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Slow Burn Is Getting Back Into Politics With a David Duke Season – Vulture



The podcast’s second season focused on the Clinton impeachment trial.
Photo: Slate

Slow Burn is set for a return to politics. Earlier this week, Slate announced that its popular documentary podcast series has begun production on its fourth season, with a subject that, yet again, runs straight through to the current political moment: the political rise of David Duke in Louisiana in the ’80s and ’90s, a saga in which an overt white nationalist and former KKK leader made strong pushes for senatorial and gubernatorial positions.

The announcement comes after a successful third season that saw the Slate podcast shift gears genre-wise to focus on one of hip-hop’s biggest tragedies: the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. Hosted by Joel Anderson, the Biggie-Tupac season has brought in over 7 million downloads to date. The eight-episode run wrapped in mid-December, but Anderson is currently getting ready for a brief five-city tour, where he and his production team will stage a completely new episode for live audiences.

Anderson will, however, be taking a break for the fourth season. In his place will be Slate national editor Josh Levin, who is taking over reporting and front-of-mic duties, with Christopher Johnson returning as producer. (The show’s first two seasons were helmed by Leon Neyfakh, who currently works on Luminary’s Fiasco.) There’s no clear release date for Slow Burn’s fourth season just yet, beyond a broad “later this year” description. But it’s an exciting announcement nonetheless, one that comes at an equally exciting time for the Slow Burn franchise: On February 16, the TV adaptation of the podcast’s first season will hit Epix, with Neyfakh once again playing host.

Vulture checked in with Slate’s editorial director of audio, Gabriel Roth, to learn more about the return to politics, the upcoming season’s choice of subject matter, and the creative constants of the Slow Burn enterprise.

Vulture: So, why David Duke?
Gabriel Roth: Well, one of the things that Slow Burn does is find the stories from the past that are broadly known in summary, but maybe not deeply remembered the broad audience. Particularly stories that have a connection to what’s happening in our world in our politics today. And when you’re thinking in those terms, there’s no more important story right now than the resurgence of white nationalism, not only as a popular phenomenon, but as something with a presence in mainstream politics at the highest levels.

David Duke’s Senate campaign in 1991 is one of the foremost examples, within our lifetime, of that type of outspoken white nationalism making an incursion into mainstream American politics.

And so the story is a really gripping one, which we hope people will be hooked by the details of. There are also lessons for us, of course, with connections to everything in the present from how the Duke campaign was handled in the media to how the institutional Louisiana Republican Party responded to the rise of this populist outsider. It’s all very palpable.

Tell me about the choice of having Josh Levin lead the upcoming season.
Josh has been a crucial part of the making of Slow Burn since the very beginning. He was the editor on the Watergate season, along with both the other seasons we’ve done. The way he thinks about reporting where he thinks about storytelling, about gathering and presenting information, really informs everything we’ve done under the Slow Burn banner. You know, he’s been podcasting for a long time, almost a decade, mostly through our sports talk show, Hang Up and Listen. He dipped his toes fronting a scripted narrative podcast with a series based on his book, The Queen, which came out last year, and after that, he was looking around for what would be his next project. So he was really a natural person to head up a season of Slow Burn.

And he has a strong connection to this story, in particular, because he’s a native Louisianan. For instance, he would see David Duke campaigning at LSU football games, and as a member of the Jewish community in Louisiana at the time, I think the threat of David Duke’s rise in local politics was a very urgent and frightening presence in the background of his life. This is a story he had always wanted to tell, and it felt like Slow Burn is the right form for him to do just that.

I was a little surprised to hear about the show coming back to politics, given that the third season choice to go after the Biggie-Tupac story felt like Slow Burn being able to stretch out what it can be. But at the same time, it does feel like a return home. How did you all think through the decision?
I think that’s about right. I mean, our hope is that we’re gonna make a lot of seasons over time. Some of them will be political, and some of them will not be political. All of them will involve stories that are widely known, but shallowly understood.

Really, we didn’t think about this strategically in the sense that, “Well, we’ve done two that were politics and one set within the entertainment industry, now let’s do another politics one, and the one after that will be sports.” Not to suggest that the next one will be sports, but just to name another category.

We think more in terms of “What’s the best idea on the table for next season? What’s the one that feels most urgent right now? What’s the one we’re champing at the bit to do?”

Seeing as how Slow Burn is generally designed to speak to the present moment, do you get any anxiety over the fact that it can take a long time — months and months — to get these seasons out?
Oh, sure. I mean, that goes with the territory of doing things that are more ambitious and needing the kind of lead time we’re talking about here. I think everybody who spends time working on something, whether it’s a novel or a movie or a narrative podcast, they’re placing a bet on the future — on what the world is going to look like when you’re ready to show a thing to people.

How was the third season received, given its shift away from politics? What do you think about that experience?
It came out great. The audience was great, and we got a lot of terrific feedback, which we are pleased about. We knew going in that it was going to be a switch from the first two seasons — we had a different host, a different kind of story — and so we weren’t expecting the big fans of seasons one and two to be identical to the big fans of season three. I think some people jumped off the train and others jumped on the train, people who were interested in the history of hip-hop and in the Biggie-Tupac story specifically. We found out that a bunch of people came to it because they were interested in the Biggie-Tupac story and ended up going back through the archives. That was gratifying.

After building two seasons with Leon Neyfakh, who basically invented the show’s format and brought a tremendous amount of talent to the show, it was really interesting to work on it with Joel Anderson, who has an overlapping but different set of skills. Part of the work was extracting what aspects of Slow Burn was continuous regardless of the story we were telling or who was telling it, and what aspects are specific to particular seasons. That was a really fun puzzle to work through.

And how would you describe those continuous aspects?
It’s about recapturing what it felt like to live through these events, what it felt like to follow them in real time. Whether it’s Watergate or Biggie-Tupac or David Duke, there’s a sort of package-received capsule version that most of us carry around in our heads. But when you unpack that, it’s much more complicated and interesting, and there is a way of unpacking the story to mimic a feel for the audience that they don’t know how it ends. I think people respond to that really strongly.

Do those elements carry over to the TV adaptation?
You know, I wasn’t really involved in making the TV version. I looked at some scripts and saw some early stuff, but that’s about it. But I do think they did a great job of taking the work we did in the first season and recapturing the same sense of surprise and unpredictability, twists and turns. But it’s hard for me to watch it without comparing the thing to the audio version I have in my mind. It’s not a great position to assess how effective it is for an audience that hasn’t heard the podcast. I just hope a whole new set of folks are gonna watch the show and hear Leon tell the story, have them gripped in the same way that the podcast audience was.

What’s Joel up to now, as Josh breaks ground for season four?
We’ve got the Slow Burn season three tour is coming up in February: four live shows in New York, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles, plus an appearance at South by Southwest. So Joel is preparing for that. It will be an entirely new story that adds to the podcast and features a bunch of great guests who he’ll interview onstage.

That’s where Joel’s head is right now. And then after that, we have a short list of topics for future seasons that we’re interested in and he’s going to do some research on. We’ll spend some time talking about that. But, really, he’s going to take a break after the live shows, because he’s been going pretty much full tilt since we started up season three in the fall.

Any hints about what’s on the short list?
Well, if I tell you, then somebody else might go after them first. I mean, nothing good would come from me talking about right. So, nah.

So, there’s a meme that pops up among certain Twitter circles: Sometimes, there’s a crazy piece of political news, and someone will go “Slow Burn Season 46,” or something like that. First of all, how do you feel about that? And second, do you see the news these days through the Slow Burn lens?
Firstly, I love it. Obviously, I like it when things we make exist in people’s heads in a way that occurs to them when they follow the news or look at Twitter. Yeah, it’s very satisfying.

On the other thing … yeah, no, I’m not scripting the Trump administration season of Slow Burn in my head. But sometimes, something smaller will jump out at me from the present. Like, I can imagine WeWork being a great season.

The Trump administration just feels too big right now. Now, if, you know, in 25 years, we’re in a position where there’s still a podcast industry and enough of a civilization to make it possible to look back at the Trump administration and break it up into an eight-episode script, then I’ll consider that a great success for the human race.

Well, there’s always Quibi, which will definitely be here in 25 years.
Right. It’ll be seven minutes on the Trump administration, and then seven minutes on which of your relatives to eat first.

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Biden and Putin to hold video call on Tuesday, will discuss Ukraine



U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a video call on Tuesday to deal with military tensions over Ukraine other topics.

Biden wants to discuss U.S. concerns about Russia’s military buildup on the Ukraine border, a U.S. source said on Saturday, as well as strategic stability, cyber and regional issues.

“We’re aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden told reporters on Friday as he departed for a weekend trip to Camp David. “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” he said.

The two will also talk about bilateral ties and the implementation of agreements reached at their Geneva summit in June, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

“The conversation will indeed take place on Tuesday,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters. “Bilateral relations, of course Ukraine and the realisation of the agreements reached in Geneva are the main (items) on the agenda,” he said.

More than 94,000 Russian troops are massed near Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Friday that Moscow may be planning a large-scale military offensive for the end of January, citing intelligence reports.

Biden will reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the U.S. source said. The exact timing of the call was not disclosed. The White House declined to comment.

The U.S. president on Friday said he and his advisers are preparing a comprehensive set of initiatives aimed at deterring Putin from an invasion. He did not give further details, but the Biden administration has discussed partnering with European allies to impose more sanctions on Russia.

Moscow accuses Kyiv of pursuing its own military build-up. It has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions that it is preparing for an attack on its southern neighbor and has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it sees fit.

U.S. officials say they do not know yet what Putin’s intentions are, adding while intelligence points to preparations for a possible invasion of Ukraine, it is unclear whether a final decision to do so has been made.

U.S.-Russia relations have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. intelligence charges of meddling in the 2016 election won by now-former President Donald Trump.

But they have become more volatile in recent months.

The Biden administration has asked Moscow to crack down on ransomware and cyber crime attacks emanating from Russian soil, and in November charged a Ukraine national and a Russian in one of the worst ransomware attacks against American targets.

Russia has repeatedly denied carrying out or tolerating cyber attacks.

The two leaders have had one face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January, sitting down for talks in Geneva last June. They last talked by phone on July 9. Biden relishes direct talks with world leaders, seeing them as a way to lower tensions.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russian Foreign Minister ” Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm earlier this week that the United States and its European allies would impose “severe costs and consequences on Russia if it takes further aggressive action against Ukraine.”

(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in WashingtonEditing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell)

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Meet the recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship – The Signal



Dalhousie award created to encourage more women to enter male dominated field

Having more women at the decision-making table is important for Claire Belliveau.

“If we have male dominated rooms, we’re going to have male dominated issues, as easy as that,” said Belliveau.

Belliveau, along with Charlotte Bourke, are the first recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship at Dalhousie.

Belliveau is in her fourth year at Dalhousie, studying political science and law, justice and society. She has been involved in politics since she was 18, working for Environment Minister Tim Halman. Belliveau is the community outreach co-ordinator at Halman’s constituency office.

Being a young woman in politics has not always been easy for Belliveau. She recalls instances where people questioned her abilities due to her age and times when male peers would take credit for her ideas.

Despite these challenges, Belliveau has found support among other women in the field. One thing she found interesting was how women in politics support each other despite party alliance.

“It’s so nice to see how much these women want to see other women succeed, in a male dominated field,” she said.

Belliveau would like to pursue a career in government as an analyst, contributing to policy development in education and the environment.

Bourke is also a fourth-year political science student with an interest in environmental politics. Her main research interests are social and environmental policies and she is studying ways to create fairer climate adaptation plans.

Bourke is unsure about her plans after graduation, but she knows it will involve politics, social issues and the environment.

Charlotte Bourke walks up the steps to the Henry Hicks Building, where the political science department is located, on Nov. 13, 2021.   Gabrielle Brunette

The scholarship serves to encourage, support and inspire young women in their political aspirations. It was established by Grace Evans and Sarah Dobson, co-authors of On Their Shoulders: The Women who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics.

The book addresses the gender gap by showcasing the first and only 50 women at the time, to have served as MLAs in the province. The book highlights the importance of female representation in municipal politics and all proceeds go towards funding the new scholarship.

In 2021, women and gender-diverse people make up only 36 per cent of the legislative assembly in Nova Scotia.

Of 55 MLAs, 19 are women, one is gender-diverse and 35 are men.

“People often don’t want to enter a realm where they can’t see themselves reflected. I think it’s hard for young women to become interested in politics if they don’t see their peers there,” Evans said.

The scholarship will run for as long as there is funding. Every year, two students will be awarded $1,000 each.

“There’s not a lot of scholarships, to my knowledge, geared specifically towards poli sci students, let alone women in poli sci,” Bourke said.

Evans said they are looking to expand the scholarship beyond funding to create a network of people. She and Dobson have been working in politics for a few years and have made many connections they would like to share with the recipients.

Receiving the scholarship was rewarding for Bourke, who felt like all her hard work was being acknowledged.

“It’s kind of just like a relief and a push forward to be like, oh wow I am being recognized, this is really cool, people actually think that I’m good enough, or they actually want me here. It feels sort of welcoming,” she said.

Charlotte Bourke is a fourth-year political science student, minoring in environmental studies.   Gabrielle Brunette

Belliveau was honoured to receive a scholarship designed to encourage women, like herself, who want a career in politics.

“It was just really motivating, especially from Sarah and Grace, knowing how much they care about young women in politics, knowing how much they care about the history and seeing more young women join the field,” she said.

“They’re acknowledging how important it is to have those voices at the table.”

For both women, winning the scholarship has given them a boost of confidence.

Belliveau said it has pushed her to apply for other opportunities, something she hopes other young women in politics will be encouraged to do as well.

“Apply for every scholarship, apply for fellowships, apply for the jobs you don’t think you qualify for because … men are doing it and they get them all the time, so why shouldn’t you?” she said.

“So, take advantage of everything you can and just enjoy the ride, stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up.”

Gabrielle Brunette

Gabrielle is a journalist for the Signal at the University of King’s College. She completed her BAH in political studies at Queen’s University.

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Playing Politics With Democracy? – Forbes



On December 9 and 10, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today.” How do Americans see the threat to democracy in the US now? And do partisans see the health of our democracy differently?

In October, Grinnell College asked them this directly. Fifty-two percent said American democracy was under a very serious threat and 29% under a minor threat. Only 14% perceived no threat. Other polls with differently worded questions produce similar impressions of a democracy in need of serious rehabilitation. In a November poll, Monmouth University pollsters found that 8% thought the US system of government was basically sound and needed no improvement, 35% basically sound but needing some improvement, 26% not too sound and needing many improvements, and 30% not too sound and in need of significant changes. And a late October–early November poll of 18–29 year olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) finds that 7% of them describe US democracy as healthy, 27% somewhat functioning, 39% as in trouble, and 13% as failed.

In 2018, 2019, and again in 2021, Public Agenda, as part of the Daniel Yankelovich Democracy Initiative, asked people identical questions about democracy’s health. In the May 2021 poll, 14% said American democracy was doing well, 50% facing serious challenges but not in crisis, and 36% in crisis. The results were similar to their 2018 and 2019 polls.  

In all of these new polls, Democrats were more positive about democracy’s health than were Republicans. In the 2021 Public Agenda survey, Democrats were less likely to see a crisis than Republicans, 25% to 48%. However, in their 2018 and 2019 polls taken during the Trump years, far more Democrats than Republicans said the system was in crisis. In the October 2021 Grinnell poll, 71% of Republicans compared to 35% of Democrats saw the threat as major. In the Monmouth poll, partisans in both parties thought improvements were necessary, but twice as many Republicans as Democrats (38% to 15%) said the system was not sound at all and needed significant changes. In the Harvard IOP poll, 18–29 year old Democrats were more optimistic about democracy, too. There is a clear disconnect between Democratic elites in the media and academia who regularly opine about a US democracy’s decline and the views of rank-and-file Democrats.

This pattern is reversed when we look at questions about the events of January 6 and subsequent investigations as the new edition of the AEI Polling Report shows. Democrats profess much more concern than Republicans about what happened that day and are more eager to see the work of the January 6 congressional committee continue. In a mid-October online Morning Consult/Politico poll, 81% of Democrats compared to 18% of Republicans approved of the special congressional committee to investigate the events that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6. And in a mid-October Quinnipiac University poll, 40% wanted to hear more, but 56% said enough was already known about what led to the storming of the Capitol. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats wanted to hear more compared to 22% of Republicans and 38% of independents. Still, it is significant that nearly four in 10 (38%) Democrats said enough is known already, indicating some fatigue with the investigation.

There are some obvious reasons Democrats would feel better about our democracy than Republicans. They control both chambers of Congress, there’s a Democrat in the White House, and expressing confidence in American democracy is a way of showing support for the party and the president as the polls above suggest. And Democrats will continue to hammer away at anything to do with Donald Trump.

The polls suggest that concerns about democracy have not diminished people’s willingness to participate in the system — at least in terms of voting. Eighty percent in the Grinnell poll said they would definitely vote in the 2024 election for president and other offices and only 7% said they probably would not. What’s more, 91% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans in the survey said that it was very important for the United States to remain a democracy. Five percent nationally said it was fairly important, 4% just somewhat, and 3% not important. When you care deeply about something as Americans do about democracy, you worry at its erosion. But today, this concern has a deep partisan overlay.

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