In This Episode
- Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home by a team of mercenaries amid claims by opposition groups that he tried to illegally extend his presidential term by one year. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph is calling for an international investigation, and Biden promised assistance to fight for a safe and secure Haiti in a time of growing gun violence.
- Texas State Republicans start a special legislative session on Thursday to discuss 11 conservative agenda items that didn’t pass the last session. These include a bill banning drive-through and 24-hour voting, a bill restricting critical race theory education, a bill preventing transgender students from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity, and more.
- And in headlines: Darnella Frazier’s uncle is killed in a Minneapolis police car chase, Tokyo will declare a state of COVID emergency, and the ship that blocked the Suez Canal is back in the water.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, July 8th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson in for Akilah Hughes,
Gideon Resnick: And this is What A Day, the news podcast that’s not afraid to talk about how we are all spending 80% of our days with our wet shirts clinging to our backs.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, I am utterly disgusted and somebody needs to turn the sun off.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s the easiest solution for climate change as well, so I think we all win. On today’s show, Texas state Republicans start a special session today for a do-over on some controversial bills that they were not able to pass. Plus, we’ll have headlines. But first, the latest with political turmoil in Haiti:
[clip of Jacqueline Charles] These are quote unquote “mercenaries.” We’re still trying to figure out who they were, who hired them, what’s the motive behind all of this? And yes, the president was, quote unquote “wounded, mortally wounded.” But he is he is dead.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles speaking to CBS about Haiti’s President, Jovenel Moise, who was assassinated in his home early Wednesday morning.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Wow. So this is developing, but what are the details that we need to know about right now?
Tre’vell Anderson: According to reports, a squad of roughly 40-50 gunpeople raided the private residence of President Moise overnight, killing him and critically wounding his wife. The current interim Prime Minister, Claude Joseph, is calling for an international investigation after authorities have declared a, quote “state of siege” in the country and closed its international airport. According to Bocchit Edmond, the Haitian ambassador to the United States, the attack was carried out by foreign mercenaries and professional killers who masqueraded as agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. As you can imagine, the DEA confirmed that the gunpeople were not representatives of the organization, and the country’s communications secretary said yesterday that police arrested multiple suspects behind the assassination, but have not yet offered any more details as of our recording. And in a statement, US President Joe Biden condemned the killing and said, quote “The United States offers condolences to the people of Haiti, and we stand ready to assist as we continue to work for a safe and secure Haiti.”
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so a lot going on, to say the least. And before this Moise had been president for four years, but his time in office had been rocked by quite a bit of conflict.
Tre’vell Anderson: Very much so. So he was elected to a five-year presidential term in 2016 but due to contentions over election results—which hits a little too close to home—he did not actually take office until a year later. It is for that reason that President Moise believed he was entitled to another year in power. Obviously, the opposition in Haiti rejected that claim and last February, when opponents say his term was actually supposed to end, they named an interim president. Moise, however, called it a coup attempt and arrested 23 people involved. Since, there’s been a number of protests for that, which are in addition to prior demonstrations by upset citizens who’ve taken to the streets in recent years over a number of other concerns: the country’s spiraling inflation rate, the lack of safe drinking water, ongoing environmental degradation and increased food scarcity, not to mention allegations of corruption and ongoing questions from citizens as to the whereabouts of millions of dollars in aid the country received following the 2010 earthquake, from which they have yet to fully rebound. Meanwhile, gang violence has been on the rise, displacing many Haitians from the capital of Port au Prince. There is so much here, not to mention the country’s history as it relates to various conflicts. We’ll link to a story in our show notes so you can get all that context, if you please.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and with Moise’s death, that presumably leaves a power vacuum of sorts. So what happens next here?
Tre’vell Anderson: Inquiring minds definitely would like to know, but right now so much is unclear and up in the air. Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph was supposed to step down on Monday. Given the current circumstances, it’s believed that he may stay in the role in hopes of maintaining some sort of stability. There obviously is also fear that this current news might just make way for more gang violence throughout the country. For now, the US has helped the nation by shuttling its first lady, Martine Moise, to Miami for treatment. On a call between top State Department officials and congressional lawmakers, the idea to appoint a special envoy to Haiti to monitor the political situation was floated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That’s the news from Haiti. But Gideon for this next story, we’re going to Texas.
Gideon Resnick: We love going. So today, lawmakers in Texas are returning for a special legislative session. The state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, announced this recent list of agenda items that the state did not pass during the regular session, which just ended. But a lot of those items are basically tailor-made to appeal to conservatives, and maybe even perhaps boost Abbott’s credentials for a possible presidential run down the road.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m exhausted already, and can probably guess some of the kinds of things we’re hinting at here. But let’s zero in on one of the biggest to watch, which is voting rights.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So, I mean, this has been a long-running project for Texas Republicans, arguably Republicans across the entire country. But in this case, as a quick refresher, in May, Republicans in the Texas state legislature tried to pass a bill called SB7. It failed to advance back then and it would have outlawed a number of things. It was very, very restrictive. For example, it would have banned drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which were used in Harris County last year—read: Houston, read: more and more Democratic voters. The bill would have also limited Sunday early voting, which was a move seen by many as targeting predominantly Black voters participating in what is often called “souls to the polls.” SB7 would have also made it easier for a judge to overturn an election if there were allegations of voter fraud with less evidence, and would have made it a felony for public officials to send absentee ballot applications unsolicited. So, yikes. I’m saying would have in this context, because there was this walkout that happened from Texas Democrats that basically killed the bill at the time. Here is State Representative Chris Turner on the steps of the Texas Capitol from that night in May:
[clip of State Rep. Chris Turner] They were prepared to cut us off and try to silence us. We were not going to let them do that. And that’s why Democrats used the last tool available to us: we denied them the quorum that they need to pass this bill and we killed that bill.
Tre’vell Anderson: So after Democrats stopped it that night, Republicans are just going ahead and hitting replay?
Gideon Resnick: Um hmm. That seems to be the case. So we know that at least for now, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said that two of the most controversial aspects are going to be gone when this law comes back in this special session. One is that delaying of the start time of Sunday early voting, and the other is the lowering of standards for overturning an election based on claims of fraud—these people are really evolving, you know, good for them. But some Democrats in the Texas House told CBS News that while they had been able to work with Republicans to take out some of these worst provisions that we’re talking about, they didn’t rule out another walkout in the future. So we’ll see how the bill ends up taking shape.
Tre’vell Anderson: And this effort to pass voting restrictions is happening as Republican legislators across the country have passed or are considering similar measures, with a conservative majority Supreme Court making matters even worse.
Gideon Resnick: It’s a great situation all around. So as we talked about on an episode last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld this set of Arizona voting restrictions. And one of the major concerns now is that the courts will not step in should states like Texas end up being successful in their efforts at passing similar laws. Already, the Justice Department has filed suit against Georgia over a restrictive voting law there that is based on its violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. But that is also what was at issue in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. And at times, the DOJ has said that it’s actually up to Congress to pass federal voting protections, and we know that just hasn’t happened yet.
Tre’vell Anderson: These people are annoying, OK. [laughs] So in Texas, voting rights is just one of 11 topics that they’ll cover in this special session, which could last up to 30 days. Unsurprisingly, targeting critical race theory is on the agenda. But what else?
Gideon Resnick: A bevy of wonderful items. So a bill that tried to make it harder for people to get out of jail on bond, one that prohibits trans students in the state from being on sports teams that align with their gender identity, another that would seek to protect Texans against social media, quote unquote “censorship”—I am using the hardest hand quotations I’ve ever used in my life. And notably, when we look at this, not there is anything to fix the state’s electrical grid which failed dramatically in a winter storm earlier this year, killing many Texans and leaving millions without power. We’re going to post a link to the full list in our show notes and return to some of these issues soon. But that is the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are talking about a public health advisory you can dance to: it is the song “Vax That Thang Up” which came out yesterday at sees the rapper Juvenile remixing his own 1999 classic “Back that Thang Up” to incorporate a pro vaccine message.
[“Vax That Thang Up” plays]
Gideon Resnick: All right. My life is forever changed. The song also features a verse from Mannie Fresh, who is on the original track, as well as Mia X from No Limit. It was put together by BLK, a dating app from Match group specifically targeted at young Black singles. So Tre’vell, my question for you: have you heard this song before just now, and do you believe it is our first ever pro-vaccine banger?
Tre’vell Anderson: I won’t tell you what I was doing this morning when I came across this track, but it forever changed my day. It lifted my spirits. It is the bona fide first-ever pro-vaccine banger and it is the song of the summer as far as I’m concerned.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I really think that Juvenile at this point is up there with the president in terms of, you know, making impact on potential vaccines. Like this is, if we were hovering around like 60, 65% or whatever, it’s going to be like 90 by tomorrow.
Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, just wonder if you’re like on the dance floor twerking it out and you hear this song, come on, and for whatever reason, you haven’t gotten your vaccine—I think the subliminal messages would get you to go out and do what needs to be done.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I think that this is the answer that we’ve all been looking for. Thank you to him for his service. And just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe, play the song if you’re going to go get vaccinated, and we’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Over two weeks after the tragic collapse of a condo building in South Florida, officials in Surfside are calling off the search for survivors. Teams involved we’re told to transition to recovery efforts. The death toll currently stands at 54 after more bodies were found in the rubble yesterday. 86 people are still unaccounted for. An official at the Miami Dade Fire Rescue told families of the victims that based on the facts, there was a zero chance of survival. Workers at the wreck site where luckily spared from Tropical Storm Elsa as it moved up the coast yesterday. Earlier this week, legal experts in Florida created a safety task force to review oversight laws of the state’s condominium development industry to make sure a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Darnella Frazier, the teen who recorded George Floyd’s murder, which contributed to a massive uprising against police brutality and racism, posted on Facebook that her uncle was killed in a car crash as a result of a Minneapolis police car chase. Frazier’s uncle was in his car on the way to visit his girlfriend when he was struck by police pursuing a driver linked to multiple robberies and carjackings. Frazier wrote, quote “Another Black man lost his life in the hands of the police” and questioned why police were even going on a high-speed chase on a residential road. The Minnesota state patrol is currently investigating whether the police car activated its emergency lights and siren according to department policy, and will turn over its findings to the county attorney for review.
Tre’vell Anderson: Staying on our bad Olympics news beat, Tokyo is expected to declare a state of emergency to contain coronavirus infections, lasting from next week to late August. This period includes the entirety of the games. According to Reuters, Japan’s government is considering an all-out ban on all spectators at the Olympics. This means we might have to watch a fully applause-free opening ceremony, which we can compensate for by clapping extra hard at home. Tokyo has been experiencing a drastic surge in COVID-19 cases, with the city reporting a two-month high of 920 new cases just yesterday. Only 15% of people in Japan have been fully vaccinated, which is way too large a gap to be closed by a new translation of Vax That Thang UP. Despite all this and against advice from medical experts, the International Olympic Committee is still pushing ahead with its plans.
Gideon Resnick: I think it still should be translated across the world, either way. The boat the challenged our assumptions that all boats move, the Ever Given is back in open water again, after spending more than three months held by Egyptian officials in the Suez Canal. The release comes after a settlement was reached between the Suez Canal Authority and the Japanese shipping company that owns the vessel. The Suez Canal Authority initially demanded $900 million for losses and damages that were incurred in the six days the Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal back in March, though it’s not known what was ultimately agreed upon. Either way, it’s safe to say this was one of 2021’s most expensive fender benders so far—I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I have to assume. The Ever Given still is carrying around $600 million worth of goods, so it’s on to its final destination of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. If you are an iceberg, large whale, Bermuda Triangle-type mystery spot, please move out of its way because it has been through enough already.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, in the words of another wonderful rapper, Christopher Ludacris: Bridges, move! Get out the way!
Gideon Resnick: Exactly right. Those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today, if you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, don’t impede the Ever Given, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just instructions on how to Vax That Thang Up like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And thank you, Juvenile!
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. For your service. I will give you a medal.
Tre’vell Anderson: We deeply appreciate it.
Gideon Resnick: Mmm hmm. We do.
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.