Start Your Day Here: Colin Powell dies of COVID complications; Trial begins in Ahmaud Arbery killing

Published October 18, 2021 at 7:54 AM EDT
A red-haired white woman wearing a patterned mask holds a sign with a painting of Ahmaud Arbery's face and a pamphlet with George Floyd's picture on it.
Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
A woman holds portraits of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd during an event in remembrance of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 23, 2021.

Good morning,

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

Colin Powell dies: The former secretary of state was 84. “He was fully vaccinated,” his family said in a statement.

Ahmaud Arbery: Jury selection begins in the trial of the three white men charged in the last year's shooting of a Black man while he jogged in a suburban Georgia neighborhood.

A booster shot against climate grief: Primatologist Jane Goodall spoke to NPR aboutThe Book of Hope, which offers a much needed taste of eco-optimism.

The weekend's top stories: Haiti's kidnapping crisis, a Hollywood strike averted, China's sinking economy and more.

🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, what's ahead for COVID-19 booster shots.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Rachel Treisman, Carol Ritchie, Nell Clark and Chris Hopkins)

Sports

Chicago brings home its first WNBA championship trophy

Posted October 18, 2021 at 12:04 PM EDT

For Candace Parker, Sunday's WNBA final was the culmination of a personal goal: to bring a WNBA title to her hometown of Chicago.

She pulled it off, along with the rest of the Chicago Sky, beating the Phoenix Mercury 80-74 in Game 4. It marks the first WNBA championship win in franchise history.

It was years coming

After spending 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, Parker arrived in Chicago this season with the dream of bringing home the Sky's first championship win. Parker grew up in the suburb of Naperville, Ill.

They were up against difficult odds. Despite entering the game's fourth quarter behind by nine points, the Sky managed to win the game helped in part by Allie Quigley's 26 points and Parker's 13 rebounds. Sky forward Kahleah Copper was awarded MVP honors for the championship.

At the sound of the final buzzer, Parker ran courtside and embraced her family.

It was a sold-out crowd in Chicago's Wintrust Arena for the game. "It feels amazing," Parker said. "Look at the city, man. They all showed up."

Former President Barack Obama gave his hometown team some praise on Twitter, writing, "Congrats to our new WNBA champs, @ChicagoSky! I couldn’t be prouder of this team — they worked hard for this moment, and have made our city proud."

The Sky's win made coach James Wade the third Black male coach to win a WNBA championship.

Before the game Sunday, the WNBA players' union took out a full-page print ad in the New York Times in support of reproductive rights and against Texas' restrictive abortion law.NPR's Code Switch examined how Black women often lead with their activism, on and off the court.

TV

The Roys are back. Savor the drama with this sharp 'Succession' recap

Posted October 18, 2021 at 11:13 AM EDT

America was reunited with one of its favorite TV families last night when HBO's Succession returned with a vengeance after a two-year wait.

And just when you think the return of the Roys can't possibly be any more thrilling — Pop Culture Happy Hour's Linda Holmes will be treating us to a recap of each episode, as she has for a few recent series.

Her first post is a ranking of just how fast each major player is speeding down the road to hell, as Holmes puts it. Check it out here and see if you agree.

Plus, NPR's Sam Sanders got in on the fun too:

Coronavirus

Here's what's happening with COVID-19 boosters

Posted October 18, 2021 at 10:59 AM EDT
A sheet of stickers in the shape of a pink, blue and black heart with a crown that say "I've had my COVID vaccination."
Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
COVID-19 vaccination stickers shown at a clinic in Derby, England, on Sept. 20.

The Food and Drug Administration is poised to authorize booster shots of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines any day now after recent recommendations from the agency's advisory committee.

That means additional doses will soon be available for many of the 69 million Americans who got Moderna and all 15 million who got J&J (on top of the millions already eligible for booster shots of Pfizer).

It's been a confusing few weeks for the many Americans anxiously awaiting updates on booster best practices. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein says answers are coming.

On Thursday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisors will define how exactly to use them — and whether people should get the same brand of booster as they did their earlier vaccine.

Here's what else he toldMorning Edition.

For Johnson & Johnson:

Boosters are recommended for anyone ages 18 or older who got the shot at least two months ago.

New research shows that people who received the J&J vaccine might do better with a booster dose of either Pfizer or Moderna, which experts say could do more to rev up their immune systems. Other experts say wait until the end of the week — a lot of this guidance should be made official by then.

For Moderna:

Moderna boosters, like Pfizer's, are recommended for people ages 65 and older, as well as younger adults who are vulnerable because of things like health conditions or high-risk workplaces. Those who are eligible can get a booster at least eight months after their last dose.

Research suggests that Moderna and Pfizer recipients may benefit about equally from getting either as a booster.

What about younger Pfizer and Moderna recipients, and kids under 12?

Federal health officials are keeping an eye on the data to possibly expand booster eligibility to younger adults — if the evidence suggests their protection is fading, too.

The next big question is about vaccines for kids ages 5-11. The FDA and CDC will take that up soon, and Stein says that age group could start getting their vaccines before Thanksgiving.

Numbers are trending down. Why do we still need boosters?

Stein acknowledges that some experts are skeptical about how strong the evidence is for boosters, especially with so much of the world's population still without a first dose.

But more than 80,000 are still catching the virus — and more than 1,200 dying from it — every day, with breakthrough infections becoming more common. Plus, as we head into the cold weather and winter holiday season, there's reason to be wary of another surge and do everything possible to shore up immunity before then (speaking of which, have you gotten your flu shot yet?).

P.S. — We know there's been a lot of talk about breakthrough infections, especially after this morning's news of the death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was fully vaccinated. It's unclear at this point which vaccine and what other underlying health issues played a part in the 84-year-old's death. Here's some recent reporting on new evidence that suggests breakthrough infections aren't as much of a risk to others as experts initially feared.

Media

When this hedge fund buys local newspapers, democracy suffers

Posted October 18, 2021 at 10:38 AM EDT
A cityscape shows a skyscraper and several other high-rise buildings, a yellow taxi and some other cars as people walk by in the foreground.
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The iconic Tribune Tower, former home of the "Chicago Tribune," is pictured in 2015 in Chicago.

Have you heard of the hedge fund Alden Global Capitol?

If you're a reader of local newspapers — particularly the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun or New York Daily News — you're going to want to make sure the answer is yes. That's because the fund is stepping in to buy — and then gut — newsrooms across the country.

And that has consequences for democracy, as journalist McKay Coppins writes inThe Atlantic. Below are highlights from his conversation with Morning Edition, which you can listen to in full here.

(NPR reached out to Alden for a response. "A spokesman took issue with the entirety of the story, and laid out a long list of questions attacking the integrity of the reporter, The Atlantic and some of his sources without addressing some of the more specific claims within the report," says NPR's A Martínez.)

As newspapers vanish, so does civic engagement

Research shows that when local newspapers disappear or are dramatically gutted, communities tend to see lower voter turnout, increased polarization, a general erosion of civic engagement and an environment in which misinformation and conspiracy theories can spread more easily.

Coppins notes that there's even some research indicating that city budgets increase as a result, because corruption and dysfunction can take hold without a newspaper to hold powerful people to account.

"A lot of cities almost operate with the assumption that there will be at least one local newspaper, in some cases several local newspapers, acting as a check on the authorities," he says. "And what we've seen in a lot of these places where newspapers have been scaled back or even closed is there really is no comparable product in place, whether it's by the government or by another news organization, to do what these local newspapers have done for hundreds of years."

What does Alden see in the news industry, which isn't known for being particularly lucrative?

Coppins describes Alden as a specific type of firm: a "vulture hedge fund." It has figured out how to make a profit by driving newspapers into the ground, he says, since Alden's aim is not to make them into long-term sustainable businesses but rather maximize profits quickly to show it has made a winning investment.

Some of these papers likely would have been liquidated if the fund had not stepped in to buy them, as Alden's president told Coppins. But that's not true for all of them.

The Tribune Company (which owns the newspapers mentioned above) was still turning a profit when Alden bought it, but the hedge fund immediately offered aggressive rounds of buyouts and shrunk its newsrooms in the name of increasing profit margins.

What do those newsroom cuts actually look like?

Coppins offers several examples, like The Chicago Tribune and California's Vallejo Times-Herald.

He says he visited the Tribune's office and was "really shocked by how grim the scene was." It has traded in a prestigious downtown newsroom for a "Chipotle-sized office" near the printing press.

A quarter of the newsroom (including many big-name reporters, columnists and photographers) took the buyouts Alden offered, and while some great reporters remain on staff, it's nearly impossible for them to fill those gaps, Coppins says.

Meanwhile, in Vallejo, John Glidden went from covering crime and community news to holding the title of the only hard news reporter in town, filling a legal pad with tips he knew he'd never have time to pursue. He was fired after criticizing Alden in a Washington Post interview.

What does the future of local newspapers hold?

A recent Financial Times analysis found that half of all daily newspapers in the U.S. are controlled by financial firms, and Coppins says that number is all but certain to keep growing.

"The question is, will local communities decide that this is an important issue, that it's worth saving these newspapers, protecting them from firms like Alden, or will they decide that they don't really care?" he asks.

Some people believe that local newspapers will eventually be replaced by new publications, which Coppins describes as "built from the ground-up for the digital era." That may well be the future of local news, he says. But in the meantime, there isn't really anything that can fill the hole these newspapers will leave if they're shut down.

Ahmaud Arbery

How the media will cover jury selection in the Ahmaud Arbery trial

Updated October 18, 2021 at 11:13 AM EDT
Posted October 18, 2021 at 10:12 AM EDT

Jury selection is starting today in the murder trial of the three Georgia men charged in the February 2020 shooting of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery. Here's how NPR and other media organizations are poised to cover it:

The trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.ET each day. There is no set time when daily court proceedings will end; court breaks and lunch breaks are at the judge’s discretion.

One thousand people will be part of the jury pool.

Today begins with a motion hearing to determine who will be allowed to view the jury selection. Several media organizations (NPR is not one of them) have petitioned the judge to ask that the proceedings be open.

Court TV is handling the video and audio feeds for the press pool. Media will not be allowed inside the courtrooms where jury selection and the trial proceedings take place.

An overflow room will accommodate 36 members of the public, including journalists — first come, first seated.

No electronics are allowed inside the courthouse — including cell phones, laptops, tablets, audio recording devices and cameras.

There has been no estimate as to how long the trial may last. All three defendants are being tried at the same time — that would indicate it will run longer rather than shorter.

Update:

NPR's Liz Baker is outside the Glynn County Courtroom, where about 100 people — including activists from across the country — are watching the proceedings on their cell phones.

 Three Black people sit in a row of folding chairs on the grass, watching their iPhone screens. Others are sitting in rows of chairs behind and beside them.
Liz Baker/NPR
Activists from South Carolina watch the proceedings on their cell phones outside the Glynn County Courtroom. From L to R: Catherine Fleming Bruce, Lawrence Moore, Molefi Askari.

There have been a few interfaith prayer services today too, Baker reports.

As far as news from inside the courtroom: The judge went over seven pages of questions that the state wants to ask prospective jurors, allowing most and preventing a few.

Attorneys for the two McMichaels have two-and-a-half pages of questions (30 questions in total) for prospective jurors. Bryan's attorney has not submitted any proposed questions.

Then the prosecution began reviewing the defense's proposed juror questions.

Jury selection is slated to begin at 1 p.m.

Southeast Asia

Myanmar to release 5,600 anti-regime prisoners

Posted October 18, 2021 at 9:24 AM EDT
Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing presides an army parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Saturday, March 27, 2021. The head of Myanmar’s junta on Saturday used the occasion of the country’s Armed Forces Day to try to justify the overthrow of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, as protesters marked the holiday by calling for even bigger demonstrations.(AP Photo)
AP
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In a televised speech on Monday, Min Aung Hlaing said Myanmar was committed to peace and democracy.

Myanmar’s military junta, which seized power from an elected government in February, says it will free more than 5,600 people jailed for anti-regime activity.

The announcement appears to be a gesture aimed at placating Myanmar’s neighbors after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, over the weekend snubbed coup leader Min Aung Hlaing by excluding the general from its Oct. 26-28 summit. Instead, ASEAN said it would invite an as-yet unnamed nonpolitical representative from Myanmar to attend the summit.

In announcing the release, the junta said in a statement quoted by The Irrawaddy, a news site run by exiles living in neighboring Thailand, that if those being freed “commit crimes again” they will be required to serve their remaining sentences in addition to any new sentence.

In a televised speech on Monday, Min Aung Hlaing said Myanmar was committed to peace and democracy. The regime has jailed thousands who have protested the coup against Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since her government was deposed in February.

ASEAN proposed a five-point plan to restore democracy in Myanmar, but the group has accused Myanmar of not taking it seriously. Min Aung Hlaing said the junta is following its own five-point plan.

The Irrawaddy said the regional bloc had barred the general “for failing to fulfill promises made to ASEAN of engaging in dialogue with the junta’s opponents and de-escalating the violence in Myanmar.”

Sounding a note of irritation, he blamed the outlawed National Unity Government and armed ethnic groups for trying to sabotage peace, but made no direct mention of ASEAN’s decision.

"More violence happened due to provocations of terrorist groups," he said, appearing in civilian attire rather than his military uniform, according to Reuters. "No one cares about their violence, and is only demanding we solve the issue. ASEAN should work on that."

Author Interviews

As Jane Goodall grieves climate change, she finds hope in young people's advocacy

Posted October 18, 2021 at 9:23 AM EDT
Jane Goodall looks at the camera in front of a black background. She wears a sky blue turtleneck and her white hair is pulled into a ponytail.
Craig Barritt/Getty Images for TIME
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Getty Images North America
Dr. Jane Goodall during the TIME 100 Summit on April 23, 2019. She has co-authored a new book, "The Book Of Hope."

Jane Goodall spent decades studying alpha chimpanzees and was once followed home by a young lion. Now, at 87, she's sizing up a very different threat: Climate change.

The world-renowned naturalist says she experiences eco-grief — a term for climate change-induced distress. In her new book, The Book of Hope, co-authored with Douglas Abrams, Goodall reflects on the planet and how future generations will fight to protect it.

"Well, we have not just compromised the future of young people, we've been stealing it. We've been stealing it, stealing the natural resources that they will be relying on, many of which will now not be there. But is there nothing they can do? Was that true? No, there's always something to do."
Jane Goodall

From her childhood home in Bournemouth, England, Goodall joined Morning Edition's Rachel Martin to discuss the nature of hope. For Goodall, hope requires action and engagement.

Click here to listen to their conversation, or continue below to read highlights.

Interview highlights

On where her hopefulness comes from, despite climate change and the urgent need to protect our planet

Well, let me back off a bit by saying that if we all lose hope, we're doomed. So I've found I've met so many people who don't have hope, who say they feel helpless and hopeless. And I say to them, "Well, that's because we're always being told think globally, act locally." But quite honestly, if you think globally you're just so depressed. I mean, every day we're bombarded with bad news socially, politically, environmentally, but turn it the other way around, something that you feel, "I'd like to do something about this." And either you or hopefully, you and some friends get together and start doing something and you find you make a difference. And then you realize that, well, in other parts of the world, people are feeling like you, are doing like you because they are being advised to take local action, and you've made a difference so you want to do more. And that's inspiring other people. So it's an upward spiral like this, of growing hope with action. So for me, hope isn't just something where you sit back and say, "Oh, I hope everything will be OK." No, I don't look at the world through rose-colored spectacles. We've got to work to make what we hope for happen.

On being asked at an event a few years ago what her next great adventure will be, and her response: "Dying"

Well, when you die, this [is] either nothing, you know, which is fine: You're gone, right? Nothing. Your mind. Your consciousness. Everything gone. Or as I have come to believe, through various experiences that I've had in my life, there's something. I don't know what it is quite. But if that's true, can you think of a greater adventure than finding out what is beyond death?

On how her work guides many young peoples' advocacy, and how she talks to the next generation about climate change

It was because of that feeling that I met in so many young people: hopelessness. Helplessness. That's why I started the Roots and Shootsprogram for youth that's now in over 60 countries. And when they came up to me, they all said more or less the same, this is in four continents, that "we feel this way because you've compromised our future, older generations, and there's nothing we can do about it." Well, we have not just compromised the future of young people, we've been stealing it. We've been stealing it, stealing the natural resources that they will be relying on, many of which will now not be there. But is there nothing they can do? Was that true? No, there's always something to do. So Roots and Shoots is based on the premise that a group will get together and they'll be interested in different things. And because in the rainforest, I learned how everything is interconnected. Talk to your friends, maybe a teacher, or get somebody in who's an expert. See if there's something you can do, then roll up your sleeves and do it.

Ahmaud Arbery

Proceedings start today for the trial of the three men charged in Ahmaud Arbery's killing

Posted October 18, 2021 at 8:35 AM EDT
People holding umbrellas gather outside the Glynn County courthouse, with one holding a sign that reads "Justice for Ahmaud."
Sean Rayford/Getty Images
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Demonstrators gather at the Glynn County courthouse during a court appearance by Gregory and Travis McMichael, two suspects in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, last June in Brunswick, Ga.

Jury selection begins today in the murder trial of Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William "Roddie" Bryan, the three white men charged in last year's killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery, who was Black, was out for a jog near Brunswick in Glynn County, Ga., in February 2020 when the three men allegedly chased him down in pickup trucks and fatally shot him.

Travis McMichael and his father, Gregory McMichael, have said they thought Arbery might have been responsible for a series of neighborhood burglaries — but police never connected him to any — and were trying to detain him under the citizen's arrest law Georgia had at the time (and has since repealed).

They claim they resorted to violence only after Arbery fought them over possession of Travis' shotgun. As they were trying to stop him, a fight broke out and he was shot three times. Bryan, a family friend, captured it on video.

The three men are facing felony murder and other charges in Georgia state court, as well as federal hate crime charges alleging they targeted Arbery because of his race. All have pleaded not guilty to the counts against them.

As NPR has reported, this investigation has already been marred by a number of conflicts. It's also seen as a test case for racial justice.

"Here we are in the South and we witnessed a lynching," Bobby Henderson, co-founder of the grassroots group A Better Glynn, told NPR. "How far are we from 1892? That's what's on the line."

For further reading and listening:

Just In
Politics

Colin Powell is dead at 84

Updated October 18, 2021 at 11:02 AM EDT
Posted October 18, 2021 at 8:20 AM EDT
A Black man wearing a suit and tie looks into a webcam, surrounded by two American flags.
Handout/DNCC via Getty Images
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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell addresses the virtual Democratic National Convention on August 18, 2020.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell died early Monday due to complications from COVID-19, his family said in a statement on Powell’s verified Facebook page. He was 84 years old.

“He was fully vaccinated,” the statement said. “We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

Powell, who also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the first African American to hold each of those positions.

It's unclear which vaccine he got and what other underlying health issues may have played a part in the 84-year-old's death.

For more on Powell's life and legacy:

Weekend Wrap

Catching up on the weekend's biggest stories

Posted October 18, 2021 at 8:04 AM EDT
The front of a white truck with a blue globe logo and the words "Christian Aid Ministries" sits in a parking lot, with a white building and several cars in the background.
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FR60050 AP
Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio, pictured on Sunday, after a group of 17 missionaries including children was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti.

We're back!

And we're taking a look at four of some of the biggest developments from this weekend.*

Here are the highlights:

American and Canadian missionaries have been kidnapped in Haiti

A group of 17 aid workers — including five children — was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, apparently on their way home from building an orphanage. All but one are U.S. citizens, and all are part of a U.S.-based missionary group.

They were traveling in a van on a national road that connects Haiti to the Dominican Republic when they were captured. This particular gang is known to attack and kidnap entire vehicles, "whether it's a bus, it's a car or it's a van," Jacqueline Charles, Caribbean correspondent at The Miami Herald, told Morning Edition.

It's not yet clear what the kidnappers want — Charles says these cases typically involve a request for ransom, but we don't yet know whether one has been issued or for what amount. The FBI arrived in the country yesterday and would be involved in any potential negotiations.

For context: Haiti is still reeling from this summer's presidential assassination and a powerful earthquake, and its economic and political turmoil has contributed to what some experts are calling a kidnapping crisis. Charles says the number of kidnappings in Haiti has increased by at least 300% between July and September, noting that they may be underreported because people are afraid to alert the police.

"Haitians, whether they are doctors, whether they are merchants on the streets, whether they are in church — we had an incident just a week ago — people are potentially the next victim for a gang," she says.

Hear more from Charles or read about the conditions in Haiti.

China's economy weakened under a construction slowdown

The government data is in, and China's economy — the second largest in the world — grew by a weaker-than-expected 4.9% over a year ago in the three months ending in September. That's down from the previous quarter's 7.9%.

Official curbs on energy use and pandemic-related shortages of parts like processor chips have hampered the country's manufacturing industry. And construction is also slowing, as regulators are forcing developers to cut reliance on debt that Chinese leaders worry is too high. And weaker Chinese demand for raw materials could have significant ripple effects around the world.

"Even developed markets, including the U.S., would not be immune to a significant tightening in global financial conditions as a result of a negative China growth shock accompanied by financial stress," Mo Ji of Fidelity International said in a report.

For more, read this story or listen to NPR's Emily Feng on Morning Edition.

A major Hollywood strike has been averted

Hollywood crew members and major studios reached a deal over the weekend, averting a nationwide strike that would have paused much of film and TV production.

Crew members in the union International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) voted earlier this month to authorize a strike if they couldn't reach a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers over their new contract, after months of negotiating over things like pay and work schedules.

The tentative agreement must still be ratified by the union's members. IATSE's vice president toldWeekend All Things Considered on Sunday that he believes the deal will be "overwhelmingly ratified."

Here's what's in the tentative deal.

Former President Bill Clinton left the hospital after nearly a week

Clinton was released on Sunday from a California hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for a "non-COVID-related infection" since Tuesday.

"President Clinton was discharged from UC Irvine Medical Center today. His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics," read a statement from Dr. Alpesh N. Amin, who had been overseeing the former president's team of doctors there.

He went home just days after President Biden said the two had spoken by phone, and told reporters that "he's doing fine" and "not in any serious condition."

Read more here.

* Sunday was the last Weekend Edition hosted by the amazing Lulu Garcia-Navarro, who is leaving NPR after 17 years to join the New York Times. You should listen to the moving reflections she shared in her final signoff.