In This Episode
- The CDC said yesterday that fully vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor public settings in counties where the transmission rate is “substantial” or “high,” after new evidence showed that a vaccinated person could transmit the Delta variant of COVID to others. President Biden may also begin requiring federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated or face regular testing.
- Four U.S. Capitol police officers testified to a House committee about the violence, racial attacks, and fear for their lives they experienced during the January 6th insurrection. The House panel into the riot will likely hold its next hearing before the end of Congress’s August recess.
- Plus, one of What A Day’s new co-hosts Priyanka Aribindi joins us for headlines: airports face jet fuel shortages, Simone Biles pulls out of an Olympic event, and the U.S. government sells a rare album once owned by Martin Shkreli.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, July 28th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the sustainably made podcast produced from recycled cardboard beds from the Tokyo Olympics.
Akilah Hughes: Yes, basically you pour water on the beds to turn them into a pulp, then you save the beds as an MP3.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And somewhere in that process, the squishy wet cardboard becomes our voices.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, science is amazing. On today’s show, we share what stood out to us from the first hearing of the House panel into the January 6th insurrection, plus Simone Biles and other Olympians take a stand for their mental health.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right. But first, another important update on the pandemic in the U.S. The CDC said yesterday that fully-vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor public settings in counties where the transmission rate is either, quote, “substantial” or, quote, “high.” So as for where those counties are, well, if you live in the United States, then you are most likely in one of them.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, from sea to shining sea.
Gideon Resnick: There is a lot, and we’ll link to the map of that CDC data so you can see for yourself. Additionally, the CDC updated its recommendations for schools to reopen in the fall. It actually now suggested universal masking regardless of vaccination status. That, too, is going to be left up to localities as per usual.
Akilah Hughes: So, you know, this guidance is a reversal from what it said for vaccinated folks back in May. Why Gideon? Why? What’s changed? What’s changed? What’s different now?
Gideon Resnick: Well, we are in some shit, aren’t we? Mostly some new information and data that officials shared about the Delta variant. So I was on this CDC briefing call yesterday and Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this, which really, really jumped out at me:
[clip of Dr. Rochelle Walensky] Information on the Delta variant from several states and other countries indicate that in rare occasion, some vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others. This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendation.
Gideon Resnick: So to reiterate there, what Walensky is saying about Delta that makes it distinct from other strains that we have seen so far is this: there is evidence that a vaccinated person could, in fact transmit it to others. That’s because in some of these cases, vaccinated individuals may be carrying as much virus in them when they get infected with Delta as unvaccinated people. So that is a pretty big update to our previous understanding of how this all works. But still, Walensky said the majority of transmission is happening among unvaccinated people and that a vaccine can still protect a vaccinated person from severe health outcomes.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and last thing, we talked yesterday about vaccine mandates for the VA’s health care workers, places like New York City and more. Tomorrow, one more could be underway.
Gideon Resnick: That is correct. There are reports that on Thursday, President Biden will announce that federal employees and contractors are going to be required to be vaccinated or have to take regular tests. And all of this kind of speaks to a theme that public health officials have been desperate to convey recently. There are still too many unvaccinated people in the country, particularly given how bad Delta is. And Walensky even said yesterday that the more the coronavirus is able to mutate, the more that there’s a possibility down the road that a variant ends up evading vaccines. Thankfully, we are not there, but let’s not get there.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: We’ll link to the updated CDC guidance and their map of counties by transmission in the show notes. In other news, there was the first hearing from a special House committee on the January 6th insurrection. So Akilah take us through how this all went.
Akilah Hughes: So the January 6th commission got underway yesterday with bipartisan explanations of why it’s important to get the full picture of the violence and negligence that occurred that day. And also harrowing testimony from four Capitol police officers. So we are going to share with you some of the highlights. Congresswoman Liz Cheney from Wyoming has been getting shit from Republicans for months for defending the country over her party. And she had a powerful statement regarding the need for Americans to really bear witness to what happened. Here’s a clip:
[clip of Senator Liz Cheney] The American people deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for January 6th. We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House: every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to during and after the attack. Honorable men and women have an obligation to step forward. If those responsible are not held accountable and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system. We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come and another January 6th every four years.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so those are the stakes. We can either hold people accountable for their actions and preserve our fragile democracy, or we can expect more violence.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, unfortunately, that seems to be it. So that set the tone for the commission hearings. And yesterday we also heard from officers who actually survived the attack on the Capitol building in Congress. Can you give us some of those highlights?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so, I mean, none of it’s good. So highlights is a hard word, but there were plenty of moments that stood out. One such moment came from U.S. Capitol Sergeant Aquilino Gonell giving emotional testimony about how dire things got when the mob broke in and started shouting.
[clip of Sgt. Aquilino Gonell] I, too, was being crushed by the rioters. I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, this is how I’m going to die, defending this entrance.
Akilah Hughes: And then he said this:
[clip of Sgt. Aquilino Gonell] I later find out that my wife and relatives were, here in the U.S. and abroad, were frantically calling and texting me from 2:00 p.m. onward because they were watching the turmoil on television.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, that is awful.
Akilah Hughes: It’s just horrific. And another major moment that stuck out to me was Officer Michael Fanone, who was subjected to unspeakable violence from the mob.
[clip of Michael Fanone] I was grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country. I was at risk of being stripped of, and killed with, my own firearm as I heard chants of: kill him with his own gun.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and his testimony continues from there and is incredibly graphic. He recalled being stripped of his ammunition, his badge, and having to appeal to the humanity of the mob by yelling that he has kids and hoping that that would be enough for them to spare him.
Gideon Resnick: Jeez.
Akilah Hughes: But what’s worse is now he feels abandoned by the people he was protecting that day.
[clip of Michael Fanone] What makes the struggle harder and more painful is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened. I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room, but too many are now telling me that hell doesn’t exist or that hell actually wasn’t that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.
Gideon Resnick: Wow. And as horrendous as this all was, there was another bit of information about the mob that was revealed yesterday as well.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So revealed or confirmed, either way, you want to put it. Officer Harry Dunn spoke about how the Trump supporters who enacted this attack hurled racial slurs at him. And I just want you to know that this is really hard to listen to, but it’s important because it’s real and it happened and regardless of free speech, it’s deeply disturbing and racist and damning that anyone at their job be spoken to like that by anyone, but to be spoken to by people who are threatening your life and trying to overthrow the government, it’s just all really unhinged.
[clip of Harry Dunn] I told them to just leave the capital and in response they yelled: No, man, this is our house, President Trump invited us here, we’re here to stop the steal, Joe Biden is not the president, nobody voted for Joe Biden. I’m a law enforcement officer and I do my best to keep politics out of my job, but in this circumstance, I responded” well, I voted for Joe Biden, does my vote not count? Am I nobody? That prompted a torrent of racial epithets. One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled: You hear that, guys? This [n word] voted for Joe Biden. Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming: boo, fucking [n word]. No one had ever, ever called me a [n word] while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer. In the days following the attempted insurrection, other Black officers shared with me their own stories of racial abuse on January 6th. One officer told me he had never in his entire 40 years of life been called a [n word] to his face, and that streak ended on January 6th.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s really rough.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Wow, wow. So what is next then for this actual commission’s work?
Akilah Hughes: So the panel chair, Representative Bennie G. Thompson, said that the hearing, quote, “set the right tone for the work of this committee” and said that the panel would likely hold its next hearing before the end of Congress’s August recess. So we’re going to keep you up to speed on the details that are revealed as the investigation continues. But that’s the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and today we’re doing something extra special. Those of you keeping track know this is our second to last episode with Akilah as our co-host. How the hell did this happen? Obviously, there’s a lot that we still want to say. But for now, Akilah, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take care of one last little formality here.
Akilah Hughes: OK. I do not know what this is going to be, so I. Yeah. Is it like an exit interview? [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Yes. Yeah. We will be asking you what your experience is like and having you read it on a scale of one to 10 over the course of various factors. Oh, great. OK, so Akilah, as you know, I am pretty confrontation-averse to say the least. If I’m served the wrong meal at a restaurant, I’ll just eat it and I’ll lick my lips and rub my belly the whole time in a very showy manner. In contrast, one of your great strengths besides, I don’t know, news comedy, persistence in dog adoption, is that you don’t fear confrontation. You could even say it’s one of the places where you draw your power. You super [stay on?] style, yeah. You are the person everyone wishes they had in their friend group so when you all go to the movies and someone sitting in your assigned seats, there’s not going to be a second of hesitation before the situation is properly resolved. And you’re not just sitting in your correct seats, but also reclining and laughing and having the time of your life.
Akilah Hughes: All right. I can vouch that happens. I, I am the person who has voted to address the issue when any issue arises. So, yeah, I hear that.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly right. People are getting booted and they’re remembering it. I’m worried, though, that as I continue to host this show without you, people may think they can start messing with me and the rest of the WAD squad. So if you’re willing, I’d like to ask this brief statement be read, letting people know that that is quantifiably not true.
Akilah Hughes: OK, it is the first time I’m reading this, so happy to oblige. I Akilah Hughes, want to let the world know that even after they stop hearing me every day on What A Day, if they mess with Gideon or anyone else on the WAD squad, they will hear from me a lot and it won’t be fun.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right.
Akilah Hughes: My responses to WAD slanderer will include but are not limited to: tweets with perfectly chosen, brutally accurate gifs, sub tweets that only barely qualify as ‘sub,’ and of course, normal person-to-person conflict resolution.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right.
Akilah Hughes: Just because I’m not around doesn’t mean I won’t be paying attention to how people are treating Gideon and WAD squad. And if need be, I will be back on the mic making things right, as soon as I can find someone to watch my dog who everyone seems to be obsessed with but no one has even one 1/2 hour to dog sit Of course, I will expect Gideon to do the same for me. If anyone comes at me, he will send up ten strongly-worded texts, stand outside the haters homes and frown, or do person-to-person conflict resolution but with a pained expression and tone of voice that says: I want this to be over so badly.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, wow, ultimately in my post-WAD life, I will continue to show Gideon and the WAD squad that if you live by your values, you shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. In this way. I’ll be leading by example or teaching Gideon to fish instead of giving him fish. Only by “fishing” here, I mean letting people know how bad they fucked up. That is my solemn pledge. Signed, Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: Woooh! Thank you, seriously, for reading that. It means so, so much to me. And just to be clear, to any of my haters or the grown-up versions of kids who dunked on me in the pool when I was ten, I’d encourage you to maybe listen to that section two or three more times before moving on with the rest of the show.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you really don’t want to be on the other side of one of my gifs. It is devastating every time.
Gideon Resnick: I am trembling, even thinking about it. But yeah, no one that is here will be messed with. We have each other’s backs. That’s true.
Akilah Hughes: That’s right. No one mess with the squad. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: [ad break]
Akilah Hughes: It’s my last week as host and the WAD squad will not be the same. That’s a given. But it’s going to be a lot bigger. So we wanted to introduce you to one of the people who stepped in to co-host with Gideon starting next week, Crooked’s own Priyanka Aribindi. So she started the WAD newsletter with Brian Beutler, and now she’s here on the show. Hello, Priyanka. It’s so good to see you.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hi, guys. Thanks for having me. This is very exciting.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, hell yeah.
Akilah Hughes: I know. This is great. I’m so glad to have you here. Well, you ready to do some headlines?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, let’s do it.
Akilah Hughes: All right. Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: A Huntington Beach Restaurant officially came out as pro-COVID by posting a sign asking patrons to provide proof of being unvaccinated to enter. The Italian eatery Basilico’s Pasta e Vino has railed against public health measures throughout the pandemic, at one point, putting up a billboard that read, quote, “Leave the mask, take the cannoli,”—which is not the line. This anti-science pro-pastry attitude might appeal to a handful of Orange County conservatives who like their aerosols, raw and unfiltered, but it has resulted in over $125,000 in fines for Basilico’s from California Division of Occupational Health and Safety, or Cal/OSHA, for violations like failing to establish a COVID-19 prevention program. An employee told the L.A. Times the patrons wouldn’t actually have to prove they’re unvaccinated, probably because that would require a blood test from a nurse or a doctor who will not get within 10 miles of this place.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, is it marinara or is it blood? We’ll find out!
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. Either way, you’re getting COVID.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Will not be going, I don’t think.
Priyanka Aribindi: For the pass.
Gideon Resnick: In other news, Simone Biles pulled out of the women’s gymnastics team final competition yesterday, citing her mental health. Biles made this courageous decision to pull out after her first vault when she twisted one and a half times in the air instead of doing the two-and-a-half twists that she had planned. The Russian team was able to win gold after Biles withdrew. And in a press conference she said this:
[clip of Simone Biles] It’s been a long week. It’s been a long Olympic process. It’s been a long year. And I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out. But we should be out here having fun and sometimes that’s not the case.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and other athletes have also spoken up recently about mental health, including Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open earlier this summer after she spoke publicly about her experiences with depression and anxiety. Biles’s teammates rallied around her and dedicated the silver medal that they won to her. She has yet to announce whether she will compete in her individual events later this week, the first of which is tomorrow.
Priyanka Aribindi: A combination of extremely 2021 factors is causing jet fuel shortages at some small airports in the western U.S. Those factors included post-vaccination travel boom, plus high demand for jet fuel and planes that help fight widespread wildfires. Fuel refiners are giving the firefighting planes priority, reflecting a deep-seated pro-tree, anti-vacation bias. The scarcity has caused airlines to urge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to boost jet fuel shipments, or else they’ll be forced to cancel flights. Jet fuel delays may even spread past the West, according to American Airlines, who said it may add stops to certain routes to conserve fuel.
Akilah Hughes: Well, you know, just stay home. All right, one-of-a-kind Wu Tang Clan album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” has a new owner who hopefully has been able to treat it with Handi Wipes, sage and garlic for warding off vampire spirits. The album was previously owned by Pharma Bro and little boy after five minutes on the beach from “old,” Martin Shkreli, [laughs] but it was seized by the US government and has now been sold to pay off Shkreli’s debts. Shkreli is the worst last name on the record. It sounds like the ugliest Muppet. Shkreli is most famous for raising the price of a life-saving HIV and cancer drug Daraprim by 5,000% in 2015. But his deep cuts include being convicted of securities fraud in 2017 and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2018. That sentencing also saddled Shkreli with a debt of $7.4 million to the U.S. government. But the government’s sale of this album, which he bought for two million dollars in 2015, that debt has officially been paid off. The terms of the contract for owning the Wu Tang album say it can’t be released to the public until the year 2103. Very specific.
Gideon Resnick: Cannot wait.
Akilah Hughes: As for who just got access to the 36 chambers: the identity of the album’s new owner isn’t public, and neither is the sale price.
Priyanka Aribindi: They didn’t sell it. They didn’t sell it. The sale didn’t happen.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, there’s no world, there’s no world where it was sold. It objectively is in the Library of Congress. And, you know, that’s where it belongs.
Gideon Resnick: That’s where it belongs.
Priyanka Aribindi: Who in the government knows how to sell that? Where they put that? EBay?
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Yeah. For millions of dollars? I’m incredulous.
Gideon Resnick: Priyanka, now that you’re part of the WAD squad, let people know when you’re going to be joining every week and where they can find you online as well.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, I will be here every Friday, so I hope all of you listening will be, too. I’m very excited. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, all the things, @priaribi.
Gideon Resnick: There you go.
Akilah Hughes: And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, come at me haters, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading and not just track listings of secret Wu Tang albums like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[all] And take the mask AND the cannoli!
Akilah Hughes: Why not?
Gideon Resnick: Imagine how much more cannoli you can eat later, in the future, if you took the mask. Just saying.
Akilah Hughes: Be better, be best you know.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly, exactly right.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.