trump's presidency is affecting kind of the balance of power in the region. We've seen kind of in recent months an ascendant China, you know, for a few reasons.

One - the U.S. never joined the TPP - the Trans-Pacific Partnership - so they aren't a key player in terms of trade in the region, which gives China a heads-up. Also, this erratic language from President Trump is pushing countries like South Korea to kind of warm to China, looking for some stability in dealing with North Korea. How is Trump affecting the balance of power over there now?

HU: Well, him being absent at one of the - so we talked about ASEAN, and APEC and all these nerdy diplomatic conferences. One that's tacked on at the very end of this long trip is called the East Asia Summit. And Trump is just not even showing up at that one.


HU: And so that is definitely ceding the floor to China in that, you know, you can argue that just by having the head of state there, you are affirming that, hey, this region is important to us. But by him saying like, I'm not even going to attend, Xi Jinping, the leader of China, gets to really live large and make a show of it.

And so diplomatically, that's kind of an own goal. But yes, Sam, you know, pulling out of the TPP was a big deal in terms of kind of pivoting away from Asia, which is the opposite direction that the Obama administration tried to go. And then the allies here are nervous. I was looking at the Pew numbers, actually.

And so in 2015, 88 percent of South Koreans told Pew that they trusted the American president to do the right thing regarding world affairs. That's a quote - "to do the right thing." Two years later - so here we are to 2017. The share of South Koreans who trust the American president to do the right thing regarding world affairs has dropped to 17 percent.

SANDERS: Now, does that speak to the overall mood of South Koreans? Are they living their lives as usual, just also pretty underwhelmed with U.S. leadership, or has the Trump presidency affected day-to-day life?

HARDYMON: Is there real anxiety?

HU: Well, yeah. I mean, obviously - and we've talked about this before. South Koreans have really normalized, like - the threat of North Korea has become so normalized here that, you know, you wouldn't be able to live your daily life if you constantly thought some artillery was going to start striking you at any...


HU: ...Moment. So yeah, life goes on. But South Koreans - if you ask them, they react to Trump and America right now with a real mix of befuddlement and anger because of A, the handling of the North Korean threat but also his handling of the security arrangement and the trade relationship between the U.S. and South Korea.

SANDERS: So last question on this topic - what will you be watching most closely during Trump's Asia trip?

HU: I want to know what the Asia strategy is. Now, we've had Defense Secretary Mattis out here. We've had Vice President Pence out here. We've had Secretary Tillerson. And they've been saying the same kind of lines as the previous administration, reaffirming the, quote, "ironclad and linchpin alliance" with South Korea and Japan and everything. But tensions have really been monopolized by the North Korea issue.

And so I'd really like to hear more about what's happening on the trade and economic fronts - and especially when, you know, the current administration has taken this sort of protectionist stance, if you will. So there's a lot of open questions about what this looks like in 12 days, after this trip is over.

SANDERS: All right. Thanks, Elise. Taking one more quick break. We'll come back and hear the best things that happened to our listeners all week. Also, Who Said That?


SANDERS: All right. We are back. Let's lighten the mood. It's time for a game, my favorite game.


KANDI BURRUSS: (As herself) Who saying that?

PORSHA WILLIAMS: (As herself) Who said that?

KENYA MOORE: (As herself) Who said that?

SANDERS: It is called Who Said That?


MOORE: Who said that?

SANDERS: It's such a simple game.

HARDYMON: (Laughter).

SANDERS: I share a quote from the week. You have to guess who said that. We'll do three or four of these, and the winner gets absolutely nothing.

HARDYMON: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Who's ready to win?

HARDYMON: Oh, I'm always so bad at these...

HU: I get to win nothing? Great. All right. Put me in, coach.

SANDERS: These are OK. Here we go. Ready? First quote - I'm the only candidate in the country who has any chance of getting their agenda actually implemented in the United States. That's it. I'm the only person. There's nobody in the U.S. to solve the problems we have facing the country. Who said that? And that's from this week.

HARDYMON: I want to say, like...

HU: Candidate. Candidate.



HARDYMON: I'm just kidding.


SANDERS: No, not Kanye. This was a candidate for office.

HARDYMON: Candidate.

SANDERS: You guys didn't hear about this story?

HARDYMON: Oh, my God.

SANDERS: I'm going to just tell you...

HU: Kid Rock.


SANDERS: No, not running.

HU: (Laughter).

SANDERS: This is Willie James Dean. He's running in the Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat in Montana. Seat is currently held by John Tester. But here's the catch. Willie James Dean is running as a Republican in the primary. His wife is running, as well, in the Democratic primary.

HU: Oh, my goodness.

SANDERS: It's really weird.

HU: Oh, that is weird.

SANDERS: It's really weird. So there's been a ton of press.

HARDYMON: Wait. They're married?

SANDERS: They're married.

HARDYMON: Married married?

SANDERS: They're married married.


SANDERS: One is running as a Democrat. One is running as a Republican. But as journalists started to cover this story, more and more parts of the story just seem a little sketch. I'm not going to give you all the details. But the more that the press has dug into their stories - like, these two people have had multiple names - seems to be multiple identities. It's, like - it's one of those things where you're like, OK, something about this is fishy. We're going to find out. Stay tuned. Willie James Dean and Sarah Dean.

HARDYMON: That is...

SANDERS: Would you ever run for office against your husband?

HARDYMON: Well, yeah, because I'm so much more popular than he is.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: Like, obviously, it's like a sure thing. I've always said this. Like, when he worked here, he was, like, a little more important than I was. But I was definitely more popular.

SANDERS: Elise, would you run against your husband?

HU: No, he's smarter than me.

SANDERS: Hey now. I don't buy that.

HARDYMON: I don't buy that, either.

SANDERS: All right.

HARDYMON: You just said trade and economic, like, 7,000 times. You win.

HU: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Next quote - it reads, we'll drop everything else we are doing and address on Monday if folks can agree on the correct way to do this. Who said that? It's about an emoji. You've seen this story.

HARDYMON: Oh my - I'm telling you I've only read...

HU: Oh, yes. Is this about the cheeseburger emoji?



HU: Yes. This is about the cheeseburger emoji, as discussed on "Fox & Friends" the same morning that the Manafort indictment came down.

SANDERS: Let me give you the cheeseburger backgrounder.


SANDERS: There are two versions of the cheeseburger emoji in the internets. The Apple version has the cheese on top of the meat.

HARDYMON: I got to look at this.

SANDERS: And Google has the cheese beneath the meat. There's a big argument...


SANDERS: ...Over where the cheese should go. And Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, chimed in to say he wants to work on it. He tweeted that quote that I read to you guys this week. Where should the cheese go?

HARDYMON: Obviously, on top. That feels...

SANDERS: Wait. Obviously? You can't just obviously. Why obviously?

HARDYMON: Because, like, you must be some kind of communist if you're putting your cheese underneath the - I mean, come on, right?

SANDERS: (Laughter).

HARDYMON: I'm joking. But I mean, for serious, like...

HU: You want the cheese to melt over...


HU: ...The patty.

HARDYMON: You don't want to get that grease on top. Like, the whole point is that the cheese has contact with the bun on top, not with the...

SANDERS: But these are arbitrary rules that no one made. You put the cheese where you want, people.

HARDYMON: I mean...

SANDERS: Put the cheese in the meat.

HARDYMON: Put the cheese where you want, but know I'm judging you.

HU: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Last quote - I wonder if Steve's bike shop is hiring. Who said that?

HU: I'm going to go with Kid Rock again (laughter).


HARDYMON: I'm going to go with Kanye again (laughter).


SANDERS: This is a famous basketball player - starts with Stah (ph), rhymes with F curry.

HARDYMON: Steph Curry.

HU: Steph Curry.

HARDYMON: I got it.


SANDERS: So Steph Curry, two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors - he was responding to being mentioned in the new GOP tax plan in a section of the bill where the GOP spells out why they want to lower the tax rate for what's called pass-through businesses. They had this sentence - quote, "it's designed to help by distinguishing between the individual wage income of NBA all-star Stephen Curry and the pass-through business income of Steve's bike shop."

HARDYMON: Oh, my God.

SANDERS: Steph tweeted in response, I wonder if Steve's bike shop is hiring. Now, it's - we've got to note there's some bad blood between...

HU: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...Republicans and Steph Curry.


SANDERS: His team, the Golden State Warriors, won the NBA championship. Customarily, you go to the White House after that. Steph said...


SANDERS: ...I ain't going. Donald Trump didn't like that. It's weird.

HARDYMON: Yeah. And so - and now he's made an appearance in the tax plan.


HARDYMON: That's awesome.

HU: We're in some absurd times, y'all.

HARDYMON: I can't even. I know. Let's go back to the cheeseburger.

SANDERS: (Laughter) All right, Barrie and Elise. That's the game. No winners. But we're almost done. I promise.

HARDYMON: Oh, I don't ever want to leave (laughter).

SANDERS: I do. I want lunch.

HARDYMON: That's a good point.

SANDERS: I want a cheeseburger.

HARDYMON: I am hungry. That's true.

SANDERS: Yeah. But first, a plug for Tuesday's episode of the show. We are nearing the one-year anniversary of the election of Donald Trump. And to mark the date, I talked with two journalists that have been covering Trump for some time. Jenna Johnson covered the Trump...

HARDYMON: Oh, awesome.

SANDERS: She's a great reporter at the Washington Post.

HARDYMON: Love her.

SANDERS: She covered the Trump campaign pretty much from the start. And Michael D'Antonio wrote the kind of key Donald Trump biography. So I talk with the both of them, saying, one year post-election, what does this all mean, and did any of this surprise you, given what you knew of Trump before he was president?

HU: I can't wait to hear this conversation...

HARDYMON: I am really - I'm in.

SANDERS: It was a wide-ranging chat - got some really interesting insights. So I think folks will learn something from it. Check your feed Tuesday for that. All right? All right. With that, we're going to end the weekly wrap as we always do. Each week, we ask our listeners to send us the sound of their own voices sharing the best thing that happened to them all week. We encourage them to brag. They do. We've got some tape here. Let's take a listen.

EMILY: Hey, Sam. This is Emily (ph) from Houston, Texas. It's 11 o'clock on Wednesday night, and the best thing that happened to me this week is that my Houston Astros just won the World Series for the first time ever. Can't believe it. We're so excited here in Houston.


EMILY: Houston strong. Go 'Stros.



SUCHALALA: Hi, Sam Sanders.


SUCHALALA: This is Suchalala (ph) calling from Massachusetts. And the best thing that happened to me this week was my (singing) sister. She is my best friend, and she came all the way from Washington, D.C. to visit me for my birthday.

SANDERS: That's awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The best thing that happened to me this week is I performed my graduate piano recital.

HU: Aw.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I finally launched my podcast.

SANDERS: Congrats.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I went on my first date ever.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I'm 28 years old, and I finally got my driver's license.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: At the age of 23, I finally learned how to ride a bike.

HEATHER: Hi, Sam. This is Heather (ph) in Alabama. And the best thing that happened to me this week was taking my classroom of first graders trick-or-treating at a nursing home. The...



HEATHER: ...Kids had a blast. The residents adored them.

SANDERS: That sounds so cute.

HEATHER: They were in the hallway, passing out candy in wheelchairs, many of them in their own costumes.


HEATHER: And is there a better way to spend Halloween than with 80-year-old Ninja Turtles and 6-year-old hippies?


SANDERS: I love that.

KATIE: Hey, Sam. It's Katie (ph) in Bristol, Tenn.


KATIE: I've got two things to share with you about my week. First, Sam Sanders - you, sir, liked one of my tweets.


KATIE: I thought I'd die. That's number one.


KATIE: Number two, I am about to load up my son in the car, leave Bristol, drive over the mountain to Asheville, N.C., to go see my very favorite band for the 78th time...

SANDERS: Stop it. What's the band?

KATIE: I'm going to go see The Avett Brothers.


HARDYMON: Oh, I love The Avett Brothers...

KATIE: They're my favorite, and they never get old. And I'm going to listen to your show on the way over the mountain, and I love it. You're like a friend in the car.

SANDERS: Aw. Thank you.

KATIE: Thanks so much. Bye.

JACQUELINE: Hi, Sam. This is Jacqueline (ph)...

JULIA: And this is Julia (ph). This past week, our dad celebrated his 54th birthday at the beach in Pacifica. And while he was there on his birthday, he got a call because he received word that he finally had a good match for a heart...



JULIA: ...After being on the heart transplant list.


JACQUELINE: And after that, so much community came together to support us, got to the hospital. And we are so happy today to say he's awake. He's talking. He's joking, and he's back to his normal self.

SANDERS: That's great news.

JACQUELINE: We are so, so, so thankful for the fact that he has a heart, to have our dad back and for everyone who came to support us.

SANDERS: Thankful for you guys, too.

JACQUELINE: Thanks, Sam. Have a great week...

JULIA: Thank you, Sam.

SUCHALALA: Keep doing what you do. You represent.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Have a great weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Buh-bye (ph).

SANDERS: Wow. Well, thanks to our listeners that we just heard from - Emily, Suchalala, Jacob (ph), Richard (ph), Emily (ph), another Emily, Jessica (ph), Eve (ph), Heather, Katie, who I'll see on Twitter - enjoy your drive to Asheville - and Jacqueline and Julia. So great to hear that good news about your family. We listen to all of these that come in. We wish we had time to play all of them, but we don't. But we do listen. Also, shoutout to the Houston Astros. The best thing of their week was probably winning the World Series. Congrats to those that love the sports balls. I support you in that endeavor.

HU: (Laughter) Me, too.

SANDERS: If you want to share your best thing all week, you can do so at any time throughout the week. Just record yourself and send the file to samsanders@npr.org. We're done. That means Andre takes us home.



SANDERS: Such a good song.

HARDYMON: Thank you, Sam.

SANDERS: Thank you, guys. The show this week was edited by Jeff Rogers and Steve Nelson. Our big boss VP of programming here at NPR is Anya Grundmann. The show was produced by Brent Baughman and Anjuli Sastry. Refresh your feeds Tuesday morning for our one-year post-election lookback. Elise in South Korea, Barrie here in D.C., thank you, guys. Elise, get some sleep. Are you going to go to bed now?

HU: Yeah, it's about that time.


HARDYMON: It was so good to talk to you, Elise.


HU: So great.

SANDERS: Thank you all for listening. I'm Sam Sanders. That's Andre 3000. Talk soon.


ANDRE 3000: (Rapping) ...On the subject, you sure? [Expletive] it. You know, we got your back like chiropractic. If that [expletive] do you dirty, we'll wipe her [expletive] out in some detergent. Now hurry, hurry. Go on to the altar. I know you ain't a...

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.