In This Episode
- New York Police arrested a suspect in relation to Tuesday’s mass shooting on a Brooklyn subway. Frank James was apprehended in Manhattan and is accused of shooting ten people, which resulted in many more injuries as well.
- Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill on Tuesday that makes performing an abortion in the state a felony. Jenny Ma, a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, joins us to discuss the broader implications of the ban.
- And in headlines: Ukrainian officials collected the bodies of 765 civilians in Kyiv, the CDC announced that it would extend the federal mask mandate for public transit, and New York health officials have discovered two new Omicron subvariants spreading throughout the state.
- NY Times: “The shooting left at least 23 people injured. Here’s what we know about the victims so far” – https://nyti.ms/3LZOvUI
- Gothamist: “Mass shooting suspect arrested in Manhattan a day after subway attack” – https://bit.ly/3Omxear
- Keep Our Clinics – https://keepourclinics.org/
- Roe Fund – https://www.roefund.org/
- Center for Reproductive Rights – https://reproductiverights.org/
- National Network of Abortion Funds – https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion/
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, April 14th/ I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, the news podcast that competitors will be required to lip sync to in “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.”
Gideon Resnick: Listen, you could have got The Daily, you know. You got us.
Priyanka Aribindi: You got lucky in this situation.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, the federal mask mandate for planes and more public transportation gets extended two more weeks. Plus, we’re going to go in depth on what Oklahoma’s new ban on abortion could mean for the rest of the country.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first yesterday, there was an arrest related to the mass shooting that took place on a Brooklyn subway on Tuesday. Gideon, what did we find out?
Gideon Resnick: A lot and also not so much, if that makes sense. So that individual who we had mentioned on the show yesterday as a person of interest was taken into custody as a suspect here. Frank James was apprehended in Manhattan and he is accused of shooting 10 people, which also resulted in many more injuries on that train. He’s being charged with having committed a terrorist act on a mass transit system and could face life in prison if convicted.
Priyanka Aribindi: James originally eluded police right after the shooting, which led to a citywide manhunt for him that lasted over 24 hours. Tell us about that.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s pretty nuts, honestly. I think people are still sort of trying to piece together this timeline here. So, here’s a little bit of what we know. The NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said that on Tuesday, the day of the attack, Frank James allegedly got on the train right across the platform after the shooting took place, took it an additional stop and then sometime later was captured on surveillance camera getting onto another train—which, side note, actually led me to the conclusion that I was almost 100% out and about literally like right near where this guy was purported to be right at the exact same time, which was nuts, but just kind of goes to show he apparently was wandering around quite a few places for a little while there.
Priyanka Aribindi: Milling about New York for 24 hours, and I mean crazy that you were near him. So wild that this happened. He did this and just got on another train, kept going about his day like, there is so much about this story that is just insane. And I know that there is even more that you’re about to tell us.
Gideon Resnick: There is quite a bit more. So authorities said they received a tip in the afternoon yesterday that James was at a McDonald’s in Manhattan’s East Village—not the most chaotic one in the city, but maybe in the top 5 through 10. So apparently that tip may have come from James himself, according to the AP.
Priyanka Aribindi: So crazy.
Gideon Resnick: That I don’t quite know more details about. It wasn’t until a little while later that he was actually arrested, thanks in part to Zach Tahhan, a guy who has become a kind of immediate local legend. He is a 21-year old originally apparently from Syria, who is installing security cameras in the East Village. He saw Frank James and happened to flag down law enforcement, according to reporting from Gothamist. Here he is talking to Twitter user Samantha Zerkin, who also happened to capture James arrest.
[clip of Zach Tahhan] I was working the site next door, and I was doing security cameras inside, and I see that guy, he walking from the screen. I see him from the cameras. So I thought, Oh, this guy, let me call the police. And I got him and we got him.
[clip of Samantha Zerkin] Zack, you are a hero. Thank you so much.
[clip of Zach Tahhan] No problem!
Priyanka Aribindi: I cannot get over this man just responding and saying, No problem after being called a hero and like, you know, tracking down this guy who the whole entire city is looking for 24 fucking hours. Like what? “No problem.”
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s fun. There’s a lot of incredible stuff to sort of sort through here as we figure it all out. But you know, another thing I was thinking about is, as you well know, Frank James is wandering around one of the busiest stretches of the city, while the police department that has this $10 billion budget had some officers just two blocks away focused on a sweep of an unhoused encampment, then he ends up being caught, as we are told, because he called himself in and a random, quick-thinking guy nearby saw him continuing to wander around. Like, I feel like we’re going to look at Twitter in the next couple of days and see that Frank James is also like Katz’s Deli or something in a real like, Where’s Waldo situation of him throughout the East Village and maybe the broader city.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, like frickin top of the Empire State Building. Like, where hasn’t this guy been while the police are everywhere? It is, it is wild. Like, completely unfathomable to me. And lastly, all of the victims of Tuesday’s shooting have survived, thankfully. What is their status, though?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I think we’re still waiting to learn more, but the victims are recovering, though nine reportedly remained hospitalized as of Wednesday. We’re going to do some reporting about them and also to some of Gothamist reporting from the day that gets a little bit more into James background that we do know and that we don’t know so far.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. A lot to still figure out. I’m sure we’ll be parsing it over the coming days. But switching gears a little bit, we spoke about this on yesterday’s show as well, but we wanted to go a bit more in-depth into Oklahoma’s new law outlawing abortion. So on Tuesday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stent signed a bill that makes performing an abortion in these states a felony, that is at any point in time into pregnancy, it just straight up bans abortion care with very minimal exceptions. Which as of now, abortion care is still a constitutional right that all of us still have.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to wrap your head around. So when is this actually set to be instituted and what are the consequences here?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, the bill is set to go into effect this summer unless it is blocked by the courts. It is expected to be challenged, obviously. And anyone convicted could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000. But there’s also much broader implications that this ban will have for people seeking abortion care in nearby states, and also the repeated Republican efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade. To learn more about all of this, I spoke earlier with Jenny Ma. She is a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. I started out by asking her what the broader implications of this law are?
Jenny Ma: Right now in Oklahoma, we know that our clients there are seeing such an influx of people just from the Texas six-week ban, the SB8 ban. They’re seeing people just in terms of people who are able to make it across the state, but also just that folks are getting later and later in their pregnancies. So we’re actually seeing people who are waiting to make sure that they have enough funds to travel outside of state. Oklahoma already has so many restrictions, like waiting periods, restrictions on who can provide care, all sorts of ways in which they’ve tried to close down clinics, that it’s not a state where all of a sudden this ban came out of nowhere. There’s already so many barriers put in place to even get to the point where you’re at the clinic door and now they want to shut those doors down completely. I think that not only will the devastation be felt within Oklahoma, but it will resonate beyond.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and Oklahoma being one of the states where Texans can travel to, if that’s something that they’re able to do to receive abortion care, if that’s no longer an option for people, what can people in states like these with these restrictions do, and what are the resources for people in these situations?
Jenny Ma: So there are people working on lobbying and legislation to make sure that the full spectrum of voices are heard. I think public education to make sure that destigmatizing abortion, to make it part of the full spectrum of health care is very significant. I also think that if Roe is overturned in whole or in part, abortion funds are going to be playing a vital role, as they already are, in helping people try to access care, if at all possible. But the fact is, there are going to be people who do not make it out of state.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Jenny Ma: There are people who are not going to be able to access abortion care and will be forced to bear pregnancies against their will just because the government says so.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we’re getting to this place where abortion access, you know, feels a lot more patchwork. And there are some states actually like Missouri that are trying to pass laws that punish people who cross state lines to receive this type of care. From a legal perspective, is that something that they can even do?
Jenny Ma: Yeah. So for decades, I have seen states pass law after law, restriction after restriction and now ban after ban that is more and more extreme. These are blatantly unconstitutional on their face, and they continue to pass them at every legislative session. This past year alone, there were over 100 restrictions passed, and that is more than any time prior to Roe in 1973. So we’re really going back in time and abortion space, and in a time where we’re living through a pandemic where state lawmakers should be focusing on increasing health care access, putting their efforts not there or in the dismal maternal health and infant mortality rates that these states experience—they are focusing on this issue and unfortunately, just they have gotten more extreme. And I hate when people say laws like these or Texas SB8 are creative. They are not creative. What they are is lawmakers testing and courts allowing these unconstitutional laws to be upheld.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Meanwhile, while all of this is happening, there are other states like California that are trying to create systems that help people who seek this kind of care, at least financially. How viable of a solution is that kind of thing, though, if we’re in a world where Roe is overturned.
Jenny Ma: So I encourage states and I’m very grateful to California and to others for thinking about financial solutions, for thinking about access solutions, because we’ve also heard that people who are able to leave the state will be able to access care in some areas. That being said, it’s not a full salve.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So generally, most of these restrictions aren’t going after the people who are seeking abortion care, they instead are targeting any range of people who are involved in the process, leading up to it or after. What does that mean for you guys at the center of reproductive rights as you kind of strategize over how to respond to these things from a legal perspective?
Jenny Ma: How we prepare for that is we have a full legal spectrum, both with litigation, with policy efforts, with communication efforts, to make sure that the public is aware of what the court is doing to make sure that clinic doors remain open wherever possible and to make sure that federal legislation like the Women’s Health Protection Act gets advanced in the federal landscape.
Priyanka Aribindi: So with the current trajectory that we’re on, what happens next and how worried should we be?
Jenny Ma: Not to sound the alarms, but if they’re not already ringing, you should be alarmed. How you fashion your families should be up to you. It is not a space for state governments to decide, especially when they go up against all medical-based care. It is absolutely pivotal for people to understand what’s at stake. We’re talking about half this country are poised to ban abortion and taking away a fundamental right which the court has never done before, and just sitting with that is just heavy.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Jenny Ma, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. We will share some links of where you can donate, how you can get involved in the fight for reproductive rights in our show notes.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there’s going to be a lot more on all of this very soon, but that is the latest for now. We are going to be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Ukrainian officials are sharing details of the gruesome scenes left behind by Russian forces as they dig out the capital of Kiev. Authorities say they’ve collected the bodies of 765 civilians, including 30 children, so far—jeez.
Priyanka Aribindi: Horrifying.
Gideon Resnick: They’ve also discovered mass graves, and are investigating at least three cases of Russian troops allegedly torturing groups of civilians. Separately, an observer group to the U.N. published a new report yesterday that said Russia committed war crimes and broke international law in its invasion. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, said that Russian troops deliberately attacked a maternity hospital in the port city of Mariupol last month, killing at least four people. The group also documented how Russia launched broad strikes on schools, residential buildings, and other sites, which led to civilian deaths. The OSCE said that it will share its findings with the International Criminal Court and others who have jurisdiction to pursue charges of war crimes against Russia. Meanwhile, President Biden announced yesterday that the U.S. will step up its financial support of Ukraine by providing an additional 800 million for military assistance, bringing the total America has given so far to over $3 billion.
Priyanka Aribindi: I know we spoke about this a bit earlier in previous show is about the difficulty of charging for war crimes, but this is, it seems, so blatantly obvious. So I’m very interested to see what happens in the coming months or however long it takes to deal with this. The people of South Africa and the Philippines are grieving the loss of their loved ones after their homes were devastated by natural disasters over the past few days. In the Philippines, a tropical storm triggered massive floods and landslides that crushed several villages, leaving rescuers to dig up bodies with their bare hands. As of now, 67 people are missing or presumed dead, and about 30,000 families have been forced to flee their homes. Over in South Africa, heavy rains and floods swept away several roads and homes in the KwaZulu-Natal province and killed at least 259 people. The regional government wrote in a Facebook post that it was, quote, “one of the worst weather storms in the history of our country.” According to scientists, the climate crisis likely contributed to both tragedies. The Philippines sees an average of 20 storms per year, and according to scientists, those storms could get worse as the world gets warmer. And South Africa has seen several tropical storms and cyclones in the past few months that were made more likely by climate change.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, unfortunately, that appears to be where things are headed. It doesn’t have to be that way. The CDC announced on Wednesday that it would extend the federal mask mandate for public transit for another two weeks. That covers planes, airports, trains, busses and more. It was set to expire on the 18th, but will now stay in effect until May 3rd. The agency cited rising case counts nationwide as the reason for its decision, and said that it needed more time to assess the spikes impact on severe disease, hospitalizations, and deaths. And they’re right to be concerned about all of this because New York health officials have discovered two new Omicron sub variants spreading rapidly throughout the states. You have heard of BA-2, the OG Omicron sub-variant, that has apparently spawned these two new strains called BA-2.12 and BA-2.12.1—I can’t even believe I respect them enough to say their names; I don’t respect them. According to Kirsten St. George, a virologist for the state of New York. The development is, quote, “just a reminder that we are not out of the woods with regard to this virus, and people should continue to take precautions.” You know, I did say BA-2 should leave, and I said it nicely, and maybe I won’t say it so nicely next time. But I think it should get out of here.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Brace yourselves. BA-2.12 and whatever else. You don’t even get a real name. All right? They don’t take you seriously enough to give you a real name. You just get numbers.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. And we would like you to go. Get out.
Priyanka Aribindi: What he said.
Gideon Resnick: Like Jo-Jo said.
Priyanka Aribindi: An iconic song! Oh my god, one of my favorites. Wow. There is an old saying that goes “whoever smelt voter fraud dealt voter fraud” and to see this phrase in action you need look no further than the example of Mark Meadows. That is Trump’s former chief of staff who widely spread false claims of a stolen election in 2020, but has also recently been removed from North Carolina’s voter rolls for possibly putting false information on his own voter registration.
Gideon Resnick: Of course.
Priyanka Aribindi: Specifically, Meadows listed his legal residents in 2020 as a 14-foot by 62-foot mobile home in rural Scaly Mountain, North Carolina. But according to the property’s former owner, he may never have even spent a single night there! Even though his wife did rent it for just two months at some point over the past few years. Still, just because you write your name in a guestbook at the Airbnb does not mean you own the house. Registering in North Carolina allowed Meadows to vote in a state that Trump won by just 1% point, but public records indicate that he has lived in Virginia probably since 2017, and he last voted there in an election in 2021—which is after this all happened. The investigation by North Carolina election officials into allegations of voter fraud against Meadows is ongoing. Surely this will inspire Republicans to focus less on voter ID laws and election police, and more on simply banning Mark Meadows from voting because he’s the one causing all the problems.
Gideon Resnick: Totally. You know, I think we could use this Airbnb logic to our benefit in some way. Just go ahead and mark me down for being a voter in, I don’t know, 20 something states, maybe that I’ve been to. That would be nice. Why not?
Priyanka Aribindi: Hear that everybody? Book your Airbnb’s. Election season is coming up at this is how we’re going to win.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. Exactly right. To be clear, we are not encouraging anything that Mark Meadows would do.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, no. If Mark Meadows would do it, like absolutely do not consider that a good personal choice.
Gideon Resnick: Probably not. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, check if the person in the voting booth next to you is Mark Meadows, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just Airbnb guest books 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: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And good luck lip syncing to this cast of Drag Race.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, if you pull it off, you deserve the win.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m all for it. I think that’s cool.
Gideon Resnick: Totally. It’s also what people want to hear. They want to hear this show again in a different context.
Priyanka Aribindi: People love this show and people love Drag Race. It’s the perfect combination.
Gideon Resnick: Most ambitious crossover ever, perhaps.
Priyanka Aribindi: Of all time.
Gideon Resnick: Perhaps, perhaps. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.