Start Your Day Here: The NBA's Vaccine Rules, Congress Scrambles To Avert A Shutdown And More

Published September 30, 2021 at 7:38 AM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., holds up his arms standing behind a podium while talking to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pictured on Tuesday, says lawmakers have a deal on a stopgap spending measure to avoid a government shutdown at midnight.

Good morning,

Here are some of the top stories we're following today:

Government shutdown vote: Congressional leaders say they have a deal to avoid a government shutdown at midnight tonight, but Democrats are still scrambling to move forward with spending bills that include priorities like expanded health care and combatting climate change.

NBA vaccinations: The NBA is back, and new pandemic policies have put some players in the spotlight for not getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Britney Spears update: A judge has suspended Spears' father from her conservatorship and plans to terminate the 13-year legal arrangement completely in November.

🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, senators are questioning Facebook's global head of safety today about what the company knows about its negative effect on kids, after recent news reports revealed Facebook's own data on the topic.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Dana Farrington, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark and Chris Hopkins)

Fall Fodder

Tips For Taking On A New Month

Posted September 30, 2021 at 12:00 PM EDT
Two people ride bicycles on a park path next to a tree with green and orange leaves.
Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images
Bikers pass a colorful tree in New York's Central Park in October 2017.

It's somehow about to be October, which for many of us means plunging deeper into cool weather and short days.

It may sounds spooky, but a new month can also mean new opportunities for taking stock of our goals, taking care of ourselves and planning for the days and weeks ahead.

We gathered some resources (recent and classics) from across NPR — and our friends at Life Kit especially — that may help. We hope you check them out with a mug of something warm in your hands.

Health and wellness:

Work and school:

For fun:


The Search For Gabby Petito Helped Authorities Find The Body Of Another Missing Person

Posted September 30, 2021 at 11:48 AM EDT
A grassy field with a snow-capped mountain range in the backdrop.
Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images
A view of the Teton Mountain Range in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Authorities in Wyoming say the highly publicized search for Gabby Petito helped them find the body of a Texas man who had been missing since August.

Teton County Search & Rescue announced that a search team located a body fitting the description of Robert "Bob" Lowery on Tuesday.

Lowery, a 46-year-old living in Houston, had not been seen since Aug. 20. The father of two left home on Aug. 19 to explore Jackson Hole, Wyo., according to Click2Houston.

The Teton County Sheriff's Office had been investigating Lowery's whereabouts, but authorities said the search for Petito brought them new clues that led to a break in the case. (Petito's remains were discovered in Grand Teton National Park on Sept. 19, nearly a month after she was last seen on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend.)

"The widespread news coverage of the Gabby Petito search helped bring light to Lowery’s case, and resulted in at least two members of the public calling local authorities this past weekend with new information about his possible last seen point," they wrote.

The new information put Lowery on the Black Canyon Trail, wearing specific clothing — a black baseball cap with a gold P and carrying a black Nike duffle bag.

Armed with new information, a search team made up of 25 volunteers and three dog teams from the region conducted a four-hour search on foot on Tuesday, collectively hiking more than 75 miles and covering 22,500 feet in elevation.

"The volunteers split into seven teams and combed the thick timbered area surrounding Black Canyon, a popular hiking and mountain biking trail in the summer," authorities said. "At about 1 p.m., a dog team located a body and black Nike duffle bag significantly off trail on a steep, wooded slope."

The cause of death is currently unknown, they added.

In a statement, Lowery's family called him "a wonderful father, son, brother and friend" and offered their thanks to local law enforcement, the rescue teams and others in the community who had offered their help and care.

His sisters have set up an online fundraising page to raise money for his children's education and future.

The Petito case and the coverage around it have drawn attention to more than just Lowery. Many have pointed out that missing people of color and women of color do not typically get the level of national media coverage Petito has received.

Here's more reading on that perspective:


Dolly Parton Is Just Like Us: She Loves Lil Nas X, Too

Posted September 30, 2021 at 11:04 AM EDT

Lil Nas X is having a big month.

He gave birth to his much anticipated, debut studio album Montero. (NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour did a whole episode on it. Spoiler: They thought it was triumphant.)

He took home the top prize for video of the year at MTV's Video Music Awards for his song "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," and began his acceptance speech by thanking "the gay agenda."

He's raised thousands of dollars for charity by encouraging fans to donate to his "baby registry" of 13 charities tied to his album's track list.

And now, the queen of country music Dolly Parton has given him some love. On Twitter, Parton shared she'd seen his recent cover of Jolene and was honored.

NPR's Ann Powers wrote about what Lil Nas X's "world-conquering charm" brings to this much-covered song.

Here are more stories about Lil Nas X from NPR:

Good One

Eminem Surprised Fans At The Opening Of His 'Mom's Spaghetti' Restaurant In Detroit

Posted September 30, 2021 at 10:22 AM EDT

Rapper Eminem's seminal song "Lose Yourself," from the 2002 film 8 Mile, has likely inspired many listeners and artists with its urgent, motivating lyrics.

And now it's also inspired a pasta restaurant, thanks to this memorable line:

"His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy /There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti"
Eminem's "Lose Yourself"

A new restaurant called "Mom's Spaghetti" opened in the artist's hometown of Detroit yesterday.

The concept restaurant is actually the result of a partnership between Eminem's team and a local restaurant group, and started as a pop-up shop in 2017.

"Mom's Spaghetti" has made appearances at several Eminem live festival performances since then, and delivered food to frontline hospital workers and COVID-19 vaccinators in Detroit during the pandemic, according to a press release.

Paul Rosenberg, Eminem's manager, said in a statement that the response from fans has been "overwhelmingly positive," calling the previous pop-ups "really a test for us to determine whether there was enthusiasm for a regularly-occurring Mom's Spaghetti spot that would be open all year long."

The brick-and-mortar space consists of a walk-up restaurant window and an upstairs merchandise and memorabilia store called "The Trailer" (in another nod to 8 Mile). It's small and "limited to eight Stans" at a time, the release says.

The restaurant's menu is simple, offering spaghetti (plain, with meatballs or vegan "rabbit balls") and 'sghetti sandwiches all for under $15.

"We’re proud of the fact that we created a scratch sauce that tastes like it’s straight from the jar, and wok-firing the noodles gives it that leftover pasta snap," said Curt Catallo, co-owner of Union Joints Restaurant Group. "The walk-up window and small diner-like spot for people to eat add to the feeling that this is a homegrown, DIY experience."

A local commercial helped get the word out ahead of the restaurant's grand opening on Wednesday evening. The Detroit Free Pressreports that many fans camped out all day for a spot in line, which later stretched for blocks.

And some lucky stans got more than just a takeout box of spaghetti. Eminem made a surprise appearance, serving the first 10 fans in line both food and selfies. The generally reclusive rapper and his entourage then piled into a pair of SUVs and sped away, the Detroit Free Press observed, "chased Beatlemania-style down Woodward by packs of fans."


Hawai'i's Kīlauea Volcano Is Currently Erupting

Posted September 30, 2021 at 10:10 AM EDT

There’s an eruption underway at Kīlauea’s summit in Hawai‘i. Lava was still contained within the crater, the U.S. Geological Survey said ina Wednesday evening update, but there's an ongoing threat of gas emissions and seismic activity at the summit.

Alert levels have been elevated from a “watch” to a “warning,” meaning a “hazardous eruption is imminent, underway or suspected.”

The eruption started on Wednesday afternoon, USGS says. Find updates on the activity here.

Here's a map to give you a better sense of where we're talking about:

And you can follow @USGSVolcanoes on Twitter for more updates like these:


A Few NBA Players Aren't Ready To Take The (COVID) Shot

Posted September 30, 2021 at 9:56 AM EDT
Players play on court in a mostly empty of fans basketball arena. The fans visible are wearing face masks.
Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
FR170512 AP
Fans sit practice social distancing during a game between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers on April 15 in Los Angeles. As a new season sets to begin soon, some players are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

The NBA has returned and back with it are COVID-19 worries.

For a third season the association is navigating operating games while trying to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

This time around they have a new move: Vaccines — but not all players say they're ready to take them. The vast majority of players in the league are vaccinated, but some high-profile athletes have said they won't disclose if they're vaccinated or not.

NPR's Tom Goldman has the story on Morning Edition. Continue below to read more.

The penalties for not proving vaccination

As training camp started this week, some players brushed off questions about the vaccine. The Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warriors player Andrew Wiggins told reporters they wanted to keep their vaccination status private.

But their statuses may not remain private for long: Both Wiggins and Irving play in cities with regulations barring unvaccinated players from playing in indoor arenas, and as Goldman reports, it's presumed they're both unvaccinated. It's unknown what will happen to players who remain unvaccinated and play in areas with such ordinances.

Rolling Stonereports some unvaccinated players are considering "skipping home games to dodge the New York City ordinance … or at least threatening to protest them." And since the NBA has announced unvaccinated players won't be paid for games they miss due to local ordinances requiring vaccines, some players could risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars for each game they sit out.

High-profile calls for consequences

Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards told reporters he wasn't vaccinated because of personal reasons, then went on to question what might happen if a player couldn't play because of complications from the vaccine. Irving has allegedly liked Instagram posts that include vaccine disinformation and conspiracy theories.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing death and serious illness. And scientists aren't the only ones saying so, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also joined in.

In an article published inRolling StoneSaturday, Abdul-Jabbar said the NBA should require all players and staff be vaccinated — or cut them from the teams.

"There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research," Abdul-Jabbar said.

LA Lakers star LeBron James announced Tuesday that he'd been vaccinated. “I know that I was very skeptical about it all, but after doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited for not only me but for my family and my friends, and that’s why I decided to do it,” James said during media availability with the team.

Precautions beyond the vaccine

ESPN reports added tension is bubbling up around unvaccinated players' statuses, as some NBA staff worry the players might spread COVID-19 and fuel breakthrough infections. The league required all personnel around players, including coaches and referees, be vaccinated, according to several media outlets.

The NBA doesn't have a vaccine mandate for players because the league says the players' union rejected the idea. The league reports it will implement a slew of other precautions. They include testing unvaccinated players often and barring them from visiting what the NBA called “higher-risk settings,” such as restaurants, bars and clubs, the Associated Press reports.

Most players did roll up their sleeves, even without a league mandate.
The New York Knicks report that their team's entire roster is vaccinated.

Michele Roberts of the National Basketball Players Association said the real story is how many players are vaccinated. “Over ninety percent (90%) of our Players are fully vaccinated. Nationally, on average only fifty-five (55%) of Americans are... The real story for proponents of vaccination is how can we emulate the Players in the NBA.”

Regular season play starts Oct. 19.

Also notable, the WNBA said in June that 99% of it's players were fully vaccinated.


This New Canadian Holiday Reflects On The Legacy Of Indigenous Residential Schools

Posted September 30, 2021 at 9:18 AM EDT
People wearing orange shirts march in an area with high-rise buildings, carrying a black flag that reads "Strong, Resilient, Indigenous."
Cole Burston/AFP via Getty Images
People march during the Every Child Matters walk in honor of children who lost their lives in Canada's Residential School system, in Toronto, Canada, on July 1.

Today is Canada's first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The new statutory holiday commemorates the victims and survivors of Indigenous residential schools. It was created through parliamentary legislation this spring and codified in June — around the time when hundreds of Indigenous children's remains were found in unmarked graves at several such sites.

There were 140 federally-run Indian Residential Schools in Canada between 1831 and 1998. The government separated some 150,000 Indigenous children from their families and forced them to attend the Christian boarding schools in an effort to assimilate them into Canadian society. Thousands of children died of disease and natural causes, and the Canadian government has acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse was rampant at these schools.

Survivors have long advocated for recognition and reparations, and Canada created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as part of those efforts. The commission ran from 2008 to 2015, and released a final report with 94 calls to action — one of which called for a federal statutory day of commemoration.

The new holiday also falls on Orange Shirt Day, an Indigenous-led grassroots movement that asks Canadians to reflect on the treatment of First Nations people. It was founded by residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad, whose favorite orange shirt taken away on her first day of school.

The topic is in the news this week for another significant reason: A federal court there has paved the way for billions of dollars in compensation to First Nations children who suffered discrimination in the state welfare system, after a judge dismissed legal challenges from the Canadian government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement today urging Canadians to reflect on the "painful and lasting impacts" of residential schools, calling the holiday "an opportunity for us all to learn more, and to affirm the need for reconciliation and commit ourselves to the work ahead."

Here's more information about the history behind the holiday and ways to observe it, as well as mental health resources available in Canada. The CBC has these stories on why Canada is marking the holiday this year, ways to participate and how to talk to kids about it.

And check out these NPR stories:


Britney Spears' Dad Has Been Removed From Her Conservatorship. What Happens Next?

Posted September 30, 2021 at 8:22 AM EDT
People with and without face masks raise their arms and cheer, while holding various pink and black signs that say "Free Britney." They are standing outside and a microphone is being held in front of them.
Chris Pizzello/AP
Britney Spears supporters celebrate outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

And now for a much-anticipated Britney Spears update: A judge has removed Jamie Spears as the conservatorship of his daughter's estate, putting a temporary new conservator in place until the next court hearing on Nov. 12.

Spears' fans cheered outside the Los Angeles courtroom when the decision was announced. Asked whether he thought the pop star would be free of both conservatorships — controlling both her finances and her personal life, her attorney Mathew Rosengart said he believed it is "inevitable."

NPR's Mandalit del Barco brings us scenes from outside the courtroom and details about next steps. Click here to listen and read more here and see the highlights below

Britney did not address the court as she did at her last hearing in June. Rosengart spoke on her behalf, imploring the judge "to end this Kafka-esque nightmare." He repeatedly quoted Spears referring to her father's relationship with her as "toxic, abusive and cruel," and cited allegations revealed in a new New York Times documentary about Spears' guardians taking secret and illegal recordings of her phone calls.

Jamie Spears' lawyer called this "pure rhetoric," and said her client had always acted in his daughter's best interest.

Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny agreed that the current arrangement created a "toxic environment" and ordered Jamie immediately removed and replaced by a certified public accountant approved by Britney.

John Zabel will serve in that role until the next court hearing, scheduled for Nov. 12. At that point, Penny will decide whether to terminate the conservatorship altogether (both Britney and Jamie have said they want the agreement to end).

"She's free today in a sense, but there's a larger issue here," Rosengart told supporters after the hearing. Indeed, Congress is now looking into the issue of toxic conservatorships, on behalf of the estimated 1.3 million Americans controlled by similar arrangements.


Highlights From Defense Officials' Testimony On The Afghanistan Withdrawal

Posted September 30, 2021 at 8:15 AM EDT

Top military officials delivered two days of testimony this week on the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The Biden administration has faced scathing criticism from both sides of the aisle for how American forces left the country and for the deadly scenes that played out on the ground in Kabul in the absence of a U.S. military presence.

🎧 Listen to NPR reporter Claudia Grisales for more on the criticisms.

3 takeaways from the testimony

  • Biden’s top military advisers warned against a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, strategists told the Senate Armed Services Committee on the first day of remarks. Those statements contradict President Biden’s recollection of events. In August, the president said in an interview he did not recall having been advised to leave a troop presence in Afghanistan. 
  • Despite the contradiction, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley did say he felt that he and others involved in advising the president had a voice on the matter, even if Biden ultimately went against their advice.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said it was an uncomfortable truth that the United States “did not fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership” that led to the rapid deterioration of the Afghan government and the subsequent takeover by the Taliban.

What happens next?

One of the biggest questions that has remained in the weeks since the United States’ hasty departure from Afghanistan is what happens next for Americans in the country who want to leave and how does Afghanistan change politically under a Taliban rule.

On the question of Americans still in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Austin said he estimates there are fewer than 100 Americans seeking to return stateside from Afghanistan, though that number fluctuates daily.

As for Afghan nationals, the change has been sudden and jarring. Already, the new Taliban-appointed head of Kabul University has barred women from attending classes, and barbers have been ordered not to shave customers’ beards in the southern province of Helmand, under the Taliban's belief that that type of grooming goes against Islamic law.


Congress' Long To-Do List Includes Averting A Government Shutdown By Midnight

Posted September 30, 2021 at 7:36 AM EDT
A close-up of the white Capitol dome, with lampposts in the foreground, against a blue sky with some white clouds and green trees.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images
Congress has a midnight deadline to fund the government or hit a shutdown.

Here are a couple of the items on Congress' high-stakes to-do list for today: reaching an agreement that would keep the government from shutting down tonight and voting on the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill at the center of President Biden's legislative agenda.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the high stakes as "why we all came to Washington," comparing the situation to an episode of a TV show. Asked which one, she said "Maybe the West Wing if something good happens, maybe Veep if not?"

NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell (a Veep fan, by the way) spoke with Morning Edition's A Martínez about the goals and challenges facing lawmakers today. Listen here or read on for the highlights:

Will there be a partial government shutdown tonight? Most likely not. The Senate has agreed to vote today on a bill to keep the government funded through Dec. 3. Both Democrats and Republicans want to avoid a shutdown, Snell says, and have an interest in approving things added to the spending bill like money for Afghan refugees and communities hit by natural disasters.

"It may take the whole day and get close to the deadline, but everybody I talked to is confident that there will not be a shutdown," Snell says.

What's happening with the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan? The House is supposed to vote on that bill today, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. But Pelosi has also said that she doesn't want to hold votes on a bill that will fail. And that could happen, since more progressives have threatened to vote against it than Pelosi can afford to lose. Plus, Snell notes, the House is up against a self-imposed deadline. So it remains to be seen whether the vote will get pushed.

Why doesn't it have the votes? As Snell puts it, support for the infrastructure vote hinges on Biden reaching a deal with moderate senators (like Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia) on a "separate but politically linked spending bill." The bigger spending billalso has to pass muster for progressive Democrats, who want to keep the $3.5 trillion bill as intact as possible in order to address issues like health care, climate change and paid family leave. Unlike the infrastructure vote, the bigger spending deal only needs Democrats' support, but Sinema and Manchin say they won't support a bill that big.

What's Biden doing? The White House left details of these negotiations up to congressional leaders until about a week ago, and the president is now playing a really public role. He's holding meetings at the White House, canceled a planned trip to Chicago and even visited Congress' charity baseball game last night (he brought ice cream, of course). Snell notes that his entire agenda is on the line, as are promises that most Democrats made to voters.

Meanwhile, there are ongoing efforts to address potential debt default. Read more about the debt ceiling deadline and its impact here.