In This Episode
- The first U.S. troops started leaving Afghanistan, yesterday, as President Biden decided not to extend the timeline for U.S. withdrawal past the original August 31st deadline. The Taliban said yesterday that they would no longer allow Afghans to evacuate, which is a major departure from their previous position.
- Full vaccine approval for children younger than 12 might not come until the end of the year, according to some experts, but emergency use authorization could happen faster. We discuss what’s holding up the process, plus the timeline for FDA approval of non-Pfizer vaccines.
- And in headlines: the House passes the infrastructure bill and spending bill, violent beach cows in Corsica, and Lil Nas X’s new job at Taco Bell.
Gideon Resnick: It is Wednesday, August 25th, I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, the podcast that occurs is an auditory hallucination when you fall on your head doing the milk crate challenge.
Gideon Resnick: OK, let me be clear. I have no idea what that is and I don’t want to learn about it.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, it’s better to learn about it now before you faceplant off of milk crate stairs.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that would truly damage me, in more ways than one. On today’s show, the possible timeline to get COVID vaccines approved for young children. Plus, Congress advanced the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, we have new news out of Afghanistan. The first U.S. troops started leaving Afghanistan yesterday as President Biden decided not to extend the timeline for U.S. withdrawal past the original August 31st deadline. Earlier this week, it was reported that he was considering an extension past that date. But the Taliban warned that there would be, quote, consequences if the U.S. stayed any longer. In an emergency G7 meeting yesterday. Biden said that that threat was one of the key reasons he was sticking to the 31st as the last day.
Gideon Resnick: OK, got it. And I guess the question right now, right, is, are we going to be able to evacuate everyone by that time?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, great question. So yesterday we got some updated information. As of August 14th, nearly 71,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan, including 4,000 Americans. As we go to record this on Tuesday night, we don’t have the exact number of Americans who are still on the ground, but Biden said that Secretary of State Tony Blinken will be releasing that information today. According to Biden, the US is on pace to finish the current evacuation mission by the 31st, but not everybody agrees with that assessment. There are lawmakers on both sides who think we might need more time to get Americans and Afghan allies out. And many world leaders are also trying to convince Biden to delay the exit so that citizens of other countries are able to safely evacuate as well. A couple of things that are important to know, Biden did say that there were contingency plans if something were to go awry.
[clip of President Biden] I’ve asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timetable should that become necessary. I’m determined to ensure that we complete our mission, this mission. I’m also mindful of the increasing risks that I’ve been, I’ve been briefed on, and the need to factor those those risks in.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and he also said that the success of this plan depends on the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allowing access to Kabul’s airport, which appears to be becoming more of an issue.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s definitely something that’s come up. So tell us more about that specifically.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So on Tuesday, the Taliban said they will no longer allow Afghans to evacuate, which is very different from what they were saying a week back when everyone was supposedly free to go or stay or live in peace and all the great things that they were saying. So on the upcoming episode of Pod Save the World, they talked to Ali Latifi, the correspondent on the ground in Kabul with Al-Jazeera English. Latifi had more to say about these backtracks and what the Taliban is setting up.
[clip of Ali Latifi] They’ve had these press conferences and they’ve said, you know, we don’t want to take women’s rights. We don’t want them to stop working, going to school. We want young people and media workers and all of these people to feel safe. They put that on the record and it was broadcast all over the world. So now if, but more likely when, they backtrack on it, people can come out and say, wait, but you said this. I don’t know if they realize that, that this is a great way to hold them to account.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so how is that affecting things as they develop on the ground?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So these are all relatively new developments. So we’ll know more in the coming days about how it’s actually playing out. But for now, we know that foreigners are supposedly able to continue traveling to the airport, while Afghans are being blocked in the street by the Taliban.
Gideon Resnick: And so what else do we know at this moment about what is happening?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So in other new developments, CIA Director William Burns went to Kabul to meet with Taliban leadership earlier this week. That just came out yesterday. He is the highest ranking U.S. official to have had talks with their leadership in person. Additional details on this trip and their negotiations haven’t been released yet, but officials say it wasn’t about the 31st deadline, so it’s likely about terror threats and continuing these evacuations safely. This also is a signal of the direction that things are moving in. So now that diplomats and troops are leaving the country, the CIA will be the ones responsible for monitoring what’s going on in Afghanistan moving forward. But we will keep you updated as we continue to learn more. But for now, that is the latest on Afghanistan. Turning to COVID news on yesterday’s show, Gideon, you and Josie went over the full FDA authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and how that led to some pretty quick mandates in a lot of different sectors. But since then, federal health officials have been faced with some questions about the other vaccines that are currently under emergency use authorization, and what’s going on with the timeline for kids under the age of 12. So what can you tell us here?
Gideon Resnick: There’s a lot, right? So let’s start, I guess, with the other vaccines first, the long and forgotten other vaccines. I feel like I’m talking about children or something like that. Moderna applied for full approval in June, and reportedly Johnson & Johnson is expected to as well. According to The New York Times, the FDA’s top vaccine regulator, Peter Marks, did not actually give a timeline for Moderna on a call earlier this week, but he did note that it only took 97 days for the full approval for Pfizer. So perhaps that’s a model that we can think of. And Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday that he did not think it was, quote unquote, “too far away.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Great. OK, so what about getting a vaccine approved for children younger than 12?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this is the huge question. It probably will be throughout the fall. Dr. Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health told NPR’s Morning Edition that, quote, “I don’t see the approval for kids 5 to 11 coming much before the end of 2021. So that is a projected timeline at the moment. The caveat there is it is conceivably possible that an emergency use authorization could happen faster than the full authorization. And so among the many reasons for the long length of time that we’re talking about here is that Pfizer and Moderna are in the process of still getting trial data. And one thing that’s reportedly being examined is whether or not younger children are going to need smaller doses than what had been approved for people who are older than them. As of now, the FDA and CDC are continuing to emphasize that patience is needed here, even as a Wall Street Journal story highlighted some parents who are eager to ask pediatricians about administering the Pfizer vaccine for their kids under 12.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, we got some eager beavers out there, but I will take that any day over people who are refusing the vaccine and have no interest in doing so. So in the meantime, there are also some mask mandates that seem to be in the works for schools as everybody heads back. Tell us more about those.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, these are definitely more and more over the course of the last couple of days. So here’s New York Governor Kathy Hochul—weird to say but it is now her title—during her first day on the job to talk about vaccines, testing and masks.
[clip of Gov. Kathy Hochul] We need to require vaccinations for all school personnel with an option to test out weekly, at least for now. To accomplish this in New York, we need partnerships with all levels of government, and I’m working now on getting this done. New York is launching a back to school COVID-19 testing program to make testing for students and staff widely available and convenient. I’m also newly directing the Department of Health to institute universal masking for anyone entering our schools.
Gideon Resnick: Right. So in addition to that, Massachusetts is reportedly set to introduce a mask mandate in public schools. That could happen as soon as today. That would actually mark a reversal for the state’s Republican governor.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. OK, so this is all happening as more information gets released about the Delta variant and vaccines. What was the latest news on that?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so we keep getting new pieces of the actual scientific data behind some of the guidance that we’ve been seeing. So basically, the CDC released a study in which they tracked the effectiveness of preventing infection in front-line workers like health care workers in eight different locations among a host of states. They found that overall vaccine effectiveness against infections declined from 91% to 66% after Delta became the dominant strain in the U.S..
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, bummer, but 66 still seems a lot bigger than zero, so seems OK in my book.
Gideon Resnick: It is indeed a lot bigger than zero, which is the important part here. And some epidemiologists involved did caution, too, that the observation period was short, the infection numbers were small, and most importantly, this point, it was hard to tell whether that decline is due to Delta or due to overall vaccine effectiveness that is waning over time. But this study is going to be part of more research that will be used in consideration of potential booster shots in the days to come. Much, much more that we did not get to on everything about the pandemic and much more that we will soon. But that is the latest for now.
Priyanka Aribindi: All right, it’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and today we are doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created chaos in our world. Disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s dishonesty and repeat sexual harassment is now well known, but his identity as an absentee dog father is still coming into focus. Late Monday night, Cuomo addressed the reports that he had abandoned his handsome Shepherd, Husky and Malamute mix Captain at the governor’s mansion. Cuomo tweeted, quote, “Yes, I was downstate monitoring storm response for a few days, but Captain and I are a man and his dog”, while attaching a pic of the inseparable pair from over a year ago. The man in the New York State Police, who is the original source for the story, didn’t buy Cuomo’s defense, saying yesterday, quote, “Cuomo planned on keeping that dog as much as he planned on living over his big sister’s garage at age 63.” Oh, my God. We all recognize this line is a riddle, but it doesn’t clear up all the mystery surrounding Captain. Meanwhile, we are all somewhat concerned for the beautiful dog’s well-being. But there is a way to solve both problems. Here is The Solution.
Gideon Resnick: We need to get ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo to write a book about what really happened with his dog by paying him an advance of $5 dollars. I know this number may sound high, but unfortunately, that is Cuomo’s going rate. That’s what he got last year for his work of hyper-topical nonfiction, “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Maybe the title of this one could be “Dog Crisis: Ownership Lessons from the 2021 Pupdemic Where I Did or Did Not Abandon My Dog at The Lowest Moment of My Life.” It is merely a suggestion. Cuomo’s in-depth explanation of what happened with Captain is worth hearing and it can probably fill up 300 pages, and if not that, at least seven or eight pages. But perhaps the greatest benefit of the future bestseller “Dog Crisis” is how it will affect Captain’s care. Now in thinking about his dog, interviewing his dog, and cross examining his dog, Cuomo will always be with his dog, adding critical reinforcement to their man and dog bond. Writing a book about a dog is in fact the best way to make sure that you never again leave them in an empty house in upstate New York. Facts. Now people will have their well-founded reservations about paying Cuomo $5 million for anything, but thankfully, there is a solution for that as well. So the publishing contract for Dog Crisis will contain a hard-to-read stipulation that says that all the money Cuomo gets for the book will come dipped in peanut butter, meat, juice, or a mix of meat juice and peanut butter. Now, that is going to ensure that every dollar goes directly to Captain and specifically his big round doggie tummy. And that is the solution.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Beautiful. Innovative. Where have you been? This is incredible. Thank you for stopping this for us.
Gideon Resnick: It is an honor and a privilege to do this work.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was The Solution. We will be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: The chief of Iran’s prison system apologized yesterday for the abuses faced by prisoners at a notoriously problematic facility in northern Tehran. This comes a day after hackers released security camera footage of guards physically assaulting prisoners. In the announcement yesterday, the prison chief promised to prevent these abuses from happening again, and to hold the guards accountable. No solid plans have been announced just yet however. The facility Evin is known for holding political prisoners and people with ties to Western countries. Activists and former prisoners have called for reform after a series of reports of abuse at the prison. The hacker group called themselves The Justice of Ali as an unflattering reference to Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Gideon Resnick: Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to advance the one trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill and simultaneously also narrowly passed the budget resolution that provides the framework for a $3.5 trillion spending bill. So the party line vote of 222 to 212 allows Democrats to write and approve a massive spending package that includes President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda without Republicans and puts the Senate-passed infrastructure plan on a path to final approval in the House. Now, although this is a good day for Democrats and democracy, we have been holding our breath because a group of centrist and conservative Democrats were kind of basically threatening to derail the president’s agenda for a while there. The vote set a September 27th deadline for the House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. And last but certainly not least, a sweeping voting rights bill known as the John Lewis Act, passed without a single Republican voting in favor of it and it will now move to the Senate, where it faces a massive uphill battle.
Priyanka Aribindi: They are so consistently anti helping people vote. And it is shameful.
Gideon Resnick: It’s true.
Priyanka Aribindi: If you are planning a trip to Corsica and didn’t take into account cow violence, maybe reconsider. The Mediterranean island had to close down its beaches last week after several incidents of unusually aggressive cows attacking people. Over 15,000 cows live on the island and many of them got real possessive of its beaches this past year, while the rest of us were stuck in lockdown. Now, as tourists and locals return to the outside world, the cows are going on a rampage, defending their territory and staging their own real life cow version of Jaws. Herds of cattle reportedly chased people down big tourist streets and damaged cars. At least two people have been hospitalized from cow attack. And according to the mayor of one Corsican village, quote, “If this goes on, there will be deaths.” Oh, my God. The advice from local authorities is to avoid the cows, which will be heartbreaking for any visiting tourists who are also farmers. Please stay away from these cows, everybody.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this definitely seems like a dangerous situation and also potentially [spawn com] for Jackass Forever. I’m just going to throw that out there as an option.
Priyanka Aribindi: Fair.
Gideon Resnick: We will see soon enough. Lil Nas X is partnering with a food and you can probably guess which one.
Gideon Resnick: OK. It’s not the one that he’s singing about in that song. It’s actually Taco Bell, who’s cheesy Gordita crunches, chalupa supreme and diablo salsa packets Lil Nas X will now be endorsing as the chain’s first-ever Chief Impact Officer. The new gig comes ahead of the release of “Montero” which is Lil Nas X’s first album. Lil Nas X will help Taco Bell create a, quote, “exclusive experience,” which I will bet huge money involves eating Taco Bell. And there will also be some new menu items as well, i.e. a taco with the devil’s blood in it, or something else that will make conservative media absolutely lose their shit for 48 hours, and demonstrate yet again that Lil Nas X’s unshakable grip on the Internet’s mind is intact. Lil Nas X worked at an Atlanta Taco Bell nearly five years ago and he shared the news by tweeting, quote, “Life has come full circle, I officially work at Taco Bell again.” I’m calling it here that in another five years he will come back as an owner.
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, he’s already in the C suite. He’s the chief impact officer. Like not much further up to go.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. CEO is next. Devil’s blood everywhere. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, receive a multimillion dollar advance, and tell your friends to listen,
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just lower 3rds that ask “Is the Devil’s Blood Taco Driving our Teenagers Insane like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And stay off the milk crates!
Gideon Resnick: Unless your name is Johnny Knoxville, in which case we would like to see it.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’ve seen an alarming number of people doing this and I’m terrified of it, so . . .
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s, please, be safe.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.