In This Episode
- President Biden said last night that he wants states to make all US adults eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1st. In the coming days, he and VP Harris have plans to travel to sell the relief bill to the American people, and the first round of direct payments could be going out as soon as this weekend.
- Mississippi just approved the first anti-trans law of 2021, which would require public schools and universities to make athletes compete according to their sex assigned at birth rather than gender identity. The ACLU is campaigning hard against these sorts of laws, and more than 500 NCAA athletes signed a letter this week asking the NCCAA to stop holding championship events in states with these kinds of laws or bills in the works.
- And in headlines: New York’s state assembly will open an impeachment investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo, Derek Chauvin is now facing an additional third degree murder charge, and someone named Beeple makes $69 million selling an NFT JPG.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, March 12th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the first daily news podcast to be released as a non-fungible token.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, don’t ask us what that means. We truly have no idea.
Gideon Resnick: We do know that it’s not fungible. That much is obvious. On today’s show, a look at the wave of anti-trans bills advancing in various states and the effort to stop them. Then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:
[clip of President Biden] It’s the details of life that matter the most. And we miss those details. The big details and the small moments: weddings, birthdays, graduations, all the things that needed to happen but didn’t.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, he’s not wrong. Well, that was President Biden speaking last night in his first primetime address about the last year, marking the passage of the new economic relief bill. The bill is the first major legislative accomplishment of his presidency, and it comes about halfway through his first 100 days. So Gideon yesterday we talked about the disaster that was Year 1 of the pandemic. What did Biden have to say about that, and what is his vision for year two?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, a lot of the projections here seem to be—like you said, this past year has been awful. He really hammered that home in a grim way.
Akilah Hughes: Just in case we didn’t realize.
Gideon Resnick: Right, exactly. But also that there are reasons to feel hopeful about where we are going if everyone sticks it out a little longer, but also with the warning that conditions could still change. But one of the major reasons for optimism is the vaccine rollout. Biden has been cautious in his promises about reaching critical points like herd immunity in the U.S., seeming like a strategy to set expectations and then actually over-deliver on them. For instance, there seems to be basically zero doubt that we’re going to get to that initial promise of 100 million shots in 100 days, if not actually pass it soon. So that’s great. We’ll get to more on what he said of vaccines in a moment. And that was the major news of the night. And the other that plays into the vaccine rollout too, is this relief bill that just passed.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I think it’s a BFD. Biden, uh, in 2010 probably was the same thing. But yeah, he ended up signing it yesterday instead of today, as planned. So it definitely seems like there was a sense of urgency.
Gideon Resnick: Absolutely. And that means the first round of $1400 direct payments could be going out as soon as this weekend. And then the president and vice president had plans to travel in the coming days to actually sell this bill to the American public, though right now, public polling shows it is quite popular across the political spectrum. But that’s in part a reflection of lessons learned from 2009 and actually building support for these types of stimulus bills.
Akilah Hughes: All right. So let’s talk about the economy going into Year 2.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. Overall unemployment claims fell this past week, which is a good sign, but they are still historically high. And according to the AP, nearly 10 million jobs have been lost over the last year. The losses, of course, are obviously not spread evenly across race and gender. The New York Times recently broke down some of the data on who has returned to work and who has not. Since the start of the pandemic, Hispanic women saw an estimated 24% drop in employment right when the pandemic hit. And no demographic group has returned to pre-pandemic employment. But there are almost 10% fewer employed black women than a year ago, whereas that number is about 5% down for white men. They also cite research showing that the lowest quartile of wage earners lost the most jobs, while the highest actually gained jobs.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so pretty obvious, but still pretty fucking bad. So it’s a huge hole to climb out of but there’s already a little evidence that some companies are holding off on layoffs because of this bill.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So according to The Washington Post, the relief bill overall includes a lot less for some of these bigger companies. But there was a 65 billion dollar chunk for particularly hard hit industries like tourism, restaurants and airlines. As a result, American Airlines and United both said that they were able to proceed without planned layoffs for over 10,000 workers each. Then Amtrak reportedly also said that they’d be able to call back furloughed workers soon. And New York’s MTA got money, which they hope to use to protect against service changes and layoffs in the future. As just a few examples.
Akilah Hughes: Yes. So that’s the economic side of Year 2. But of course, the rest of Year 2 is going to be up to vaccines. Let’s talk about that.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and this was the big announcement that Biden made in a speech last night. Here is a clip of that.
[clip of President Biden] Tonight, I’m announcing that I will direct all states, tribes and territories to make all adults—people 18 and over—eligible to be vaccinated no later than May 1. Let me say that again. All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1.
Gideon Resnick: Say it a third time. Yes, just to clarify, he’s talking about eligibility, essentially. He wants states to say you’ll be able to at least get in line for your shot by May 1st. And the other date being put on our calendars is July 4th, saying that with vaccines and all the other things that we’ve been doing, it could be slightly more normal than last year. Terms and conditions apply. He was basically saying, like: it’s not going to be a leap into, you know, huge, massive events, but a barbecue with friends . . .
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, we might actually be able to remember it at least.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. There could be a photo taken, perhaps. He also said that there are plans for more troops being used to assist in vaccinations across the country, a federal website to help more people find available vaccines, and more. And then in the back half of the year, as the United States gets closer to herd immunity—fingers crossed—the conversation could then begin moving to what the U.S. is doing to help the rest of the world in vaccinations. There are places like Brazil, for example, where it is surging right now. And that is going to almost certainly be part of the calculus as we go forward, particularly with the opportunity for variants like in Brazil and elsewhere to spread in places with fewer vaccinations. So we are going to come back to all of that very soon. But Akilah, let’s talk about another ongoing story in the U.S.” state bills targeting trans kids.
Akilah Hughes: Yes. So yesterday, Mississippi became the first state to actually make one of these anti-trans bills into law. The law explicitly requires public schools and universities to have athletes compete according to their sex assigned at birth, rather than their gender identity. It’s set to take effect on July 1st unless it’s challenged in court, and it will certainly be challenged in court. A very similar law that passed in Idaho last year was blocked by a judge. Idaho is currently appealing that. And overall, more than 20 states are proposing restrictions on athletics for transgender kids this year, including South Dakota, Tennessee, Alabama and Montana.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and very reminiscent of the anti-trans bathroom bills we saw in recent years. But as ugly as that was and this is, there are a lot of people pushing back and standing up for trans kids.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So you probably could have guessed that the ACLU is campaigning hard against these sort of laws, but also the sports world—which in our capitalist society is the biggest moneymaker for schools—they’ve also been incredibly vocal against these bills. In fact, more than 500 NCAA athletes signed a letter to the NCAA this week to ask them to stop holding championship events in states with these kinds of laws or bills in the works. And that’s not nothing. All right. So say you’re a pretty conservative cisgender kid going to Ole Miss on a sports scholarship and you’re really, really good. Like you’re so good, in fact, that there’s already talk of you being drafted in the NBA post college. Well, it now affects your future if your state is banning trans athletes. So it’s in your best interest to throw your weight behind supporting equal rights, which is kind of ironic how the actual hindrance to cisgender athletes’ success is the bigotry behind these anti-trans bills.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, and there’s been a pretty recent example of that. Back in 2016, the NCAA pulled their championship from North Carolina over a bathroom bill there. It definitely drew a ton of attention to the issue. And by the way, that bathroom bill has been partially repealed.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and while dumber conservatives may cry ‘cancel culture’ even though they’re literally trying to cancel trans people in public life, let’s be clear: we should vote with our dollars. You know, since human rights isn’t enough of a reason for these state legislatures to drop this bullshit, perhaps fumbling the bag to the tune of tens of millions of dollars is enough motivation for them to stop their identity politics—that identity being bigotry so insidious that in the year 2021 they’re still actively trying to take people’s rights away while listing freedom as a top five reason to be proud to be an American. But before we move on, it’s worth repeating that girl sports in states that allow transwomen to compete have continued to grow and thrive. There’s zero evidence that trans-athletes participation at all hinders cisgender athletes success. Once again, Republicans are afraid of a boogeyman that has never materialized, and they’re legislating from a place of fear. Their time would probably be better spent supporting women athletes and giving them an equal wage. But, hey, you know, we’re just trying to make sense over here. Transwomen are women. We will keep you posted on all of this. But that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about your brain on exercise. If you’re a runner—and I’m definitely not—you know that after subjecting your body to a bit of movement torture, you get a pleasant feeling called a runner’s high. Until now, most people have attributed that feeling to endorphins, which is the body’s natural opioid painkillers, but according to a new study out of Germany, the most likely cause is endocannabinoids. They have a similar structure to cannabis, a.k.a. weed—[laughs] I’m like I could do a few a.k.a.s—and our bodies produce them in elevated levels during activities like orgasms, and I guess also running. [laughs] I’m only familiar with one. The study involved giving people an endorphin blocking drug and asking them if they felt high after running. Most of them did, indicating that endorphins aren’t the cause of this feeling. So Giddy, running is weed. Is this true to your personal experience?
Gideon Resnick: It’s so funny because this blew my mind earlier, and I was thinking that it is the—I, like I don’t like weed at all. Like, it doesn’t, it does not make me feel good, but running does. So then the, the like the calculus I had to do in my head was if I am getting high while I am running, does that mean that I actually do like weed? I don’t know. It’s an interesting—that’s why it kind of, it kind of messed me up for the day.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I mean similarly: I don’t like running [laughs] and I like weed.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Akilah Hughes: But yeah, I think that, you know, some people have naturally occurring cannabinoids at a higher level. So maybe you just have really low ones and you need the run. But if you do the weed, it’s like: uh, that’s too much, that’s crazy.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Akilah Hughes: For me, I think I am just like, you know, ready to get it from wherever. If I run for four hours, I don’t think I’m ever going to feel the runner’s high. My body is: like just die like just die already, whatever is chasing you—you should be dead.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I think that there should be some sort of study that involves both of us and like these multiple independent variables to figure this out, because having like the equal and opposite reactions to both of these things.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: Rare. Rare to find.
Akilah Hughes: Right.
Gideon Resnick: You know. Blind study folks: listen, listen to the show and hit us up. OK, so we, we’ve sort of run the gamut here but what, how do you feel about this?
Akilah Hughes: About running? I mean, you know, here’s what I’ll say: I am really happy for people who find personal joy from exercise. I think that it’s always going to be a slog for me. Like, I really don’t have endorphins or these cannabinoids kick in. And I’ve told like personal trainers in the past, like I’ve had like physical therapists, and they’re like: no, it’ll start feeling good. I’m like: we’ve been doing this for an hour man, just call it off—I know what my body wants it and it’s not this. Yeah. I think I evolved from people who like mostly hid to survive, like they were running from many things. [laughs] So, yeah, it’s just not, it’s not for me, but good for them. You know, good for everybody who can outrun anything. I played on getting chased out and eaten by whatever’s coming. We’ll just like that. We checked our temps. We’re Olympic runners and we’re really proud of it. Stay safe and we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: New York State’s assembly announced yesterday it will open an impeachment investigation into Governor Andrew Cuomo. The decision followed calls for his resignation from over 50 state lawmakers, plus longtime Cuomo nemesis and New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio. An investigation will allow lawmakers to look into any potential evidence they need in order to go forward with actual impeachment proceedings. And this inquiry will be separate from another one led by State Attorney General Letitia James. On Wednesday, a sixth woman came forward with accusations against the governor. The woman, an unidentified staffer, accused the governor of groping her in his mansion last year. That accusation has been reported to Albany police, and Cuomo continues to deny all the allegations against him.
Akilah Hughes: Derek Chauvin is now facing third degree murder charges in the death of Gorge Floyd. The judge overseeing the trial made the decision yesterday, adding it to other charges Chauvin will be up against, including manslaughter and the more serious felony murder. Third degree murder applies to cases where a person does something dangerous without regard for human life but without explicitly intending to kill. Prosecutors say the latest charge provides another pathway to conviction and reflects the gravity of the allegations made against Chauvin. Jury selection for the case has been coming along slowly, with only five jurors selected so far: three white men, one Black man and one woman of color. Chauvin has been free on bail since October.
Gideon Resnick: There’s a new way for art to be confusing. It has to do with so-called nonfungible tokens, which allowed an image file from an artist named Beeple to sell for 69 million dollars—very nice—at auction yesterday. Nonfungible tokens can be thought of like certificates of authenticity, but they’re stored on a block chain network where they allow ownership to be verified publicly. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum also rely on the blockchain. So at a time when interest in crypto is skyrocketing, prices of NFTs tagged to art, sports highlights, tweets and yes, virtual sneakers, are soaring too. To suburban dads in museums scoffing at Rothkos because all they are is colors: truly suck on this! The knock on NFTs is that they’re inherently valueless and the digital assets they’re connected to can often be accessed for free anyway. Sounds like a great note from someone who doesn’t want to make a million dollars.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, come on, guys, get with it. Let’s get this bread. Studio execs that are elected to address Black inequity in film could be swayed by 10 million of my close friends named Benjamin Franklin. Ten billion dollars is the amount of money Hollywood is missing out on each year by failing to prioritize Black talent, end anti-Black marketing and development bias, and close gaps in representation. That’s according to a new report released by management consulting firm McKinsey & Co.. The central finding from McKinsey was that Black led projects consistently outperform other properties, yet continue to be undervalued and underfunded by studios. To put hard numbers to this: McKinsey said that on average, Black-led films are given 24% smaller production budgets than non-Black-led films, while movies that are written, directed or produced by Black talent get 43% smaller budgets. Good God. It might not surprise you to find out that the film executives signing off on these budgets are 92% white. Anyway, please give 20 million of Chris Nolan’s dollars to Ryan Coogler for 2021. It will pay off. We will see the movie.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. He is also interested in crazy stuff about time. So let him have it.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, let him have that time money. And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: One last thing before we go this week: on Rubicon, Brian Beutler talks to Senator Brian Schatz about the passage of the American Rescue Act and the various ways it helps working families. They also discuss whether the 1.9 trillion dollar bill will be the high watermark of the Biden era, or if Democrats are just getting started. Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcast, Spotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts. That is all for today. If you’d like to show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, legalize running, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just the blockchain in search of the answers to life’s great questions 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.
[together] And check out my virtual sneakers.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, they’re pretty cute, right?
Gideon Resnick: I bought them for 900 million dollars.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I like to kick around on the web in my digital sneaks.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right. That’s what they say.
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.