Start your day here: Biden's plan to push the spending bill forward; the latest in the 'Rust' shooting; NPR's Halloween favorites

Published October 28, 2021 at 7:51 AM EDT
Joe Biden, wearing a dark coat and dark pants, smiles while walking up a ramp in front of a large American flag. Two security agents stand on either side of the frame.
Alex Brandon
President Biden walks on stage to speak at a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Tuesday.

Good morning,

Here's what we're following today:

President Biden leaves for Europe: He will attend the G-20 summit in Rome and the U.N. climate summit COP26 in Glasgow. But first, he plans to announce the outlines of a revised spending proposal that he thinks Democrats can agree to.

The Rust shooting: Although no charges have been ruled out, authorities cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the events on the set of the film Rust that left cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead.

Halloweekend: A roundup of our favorite movies, books and a few trick-or-treat safety tips.

🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, data is expected to show the U.S. economy has slowed.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Carol Ritchie, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark, Scott Neuman, Manuela López Restrepo and Chris Hopkins)


It's not Halloween without some zoo animals smashing pumpkins

Posted October 28, 2021 at 11:35 AM EDT

Halloween is only three days away.

It's not just a holiday that teaches generations of kids to barter through candy. It's also a terrible time to be a pumpkin.

Even zoo animals get in on the pumpkin-destroying fun around Halloween, eating and stomping on the gourds as zoos around the country celebrate the season.

Human teenagers who like to smash pumpkins are not alone: Elephants get a kick out of it as well, as this video from the Oregon Zoo shows.

Every year the zoo holds a “Squishing of the Squash” event where their pachyderm residents squash huge, prize-winning pumpkins — this year they used one that was a whopping 650 pounds.

In fact, lots of animals at the Oregon Zoo got in on the pumpkin celebrations this year, including sea otters, bears and tortoises.

The pumpkins aren't just a seasonal treat, they also can be a source of enrichment for the animals and a way to draw visitors to the zoos.

The Brookfield Zoo in Chicago gives pumpkins to "physically and mentally stimulate the animals" with items they don't regularly see, the zoo shared in a news release.

The practice can also support sustainability. Oakland Zoo uses donations of lumpy or unsold pumpkins from their local pumpkin patches for the animals to enjoy.

“Most Halloween pumpkins - 1.3 billion pounds, in fact - end up in the landfill where they generate greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming," noted Amy Gotliffe, the director ofconservation atOakland Zoo.

The zoo's recommendation: Cook up the leftover gourds or donate them to zoo animals instead.

Pumpkins are fine for many animals to eat. They're even full of fiber and beneficial nutrients, which is why some people use them to soothe pets with upset stomachs.

The British Isles'Jersey Zoo provided double the Halloween imagery when it shared this video of a pair of fruit bats chomping away at some pumpkin.

If all this pumpkin eating got you into the holiday spirit, we recommend these recipes from WBURincluding roasted pumpkin with a ginger-miso broth.

And if it was the pumpkin-smashing that interested you, we recommend this.


Good 4 her: Olivia Rodrigo leads AMA nominations, The Weeknd and others follow

Posted October 28, 2021 at 11:30 AM EDT
Olivia Rodrigo performs on stage. She wears her hair in two pigtails and wears a strappy black shirt.
Mat Hayward/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
Getty Images North America
Olivia Rodrigo performs at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival on Sept. 18 in Las Vegas.

As awards season kicks off, one teenage pop sensation is leading the nominations for the American Music Awards.

Thefull list of 2021 nomineeswas released earlier today, with Olivia Rodrigo receiving seven nominations including “Artist of The Year” and “New Artist of The Year.” Rodrigo made waves earlier this year when her smash debut album ‘Sour’ topped Billboard charts for five non-consecutive weeks.

Close behind is The Weeknd, with six nominations including “Artist of The Year.” Rodrigo and The Weeknd will be vying for the title with artists like Ariana Grande, BTS and Taylor Swift.

Other top nominees include Puerto Rican reggaeton sensation Bad Bunny, R&B multi-hyphenate Doja Cat and first-time nominee Giveon (who performed a Tiny Desk (Home) concert earlier this year).

New categories have been added this year as well, like “Favorite Trending Song” (a la TikTok) and “Favorite Latin Duo or Group” as part of an expansion of Latin genres’ representation.

Voting for the show is now open worldwide, and as of this year, fans have the option of casting their votes for artists via TikTok. While nominees are determined by the Billboard charts, winners are entirely selected by fans.

Voting closes on Nov. 16, and the awards show will air Sunday, Nov. 21.

Click here for the full list of nominees.


An actor has been charged with vandalizing a New York City statue of George Floyd

Posted October 28, 2021 at 11:01 AM EDT
A Black man pulls a curtain off of a tall bronze statue of the face of George Floyd, as people watch.
John Minchillo/AP
A sculpture of George Floyd is unveiled at Union Square in the Manhattan borough of New York on Sept. 30 as Floyd's brother Terrence, second from left, watches.

New York police have arrested a man in connection with the vandalism of a newly-unveiled statue of George Floyd earlier this month.

The New York City Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force announced on Monday that it had charged 37-year-old Micah Beals of Manhattan with second-degree criminal mischief.

Beals' attorney, Rebecca Heinsen of Legal Aid Society, declined to comment on the arrest or charge.

Outlets including Newsweek and People report that Beals is an actor who goes by the stage name Micah Femia. He appeared in the 2013 movie Pop Star as well as one 2011 episode of NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation and a 2005 episode of CSI: NY, according to IMDb.

He was also arrested under his stage name in Washington, D.C., for violating curfew on Jan. 7, according to data from the Metropolitan Police Department.

Here's what we know about the vandalism case.

The incident targeted a 10-foot-tall bronze statue of Floyd, who was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last May.

The bust was one of three statues unveiled in Manhattan's Union Square Park on Sept. 30 as part of a touring art installation called SEEINJUSTICE (the others depict Breonna Taylor and Rep. John Lewis).

Just days later, police released video footage of a person on a skateboard throwing gray paint on the statue's face and base. They said the incident happened around 10:15 a.m. on Oct. 3.

Gothamist from New York Public Radio reported that once police officers arrived on the scene to file a report, the art installation's producer and several volunteers began scraping the paint away as onlookers watched.

Isaish Burke, a Virginia resident who drove to New York with his family to see the exhibit, told Gothamist that he feared once the statue was cleaned up, it would be vandalized again.

"I was pulling by and I saw the paint I instantly got emotional," said Burke, who is Black. "It's a representation of the country we live in. It's racism, it's hatred, ignorance all boiled into one."

Gothamist notes that this same statue was vandalized in June while on display in Flatbush, Brooklyn.


An American Airlines passenger punched a flight attendant, causing the jet to divert

Posted October 28, 2021 at 10:40 AM EDT
An American Airlines jet taxis on a runway to leave Denver International Airport on Tuesday.
David Zalubowski/AP
An American Airlines jet taxis on a runway to leave Denver International Airport on Tuesday.

A passenger who assaulted a flight attendant aboard an American Airlines jetliner bound from New York to California on Wednesday caused the plane to divert to Denver in what one witness has suggested was an altercation over a mask requirement.

The passenger was removed from Flight 976 and taken into custody, American Airlines said in a statement emailed to NPR.

Witnesses were quoted by local media that the man had been drinking. One witness, who tweeted a photo of the restrained passenger in Denver, saying the person "didn't want to wear a mask."

"[This] man punched a female flight attendant breaking her nose, sending her to the hospital," the witness said.

The airline said it is "outraged by the reports of what took place on board."

"The individual involved in this incident will never be allowed to travel with American Airlines in the future, but we will not be satisfied until he has been prosecuted to the full extent of the law," it said without elaborating on what triggered the altercation. "This behavior must stop, and aggressive enforcement and prosecution of the law is the best deterrent."NPR reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration for details, but did not immediately receive more information on the incident.

Airlines have dealt with a surge in unruly passengers this year, many of whom oppose mask requirements aboard flights. A survey this summer by the Association of Flight Attendants showed that 85% of attendants had dealt with unruly passengers and that nearly one in five had experienced physical incidents.

Last month, the TSA announced that it would increase the range of civil penalties for violating federal mask mandates aboard U.S. transportation systems to $500 to $1,000 for first offenders and $1,000 to $3,000 for second offenders.


'TBH' and 'dad bod' are among Merriam-Webster's 455 newest words. Because language

Posted October 28, 2021 at 10:17 AM EDT
The Merriam-Webster dictionary added 455 new words in October, many related to online slang or the coronavirus pandemic.
Joanne K. Watson/Merriam-Webster via Getty Images
Getty Images North America
The Merriam-Webster dictionary added 455 new words in October, many related to online slang or the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic pushed more culture and communication online than ever, and the wordsmiths at Merriam-Webster were watching.

They've added 455 new words and definitions to the dictionary for October to keep up with the evolving English language.

"The quick and informal nature of messaging, texting, and tweeting has contributed to a vocabulary newly rich in efficient and abbreviated expression," Merriam-Webster explained on its website.

Here are a few of the new additions:

Amirite: Am I right? Merriam-Webster suggests that “English spelling is consistently inconsistent, amirite?”

TBH: To be honest.

FTW: For the win.

Deplatform: To remove and ban a user from a digital platform.

Because: In lieu of "because of," and we'll let M-W explain: "This preposition use of because is versatile; it can be used, for example, to avoid delving into the overly technical ('the process works because science') or to dismiss explanation altogether ('they left because reasons')."

Also new to the dictionary are newly common COVID-related words and terms: long covid, super-spreader and vaccine passport.

The New Normal

Saying ‘yes, and’ as we return to the world

Posted October 28, 2021 at 9:30 AM EDT

The COVID-19 pandemic left many Americans isolated, but now that nearly 60% of us are fully vaccinated, some people are starting to step back into the world. That includes taking classes, for things like improv, to try to re-learn how to connect.

NPR’s Rachel Martin visited a class at the Washington Improv Theater, where she met two students looking to reset after 18 months of pandemic seclusion.

Drew Garner, 34, moved to Washington, D.C. during the pandemic and says he hates improv. He cringes when he thinks about going to class, but still attends in hopes of getting a better handle on his anxiety.

“It does make me socialize with people,” he said. “It does make me have to live in the moment. I can’t obsess about the perfect thing to say.”

Sabriyya Pate, 24, is one of the few people of color in the class. She’s struggling to bring her whole self to the experience.

“I've been grappling with the fact that I would love to be able to share more aspects of my identity as a Black woman. But, I don't know how educated my peers are about racial issues and the intersections of race and class and gender,” she said. “And when I'm thinking about all these things, I get lost in my head. And then at that point, I lose perhaps what makes improv improv, which is the spontaneity of it.”

Still, both show up every week, hoping to get out of their heads and reconnect a little with the world we all knew before the pandemic.

🎧 Listen to the full story.


Halloween reading to get you in the spirit 👻

Posted October 28, 2021 at 8:59 AM EDT
A pile of orange and white pumpkins.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Getty Images Europe
Pumpkins are stacked up at Tulleys farm on October 22, 2021 in Crawley, England.

Halloweekend is practically upon us, so we figured we'd treat you to some recommended reading. Whether you're looking to hit the town in your finest or cozy up with a movie (either outright scary or slightly spooky), NPR has got you covered with news and resources.

Happy reading — and happy Halloween!




Dressing up:

Looking for more? NPR has a whole archive of Halloween contentgoing back over two decades.

On-set shooting

Here's the latest on the Rust shooting investigation

Posted October 28, 2021 at 8:09 AM EDT
A collection of wooded buildings are seen from above.
Jae C. Hong/AP
The Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., where the film “Rust” was being filmed.

Around 500 rounds of ammunition have been recovered from the set of Rust as authorities continue to investigate the shooting that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins last week after Alec Baldwin discharged a prop gun.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco has the latest on Morning Edition.

Investigators say they are interviewing close to 100 people who were on the New Mexico set that day, with physical evidence being sent to an FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va., for further analysis.

"I think there was some complacency on the set," Santa Fe Sheriff Adan Mendoza said during a press conference. "And I think there are some safety issues that need to be addressed in the film industry and possibly by the state of New Mexico."

Investigators report they found three guns on set, Iincluding a plastic, non-functioning gun and the Colt 45 revolver that Baldwin was rehearsing with when the shooting occurred. Sheriff Mendoza told reporters he believed that gun contained a live round.

Mendoza also reported that the ammunition authorities found on set was a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and what investigators believe are more live rounds.

The three people known to have handled the gun are actor and producer Alec Baldwin, Rust assistant director David Halls and armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed, all of whom are cooperating with the investigation, officials say.

The County Sheriff's Department said on Wednesday that it's too early in the investigation for charges, but they haven't ruled anyone out.

Click hereto learnmore about the environment on set before the tragic shooting.


Moscow shuts down as coronavirus surges in largely unvaccinated Russia

Posted October 28, 2021 at 7:53 AM EDT
A face mask and hand glove requirement sign on display at the Kiyevsky railway station in Moscow.
Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS
A face mask and hand glove requirement sign on display at the Kiyevsky railway station in Moscow. A recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Russia has prompted the Moscow authorities to declare non-working days with pay from Oct. 28 to Nov. 7.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Moscow and five other regions of the country into a 10-day non-working period in an effort to stem a record number of coronavirus cases and deaths. Only a third of Russia's population has been vaccinated.

The restrictions that begin Thursday and last until Nov. 7 will be extended to the rest of the country starting Saturday, according to the Moscow Times.

The Kremlin insists the move is not a “lockdown.” However, schools and businesses ranging from restaurants and entertainment to gyms are temporarily shuttered.

It comes after 1,159 COVID-19 deaths and 40,096 new coronavirus cases were reported in a 24-hour period — the highest number in the capital since the start of the pandemic.
Russia’s official death toll from the virus — by far the highest in Europe — is more than 235,000, although an analysis by the Moscow Times earlier this month suggests authorities have dramatically downplayed that total.

Putin has authorized regional leaders to extend the shutdown if the number of cases doesn’t fall.

The Kremlin blames vaccine hesitancy: Two-thirds of Russian adults are still not fully inoculated despite ready access to the country’s Sputnik V vaccine.

The Associated Press reports that many Russians are flouting the spirit of the new restrictions, using their time off to vacation along the seaside ahead of the country’s long winter. Sales of package tours to the Middle East have also jumped, AP says.


On his second foreign trip, Biden will carry some of his top priorities to Europe

Posted October 28, 2021 at 7:53 AM EDT
President Biden, wearing a navy suit and black face mask, walks next to a green plan on the grass.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
President Joe Biden walks across the South Lawn after returning to the White House from New Jersey on Monday.

Biden will bring along key pieces of his agenda, like climate and tax reform, during his second foreign trip. He's scheduled to spend five days in Europe, attending the G-20 summit in Rome and the U.N. climate summit COP26 in Glasgow.

He leaves for Rome today after meeting with House Democrats to continue conversations on a scaled-back spending bill.

Biden is set to announce the outlines of a revised spending proposal for social programs and climate measures that he thinks Democrats should be able to agree to, a source familiar with the plan told NPR White House correspondent Scott Detrow on Thursday morning. The source spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of that Capitol Hlil meeting.

Detrow is waiting for the president to arrive in Rome (see this tweet). He spoke to Morning Edition about where things stand early in the morning: Listen here or keep reading for details.

Biden really wanted to arrive in Europe with a deal in hand

As Detrow put it, there seemed to be a burst of optimism that the agreement could be ready by the time Biden embarks on his trip, but he's still juggling the same balancing act: trying to convince skeptical moderate senators to go along with a plan that we understand to be somewhere south of $2 trillion.

He has to keep shrinking the bill, by cutting or limiting key parts of it (like paid family leave, which went from 12 weeks to 4 weeks to reportedly no longer being in the bill at all.) And that's alienating progressives, who campaigned on this very agenda. So Biden has more selling to do.

He's slated to speak at the White House at 11:30 a.m. ET.

A lack of a deal at home could affect Biden's ability to get things done abroad

A lot of these policies are tied to the big themes that Biden is meeting with world leaders to discuss. The G20 is all about finances and trying to get a global minimum tax, while the UN summit aims to reach big climate goals. Detrow says that Biden has talked about ambitious goals in the past, but needs to take real action after years of the U.S. failing to deliver on such promises.

Biden has two big meetings planned for tomorrow.

He'll meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican — notable because Biden is just the second Catholic U.S. president, and the two leaders have shared goals including on climate policy.

He will also meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, in what Detrow says is a key step in repairing some recent damage done to the countries' relationship as a result of a submarine deal with Australia that left Macron furious.

Read more from Detrow on the trip's context, including why there may be tension between Biden and some other U.S. allies.