Start your day here: Activists protest Julius Jones' execution; Biden reunites the 'Three Amigos'; simplify your Thanksgiving
Here's what we're following today:
Julius Jones execution: Activists are calling on Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to intervene in the execution, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. local time. Jones has spent nearly two decades on death row, convicted of a 1999 murder that he and others say he didn't commit.
The "Three Amigos" summit: President Biden revives what was once a regular meeting of the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
Thanksgiving prep: With a week to go, here's how you can cook smarter, not harder. Plus a quest for the perfect turkey, and more tips.
🎧 Also, on Up First, our daily podcast, two men convicted of killing Malcolm X are set to be exonerated.
— The Morning Edition live blog team
(Carol Ritchie, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark and Chris Hopkins)
Thanksgiving should be relaxing and fun. It's often not. Here are some tips to help
Turkey and cranberry sauce isn't the only duality Thanksgiving is known for:
Seeing loved ones — and seeing loved ones argue. Cooking a turkey for hours — and cooking up disappointment about how that turkey turned out.
From 5K runs to traditions new and old, however you're planning to celebrate, we picked some tips from around NPR and our member stations to help you.
How to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your guests:
According to Kim, a key to success is to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family or friends by following these tips: Do the bulk of your cooking the day before, then just warm up delicious side dishes and pop the turkey in the oven ... or pot of oil. He also recommends simplifying your tools and ingredients and choosing a turkey recipe, like this one, that won't make you stressed out all day (and bonus: it's cooked at an oven temp that won't make your kitchen sweltering.)
Kim's other advice is to not underestimate the pleasures of Friendsgiving; chosen families can be just as worth celebrating as real ones.
And if spending time with your guests is part of the stress, listen to this from WBUR in Boston.They examine howfolks with opinionated families can calm dinner disputes, despite the plentiful divisive topics from the past year, like vaccines and politics. No word on how to navigate strong family divides on whether Taylor should get her scarf back or not — you're on your own for that one.
And a few more cooking tips:
If you're going the deep-fried turkey route this year, we've got some advice for you too. Not sure if your oil is hot enough for the turkey? You can use your ears and a wet chopstick to be sure chopstick. Read how here.
The team behind NPR's science podcast Short Wave is a little bit haunted by memories of dry and tasteless overcooked turkeys of holidays past.
So, they did what Short Wave always does: Talk to smart people to see how science can show us a different way to see things. They went to food science writers and cookbook authors Nik Sharma and Kenji López-Alt for advice on cooking the perfect turkey, according to science. Here's what they said.
Need some recipe motivation? Check out these suggestions on how to diversify your feast from listeners of NPR's Code Switch podcast.
And a story to read while you're stirring the gravy on the stove:
Tribal members of the Navajo and Hopi nations in northeastern Arizona are melding traditional and modern farming techniques to fight inadequate access to fresh fruits and vegetables — a lasting impact of white colonialism. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny has this report on the people fighting to keep Native food traditions alive in the face of colonialism, drought and climate change.
WATCH: Drone footage shows dramatic flooding in Canada
A massive wind and rain storm brought heavy flooding and mudslides to parts of the Pacific Northwest and Canada this week. As NPR's Joe Hernandez reports, the damage led to the closure of an interstate highway, as well as numerous evacuations and power outages.
Read more about the situation in British Columbia below, and see the damage for yourself:
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has accrued over $60K in fines for not wearing a mask at work
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has long refused to wear face coverings in the House of Representatives, in violation of the chamber's mask mandate.
This week, she revealed just how much that's costing her.
The Georgia Republican toldThe Hillthat she's amassed $63,000 in fines for refusing to wear a mask on the House floor, and is expecting more to come. The fines are automatically deducted from her paycheck, she added.
Greene was fined $500 for her first violation on May 18, and each one since has carried a $2,500 price tag, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She is one of three Republican representatives who are suing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the fines, as NPR reported earlier this year. The lawsuit argues that the fines violate the 27th Amendment, which says House members must vote to raise or lower their salaries. The AJC says that oral arguments in the case are scheduled for next month.
In a Newsmax interview earlier this week, Greene spoke defiantly about her choice not to wear a face mask, and also said she has not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.
"I will be standing strong, standing up for the people across this country that refuse to get vaccinated," she said. "You know, I support anyone who chooses to get a vaccine, I’ll even drive him to go get one if they want to get one, but I am also against these unconstitutional vaccine mandates."
Notably, Greene has faced widespread criticism for repeatedly equating COVID-19 safety precautions with the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
To be clear: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says everyone ages 2 and up who is not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in indoor public settings to protect themselves and others.
Washington, D.C., will lift its indoor mask mandate for most business settings on Monday, though masks will still be required — regardless of vaccination status — in D.C. government facilities where there is direct interaction between employees and the public.
Germany approves tighter COVID-19 restrictions as daily record 65,000 new cases are reported
As cases of coronavirus skyrocket in Germany, the country’s federal legislature voted on Thursday to tighten restrictions in an effort to stem the wave of new infections.
Germany, which has been at the heart of a Europe-wide upswing in infections in recent weeks, reported more than 65,000 new cases in a 24-hour period — marking a new single-day record for the country. Speaking on Thursday, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel described the situation as dramatic, calling for a renewed push on vaccinations.
Meanwhile, the Bundestag approved new rules for handling the pandemic, including mandatory daily tests for nursing care home employees and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. It will also require proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative COVID-19 test for workplaces and to use public transport.
The new restrictions mean that millions of unvaccinated Germans will be barred from markets during the Christmas season.
Beginning in the summer, the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus has been the predominant strain in Germany.
The country’s vaccination rate, at just under 68%, is somewhat behind most other major countries in Europe – and far behind Portugal, with nearly 87% and Spain with nearly 80%.
Expect to pay more this year to stage your Thanksgiving feast
Get ready to add another stressor to your Thanksgiving holiday this year. The Farm Bureau reports that the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people is up 14% over last year, averaging at $53.31.
The Farm Bureau's calculations include turkey, stuffing mix, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk, with enough for leftovers. The turkey itself costs 24% more than last year, the group says; it's $23.99 for a 16-pound turkey.
In order to find the average costs, the Farm Bureau used volunteer shoppers between Oct. 28 and Nov. 8. — but the group, which lobbies on behalf of the agricultural industry, acknowledged that prices have already fallen in the time since the survey was conducted. This year, many grocery stores lowered prices later in the year, so the price of a frozen turkey, for example, is actually a lot more affordable right now. At the time of the survey, the cost for a 16-pound bird was around $1.50 per pound. But over the last week, it had fallen to 88 cents per pound for a whole frozen turkey.
Veronica Nigh, a senior economist at the Farm Bureau, says several factors help explain the increased costs this year, including disruptions to the supply chain, inflation and high demand for food, especially meat.
"The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often due to the pandemic led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019," Nigh said.
But rising prices are far from limited to the dinner table. Last week, the Labor Department reported that consumer prices were 6.2% higher in October than a year ago. It was the largest jump in inflation since 1990.
In separate figures released by the Department of Agriculture this week, the price of Thanksgiving staples were at a more modest 5% increase over last year. Their list, based on numbers from from the AMS Market News Retail Report for the week ending on November 12, includes a 12-pound frozen turkey, sweet and russet potatoes, cranberries, green beans and one gallon of milk.
"We know that even small price increases can make a difference for family budgets, and we are taking every step we can to mitigate that," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
"The good news is that the top turkey producers in the country are confident that everyone who wants a bird for their Thanksgiving dinner will be able to get one, and a large one will only cost $1 dollar more than last year."
In honor of the Egg McMuffin's 50th birthday, you can buy one today at its 1971 price
In important culinary news: The McDonald's Egg McMuffin turns 50 today. And to celebrate, the fast-food franchise is offering the iconic breakfast sandwich at its original price of 63 cents.
The deal won't be on the table for long. The company says customers can only order the sandwiches from participating restaurants during "breakfast hours" and through the McDonald's app.
McDonald's says today's a good day to celebrate the sandwich's storied history and versatility. It notes that many customers put their own twist on the McMuffin, whether that's by adding a McChicken patty and syrup (for a DIY chicken & waffles situation), swapping the English muffins for hash browns or adding salsa or jam.
“The Egg McMuffin, the first-ever quick service restaurant breakfast sandwich, joined the McDonald’s menu in 1971 in Santa Barbara, California, and customers have been getting creative with it ever since,” said Molly McKenna, McDonald’s senior director of brand communications.
Here's the short version of its origin story:
In early 1971, an owner/operator in Santa Barbara, Calif., set out to create a unique breakfast menu item. He ended up creating a version of an eggs benedict with cheese instead of Hollandaise sauce, plus a slice of Canadian bacon. And he used Teflon rings to make the eggs round, like an English muffin. The official Egg McMuffin — an open-faced sandwich served on a small tray with honey or jam — entered test markets the following year, and its national rollout was complete by 1975.
'Floaters,' the National Book Award Winner for poetry, probes anti-immigrant malice
Floaters, Martín Espada’s collection of poems that explore bigotry, protests and love, is the 2021 winner of the National Book Award in poetry. The title poem draws on a tragedy: the deaths of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, 25, and his young daughter, Angie Valeria, whose bodies were found in the water along the Rio Grande.
The book’s title comes from a term some U.S. law enforcement personnel use to describe a corpse in the water. The eponymous poem begins with a quote from a Facebook group for U.S. Border Patrol agents, in which a commenter suspected the photo of the father and daughter might have been faked. The commenter asked, “have ya’ll ever seen floaters this clean.”
The first full stanza of “Floaters” sets the scene on the border between Mexico and the U.S.:
Like a beer bottle thrown into the river by a boy too drunk to cry,
like the shard of a Styrofoam cup drained of coffee brown as the river,
like the plank of a fishing boat broken in half by the river, the dead float.
And the dead have a name: floaters, say the men of the Border Patrol,
keeping watch all night by the river, hearts pumping coffee as they say
the word floaters, soft as a bubble, hard as a shoe as it nudges the body,
to see if it breathes, to see if it moans, to see if it sits up and speaks.
You can read the full poem here.
“This is a collection that is vital for our times and will be vital for those in the future, trying to make sense of today,” according to the National Book Awards citation.
“I am speechless,” Espada said after he was named the winner. “To a large extent because I did not prepare a speech. But also because I am very honored by my selection.”
Other poems in Espada’s book range from a meditation on his wife’s concussion to imagining love songs from the point of view of a kraken and a Galápagos tortoise.
“The collection ranges from historical epic to achingly personal lyrics about growing up, the baseball that drops from the sky and smacks Espada in the eye as he contemplates a girl’s gently racist question,” according to the book’s publisher, W.W. Norton. “Whether celebrating the visionaries — the fallen dreamers, rebels and poets — or condemning the outrageous governmental neglect of his father’s Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane María, Espada invokes ferocious, incandescent spirits.”
Comedian Vir Das called out hypocrisy and sexual violence in India. Now he faces lawsuits
When comedian Vir Das performed a monologue entitled “Two Indias” on stage at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center last weekend, he spoke of two drastically different sides of his native India: Rich and poor, united but also divided over politics, women’s rights, Bollywood films and cricket teams.
His gig ended up eliciting two pretty drastically different responses too.
While the crowd at the Kennedy Center went wild with applause, some Indians back home were less enthused. And politicians from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have filed several legal cases against Das.
In the capital of New Delhi, a vice president of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, Aditya Jha, tweeted clips of himself speaking to a nationalist TV channel, saying he "will not tolerate anyone insulting our nation in another country."
"I will take this fight to a decisive end," Jha said. "I want Vir Das to be arrested so that no one can malign the nation like this."
In Mumbai, a legal advisor with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party filed a police complaint against Das for allegedly “defaming & spoiling the image of India.”
“He willfully spelled inciting & derogatory statements against India, Indian women, & the PM of India,” lawyer Ashutosh Dubey tweeted, including a photo of the legal paperwork he had filed.
Police confirmed that they have received multiple complaints, but did not say if or when charges might be filed.
The line in Das’ monologue that appears to have offended these politicians most was this: “I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang-rape them at night.”
It’s not totally unfounded. Three years ago, a controversial survey ranked India as the most dangerous place in the world for women, because of the risk of sexual violence. Just this week, a new U.S. State Department travel advisory said that “rape is one of the fastest-growing crimes in India” and urged Americans to “exercise increased caution” overall.
In his monologue, Das also poked fun at the prime minister and the hypocrisy of all politicians, and suggested Indian democracy may be dying.
“I represent a great thing, that is turning into a memory,” he said.
But he also spoke of the diversity and resilience of Indians, and how they all live under the same big sky.
Das warned people not to be “fooled by edited snippets” of his video. He reminded them it was a satire.
“People cheer for India with hope, not hate,” he wrote. “Remember our greatness, and spread the love.”
You can watch a YouTube video of Das’ Kennedy Center performance here. And read more commentary about the controversy here, in Indian media.
Tennessee's governor invites unvaccinated out-of-state cops to join its highway patrol
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has a pitch for law enforcement officers across the country, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status: Join the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
"Our force is one of the most professional in the country," he said in a video released Wednesday. "And we won't get between you and your doctor."
In his message, addressed to cops from New York to Los Angeles, Lee said the state would even help cover moving expenses for those who join the force. He directed those interested to apply online.
"We believe that you would be a great fit for our state," he said, before outlining some of the reasons he believed the state would appeal to them. Those include its beauty, low cost of living, lack of income tax and full support of law enforcement.
"I'll work to make sure your freedoms are protected," he added. "We stand with our law enforcement, and we'll stand with you, too."
The Tennessee Highway Patrol thanked Lee for his "strong support" in a tweet.
Lee's message comes at a time when many public agencies are requiring their personnel to get vaccinated, and facing pushback from police officers and the unions that represent them.
That's despite the fact that COVID-19 is the leading cause of on-duty deaths for law enforcement officers in 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Some 280 officers died of the virus this year, more than five times the number of those who died by gunfire.
Member station WPLN reports that the state highway patrol has declined to require the vaccine. Tennessee has already made headlines for its attitude towards the virus, after a state trooper was arrested (and later fired) for yanking a mask off a protester's face at a demonstration for racial justice in the summer of 2020.
The highway patrol is also offering full benefits, a car, free uniforms and free training to qualified applicants, "including those who have to leave other departments because they haven’t gotten the shot," WPLN adds.
Tennessee isn't the first state to make this kind of offer.
Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was trying to recruit out-of-state officers and sheriff's deputies who are at risk of losing their jobs for not getting vaccinated or disclosing their vaccination status. He told Fox News he hopes to sign legislation that would award a $5,000 bonus to any officer who relocates to Florida.
Biden looks for a fresh start as he reunites the North American 'Three Amigos'
The last time the leaders of the U.S., Mexico and Canada met was in 2016, and the bonhomie among the trio that year was so apparent that it blossomed into an internet meme: #3Amigos.
Such summits used to be regular events. The three North American nations share critical economic and security issues, not to mention public health, immigration and climate concerns.
But former President Donald Trump abandoned the meetings. Mexico and Canada both objected to the way Trump forced through a North American trade pact to replace NAFTA. Trump also threw personal insults at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, further souring the relationship.
Today, President Biden will hold separate meetings in Washington with Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador before meeting with the two together. A former Obama official tells NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez that Biden's job will be to rebuild trust and assure Canada and Mexico that the U.S. will be a consistent partner going forward.
"These were dynamics that were long taken for granted," said Benjamin Gedan, who led Latin America policy in the Obama White House. "But now, after imposing tariffs on steel from Canada and claiming it was necessary for national security not to depend on the Canadians ... these leaders are left with the impression that the United States is not the ally that it once was."
Ordoñez said on Morning Edition that Canada and Mexico are concerned about U.S. proposals to offer tax credits for electric vehicles — but only for cars made in the U.S. with union labor. And Canada has energy on its agenda: Its economy took a hit when Biden canceled the Keystone pipeline (and an oil pipeline in Michigan is facing criticism from environmental activists).
Listen to Ordoñez's story for more issues that may snag the summit.
These are the winners of the 2021 National Book Awards
The National Book Awards were handed out last night in a ceremony held both in Manhattan and over Zoom. The event was hosted by comedian Phoebe Robinson, and featured famous announcers like Dion Graham, Kerry Washington and Rita Moreno.
Here are the winners (see the full list, including finalists):
- Fiction: Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
- Nonfiction: All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles
- Poetry: Floaters by Martín Espada
- Translated literature: Elisa Shua Dusapin's Winter in Sokcho, translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins.
- Young people's literature: Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
An esteemed panel of judges chose the winning titles from among 1,800 submissions, and each category winner receives a $10,000 prize (in addition to the fame and glory).
Plus, author-playwright Karen Tei Yamashita received a lifetime achievement medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and author-librarian-NPR commentator Nancy Pearl was given the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.
Several of this year's honorees addressed present-day challenges — like efforts to censor school and library books, and attacks on racial minorities and the LGBT community — while others looked to lessons of the past.
Doubts are raised over an email from tennis star Peng Shuai, who hasn't been seen in weeks
The head of the Women’s Tennis Association is questioning the authenticity of an email he received purporting to be from Chinese star player Peng Shuai, who hasn’t been heard from since she made sexual assault allegations against a top Communist Party official two weeks ago.
In a copy of the email, published by China’s state-run CGTN, Peng purportedly tells WTA Chairman & CEO Steve Simon that the allegations attributed to her are “not true” and that “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”
Simon said in a statement Wednesday that the email he received “only raises my concerns” about Peng’s “safety and whereabouts.” “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” he said.
Peng is a former No. 1-ranked player in women's doubles who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. In a lengthy social media post earlier this month on China’s Weibo platform, she said former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli “forced” her into sexual relations. Zhang, 75, served in the post from 2013 and 2018.
"I was so scared that afternoon," Peng wrote. "I never gave consent, crying the entire time."
The post was quickly taken down and Peng’s social media account disappeared hours after it appeared. However, screenshots of the post continued to circulate widely online in China even as censors scrambled to delete references to it.
Amnesty International on Thursday weighed in, citing what it said was China’s efforts to “systematically” silence the country’s #MeToo movement and its “zero-tolerance approach to criticism.”
“Peng’s recent so-called statement that ‘everything is fine’ should not be taken at face value as China’s state media has a track record of forcing statements out of individuals under duress, or else simply fabricating them,” Amnesty’s China Researcher Doriane Lau said in a statement. “These concerns will not go away unless Peng’s safety and whereabouts are confirmed.”
Earlier this week, Japanese tennis pro Naomi Osaka expressed her concern in a tweet, saying she hoped that Peng and her family “are safe and ok.”
“I’m in shock of the current situation and I’m sending love and light her way. #whereispengshuai,” she wrote.
Activists are pushing to stop Julius Jones' execution. It's scheduled for today
Activists across the country and the world are calling on Oklahoma's governor to save the life of Julius Jones, a Black man who has spent nearly two decades on death row for a crime that he and many others say he did not commit.
Jones is set to be executed by lethal injection at 4 p.m. local time today.
The 41-year-old was sentenced to death in connection with the 1999 murder of Paul Howell. Jones has always maintained his innocence, and his supporters say there are serious holes in the case. Those include racial bias in the mostly-white jury and questions around the story of his co-defendant, who testified against Jones in exchange for a plea deal and reportedly admitted his guilt to at least three cellmates while in prison.
In fact, it was because of questions over Jones' role in the murder that Oklahoma's Pardon and Parole Board recommended earlier this month that his death sentence be commuted to life in prison with the possibility of parole. But Gov. Kevin Stitt has not acted on the recommendation. There's still time for him to take up the parole board's recommendation, or else delay the execution to further review the case.
That's what Jones' loved ones and supporters are calling for. More than 6.5 million people have signed an online petition, thousands of students from more than a dozen Oklahoma schools staged walkouts yesterday and celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield are weighing in on the case. A representative from the European Union has even written the governor a letter.
I want to give u all an update on Julius Jones. We are all anxiously awaiting a decision from Governor Stitt.— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) November 16, 2021