In This Episode
- Airstrikes by Israeli forces have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with numerous vital resources damaged or destroyed. We spoke with Inès Abdel Razek, advocacy director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, about the situation on the ground. Also, EU members called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
- The House passed an anti-Asian hate crimes bill, yesterday, which would speed up review of COVID-19 related hate crimes, help law enforcement to better identify anti-Asian bias, and more. We discuss the rise in anti-AAPI violence that led to the bill, plus the response to it.
- And in headlines: the police officers in North Carolina responsible for shooting Andrew Brown Jr. will not face criminal charges, Rudy Giuliani’s son will run for governor of NY, and cicadas get high and watch their butts fall off. Plus, Elise Hu from NPR and TED Talks Daily fills in for Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, May 19th.
Elise Hu: I’m Elise Hu in for Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the podcast that’s recorded in the bed of an EV truck driven by the president.
Elise Hu: [laughs] Yeah, he doesn’t go easy either. He’s flooring it.
Gideon Resnick: The man is honestly obsessed with transportation. All right, so first things first, we have a new amazing guest host with us today: Elise Hu. Welcome to WAD. We are so, so happy to have you. Elise, if you do not know, does basically everything. She is the host of the podcast “Ted Talks Daily”, host-at-large for NPR, correspondent for Vice News, and co-founder of the podcast company Reasonable Volume. It is so amazing to have you with us.
Elise Hu: I’m never too busy for you and the WAD squad, Gideon.
Gideon Resnick: Thank you.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, Congress sends a hate crime bill to the president to address attacks on Asian-Americans. Plus, we’ll have headlines. But first, the latest:
[clip of Ines Abdel Razek] At least I can tell you the past few hours, I was just like running from stun grenades in Sheikh Jarrah right now. I just came back, that’s why I said, like, why should we do video or not, because I just took a shower just to get the, get the skunk water out.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. That’s Ines Abdel Razek, advocacy director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, who I spoke with yesterday. And we’re going to hear more from her in a moment about what it’s been like on the ground in Israel and Palestine.
Elise Hu: Yeah, and I want to hear that. But first, Gideon, can you give us the latest updates from the Middle East?
Gideon Resnick: Yes. So in addition to the hundreds killed in Gaza that we mentioned on the show yesterday, there are reports that several vital resources have been destroyed for the two million people who are living there. On Monday night, an Israeli airstrike significantly damaged a health clinic in Gaza City. That clinic reportedly housed the only laboratory in Gaza that processes COVID test results. What’s more is that there are reports of sewage systems being destroyed, water pipe damaged for many people, and a desalination plant going offline, among many other things. There are also major fuel and electricity shortages as well, with reports of some families getting just three to four hours of electricity a day. So it is basically ballooning into a humanitarian crisis affecting basically everyone. And then in southern Israel, local police said that two Thai workers were killed from rockets launched from Gaza.
Elise Hu: So where do things stand now on the calls from the international community to get this to stop, some sort of cease-fire?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they’re definitely getting bigger and bigger. So in an emergency meeting yesterday, European Union foreign ministers mostly called for an immediate cease-fire, while adding that the number of civilian casualties in Gaza was, quote “unacceptable.”
Elise Hu: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: Then in the U.S., there was some reporting that President Biden might have taken a harder line with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the private call that he had than what he said so far in public. But given what we’ve heard in public, you know, that might not be saying too much.
Elise Hu: Yeah, I’m skeptical that he really took that much of a harder line. But I guess you’re right. This is really by inches that we’re talking about.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I think others are skeptical, too. So during a visit to Michigan yesterday, Representative Rashida Tlaib, the first Congressmember of Palestinian descent, reportedly confronted Biden face-to-face. The New York Times said that she said his stance was enabling crimes being committed against Palestinians.
Elise Hu: So we should point out there were protests during Biden’s visit in Dearborn, Michigan. That was part of a broader day of action that included a pretty unprecedented general strike by Palestinians across Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s right. And that’s where Ines Abdul Razek was prior to our conversation yesterday.
Elise Hu: Oh, OK.
Gideon Resnick: She was in Jerusalem. And here’s part of what she had to say about what she saw:
[clip of Ines Abdel Razek] So basically, it’s impossible to peacefully protest, you know, more than 40 people in more than five minutes because then the police is just getting violent and dispersing everyone and stowing stun grenades, throwing stun grenades, and skunk water and and firing like, you know, rubber bullets. And I know it was bad in also in Ramallah. There was actually in Ramallah, the mobilization was amazing, like thousands of people in the street. And so we were connected with different friends and, you know, people in Gaza, like our friends in Gaza who are literally just trying to, like, survive against the bombings, they don’t have, obviously, the ability to mobilize right now. But I think they also look a lot at what’s going on in the other places in Palestine and including Haifa and, you know, lived in all these places. So I think, you know, the strike was, was I think, well followed and there was some mobilization.
Elise Hu: Yeah. It’s pretty impressive what we’re seeing outside of Gaza itself.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, definitely. As a recording, initial estimates of the crowds were hard to come by, but some reports said that hundreds of thousands participated in the strike, to the point that you just made. So a pretty significant moment of unified mobilization. And she added as well that one of the motivating factors behind the strike was to not allow what was happening and what has been happening to fade from view in the future.
[clip of Ines Abdel Razek] I think there’s still a fear that, you know, tomorrow, if there is a cease-fire, that’s not enough because the Palestinians have been asking for lifting of blockade that has, you know, been there for 14 years in Gaza. The annexation is going worse and worse. Demolitions of houses and expulsions have not started with Sheikh Jarrah, they’ve been ongoing and even rising during the COVID-19 pandemic. And all of this, you know, is somehow invisible-ized usually. And so I think obviously, you know, this is this is a moment to talk about these things. But again, I think there is still that risk that’s when there is less of the really high intensity of violence and in what people portray as a war, then eventually we might go back to before. And this is not what the Palestinians want. So that’s why they also called for this strike today.
Elise Hu: Yeah, there is that sense of these endless cycles, even if this round of fighting does come to an end soon.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Elise Hu: Gideon, earlier we talked about how international leaders are responding, but what does Ines say about what the world should know about what’s happening to people on the ground like herself, and how locals are able to get their message out.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so she said voices in the U.S. Like Representative Tlaib are important. But, you know, if not more so is the use of social media, particularly by younger Palestinians, which is really helping to change the narrative.
[clip of Ines Abdel Razek] I think we’ve seen how also young Palestinian voices make it to mainstream media, and also the narrative that we’re trying to change, and basically how to reconcile and end the cognitive dissonance that is huge between the political discourse and the framing in the narrative with the reality on the ground, is also being shattered. And I think that’s, that’s very important because what we see is really this continuing, you know, push by obviously Israel and their allies to continue to present this as, you know, a conflict, essential-izing it as a as a religious conflict, as an ethnic conflict—even presenting what’s, you know, the ongoing uprising by Palestinian citizens of Israel as a civil war, or the end of coexistence. All of this, which is, is not the reality. The reality remains one of settler colonialism.
Gideon Resnick: We’re going to hear more from her and other voices in the coming days as we follow the story. And in our show notes, we’ll link to some organizations where you can donate to help the people in Gaza. But Elise, let’s pivot back to the U.S. now and talk about a hate crimes bill that just passed in D.C.
Elise Hu: Yeah, they acted in a bipartisan way, Gideon.
Gideon Resnick: Huh? No way. I don’t believe it.
Elise Hu: Yes! In a bipartisan vote, Congress has addressed the wave of violence against Asians in America after Asians have been scapegoated for the past year plus for coronavirus. A new hate crimes bill just cleared the House with a 364 to 62 vote. All 62 no votes were Republicans. This already had cleared the Senate last month. So now the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, as it is named, is on its way to the president’s desk. New York Representative Grace Meng sponsored it in the House. Here she is on the House floor yesterday.
[clip of Rep. Grace Meng] The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a necessary step to confront the second pandemic of racism and discrimination. We cannot mend what we do not measure.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, let’s focus on that measure part that she mentioned for a second. So what changes after this bill gets signed into law? What would it actually do?
Elise Hu: Let’s tick through those real quick. It establishes a new Justice Department position to speed up the review of CVOID-19-related hate crimes, because expediting all of this and expediting this process has been important. It also expands the channels to report the crimes. Grants are going to be opened up, federal grants for law enforcement agencies that train their officers to identify hate crimes in the first place. The bill also calls for making a series of public education campaigns around the anti-Asian bias issues. So this data part you’re asking about—
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Elise Hu: We have tallies now from outside groups, but we don’t really have a clear government number or even a baseline on hate crimes themselves. So crimes committed on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation—we just don’t have good numbers on this because reporting the crimes isn’t systemized and law enforcement often just doesn’t classify crimes as explicitly hate crimes.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Elise Hu: Because the standard for prosecuting them as such is just so high. So this bill calls for the AG to issue guidance—I know that’s a little squishy—but it calls for the AG to issue guidance, which will help standardize systems to collect hate crimes data in the first place.
Gideon Resnick: OK, so we should mention also this couldn’t come soon enough because just yesterday another Asian man in New York, this time in his 40s, was repeatedly punched, told to go back to China, then bitten on the hand. Then this is just one of innumerable incidents. So Elise break down just how bad it’s gotten since coronavirus came to the US and the former president started calling it racist names that we don’t need to repeat here.
Elise Hu: It’s gotten real bad. This is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime as an Asian-American, right?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Elise Hu: Stop AAPI Hate, which is a group that tracks these crimes because they often go unreported to the police, showed that incidence against Asians nearly doubled from March 2020 to March 2021. And now some 6,600 such incidents have been recorded: Asians being robbed, kicked, beaten, slashed across the face, spat on—children are getting spat on—set on fire. Even these attacks, they just make me recoil. I’m so sad, and also just enraged, right?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Elise Hu: At the same time, like all the little hairs on the back of my arm are just standing up right now even thinking about this, because when we have to take in the enormity of all this violence, you know, you can’t help thinking of your parents, your grandparents, you know, shop owners that we’re close to, feeling really vulnerable, right?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Elise Hu: And, on edge. And of course, this is all following that mass shooting in Atlanta, right? That killed eight people, six of them Asian women, though the grand jury there in Georgia has now handed down the indictments against the white man who is in custody. The prosecutor is going to charge him with hate crimes and is seeking the death penalty. So there’s that. And now there’s this bill.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And so the bill does sound like a step in the right direction.
Elise Hu: Sure.
Gideon Resnick: But we should also talk about the fact that some folks in the AAPI community are a little skeptical here. What are some of the reasons for that?
Elise Hu: This is thorny, right? Because relying on fixing law enforcement or just plain adding more cops to address these racist attacks is a real source of debate within communities of color in general, and the AAPI community included, right? Because we have to remember the AAPI community is huge. It’s not monolithic, and trust in law enforcement, especially among marginalized communities, is often quite low. There’s fear that hate crime statutes could be used disproportionately against Black and LatinX suspects, right? Which could then just exacerbate race tensions. So there’s about 100 AAPI and LGBTQ groups that voice their concerns about this bill ahead of its passage. They were arguing that it just doesn’t deal enough with the root of anti-immigrant bias—which incidentally, fun fact—is the same reason that House Republicans said they voted against the bill. One of them said: you can’t legislate away hate. You can’t legislate away a lot of things, but you could still try.
Gideon Resnick: Right. Yeah.
Elise Hu: Anyway, the whole thing is just really complicated because hate crime laws and statutes are rarely used. The bar for proving a hate crime in court is ridiculous, right? You have to say: I am committing this violence because you are brown, Black, etc.—and you can’t just think it, right? And now you also have to pass this bar that it’s because of coronavirus. So in the Atlanta shooters case, he just blamed it on a sex addiction.
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm.
Elise Hu: So in the meantime, the bill is now on the president’s desk where it is expected he will sign it into law before the end of the week.
Gideon Resnick: Well, that is something we can look forward to.
Elise Hu: And that’s the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are talking about cash for shots.
Elise Hu: Yeah!
Gideon Resnick: So last week, as our listeners probably know, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced a lottery that will give one million dollars to five randomly selected residents who get the coronavirus vaccine. The program is called Vax-a-Million, and since its debut, some pharmacies and local health departments have reported an uptick in people coming in—OK, good. Over 25,000 shots were administered in Ohio this Monday, making it the highest vaccination day in the last three weeks. FYI, if you’re under 18 and cannot gamble, you can still win big in Ohio: five vaccinated people in this age group will earn full scholarships to any of Ohio’s state colleges and universities. So, Elise, what are your thoughts on this program? And should states do more to gamify five public health?
Elise Hu: I love it so much! I don’t love the name. I don’t love the name. Vax-a-million, I feel like they should a workshopped that a little more. But I’m all about harnessing sort of middlebrow populism, right, to help America get to that 90% vaccination rate. That would be a dream! And also, [laughs] vaccine hesitancy and lottery enthusiasm are just two sides of the same disregard for statistics.
Gideon Resnick: That’s true.
Elise Hu: So, why not use the power of that disregard for statistics in a positive way. What do you think?
Gideon Resnick: No, I think that’s exactly right. I love all of these incentives. The mayor of New York City was eating Shake Shack on television just a few days ago.
Gideon Resnick: Delicious.
Elise Hu: Disgustingly discarding his half-eaten fries back into the container—that’s a no-go. But otherwise, you know, like these incentives are, are great. I think every state should be giving something. I just don’t want it to get to a point where there are people—myself not included, I would never do this to be clear, let the recording show: would never, ever do this—but some people might feel if they got vaccinated early and they don’t win a prize, they might feel left out, if we actually succeed and start doing this a lot more.
Elise Hu: You wouldn’t be dishonest. You are a Webby Award winner.
Gideon Resnick: This is true. I would never, I would never register in Ohio, never own five residences, purchase multiple lottery tickets—nothing of the sort. Congrats to everybody that is participating in the Vax-a-Million program. And just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe, gamble responsibly, find a way to get the vaccine either way, please, and we’ll be back at some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The North Carolina police officers responsible for fatally shooting Andrew Brown last month will not face criminal charges. District Attorney Andrew Womble made the decision yesterday, saying the shooting was, quote “tragic” but, quote “justified” because the officers believed they were in danger. On April 21st, three deputies surrounded Brown’s car to serve a drug-related warrant and fired 14 shots as he attempted to drive away. Brown’s family commented on the footage earlier, describing the killing as an execution, since Brown was trying to get away from them rather than attack them, as police had claimed. Lawyers for the family maintained that it was an unjustified shooting. The FBI is still working with the DOJ in an investigation of the shooting, and the three officers will be reinstated and retrained.
Elise Hu: So how are you in danger if somebody’s trying to get away from you? Hmm. All right. Well, the International Energy Agency released a report yesterday saying that to avoid catastrophic climate change, the world needs to immediately stop approving new oil and gas projects, and halt the sales of new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035. Doing this would allow us to cut all carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050. And according to the IEA, it would also help grow the global economy. How about that? The report says that already approved oil and gas projects could continue, but world governments would invest heavily in renewables like solar power and wind energy, electric cars, and other renewable energy sources that maybe haven’t been invented yet. I’m, you know, I, I’m all about innovation. It’s a somewhat surprising analysis coming from the IEA, which is actually known for being pro-business and isn’t traditionally seen as an ally to environmental groups. But there you go.
Gideon Resnick: I hope that the aliens that are circling the sky do have some renewables that we could maybe trade for. You know, I’m sure that they’ve thought far ahead in this
Elise Hu: We’re going to need them by 2035.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Elise Hu: So act fast, aliens.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. [laughs] That’s what we’re saying. Get on it, folks. Most of us look at Rudy Giuliani and see a man under federal investigation, facing a massive voting machine lawsuit, and actively melting right in front of our very eyes, and we say: yeah, he’s great, but is he ever going to run for office again?
Elise Hu: So liquid-y!
Gideon Resnick: He is dripping at all times. I don’t know why you can’t dry yourself in the various contexts that you’re in, sir. Just, just maybe think about that. Well, we just got the next best thing: yesterday, Giuliani’s son, Andrew, announced he’s running for governor of New York in 2022. Now, Giuliani’s only political experience to-date was in the Trump White House, where his role was, quote “liaison to the sports community.”
Elise Hu: Key role, key role.
Gideon Resnick: Key position. So key, in fact, that that person is weirdly second in the presidential line of succession.
Elise Hu: Oh, hey!
Gideon Resnick: You can look it up. So to put voters’ minds at ease, he went genetic with his qualifications in his campaign announcement saying, quote “I’m a politician out of the womb. It’s in my DNA.” You know, for me, this logic applies to other fields, too. If I need a doctor but I want to save money, I will simply get medical care from a doctor’s baby. If Giuliani gets the Republican nomination and current New York governor and accused sexual harasser Andrew Cuomo runs again—I believe he will—New Yorkers will get to make one of the least good choices in modern history. For me, I’ll be voting for a doctor’s baby.
Elise Hu: Wow. Can you imagine that being a selling point? “I’m a politician as I’m coming out of the womb.” Like that is not something to aspire to.
Gideon Resnick: Absolutely not. Yeah, you’re wearing a suit already? That’s just bizarre.
Elise Hu: I’m not putting that on my campaign posters. I wouldn’t even—yeah, I wouldn’t even put that on a campaign poster for a bad middle school student council election.
Gideon Resnick: No, absol—not not even on my politician enemy would I put that on their campaign poster. No.
Elise Hu: Gideon, do you want to hear about cicadas?
Gideon Resnick: I, that’s what I’ve been waiting for. That’s why I logged on.
Elise Hu: I’m so glad I’m substituting today. All right, some cicadas are experiencing every drug user’s worst nightmare: a trip so bad it makes your butt fall off.
Gideon Resnick: Oh no.
Elise Hu: Forgive me for what I’m about to say: to back this thing up for a second—with no disrespect to cicadas—but often when cicadas emerge, a small percentage of them get infected with a fungus. It’s called Masso-spora. This so-called “mind controlling” fungus does different things to different kinds of cicadas, pumping them full of either amphetamine or psilocybin. So it’s what we call a party fungus, and bugs can go to jail for it. Either way, the end result is that the cicadas get hypersexual, which you would think is good, right? But additionally, spores grow wildly in their bodies to the extent that they quite literally EJECT their own butts.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Elise Hu: It doesn’t sound great, but according to a professor interviewed by NPR, the cicadas don’t seem to mind, and probably don’t feel pain while this is happening. So our thoughts are with any bugs spending their last days horny as hell, high out of their minds
Gideon Resnick: This is psychotic energy for, for Brood X. It was already fairly psychotic energy they were bringing into the world.
Elise Hu: I’m really only filling in this one day this week, and I got the cicada story, so . . . thank you very much.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, the gift of WAD keeps on giving, and those are the headlines. That is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, hold on to your butts, and tell your friends to listen.
Elise Hu: And if you are into reading, and not just the many degrees and honors of a baby doctor like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Elise Hu.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And eyes on the road, Joe!
Gideon Resnick: Listen, you can joyride when we’re not in the trunk, but right now you gotta cool it.
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.