In This Episode
- President Biden had hoped to have 70 percent of adults in the U.S. vaccinated with at least one shot by Independence Day, and we’re close to hitting that goal. Biden also elaborated on his plan to share 80 million vaccine doses by the end of the month, with the first batch of doses headed for South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.
- This was another banner week in the world of meme stocks, or stocks that have surged in value thanks to attention from retail investors on the Internet. We walk through what went on with AMC, and how the company is responding.
- Plus, we’re joined by comedian and actress Aparna Nancherla for headlines: Donald Jr. is on Cameo, two kids drive a car to see dolphins, and fifteen elephants are on a mysterious journey in China.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, June 4th. I’m Akilah Hughes
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the podcast from an alternate timeline where Ben Affleck and JayLo never even broke up.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. In fact, they joined a thruple with P. Diddy and they’re all doing really great.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, we’re going to break down AMC’s wild ride on the stock market. Plus, we’ll have headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:
[clip of President Biden] In just four months, thanks to the American people, we’ve made incredible progress in getting people vaccinated quickly, efficiently, and equitably. Nearly 170 million Americans of every party, every background, every walk of life, have stepped up, rolled up their sleeves and gotten the shot.
Akilah Hughes: That was President Biden talking about the U.S. vaccination campaign. And we are exactly one month out from that July 4th deadline Biden set to get a specific number of people in America vaccinated. So where do things stand?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we’re getting quite close. It’s great. Biden talked about wanting 70% of adults with at least one shot at that point. We are now at 63%, according to the CDC. He also mentioned 60% of adults being fully vaccinated by July 4th and we are at 52% there. So overall doing pretty darn good. But The New York Times wrote down in a bunch of helpful graphics that there are quite a lot of states that are pretty likely to miss this threshold by the deadline. In fact, they estimated that 30 states are actually not going to make it, and some are unlikely to hit 70% by the end of the year if their vaccination rates continue as they have. We can link to the article in our show notes so you can get a picture of this, but some examples of states where about half or fewer of adults have gotten at least one dose include a lot in the south: Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee. Then on the other side of things, bringing up the national average or states like Illinois, Colorado, New York and others, that are at or even approaching that 70% first shot number. But even in those cases, we’re talking about huge areas. So a state with good overall numbers might have pockets of regions where vaccinations are actually really low.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and there are all the fun incentives out there that we’ve talked about, scoring free donut states, states having lotteries, etc.. But this week, the Biden administration also announced a more urgent and practical one.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s right: child care. So we had touched on this before, but one of the things that has come up in surveys around vaccination is not always the obvious reluctance or hesitancy or even, you know, crazy conspiracies you might come across, but concerns about taking care of children or missing work to either get vaccinated or recover from the side effects. So a few days ago, Biden announced that four of the major child care providers in the U.S. are going to provide free care to help parents and caregivers get vaccinated. And, of course, private businesses are amping up what they’re doing too. CVS is doing a sweepstakes where people could win Super Bowl tickets. United Airlines apparently has something similar that earns vaccinated people the chance for a year of free flights.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So if you want to go, I guess, state to state, since the world is not exactly open, great. Wonderful value.
Gideon Resnick: Explore every route imaginable—good for you. Kroger is going to give one million dollars to a vaccinated person every week this month. And Anheuser-Busch is promising free beer on July 4th if the country hits the 70% goal. Terms and conditions apply for all of these things, et cetera, et cetera. But you know that. But, yeah, the White House and others are really trying to go all in this month because the daily average of doses given out has dropped by like 67% since the peak in mid-April. And where there isn’t vaccine coverage, there, of course, is a chance for more spread.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and then we got news of what America’s plan is to help get the rest of the world vaccinated, and how we’ll finally be sharing doses with other countries. So what’s the word?
Gideon Resnick: Yes. So we got our first glimpse of this yesterday. By the end of this month, America is planning on sharing 80 million doses. The White House broke down where the first batch, about 25 million shots are going to be shared: about 19 million doses are going to go to Covax, which is this international program by the World Health Organization to get vaccines to poorer nations. Those doses will be dedicated specifically for South and Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa. Then the rest of what we’re sharing at first will head to places experiencing surges or where the need is more immediate. That includes India, Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza, and more. And the clock is really ticking here. The WHO recently raised the alarm about rising test positivity in 14 African countries, with concern about a conceivable wave that could spread across the continent. And the US embassy in Afghanistan recently recommended that U.S. citizens actually leave due to worsening conditions there. Much, much more we will get into soon. But on to something that couldn’t be any more different, Akilah, this week has been another crazy ride on the stonk train. Can you help break down what has been going on?
Akilah Hughes: Yes, indeed, Gideon. So for those who are unaware of the concept of stonks, they are simply the meme stocks and digital currency tidal wave sweeping the nation, and in regards to the latter, the entire world. So we reported on AMC, GameStop and Nokia earlier in the year when short sellers and Reddit collective saw this big opportunity to make quick cash. But since then a lot has happened. The app Robinhood froze people’s assets. Reddit made some communication channels disappear. Dogecoin moonward trajectory was derailed after Elon Musk hosted SNL and Bitcoin’s value dropped by $20,000+. The latest news, though, surrounding these volatile stocks and currencies is that AMC made good on that huge influx of cash, which is allegedly a billion dollars’ worth between December and January, and earlier this week rallied to its highest share price yet. But then yesterday it closed down 20%. But also, hey, still up in general.
Gideon Resnick: OK, so some major swings up and down here. So what actually accounts for these latest gains? Is just more mems?
Akilah Hughes: No, we are talking about real money, Gideon. So at the beginning of the week, AMC made gains by selling stock to a hedge fund, then by selling more shares on the markets yesterday the company said that it raised over $587 million in additional equity capital. But it’s not exactly like AMC is ashamed of the meme clout. In fact, they’re leaning into it. They’ve started a new platform for investors to get free popcorn or advance screenings of films, which might not seem like much but if you’ve left your house lately, it seems like everything is way too expensive. Also a smart way to get people to still buy tickets and support your company the old fashioned way, by sitting in a theater, getting the feet sticky and watching pretty people kiss. So yeah. Despite all the high highs and low lows, the takeaway is that this Wall Street strategy has allowed AMC, a theater chain on the brink of being closed forever, to bounce back just as things are reopening nationwide.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So is it safe to invest in these stocks? Are we all too late to benefit at this point? Asking for anyone in particular.
Akilah Hughes: Well, this is not financial advice, but AMC themselves put out a statement yesterday basically warning prospective investors of the volatile nature of the stock, which also almost certainly contributed to the dip at the end of the day yesterday. In the statement, they said, quote “Our current market prices reflect market and trading dynamics unrelated to our underlying business or macro or industry fundamentals and we do not know how long these dynamics will last.” [?unclear] is right. [laughs] And Wall Street analysts are also not convinced that this kind of thing has staying power. But for younger generations with no accrued wealth because of stagnant wages, investing $100 here or there seems worth the risk, at least in the short term. So to those young, brave cowboys investing here and there in the fun, uncharted wild west of meme stocks, may the odds be ever in your favor. We’ll keep you posted on how this all shakes out as theaters start going wide with releases again soon. And that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: Today, we have a very special guest, comedian and actress, Aparna Nancherla: welcome to WAD. So good to see you.
Aparna Nancherla: Thank you for having me.
Gideon Resnick: Thank you for being here.
Akilah Hughes: OK, well, Donald Trump Jr. became the first president’s son to join the gig economy this week, by opening an account on the website Cameo. So deranged fans of the businessman’s/sworn enemy of endangered species, can now pay him between $500 and $800 for a personalized video message, which might sound like this:
[recording of Donald Trump Jr.] Keep going with the turkey hunting and the deer hunting and fishing and being in the woods, as you know, it’s a big part of me and my lifestyle so if I don’t run into you at Doral, maybe I’ll see you in the woods or in a stream or on a lake or on the water someday.
Gideon Resnick: That was—
Akilah Hughes: Sounds like a threat.
Gideon Resnick: Sweaty audio. Wow.
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Yeah, woof, woof, things are not going well for him. All right. Well, side note, if you do see Donald Trump Jr. in a body of water, back away or he will bite your leg and drag you under. I’ve seen it happen. Trump’s new turn as a freelance greeting card comes after he said he’s been spending millions of dollars on criminal probes into the Trump organization. You can beat him at his own game by paying him to record a cameo where he says: I am officially guilty of doing everything bad. I hope he says it. I don’t know how much that costs.
Aparna Nancherla: If he is going to join the gig economy, I would rather Cameo than him as the Uber driver.
Akilah Hughes: Oh I know. I don’t think you’re making it to your destination. I’m just putting it out there. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Keeping that conversation up, painful. Ooof.
Akilah Hughes: Very sketchy. [laughs]
Aparna Nancherla: Yeah, yeah. He would be a chatterer I think. OK, here’s good advice for anyone planning a post-vaccine road trip, don’t do it if you’re in elementary school. Two sisters from Utah help illustrate this point on Wednesday when they got in their parents’ car at 3 a.m. and traveled 10 miles from home. The driver was nine years old and the passenger was four, meaning that even if you combine their ages, they’d still only be allowed to drive on some farms. The sisters did collide with a semi truck, but thankfully no one was hurt. Their reason for getting behind the wheel is very relatable, though, if you spent the last year plus locked inside: they wanted to go to the ocean in California and swim with dolphins. Two dolphins sisters, this is your cue to steal motorcycles and ride to Utah.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, precious. The cutest car crash I’ve ever heard.
Gideon Resnick: Seriously.
Aparna Nancherla: I was like, this sounds like a Pixar movie.
Akilah Hughes: It ends very quickly. It’s a short. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: A magical journey. Also in great mammals going on adventures, a herd of 15 elephants is currently marching across China on the longest ever movement of elephants in the country. The animals have traveled more than 300 miles through villages and forest patches, shoveling crops down their throats and causing more than $1.1 million dollars in damages—wow.
Akilah Hughes: Dang.
Gideon Resnick: The thing no one tells you about elephants is they actually have no respect for private property. It is in their nature. As of Wednesday night, the elephants were edging closer to a city with a population of 8.5 million, which is at risk of becoming one big elephant bouncy castle. The elephants left their home last spring. Some have suggested they’re looking for a new habitat, while others have blamed their long journey on inexperienced elephant leader. Men continue to refuse to ask for directions. I am, of course, referring to myself refusing to get directions to go meet these stunning and courageous elephants.
Akilah Hughes: I hope you get to see him Gideon. I really do.
Gideon Resnick: I’ll bring you guys along. I’ll bring you guys along.
Aparna Nancherla: It’s so funny to think of elephants as having a leader because you’re like, did you have to interview for that?
Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Yeah. Like, was he walking the fastest?
Aparna Nancherla: Or was he like: I’m great with maps.
Akilah Hughes: I know a place. [laughs] He’s like, look, I got us here, I’ll get us there. And they’re not getting there.
Aparna Nancherla: People will soon be able to fight over an armrest at higher speeds than ever because United Airlines announced yesterday that it was ordering 15 jets that can go above the speed of sound. The planes are made by a Denver company called Boom Supersonic—appropriate—which actually was Sheldon’s catch phrase on Big Bang Theory before they changed it to Bazinga. The planes have yet to be approved or built, but once they’re in operation, they will reportedly be able to fly from New York to London in three and a half hours, giving passengers barely enough time to read ads for the nation’s top plastic surgeons in Hemispheres In-Flight Magazine. Service could begin by 2029, and the jets will only contain business class seats. I will go and sit on an exercise ball in the aisles so they all have something bad to compare themselves to.
Gideon Resnick: Very important take one for the team.
Akilah Hughes: Mhm. Yeah. We need someone to be in a class lower than us. And that is just the way flights have always been. [laughs]
Aparna Nancherla: I do feel like an exercise ball in the aisle is still more comfortable than some of the economy seats.
Gideon Resnick: Absolutely.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, fully.
Gideon Resnick: Spread your legs out? Yeah, you’re good.
Aparna Nancherla: Yeah.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, if you’re going that fast, you bounce off the wall. [laughs]
Aparna Nancherla: Little bounce, yeah.
Akilah Hughes: Beautiful. Oh, my gosh. Well, Aparna, you are amazing. I have to say, because this is a podcast, I just think you’re the best speaking voice I’ve ever heard. Every time you speak, I’m just like, yeah, she was meant to say it. Was there anything that you would like to plug?
Aparna Nancherla: Well, appropriately, I will plug a voice thing.
Akilah Hughes: Nice.
Aparna Nancherla: I, I am a character on this new Fox show, The Great North, which I think their season finale just happened—or I should know that—but I think the season finale just happened. But it is available to stream on Hulu, so check it out, you can hear more of this voice.
Akilah Hughes: I loved it. I love it. Also, it is a great show. Please check it out, everybody. Well, thank you so much for being here, Aparna. And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, give us directions to the elephants, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just Hemispheres In-Fight Magazine 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 don’t drive children!
Akilah Hughes: You’re not ready. You’re not ready. There’s a test for a reason.
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 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.