A Harvard Scam and the Best Podcasts of 2021: The Week in Narrated Articles | #daitngscams | #lovescams

This weekend, listen to a collection of narrated articles from around The New York Times, read aloud by the reporters who wrote them.

Nidhi Razdan was all set to travel to Harvard University to start a teaching job, and a new life. A famous Indian news anchor at the apex of her career, Ms. Razdan believed she was getting a dream ticket out of an almost unbearably toxic media atmosphere in India.

She had freely shared her most important personal information with her new employer — passport details, medical records, bank account numbers, everything. But when she swiped open her phone in the middle of a January night, she read the following message, from an associate dean at Harvard:

“There is no record of, nor any knowledge of, your name or your appointment.”

The email closed: “I wish you the best for your future.”

For over a year, prominent women in India, including journalists, were reeled into a labyrinthine online scam that offered jobs and opportunities with Harvard University. Who targeted them, and why, is a mystery.

Written and narrated by Eric Kim

“I am not a religious person, but I revere Christmastime as a secular season centered on food and family — two of my favorite things,” writes Eric Kim. “As with any family tradition, there are rules. My father expects a ham every year.”

This year, Eric is determined to come home with an excellent ham recipe. On the books, then, is a ham cooked with soda.

Using a little soda in your ham glaze is an old art, but boiling your ham in two liters of soda may be a more recent practice. The first two-liter bottle wasn’t invented until the early 1970s, when Pepsi came out with one. This must have paved the way for boiling your ham in soda, whether that was the more classic Pepsi or Coca-Cola, or the quirkier Dr Pepper, cherry soda or ginger ale.

According to Eric, cooking ham in sugary soda has two aims: to impart all those spicy-sweet flavors, while simultaneously softening the inherent, often overly harsh saltiness of the cured meat.

In Arizona, a nursing home resident was sexually assaulted in the dining room.

In Minnesota, a woman caught Covid-19 after workers moved a coughing resident into her room.

And in Texas, a woman with dementia was found in her nursing home’s parking lot, lying in a pool of blood.

State inspectors determined that all three homes had endangered residents and violated federal regulations. Yet the federal government didn’t report the incidents to the public or factor them into its influential ratings system. The homes kept their glowing grades.

A New York Times investigation found that at least 2,700 similarly dangerous incidents were also not factored into the rating system run by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or C.M.S., which is designed to give people reliable information to evaluate the safety and quality of thousands of nursing homes.

It would be impossible for anyone to listen to each of the hundreds of thousands of podcasts that published new episodes in 2021, let alone rank them. But the pop culture reporter Reggie Ugwu has picked 10 shows that were worth a detour.

“The Sporkful: Mission Impastable,” tells the story of Dan Pashman’s three-year quest to design the perfect pasta shape and get it manufactured. The emotional roller coaster he endures will be familiar to anyone who has ever tried to make a hit — edible or otherwise.

In “Welcome to Your Fantasy,” Natalia Petrzela’s sweeping account of the rise and fall of Chippendales — the traveling male strip show that became a global phenomenon in the ’80s — manages to transcend its noisy keywords: sex, true crime, hidden history. What distinguishes the show is its evocative mood, characters and story.

And in “Resistance,” born in the aftermath of the global Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020, lesser-known miscarriages of justice are made personal and palpable. The show finds hard-to-shake stories in the circumstances that push individuals off the tram lines of their day-to-day existence.

The boat packed with migrants was about halfway across the English Channel when one of the passengers spotted two orange life jackets bobbing in the water.

The seas were rough, and it was only when they got closer that Zana Hamawandi realized the vests contained dead bodies.

Soon, other bodies started appearing. “Our boat was surrounded by dead bodies,” said Karzan Mangury, another migrant. “At that moment my entire body was shaking.”

Mr. Hamawandi and Mr. Mangury’s accounts, in phone interviews from an immigration facility in England, are among the only witness descriptions of the aftermath of the sinking of a migrant boat that took at least 27 lives.

The disaster has injected a new sense of urgency into efforts by European countries to control high-risk channel crossings better. Activists also believe the deaths highlight a contentious, ineffective partnership between Britain and France that has failed to improve the protocols for rescuing migrants in distress.

The Times’s narrated articles are made by Tally Abecassis, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Aaron Esposito, Elena Hecht, Adrienne Hurst, Elisheba Ittoop, Emma Kehlbeck, Marion Lozano, Tanya Pérez, Krish Seenivasan, Margaret H. Willison, Kate Winslett, John Woo and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Ryan Wegner, Julia Simon and Desiree Ibekwe.

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