In This Episode
- Biden is now saying that we’ll have enough vaccine doses for every American by the end of May, instead of July. Meanwhile, states like Texas and Mississippi lifting their mask requirements and relaxing restrictions — something that public health officials have warned against.
- FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to congress yesterday, defending his agency’s handling of intelligence in advance of the January 6th attack on the Capitol. There’s another big hearing today, with a witness list that includes officials from the FBI, the National Guard, DHS, and more.
- And in headlines: 300 girls who were abducted in Nigeria were released, Jackson Mississippi still doesn’t have water, and six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, March 3rd. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, where we’re unlike the like counter are on Instagram, we will never disappear on you.
Akilah Hughes: Honestly, when they got rid of likes, I could feel my brain sigh with relief.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this should be a national holiday, actually. On today’s show: new testimony from federal officials on the Capitol attack, then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:
[clip of President Biden] About three weeks ago, we were able to say that we’ll have enough vaccine supply for adults by the end of July. I’m pleased to announce today, as a consequence of the stepped-up process that I’ve ordered and just outlined, this country will have enough vaccine supply—I’ll say it again—for every adult in America by the end of May.
Akilah Hughes: Ho, ho, ho! OK, so that was President Biden announcing a new target date for the country’s vaccination campaign, yesterday. Previously, he had said that there would be enough supply by the end of July. So we backing it up two months now. Now it’s May. It’s pretty into this news. Gideon, what is driving this?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is awesome. So one thing to note is that the speech came after an update on Johnson & Johnson. The administration announced this agreement between J&J and the pharmaceutical company Merck to up the supply. So per The Washington Post, the arrangement is going to look something like this: Merck is going to have two facilities that produce the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, one will do what is called fill finish, i.e. when the actual vaccine is put into the vials and shipped out, and the other two drug substance, so production of the vaccine itself. It doesn’t seem like that on its own is going to actually move the production schedule like Biden is describing, but it’s a piece of it, along with the administration’s reported confidence in the schedules of the other companies. The Post reported that the Merck deal could actually end up being geared towards variants later in the year. So we’ll see how that shakes out. But back story in Merck really fast: it’s a major vaccine maker, but wasn’t successful in creating its own vaccine so now they’re stepping in here to help. And this comes after Johnson & Johnson had some production issues that limited the supply they’ve been able to make and promise for the future.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and this feels like the kind of thing that should be happening. You know, like let’s fully get all the factories going. Let’s get us out of the house at some point, please.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Willy Wonka’s factory: make vaccines. You know, like we got to get a vaccine.
Akilah Hughes: Exactly.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. There’s definitely work that goes into making this kind of thing happen. So, for example, The New York Times reported that it is a bit unclear how quickly Merck is actually going to be able to get this going, given that they have to convert their facilities to accommodate this. But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the Defense Production Act will be used to help the company along. Also, as was the case with the original timeline, Biden is trying to be really cautious and saying it’s going to take some more time after that date to actually get these vaccines into arms.
Akilah Hughes: All right. And then Biden also set out new goals around vaccinating teachers. Yes?
Gideon Resnick: Yes, he did. He called on states to prioritize teachers and school staff and the vaccination pecking order with the goal of having every grade school employee and child care worker getting their first shot by the end of March. Overall, this ties in to that goal we’ve talked about of getting schools reopened. Biden said that 30 states were already prioritizing teachers and that the administration wanted to lean on local pharmacies to help in this process. And by the way, apparently Kentucky—hello—could become the first state to vaccinate all its teachers with the first round. That’s according to Education Week. So that’s great. And already on the local level, we have seen a steady expansion in eligibility aside from teachers. The Times pointed out three recent examples here. So New York City recently added workers in hotel industries and food service. Florida said individuals 50 and older working in schools and law enforcement would be added. And Ohio, added certain child care and funeral workers and individuals with some preexisting conditions.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so all of this feels like good momentum and we finally have stuff to look forward to but the flipside to that is states just acted like this is over and telling people to [heap] their masks into the sun. They didn’t really exactly say that, but what did they say?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s not insanely far off. [laughs] So the biggest news on this from yesterday was the announcement from Texas. Governor Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask requirement and is allowing for businesses to operate at full capacity in the coming days—100%. For context, thus far, Texas is not among the top in terms of vaccinations and of course, they had major delays they had to deal with with the recent catastrophic winter storm. Then Mississippi followed Texas with a similar announcement yesterday. And the crazy thing about all of this is that they are far from alone across the country: Iowa and Montana have lifted mass mandates, Massachusetts lifted capacity restrictions on restaurants, and cities like San Francisco have begun to allow some indoor dining, movie theaters, and gyms to open.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and this, of course, is all coming as vaccinations are up, cases and hospitalizations are down and everyone, us included, would love to do these kinds of things again. But what are the actual health officials saying about it?
Gideon Resnick: They are worried. They’re specifically concerned about moving too fast, sort of deja vu there, especially with more contagious variants circulating. Here is a clip from CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Monday, ahead of these announcements:.
[clip of Dr. Rochelle Walensky] I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19. I understand the temptation to do this, 70,000 cases a day seems good compared to where we were just a few months ago. But we cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, she went on to say that there’s a real risk of backtracking on the progress that has been made in the last several weeks so let’s not blow this folks. More on all of that in the days ahead but, Akilah, let’s get into the most recent hearing on the Capitol attack.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So yesterday reminded us that investigations into the failed insurrection are still ongoing. There was another high profile congressional hearing, this time with FBI director Christopher Wray. Here, some highlights: Wray defended the FBI’s handling of intelligence in advance of the attack, but also said they are reviewing internal procedures that led to, quote “not an acceptable result+ which is maybe the lightest way of putting it. [laughs] As a reminder for everyone, the FBI put out an intel report leading up to January 6th, but as we discussed, D.C. and Capitol security officials said the report either didn’t make it to them or that they didn’t take it seriously because it was in an email. Lawmakers yesterday didn’t seem fully convinced that the FBI had done enough to really emphasize the threat, but, you know, I think anybody saying: hey, look out! would have been enough.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And then another highlight from this: Wray said that the bureau considers the attack to be domestic terrorism.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Which is the first time it’s been explained that way in official terms. And wouldn’t you know it, Wray also said that the attack has been a, quote “inspiration to a number of terrorist extremists” which seems understandable given how many people are still unidentified and won’t face any punishment for their involvement. The FBI estimates that 800 people were in the mob that breached the Capitol, and roughly 270 of them now face criminal charges.
Gideon Resnick: And 800 is so, so many. And on that domestic terror bit: Wray testified that the FBI is pursuing roughly 2,000 domestic terror cases overall. How should we interpret that number?
Akilah Hughes: We should definitely not be happy with it. [laughs] It’s an enormous spike. It’s double the number from last September so it really seems like Trump’s constant stoking of racism and hatred worked, and that they have their work cut out for them. Wray also said that domestic terrorism has, quote “been metastasizing around the country for a long time now and it’s not going away anytime soon.” So much to the chagrin of Republican representatives, Wray name-checked the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, and also reiterated that there’s been no evidence that Black Lives Matter or Antifa were involved, which is pretty obvious if you’d seen any of the actual footage, but I guess if I was partially responsible for the radicalizing rhetoric that inspired Americans to commit terrorism, I’d definitely be begging for a scapegoat too.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, for sure. And so we have this yesterday. Where does this go next?
Akilah Hughes: OK, so there’s another big hearing today. The witness list includes officials from the FBI, the National Guard, the Defense Department and DHS. We can expect more questions about intelligence that was gathered beforehand and whether these agencies raised the appropriate level of alarm, like we saw in yesterday’s hearing with Wray. Also, it’ll be really interesting to see what information comes out about how and when the National Guard was deployed. That was a really big focus last week with the testimony from the D.C. and Capitol security officials, but we only got their side of the story. Former Capitol Police Chief Stephen Sund said that he experienced a surprising amount of reluctance on bringing in the National Guard that day. Defense officials have said that part of the delay had to do with a lack of planning and information on how the troops should actually end up assisting. And then bigger picture, you know, where does this go next? We could see months of hearings and investigation. So we’re really just at the tip of that iceberg. We will stay on it, but that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about some big innovations in the candy space. OK, so Hershey’s announced on Monday that they’re going to start selling a Reese’s Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers Cup that is all peanut butter, no chocolate. It is the first time in history that the candy has gone full PB. The candies are set to hit stores in April for a limited time. Giddy, does this sound good to you or not?
Gideon Resnick: Absolutely, yeah. Literally like every flavor of a thing that I like is peanut butter pretty much.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that’s true.
Gideon Resnick: I don’t, I don’t think that people should necessarily mess with a tried and true good thing. Like we, we know Reese’s works.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: Let it be. But in this case it’s fine to go full PB.
Akilah Hughes: In additional product, you know.
Gideon Resnick: Right. Yeah. We’re not replacing, we’re, we’re just adding. We’re yes-and’ing is what Reese’s is doing, which I think is, which I think is good. I think it’s always fine to go full PB and I would love it. I would I would eat a thousand of them right now.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I mean, honestly, you know, I, I’m looking forward to it. If they have a specific date, I’ll write it on the calendar. It’s not much else to look forward to. So, you know, we got space.
Gideon Resnick: There, There are no holidays in April as far as I know. No like major, well there’s Easter and there’s Passover.
Akilah Hughes: Spring break [laughs]. Seems like two pretty big ones.
Gideon Resnick: There, well, this is another one, consider it another one. And consider my apologies for referring to those is not major holidays, offending everyone equally here today that is my goal. But same question for you, Akilah, on this: are you are you going to be having this?
Akilah Hughes: Oh, totally. I mean, I love peanut butter as well. I also, I’m just curious, like if the peanut butter exterior has any chocolate at all, because I believe that this could be a sneaky little fun treat for Fauci. He loves peanut butter. I can give him a little corner of it. You know, it’s a lot of sugar, but just like a little bit so he wouldn’t be bothering me when I wanted it. But, but the chocolate, that’s just a nonstarter, you know? Like this dog’s got to live a long time, I made a really big deal about him [laughs] but also I love him. So, yeah, I mostly just thinking about how effective it’ll be to like be allowed to eat it in front of a dog that wants a bite of everything that I’m eating.
Gideon Resnick: That is a great question. And, you know, Reese’s should make clear, was this made in the same vicinity as where they made the ones that are chocolate covered and therefore we might have some issues on that front. We want to clear up, like, is this for dogs or not? That’s our mission.
Akilah Hughes: So I like basically, you know, I can’t speak for Fauci. I will be eating it even if it means I have to go to my car and pretend that I’m going somewhere and he has to cry in the house for 15 minutes while I try them. [laughs] I’m going to get to try them. And just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe. Hey, maybe have some chocolate for old time’s sake because the peanut butter is on the way, and we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Almost 300 girls who are abducted from a Nigerian boarding schools last week have been released by their captors. The girls were kidnaped on Friday by armed gunmen in Zamfara, state in the northern region of the country. Government officials say they’ve been in talks with the abductors since Friday and reached an agreement on Monday, denying that they paid any ransom. This is the second time in less than a week that gunmen have captured and released schoolchildren in Nigeria. On Saturday, several students and staff members were kidnaped from a government college. And experts say the country’s deep economic crisis might be the driving force behind the uptick in kidnappings, with a growing number of people becoming impoverished, jobless and hungry in the midst of the pandemic.
Akilah Hughes: Residents in Jackson, Mississippi, are entering their third week without running water following a massive winter storm last month. Freezing temperatures paralyzed the city’s main water plant and damaged pipes across the city. Now, with warmer weather and power restored, people in Jackson have been under a boil water notice for weeks and have been forced to buy bottled water to drink, bathe and cook. City officials say the Jackson’s aging infrastructure is the reason for the long delay—oh, I guess that infrastructure week never did happen under Trump. Charities and other groups are now stepping in to donate bottled water to be distributed by the city government.
Gideon Resnick: We crossed new frontiers in insider trading this week with the resignation of a Nike vice president following questions about her involvement in her Gen Z son’s massive sneaker reselling business. The VP’s name is Ann Hebert, and her spot was blown up after her son was profiled in Bloomberg—pretty prominent place—while describing a $100,000 Yeezy purchase he made to flip shoes, he revealed that he did it on his mom’s corporate card and she also helped him set up his LLC. There’s no evidence that Hebert gave her son discounts or early access to shoes, but it does not look good, and it definitely screams Just Do It instead of: don’t do it if you want to keep your good sportswear job. The story is wild, but you really have to see the photos that get posted on Instagram to do it justice: posing with hundreds of boxes of shoes in the warehouse he was able to fill using only hustle and maternal love—I feel bad about the likes he’s going to lose—FYI I if my future son is a podcast or he is hereby banned from WAD.
Akilah Hughes: I just love this story, you know. Watching people fumble their mom’s bag. It’s really insane.
Gideon Resnick: Amazing.
Akilah Hughes: And their own, I suppose. Well, it was Dr. Seuss’s his birthday yesterday, and he got the gift of a critical reevaluation of his work. Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that they have stopped publishing and licensing six of his books due to their inclusion of harmful racial stereotypes. Those books include: And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, and If I Ran the Zoo. But the vast majority of the Seuss collection was unaffected. Of course, conservative media had an extremely measured response to this decision, represented here by Charlie Kirk on Fox News:
[clip of Charlie Kirk] This is not going to stop. It’s not. And so whatever that you might hold near or dear, it will get eliminated.
Akilah Hughes: That is just one very loud cry-baby. So some tweeted out that they were buying up the six books before they become hard to find. You know, got to get that limited edition racism, or they can just stick with Horton Hears a Who! but add their own pages where Horton says he doesn’t like affirmative action. That’s always an option.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. If you want to be creative and also mean.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, totally. You know, idiots. And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, just do it and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just the racism-free Dr. Seuss books 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.
[together] And Happy Late Birthday to Sonia Htoon! You know, an excellent producer, a better friend, a cool girl. Everybody wish her a Happy Birthday.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, Sonia has sick music taste, sick production taste, a sick McNugget taste as well. I have it on good authority.
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.