In This Episode
- CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced that a vaccine booster plan can begin September 20, but only if the FDA determines that a third shot for those who got Pfizer and Moderna is deemed safe and effective. Federal health officials estimate that vaccine protection against COVID-19 decreases over time, but their effectiveness against severe disease, hospitalization and death remains high. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization criticized the plan, saying it was, “handing out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets.”
- After decades of accusations and investigations, R. Kelly’s first trial started yesterday in Brooklyn’s federal court. He faces multiple charges including racketeering, kidnapping, forced labor, and eight counts of violating the Mann Act. Though he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, the explosive “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary and the #MuteRKelly campaign brought about the current charges, which center around six women who say they were physically abused. This case is expected to last 6 to 8 weeks and, if convicted, legal experts say Kelly would be facing at least 15 years in prison.
- And in headlines: protestors in Afghanistan oppose Taliban rule, a Texas school district finds a mask mandate loophole, and T-Mobile gets attacked by hackers.
- Show Notes:
CDC: “Considerations for booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines” – https://bit.ly/3k3hdYA0
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, August 19th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, the only podcast that takes a hard stance against sending bachelors to Paradise.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, bachelors should not be in paradise, they should be working hard at their jobs in finance and finally learning what a sconce is.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’ve got a better idea: Bachelors in Therapy. On today’s show, Dolly Parton starts writing a novel. Plus, more on Afghanistan, where Taliban fighters shot and killed several protesters.
Gideon Resnick: But first, as a follow-up to our show yesterday, the federal government announced that COVID boosters are likely on the way.
[clip of CDC Dir. Dr. Rochelle Walensky] Vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infection is waning. And even though our vaccines are currently working well to prevent hospitalizations, we are seeing concerning evidence of waning vaccine effectiveness over time, and against the Delta variant.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that was CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky talking about the reasons behind the administration’s vaccine booster plan.
Tre’vell Anderson: So what are the official details now that they’re out?
Gideon Resnick: This would tentatively begin September 20th if the FDA determines that a third shot for those who got Pfizer or Moderna is deemed safe and effective. If. Wanted to clarify quickly, as the federal health officials did at the briefing as well yesterday, that we’re going to wait and see if that actually happens first. So despite the CDC recommending a booster here, the FDA is going to make the final call based on their review. But Walensky and the other officials in this briefing were trying to drive home three points, in her own words: in their estimation, vaccine protection against COVID-19 does start to decrease over time, but effectiveness against severe disease, hospitalization and death stays relatively high, and then against Delta effectiveness is generally decreased. That all combined to get us to where we are with this recommendation at the moment.
Tre’vell Anderson: So now part of the reason for a possible booster shot has been new data out there on the virus and the vaccines. What did that tell us?
Gideon Resnick: So it definitely helped paint the picture a little bit more clearly. But before we get into all of that, just a rant here for a moment. The thing that’s been constantly bugging me the entire time when people are talking about what we don’t know and what we do, is it part of the reason we in the US are in the dark, is our entire health care system. So right now, the US is so often assessing data from other countries to help make informed decisions, including Israel, Singapore, the U.K., for example. And what is the obvious thing that those places have in common that we don’t? They have a nationalized health care system. So beyond it’s other obvious benefits, those systems have allowed those countries to have a much more sophisticated system of collecting and analyzing information as it comes in, something that might come in handy during a global pandemic. End of rant. My microphone is down.
Tre’vell Anderson: You’re welcome to rant at any time, all right Gideon. So out of the domestic data that our CDC was able to rely on for recommending these boosters, what do they say?
Gideon Resnick: OK, so they had several studies that kind of found a lot of what we’ve been hearing, that the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines at preventing overall infections appeared to drop after Delta started becoming more prevalent, with one focus specifically on nursing home residents. And one of those studies came out of New York State. It showed that the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing cases over time dropped from 92% to 80%. That was population-wide. So there were still effective, just not as effective as they were at the start. And that’s with infections as Delta was taking off. The results did hold steadier or when it came to protection against hospitalizations, which is key. We’re going to link to the slideshow presented at the briefing that laid out a lot of this, in our show notes.
Tre’vell Anderson: OK, so booster’s, they sound like they’re on their way for America. But as the WAD squad knows, the world hasn’t exactly been happy when boosters have come up.
Gideon Resnick: They have not, to say the least. So the World Health Organization, for one, had quite a bit to say again here. Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, said, quote, “We’ re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket.” The White House continues to say that they are both distributing vaccines worldwide and also prepping this booster plan. Than some other scientists told The New York Times that this data so far supported giving boosters to immunocompromised individuals and nursing home residents, but not necessarily the entire general public. Also, last thing, on nursing homes, the Biden administration said yesterday that they’re seeking to make Medicaid and Medicare funding for more than 15,000 nursing homes conditioned upon whether their staff gets vaccinated. So that is just some of the COVID news that we’ve heard recently. We’re going to get some more soon. But Tre’vell let’s turn now to some other news: the trial of R. Kelly has begun.
Tre’vell Anderson: It has. And I want to warn listeners that some of the allegations against the musician are graphic. So if your kids are listening, or you yourself are a survivor and this might be triggering, go ahead and fast forward to the ads.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So give us an overview then of what’s happening here.
Tre’vell Anderson: The first of a number of federal trials against Grammy-winning singer and alleged abuser R. Kelly began yesterday in a Brooklyn court. After decades of accusations and investigations, he faces multiple charges, including racketeering, kidnaping, forced labor and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting anyone across state lines for prostitution.
Gideon Resnick: And so what are some of the details that led to these charges?
Tre’vell Anderson: Folks will likely remember that Robert Sylvester Kelly—that’s what his momma named him—has been the subject of much conversation over the last four or five years. Back in 2017, BuzzFeed published an explosive article that accused Kelly of holding a group of adult women against their will as part of what some of their parents called, a cult. That story led to a number of other women coming out with their own allegations, some of them breaking nondisclosure agreements they had signed. Then in 2019, the Lifetime docu series “Surviving R. Kelly” premiered executive produced by filmmaker and music critic Dream Hampton, and it explored how Kelly and his team silenced his victims for decades. Shortly after the series aired, the singer was dropped by his record label. The series won a Peabody for its, quote, “exploration of the power of celebrity and the double standard of justice around gender and race, and for effecting change.” And these current charges were announced shortly after that series premiered. This case, however, is just starting almost two years after those charges were filed because of the pandemic, obviously, and Robert, who continually fires his lawyers and hires new ones.
Gideon Resnick: I’m not going to read any further into that. But going back a little bit here, Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008. So how is this case different?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, one of the major differences here is that the 2008 case centered on a videotape of Robert allegedly having sex with a 14-year old girl. That trial excluded allegations made by other girls and their parents. So everything pretty much rested on that one 14-year old’s testimony. But she refused to testify and the prosecutor’s case fell apart from there. This current case, however, centers around six women who prosecutors say the singer physically abused, psychologically manipulated, and dictated when they could eat and use the bathroom.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Tre’vell Anderson: Two of the women were featured in the Surviving R. Kelly documentary and two others have never spoken publicly about their allegations. Three of them say they were under age when the encounters with Robert began. What’s also interesting this go-around is the racketeering charge Robert faces. It gets a little technical, but basically that charge in part allows the prosecutors to bring up his brief marriage to the late R&D senior Aaliyah, as they allege his abuse dates back to at least 1991. Aaliyah was 15 years old at the time.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there is so, so much here. But with all of that backdrop, how did the first day of the trial actually go?
Tre’vell Anderson: So Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Cruz Melendez is playing no games. All right. She said, quote, “This case is not about a celebrity who likes to party a lot. This case is about a predator.” In her hour-long opening statement, she detailed how he used his fame, popularity, and a network of people at his disposal to target, groom and exploit young girls, boys, and women for his own sexual gratification. She said he used backstage passes to entice children and women to join him, sometimes at his home or studio, where he then, quote, “dominated and controlled them physically, sexually and psychologically.”
Gideon Resnick: Oh, it is so, so disturbing, every single part of every allegation that’s in here.
Tre’vell Anderson: Very much so. And I know a lot of people are listening to this in the mornings so I’ll save you some of the sordid details about the abuse these women say they suffered. But just know it includes everything from forcing the girls and women to have sex with other men to locking them in rooms for days on end. And I want to note, especially as we’ve seen a number of high profile assault cases over the last couple of years. Another difference with this one is that the bulk of Robert’s accusers are black women. The prosecutor also noted their intention to introduce other allegations throughout the trial, including a man who will apparently testify that when he was 17, Robert pressured him to have sex, too.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Tre’vell Anderson: Obviously, Robert is still denying all allegations. Nicole Blank Becker, one of his four lawyers, basically repeated what every iteration of his defense team—because there have been many—has said, and that is that the accusers are former fans with an agenda.
Gideon Resnick: Of course. Now, this isn’t the only federal trial that R. Kelly is going to face. It’s just one that happened to start yesterday.
Tre’vell Anderson: Baby, he’s going to be in court for some time to come. All right. He’s facing other federal charges of child pornography and obstruction in Chicago, as well as additional state sex crime charges in Illinois and Minnesota.
Gideon Resnick: So we talk about a lot of different situations here. What is the timeline of these trials and what could he actually be facing if he’s convicted?
Tre’vell Anderson: I hate to say it, but it definitely is a big IF, especially as Robert’s defense team has made it clear that their intention is to paint the accusers in a bad light. I’m sure we’ll also hear some foolishness about cancel culture going too far and whatnot, because they like to repeat that. But this current case is expected to last six to eight weeks, after which time the jury of seven men and five women will make their ruling. If convicted, legal experts say he’d be facing at least 15 years in prison, and that could obviously increase if he’s convicted in the subsequent cases as well, which will begin in order after this one wraps. But that’s the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are talking about innovations in Girl Scout cookie technology. So after a sales slump in 2020 that left the Girl Scouts of America with 15 million boxes of unsold cookies, they’ve now introduced a new treat to their classic lineup. The newest cookie is called The Adventureful, which is described in a press release as a quote unquote, “indulgent, brownie-inspired cookie with caramel flavored cream and a hint of sea salt” that promises to, quote, “take cookie lovers on a delicious taste adventure.” Very promising and all from the comfort of your own couch or bed, or wherever you might normally eat your sleave of thin mints while you catch up on 90 Day Fiancé. For most of us, Girl Scout cookies season runs from January to April, so we’re going have to wait to take our own taste adventures. But Tre’vell, how do you see the new Adventureful cookie stacking up against your current Girl Scout cookie lineup?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, I love the idea of a brownie-inspired cookie that gives me the feels deep down inside. I can do without the caramel cream situation. No, thank you. But I think I’m going to stick with my Do-si-does, my Lemonades. Those are the ones that get me through. What about for you?
Gideon Resnick: I have a lot of respect for both of those choices. And for the caramel, which I agree, I need to kind of see if this is going to work. One of my other questions with it is like, is this going to be more of like a really soft-type cookie or like what are we dealing with in terms of texture here? I’m fascinated, is where I’ll put it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, now I have a hot take that will probably get me dragged online, but—
Gideon Resnick: That’s what we’re here for.
Tre’vell Anderson: I love Oreos. Oreos, to me are better than all of the Girl Scout cookies, every single one.
Gideon Resnick: I neither agree nor disagree. I just respect.
Tre’vell Anderson: So you’re going to leave me out here to flounder on my own. Understood.
Gideon Resnick: I actually, you’re making a compelling point. I think that by sheer amount I could eat more Oreos than I could Girl Scout cookies. And Oreos are are amazing. So step it up Girl Scouts is what we are staying. Anyway, just like that we’ve checked our temps. We hope that, you know, whatever your cookie of choice is, you go on a taste adventure. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Protests broke out in several cities in Afghanistan yesterday as the Taliban continues to shape its own new government. At least two protesters were killed and around a dozen were injured by Taliban fighters, while demonstrating against the takeover of the Afghan government. Chaos also including Kabul’s airport, as people were frantically trying to leave the country. According to the White House, 5,000 people have already been evacuated from the country so far. In an interview with ABC yesterday, President Biden also mentioned that U.S. troops will stay past the withdrawal deadline of August 31st if there are Americans remaining in the country at that point. He also went on to defend the execution of the withdrawal.
Gideon Resnick: After Texas Governor Greg Abbott banned government institutions, including schools, from instating mask mandates, one school district found a clever loophole to keep their students and staff safe as the Delta variant rages across the state. In an announcement that was posted on the website of the Paris Independent School District, district officials announced that they had amended their school dress code to include masks—uh huh—citing concerns for the health and safety of its students. And it makes total sense why they would take these measures. Paris, a town of just 25,000, currently has almost 3,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Paris Independent school year starts today, and they’re confident that the loophole is going to stand, citing a Texas education code chapter that gives the trustees of a school district ultimate say in the management and supervision of activities of the schools in their district. Meanwhile, President Biden directed his Education Secretary to take more action against governors who are banning school mask mandates. As for Greg Abbott, the announcement defying his July executive order came on the same day that the governor tested positive for COVID-19. So it does sound like their governor could benefit from a little school dress code as well.
Tre’vell Anderson: And so much more. Want to hear the tea on T-Mobile?
Gideon Resnick: Yes.
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, apparently the names, birthdays and Social Security numbers of about 40 million T-Mobile customers were stolen by hackers during a data breach that happened earlier this week. T-Mobile affirmed in a statement that no financial information was compromised in any of these files, but recommended that any subscribers with postpaid plans change their pins. T-Mobile also promised to contact customers affected in the breach and offer two years of their identity protection services. But that seems a little suspect to trust the company that literally just lost the personal info of 40 million people to hackers to protect you from the same hackers. But you do you. On a brighter note, the Senate authorized two billion dollars in cybersecurity investments in the latest infrastructure bill, so with any luck, cyber attacks will be affecting us less very soon. In the meantime, stay vigilant, change your pass codes if they appear in the leak, and remember to tell your parents that their own birthdate, month, year, all of that is not a strong enough password.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s not. Especially if they’re T-Mobile customers, it appears. Too soon, I’m sorry. In an artistic collaboration unseen since the days of Warhol and Basquiat, the beloved icon Dolly Parton has teamed up with pulp thriller author James Patterson to release an original novel. It is called “Run, Rose, Run.” According to early press, the novel will be about a young singer with a dark secret that inspires her music and will draw upon Parton’s own experiences in country music. And if you thought it stops there, you just simply do not know Dolly, folks. The country music star will simultaneously release an album featuring 12 original songs based on the characters and situations in the book. According to their publisher Little Brown quote, “this dual release will mark the first time a number one best-selling author and an entertainment icon who has sold well over 100 million albums worldwide have collaborated on a book and an album.” So your move, Meg Cabot and Lady Gaga. The novel is set to come out in March of 2022 and I personally cannot wait to see Run, Rose, Run a shelf while I’m buying a $20 bag of Cheez-Its at the airport and think to myself, well, there it is.
Tre’vell Anderson: We don’t deserve Dolly Parton, but she’s always focused on getting the bag. And so I don’t blame her.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, exactly. I am running over to Run, Rose, Run. They can have that for free, or not. That’s up to them. And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: One more thing before we go Takeline host Jason Concepcion and Crooked are coming at you with a brand new podcast. It is called X-Ray Vision. Each week, Jason is going to deep dive into your favorite films, TV shows and comics, including Shang Chi, The Legend of the Ten Rings and Y: The Last Man. The X-ray vision trailer is out now, and the first episode is going to drop on August 30th. You can subscribe to X-Ray Vision on Apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcast. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, change your pins, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just essential Dolly Parton novels 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 you better run, Rose, run!
Gideon Resnick: I mean, there’s clearly danger involved. It’s James Patterson. There could be a murder.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, she’s a runner. She’s a track star. She’s perfect for this.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly, exactly right. That’s the plot right there.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers, and Kelly Sadikun is our intern. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.