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September 19, 2022
What A Day
Nobody Puts COVID In A Corner

In This Episode

  • Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest Monday, marking the end of the ten days of public mourning since her death on September 8th.
  • President Biden said in an interview that the pandemic is “over,” prompting swift criticism from public health officials. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, host of Crooked’s “America Dissected,” tells us, there’s still work to be done.
  • And in headlines: Hurricane Fiona left more destruction in the Caribbean, a Russian missile struck near another Ukrainian nuclear plant, and Adnan Syed, whose murder case was featured on the “Serial” podcast, was freed from prison.


Show Notes:



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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, September 20th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Abdul El-Sayed: And I’m Abdul El-Sayed. And this is What A Day where we’ve been feeling sort of lost ever since we learned that the lead singer of Maroon 5 is not a good husband. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, Adam Levine apparently cheated on his wife, who was a model. With a model. 


Abdul El-Sayed: We should have kind of known if it was called Maroon 5 that there were three extra people there. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s true. She should have known what she was getting into. On today’s show, parts of Puerto Rico are underwater and still without power in the wake of Hurricane Fiona. Plus, Adnan Syed. his murder case was featured on the podcast Serial was freed from prison. 


Abdul El-Sayed: But first, Queen Elizabeth the second was laid to rest, marking the end to the ten days of public mourning since her death on September 8th. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And also the end to the very, very, very, very, very long queue for the public to pay their respects to her coffin in London. And as you can imagine Abdul, the funeral, with all its pomp and circumstance commanded a fair amount of attention. Millions of people in the U.K. alone watched the televised event, as did over 8 billion people around the world. 


Abdul El-Sayed: I hear that there were lots of heads of state present at the service too. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That is correct. At least a dozen heads of states were there, including President Joe Biden. The vice president of China went which feels like a low key insult and also giving the event some authoritarian flair were President Erdogan of Turkey and President Bolsonaro of Brazil, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, was invited but did not attend. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Dudes not even a king yet and thinks he doesn’t have to show up to a royal funeral. At the end of the day, though, I feel like his sense of Queen Elizabeth was that she wasn’t despotic enough. Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Like you’re not murdering and dismembering people in a foreign country, then– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: You’re not doing it right, according to him. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. He needs a little bit more monarchy with his monarchy. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Anyway, I imagine all of this couldn’t have been cheap. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I would assume they were not going for frugal here. 


Abdul El-Sayed: So how much did the whole funeral cost? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay, so honestly, we don’t know. The British government hasn’t made that number public yet. They’ve only said they’ll give details, quote, in due course. But there are some estimates, it’s expected to cost more than the service for her mother, which cost about $6 million dollars when she died in 2002. It’s also expected to cost more than the last state funeral in the UK, which was for Winston Churchill in 1965. Fun fact Margaret Thatcher did not get a state funeral. She made it clear before she died she didn’t want one because of the cost. Maybe the only good cost related decision she ever made. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Overall, estimates say that the events of the past few days will cost taxpayers about £10 million pounds, which is almost 11 and a half million dollars, which frankly seems kind of like a lowball to me when you think of all the security costs, etc.. And this is during a time when the cost of living is going up for everyone across the UK, plus interest rate hikes and the pound hitting a 37 year low on Wednesday. But that is actually only the beginning of the cost here. 


Abdul El-Sayed: See, I lived in the UK for a couple of years and the only thing that’s cheap there is the stuff that’s subsidized, which to be fair, this whole thing was subsidized by government. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: So there’s that. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Exactly. Exactly. 


Abdul El-Sayed: So, Josie, talk to us about the other costs. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So there are also the costs of replacing the queen’s face on basically everything. Everything features the queen of England, Paper currency, the stamps, the coins, the phone booths. So now all of that will feature Charles and you know the transition over will not be cheap. Plus, the crown estate, basically, like the royal family, has a [?] amount of money, about £18 billion pounds in assets that now has to change hands. So that’s a whole other pot of money that’s being affected right now. But Abdul, enough about all the money we will never see. I want to hear your thoughts about the queen’s death and about all of the hullabaloo that has surrounded the past few days. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Look, I got to be honest with you. My grandparents grew up under British colonialism in Egypt, and that era only ended after Britain tried and failed to overthrow Egypt’s president in a coup after he nationalized the Suez Canal, which, by the way, is entirely in Egypt. So much of the conflict that we see now in post-colonial countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East are the result of arbitrary lines drawn in the name of Her Majesty the Queen. While I think Queen Elizabeth herself did the best she could and oversaw the largest decolonization in British history, she represented an institution we really shouldn’t be glorifying in 2022. Look, I have no doubts that she was a nice person, and we can both praise the woman and be honest about the institution she represented. But so much of the coverage we’ve heard and seen does work for the monarchy. The pomp and circumstance, the glitz and glamor. And it pushes a fairy tale that somehow everyone deep down wants to believe in. It was all built on the backs of slaves and colonies and dehumanizing racism. So maybe less praise for the crown and more conversation about all the people the crown has exploited. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, absolutely. And I have to say, I would also be a nice old lady if I didn’t really have a job and had $18 billion dollars. 


Abdul El-Sayed: And like ten corgis. I mean. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah! 


Abdul El-Sayed: I’m just saying right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I would be so nice. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Imagine your corgis had butlers because, like, that’s basically the situation there. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Exactly. 


Abdul El-Sayed: I feel like she lived a pretty good life. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Meanwhile, in this country, President Joe Biden was in my hometown in Michigan for the North American International Auto Show and sat down for well, we’ll call it an expansive interview with Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes. Among many doozies, President Biden dropped this bomb. 


[clip of Scott Pelley] Mr. President, first Detroit Auto Show in three years. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] Yeah. 


[clip of Scott Pelley] Is the pandemic over? 


[clip of President Joe Biden] The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. Uh. It’s but the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing and I think this is a perfect example of it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: [laughing] I don’t mean to laugh. It’s just this man, he’s really unpredictable. That is a kind of wild thing to say because the pandemic isn’t over. As far as I knew, I thought people were still dying of COVID and I thought we were still in a pandemic. So please Abdul, tell me what this [?] means. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Well, most of the time when a journalist walks you into an answer, you don’t just word for word, say what he said. But hey you know, you’re absolutely right, Josie. People are definitely still dying of COVID. And for over the past two weeks alone, nearly 400 people a day have died of COVID 19 here in the United States. And that’s on top of the daily average of more than 30,000 people who’ve been hospitalized during that period. So, no, it’s not over. What I think President Biden is getting at is that cases, hospitalizations and deaths are down over the past several weeks. And that’s despite the fact that most experts, myself included, thought that there might be a spike in COVID cases in the fall like there has been every fall since the pandemic started. And. Well, that’s good news. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Very good news. So how should we be thinking about the pandemic at this stage? 


Abdul El-Sayed: Personally, I really like the way that WHO Secretary General Tedros Ghebreyesus put it. 


[clip of Tedros Ghebreyesus] We’re not there yet, but the end is in sight. A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view. She runs harder with all the energy she has left. 


Abdul El-Sayed: There are fewer COVID deaths now than there were at any time since 2020, but we’ve got to sprint through the finish line. As Secretary General Ghebreyesus has put it, and the Biden administration knows this, it’s why they requested another $22 billion dollars from Congress to support testing, treatment and new vaccines, which, by the way, Congress has yet to fund. In case we do get another surge this fall. President Biden’s comments didn’t really help that case. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: And that’s probably why the White House is now aggressively downplaying his remarks, saying that there’s no plan to lift the national public health emergency just yet. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, so when people hear that, but they also know it’s not over, but they know it’s better. Like what should people be thinking about as they go into the fall? Like, what should they be doing? 


Abdul El-Sayed: Today would be a good day to get your next vaccine dose if you haven’t gotten it already. Even if cases aren’t increasing, we still want to be careful as a new variant could still yet emerge. Remember, this virus has a lot of tricks up its sleeve. While it may just have worn out the usefulness of the Omicron set of variants, there could always be a whole new set around the corner. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Oh and while you’re at it, get your flu shot too. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m all flu shotted up. 


Abdul El-Sayed: That makes me happy. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Anyway, that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 




Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Abdul El-Sayed: First, an update on Hurricane Fiona as we go to record tonight at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time. About 100,000 people in Puerto Rico have had their electricity restored, but the majority of the island is still without power and could be for several days. Governor Pedro Pierluisi told reporters on Monday that at least two people have died and rescue efforts are underway to help residents stranded by flooding. President Biden pledged that he would send more federal workers to Puerto Rico in the wake of the widespread damage. And Dean Criswell, the head of FEMA, is scheduled to travel to the island today. Meanwhile, Fiona is still on the move. Yesterday, the Dominican Republic declared a state of emergency after the hurricane triggered heavy rainfall and landslides there. Fiona is expected to pass through the Turks and Caicos Islands today and forecasters say the storm could grow into a category three hurricane or higher by Wednesday. 


Josie Duffy Rice: A Russian missile came close to hitting another nuclear plant in Ukraine on Monday. Now, this isn’t the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant we’ve discussed on the show before. Monday’s airstrike hit the area surrounding the South Ukraine nuclear power plant, which is the second largest atomic energy facility in that country. The attack damaged some industrial equipment near the plant, but thankfully, none of the plant’s reactors or employees were harmed. This comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to attack more Ukrainian infrastructure last week. Ukrainian authorities declared yesterday’s missile attack an act of, quote, “nuclear terrorism”. Russian officials have yet to respond to those accusations. 


Abdul El-Sayed: But also who fires missiles near a nuclear power plant like. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah it’s not.


Abdul El-Sayed: [sigh] An American held hostage in Afghanistan was freed in exchange for a prominent member of the Taliban yesterday morning. Mark Frerichs, a Navy veteran and civilian contractor, was kidnapped over two years ago and was believed to be held by a terror group connected to the Taliban. In exchange, U.S. authorities released Bashir Noorzai, who had been convicted of drug trafficking back in 2008 and was serving a life sentence in the United States. This is the first prisoner swap since the Taliban retook power last year. Both sides have been privately negotiating the exchange for months, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the same work will be done to free other Americans detained abroad. 


Josie Duffy Rice: A federal judge said that ousted Florida prosecutor Andrew Warren will not get his job back, at least for now, following his suspension by the state’s governor and lead Mickey Mouse antagonist Ron DeSantis. DeSantis suspended Warren last month because Warren wouldn’t prosecute people under laws punishing abortion and trans health care. Warren challenged the decision in court, saying it violated his right to free speech. The judge hearing the case denied Warren’s request for a preliminary injunction, and it looks like the dispute will head to trial in the next few months. Among the outrageous things that Ron DeSantis does all of the time, this is one of the worst. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s really such a violation of discretion and such an impediment on the rights of the system to decide what they want to go after. 


Abdul El-Sayed: I feel like dude should figure out if he’s getting one of those uh free flights to Martha’s Vineyard that– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: –The governor seems to be so interested in spending $13,000 a pop on. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. That very well might be its own crime. I can tell you that if Andrew Warren were over prosecuting people, no one would take his job away. It’s only when they think he’s, quote unquote, “under prosecuting”, which he’s not, that they get upset. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Disgusting. On that note over prosecuting. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Adnan Syed who was featured in the wildly popular podcast Serial walked out of prison yesterday for the first time in over 20 years. If you’re not familiar with the case, Syed was convicted of the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. We mentioned on our show last week that Baltimore prosecutors filed a motion for a new trial because they said the evidence in the original case wasn’t properly handled. A judge agreed by vacating his conviction and ordered him to be released without bail. A crowd was waiting for him as he left the courthouse. Prosecutors now have 30 days to decide if they want a new trial. Meanwhile, the Serial team announce that they’re dropping a new episode to follow up on the case because one should never miss an opportunity to drop a new podcast episode. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I have thoughts about the Serial team’s responsibility in their first podcast about this, but I will say I’m very excited for him and watching him walk into that crowd, that must be so overwhelming. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: He’s been in prison for over 20 years. It’s going to be a lot. It’s a lot to adjust to and it’s a lot of bated breath, given that prosecutors still have 30 days to decide if they want to try this again. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Mm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Mm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But it’s exciting news. 


Abdul El-Sayed: It is. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s very exciting news for him. Georgia Republican Herschel Walker is employing a new strategy ahead of his Senate debate next month, making himself so pitiful that his opponent, Raphael Warnock just wants to give him a hug. Walker agreed to the debate last week, and when asked what he’s doing to prepare for it, he said this quote, “I’m not that smart. Warnock is a preacher, is smart and wears these nice suits. So he is going to show up and embarrass me at the debate October 14th. And I’m just waiting to show up and I will do my best”. Oh, boy, he really is great if your job isn’t telling people you deserve to be in a position of massive power. Walker’s campaign later said his comments were meant to be sarcastic, which if they were smart, they’d say about every statement he’s made this year. And those are the headlines. [music break] That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Don’t be fooled by Herschel Walker’s attacks on himself and tell your friends to listen. 


Abdul El-Sayed: And if you’re into reading and not just Adam Levine’s giant tattoo that says California Like Me [laughter], What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Abdul El-Sayed. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And stay strong Senator Warnock. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Stay dumb Herschel Walker. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Don’t give in. 


Abdul El-Sayed: I’m just waiting for Herschel Walker to, like, try and challenge him to some football related antics. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, God. 


Abdul El-Sayed: And then Warnock actually whoops his ass. That’d be amazing.


Josie Duffy Rice: That’d be amazing. That’d be incredible. [?] of god. [music break] 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.