In This Episode
- After Taliban fighters took control over Afghanistan this weekend, UN Secretary General António Guterres urged all countries to open their doors to Afghan refugees and refrain from deportations. Panicked civilians flooded the airport in Kabul on Monday, some even clinging to a departing U.S. plane, hoping to escape an uncertain future under Taliban rule. President Biden defended the U.S. withdrawal saying it was the right decision to avoid a third decade of war, and blamed Afghanistan’s military and political leaders.
- On Saturday, Haiti was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, causing at least 1,400 deaths. The recovery effort is lagging, however, due to hospitals being overtaxed as well as Tropical Depression Grace, which made landfall in the island country on Monday night. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world due to its historical colonial oppression, and Prime Minister Ariel Henry was reportedly frustrated at the slow international response to their calls for aid.
- And in headlines: the Colorado River faces a water shortage, Oklahoma tribes’ SCOTUS victory may be overturned, and Olivia Rodrigo’s merchandise isn’t so “good 4 u” after all.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, August 17th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we just got a great deal on a block of rooms at the stunning White Lotus Spa and Resort.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I cannot wait to relax. I don’t even care that we got the discount because someone died there.
Josie Duffy Rice: The death discount. On today’s show, a story that proves that cats can be heroes. Plus, drought conditions in America’s west are drying up the country’s biggest reservoir.
Gideon Resnick: But first, the latest updates on Afghanistan after Taliban fighters took control over the country this past weekend.
[clip of UN Sec. Gen. Antonio Guterres] Afghans are a proud people with a rich cultural heritage. They have known generations of war and hardship. They deserve our full support. The following days will be pivotal. The world is watching. We cannot and must not abandon the people of Afghanistan.
Josie Duffy Rice: That was U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres during an emergency meeting of the Security Council yesterday. He also urged all countries to open their doors to Afghan refugees who have been trying to flee the country, and to refrain from any deportations. And Gideon, there’s been some harrowing imagery from the ground in Afghanistan.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, harrowing is right for sure. And once again, you know, there are frequent updates and changes, but we’re filling you in on what is known as of record time on Monday night. So first, to your point Josie, there was that widely shared and gruesome video at the Kabul airport. The video depicted hundreds of people running next to a U.S. military aircraft as it was trying to leave. Some ended up literally clinging to it. And local reports say that at least one person allegedly fell to their death from the aircraft. The AP says at least seven people died during the desperate scene at the airport. And it kind of felt like it was typifying the bleakness of the situation for some Afghan citizens and the unseemly disregard for their lives.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it was absolutely devastating. You can’t even imagine what situation you’d have to be in to hold the end of an airplane wing because you thought that was your best chance at getting out.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, absolutely. Also, civilian air travel was temporarily halted during the day. Plus, there were reports of helicopters flying low to essentially clear the area for military planes as just tons and tons of people were reportedly left with no opportunity to get out.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So besides that U.N. statement, what has been the response so far to helping Afghans?
Gideon Resnick: Josie, this might not completely surprise you, but globally speaking, it has not been that great. First, French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that basically the EU should actually work to stem a major flow of asylum seekers onto the continent. He said, quote, “Europe alone cannot assume the consequences of the current situation.” A group of Mediterranean countries are also reportedly looking to discuss the situation with the EU tomorrow. Then there’s Canada. Last week, the country promised to resettle more than 20,000 Afghan citizens that it considered at risk under Taliban control. That includes women and human rights workers.
Josie Duffy Rice: So what about the United States? I’m almost too nervous to ask, but what has the United States response been?
Gideon Resnick: Well, so the Biden administration has said that it has already moved 2,000 Afghans eligible for special immigration visas, along with their families to the US, and it intends to do quite a bit more over the coming days.
Josie Duffy Rice: So 2,000, which is just a tenth of what Canada has promised.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, for now at least. And, you know, to that effect, some Afghans in the US who were former interpreters or held similar other occupations were really desperately trying to help their families get out on their own. There’s been some good reporting on this, including from a Wall Street Journal article that we can link to. But Josie, this also is not a new thing at all. There has been a sizable visa backlog of tens of thousands of Afghans who have been wanting to get out for some time. Here’s Representative Barbara Lee talking to MSNBC on Sunday about how to help those refugees. Lee is, by the way, as most people know, the only member of Congress who voted against the resolution that launched the war in Afghanistan.
[clip of Rep. Barbara Lee] We have to focus on women and children, the safety and security of everyone at this moment. And I think it’s a very dire situation. This has got to be, and it is an all hands on deck operation, a whole government operation. And this is an example, though, that there is no military solution, unfortunately, in Afghanistan.
Josie Duffy Rice: So that brings us to what President Biden actually said about the whole situation yesterday from the White House. First, he defended the United States withdrawal. Let’s listen:
[clip of President Biden] I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there. We were clear-eyed about the risk. We planned for every contingency. But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you. The truth is this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.
Josie Duffy Rice: Hmm. I’ll say.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Biden also said he was faced with a basic choice stick: with an agreement struck by the Trump administration to withdraw troops, or basically face a quote unquote, “third decade of war.” He also said that he’d rather be criticized for what he’s doing and how he’s doing it than pass the war off to the next president. And as he defended the choice, Biden said that the blame should fall on Afghanistan’s military and political leaders
[clip of President Biden] But if Afghanistan is unable to mount any real resistance to the Taliban now, there is no chance one more year, five more years, or twenty more years, of U.S. military boots on the ground would have made any difference.
Josie Duffy Rice: That seems like an especially almost cruel thing to say in light of what we’re seeing in Afghanistan right now to make it sound as if it’s only the weakness of the Afghan people that has led to this moment when we all know that that’s actually not the case.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And on the issue of the dire need to assist people, Biden said the administration is also going to expand refugee access, including for Afghans who worked at the embassy, U.S. news agencies, or those who are otherwise at risk. But he did also draw a lot of flak from immigration advocates for when he said that some Afghans did not actually want to leave the country sooner.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right. I mean, as we know, this is an extremely urgent situation, right? Every minute counts. And so people are trying to leave the country immediately and need facilitation in order for that to happen. And so in recent days, Human Rights Watch, among other organizations, has urged countries to assist in the process of evacuation and providing visas to civilians in need. And there’s a specific concern for marginalized groups, including women in the country.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s right. And we’re going to have a link in our show notes to organizations that are assisting on the ground so that you can learn more and have the opportunity to help. There is just so, so much to this story that we’ll be following and returning to with additional voices and experts in the days to come. But that’s going to be the latest on Afghanistan for now. So, Josie, let’s shift to the tragedy out of Haiti where you’ve been looking at the recovery effort.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, so devastation in Haiti continues as tropical depression Grace drenched the country yesterday. So some parts of Haiti expected as much as 15 inches of rain.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Josie Duffy Rice: And this storm came just two days after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the country on Saturday, leaving at least 1,400 dead, a number that is expected to grow significantly in the coming days. That earthquake was even bigger than the one that hit in 2010, killing over 300,000 people.
Gideon Resnick: It’s unbelievable. And so what kind of resources or lack of resources is making it even bigger challenge for Haiti right now.
Josie Duffy Rice: So the country is facing a serious lack of medical infrastructure and personnel. So hospitals are overtaxed on supplies and space in certain parts of the country and there’s a severe, severe shortage of available doctors. And while Prime Minister Ariel Henry promised a, quote, “tenfold” increase in rescue and aid efforts, he has reportedly been frustrated that international help has been slow to deploy. Ultimately, the country is in need of the most basic supplies right now, some of the most urgent calls were for tents, especially in light of the storm. And, of course, both the storm and the earthquake came at a point of major political turmoil in the country after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise just weeks ago. Where that stands right now is that over a dozen people were arrested as suspects in the death of the President, including at least two U.S. citizens, both with ties to U.S. law enforcement.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s so much to take in. So we know that Haiti faces a number of particular challenges in recovering from natural disasters. But Haiti is also the poorest country in the region and one of the poorest in the world, which makes it essentially impossible to build the kind of expensive infrastructure that is required in an area that is so prone to those disasters.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right, exactly. But there’s another significant obstacle, perhaps even a more significant obstacle that Haiti faces, which is international intervention, which has very often hurt the country more than it’s helped. After the 2010 earthquake, for example, people from all over the world donated money to help Haiti, often to foreign organizations like the Red Cross, for example. But many of these recovery efforts were not led by Haitians and in fact, were driven by inexperienced foreign workers who may have been well-intentioned but lacked the knowledge and oversight necessary. And this left Haitians and their institutions at the mercy of people and organizations who did not really understand the country’s social and political history or context. So the results were predictably disastrous. A 2015 ProPublica report found that the Red Cross raised half a billion dollars and built, wait for it . . . six houses. Six. Six houses.
Gideon Resnick: Oh my. That is absolutely ins—I guess they’re all worth an insane amount of money then.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, they all, they all hold a million people, each house. Foreign aid workers have also caused thousands of unnecessary deaths too. So after that 2010 earthquake, a cholera epidemic broke out in Haiti for the first time ever, actually, and it was due to negligent waste management by U.N. peacekeepers. And in the end, 10,000 people died from that cholera epidemic.
Gideon Resnick: It is unbelievable. So what does that mean for people who’ve been seeing Haitians deal with one tragedy after another and want to actually help out in some way?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s a good question. So keep in mind that Haitians have suffered at the hands of government corruption in their country as well, including the regime of the recently assassinated president. And it is a country whose people have been historically exploited. It was founded when slaves rebelled against their French owners. But for 200 years, colonial powers have driven the formerly wealthy country into debt and poverty, which has led to the poverty that still exists there today. So in 1825, Haiti was actually forced to compensate France $20 billion in today’s dollars for their so-called loss of slaves and property. Basically, former slaves had to pay the country of their former slave owners’ reparations. And so, as Haiti once again attempts to rebuild, many are calling for regeneration to lie in the hands of the people, not in the hands of corrupt politicians and outside forces. So that means giving money to Haitian-led and operated organizations. And we’ll have a link to some of those in our show notes. And in the meantime, we’ll continue to watch as the country recovers from yet another devastating natural disaster. And that’s the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are talking about cats, not the movie musical, which I swore I would never talk about again for risk of being fired. But one furry feline who helped find and save their elderly owner just last weekend. So an 83-year old UK woman was missing for over an hour when concerned neighbors called emergency services. Police searching the area realized her cat, Piran, had been meowing loudly next to a deep ravine. Responders discovered that the woman had fallen nearly 70 feet and into a stream. Wow. And thanks to Piran, were able to rescue her and get her to a hospital where she remains in stable condition. A-meow-zing. Thank you very much. So Josie, given Piran the cat’s heroism, can we finally admit that cats are capable of the love and devotion that we so easily just credit to the dogs of the world?
Josie Duffy Rice: Look, I am a huge fan of Piran. I am still team dog. I’m sorry to all the cat lovers out there.
Gideon Resnick: Oh.
Josie Duffy Rice: I’m still team dog.
Gideon Resnick: OK.
Josie Duffy Rice: What about you?
Gideon Resnick: Listen, I’m an equal opportunist. I’m going to save you from any possible scorn you might get from cat owners that are out there, and ask a couple of questions about this particular situation. I feel like if you’re 83 and you’ve been gone for an hour, that’s a decent chunk of time, right, to be concerned. Like, it’s interesting that the emergency service call only happens that late.
Josie Duffy Rice: Do you have any elderly neighbors, and do you know where they are every minute?
Gideon Resnick: Whoa. Whoa.
Josie Duffy Rice: Because her neighbors knowing that you’re gone after an hour—I was pretty impressed by that. Made me feel like I need to check in on my neighbors more.
Gideon Resnick: I was gonna say, yeah, I’ve been called out and I rescind what I was going to say.
Josie Duffy Rice: Same, same. It’s not just you.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Piran has made us both realize that we need to check on where our elderly neighbors are. It’s like those billboards that used to exist or like old ads that we’re like, it’s nine p.m. like, do you know where your kids are, or something?
Josie Duffy Rice: Right. Do you know where your neighbors are?
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Josie Duffy Rice: Your 83-year old neighbors. I have to say Piran’s petty impressive, but so is this woman who fell 70 feet at age 83, and is in stable condition. That’s pretty amazing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is. And through our compliments for both Piran and her, the audience has completely forgotten that you besmirched all cats that exist in the entire world.
Josie Duffy Rice: And you reminded them. You reminded them. Cool, cool, cool. I’m allergic.
Gideon Resnick: Yep. It’s OK. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s not personal.
Gideon Resnick: That’s the excuse. Revisionist history. It’s totally fine. Just like that. We have checked our temps. Check on your elderly neighbors and get a cat that can, you know, save your life. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Josie Duffy Rice: In yet another climate change-induced record, the federal government has declared a water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time ever. And this is a big deal. The country’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead, which also flows into the Colorado River, is now at its lowest level since the Hoover Dam was built to fill it in the 1930s. Water levels at the lake have been rapidly declining in recent years due to historic droughts in the area. And mandatory water supply cuts are scheduled to take place starting next January. Lake Mead provides water to 25 million people in Arizona, New Mexico, Southern California and Nevada. But the cuts will mainly affect farmers in Arizona. 25 million people.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s bleak. Oklahoma is asking the Supreme Court to overrule its decision from last year, which established that a majority of eastern Oklahoma was actually tribal land. State Attorney General John O’Connor argued in a petition that the ruling made Oklahoma’s criminal justice system a bit more complicated by leading state prisoners to challenge their convictions in federal and tribal courts. The state’s bold request also conveniently banks on the fact that late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was replaced by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who might favor the state more in its ruling. Tribal authorities are rightfully skeptical of this move, arguing that it reflects the state’s history of undermining the sovereignty of Oklahoma tribes.
Josie Duffy Rice: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s autopilot driver assistance technology—say that five times fast—after some of the self-driving vehicles developed a pesky habit of crashing into parked emergency vehicles.
Gideon Resnick: God.
Josie Duffy Rice: Apparently since 2018, there have been 11 crashes in which Teslas using the feature have careened into vehicles that used flashing lights, flares, illuminated arrow boards, or hazard cones, with most of these incidents occurring at night. These specific incidents have caused 17 injuries and one death.
Gideon Resnick: Yikes.
Josie Duffy Rice: And while Tesla and other autopilot manufacturers warn drivers that they should always be prepared to intervene while driving, the technology has been frequently misused by Tesla drivers, with reports of drivers sitting in the backseat at high speeds and using autopilot to drive drunk. Awesome job, guys. The Safety Administration’s investigation will cover 765,000 vehicles, which is more or less every car that Tesla has sold in the U.S. since the beginning of its 2014 model year. And while for now we don’t know what regulations may come from this investigation, we can all bet that Elon Musk is going to be super chill about it no matter what it is.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. No question. And we won’t hear about it either. We’ll have no idea. We just have to assume.
Josie Duffy Rice: The paragon of restraint, that man.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. When it comes to online shopping, it’s brutal out there. OK, thank you everyone. Again.
Josie Duffy Rice: Man.
Gideon Resnick: Fans of pop star Olivia Rodrigo have taken to TikTok to air their grievances after the merchandise that they ordered for Rodrigo’s debut album “Sour” a few months ago arrived looking well, a little off. Baby tees and crop tops came as t-shirt dresses, bucket hats intended for adult heads fit more comfortably on toddler heads, and bracelets and earrings meant to show the title of the album instead seemed to promote something called “SUOR” Spelled S U O R. The company behind the merch, Ceremony of Roses, has said they will grant refunds and exchanges for anyone disappointed with what they received. Who could possibly be disappointed? As for now, the language on Rodrigo’s store has been changed to say that the product photos provided are merely for quote unquote “illustrative purposes” and that customers can expect quote unquote, “minor variance” in what they receive. So basically, you can approach buying your Olivia Rodrigo merch with the same wariness you approach going on a date with that guy from Hinge who says that he’s 5 foot 11 and an empath. It is all just a little minor variance.
Josie Duffy Rice: Anybody out there who has a hat that fits a toddler that wants someone to give it to, I have a toddler that would love a SOUR hat.
Gideon Resnick: Boom. There you go. We’ve found a use for it and those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. This week on America Dissected, host Dr. Abdul El-Sayed is joined by the one and only Dr. Anthony Fauci to hear his honest thoughts on going toe to toe with Rand Paul and why many are still hesitant to get the COVID vaccine. Subscribe to America Dissected on Apple podcast, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, stream SUOR on Spotify, and tell your friends to listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just Tesla auto pilot disaster stories like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And we’ll see you at the White Lotus.
Gideon Resnick: At the show whose ending I do not know, and I will probably find out by the time this is out.
Josie Duffy Rice: I can’t even make jokes about it because you’re not caught up.
Gideon Resnick: There are plenty of non-spoiler jokes.
Josie Duffy Rice: Not the ones I want to tell.
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.