In This Episode
- The World Health Organization called for a moratorium on booster shots until the end of September, right as a number of countries have started or are planning to start booster campaigns amid concerns about the Delta variant of coronavirus. COVAX, the program supported by WHO to distribute donated vaccines to nations in need, is struggling to deliver on its promise.
- Mexico has filed a lawsuit against 11 gun manufacturers and suppliers in the U.S., claiming that they knowingly facilitated sales to drug cartels. Mexican officials estimate financial damages could amount up to $10 billion. Experts believe the lawsuit will send a message to the U.S. to take decisive political action on gun control.
- And in headlines: Democrats propose a law taxing major polluters, Rihanna is a billionaire, and former President Obama scales back on his 60th birthday bash.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, August 5th. I’m Gideon Resnick
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, the show that refuses to surrender to the glitches in Apple’s podcast app.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, when it doesn’t upload, we come to your house and read the show to you.
Tre’vell Anderson: Lucky you all. Although that’s very early in the morning.
Gideon Resnick: It is. It’s far to early. We’ll delay next time, we promise.
Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Rihanna is now the wealthiest female musician, plus former President Obama’s birthday party gets scaled down.
Gideon Resnick: Aw. But first, the latest on an international plea for countries not to administer booster COVID shots until more of the world has access.
[clip of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus] I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot and we should not accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines, using even more of it while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected.
Gideon Resnick: That was Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, speaking yesterday.
Tre’vell Anderson: So he suggested a moratorium on booster shots until the end of September. Can you tell us more details about why?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, it’s to achieve this modest goal the WHO set earlier this year, which was to get all countries to at least 10% vaccination coverage, which is very low. But as we look at it now, many low-income countries are at an abysmal 1-2%.
Tre’vell Anderson: And the US obviously is an outlier, even though this week we finally hit Biden’s goal of 60% of adults in the country fully vaccinated.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. Only an estimated 15% of the world’s entire population is fully vaccinated at this point. And that figure is only that high because of some wealthier nations like the US pushing the average up. Another way to put all of this, of the more than four billion doses that have been administered worldwide, more than 80% have been in high and middle-income countries. And collectively, they represent about less than half of the world’s total population. Now, one other quick thing that some WHO officials were emphasizing, they’re drawing a distinction right now between any vaccinated person getting another shot and those who might very well need it, the immunocompromised, for instance.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, OK, because they might definitely need it. This call from WHO happened right as a number of countries are already starting booster campaigns amid increasing concerns about the Delta variant.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, just to name a few examples of the many: Israel has started with adults over 60, Russia has reportedly offered them for certain individuals six months after their vaccination, and starting next month, Germany is going to offer an mRNA booster to older people, those who are immunocompromised and anyone vaccinated with AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. And a number of other European countries are preparing for this outcome too.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now, in the U.S., there have been talks about booster shots, even though they are not currently recommended. There’s even been some recent stories of people trying to sneak one in. What’s the latest on that?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so this debate was kicked into higher gear when Pfizer said in early July that they were looking for this regulatory approval for an additional shot. The administration in recent weeks, at least, is reportedly thinking about them as well, but for, again, the elderly or immunocompromised, possibly later in the year. But boosters are still not broadly recommended by scientists in the US at this time, though, we are kind of seeing some changes, right? So there’s one exception, at least. Health officials in San Francisco this week said that they will make a, quote unquote, “accommodation” for people who receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine—hello me—to get an mRNA shot, if they consulted with a physician first. However, it is not a broad recommendation at this time, and the FDA and CDC are not recommending that either.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yesterday, the White House had a response to WHO’s call for a booster shot moratorium. What’d they say?
Gideon Resnick: OK, so White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US had more than enough to consider boosters as it was also donating millions of vaccines to the world already. Here she is:
[clip of Jen Psaki] We feel that it’s a false choice and that we can do both. We announced just yesterday that we hit an important milestone of over 110 million vaccines donated to the world. That is more than any other country has shared, combined. We also made clear that that is the beginning and we also started to donate the 500 million doses of Pfizer we’ve purchased. We will start to donate those later this month. So we’ve taken action on the global level far more than any country around the world. We’re asking the global community to also step up.
Gideon Resnick: And to that point, we should note that the WHO is putting the onus on these wealthier countries to join in this effort. But the programs supported by the WTO itself, Covax, has actually struggled to distribute donated vaccines to nations that are in need. According to The Washington Post, it had aimed to distribute about two billion doses this year, and so far have only delivered just about 9% of that. And there’s a very good New York Times article we can link to that breaks down some of the other issues with this program. So namely that there are these other challenges after doses land on an airport tarmac, it’s not an immediate thing where it goes into people’s arms. There are transportation issues from there, training workers to actually give the shots, persuading people to get them and even having freezers to store doses. Long story short, it is a classic story of capitalism that is fueling this kind of hoarding situation that we have witnessed so far, driving cases and deaths up in places that have this poor vaccination coverage, and creating more risk of future variants of the virus. So recommend reading that to put it all in perspective. Let’s turn now to some other news. Tre’vell tell us about an unusual lawsuit against U.S. gun makers.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, so apparently Mexico has had enough of America’s foolishness, all right. The government has filed a first of its kind lawsuit against 11 gun manufacturers and suppliers here in the states. The companies named in the suit include Smith and Wesson, Beretta USA, Colt’s Manufacturing Company, and the gun supplier Witmer Public Safety Group, which does business as Interstate Arms. Mexico alleges that these companies, emboldened by the US’s lax gun regulations, are responsible for decades of violence the country is still experiencing.
Gideon Resnick: Lax is to put it nicely, I think. In this filing there was an interesting argument for how American gun makers were trying to get their wares into Mexican hands.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, well, in Mexico, they have strict laws regulating the sale and private use of guns. However, the complaint alleges that American gun makers knowingly facilitated sales to criminal groups in Mexico by marketing their firearms in ways that specifically appeal to drug traffickers and cartel folks. To be more specific about it, the Mexican government has cited a couple things as it relates to their position. Apparently, there are three guns made by Colt that they say directly target a Mexican audience using Spanish nicknames and themes that resonate in Mexico. One of them, a special edition pistol, is engraved with the face of the Mexican revolutionary hero, Emiliano Zapata, and the quote that has been attributed to him, “It is better to die standing than to live on your knees.” That was the pistol they say was used by a gunman in 2017 to kill a Mexican investigative journalist. So they’re basically saying that because they’re doing what they’re supposed to do as it relates to gun regulation laws, drug trafficking groups in Mexico are arming themselves with American guns.
Gideon Resnick: Right. We are the best at exporting violence to other countries, historically peaking. So what did Mexico say about the kind of violence that those weapons actually lead to?
Tre’vell Anderson: So according to the Mexican government, there’s been an explosion in homicides in the country. Back in 2018, they reached a record number of deaths by drug cartels, more than 36,000 people. And in a study released by the Mexican government last year, they say in the past decade, around 2.5 million illicit American guns have crossed the border. Relatedly, our own Justice Department found that 70% of the firearms submitted for tracing in Mexico between 2014 and 2018, that’s four years, originated in the United States.
Gideon Resnick: Unbelievable. So when we think about this, what does Mexico’s government actually want in return?
Tre’vell Anderson: So it’s a little unclear when talking dollars and cents as the suit does not specify how much compensation the government is seeking. That said, Foreign Ministry officials said they have calculated up to 10 billion dollars with a B in potential damages. But ultimately, Mexico seems to just want to ensure gun makers are being more responsible. And I’m sure they’d love it if our government took decisive action on gun control, because not only does it affect our livelihoods as folks who live in the U.S., it also impacts other countries like Mexico as well. And of course, none of the gun manufacturers have yet to respond to press requests for comment. I’m sure they’re collectively cooking up some mess to shift the blame as they do, you know.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, typing Antifa as we speak, I’m sure, over there. So what is the future of this suit and its actual chances?
Tre’vell Anderson: So legal experts are definitely questioning where the lawsuit could go. Their chief concern is a 2005 shield law that our Congress passed that guarantees gun manufacturers can’t be sued by victims of gun violence and their relatives. The Mexican government’s response to that point is that the immunity only covers violence that happens in the United States. But Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The New York Times, quote “It’s a bit of a long shot. It may just be a way to get the attention of the federal government and Biden and the White House so they can sit down and make a deal.” So it seems like folks are definitely hoping that this lawsuit at minimum, will garner some political traction and get our elected officials to act decisively on gun control regulations. And that’s the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about fallout after DaBaby’s da-bacle: the rapper made homophobic comments and spread misinformation about HIV during a concert late last month. He said in part that, quote, “If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases, that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cell phone lighter up.” I had never seen that full quote until now. Glad that I had missed it. And since then, he’s been dropped from tons of festivals. That includes Lollapalooza, the Governor’s Ball, Austin City Limits. DaBaby also lost a sponsorship deal with a clothing brand called Boo Hoo. And his remix of “Levitating” with Dua Lipa is being played less on the radio. DaBaby probably could have created a better outcome for himself [had?] he apologized early, but he put on a master class in how not to handle accusations of bigotry: initially doubling down on his statements, then releasing to incrementally more contrite apologies. So Tre’vell, this is a mess. What has been your take on this whole situation?
Tre’vell Anderson: So I no longer call him DaBaby, I call him DaBooboo, because he is Booboo the Fool. And, you know, this is just one of those another situation, right, in terms of just like not only homophobia, but also like the spreading of HIV stigma, all of which we as Black people broadly speaking, just don’t need, right?
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: I think I’m happy to see that, you know, the music community is like holding him somewhat accountable and dropping him from the festivals. But, you know, it’s just interesting to see the stages of his apologies, if we can call them that, because the first two, he was basically saying that, like we, we as the people who felt that way we’re wrong and that he was right. And then this last apology, obviously someone on his team was like, OK, you’re done, give us your phone, we’re writing this for you. Because the apology, it’s not even how he speaks. But, you know, it’s whatever. What are your thoughts? What thoughts do you have?
Gideon Resnick: I have very. But just to stick to the apology thing for a second, it definitely did seem like the crisis PR manager took over at some recent point.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Gideon Resnick: And was like: you cannot dictate to anybody else, you can’t be writing what it is you’re going to be saying here. Yeah, I mean, I personally am glad that I don’t have a lot of his songs on my phone. So, like, parting with any of them is not going to be a big deal to me, not going to really think about it. And yeah, I mean, I think, like, you know, it does at least seem like a slight positive here that festivals are creating some material financial impact for him for having done all of this. And I like yeah, I like your nickname for him.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, the DaBooboo.
Gideon Resnick: What a fucking idiot. Get him Da fuck out of here. OK, just like that, we have checked our temps. Don’t listen to his music if you don’t have to, or it’s not being played publicly, or in that case, whatever, walk away. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing three new investigations from state prosecutors into sexual harassment claims by current and former staffers. The D.A. inquiries will look into potential criminal activity in Manhattan, where he has his office, Westchester, where he lived for most of his term, and Long Island, where he was accused of making unwanted physical contact at an event. The lawyer of Lindsey Boylan, one of Cuomo’s 11 accusers, said yesterday that she plans to sue him and his close advisers for retaliating against her when she accused Cuomo of unwanted sexual advances. All of this adds to the mounting political pressure on Cuomo to step down. Yesterday, two former members of his administration and the head of New York’s Democratic Party called for his resignation.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I do not understand how he is still in office. Democrats in Congress want to make major polluters pay for how much damage they have done to the planet. Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen proposed legislation which seeks to tax Exxon, Chevron, and other oil and gas companies for their contributions to climate change. If it passes, the Treasury Department and the EPA would be in charge of identifying major polluters and determining how much they’ll pay based on the emissions that they created in the past decade, according to Senator Van Hollen, the law could bring in an estimated $500 billion over the next decade, which would be used to pay for clean energy research and assist communities dealing with the consequences of climate change. Van Hollen is hoping that the bill gets enough party support to be attached to the budget reconciliation package.
Tre’vell Anderson: Success often comes after setting goals and stating your intention. All right. And this next story is no exception. [clip of Rihanna singing: Bitch better have my money] Rihanna is officially a billionaire, with Forbes reporting her net worth yesterday to be $1.7 billion. She’s now the wealthiest female musician and the second richest woman in entertainment after the one and only Oprah Winfrey. This news is, frankly, worrisome for any of us waiting for Rihanna to drop a follow up to her album, ANTI, which came out five years ago. Since then, she’s been focusing on her business: Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty lingerie, which are worth $2.8 billion and 1$ billion, respectively. With both brands, Rihanna has found huge success marketing people of all shapes, sizes and skin tones, meaning you might be able to make a billion dollars just by noticing that not everybody looks the same.
Gideon Resnick: What a novel concept. My weekend is officially wide open because former President Barack Obama is scaling back his 60th birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard this Saturday amid concerns about the Delta variant of coronavirus. So the event was initially planned to include hundreds of Democratic donors and celebs, reportedly including George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey. The scale and timing of the event drew criticism this week, mostly from people who were not invited. And it will now be limited to family and close friends. In South Dakota, though, a much larger event is not letting Delta get it down. The Sturgis motorcycle rally—ooh, that is a throwback—will kick off this Friday with 700,000 people expected to attend. 700,000! Absolutely absurd. Last year, Sturgis was a symbol of man’s refusal to let a deadly pandemic stop him from wearing 15 pounds of leather outside. By one estimate, it resulted in COVID spread that cost the public $12.2 billion with a B in health care costs. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem will also appear at this year’s event. Presumably her plan is to protect everyone by chasing away all the COVID on her motorcycle.
Tre’vell Anderson: I just don’t understand why, why everyone just has to be fools these days. First it was the DaBooboo. Now it is, you know, the Sturgis people. I don’t understand.
Gideon Resnick: It’s in the air. It’s all around us. I am not looking forward to hearing more about that. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go, you can now binge the entire season of Edith, a scripted podcast from Crooked and a QCODE. There is an incredible cast that includes Rosamund Pike as First Lady Edith Wilson, and it’s written by Travis Helwig and Gonzalo Cordova, friends of the show. As Vulture puts it, “Edith! Is a fiction podcast that stands as a really good time, minute to minute, and that is no small feat.” Listen to every episode of Edith for free 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, face time us from Obama’s birthday party, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just the zeros after Rihanna’s net worth 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 dropped that follow up, Rihanna!
Tre’vell Anderson: Rihanna.
Gideon Resnick: Rihanna. Save the summer, whatever’s left of it.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s all gone. It’s fine.
Gideon Resnick: It, it is. It’s a lost cause, unfortunately.
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, 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.