Start your day here: Biden to speed vaccine rollout for kids; new momentum on a smaller spending bill; Netflix workers to walk out
Here's what we're following today:
Vaccines for kids: The White House said on Wednesday that it is ready to quickly roll out COVID vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11 if a Pfizer vaccine is authorized.
Spending bill: After much negotiation, progressive and moderate Democrats say they may be closer to a deal on a smaller plan that includes family leave, universal child care and more.
A worker walkout at Netflix: They're demanding the company better support its trans and non-binary employees.
San Francisco closes In-N-Out Burger: The health department shut the restaurant down because workers were not properly checking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, school board elections are the new political battlefields.
— The Morning Edition live blog team
(Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark, Carol Ritchie and Chris Hopkins)
A mental health organization turned down donations from Jamie Lynn Spears' book sales
A mental health nonprofit says it no longer plans to accept donations from the proceeds of Jamie Lynn Spears' upcoming memoir, after criticism from fans who see the actress as complicit in her sister Britney's conservatorship ordeal.
Jamie Lynn announced on Instagram last week that she had finished writing the book, called Things I Should Have Said, and said the process involved opening up about her mental health for the first time.
"I know I still have ALOT of learning to do, but I feel like finishing this book gave me closure on this '30 year long' chapter of my life, and hopefully helps anyone else out there who forgot their worth, lost their voice, or is trying to break an unhealthy cycle in their life," she wrote. "Which is why, I’m so happy to announce that a portion of my book proceeds will be going to @thisismybrave, because I know how scary it can be to share personal struggles, especially if you don’t feel you have the support or a safe space to do so, and they are doing amazing work to support and encourage people as they bravely share their experiences."
This Is My Brave is a nonprofit organization that aims to destigmatize mental illness through storytelling.
It's active on social media, where supporters of Britney Spears — whose treatment under a 13-year conservatorship, and recent efforts to break free of it, have dominated headlines — were quick to condemn what they saw as hypocrisy.
Some fans believe Britney's sister did not do enough to support her under the long-running legal arrangement, based on comments the pop star made in court and on social media.
Britney publicly criticized Jamie Lynn back in July, writing on Instagram,"I don't like that my sister showed up at an awards show and performed MY SONGS to remixes !!!!! My so-called support system hurt me deeply !!!!" She also may have been alluding to her sister's forthcoming memoir ina post last week, in which she joked about publishing a book of her own next year and asked fans to help her choose a title.
Jamie Lynn has previously commented on her sister's situation, saying earlier this summer that she had supported her "long before there was a hashtag" and will do so "long after."
Critics immediately flooded the nonprofit's Instagram posts with comments after the book sales announcement, dropping hashtags like "FreeBritney" and "CancelJamieLynnSpears."
"Honestly how dare you all partner with Jamie Lynn Spears, when she was a direct tormentor of her sister," wrote one.
"You’re accepting donations from someone who HIGHLY contributed to the detriment of their own sisters mental health. FOR HER OWN PROFIT," wrote another. "Completely cancels any and all of your credibility."
On Tuesday, the nonprofit announced on social media that it was changing course.
"We hear you," it said. "This Is My Brave was recently recommended to be a beneficiary organization for the proceeds from Jamie Lynn Spears' upcoming book. We have made the decision to decline the offer of receiving proceeds from the book sales."
Britney supporters rejoiced, thanking the organization on Instagram and Twitter for what one commenter described as "doing the right thing" — many even said they had donated to This Is My Brave as a result.
Britney hasn't posted on Instagram since last week, when she shared a photo of a festive Christmas tree and a lengthy caption opening up about her relief and anxieties in the face of the conservatorship's potential end.
"Lord have mercy on my family’s souls if I ever do an interview," she wrote at one point.
Listen to the otherworldly sound of Martian wind
If you hear one new thing today, how about making it the sound of wind on Mars?
Two microphones aboard the Perseverance Rover have "recorded nearly five hours of Martian wind gusts, rover wheels crunching over gravel and motors whirring as the spacecraft moves its arm,"NASA says.
NASA has launched an interactive resource that allows listeners to hear recordings taken millions of miles away on the surface of the Red Planet.
This recording of wind was made on Feb. 22, 2021, using the SuperCam instrument of the rover.
It sounds even better if you listen through headphones
Although it's subtle, you don't have to be a planetary scientist to hear the difference between sounds on Earth and sounds on Mars.
NASA describes the astro-acoustics of Mars this way: "If you were standing on Mars, you’d hear a quieter, more muffled version of what you’d hear on Earth, and you’d wait slightly longer to hear it."
Baptiste Chide is a planetary scientist who is studying the audio's data at L’Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in France. Chide notes what makes sound on Mars different this way: “Martian sounds have strong bass vibrations, so when you put on headphones, you can really feel it. I think microphones will be an important asset to future Mars and solar system science,” Chide says.
"So the wind speed in a carbon dioxide environment is slower than it is in our air environment. And so you might not hear as much screeching as you would hear in Earth atmosphere, but you'd hear more of the lower-end noises in the Mars atmosphere than you would do here on Earth," Gruel reports.
Because Mars' atmosphere is much less dense than Earth's, higher-pitch sounds like whistles and some bird calls would be almost imperceptible on Mars.
NASA's resource also lets listeners compare common Earth sounds, such as ocean waves crashing on a shore, with what they might sound like if recorded on Mars.
The scientists took into account atmospheric pressure, density and chemistry to simulate how the Earth's sound might change on Mars.
According to NASA, understanding the nature of sound on Mars could one day help scientists diagnose problems with a spacecraft on a distant planet, just like a car mechanic might listen closely to an engine to know what's wrong with it.
NASA’s Perseverance Rover has been busy since landing on the surface of the Red Planet in February. In only 237 sols (or Martian days), Perseverance has provided scientists with over 150,000 images, helped launch the first test of powered flight on another planet and even created oxygen from the Martian atmosphere.
Xbox mini fridges started as a meme. They went up for preorder and immediately sold out
Turns out Xbox fans need to chill — literally.
Microsoft released its "Xbox Series X Fridge" for online preorder yesterday after months of memes and anticipation. The mini fridges sold out almost immediately, with some gaming sites reporting they were gone in 15 minutes and others putting that time closer to 30 seconds.
So what's the hype about? As many cultural moments do, it all started on Twitter.
Many in the gaming world had already noticed that the Xbox Series X console bore some resemblance to a refrigerator when Xbox went up against Skittles in a Twitter "battle of the brands" championship this past April.
Aaron Greenberg, general manager of Xbox Games Marketing, promised that the company would make those mini-fridge memes a reality if Xbox won.
Xbox won by a nose, and the company delivered. Greenberg announced last week that the Xbox Series X Replica “Mini Fridge" would be available in time for holiday shoppers.
For $100, fans can get their hands on a fridge that holds up to 12 beverage cans and features two in-door shelves for snacks. The front of the matte-black fridge also includes a USB port to charge devices, and the fridge comes with a DC power adapter that enables it to work on the go.
"The mini fridge, created in partnership with Ukonic!, gives 'Xbox and Chill' a whole new meaning," the announcement read. "With LEDs and surface-features made to resemble the Xbox Series X, your friends will be amazed while their thirst is quenched!"
The mini fridges went on pre-sale yesterday, available exclusively at Target in the U.S.
Roughly three-quarters of reviewers on Target's website have given the fridge one star (out of five), which Game Spot says is presumably because people are frustrated that they weren't able to order one in time.
Members of that club can turn to eBay, where the fridges are already being listed with prices in the $300 and $400 range.
Or they can wait until December, when Xbox says more will be up for sale.
San Francisco briefly shut down its only In-N-Out for not checking patrons' vaccination status
Here's a story with some meat: The San Francisco Department of Public Health briefly shut down the city's only In-N-Out Burger location last week because it was not properly checking patrons' vaccination documentation.
The city has required full proof of vaccination in order to enter public spaces, including bars and restaurants, since August. It began easing indoor mask requirements last Friday, but still requires patrons to wear masks inside restaurants except while actively eating or drinking.
Health officials temporarily shut down the fast-food franchise's San Francisco burger joint last Thursday after learning staff members were not checking diners' vaccination status, the San Francisco Department of Public Health told NPR over email.
It said that public health officials had informed In-N-Out several times about the proof-of-vaccination requirement, but that the restaurant did not comply.
City officials first visited the restaurant on Sept. 24 after receiving a non-emergency 311 complaint, and followed up again on Oct. 6 to find that it was still not following the law. Just over a week later, the public health department issued a notice of violation and closure requiring the establishment to "cease all operations on site immediately because of the threat it poses to public health."
The department said it had also issued a notice of violation to the property owner, Texas-based Anchorage Holdings LP.
Arnie Wensinger, In-N-Out's chief legal and business officer, said in a statement provided to NPR that the restaurant had posted signage to communicate local vaccination requirements but was not preventing the entry of customers who didn't have the proper documentation.
He went a step further, adding that the company aims to make all customers feel welcome and finds it "unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe" to ask staff to "segregate customers into those who may be served and those who may not."
"We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business,” he wrote. “This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive.”
The restaurant has since "taken steps to comply" and reopened for takeout and outdoor dining only, public health officials said. They added that the restaurant can reopen indoor dining when it "shows an adequate process and procedure for complying with the health order and passes a health and safety check.
It had not heard of any plans from In-N-Out to check patrons' vaccination status or open their indoor dining area as of Wednesday morning.
In other words, at least for now:
These blood pressure meds have been recalled for possible high levels of a cancer-causing substance
Two types of blood-pressure medication made by the company Lupin Pharmaceuticals are being recalled because they may contain high levels of a substance that could cause cancer.
The Food and Drug Administration said late last week that Lupin is voluntarily recalling certain dosages of Irbesartan Tablets and Irbesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets. Both are used to treat hypertension, or high blood pressure, and were distributed in 30- and 90-count bottles nationwide.
The company found that certain batches of those drugs were "above the specification limit for the impurity N-nitrosoirbesartan," which could cause cancer in humans. It says it's received no reports of illness that appear to be related to this issue, but is acting out of an abundance of caution. It's recalling:
- All batches of Irbesartan Tablets USP 75mg, 150mg and 300mg
- All batches of Irbesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets USP, 150mg/12.5mg and 300mg/12.5mg
Lupin says it received four reports of illness from Irbesartan and none from Irbesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide between October 2018 (when the first of these affected batches were shipped from the manufacturing site) and the end of September 2021.
It discontinued the marketing of both drugs in January of this year.
Here's what to do
Lupin advises patients prescribed the drugs to continue taking their medication and contact their pharmacist, physician or medical provider for advice "regarding an alternative treatment."
The company says it's notifying wholesalers, distributors, drug chains, mail order pharmacies and supermarkets and arranging for the return of all the recalled product lots.
Images of the product packaging can be found here.
The White House has a plan to roll out kids COVID vaccines quickly once they're authorized
The White House said on Wednesday that it is ready to quickly roll out COVID vaccines for kids ages 5 to 11 if a Pfizer vaccine for that age group is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The administration has bought enough supplies for the 28 million children in that age group, and will provide it in smaller packages with essential supplies like smaller needles to make it easier to get to physicians, pediatricians and community health centers, the White House said in a press release.
The vaccine will be available at more than 25,000 pediatricians’ offices as well as pharmacies and children’s hospitals, and will work with states to make vaccination sites available at schools, the White House said.
Here's what to know about today's expected Netflix employee walkout
Employees at Netflix are planning a walkout today to push the streaming platform to better support its trans and non-binary employees and audiences.
Here's the context you should know:
Pressure at the company has been building for weeks, partly due to Netflix's airing of comedian Dave Chappelle's new special, The Closer. Netflix received heavy criticism from some critics, audiences and employees within the company itself because the special includes content at the expense of transgender people, among other groups.
But employees behind today's planned walkout say The Closer isn't the focus. In fact, it isn't even mentioned in a list of demands the employees drafted for the company. What is listed are demands such as more trans and non-binary people in Netflix's leadership roles and changes in how the platform warns users about offensive content.
NPR's Andrew Limbong dug into the walkout and what Netflix employees want to see changed in the company's culture. The walkout comes as a surge in labor activity and organizing is taking root across the country.
A guide to what's happening on Capitol Hill right now
It's another busy week for Congress — and specifically, House Democrats, who are still trying to reach an agreement about the scope of the spending package that basically encapsulates the president's agenda.
Democrats believe there is new momentum in spending bill talks
Moderate and progressive Democrats have been negotiating amongst themselves about how much to spend on things like climate change, health care, child care and college tuition.
President Biden's meetings with the two groups yesterday appear to have been constructive, with lawmakers now saying they believe there is new momentum now that talks are focused on the policies and not just the price tag.
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California said the progressives' meeting with Biden went for almost two hours, and that he feels closer to a deal than he ever has before. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also spoke to NPR'sAll Things Considered about how those conversations went.
Walsh says the framework that is emerging is one that keeps the bulk of Democrats' policy priorities — universal pre-K, paid family leave, eldercare, expanding Medicare to cover vision and hearing — in place, but will be scaled back from its original $3.5 trillion price tag to closer to $2 trillion.
That also means keeping certain policies in place for shorter amounts of time, like extending the child tax credit for only one year (through 2023). Several key Biden administration priorities will also be missing, like the president's proposal for two years of free community college and his climate program that creates incentives for utilities to use greener technonologies
Despite this renewed optimism, Walsh says lawmakers are still frustrated and feel like time is running out. Their new goal is to have a framework for the scaled-down proposal ready by the end of this week.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on Tuesday that he's still committed to voting on both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a reconciliation package by Oct. 31.
Steve Bannon's criminal contempt referral moves ahead
The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is moving ahead with a contempt referral for Steve Bannon for defying a subpoena. More on that here.
The full House will vote on the measure tomorrow, and Walsh says it's expected to pass. It will then be referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, and the attorney general will ultimately decide whether to charge Bannon with criminal contempt — which could mean jail time.
Voting rights legislation is also on the agenda
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Democrats are trying again to advance the Freedom to Vote Act, despite deep Republican opposition.
The bill would establish Election Day as a national holiday, set national minimum standards for early voting and voting by mail and create new requirements for groups not currently required to disclose their financial donors, among other things.
Democrats say federal legislation is needed to counteract new restrictions in red states that will make it harder for people — especially people of color — to vote.
But in the evenly-split Senate, they'd need Republican support to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to break a filibuster, and that's unlikely: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. said Tuesday it is his "hope and anticipation" that no Republicans will vote for it.
As Walsh and Juana Summers write:
"Should the procedural vote on Wednesday fail as is expected, it is likely to thrust lawmakers into another high-profile fight over whether to change Senate rules to abolish the legislative filibuster, or to carve out an exception for voting rights legislation."
Some Democratic senators have rejected calls to change filibuster rules. Read more here.