In This Episode
- The second impeachment trial began yesterday, with Senators voting 56 to 44 to uphold the trial as constitutional and move forward. House managers presented video of the siege on the Capitol paired with Trump’s inflammatory speech to rally-goers beforehand, while Trump’s lawyers tried and failed to frame the proceedings as a “slippery slope.”
- A team from the World Health Organization has been in China investigating the origins of the coronavirus and they released preliminary findings yesterday. One prominent conspiracy theory they ruled out was the idea that the virus emanated from a Chinese lab.
- And in headlines: hate crimes committed against Asian-Americans in the US are skyrocketing, the CEO of Riot Games faces a lawsuit for gender discrimination and misconduct, and the world’s first 3D printed T-bone steak.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, February 10th, I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick and this is What A Day, the only news podcast where both hosts have cat face filters on at all times.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s not really that bad except for when my dog sees it and then attacks my computer.
Gideon Resnick: I’ve also been attacked through the computer by Fauci and, um, dangerous.
Akilah Hughes: You got to chill out.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, what a WHO team learned about the beginnings of the pandemic in China. Then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest and we’ll start with another impeachment news blast.
[Clip] [Sound Clip]
Gideon Resnick: Really, the creativity of this is . . . admirable. God bless you, Charlotte. The second impeachment trial is officially underway. Yesterday, we heard four hours of opening arguments and both sides made their case on whether the Senate has the power to even hold the trial. And in the end, the senators decided that, yes, they do. In a vote of 56 to 44, with six Republicans joining the Democrats to proceed with the rest of the trial, which is going to continue today. But let’s back up for a second to recap yesterday. So the House managers who are acting as the prosecutors here were up first. Give us a sense of what they did with their time.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So they didn’t waste any time getting to the meat of the argument, which is that the insurrection was dangerous, deadly, an attack on the country and incited by Donald Trump. Representative Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, played a 13 minute video of the insurrection attempt as part of his opening statement. The video is available everywhere and we’re going to link to it in our show notes. But it starts with Trump speech where he repeated the big lie about how he won the election and then tells the mob that he has, quote, evidence, and tells them to march to the Capitol. There’s also graphic footage of the out-manned Capitol Police being overtaken by the insurrectionist at the gates. It is really upsetting and it honestly kind of reminds me of that montage in Ava DuVernay documentary, the 13th, which you may remember, juxtaposes the violence of Trump and what he was doing on the campaign trail with the historical context of, you know, the same kind of racist violence that happened before. So, yeah, pretty bad.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And it seemed like the senators in the room were also really paying attention to this presentation as well. They found it shocking too. Raskin also gave his own personal account of January 6th.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. And the attack came just a day after burying his young son. So Raskin’s daughter was also there at the Capitol that day and had to suffer the uncertainty and violence and fear of the insurrection. And he recounted how it impacted her. Here’s a clip.
Rep. Jamie Raskin: I told her how sorry I was, and I promised her that it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me. And you know what she said? She said, Dad, I don’t want to come back to the capital. Of all the terrible, brutal things I saw and I heard on that day, and since then, that one hit me the hardest. That and watching someone use an American flag pole, the flag still on it, to spear and pummel one of our police officers ruthlessly, mercilessly. Tortured by a pole, with a flag on it that he was defending with his very life. People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage, people’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack, an officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so it’s even more gruesome than most of us have even heard about.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Really, really terrible stuff. And then Trump’s team gives their rebuttal. What do we need to know about what they had to say here?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I mean, I really do hate to focus on style over substance, but it was one of the main takeaways of Trump’s defense yesterday. So his lawyer, Bruce Castor, who is most famous for refusing to prosecute Bill Cosby, gave a really winding and abstract opening argument about the, quote, extraordinary nature of senators and crime and passion. But even Alan Dershowitz, who was part of Trump’s legal team during his first impeachment, said that he had, quote, no idea what Castor was doing. Even Republican Senator Bill Cassidy told reporters that Trump’s team was, quote, disorganized, and that’s why he voted with Democrats yesterday, which was definitely unexpected. But in terms of actual substance, Castor and Trump’s other lawyer, David Schoen, eventually got to making an argument about the impeachment was partisan, a slippery slope and unconstitutional? Here’s a clip of that.
David Schoen: Let’s be perfectly clear. If you vote to proceed with this impeachment trial, future senators will recognize that you bought into a radical constitutional theory that departs clearly from the language of the Constitution itself and holds (and this is in their brief) that any civil officer, whoever dares to want to serve his or her country, must know that they will be subject to impeachment long after their service in office has ended, subject only to the political and cultural landscape of the day. It is in operation at any future time.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I don’t know what’s so bad about holding people accountable.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s setting a precedent. You know, if you did something wrong, you could be impeached later. Seems OK.
Akilah Hughes: Seems great.
Gideon Resnick: For the record also, most legal scholars disagree with Schoen’s legal interpretation. And in this particular case, Trump was impeached during his term by the House in January and has only been out of office for about three weeks. And this trial is only happening now because McConnell wanted it delayed.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, but he didn’t vote that it was OK to even hear it now so it doesn’t make a lot of sense. So anyway, we’ll have more on that as a trial goes on. But now let’s move on to our next story. A team from the World Health Organization has been in China investigating the origins of the coronavirus. They released their preliminary findings yesterday. Here’s a clip.
Peter Ben Embarek: The findings suggest that the laboratory incidence hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus into the human population.
Gideon Resnick: OK, so that was Danish scientist Peter Ben Embarek who led the scientific delegation. He was saying there that according to the team’s initial findings, they don’t believe the original outbreak that was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 emanated from a Chinese lab. So this comes after the team visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology last week. That lab reportedly specializes in studying coronaviruses in bats. And that’s part of the reason why in the Trump administration, there was a theory promoted without evidence that the virus had leaked from the institute. Instead, Embarek said the virus likely jumped from a bat to another animal then eventually to humans. Which is a theory that we’ve heard before, according to the AP. WHO also said that the virus had been circulating in Wuhan prior to its discovery at the seafood market.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, for sure. So that was the big headline from the announcement. But what else did we learn?
Gideon Resnick: So according to NBC News, Embarek said that Wuhan is not a natural environment for bats. So it’s unclear still how the virus was actually introduced into the city, even after all this time. Also, apparently, the team tested various animals across China and found no traces of the virus. Then the other really eyebrow-raising part of this is that the team didn’t rule out a theory that has been promoted by Chinese health authorities that the virus could have actually been imported on frozen food products. But not many scientists outside China have gotten behind that idea.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, which kind of gets us into some of the more complicated global politics in all of this.
Gideon Resnick: Complicated is right. So before this visit even happened, China was against letting this WHO team into the country and they have tried to shirk responsibility for mishandling the pandemic early on and have tried to stop important information from getting out about it. The head scientist of the Chinese team present at the news conference called for additional investigations into the origins in other countries. That’s another suggestion that it didn’t emanate from China. And just last week, per NPR, China’s foreign ministry called for an investigation into a U.S. military base where a conspiracy theory suggests the American military leaked the virus. So lots of ideas going around, say the least. A lot of misdirection here to protect a narrative and in some cases, actual punishments. That includes authorities in China sentencing a citizen journalist to four years in prison for reporting on the Wuhan outbreak and that a doctor was forced to sign a statement calling his initial warnings about the virus a rumor. That doctor later died from COVID-19. And it’s been a year since his death and he’s been memorialized as a whistleblower in all of this.
Akilah Hughes: Right. And some of the analysis of this press conference from the World Health Organization team has been calling it a major win for China in their PR narrative. So what can we really expect next year?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it seems like the Biden administration is just going to wait until they hear more. A spokesperson for the State Department told NBC News that they want to see the full WHO report before making any further determinations. And while Biden has restored U.S. ties with the WHO, which were broken in the last administration, the relationship between the US and China on the pandemic is still rocky. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently criticized the country’s lack of transparency. And China’s clampdown on information early on also led to criticism of the WHO for being deferential to China and the story that they were trying to tell. So a continued investigation will not only be part of cracking the code to the pandemic, but also likely impact the relationship between the US and China going forward. No small stakes involved. More on that when it comes, but that’s latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about some upcoming Netflix/Obama family programing. Yesterday, former first lady Michelle Obama announced Waffles and Mochi, a cooking show starring two puppets, and Michelle herself as the owner of a whimsical supermarket. The show comes out on March 16th, and it will feature famous chefs and celebs from around the world. And it fits with Obama’s long time mission of empowering kids to lead healthier lives. The original title of the show was, quote, Listen to Your Vegetables and Eat Your Parents. Truly, that’s not a joke. But maybe that was a little too edgy for Netflix’s Kids. So Gideon, my question for you, do you think our former first lady and puppets can teach kids to enjoy eating healthily?
Gideon Resnick: I wish they ran with that title. That title is incredible. Yeah. You know, I think I think Michelle Obama is capable of anything. And I’m also glad that this is not actually with Sesame Street People like I thought it was, because if it was Oscar the Grouch, you’re just eating trash. That’s probably not the best thing to be showcasing to kids in terms of eating. Bad for your digestive system. So it’s good. It’s good that these are I mean . . .
Akilah Hughes: I remember a few years ago, didn’t the Sesame Workshop, though, make like Cookie Monster start eating like carrots more and stuff?
Gideon Resnick: Really?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, because I think they were like, this is really promoting cookies. And I’m like, so, cookies are good.
Gideon Resnick: It’s true. It’s true.
Akilah Hughes: I don’t have children. So I think I’m talking about myself, not about how I’d want my children to eat.
Gideon Resnick: It’s a tough sell to put a very fun puppet in front of kids and say it’s time for broccoli. But, you know, the tougher challenges have been met and tackled. So I have faith. I have faith that this is going to work. But yeah, I think that yeah, Cookie Monster and Oscar, God bless them, cannot be the messengers of healthy eating. So it’s good they’re not involved.
Akilah Hughes: That’s fair.
Gideon Resnick: So what do you think about this? Is is is this going to happen? Are kids going to watch this and start loving spinach?
Akilah Hughes: I mean, I think that, you know, they will be persuaded to at least sing about it, which I think will be nice. I don’t know that this is a musical, but I imagine anything with puppets need to have music. But, yeah, I don’t know. It’s like, did my nephew become a DJ because he was Yo Gabba Gabba? No. I don’t know that these things are all cause and effect, but I do think that it’ll be nice to have just like programing from her at all. I think it’ll be good for kids to see her as a role model. And yeah, I don’t know who’s to say. Who knows if we’ll even have a planet. Is there a global warming show coming? Because really, we’re all just going to be eating whatever’s available.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, we’re pleading with Waffles and Mochi, be realistic about the fate of our planet and, you know, talk to the children about global warming as well. You have the time. You’ve been given a special. It’s your responsibility now.
Akilah Hughes: I mean, you know, that’s the brass tacks from you, Gideon. Well, just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe. Why don’t you go eat a vegetable or something, and we’ll be back after some ads.
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Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The number of hate crimes committed against Asian-Americans in the U.S. has been skyrocketing since the beginning of the pandemic, just last week, a video circulated widely on social media showing a 91 year old Asian man getting shoved hard in Oakland, California. There were similar acts of violence reported in New York last year in which the assailants verbally blamed their victims for causing the pandemic. NYPD data revealed that hate crimes against Asian-Americans have increased by a shocking 1900 percent in New York City between 2019 and 2020. Over 2100 cases were reported nationwide between March and June of 2020. And activists are calling for more attention to be paid to this trend. And many blame the Trump administration for inciting the violence through the use of xenophobic, anti-asian rhetoric when talking about the pandemic.
Akilah Hughes: Horrible. The CEO of Riot Games, the company behind the popular video game, League of Legends, is facing a new lawsuit that accuses him of gender discrimination and misconduct. The suit against CEO Nicolo Laurent was filed by a former employee, Sharon O’Donnell, who alleges that he fired her after she turned down his sexual advances. In one instance, Laurent allegedly asked O’Donnell to travel and work from home with him, while pointedly mentioning that his wife wouldn’t be there. Just a few years ago, Riot Games was the subject of an exposé that revealed a company culture of rampant misogyny and sexism. That story led to a class action gender discrimination lawsuit that the company paid 10 million dollars to settle, plus two investigations by regulators in California. The company is now disputing O’Donnell’s allegations and says they’ll be launching their own internal investigation on the issue.
Gideon Resnick: A major update for those of us who missed the sight of our friends’ mouths. Ford announced last week they’re mounting a large scale effort to produce Clear N95 masks, which will be available in the spring. For the millions of people who rely on lip reading and facial cues to communicate, standard masks have created a huge obstacle to understanding. Ford wants to help alleviate that problem with their masks, which will feature anti-fog technology and may be the first clear masks available to offer N95 level filtration. Ford has been manufacturing face masks, ventilators and face shields since March and has pledged to donate 120 million masks to communities in need across the country and then also in masks/motor vehicle news (that is a specialty here at WAD) a group of Australian engineers published a study last week that proposed recycling discarded single use masks by using them to build roads. So my pitch is that if you were anti-mask, you can’t drive on it, instead have to roll through the deepest wettest mud.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I hope you get so muddy. So another barrier between animals and computers was torn down yesterday as an Israeli company called Aleph Farms unveiled the first 3D printed ribeye steak. The steak is grown from live animal cells, which mature on a plant based matrix into a meat and end up with a similar structure, appearance and flavor to that of real cow tissue. For me, it won’t be a perfect replica unless I’m overwhelmed by the idea of cooking it and end up putting it back in the freezer and getting takeout instead. That is how I make my steak. So-called cultivated meat is more environmentally friendly than real meat. Plus, it’s better for animal welfare. Companies like Aleph Farms still face regulatory hurdles before they can get their products to market, though. In the US, for example, the FDA and the USDA are still in the early stages of deciding how they’ll regulate cell cultured meat. Aleph thinks everything will be cleared up and their products will be ready by the second half of 2022. Until then, you can continue eating the other stuff made using 3D printers like little plastic screws and some parts of airplane engines. Yum, yum.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, been doing it my whole life and I don’t recommend it.
Akilah Hughes: And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, 3D print yourself a nice meal, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading and not just lips through clear American-made car masks like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out. Subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
Both: And solidarity with people who find cooking scary.
Akilah Hughes: Look. It’s really hot in the kitchen. I can’t take the heat.
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. Waffles and Mochi, if you got a solution for getting over this fear, let’s talk.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Let us know.
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 is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.