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November 08, 2021
What A Day
All In On Infrastructure

In This Episode

  • The House finally passed their $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Friday night. There’s funding for highways, roads, bridges, updating and expanding the power grid, and much more.
  • 8 people were tragically killed and hundreds more injured at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Music Festival on Friday. People described the event as chaotic and uncontrolled from the beginning. There were also reports of a stampede through the entrance gates earlier that afternoon.
  • And in headlines: Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped an assassination attempt, women allege sex with Barstool’s Dave Portnoy was “frightening and humiliating,” and environmental activists in Glasgow demand more climate change action.


Show Notes





Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Monday, November 8th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we’re icing our legs after looking at pictures of people who ran marathons yesterday.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, just seeing all of those posts felt like exercise enough for me.


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, if you look at pictures of marathons for 26 minutes, that’s equal to running 26 miles.


Priyanka Aribindi: Fair. I’ll take it. Yep.


Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, what we know so far from the tragedy at the Astroworld Festival. Plus, environmental activists demonstrate against the U.N. Climate Conference in Glasgow.


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, the House finally passed their $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill on Friday night. That is a round of applause from Josie. And from me. We could give you the punchline you’re all waiting for, but we will let President Biden have it. Here he is:


[clip of President Biden] Finally, Infrastructure Week. [laughs] I’m so happy to say that: Infrastructure Week.


Josie Duffy Rice: I love it. Great jokes, Bidie. Priyanka, can you tell us what this bill includes, or at least some of it, because it’s a ton of stuff?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. OK, so it turns out one trillion dollars gives you a lot of ground to cover. So as infrastructure implies, there is about $110 billion in funding for highways, roads, bridges, projects like that all over the country, as well as $39 billion to improve public transit and make it more accessible. If you are listening on the New York City subway right now, you are probably excited to know that a lot is going to cities in particular to help them improve their public transit systems. $66 billion is also going towards railroad expansions and updates, mostly towards Amtrak, in hopes of providing a decent alternative to flying or driving in other areas beyond just the Northeast. And $42 billion in new spending will help update ports and airports nationwide.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, very necessary spending on infrastructure, and that’s really just the start. So what about the projects that aren’t just about transportation?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, there are a lot of things that infrastructure covers that’s not just, you know, the traditional stuff you think of. $73 billion in this bill goes towards updating and expanding the power grid. 50 billion goes towards infrastructure against climate change and cyber attacks. 55 billion is for clean drinking water and 65 billion will go towards broadband access for high-speed internet. There’s also funding for removing pollution from soil and water, adding electric vehicle chargers nationwide, adding more zero- and low-emission busses and ferries, and more. This is truly a massive bill. According to the New York Times, it is the largest public works bill since President Eisenhower created the interstate system, so . . .


Josie Duffy Rice: Wild. Completely wild.


Priyanka Aribindi: Big things happening. And I know I just threw a lot of numbers at all of you, so we are going to link an article in our show notes that kind of lays it all out if you prefer to see it that way.


Josie Duffy Rice: There was a lot of stress and back and forth about this bill, but it does seem like the Democrats were able to get a lot of their priorities and things we’ve been hearing them talk about for a long time into it.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, you may have been listening to us pull our own hair out for months on end on this show.


Josie Duffy Rice: Exactly, exactly.


Priyanka Aribindi: But yes, this has been a huge priority for the Biden administration. So they are definitely happy to have this movement after a lot of time.


Josie Duffy Rice: Can you tell us how this finally came together? Because for a while, it seems like not everybody was exactly on the same page about it. Do you think it’s fair to say?


Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely not on the same page. So, as you know, progressive Democrats didn’t want to pass this bill without passing the Build Back Better Act, which is the social spending bill that was meant to accompany these infrastructure investments. But a compromise came on Friday, in part through a deal that was thought up by leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus. So this is how it all happened: on Friday night, a group of moderate Democrats agreed to vote for the Build Back Better Act, which is the social spending bill in its current form no later than the week of November 15th. After that, Representative Pramila Jayapal, who is the chair of the Progressive Caucus, made a statement confirming that agreement and saying that the Progressive Caucus would now support the infrastructure bill as opposed to waiting to pass both of those bills at the same time.


Josie Duffy Rice: That seems like a lot of people working together. What about Republicans? Did they contribute at all, or did they do anything to help this along, or what happened here?


Priyanka Aribindi: You know, there were a few. The final vote actually included 13 Republicans who joined 215 Democrats in supporting the bill. Six progressive Democrats still voted against it, arguing that you know this was giving up leverage on the Build Back Better Act and getting that passed. It’s also important to remember that this infrastructure bill passed the Senate in August, which feels like forever ago, but not only passed, it also had the support of 19 Republican senators—so very bipartisan. And now it’s headed to Biden’s desk, and he says he is going to sign it into law this week.


Josie Duffy Rice: OK, so that sounds good. So what happens now with the Build Back Better Act?


Priyanka Aribindi: Good question. So right after the House passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, they also passed a procedural vote to set up a final vote on the Build Back Better Act. The House is on recess this week. What a life, that would be great for us but fine. They are not working this week but I believe the holdup in getting a vote sooner than the week following is from some moderate Democrats who are waiting on a Congressional Budget Office score so they can better understand how this would affect the national debt. Biden says, you know, this is going to be paid for and not an issue, but they want to make sure that is the case. Anyways, Biden seems confident that it will pass the House when they return. But once we get to the Senate with Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, you know what happens there? As you all know, is really anyone’s guess at this point. We will keep you updated as we learn more.


Josie Duffy Rice: OK, so let’s turn to a very tragic developing story. There was a horrific tragedy in Houston on Friday night when eight people were killed and hundreds were injured at Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival. The New York Times is calling it, quote, “one of the deadliest crowd-control disasters at a concert in the United States in many years.”


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, really scary. Really sad. There are still a bunch of unanswered questions as we go to record this about how it happened, what concert organizers knew, and more. But can you run through some of what we do know for certain at this point?


Josie Duffy Rice: Like you said, there’s a lot we don’t know. But according to the fire chief, what we do know is that the deaths and injuries seem to have been caused by lots of people surging towards the stage, causing those near the front to be compressed. According to one concertgoer, crowd compaction began even before Travis Scott took the stage, but it really, really got worse once he started performing.


Priyanka Aribindi: Do we know what caused that surge, you know, that led to all of this?


Josie Duffy Rice: We don’t, at least not specifically. What we do know, though, is that people described the event as chaotic and uncontrolled from the very beginning. There are reports of a stampede through the entrance gates earlier that afternoon. And it seems like many people who didn’t possess tickets had managed to enter anyway. The Associated Press indicated at least some of the problem was due to the barricades near the stage that were intended to separate different groups of ticket holders, but really made it impossible for people to escape. According to some concertgoers, these same barricades meant that the space available for them was way, way, way too small. Authorities have seemed to refute this notion and stated that the venue was inspected in advance and was safe enough to handle four times as many festival attendees, according to the city’s fire department. But given that the accident happened in one section at one stage, there’s still clarity we need on whether that area in particular held too many people at that time.


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So once it was clear that this was an emergency, do we know what happened from there?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, Priyanka, I mean, I think the timeline is still pretty unclear. But what we do know is that at about 9:15 on Friday night is when it became like a scenario of serious distress and injury. This is when people started falling, becoming unconscious, and that caused additional panic from people who saw what was going on. And then another problem is that lots of concert goers didn’t see what was going on, they didn’t know what was happening because there was so much compression. Plus, of course, there’s a literal concert happening on stage, right? So about 15 minutes later, at 9:30 a.m., police and fire department officials became aware of the fact that attendees were quote, “going down.” And while we don’t know each cause of death yet, reports have stated that at least some people were actually trampled to death.


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. That is really horrifying. Just, I mean, you and I were talking about this earlier. We’ve all been to concerts, large events like this. And it’s just scary to think about like this could happen. And it did, to many. It’s just really sad.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s an absolute nightmare. I mean, everything about it is just absolutely terrible. Officials apparently informed concert organizers immediately, at 9:30 that there was an emergency event with injuries and possible casualties, but it took another 40 minutes for the concert to be canceled.


Priyanka Aribindi: Do we know why it took so long?


Josie Duffy Rice: Well, it’s not totally clear yet. We don’t know if there was simply not enough security or what was going on. But the police chief defended the 40-minute delay and said that there were risks of rioting or increased chaos had they just immediately stopped the concert. So basically arguing that maybe it was safer that they kept their concert going at first. But there are allegations, some substantiated by video, that attendees were frantically trying to tell camera operators and other concert staff that people were dying, that there was an emergency. Of course, it’s unlikely that any of that staff had the authority to just stop the concert on their own, but many of them didn’t even seem to really take it seriously, with at least one of those people being told to calm down.


Priyanka Aribindi: Big yikes. That is, would not want to be in that situation.


Josie Duffy Rice: Not what you want to hear what you were saying that someone is dying.


Priyanka Aribindi: No, definitely not. So what about Travis Scott himself? Do we know what he knew and what he’s been saying since?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, there were a lot of allegations online that Travis Scott himself saw what was happening and continued to perform anyway. But that really doesn’t seem to be the case, at least as of now. According to the Houston Chronicle, he stopped the show three or four times, when he noticed people quote, “in distress” and even called security to help someone in the crowd, but despite people in the audience screaming for the show to stop and trying to get his attention, Scott didn’t seem to recognize that people were being severely injured or the extent of devastation. And that’s likely because of the chaos of the crowd and because performing on stage with loud music and bright lights, it makes it really difficult to clearly hear and see the audience.


Priyanka Aribindi: Right.


Josie Duffy Rice: And that’s what he really suggested when he posted this video to his Instagram on Saturday night.


[clip of Travis Scott] You know, my fans really mean the world to me, and I always just really want to leave them with a positive experience. Any time I can make out, you know, anything that’s going on, you know, I just stop the show and, you know, help them get the help they need, you know?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, you can hear it. He sounds upset. Of course, you want your fans to have a good time at your concert. No one wants bad things to happen to people, especially not their fans. Do we know anything about the people who died?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. I mean, it’s just so, so deeply sad, right? The eight people who died ranged in age from 14 to 27. There’s one victim whose age has yet to be released. At least two victims were in high school. The youngest was just a high school freshman. At least three others were college students studying art, computer science and engineering. One of the victims was killed while trying to save his sister-in-law. And again, hundreds more were injured, including a 10-year old child. I mean, it’s really unbelievable. As of Saturday afternoon, 13 people were still hospitalized, and five of those were minors.


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s awful, especially for people so young. You think of concerts, we all have our own memories of going to concerts at that age, and they’re just supposed to be fun and happy.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, yeah.


Priyanka Aribindi: This is really devastating.


Josie Duffy Rice: It really is.


Priyanka Aribindi: This isn’t the first time there have been issues at a Travis Scott concert, either. Can you tell us a little more about what’s happened in the past?


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s correct. And of course, again, it’s too early to determine who exactly is responsible for what happened. But it is true that there have been issues before. In 2015 he was arrested after encouraging attendees at Lollapalooza in Chicago to breach security barriers and come on stage. In 2018, he pled guilty to disorderly conduct for allegedly encouraging people at an Arkansas concert to rush the stage. One man sued Scott after becoming paralyzed when he was pushed off a third floor balcony at one of his concerts. And at the first Astroworld there were crowd control and security concerns also. The New York Times also reports that Houston’s police chief said he told Scott before Friday’s show that he had concerns about the crowd’s energy. I do want to reiterate, like it’s not clear that any of these incidents were completely in his control. You know, there are a lot of people who are responsible for making a concert safe, but it’s certainly not the first time something has happened at one of his events. Live Nation, which produced the event, has also been criticized for safety issues at concerts. And you know, it seems that already some concert goers have hired lawyers, and at least one has filed suit against Scott: Manuel Souza, who says he was injured and is accusing the organizers of negligence and gross negligence. And he’s seeking at least $1 million in damages. So we’ll keep you posted on what happens next, including any legal action that will arise from the tragedy in the following days. But that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Josie Duffy Rice: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped an assassination attempt early yesterday. Armed drones targeted his residence in Baghdad, but officials said he was unharmed. According to a Ministry of Interior spokesperson, seven of Khatami’s security guards were injured. Three drones were involved in the incident, but two had been shot down by the Iraqi military. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack as of record time, but it comes amid heightened tensions between the government and Iran-linked groups, who called last month’s Iraqi parliamentary elections fraudulent. Last Friday, one person died and dozens were injured after supporters of Iran-backed militias clashed with Iraqi security forces near the Green Zone. That’s the heavily fortified area where diplomatic buildings are located and government officials live. The assassination attempt came just hours after a funeral march was held for the person who died. The U.S. State Department, the Arab League and other world leaders condemned the attack and called it an act of terror.


Priyanka Aribindi: Very scary. Several women alleged that they had, quote, “frightening and humiliating” sexual encounters with Dave Portnoy, the president of the digital media company Barstool Sports. Last week, the news outlet Insider published an article after speaking with more than two dozen people who had direct experience with Portnoy and Barstool. In disturbing detail, multiple women said Portnoy filmed them without permission and choked them. One woman said she had suicidal thoughts after the two of them had sex. The women also feared retaliation from the media mogul and his fan base if they spoke out. Barstool Sports, whose slogan is quote, “By the common man, for the common man” is now valued at $450 million, with a huge fan base. In response to Insider’s reporting, a Barstool attorney wrote in an email that many of the accusations were misleading and taken out of context. Portnoy took to Twitter in response to the article with a series of videos in which he denied the allegations and said that quote, “Cancel culture has been coming for me for a decade.”


Josie Duffy Rice: So many things I want to say to that, that there’s not enough time. About 100,000 protesters gathered in Glasgow this Saturday as part of a global day of action for climate justice linked to the ongoing U.N. climate conference. Around the world, 100 more climate demonstrations were held. Participants in the Glasgow rally expressed dissatisfaction with the COP26 conference in the city. They feel that activists have been excluded from the negotiations and fear that marginalized people’s interests are not being served, even though they’re among the most affected by climate change. One organizer said quote, “This has been the least accessible climate summit ever, with so many people sidelined at the talks are not able to make it in the first place. Today, those people are having their voices heard.” COP26 delegates and world leaders have agreed to curb deforestation, phase out coal and international funding for fossil fuels, and cut methane emissions. But that simply won’t be enough to keep the planet from warming by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. Scientists have classified the 1.5 number as a quote, “safe climate planetary boundary” beyond which the truly catastrophic effects of climate change will exert themselves.


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s becoming increasingly clear that there are two different stories here. One is what we’re getting from, you know, the leaders and like the people in charge who are at this conference. The other is coming from activists.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yep!


Priyanka Aribindi: And I am just very grateful that we have their voices and that they are protesting so loudly and we can kind of hear what they’re saying.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, this is why organizing and community building is so important, right? And at this moment, where really the people who are most affected by climate change are regular people. We want to make sure that we hear from them about like what the actual effects will be.


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. If you care about your country’s financial future, your vote has never been more important. Specifically, your vote in a Twitter poll that Elon Musk posted this weekend, where he let people weigh in on whether or not he should pay his taxes. To drill down a little more. Musk asked the internet whether he should sell 10% of his shares in his company, Tesla. Because he takes no salary from the company, he doesn’t pay an income tax so selling stock is the only way he can be taxed on his earnings and help fix the roads and the highways that his cars are so obsessed with driving on. Twitter users decided that Musk should pay. Forbes estimated that his tax debt upon selling shares would amount to around $5 billion. Analysts and experts had already expected Musk to sell off millions of his shares this quarter to pay a tax on stock options. He has a limited window to exercise. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who has proposed that billionaires be taxed on unrealized gains from their stocks, criticized Musk’s poll and said quote, “whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll.”


Josie Duffy Rice: I kind of agree. And then I’m also like, Twitter is full of terrible people with bad opinions, but so is Congress. So maybe we just actually have Twitter decide whether billionaires pay taxes.


Priyanka Aribindi: Fact. Honestly, I am just like sitting here laughing that he thought he could put this to a vote and people would be like: no, like your good, you dont have to oay like, it’s fine. Of course. Come on.


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. Honestly, he has a big fan base, but I’m sure that even they think the guy should maybe pay some income tax, so you know.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Feels like he could do that. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. Check out the latest episode of Jon Favreau’s new weekly interview series “Offline with Jon Favreau.”


Josie Duffy Rice: This week, host of Snapchat’s “Good Luck America” Peter Hamby talks to Jon about why Twitter has ruined political journalism—other than deciding whether Elon Musk should pay taxes—how the internet transformed the media business and what a healthy, sustainable model of journalism might look like. New episodes drop every Sunday in the Pod Save America feed. I will certainly be listening to that, and I hope you check it out, too.


Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, congratulate Gideon on finishing the marathon, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you aren’t reading, and not just the results of Twitter polls that dictate Elon Musk’s finances like I am, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Priyanka Aribindi: I am Priyanka Aribindi.


[together] And go to hell, daylight savings!


Priyanka Aribindi: I have no idea what time it is. I’m in like 15 different time zones. No clue. This isn’t helping.


Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, truly a nightmare. Let’s end daylight savings. This will be our legacy.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m down for it.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and myself. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.