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Identifying 9/11 Victims 20 Years Later and the Small Town That Fought Hate: The Week in Narrated Articles

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

For 20 years, the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office has quietly conducted the largest missing persons investigation ever undertaken in the nation — testing and retesting the 22,000 body parts painstakingly recovered from wreckage after the attacks of Sept. 11.

Scientists are still testing the vast inventory of unidentified remains for a genetic connection to the 1,106 victims — roughly 40 percent of the ground zero death toll — who are still without a match so that their families can reclaim the remains for a proper burial.

Written and narrated by Robert Ito

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is Marvel’s first and only superhero film starring an Asian lead, with an Asian American director and writer, and based on a character who was actually Asian in the original comic.

The creators of the film were so conscious of all the preconceptions they were up against that they even made a list of Hollywood stereotypes about Asians that they hoped to dispel. For example, in their movie, the comedy would come from the Asian characters, not be directed at them.

“We were also very interested in portraying Shang-Chi as romantically viable, as an Asian man,” the screenwriter David Callaham said, “and simultaneously also very cognizant of the opposite stereotype of Asian women, where they’re oversexualized or fetishized.”

Written and narrated by Grace Cook

Cotton bags have become a means for brands, retailers and supermarkets to telegraph a planet-friendly mind-set — or, at least, to show that the companies are aware of the overuse of plastic in packaging.

“There’s a trend in New York right now where people are wearing merch: carrying totes from local delis, hardware stores or their favorite steakhouse,” said the designer Rachel Comey.

So far, so earth-friendly? Not exactly. It turns out the wholehearted embrace of cotton totes may actually have created a new problem.

An organic cotton tote needs to be used 20,000 times to offset its overall impact of production, according to a 2018 study by the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark. That equates to daily use for 54 years — for just one bag.

How did an environmental solution become part of the problem?

Written and narrated by Elizabeth Williamson

Richard B. Spencer, the most infamous summer resident of Whitefish, Mont., once boasted that he stood at the vanguard of a white nationalist movement emboldened by former President Donald J. Trump. Things have changed.

Leaders in the town say Mr. Spencer, who once ran his National Policy Institute from his mother’s $3 million summer house here, is now an outcast in this resort town in the Rocky Mountains, unable to get a table at many of its restaurants. His organization has dissolved. His wife has divorced him, and he is facing trial next month in Charlottesville, Va., over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march there, but says he cannot afford a lawyer.

The turn of events is no accident. Whitefish, a mostly liberal, affluent community nestled in a county that voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and 2020, rose up and struck back.

Written and narrated by Ali Watkins

It was an unusual forearm tattoo that the police said led them to Luis Reyes, a 35-year-old man who was accused of stealing packages from a Manhattan building’s mailroom in 2019.

But the truth was more complicated: Mr. Reyes had first been identified by the New York Police Department’s powerful facial recognition software as it analyzed surveillance video of the crime.

Since the fall of the World Trade Center, the security apparatus born from the Sept. 11 attack on the city has fundamentally changed the way the country’s largest police department operates, altering its approach to finding and foiling terrorist threats, but also to cracking minor cases like Mr. Reyes’s.

Current and former police officials say the tools have been effective in thwarting dozens of would-be attacks. But others say the prevalence of the department’s technological arsenal subjects ordinary New Yorkers to near-constant surveillance — a burden that falls more heavily on people of color.



The Times’s narrated articles are made by Parin Behrooz, Claudine Ebeid, Carson Leigh Brown, Anna Diamond, Aaron Esposito, Elena Hecht, Elisheba Ittoop, Emma Kehlbeck, Marion Lozano, Anna Martin, Tracy Mumford, Tanya Perez, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and John Woo. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Ryan Wegner, Julia Simon and Desiree Ibekwe.

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