In This Episode
- Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her re-election bid on Tuesday, becoming the first one-term mayor of the city in 40 years. Lightfoot failed to capture enough votes to make it to the April 4th runoff, in a campaign marked by growing concerns over crime.
- Drug maker Eli Lilly announced that it would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin it makes to $35, bringing relief for the millions of Americans who rely on it to treat diabetes. Vernessa Shih, the story bank director for the U.S. Surgeon General, joins us to discuss the impact that high insulin costs have on patient’s health, families, and finances.
- And in headlines: a devastating train crash in Greece killed at least 38 people, the family of Kobe Bryant settled with Los Angeles County for $28.5 million, and hundreds of students walked out of class across Iowa to protest bills targeting LGBTQ youth in the Republican-led state.
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, March 2nd. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What A Day where Priyanka is coming to us live from under a pile of Los Angeles snow.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. You know what? The pile didn’t actually form, but I am [laughter] still taking it as an excuse to wear a puffer jacket. I think I’ve–
Juanita Tolliver: Yes!
Priyanka Aribindi: –earned this.
Juanita Tolliver: I love that you own this stuff. Like, where else would you wear it? When else would you wear it? [music break] On today’s show, intelligence officials have ruled out one theory behind the mysterious ailment known as Havana syndrome. Plus, hundreds of Iowa students walked out of school to protest anti LGBTQ legislation.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, the results are in from the first round of voting in Chicago’s mayoral race. And Mayor Lori Lightfoot became the first sitting mayor of Chicago to lose their reelection bid in 40 years. Since none of the nine candidates managed to capture the 50% vote threshold. The election will now advance to a runoff on April 4th.
Juanita Tolliver: I feel like this was an entirely unsurprising outcome for this primary, but tell us–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: Who is still in the race Priyanka?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, so the runoff will be between the two candidates who received the largest shares of the vote. The first is former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, who received nearly 34%. And then there’s Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who received 20%. They are both Democrats, though their positions definitely vary. And just behind them, Lightfoot came in third with 17%.
Juanita Tolliver: That’s completely what I expected in terms of the outcome. And yesterday on Joy Reid’s show, Brandan Johnson even told Joy Reid that Lori Lightfoot essentially abandoned the progressive policies she ran on and turned her back on the very movement that helped her get elected. So tell us a little bit more about Mayor Lightfoot.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I can definitely give you a little background. So just four years ago like I mean, this was not very long at all. Lori Lightfoot became the first Black woman and first openly gay mayor of Chicago, which is the third largest city in the US. She was a former prosecutor and ran her campaign as this outsider who was above the corruption and the scandals in Chicago politics, who wanted to make meaningful change. She swept all 50 of the city’s wards. People were excited about her and expectations were high. She’s had some accomplishments while in office you know she’s increased investments in underserved areas. But that, as you alluded to, is definitely not how most people think of her term. It’s been marred by some more challenging periods like COVID-19, the aftermath of the protests that followed George Floyd’s murder. And, of course, major clashes with the city’s teachers union, which resulted in an 11 day strike in 2019. But the biggest issue of all in this election really seemed to be crime in the city and what people viewed as her inability to fight it.
Juanita Tolliver: Before we move to the crime, when it comes to the teachers union, I feel like that was set in stone when she told them to get real about concerns about teaching in 2020. Before we knew all the facts about COVID and the science of how it was transmitted. So teachers clearly let her know what was up with this election but–
Priyanka Aribindi: No love lost between them. None at all.
Juanita Tolliver: And like you said before, it’s definitely not typical for an incumbent mayor of a big city like this to lose their reelection. So let’s talk about that crime point in particular. Why was there so much focus on this in the campaign?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, so over the past couple of years, as rates of certain kinds of crime rose during the pandemic, it’s not been atypical at all for crime and public safety to be a big issue, if not the biggest issue in any large American cities elections. Take, for example, San Francisco, where progressive DA Chesa Boudin was recalled last year over public safety concerns. In New York, former city police captain Eric Adams was elected as mayor on this platform of crime prevention. The issue also played a huge role in LA’s mayoral election, where the progressive candidate, Karen Bass, was able to address it head on and successfully to win the election. Despite this narrative from conservatives that progressives are out here advocating for a lawless land with no policing, it’s basically the purge.
Juanita Tolliver: Lies. [laughing].
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s just couldn’t be further from the truth. My point is, though, that this is not a Chicago specific issue. We are seeing this in elections everywhere right now. But in Chicago, certain crimes like murder, carjacking, and robberies have increased in recent years. The city is also highly segregated. And according to a political science professor at Northwestern who spoke with the Associated Press. Crime is no longer mostly isolated to neighborhoods that are mostly Black and Latino, and it’s caught the attention of more people and more voters. Our co-host Josie Duffy Rice also spoke about this at length in one of our episodes last year leading up to the midterms. We’re going to drop that link in our show notes because it’s definitely worth revisiting to kind of get a better sense of how this issue has become as polarizing and as charged as it has.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. And Josie was dropping facts in that issue ya’ll so go check it out. But back to the runoff. What do we know about these two candidates and where they stand on the issues?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, they have pretty different stances. So Paul Vallas, who won over a third of the vote and was the only white candidate on the ballot, is your typical law and order kind of guy. He is backed by the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. His opponent, Brandon Johnson, who is a Black man, has the backing of the teacher’s union actually, very critical. He promises to fight the root causes of crime and poverty. Similarities have been drawn between this match up and LA’s mayoral election last year. And it’s definitely emblematic of this divide in the Democratic coalition of how to address this issue.
Juanita Tolliver: Look, I’ll keep it real Priyanka when I hear traditional law and order guy. That’s a massive red flag for this Brown girl.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, we tried that shit. It it did not work. It should be a red flag for all of us.
Juanita Tolliver: You’ve been warned Chicago. That’s all I’m a say. But in other news, yesterday, Eli Lilly announced that it is capping the out-of-pocket cost of insulin that it manufactures to $35. And that is huge news for the roughly 7 million Americans who use insulin every single day to treat diabetes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Huge.
Juanita Tolliver: Huge. President Biden celebrated the announcement by stating that Eli Lilly heeded his call for manufacturers to lower the cost of insulin for people who were not included in the Medicare cap. A call he reiterated during the State of the Union address last month. And as we celebrate this, win it’s important that we remember that Eli Lilly did not make this change out of the goodness of their hearts people, especially when prices on the four most popular types of insulin have tripled in the past decade, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Um. If you are trying to pat Eli Lilly on the back here, please do not. They do not deserve it.
Juanita Tolliver: Don’t do it. The reality is that this change was the result of years long public pressure campaigns and advocacy campaigns that center the voices of the very people who were struggling the most. These storytellers made all of the difference in this fight to lower insulin costs. And I had the chance to catch up with one of my favorite story bank directors, who has worked closely with them for years, Miss Vernessa Shih. Vernessa is the current story bank director for Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general and friend of WAD. And full disclosure, she’s also one of my homies who ran progressive advocacy campaigns with me at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I started by asking Vernessa about her immediate reaction to the news that Eli Lilly capped out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35. Knowing the stories of the people she recruited and amplified for years and the impact that the high cost of insulin had on their health, their families, their finances and more. Take a listen to our conversation.
Vernessa Shih: Honestly, I was in a little disbelief originally, and then immediately that turned into just this feeling of such deep relief for all the storytellers that I worked with and all the people that I know who are struggling to afford their insulin. I was just so, so happy and proud of them to finally see all the progress after these many years of advocacy that they’ve done.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. And I got to tell you, you were the first person I thought of. I posted shout out to all the organizers and advocates and storytellers and Democrats who brought us here because y’all have been doing this work for years, right?
Vernessa Shih: Yeah, so many years. I mean, even long before I did this work, people have been obviously telling stories about this, but sharing how dependent they’ve been on needing insulin and not being able to access it for so long. It’s been such a problem. So I’m so relieved for them.
Juanita Tolliver: And a number of the storytellers you recruited and amplified went to great lengths just to survive. I remember some of the stories, including them rationing their insulin, which is very dangerous, as well as folks driving to Canada to get access to cheaper insulin. Talk to me about some of the storytellers who stuck out in your mind when you heard yesterday’s news.
Vernessa Shih: The very first person that came to mind was a storyteller we worked with named Antoinette. She had lost her elder daughter, who was a Type one diabetic because she was forced to ration her own insulin and they just couldn’t afford it and she couldn’t keep up with it. And she passed away from diabetic ketoacidosis, which is DK. It’s what happens when you have to ration your insulin and Antoinette fought and told her daughter’s story to keep her daughter’s memory alive. But if you remember, it was also because her younger daughter currently lives with type one diabetes. And so this is an ongoing issue for them. The moment really is her victory and the victory of other storytellers like her. And I just remember the sacrifices that she had made to continue to tell her daughter’s story. And I was so happy for her.
Juanita Tolliver: And I remember that caravan we talked about years ago that was organizing regular trips to Canada. And do you remember the last time you talked to them and the impact of those trips, not only how far they had to go to access lower cost insulin, but the toll it took on them physically to travel that far just to get lifesaving care?
Vernessa Shih: Yeah, I remember how outrageous it felt to them sometimes and then how normal it later became that they had to do this. And it was that in the United States of America, you would need to organize a bus with people that could share the cost and drive across the border to Canada in order to buy regular insulin that is the exact same medication here as it was there, but it would be half the price, a third of the price, so much cheaper depending on where you were and what type of insulin you were buying. And they would just have to do that so regularly because you of course, regularly need insulin. So I think about them and I hope they don’t have to make those trips now.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. And I think that tragedy is nothing but a reminder about what is at stake with every single one of these decisions. And now that the cap has been announced, how do you expect it will change the lives of the storytellers you worked with, like Antoinette and her younger daughter?
Vernessa Shih: So for the storytellers that I worked with, it’s just such an immediate justification that all of their work, their organizing, their pain and sharing their stories had an impact. And is going to help people’s lives. But I immediately think that the people that are currently living with diabetes, this will literally save their lives. There’s somebody out there who probably was not able to buy insulin that now will be able to buy insulin that they need to keep them alive. So it will have enormous impact right now. Changes like this price cap, it’s definitely attributed to the combined efforts of everyone raising their voice and putting pressure–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Vernessa Shih: –on companies like Eli Lilly to do the right thing.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. Because we know why they’re doing it and it’s not out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s because of the Continue Pressure campaign. It’s because even in President Biden’s statement yesterday, he said he called them out after the cap was passed for seniors. He called on insulin manufacturers to cap their costs at $35. The president was clear in emphasizing that Eli Lilly heeded his call. But now there’s two or three other insulin manufacturers who still have a decision to make here. Do you expect the other insulin manufacturers to follow suit like we saw from Eli Lilly?
Vernessa Shih: You know, I hope they do. It would be fantastic if they did do that.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Vernessa Shih: But I know that the activists and the storytellers, they’re not going to rest on hope. They’re going to keep fighting. They’re going to share their stories. They’re going to work alongside allies like President Biden to ensure that every American has access to this life sustaining medication. And I think if, you know, those other companies were watching social media yesterday, perhaps they would see that this is the right thing to do and the smart business thing to do. And they would be very welcome to also make their medications affordable and accessible to people. We would love that for us. We would celebrate that if that occurred.
Juanita Tolliver: As Vernessa said, the fight will keep going because more people need help. More people need access to lifesaving prescription medications at lower costs. And the pressure campaign continues. And to all of the advocates, organizers, storytellers and staffers working on these critical issues. Thank you. We’ll be right back after some ads. [music break].
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Election officials in Nigeria have declared a winner in its presidential election. But almost as soon as the results were announced yesterday for Bola Tinubu, his political rivals filed a legal challenge and called for a do over. Tinubu, a former state governor and millionaire, has been a power player in Nigerian politics for years. Though he is widely regarded as corrupt and in many circles too old and out of touch to lead Africa’s most populous country. And members of Nigeria’s opposition parties, citing delays at polling stations and other irregularities, said that the results can’t be trusted. International election observers also echoed those concerns and noted numerous instances where voters were harassed or even attacked for casting their ballots. If the results stand, Tinubu will be just the fifth elected president since the country returned to democracy in 1999. He’ll also have his work cut out for him because Nigeria has weathered two economic recessions and a surge in terrorist violence in recent years.
Juanita Tolliver: A devastating train crash in Greece has killed at least 38 people and left dozens of others injured. It happened late Tuesday night near the central city of Larissa. More than 350 people were aboard a passenger train when it slammed head on into a freight train as it was switching to another track. The tragedy has renewed concerns about the country’s poor maintenance of its railroads. A station manager in Larissa was arrested in connection to the crash and the country’s transportation minister resigned over the collision, admitting that the country’s rail system is, quote, “not up to 21st century standards.” As of our record time at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, rescue workers were still searching for survivors.
Priyanka Aribindi: U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that a mysterious ailment that plagued diplomatic staff and other government agents stationed around the world was not part of an attack by a foreign country. The affliction, which became known as Havana Syndrome, was first reported in 2016 by U.S. officials stationed at the American Embassy in Cuba. They came down with an array of debilitating symptoms like dizziness, headaches and nausea. And over the years, about 1500 cases were reported among U.S. government officials worldwide, leading to intense speculation that a foreign adversary was targeting them, using some kind of unknown technological weapon. However, the intelligence agencies investigating these cases have reached the consensus that that scenario is highly unlikely, though they still haven’t found a definitive explanation. And while most of those affected have since recovered, there are still dozens who are living with those symptoms, though some of them are getting financial compensation thanks to a law passed by Congress last year.
Juanita Tolliver: The family of Kobe Bryant agreed to settle with Los Angeles County for twenty eight and a half million dollars Tuesday over claims that sheriff’s deputies shared grisly photos of the late NBA star, his 13 year old daughter and other victims that were taken at the scene of the helicopter crash that claimed their lives in 2020. The large sum includes the $15 million dollars awarded to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, last August by a federal jury, as well as a new payout of 13 and a half million dollars. The agreement also resolves any pending and future claims by Bryant’s three surviving daughters. An attorney representing Vanessa Bryant applauded the settlement. He said she, quote, “fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect.” It’s truly a heartbreaking story.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hundreds of students and their teachers walked out of class across Iowa yesterday to protest a series of bills targeting LGBTQ youth in the Republican led state. The demonstration was called, We Say Gay by organizers, a nod to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law that limited discussions of queerness in classrooms. Protesters took to the streets to speak out against similar legislation being considered by Iowa lawmakers, including a proposed rule that would require kids to get parental consent before changing their pronouns at school. Another bill would force school staff to essentially out students to their parents if they come out as trans. And on top of all of that, there is also a proposed ban on gender affirming care for trans youth. As if we didn’t already know how they felt, they had to make it exceedingly clear. The walkouts came a day after Iowa legislators in the state introduced two bills that seek to delegitimize same sex marriages.
Juanita Tolliver: Clearly, Iowa just has it out for LGBTQ people and children, and that’s scary. Elizabeth Holmes continues to prove women can have it all, especially if having it all can conveniently delay the prison sentence for your white collar crimes. The convicted Theranos fraudster has given birth to her second child, according to a recent court filing in her defense team’s latest appeal to her 11 year sentence set to begin April 27th. The team cites her, quote, “two very young children as evidence that Holmes is not a flight risk and should remain out of prison during her appeal process.” While Holmes was CEO of Theranos she defrauded over $144 million dollars from high profile investors while the diagnostics company delivered botched medical results to its patients, including false diagnoses of cancer and even miscarriage. Since being indicted for fraud by a federal grand jury in June of 2018, Holmes has continued to hit the gas on major life milestones. Dating and marrying hotel heir Billy Evans in 2019, welcoming her first child in 2021 and now her second. If we can learn anything from Holmes’s current chapter, it’s that maybe we all should live each day like we’re desperately avoiding a consequence. I mean, it’s giving white woman living above the law. She’s just carrying on like this isn’t happening.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s wild. I’ve been hearing about this woman for far too long. I’m sick of it. [laughter] I’m over it. I’m done with this story. Can she please serve out her sentence or something? Like if she gets this delayed because she had a baby, this just prolongs how long Elizabeth Holmes has to be in the news cycle, which I don’t think any of us want anymore. We’ve read the books, we’ve seen the TV show. We’re over it.
Juanita Tolliver: I think the other thing, though, is if they allow her to stay out of jail, let that be precedent for every Black or Brown person who was taken away from their young children. Because–
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Juanita Tolliver: If that’s what the courts want to do, then that’s fine.
Priyanka Aribindi: Great. That’s how we should treat everybody.
Juanita Tolliver: Period.
Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Girlboss the justice system, and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just which pharma drug we’re making more accessible next, like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And no more snow in LA!
Priyanka Aribindi: Please.
Juanita Tolliver: I really want you all to embrace this. It’s gonna keep happening.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s freezing here. My feet are so cold. I am ready to be back in T-shirts. I do not belong in sweaters. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: 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 Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.