In This Episode
- The entire island of Puerto Rico is without power after Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Sunday. More than 3 million people are in the dark, nearly five years to the day that Hurricane Maria struck.
- State officials in Alabama said they are not ready to use “nitrogen hypoxia” to execute people on death row – for now. They had planned to execute an inmate this week using the new and untested method, but will instead opt for lethal injection.
- And in headlines: world leaders arrive in London for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, Virginia put out new school guidelines targeting trans students, and a federal judge appointed a special master to review the documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago.
- Bad Bunny: El Apagón – Aquí Vive Gente (Official Video) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TCX_Aqzoo4
- The Atlantic: “Dead to Rights: What did the state of Alabama do to Joe Nathan James in the three hours before his execution?” – https://tinyurl.com/mr3x2dsh
- Vote Save America: Fuck Bans Action Plan – https://votesaveamerica.com/roe/
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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, September 19th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice and this is What A Day, recorded very quietly today from the far back row of the Queen of England’s funeral.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, at Black funerals, they have food afterwards. I don’t know if this one has any fried chicken, but it would be very useful right about now.
Josie Duffy Rice: I actually asked the queen before she died what food we would be having.
Tre’vell Anderson: What did she say?
Josie Duffy Rice: Beans on toast. [laughing] [music break] On today’s show, world leaders gather in London to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth the second. Plus, Virginia reverses course on protections for trans students.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first, as of our recording Sunday night, the entire island of Puerto Rico is without power after Hurricane Fiona, a category one storm made landfall yesterday afternoon. That’s left over 3 million people literally in the dark. And in response, President Biden declared a state of emergency on the island.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s really devastating to see what’s happening already. And obviously more things will happen over the next couple of days. And we knew this storm would have major impacts. The National Hurricane Center said it could trigger life threatening flash flooding and mudslides. In addition to the power being out, what else are people in Puerto Rico experiencing?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So I should say first that it’s not just people in Puerto Rico who’ve been impacted by Hurricane Fiona. Right. Other parts of the Caribbean are dealing with the impact of the storm. For example, in the Dominican Republic, where some areas might see up to 12 inches of rain, there was a landslide at an apartment complex Saturday night. As of now, there are no reports of injuries, thankfully. Um. And then in Guadeloupe, for those who’ve never heard of Guadeloupe, it is a collection of islands controlled by France in you know the Atlantic Ocean. In Guadeloupe, at least one person has died as a result of the hurricane. But we’re focusing on Puerto Rico right now, not just because of the island wide power outage, because of which, by the way, schools and government buildings are closed today. We’re zeroing in on Puerto Rico because this week, Tuesday, to be exact, marks the five year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.
Josie Duffy Rice: Can’t believe it’s been five years. For those who don’t remember, over 3000 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria back in 2017.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah.
Josie Duffy Rice: The storm was the deadliest natural disaster on U.S. territory in 100 years, and most of those deaths were attributed to the massive power outage that interrupted medical care and other services.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. You know, Hurricane Maria, it triggered the world’s second longest blackout. In addition to those deaths that you mentioned, the storm caused more than $90 billion dollars in damage, much of which has not yet been rebuilt. In fact, the government has completed only 21% of the nearly 6000 official post-hurricane repair projects. And in a handful of the island’s almost 80 municipalities, not a single project has begun. And so, as you might imagine, Josie, even though Hurricane Fiona is a significantly less powerful storm than Maria was, Puerto Rico’s functional but fragile power grid was and is a persisting point of vulnerability for the island. And I didn’t even mention the economic and socio political issues the territory is navigating post Maria. Side note here if you are interested in knowing more about what life is like for Puerto Ricans on the island. Bad Bunny. Yes, we all know who Bad Bunny is. That one. He’s got something for you. Late last week, he released a music video for his song El Apagón, which means the blackout. Attached to the video is a short documentary called Aquí Vive Gente or People Live Here. That kind of sheds light on the everyday reality for folks there, including the fragile power grid. We’ll put a link to that in our show notes.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. And I feel like it’s important to reiterate something that you said, Tre’vell, which is this is a less powerful storm than Maria but once something like Maria hits infrastructure, it makes everything that come after it so much worse. Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Josie Duffy Rice: And so we’re seeing that in Puerto Rico, and we’re going to see that more and more.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely.
Josie Duffy Rice: You know, over the next few years as this becomes more common.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. We should also note that, you know, Puerto Rico is a, you know, territory of the United States.
Josie Duffy Rice: Correct. Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, that is part of our country.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: I know some folks’ public school education might not have gotten to that point of the geography lesson.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: But it is part of the U.S. and they don’t have voting rights. They cannot participate in our elections, which might have something to do with the fact that, you know, the infrastructure still isn’t rebuilt after Maria. But, you know, we could do a whole separate episode on that in the meantime.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right. Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: We will keep following the story of Hurricane Fiona. It’s currently forecast to become even worse, unfortunately, perhaps a category three or higher in a day or two as it moves.
Josie Duffy Rice: Some other news that we’re following. The state of Alabama has concluded they are not ready to use what they call nitrogen hypoxia as a way of executing people on death row, at least for now. They planned to execute death row inmate Alan Miller this week using the new and untested method but will instead opt for lethal injection.
Tre’vell Anderson: Nitrogen hypoxia.
Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm.
Tre’vell Anderson: Sounds bad.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: But Josie. Let’s start with what exactly is nitrogen hypoxia?
Josie Duffy Rice: Nitrogen hypoxia is like a fancy scientific way of describing what is basically a method of killing a person by suffocation. It replaces the air that a condemned inmate breathes with 100% nitrogen. So no more oxygen, 100% nitrogen. So they basically die because they can’t breathe, their organs shut down, etc., and they essentially suffocate to death.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yikes. That sounds painful.
Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm hmm.
Tre’vell Anderson: We’re talking about Alabama here. Has Alabama or any other state, for that matter, ever executed anyone this way?
Josie Duffy Rice: No, they have not.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. All right. We love a simple answer. Okay. So answer this for me.
Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm hmm.
Tre’vell Anderson: Is this process legal?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So it is legal. In fact, it’s been legal in Alabama for some time and it’s also legal in Mississippi and Oklahoma. But it’s only now becoming a possibility because of the continued controversy surrounding lethal injection.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. Right. So now I know we talked about this on the show before, but could you remind us a bit of what’s going on there?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So basically, lethal injection requires a drug cocktail. And that drug cocktail includes drugs that states are having a harder and harder time getting.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm.
Josie Duffy Rice: There are a few reasons for that. Primarily though, drug companies recognize that selling these drugs to states so that they could kill people wasn’t great for the image. So they stopped. And there’s just been more pushback against lethal injection as a, quote, “humane method of execution”, including increasing pushback against the idea that it’s painless. Studies have shown that it, in fact, can be extraordinarily painful and often leads to a drawn out, excruciating death for people on death row. There was an incredible, incredible piece about this by Liz Breunig in the Atlantic recently where she actually went to the autopsy for Joe Nathan James Jr. who was executed by the state of Alabama in July. That execution was reportedly the longest in the 40 year history of the modern death penalty in America. It reportedly took about 3 hours for him to die.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Josie Duffy Rice: Even though the state has been less than forthcoming about what happened there. Breunig called it, quote, “lengthy and painful”. And one doctor who also attended the autopsy said Alabama executioners were, quote, “unqualified for the task in a most dramatic way”.
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, my God. That sounds absolutely horrible. 3 hours. Are you kidding me?
Josie Duffy Rice: 3 hours. Yes.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Josie Duffy Rice: Unbelievable. So as states have found it harder and harder to get these drugs, they’ve turned to other methods of execution. And some states, they’ve gone back to the electric chair. In South Carolina, they’ve talked about bringing back the firing squad.
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh my god.
Josie Duffy Rice: And in Alabama, they now want to essentially suffocate a person to death.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. So I’m going to need South Carolina to calm it down.
Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. Somebody call up Lindsey Graham and arrested him and tell him to sit down real quick. Okay. The firing squad. Come on, now.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, the firing squad.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s absurd. So, given how difficult it is to get these drugs, to make the cocktail, like you mentioned, and that nitrogen hypoxia is legal in Alabama, why aren’t they just going to execute Alan Miller in that way?
Josie Duffy Rice: Well, the method is completely untested for one thing. No one has been executed this way. We don’t know how painful it is, how long it’ll take or anything else about it. And get this Tre’vell, state officials in Alabama also couldn’t explain how they were going to protect execution witnesses if they used nitrogen on an inmate.
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh my god.
Josie Duffy Rice: In other words, they were like, if we use this method, like, maybe we’ll accidentally kill other people in the room.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yikes.
Josie Duffy Rice: Because we don’t know what we’re doing.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yikes. And somebody thought this was a good idea.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Lots of people did, in fact, just shocking. Truly shocking. The bottom line here is that there really is no humane way to kill someone.
Tre’vell Anderson: Right.
Josie Duffy Rice: Even if and maybe especially if the state is doing the killing. So for now, they plan to use lethal injection going forward, despite the horrible outcome in the July execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. The obvious solution, which is to stop executing people, has been rejected by the state of Alabama.
Tre’vell Anderson: Of course it has.
Josie Duffy Rice: So that is the latest for now. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Today is the state funeral for Queen Elizabeth the second. And since it is one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in recent memory, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said the city is faced with an unprecedented security challenge. About 10,000 police officers will be on duty and many foreign dignitaries will have to share a shuttle bus to the funeral. I’m imagining Olav Scholz and Emmanuel Macron connecting over some complimentary Dasanis. Maybe they’ll splurge and go Evian. Who knows?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, totally.
Tre’vell Anderson: However, President Joe Biden got the okay to roll up in his own armored vehicle. Meanwhile, over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of mourners waited hours for a chance to see the queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall. Members of the royal family and other VIPs, again, like Joe Biden, got to skip the queue. But if there’s one thing that Brits love to do, it is waiting in line. I am told one person who wanted to wait his turn was none other than British soccer excuse me, football legend David Beckham. Mr. Bend it like Beckham, if you know what I’m saying. Beckham was reportedly in line for 13 hours Josie.
Josie Duffy Rice: That’s an remarkably long time to see a coffin.
Tre’vell Anderson: A box.
Josie Duffy Rice: Virginia’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, put out new guidelines for schools on Friday, taking aim at trans students and reversing previous rules put in place to protect them. Under the new policy, trans kids will not be allowed to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, and teachers will not be allowed to refer to a student by their chosen name or pronoun unless they have written permission from their parents.
Tre’vell Anderson: Ugh.
Josie Duffy Rice: Outrageous. The new guidance also states that teachers cannot, quote unquote, “conceal any information about a student’s gender identity from their parents”, meaning that teachers could be forced to out trans students to their families. The new rules will likely be challenged in court, but as of right now, all of Virginia’s school districts must adopt some version of these new policies by the end of next month. And to get an idea of how many students this will impact, according to the UCLA Williams Institute, which studies gender identity and law. Over 6000 teens in the state identify as trans.
Tre’vell Anderson: This is absurd.
Josie Duffy Rice: Absurd.
Tre’vell Anderson: For obvious reasons, I hope that they’re obvious.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: For the folks listening. Um. But I’m really going to need Glenn Youngkin, who every time we mention on this show, may I add, it’s for some foolishness.
Josie Duffy Rice: Is doing something so messy.
Tre’vell Anderson: It just doesn’t even make any sense. He should talk to somebody about the fact that the only time we bring up his name is when he is trying to take somebody’s rights away. Last week, a federal judge appointed Judge Raymond Dearie to serve as the special master to review documents seized by the FBI at former President Trump’s home last month. We talked about Dearie and his background on our show from September 13th. But the Justice Department is not on board with Dearie reviewing all of the documents. On Friday, the DOJ asked an appeals court if the review could exclude some of the classified materials taken from Mar-a-Lago. The department wrote in a court filing that if the Special Master had access to everything, it would cause, quote, “the most serious and immediate harm to the government and the public”. Which I don’t know what that means, but it’s just making this entire situation a whole lot more complicated and chaotic to me.
Josie Duffy Rice: A common theme is emerging among Republican candidates in Pennsylvania, and that theme is residency in New Jersey. Senate candidate and exasperated grocery shopper and quack Doctor Oz had to defend himself all summer against claims that he predominantly lives in the Garden State, and he hasn’t made it easy for himself since he’s also recorded campaign ads from his mansion in New Jersey. The latest guy to wash up from the Jersey shore is Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano. Mastriano was born and raised in New Jersey, and late last week, the New Jersey Globe reported he was registered to vote there until ready for it, 2021.
Tre’vell Anderson: Of course.
Josie Duffy Rice: Which you all may recall was actually not that long ago, pretty recent. Now, Mastriano’s situation is a little easier to defend than Oz’s. He did register to vote in Pennsylvania when he moved there in 2012. And the most likely scenario is that he didn’t tell the Jersey election board to unregister him when he left the state. What does that sound like to you? Oh, normal. But Republicans would call that voter fraud when you’re registered to vote in two different states.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, they would.
Josie Duffy Rice: Even though that happens, as we can see here. So the audacity. Anyway, still, there may be an opening for Josh Shapiro, Mastriano’s Democratic opponent, to use this new information against him. And we’d recommend that Shapiro take notes from Oz’s Democratic opponent, John Fetterman, who enlisted Jersey Shore star Snooki to troll Oz with this cameo video.
[clip of Nicole Snooki] Hey, Mehmet! This is Nicole Snooki. Personally, I don’t know why anyone would want to leave Jersey. But I want to say best of luck to you. And don’t worry because you’ll be back home in Jersey soon. This is only temporary. [kiss sound]
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s so good. I love it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Josie Duffy Rice: Ugh, it’s beautiful.
Tre’vell Anderson: This is top tier–
Josie Duffy Rice: Uh huh.
Tre’vell Anderson: –Shade.
Josie Duffy Rice: It is.
Tre’vell Anderson: Top tier–
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s top tier shade.
Tre’vell Anderson: –campaigning.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: Love this.
Josie Duffy Rice: Love it. And to go through Cameo, I mean, [laughter] I can’t get over how good this is. It’s just so good.
Tre’vell Anderson: This is amazing. Okay, John Fetterman, you deserve to be elected just for that alone. Okay?
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s true.
Tre’vell Anderson: After a long and passionate campaign by the likes of Doja Cat, Dolly Parton, and our own Jon Lovett, only the first two of whom were getting paid millions of dollars. Mexican pizza is finally back at Taco Bell. The final boss of fusion food returned as a permanent menu item last Friday. Joining the chorus of haters who consider Mexican pizza to be little more than a weird tostada was Pizza Hut, which tweeted at Taco Bell late last week that they were introducing their own, quote unquote, “Italian taco”, which was really just a piece of pizza folded in half like we used to do back in the day. Pizza Hut later deleted the tweet. But that doesn’t mean they lost this fight. The true losers here are the children who will grow up in a world where Pizza Hut and Taco Bell are the stewards of Italian and Mexican culture. I also love that I say Italian and not Italian.
Josie Duffy Rice: I love the Italian. I love it. It’s perfect. Never change.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’ll do my best. Thank you so much. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. The first vote by mail ballots are hitting mailboxes and the earliest in-person voting starts this week.
Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my gosh.
Tre’vell Anderson: So if you don’t know how you’ll vote, this is the week to get your shit together. We’re not playing games y’all.
Josie Duffy Rice: Come on.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yes.
Tre’vell Anderson: Visit VoteSaveAmerica.com/everylastvote to make your plan. Remind everyone you know to do the same and make a donation to the every last vote fund. Those contributions go directly to help organizers and volunteers in key swing states mobilize communities of color that are routinely targeted by voter suppression tactics. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, buy a cameo from Snooki and tell your friends to listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just Twitter fights between fast food companies like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
[spoken together] And take a Dasani for the road, President Macron.
Josie Duffy Rice: You need one.
Tre’vell Anderson: Right. He needs a goodie bag to take home with him.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. They won’t charge you probably. [laugh] [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.