In This Episode
- OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached a deal where 15 states agreed to drop their opposition to the company’s bankruptcy plan in exchange for concessions from the Sackler family. The move has paved the way for the company to settle with plaintiffs, who blame Purdue for its role in the country’s opioid crisis, for roughly $4.5 billion.
- The world’s known COVID deaths just passed 4 million by one count, and many countries are still seeing rises in cases and hospitalizations due to the Delta variant and vaccine inequity. Meanwhile in the U.S., White House officials said that nearly 100 percent of recent COVID deaths have been among those who are unvaccinated.
- And in headlines: Biden announced an end-date for U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, two Haitian Americans are arrested for the assassination of President Moïse, and Michael Avenatti was sentenced for attempting to extort $20 million from Nike.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, July 9th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the podcast that was playing out of every spaceship in the new U.S. intelligence report on spaceships.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, don’t ask us how they got it, but the aliens are apparently in love with WAD.
Gideon Resnick: They are real, they are smart, and they are obsessed with daily news.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I heard that they sing along to the headlines jingle.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, a vaccine tailored to the Delta variant may be on the way, plus we will have headlines. But first, the latest:
[clip of MA AG Maura Healey] The Sacklers will be permanently banned from the opioid business. Purdue Pharma will cease to exist. And most importantly, the public will witness the most significant disclosure in any case ever.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so that is Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announcing what is considered a big victory for victims and their families of the opioid crisis. But Akilah, tell us more about this.
Akilah Hughes: All right. So it’s a doozy. Late Wednesday night, 15 states reached an agreement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and the company’s been sued repeatedly for its contribution to the opioid crisis, as we all know. But this new agreement paves the way for a settlement of at least 4.5 billion with a B dollars. And this is coming on the heels of Johnson & Johnson settlement with New York State two weeks ago for $230 million dollars re: opioids. And yes, wow is correct.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I mean, this is obviously good news, or better news than receiving nothing for the damage that has been caused here. But it is a settlement. So what then are the terms of this agreement?
Akilah Hughes: All right. So for $4.5 billion, Purdue Pharma has made sure that all of the states involved will drop their opposition to the company’s bankruptcy plan. And in return, Purdue will release millions of documents to those states and will also promise an additional %50 million dollars from members of the Sackler family, the company’s owners. And to be clear, this still does nothing to bring back the more than 500,000 Americans who have died in the last two decades from prescription and illegal opioid overdoses. More than 3,000 plaintiffs are part of the case against Purdue. So rough math, if each plaintiff got an equal share, they’d be walking away with $1.5 million. And just one more thing on the documents tip: there are an estimated 33 million documents spanning the past 20 years, including emails, legal correspondence and more, that the plaintiffs will be entitled to seeing. So the public scrutiny of that will certainly be something to pay attention to.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, definitely. And then on the flip side of this, the opioid epidemic is still happening as we speak. So what does that mean for people who are currently suffering at the moment?
Akilah Hughes: You’re right. I mean, overdose rates are up in many parts of the country. In Montgomery County, Maryland, fatal overdoses are up 33% as compared to 2020. In D.C., fatal overdoses is 46% between 2019 and 2020. And according to the CDC, opioid deaths spiked during the pandemic. And they say that over 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in May 2020, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a 12-month period. So, you know, we’re going to keep following this crisis as other large corporations have their day in court. But let’s turn now to another story. The new Delta variant of COVID has really impacted COVID on a global level. And the latest numbers of those sick and deceased are not encouraging. So where do we stand, Gideon?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this is a little bit of an addendum to the conversation we were having with Dr. Abdul El-Sayed earlier this week. But in just the last couple of days, we saw another grim milestone yesterday: in fact, a tally of the world’s known COVID deaths past four million. That is according to Johns Hopkins University and is considered a likely undercount. Over all, the daily numbers in the U.S. and around the world are declining in terms of deaths, but there are many countries where cases and hospitalizations are once again on the rise. The Director General of the World Health Organization said earlier this week that’s because of, quote “fast moving variants and shocking inequity in vaccination.” Now, the main variant being talked about here is Delta. It has been detected in over 100 countries, including the highly-vaccinated ones like the United States.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that is not very encouraging. And where are we seeing very clear examples of these worsening conditions you’re talking about?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy when you lay them all out like this. But, you know, for one thing, yesterday, Olympic organizers decided that spectators are going to be banned from most events, for something that is set to start in, uh, two weeks’ time!
Akilah Hughes: Yikes.
Gideon Resnick: This has been a slow-moving red light to me at least. It’s like: Hey—
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that’s for sure. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Maybe, maybe not.
Akilah Hughes: Maybe just don’t do it.
Gideon Resnick: Maybe. And that follows the state of emergency that was announced in Tokyo that we covered before. Also WHO said that Africa had its, quote “worst pandemic week ever” this past week, with 16 different countries seeing rises in infections. Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, is also experiencing a Delta-driven surge that has led to COVID deaths doubling over the course of just two days this week. And then even when you look at places that have higher levels of vaccinations like the U.K., which is set to likely get rid of all of their COVID restrictions later in the month, a recent study found that cases have quadrupled there since early June, driven mostly by Delta.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so if you can get a shot, please get one.
Gideon Resnick: Yes.
Akilah Hughes: But, for the U.S., there was another CDC briefing on all of this yesterday.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. So let’s hear director Dr. Rochelle Walensky:
[clip of CDC Dir. Dr. Rochelle Walensky] On the one hand, we have seen the successes of our vaccination program over the last eight months, with cases, hospitalizations and deaths far lower than the peaks we saw in January. And yet, on the other hand, we are starting to see some new and concerning trends. Simply put, in areas of low vaccination coverage, cases and hospitalizations are up.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, to state the obvious and what she’s saying there, what we know now is that people who are vaccinated are largely protected against the Delta variant, which is great, and people who are not, are not. Simply put. To put a finer point on that, White House officials also said that nearly 100% of recent COVID deaths have been among those who are unvaccinated. And then a recent study published in Nature yesterday found that yet again, people who had two shots of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer had good protection against this variant. But if you had just one shot alone, that, quote “barely” does the job because the variant can evade some antibodies.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, I do not like the word ‘barely’ there. But we also know that vaccine makers are preparing for a possible booster shot situation or even altered versions of their existing vaccines. So what’s the latest there?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this is kind of developing. But yesterday, Pfizer said that they are going to ask for clearance soon to distribute that possible booster shot. And also that in August, the company is going to start clinical trials for a version of the vaccine that currently exists that better targets Delta. So they didn’t provide the data on this, but they said that tested against other strains, getting a booster shot six months after receiving the second dose actually made antibody levels up to 10 times higher, which is a lot. Without one, though the vaccine’s effectiveness, they said, could begin to wane six months after that second dose. In any case, we’ll keep you up to speed on how all of this is going and what future shots may or may not look like. But that is the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, WAD squad, and today we’re doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created chaos in our world. Marijuana legalization has had an unexpected side effect: it’s putting loyal drug-sniffing dogs out of business. Hello. Last month, the police department in New Mexico announced that their K-9 dog was retiring after the state legalized weed. That followed an announcement by Virginia State Police that they had retired 13 dogs for the same reason. The dogs can detect other drugs, but the issue is that they can’t exactly communicate which one they found and that makes it hard for police to establish probable cause for a search in places where weed is legal. Obviously, more states are going to approve recreational pot so this trend will continue and there’s a question of where all the dogs will go. So for the issue of out-of-work drug sniffing dogs, here’s the solution:
Gideon Resnick: We need to also retire a bunch of police officers and send them to the Caribbean to make a hotel where the retired dogs can live. The idea of a hotel for dogs is tried and true. It has been proven by a movie that came out in 2009 that none of us here or anyone listening to this podcast has ever seen.
Akilah Hughes: That’s a fact.
Gideon Resnick: If anyone deserves to retire at a beachside resort, it is drug-sniffing dogs who were tricked using a series of treats, into becoming tools of the law. Now, many of them must have psychological problems for putting people behind bars, or if not, they have psychological problems from listening to Rush Limbaugh all the time in the squad car. Both these problems can be solved by letting them drink dog food daiquiris while being waited on by lots of sun-screened cops. The dog hotel might seem very expensive, but trust me, it is cheaper than our militarized police force, which is driving the equivalent of 1,000 armored luxury dog hotels on our streets every single day. I’ve done the math. With the officers getting deep into dog hospitality, cities in the US can create community-based public safety solutions, and dogs can go back to normal things like smelling asses and eating asses. Listen, nobody is allowed to do drugs at the hotel because sadly the dogs will be completely unchill about it. The vibe will be strictly Kahlua and Cuban cigars. Also, I get to go there—just a side note—and I get to be friends with all the dogs.
Akilah Hughes: Wow, Gideon, I love that. I think that is the only true solution. And in fact, that was The Solution. So if you’re a police dog, I hope that you can, you know, get some support for this. We’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: President Biden announced yesterday that the military will complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of next month. In his speech, Biden defended the move by saying the US’s mission to contain terrorism has already been accomplished and that it was up to the Afghans to defend their country against the Taliban now. The US military has already been rapidly withdrawing troops despite a recent increase in Taliban attacks on Afghan forces. In other White House news, Vice President Kamala Harris announced the administration’s $25 million expansion of the Democratic National Committee’s voting rights program. Under the “I Will Vote” initiative, the DNC says the money will be used to fund voter education and protection efforts and also increase voting accessibility.
Akilah Hughes: The investigation into the assassination of Haiti’s president revealed that two Haitian Americans have been arrested, one of whom is a former bodyguard at the Canadian embassy in Port au Prince. As of recording, a total of six people have been arrested, while four suspects were killed in a police gunfight and two others are missing. Reports from Haitian officials said that the perpetrators were foreigners who spoke Spanish or English and did not identify a motive for the killing, only stating that it was carried out by a, quote “highly-trained and heavily-armed group.” It’s still unclear who will succeed Moise since the Supreme Court Chief Justice, who would have been next in line to office, recently died from COVID, and interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph was supposed to be replaced by Ariel Henry, a neurosurgeon who is named prime minister by Moise just one day before the untimely assassination. With increasing gang violence and uncertainty with Haiti’s security forces, it’s possible that foreign intervention with regular U.N. military presence in Haiti will become reality.
Gideon Resnick: Michael Avenatti did some serious damage yesterday to the perception of his trade, lawyer but seriously, seriously addicted to being on TV. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for attempting to extort more than 20 million dollars from Nike back in 2019. Avenatti had claimed that he had evidence of criminal conduct at Nike, but could be paid to stay quiet. Sentencing definitely marks a low moment for Avenatti, the former lawyer for Stormy Daniels, who at one point was also a presidential hopeful—ah, memories beautiful—especially for anyone who was hoping their president would be a big Gucci shoe that is mad all the time. Avenatti still hasn’t hit bottom yet. He continues to face multiple legal battles, including charges that he defrauded clients in California and embezzled money from Daniels.
Akilah Hughes: Ah man, Gucci shoe prez. Uh, all right. Also in legal news, there’s an update on the Michael Avenatti of concerts, Fyre Fest, the famously disappointing music festival is staying consistent by letting down its ticket holders, again. Those people will probably be getting paid back way less than they expected after winning a class action lawsuit. The bankruptcy trustee representing Fyre Fest said in newly-published court documents that he was only able to secure $300,000 of the $7 million creditors claimed they’re owned. [laughs] I’m sorry, it’s so bad. Ticket holders who paid between $1,000 and $12,000 dollars to attend the tropical Stanford Prison Experiment won back payments over $7,000, but given the limited funds, it’s now proposed that they’ll get less than $300 each. You can buy a lot of cheese sandwiches with that, though.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, you definitely can. That’s, that’s the good outcome.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, at least they got the pet the pigs before they got bit by them. And those are the headlines. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, open a hotel for drug dogs, and tell your friends to listen/
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just government reports on aliens like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon, Resnick.
[together] And stay off TV, lawyers!
Akilah Hughes: Unless you’re in Law and Order: SVU, we really don’t want to see it
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. Unless your name is Christopher Maloney or Mariska Hargitay, then you’re good.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.