In This Episode
- A federal judge in Tampa, Florida voided the nationwide travel mask mandate on Monday. Last week, the CDC extended the mask mandate for commercial flights, subways, trains, and other forms of public transportation until May 3rd.
- The Russia-Ukraine war has sparked new concerns among U.S. officials about cyber warfare. On Sunday, CBS news reported QUOTE “evolving intelligence” that suggests that Russia is planning new cyber attacks.
- And in headlines: Russia launched its highly anticipated assault on eastern Ukraine, Johnson and Johnson agreed to settle an opioid lawsuit for 99 million dollars, and Alex Jones filed for bankruptcy.
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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, April 19th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’ve decided against shifting our release schedule to a Kendrick Lamar-style frequency. Just not for us.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we’re not going to have five years between episodes, but we are going to rap all of the news.
Priyanka Aribindi: And we’ll win a Pulitzer for it.
Josie Duffy Rice: We will. We will win the Pulitzer. On today’s show, U.S. officials are warning about potential cyberattacks from Russia. Plus, Alex Jones Infowars files for bankruptcy.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, a federal judge in Tampa, Florida, voided the nation-wide travel mask mandate on Monday. Last week, the CDC extended the mask mandate for commercial flights, subways, trains—pretty much every form of public transportation—from April 18th, so yesterday, until May 3rd. But District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed by former President Trump, said that the mandate exceeds the CDC’s legal authority, improperly avoided notice and comment procedures, and that it was, quote, “arbitrary and capricious.”
Josie Duffy Rice: I have to say I learned about arbitrary and capricious in law school, and that’s not what I learned, but . . .
Priyanka Aribindi: Not it!
Josie Duffy Rice: Who am I to say, other than a judge who was voted not qualified by the ABA? What does this mean for people traveling in the near future, Priyanka? Will they not be required to wear masks?
Priyanka Aribindi: So after this news came out, the TSA announced that they will stop enforcing the mask mandate on public transportation. Several major airlines also said that they’ll make masks optional. That is United, Alaska, American, my beloved Delta and Southwest. Kind of seems like it’s going to be the Wild West, though. A few of these airlines have come out and said that there might be inconsistent enforcement over the next, like 24 hours or so, just because all of this is so completely new. But there are a bunch of unanswered questions still. You know, will the Department of Justice try to halt the ruling and file an appeal. How quickly will this be implemented across the country if that doesn’t happen or if it doesn’t work? This is also all happening during an uptick in both COVID and in spring and summer travel, so more people on flights. The number of people in airports has reached pre-pandemic levels in many of these airports. And if there’s one thing that happens, you know, when things are uncertain and COVID’s around, you know, a little bit of chaos.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, I personally have a flight on Thursday. I will very much be keeping my mask on. But here is White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressing the issue yesterday:
[clip of Jen Psaki] This is obviously a disappointing decision. The CDC continues recommending wearing a mask in public transit. As you know, this just came out this afternoon, so right now, the Department of Homeland Security, who would be implementing, and the CDC are reviewing the decision. And of course, the Department of Justice would make any determinations about litigation.
Josie Duffy Rice: Oh boy. The good thing is we know that a lot of lessons have been learned during the COVID year, so surely everybody will behave completely reasonably. While this mask mandate is still up in the air, another one is going back into effect. So tell us more about what’s happening in Philly right now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So yesterday, Philly became the first major American city to reinstate an indoor mask mandate after it was first lifted in early March of this year. The mandate requires people to wear a mask in all indoor public places, though businesses do have the option of requiring proof of vaccination instead. This happened in response to sharply rising COVID case numbers, with the new Omicron sub variant BA-2 on the rise, especially throughout the Northeast. But the response remains mixed. Some public officials, you know, are all for it. There’s a group of business owners and residents who are suing to stop the mandate. But the mandate didn’t go into place arbitrarily, Philly actually has its own COVID guidelines that are a bit different than the CDC’s. The mandate automatically kicked in because the average number of reported new cases in the city has increased by over 50% in a period of 10 days, which is quite significant. The CDC’s guidelines, on the other hand, rely more on hospital figures, which tend to lag behind trends in new case counts. That is the update on mask mandates in the country. We will continue to follow this and bring you updates as we learn more.
Josie Duffy Rice: All right. Thanks, Priyanka. Now some news from Russia. The Russia-Ukraine war has sparked new concerns among U.S. officials about cyber warfare. On Sunday, CBS News reported quote, “evolving intelligence” that suggests that Russia is planning new cyber attacks. Here’s Jen Easterly, Director of the cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, talking to 60 Minutes:
[clip of Jen Easterly] There is going to be a breach, there’s going to be an incident, there’s going to be an attack.
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, yeah, that was not like there might be, that was very definitive, and a little bit terrifying. So given that the war in Ukraine has been going on for a few months now, what exactly has sparked these concerns for right now?
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s a good question and according to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, the federal government has recently seen increasing activity from quote, “Russian state actors scanning, probing, looking for opportunities, looking for weaknesses.”
Priyanka Aribindi: OK. Also does not sound great.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: So when we talk about a cyber attack, what exactly does that mean for everyone listening who might not know, and also me?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, totally. So she’s not talking about like Russia hacking Biden’s DMs or anybody’s DMs or something, right? The fear here is much bigger. It’s about Russia managing to attack our infrastructure and in particular, the energy and finance sectors of our infrastructure. And really, it’s seen as like retaliation for the sanctions that the US has imposed upon Russia in light of their invasion of Ukraine. I mean, this has long been a concern even before the war started. So we remember like Russian impact on the 2016 election, like, it’s long been a narrative that Russia wants to and could cause chaos in our systems, in our democracy. There’s a contentious history between us and Russia, and they’re thought to have a really extensive network of some of the most sophisticated hackers in the world at their disposal. They’re really the only country that’s managed to take down like an electrical grid, as they did previously in Ukraine. And what’s scary about what happened in Ukraine with that hack is that Russia actually hacked those systems for months and months before launching their cyber attack. This is months ago. This is pre-war. So in other words, they were like able to kind of watch the Ukrainian power grid and operate undetected for months before they actually attacked.
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, so that is especially terrifying because not that we know anything, but that could be happening if they are going undetected and just kind of like biding their time.
Josie Duffy Rice: Completely.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s pretty terrifying.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I mean, I think the implication here is that they could already be deeply embedded in some of the U.S. infrastructure, right?
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Josie Duffy Rice: And it seems U.S. officials are concerned, and frankly, I think unnerved by the lack of attacks so far.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it seems like the eerie, quiet before something really bad happens. I don’t like the feeling.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, exactly. It’s like this real sensation that Russia is planning something big. And I think, like there’s a feeling of like, Well, Russia decided to attack Ukraine, knowing full well what it would engender in international politics and would they have done that if they didn’t have like a backup plan of how to like hurt us?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that’s a good point.
Josie Duffy Rice: And so if Russia pulled this off, it would be a really, really big deal. So here’s easterly again on CBS:
[clip of Jen Easterly] Everything that you do, hour by hour, is largely dependent in some way on the critical infrastructure: how you get gas at the local pump, how you get food at the grocery store, how you get money from your ATM, how you get your power, how you get your water, how you communicate. All of that is our critical infrastructure, and that’s what we’re saying is at potential risk to a Russian malicious cyber attack.
Josie Duffy Rice: To be clear, that’s everything. And suffice it to say that if Russia were able to impact any of this, we’d be in massive, massive trouble.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I understand why they had her do that because I was so calmed by the sound of her voice. Like the contents of what she was saying, quite alarming, but I was like lulled into this like, Oh yeah, OK?
Josie Duffy Rice: You’re like my food, my money, my water.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right, right. Just everything. But, you know, I could listen to her say that for hours and hours. And probably feel pretty calm, which is a little concerning.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right, exactly. So we’ll keep you updated on cyber attacks from Russia. But that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Josie Duffy Rice: Some updates on the war in Ukraine. Russia has reportedly launched its long-expected assault on the eastern region of the country. The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council said that Russian forces had breached the perimeter of two small cities and the Donbas and Kharkiv regions on Monday, but added that Ukrainian troops were holding their ground. The Kremlin has hinted at this new objective over the past few weeks after Russian forces failed to conquer Kiev, the country’s capital. Moscow also launched a missile attack on the western Ukrainian city of Lviv yesterday that killed at least seven people. Those were the first deaths the city has seen since the start of the war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said of yesterday’s attacks quote, “No matter how many Russian soldiers are driven there, we will fight. We will not give up anything Ukrainian.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said on Monday that the U.S. will impose more sanctions on Russia as punishment for these advances and the country’s continued assault on Ukraine, but she did not specify what these new restrictions would entail.
Priyanka Aribindi: Just awful that this has gone on for so long and continues instead of stop.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, pretty terrible.
Priyanka Aribindi: The effort to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the country’s opioid epidemic continues. Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson agreed to settle a West Virginia lawsuit to the tune of $99 million. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed the suit in 2019 against a number of pharmaceutical companies, claiming that they promoted opioids by overstating their benefits and failing to disclose the risk of addiction. In a statement released on Monday, J&J maintained that the settlement isn’t an admission of any wrongdoing on their part, but the eight-figure price tag seems to suggest otherwise. The West Virginia trial will still continue against the remaining defendants, who have not settled their way out. Those are Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, along with AbbVie’s Allergan and its affiliates. Morrissey said on Monday that his office will continue to fight companies like these and that the J&J settlement will quote, “provide significant help to those affected the most by the opioid crisis in West Virginia.”
Josie Duffy Rice: The conspiracy theory that actions have consequences has been proven by Alex Jones. Three companies associated with the far-right and mostly de-platformed broadcaster filed for bankruptcy over the weekend, including Infowars, amid defamation lawsuits against him in multiple states. The lawsuit stemmed from claims Jones made following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which framed the tragic event as a quote, “false flag” operation fabricated in part by gun control advocates. Parents of children who were killed at Sandy Hook say these claims led to harassment, compelling one family to move 10 times and remain in hiding in the time since the shooting—that’s just unbelievable.
Priyanka Aribindi: Awful.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, absolutely horrible. Jones has already been found liable in two cases one in Texas and one in Connecticut, but damages have not been decided. Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy lets companies put civil litigation on hold while they restructure their finances. So either Jones is doing anything he can to avoid paying victims or the deep state is doing something so high-level in advance that we can’t even understand it. It’s possible.
Priyanka Aribindi: It is
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s deep. It’s never one to sleep on a grift, Jones has already started trying to make money off of the bankruptcy filing. On a show yesterday, he pushed fans to support him amid legal judgments by buying shirts and—wait for it—supplements.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, just what everyone needs.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I would hope that this is the kind of bankruptcy that then you never hear from that kind of person ever again, but I don’t know if that’s what we’re in for, sadly.
Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t see it going that way. He likes to talk.
Priyanka Aribindi: Loves to, unfortunately for all of us.
Josie Duffy Rice: Tragically.
Priyanka Aribindi: It wasn’t long ago when the worst thing you could find in a General Mills cereal was a shrimp tail covered in cinnamon sugar—I am still horrified by that story to this day—but an even more pernicious element might be lurking among the little rainbows and shooting stars of Lucky Charms cereal, according to people who have recently complained that the latter cereal gave them gastrointestinal symptoms. The reports were collected on the website www.iwaspoisoned.com— another online resource that few of us knew we had. They number over 3,000. An investigation has also been launched by the Food and Drug Administration, which said it had also received over 100 similar reports directly.
Josie Duffy Rice: Cool, cool, cool.
Priyanka Aribindi: As to what it feels like to have the Lucky Charms virus, also known as “Pot ‘o Gold Syndrome”, reported symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. The symptoms are consistent across reports and even within the individual reports, like the one which reads quote, “experienced stomach pain and diarrhea after one bowl of Lucky Charms. Tried it two more times to see if it was actually the cereal and had the same symptoms.”
Josie Duffy Rice: Cool, cool, cool.
Priyanka Aribindi: The sacrifice this person is making for salads, you know, not recommended, but a hero in our eyes. For its part, General Mills says it hasn’t found a link between consumer illness and Lucky Charms consumption—they better hope that a link doesn’t materialize, or else they will lose a substantial portion of their leprechaun gold.
Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly, it’s simply luck that this hasn’t happened to me because while, I have not had Lucky Charms in the past couple of weeks, I have had many other sugary cereals that are mostly for like 11-year olds, so . . .
Priyanka Aribindi: It could have been in the rotation.
Josie Duffy Rice: Easily could have been in the rotation. I’m not above it.
Priyanka Aribindi: But would you have known to go to www.Iwaspoisoned.com?
Josie Duffy Rice: I would not have.
Priyanka Aribindi: Or would you just been like, I’m sorry, I really just don’t feel good, and not know how to move forward?
Josie Duffy Rice: I probably would have guessed it was like a toddler bug rather than the Lucky Charms, but I’m glad to now know that I should just stick to my Captain Crunch.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that we have the people, you know, really diving deep in this and doing experiments. I appreciate it.
Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just authentic reports on Iwaspoisoned.com like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe to Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
[together] And share your pot of gold, General Mills!
Priyanka Aribindi: You know I’m sure that they will have to at some point soon.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: Now that we’ve made the story, we’ve broke this open.
Josie Duffy Rice: We broke this open.
Priyanka Aribindi: The world knows.
Gideon Resnick: 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 producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.