Start Your Day Here: The Latest On Migrants At The Border, COVID Booster Shots And More

Published September 22, 2021 at 7:37 AM EDT
Makeshift structures and tents are set up under a bridge in a migrant camp at the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, on Tuesday.
John Moore/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Thousands of migrants have set up camp under a bridge at the U.S.-Mexico border in Del Rio, Texas, pictured on Tuesday. The U.S. is flying hundreds back to Haiti.

Good morning,

Here are the stories we're following today:

Border tensions: The Biden administration is grappling with a camp of migrants seeking refuge in the U.S. Here's the latest on those actions and the response.

Booster update: We're watching a CDC advisory meeting about COVID-19 booster shots today and waiting for word from the FDA on who it says should get the additional shots.

Party bus problem: A high school in Massachusetts had to resort to a party bus for afield trip transportation. It may have spiced up the experience, but it highlights a national bus driver shortage as many students return to in-person learning.

🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, the outlook for the pandemic and whether winter will prompt another surge.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Emily Alfin Johnson, Rachel Treisman, Dana Farrington, Chris Hopkins and Manuela López Restrepo)

The More You Know
🌓 Planetary News

Get Ready: The Autumnal Equinox Is This Afternoon. Fall Is (Almost) Here 🍂

Posted September 22, 2021 at 10:21 AM EDT

According to the National Weather Service, at 3:20 p.m. EDT today, the Autumnal Equinox (the moment when the length of daylight and darkness are almost perfectly equal) occurs.

And with it? The official* start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. 🍂

*If you are a human that follows the Starbucks calendar, PSL (and thus fall) season started in August.

In celebration of this season ahead, we've gathered some resources for a safe and enjoyable autumn ⤵️

🧣📺 Making the most of the weather

Colder temps in much of the U.S. means outdoor socializing gets a bit more challenging. But it also means more time for cozying up and binge watching all the new shows and movies.

Update your "To Watch" list with this guide (filterable by streaming service 😉) from the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew.

Plus, brush up on staying warm while socializing outside with Life Kit.

🍁🍩 Season-specific adventures

Speaking of seasonal changes — if you're planning an adventure to enjoy the peak fall foliage in your region — check out this great map Smithsonian Magazine shared with county-by-county updates of when to expect the most beautiful colors in your area. (Before you go, here's a refresher on why leaves change colors at all from Short Wave.)

And we cannot forget the food of fall. If you're looking to enjoy the best apple cider doughnuts near you, consult Alex Schwartz' map! He's on a "life-long mission to try every cider donut" and shares reviews on Instagram at @ciderdonuteur.

If you're new to cider doughnuts, check out their origin story here. And if you prefer your cider in liquid form, worth checking out this story from the archives on its resurgence as an "adult" beverage.


The Taliban Want A Chance To Address The U.N. That’s Unlikely To Happen Soon

Posted September 22, 2021 at 10:01 AM EDT
Diplomats sit at long tables at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Wednesday as part of the U.N. General Assembly.
John Angelillo/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a high-level meeting Wednesday as part of the U.N. General Assembly at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Afghanistan’s reclusive new leaders, the Taliban, are asking for a chance to address the United Nations General Assembly, but they are unlikely to get their wish — at least not in the current session.

The U.N. credentials committee has yet to sort out who is even Afghanistan’s legitimate ambassador — Ghulam Isaczai, who was seated by the now-ousted government of Ashraf Ghani; or Suhail Shaheen, the current Taliban spokesman based in Doha, who the Taliban have nominated as Isaczai’s replacement.

Isaczai is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Monday, the final day of the current session. But the Taliban have argued that he no longer represents Afghanistan, The Associated Press reports.

They want the nine-member credentials committee, which includes the U.S., Russia and China, to recognize the Taliban and its ambassador before then. But the committee isn’t scheduled to meet until Monday, and a senior U.S. State Department told the AP that the committee “would take some time to deliberate” on that matter.

That timeline suggests that even if the Taliban get their wish to be seated, their first opportunity to address the General Assembly would likely not come until the body’s next session — scheduled for a year from now.

Complicating matters further is that several ministers in the Taliban’s interim government are on a U.N. terrorism watch list, the AP says.

When the Taliban were last in power in Afghanistan, from 1996-2001, the U.N. never recognized that government.

U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told the AP that Secretary-General António Guterres had received the Taliban request on letterhead from “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” signed by “Ameer Khan Muttaqi” as “Minister of Foreign Affairs.”

NPR At 50

Happy Birthday, Crock Pot

Posted September 22, 2021 at 9:50 AM EDT

This year, NPR is celebrating its 50th anniversary by reminiscing on the moments and notables that defined 1971. And today, that notable is the Crockpot.

The device revolutionized home cooking — at least for some Americans, reports Mackenzie Martin of member station KCUR and podcast Hungry For MO.

Listen to the full story and read more from KCUR. Here's a brief history:

Our story starts with the Naxon Beanery, which, as you might guess from the name, did not necessarily have mass appeal. The device was acquired in 1970 by the Kansas City company Rival Manufacturing, whose test kitchen immediately recognized it could cook way more than just beans.

The recipe book that came with the slow cooker offered ideas for soups, stews and roasts, like "Busy Woman's Roast Chicken" and "Pork Chop Abracadabra." It was marketed as a miraculous time-saving device for the growing number of American women newly working outside the home.

The experts Martin talked to note that the Crockpot mostly benefitted middle-class white women who could afford it, but that it won over teachers, nurses and factory workers, too.

The newly renamed Crockpot was an instant hit, with sales reaching $2 million the first year and $93 million four years later. And, be it the convenience factor or the nostalgia of a home-cooked meal, the device is still in demand today: Some 12 million slow-cookers are still purchased annually across the country.

We'll give the last word to NPR economics correspondent Scott Horsley:

Hispanic Heritage Month

Mujeres Take Over This Week's 'El Tiny' Concerts

Posted September 22, 2021 at 9:35 AM EDT

This week female artists from Venezuela, Mexico and Cuba take over the "El Tiny" Tiny Desk takeover series for Hispanic Heritage Month. This week's artists also span different genres in the music industry.

First, there’s my favorite artist: Silvana Estrada. She is based out of Mexico City but was raised in Veracruz. There, she grew up listening to Latin American folklore, son jarocho and rancheras, which you can hear traces of in her own music.

She describes herself as “obsessed with words, sound and the beauty of emotions.” You should listen to “Te Guardo” and “Sabré Olvidar” with headphones (like you should when you listen to any song for the first time!). Her singing is crisp, just like the production, and the instrumentals that accompany her vulnerable lyrics are the perfect pace and sound.

Next up is Maye, who was born in Venezuela and later grew up in Miami. She writes and sings in Spanish and English to slow pop rhythms. Her song “Tú” can best be enjoyed with a glass of red wine and swaying in your kitchen while you cook a meal. And if you have a special someone to sing this song to, that works, too.

And finally, from Cuba is Eme Alfonso, who NPR’s Alt. Latino host Felix Contreras says is “part of a new generation of musicians throughout Latin America who blur the line between genres and influences.” She comes from a family of musicians and was a part of the band Síntesis, which was directed by her parents. Her sound combines Afro-Cuban music with rock and jazz, and it’s spirited and soulful.

Hear more about these artists in this interview with A Martinez and Alt. Latino’s Felix Contreras. And head here to check out the rest of the El Tiny series for Hispanic Heritage Month here.


Still Waiting On Your September Child Tax Credit Check? Here's What The IRS Says

Posted September 22, 2021 at 9:21 AM EDT

The expanded version of the child tax credit started sending checks to the families of nearly 60 million children in July.

In August, after just one payment, fewer U.S. households with children reported they didn't have enough to eat.

The third round of these monthly $250-$300 payments from the IRS went out last week, and some families say they're still waiting on this month's check and on an update from the IRS's online portal.

The IRS released a statement Friday saying they are aware of the issue and are "looking into this situation."

Families online are reporting issues getting through to the IRS by phone and expressing concern about how many families might be missing their September payment.

We'll keep you updated as we learn more.

Questions about the child tax credit expansion? Here's what you need to know. Plus, how to avoid child tax credit scams.


Who Should Get A Pfizer Booster? The CDC Meets Today To Discuss

Posted September 22, 2021 at 8:53 AM EDT

A panel of advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to meet today to discuss who should get an additional dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

There's been a lot of back-and-forth over which Americans should be eligible for boosters, and when. In fact, the booster plan President Biden announced last month was originally set to roll out this week.

Certain immunocompromised people are already eligible for a third dose of the vaccines made by either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, after decisions from the CDC and Food and Drug Administration last month.

So where do things stand now for the general public? Here are the basics.

  • In a vote last Friday, a panel of advisers to the FDA recommended against broadly approving a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for people ages 16 and up. They later voted unanimously in favor of authorizing a booster specifically for people 65 and older, and those at high risk of severe COVID-19. More on their considerations here.
  • The FDA is expected to announce a decision on the Pfizer booster any time now. "The agency does typically follow the advisers' recommendations," NPR science correspondent Allison Aubrey says.
  • The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet today and tomorrow to discuss the safety and efficacy of a third Pfizer dose. Check back on for updates.
  • The case for the booster is that it would help restore waning immunity against the virus, which is something researchers are constantly learning more about. A new study released Friday found that Moderna leads the three authorized vaccines in lasting effectiveness, though all three continue to provide strong protection against hospitalization.

Aubrey says the FDA advisers' discussion last week suggested that it's too early to make a recommendation about boosters for the general public (and some are weighing whether it would be better to recommend variant-specific shots). So it's possible that a booster could be broadly recommended at some point in the future.
"I mean, several FDA advisers indicated that ultimately there very well may be boosters for everyone vaccinated," she adds. "But at this point, they said it's just too early to make that decision. So basically, stay tuned. It's a very fluid situation."


Lorde's Recent Māori Album Is Part Of A Larger Movement To Revive The Language

Posted September 22, 2021 at 8:19 AM EDT
A woman with brown hair, wearing a beaded crown with three suns on it, looks into the camera.
Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Lorde attends The 2021 Met Gala on Sept. 13 in New York City.

New Zealand singer Lorde recently released a surprise EP of five of her Solar Power tracks re-recorded in the indigenous Māori language. (Here's why she wanted to and how she went about it.)

She's a global phenomenon, and the "Te Ao Mārama" album is drawing a lot of attention. Māori artists say it's just one part of a much larger movement to revitalize the native language, which for generations was discouraged in schools and saw fluency rates drop.

"There's been a shift, a change in the tide here in Aotearoa," says Māori singer-songwriter Maisey Rika. "And so many artists, Māori and non-Māori, have wanted to be a part of this movement. And now Lorde wants to come and offer and embrace the shift in the tide."

🎧 Sam Yellowhorse Kesler of NPR's Code Switch podcast brings us this story about ongoing efforts to reclaim the language.


Colombia’s President Wants To Remind The World About The Venezuelan Refugee Crisis

Posted September 22, 2021 at 8:10 AM EDT
Close-up shot of a grey-haired man wearing a dark jacket, white shirt and red tie, seated while gesturing with his hands.
Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summi
Getty Images North America
Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez speaks onstage during the 2021 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 2 at Sheraton New York in New York City on Tuesday.

Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez is one of the world leaders visiting the United States for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly this week.

While one of the topics likely to be discussed will be the situation of new Afghan refugees, Duque will no doubt remind world leaders of an even larger refugee crisis still unfolding in South America: Millions have left Venezuela to escape a collapsed economy and an authoritarian regime.

It’s a migration crisis on scale with the Syrian civil war. At least 5.4 million people have left Venezuela since 2014, with about 2 million now in neighboring Colombia.

Duque won international praise by announcing in February that 1.8 million Venezuelans in Colombia would be able to receive temporary legal status, giving about 1 million who crossed into the country illegally the ability to legally live and work in Colombia for 10 years with some access to social services.

But big humanitarian gestures like this, he says, cost a lot of money.

Colombia is “making a big call to the international community,” Duque tells NPR’s Steve Inskeep.

“When we evaluate what the international community has granted, for example, in the Syrian crisis, it has been something close to $3,000 per migrant. When it comes to the Sudanese crisis, it's almost $1,600 per migrant. And in this case, it doesn't get even to $300. So we have taken a lot of the fiscal burden, but we hope that the international community will be able to disburse with rapidness what they have already committed."

Duque spoke with Morning Edition about the current situation. Take a listen or read excepts below.

On whether the Venezuelans living in Colombia are seen as refugees or residents:

Duque says the country doesn't have traditional refugee camps, but temporary facilities that it uses to provide basic health care and services. Beyond that, the Venezuelans are "already deployed around the country," working or looking for jobs.

"And actually, the way we decided to grant the temporary protection status is because we were seeing a lot of unfair situations," he adds. "For example, people were hired and they were paid below the Colombian workers, not with the same rights, and people try to take advantage of that in some places. So that's why once people regularize and they receive the temporary protection status, they have basically the same labor rights as the Colombian citizens. And that's positive."

It also has important legal and financial benefits, Duque notes.

On potential political backlash over the large number of refugees:

Duque says the decision to offer temporary legal status received support from the private sector, governors and mayors.

Colombians are empathetic to their neighbors' struggle, he adds, offering an example of minimum wage being $10 on one side of the border and $300 on the other.

Even with Colombia's "great conscience," Duque says, these policies are not necessarily sustainable in the long run.

"We can’t keep on assuming this kind of fraternal policy is forever because it demands a lot of resources," he says. "And I think the international community has maybe made very important commitments, but we haven't seen the disbursements at the pace we should."


The Challenges Haitians Are Facing At The U.S.-Mexico Border, And Upon Deportation

Posted September 22, 2021 at 7:53 AM EDT
As seen through blurry leaves, people walk back and forth through waist-deep river water carrying various objects including yellow plastic bags.
Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images
Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande river to get food and water in Mexico, as seen from Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila state, Mexico on Tuesday.

The Department of Homeland Security is investigating border patrol agents' treatment of Haitian migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border, after disturbing footage emerged of agents chasing them down on horseback. Here's the latest on the situation there.

What is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border?

Reuters reporter Daina Beth Solomon spoke to Morning Edition from Ciudad Acuña in Mexico, where she has a clear view of the U.S. side of the border. Here's what she's said:

  • In Texas yesterday, Solomon saw a line of patrol cars spread out on the upper banks of the Rio Grande, with migrants going back and forth freely over the river (which she notes is risky and "not an official crossing point by any means"). In Mexico, agents have picked up Haitian migrants from the streets and from hotels — some migrants protest while others go quietly. Solomon spoke to one woman from inside of a migration bus who said she didn't know where they were taking her.
  • Haitian migrants — who want to stay in the U.S. — are going back and forth to Mexico for two primary reasons, Solomon says. Either, they're getting food and supplies to bring back to their makeshift camp in Texas, or they've given up on their hope of staying in the U.S. without deportation and are coming back to Mexico to regroup and consider their options.
  • Mexico is starting to move some of these migrants to cities closer to its southern border. Some have started asylum applications but it's not clear whether they'll be able to finish those, or whether they will be accepted.

And what about the migrants that are being deported back to Haiti?

Reporter Jacqueline Charles with The Miami Herald spoke to NPR's All Things Considered about what it's like for them to return to Haiti, which is still reeling from a major earthquake and political turmoil. Listen to that here.

Charles says the returnees are angry, complaining about the conditions in detention and blaming the Haitian government for "signing deportation papers."

As she sees it, there's a "lack of understanding" that they crossed into the U.S. illegally, which suggests some shortcomings in terms of the Biden administration's messaging. There's also the problem of misinformation.

"A number of people have said that they ended up there because people said, 'Hey, if I had a child in Chile, I can get TPS in the United States.' Or somebody says, '[U.S. Secretary of State Antony] Blinken said to come,'" Charles says. "Where people are getting this information, it's unclear, but they were guided by this idea that they would welcomed into the United States."

What is the U.S. doing?

The U.S. is continuing deportation flights to Haiti under Title 42, a controversial Trump-era public health order that permits immigration authorities to quickly expel migrants in the name of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The deportations have garnered criticism from Democratic lawmakers and immigration rights advocates. And just yesterday, the United Nations' high commissioner for refugees issued a statement saying the practice is "inconsistent with international norms" and may be illegal.


Kids Took A Party Bus On A School Field Trip Because The Bus Driver Shortage Is Really Bad

Posted September 22, 2021 at 7:38 AM EDT

A national shortage of school bus drivers has complicated the start of school for many students, families and educators across the country.

In Chicago earlier this month, 10% of the city's bus drivers quit over COVID-19 prevention pressures, and in Montana they're offering $4,000 bonuses for new drivers.

In Boston, the bus shortage caused delays as kids started school earlier this month, and just last week, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker called up the National Guard to help ease the driver shortage.

So when Jim Mayers, a high school English teacher at a Boston charter school, tweeted that his students were taking a party bus for a field trip that day ... it struck a cord.

Mayers, whose (since-deleted) tweet about the incident went viral, shared that so many (including fellow educators) "got what was a much-needed laugh during a time when few seem to understand the challenges of what it's like to work in schools."

Mayers, who also co-hosts a podcast about education called Professional Development, added: "If it's gotten people talking about the overall infrastructure of our education system, and the ways schools are prioritized, then that's good too.

"I encourage anyone reading this to attend their next local school board meeting, or to pick up one of the many fantastic books about education written by people much smarter than me."

For more, check out NPR's Back To School blog.


There's A Spending Battle Going On In Congress. Here's What It's All About

Posted September 22, 2021 at 7:35 AM EDT

The clock is ticking down to a possible government shutdown in two days and lawmakers are in a familiar standoff.

Democrats are betting the pressure persuades Republicans to support increasing the federal borrowing cap, but it’s not clear it will.

The House voted on a funding measure last night but the path to passage is much narrower in the Senate.

Democrats argue raising the debt limit is a routine part of governing. Republicans say they won’t support it while Democrats continue to pursue a sprawling $3.5 trillion budget. But Republicans themselves pushed the federal debt higher with spending under former President Donald Trump, including on tax cuts.

The spending bill that passed the House yesterday would raise the debt limit, but it also includes billions for communities recovering from natural disasters and aid for Afghan refugees. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says Republicans would support funding the government and the additional spending — but without a debt limit increase.

Keep an eye on @nprpolitics for more and to see how it all shakes out over the next few days.