In This Episode
- On Saturday, four Republican-led states will pull out of the federal government’s pandemic-related unemployment benefits program early. Congress hasn’t moved on the wage issue at all, either, with Senate GOP members this week blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act.
- An extreme drought is affecting the West, with the entirety of Oregon, California, Utah, and Nevada under drought conditions, along with parts of other states. Unfortunately, things are expected to heat up and dry out from here, with certain places in the Southwest facing temperatures as high as 120 degrees next week.
- Plus, we’re joined by comedian and actor Maz Jobrani for headlines: National Geographic says there’s a new ocean, Starbucks sees shortages of ingredients, and Kim Jong-Un’s body transformation.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, June 11th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the podcast, that’s also a hotly-anticipated single by Lorde.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, she didn’t release anything for four years. And when she did, it was a news podcast.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Heads up, should have told you earlier we are Lorde.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I hope you missed us.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, an overview of the historic mega drought in America’s West and Southwest and how it speaks to climate catastrophe. Plus, we’ll have headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest, and it’s a doozy. So tomorrow, four states will be pulling out of the federal government’s pandemic-related unemployment benefits program early. That program gave recipients $300 a week on top of what was available in each state. Those states are Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri. And they join a bunch of other Republican-led states in taking away that important income at a time when a lot of jobs are still not available and high-paying jobs are even less available. The American Rescue Plan that passed in March was supposed to be available to those who needed it until at least Labor Day of this year, but because of the unemployment benefits ending early, upwards of four million jobless Americans are going to be left holding the bag this summer.
Gideon Resnick: Ugh. Just wait it out. It’s just a few more months. So to that point, why would Republicans want to force potential voters—the people who live in their states—into low-paying jobs and likely further into poverty when the federal government is literally trying to hand them a win here?
Akilah Hughes: I mean, to answer that, we have to reframe the question. So why would Republican governors want to gift rich CEOs an entire class of underpaid workers? Because these companies cannot attract anyone with their starvation wages, they’re saying: OK, well, let’s give them no other option. And the thing is, there is another option to get people to go back to work. So The Washington Post had a great article about several businesses who found the workers they needed by paying $15 per hour or more to staff up. In some cases, that’s more than double what they first offered.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and where are the places that we’re talking about here?
Akilah Hughes: So in Pittsburgh, there’s this place called Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor. They told the Post that they had absolutely no one apply for a super job for three months when it was posted at $7.25 an hour, which is just about how much I was making scooping ice cream in 2005. But when the owner finally of the starting wage to $15, he said more than 1,000 applications flooded in the next week. Then a restaurant group in North Carolina said ten people in one week applied for jobs when it up the wage to almost $24 an hour, compared to just 15 applications the previous four months. So those businesses are right. People don’t want to look for jobs that will have them working bad hours, being mistreated in a pandemic, and still needing a second job to survive.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it seems pretty straightforward when you put it like that. And then in regards to companies who have ponied up to pay workers in the neighborhood of what they deserve, what have been some of the other strategies to get people to submit applications.
Akilah Hughes: So beyond just paying more hourly, lots of companies have signing bonuses. A Walmart in Kentucky, was offering a $1,000 signing bonus if you continue to work there for an entire month. But really, this entire situation just illustrates how stagnant wages continue to be in the U.S. and how expensive things like child care, aftercare, etc., can be, and how leaving the house again really isn’t going to be cheap for any of us. But one other wrinkle is that the states that have the lowest COVID vaccination rates are the majority of states rushing to force people back to work without masks. So logic would dictate that people aren’t lazy, they simply just don’t want to risk their lives and the lives of their family members to continue to be poor so that the Waltons can get another boat.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they have plenty. And then there is the Congress aspect of all of this.
Akilah Hughes: Right. So our useless Congress hasn’t moved on this wage issue at all. And in fact, this week, Senate GOP members blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have specifically targeted wage discrimination that affects women. So they hate us for really all. But progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal said, quote “I really believe if we don’t get this work done across the board, not only will the president’s legacy be in peril, but our majority will be in peril.” So if you’re depending on these increased unemployment benefits, will have a link in our show notes so that you can check and see if and when your state plans to end them prior to the set end date. We’ll let you know if anything good comes out of this. But let’s turn now to a story about something else America is lacking: water.
[clip of Jeff Beradelli] Extraordinary drought across the West. The worst we have ever seen. And so we are setting ourselves up for, unfortunately, probably a catastrophic fire season. You can see how just, how dry it is across the West.
Akilah Hughes: That was CBS News meteorologist Jeff Beradelli summing up the terrifying reality for a big swath of the country. It is yet another example of climate change dramatically impacting our lives right now, not far off in the future. So Gideon take us through what else we know.
[clip of Jeff Beradelli] Yeah, it is pretty catastrophic, honestly, and kind of weirdly being underplayed in some cases. As of yesterday, four entire states are under drought conditions. That’s Oregon, California, Utah and Nevada. Overall, something like 88% of the entire western U.S. is facing drought conditions, many of which are the most extreme part of the scale that exists for these things. And this is creating an extreme wildfire risk and impacting water supply to the point that, as NPR put it, the past can’t even be used as a metric for how to manage water systems in the future.
Akilah Hughes: Well, there are a lot of data points out there showing how dire it is right now. And we’re still only in the early part of the summer.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right. So, for example, if you look at the Colorado River system, it brings water to something like 40 million people. But Lake Mead on the Colorado River is the largest reservoir in the country, and it has the lowest reported water levels in history at the moment. That is just crazy. Then in California, most of the state’s mountain snow melted away late last month and without something to keep the soil moist, then it’s one less thing to stop bigger fire growth if and when that happens. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, also declared a drought emergency in 41 of the state’s 58 counties. But Akilah for one more way to illustrate how dry it’s gotten—this is truly insane—there is quite literally a plan to suck up a bunch of salmon in California and put them in trucks and take them to the San Francisco Bay as a way to help them survive severe drought.
Akilah Hughes: So they’re putting fish on a road trip. All right. Well, is it at least supposed to cool off any time soon?
Gideon Resnick: I honestly apologize for being the real bearer of bad news today, but no. In fact, the opposite. There is a forecast right now that certain places in the Southwest are going to hit a balmy 120 degrees next week. Specifically, Phoenix could hit 115 at the start of next week, which would be tying a record in the city. And all of this is likely going to just exacerbate the record droughts and make the potential for an extreme fire season higher. That’s what scientists are saying for now. And I think it’s safe to say we are unfortunately going to see a lot of records in our lifetime and not the good kind.
Akilah Hughes: Man. Millennial’s really, we really got it. [laughs] We really got in here right on time.
Gideon Resnick: Got it bad.
Akilah Hughes: Well, climate change affecting how much water once flowed through these areas, what plans are there to upgrade America’s infrastructure so that there are better ways to store and use the water that we actually do have?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, it is maybe the important issue for Biden’s infrastructure bill and one reason why Democrats keep pressuring the White House to commit to the climate standards they discussed, as we mentioned yesterday. But there’s also a new development on that. So The Washington Post reported that Al Gore personally called President Biden last month to insist that these climate initiatives be included in any deal that is reached. There is about one trillion in the package for things like electric vehicles, clean energy tax credits, a green jobs program and more. But there is pretty significant concern that scaling back to get bipartisan support would just kill all that in a time where it’s desperately needed. And Biden is also going to face pressure and have to apply it himself on the international front. He’s poised to be discussing global efforts on climate change at a G7 meeting with world leaders in Europe through next week. Because what’s happening in America’s West is really just one example of how bad it is around the world. On Monday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere was at its highest level in literally more than four million years, which I can only laugh at because it’s patently absurd. So needless to say, it’s all very head spinning and truly, truly nothing could be more important. But that is the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. And while the planet is still here, coming up, we’ll have a special guest for headlines, comedian Maz Jobrani. He joins us after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: [ad break]
Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: Today, we have a very special guest, comedian and actor, Maz Jobrani, welcome to WAD squad. Thank you so much for doing this.
Maz Jobrani: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Akilah Hughes: All right. Well, let’s get to some headlines. Gideon take it away.
Gideon Resnick: We are excited to have you, Maz. Robbing us of the stability we all need so badly right now, National Geographic just said there’s a new ocean which occupies the space around Antarctica. This announcement might seem like a tactic to show everyone who’s boss in the fast-moving world of maps, but the so-called Southern Ocean was first recognized over 20 years ago. There’s just been disagreement over whether it was really separate from the four original oceans that had the crazy idea to get together and form a planet. We’ve all been there. This week NatGeo said enough is enough, the Southern Ocean has its own ecology and current and it deserves our respect. This announcement brings the total number of oceans to five. We probably won’t get another update like this until National Geographic says there’s just one ocean, it’s boiling hot, and all of us are swimming in it.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you’re not wrong. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: It’s sad to say.
Maz Jobrani: I think the problem with, with this stuff, whenever, it’s like whenever scientists discover something new, like a new planet or they go, oh, it wasn’t a planet, oh, there’s a new ocean—this just adds to the cuckoo out there, who is going to say: see scientists are making it up as they go, so don’t get your vaccine because you’re going to get metal stuck to you because of this ocean.
Gideon Resnick: It’s true. Be careful what you’re saying, now linking these ideas—they might, the gears might start turning.
Akilah Hughes: You know, it’s honestly, it’s more clear than the people at the town hall talking about the keys stuck to their forehead at this point. [laughs] I think the ocean thing might really be a conspiracy that could take off.
Maz Jobrani: By the way, if there’s going to be a new ocean, they should name it Billy Ocean.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, love that. Frank. Frank is right there.
Gideon Resnick: That’s possible, too. Yeah.
Maz Jobrani: Also, on the subject of oceans, we’re seeing the destructive power of one of the most terrifying sea creatures: the green mermaid who invented Starbucks. Yes, the coffee chain and public bathroom corporation announced that its U.S. stores are dealing with massive supply shortages. What an American problem. Caffeine-deprived customers have been storming social media with complaints, not realizing that many of their favorite Starbucks drinks can be recreated just by dumping a can of Swiss Miss into a mug of hot, wet jolly ranchers. Starbucks’s confirmed that oat milk is affected and hasn’t given other specifics. But an internal memo revealed that 25 products are on temporary hold, including hazelnut syrup, coffee nut syrup and caramel drizzle. Oh! This is what happens when the Democrats win. I’m telling you.
Gideon Resnick: Take away your coffee
Maz Jobrani: Taking away your coffee.
Akilah Hughes: In Joe Biden’s America you’ve just got to drink it black like everyone else on earth. Well, my my condolences to the Starbucks contingent. But there is an update on the unrealistic standards we put on dictator’s bodies. So North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has apparently lost weight based on recent public appearances where his clothes seem to fit looser. And it’s not just that Kim changed his style after Gen Z decided skinny jeans were bad, there are real physical changes following Kim’s nearly one month-long absence from the public eye. And given how tightly controlled information is out of North Korea, intelligence agencies are reading into those changes to predict what Slim Jong-un could mean for the world. If Kim is losing weight due to illness, it could mean a shakeup in leadership and volatility might be around the corner. Anyway, this story is kind of bittersweet for me because the intelligence community has been silent about my fitness journey, even though they watch every single one of my Instagram stories. So what’s, what’s the deal?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s frankly rude. I mean, these NSA handlers, we get one compliment every now and again. You know, it’s wouldn’t hurt.
Akilah Hughes: I’m way hotter than Kim Jong-un. [laughs] Even now.
Maz Jobrani: So much easier when he’s not fit because you go un-fit. He’s un-fit.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] yeah, exactly. Now it’s like what’s the un?
Maz Jobrani: Now what are we going to do? Well, listen, the same bold thinker who once said he got COVID from wearing masks too much, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert is using his own brand of downhome science to reverse climate change. Here he is talking through his plan at a congressional hearing on Tuesday.
[clip of TX Rep. Louie Gohmert] I was informed by the past director of NASA that they have found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly and so is the earth’s orbit around the sun. We know there’s been significant solar flare activity. And so is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the Sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate.
Maz Jobrani: I think he might have watched that Superman. I don’t know if it was 1 or 2 when Lois Lane, I think dies and then Superman goes in the space and he goes really fast and the earth starts going backwards.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, yup. He’s describing that plot. He had the Wikipedia page in front of him. [laughs]
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. He’s like: because then maybe someone could fly up there and go backward in time [laughs] to stop climate change. Dammit.
Maz Jobrani: And by the way, how do these people get elected? I really—
Gideon Resnick: Saying stuff like this, I think. [laughs]
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, obviously. Super popular to be a moron these days.
Maz Jobrani: So to recap, Gohmert wants the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, whose responsibilities include yelling at teenagers for swimming in hot springs, to hit reroute on the moon! What Congressman Louis Neutron is really doing here is actually an attempt at conservative comedy. He’s implying that any attempt to solve climate change is stupid because the real cause of climate change is planets moving differently, which to be clear, no one at NASA believes.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. No one—
Maz Jobrani: Anyway, we’re laughing.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Exactly. I am, I am ashamed. I cannot believe this is what it’s come to. But I guess, you know, 2021: let’s get stupid.
Gideon Resnick: Beautiful time.
Akilah Hughes: Maz, thank you so much for joining us for this iteration of headlines. Is there anything you’d like to plug?
Maz Jobrani: Yeah, people should check me out on my podcast “Back to School with Maz Jobrani” and I’m on tour, so check me out on tour. It’s all at MazJobrani.com and all the social media is @Maz Jobrani. I basically monopolized ‘Maz Jobrani.’
Akilah Hughes: You have that at the [O on lock]. No one else. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Yes. All the websites.
Akilah Hughes: Don’t name your kid Maz. Don’t even worry about it.
Gideon Resnick: Nope. Too late.
Akilah Hughes: Well thank you so much for being here.
Maz Jobrani: Thank you guys for having me. It was fun.
Akilah Hughes: And those are the headlines.
Akilah Hughes: That is it for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, enjoy some hot, wet, jolly ranchers, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: Oh my god. And if you’re not reading, and not just products that are still available on Starbucks menus 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 welcome to Earth New Ocean!
Akilah Hughes: Congratulations. Welcome. Sorry about all the pandemic and stuff.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we wish it were nicer and more hospitable in a lot of ways. We apologize.
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.