Start Your Day Here: Pfizer Update On Kids' Vaccines, Migrant Deportations And More
Here are the top stories we're following today:
Vaccines for kids: Pfizer says it is seeing promising results from its trial on coronavirus vaccine effectiveness for 5- to 11-year-olds. It's an important step toward vaccinating younger Americans, but there's still a ways to go before children under 12 can roll up their sleeves.
Border deportations: The Biden administration is working to remove the thousands of migrants, many of them Haitian, from a squalid border camp. Some have been flown back home.
Emmy's takeaways: The awards show fell short, NPR's critics write. While some fan favorites got recognition, the winner list shows an obvious dearth of diversity.
🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, these are the most urgent issues world leaders will tackle at the U.N. General Assembly.
— The Morning Edition live blog team
(Dana Farrington, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark, Chris Hopkins and Manuela López Restrepo)
The White House Takes Steps To Protect Workers From Extreme Heat Fueled By Climate Change
The White House plans to put in place new rules to protect workers from the kind of extreme heat that’s expected to become more common as climate change takes hold.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is working on a federal heat standard for indoor and outdoor workplaces, the White House said. Currently, only three states — California, Minnesota and Washington — have these standards in place.
The White House wants OSHA to do more workplace inspections when the heat index surpasses 80 degrees Fahrenheit and respond to worker complaints about heat. The agency has been criticized for failing to do more to protect workers.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July of 2021 was the hottest month in recorded history. Outdoor workers could face many more of these kinds of days, unless more action is taken to curb climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.
The White House said other departments and agencies will look for ways to help more low-income communities affected by extreme heat, including boosting the number of cooling centers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 700 people die from heat-related issues each year, and 68,000 go to the emergency room.
K-pop Icons BTS Spoke About Frustration And Hope At The United Nations
South Korean K-pop stars BTS spoke at the United Nations this morning as part of the Sustainable Development Goals conference, which focuses on climate change, poverty, inequality and how the pandemic has affected these and other global priorities.
The seven band members, who are all in their 20s, talked optimistically about how life can return to normal after the pandemic.
“Today, people in their teens and early 20s are being referred to as COVID’s 'Lost Generation,'” said Kim Namjoon, who goes by the stage name RM. “That they've lost their way at a time they need the most diverse opportunities. But are they lost just because the path they tread can’t be seen by grown-up eyes?"
“There will be choices we make that may not be perfect, but that does not mean there will be nothing we can do. That’s what I think,” added Min Yoongi, who goes by the stage name SUGA.
One of these choices that the band was referring to is vaccination.
“Vaccinations were sort of a ticket to meeting our fans waiting for us and to being able to stand here before you today just like we said in our message today. We too are able to do the things we are able to do right now,” Namjoon said.
To close their speech, the band played a video performance of their song “Permission To Dance,” which was filmed in an empty Assembly Hall where the U.N. delegates are meeting.
There Were More Deaths Than Births In Alabama Last Year, In A Grim First For The State
For the first time in recorded history, more people died in Alabama in 2020 than were born in the state.
The state saw some 64,714 total deaths last year, Harris said, compared to about 57,641 births. Those numbers are only preliminary, and officials will confirm them toward the end of this year.
Alabama hasn't hit such a milestone in more than 100 years, even during World War II, noted Harris.
Behind the numbers is the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus which is spreading in Alabama, as well as much of the county.
It's putting a strain on critical healthcare systems in Alabama, as the state currently doesn't have enough ICU beds for those who need them.
Still, some politicians there continue to push back on vaccines. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall joined other GOP attorneys general last week in threatening to sue the White House over its recent vaccine mandate plans.
Some 41.3% of Alabama's population is fully vaccinated, according to NPR's tracker. Harris said at the briefing that the state "continues to do a pretty good job" in that regard. Nationally, 54.6% of the total U.S. population is fully vaccinated.
And 2020's milestone may soon not be unique. Alabama could see higher deaths than births again in 2021 if the state continues on it's current grim trajectory.
'Peril' Co-Author Robert Costa Discusses The Fraught Transition From Trump To Biden
Bob Woodward is back with another book about former President Donald Trump, this time co-authored with fellow Washington Post reporter Robert Costa. This book focuses on the transition between the Trump and Biden administrations.
Peril has already made headlines for an early and explosive revelation: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, allegedly called his Chinese counterpart to reassure him that the U.S. was not planning an attack in the final months of Trump's term. The report also details Trump's response to the Jan. 6 insurrection, his efforts to challenge the presidential election results and other scenes from inside the White House.
But, NPR political correspondent and editor Ron Elving writes, the book "turns out to be just as much about Joe Biden and how he got to be Trump's successor." Read his review here.
Costa spoke to Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep about the book and what he learned from taking an inside look at the fraught transfer of power.
"It's important to understand, based on spending the last 9 months doing this with Bob Woodward, how much of a national security emergency this country faced during the transition, around Jan. 6," Costa said. "Our book carefully documents how Chairman Milley, within the bounds of his responsibility, was trying to contain a situation that he felt could fall way out of the norm: that the Chinese could misinterpret what was happening, that President Trump — he believed, based on our reporting — was in serious mental decline. This was a situation that we all know was a domestic crisis, but also a security crisis."
Some of the other topics Costa and Inskeep covered include former Vice President Mike Pence's election certification dilemma, former Attorney General Bill Barr's relationship with Trump and what various prominent Republicans think about Trump's role in GOP politics.
Costa noted that politicians like Sen. Lindsey Graham still see the former president as the future of the party, despite their earlier criticisms.
"That's partly why we called the book Peril," he said. "Woodward and I realized that this system, the American system and also the Republican Party, [were] tested to the brink, and that peril remains. President Trump's a political figure who remains on the scene with immense political capital."
Afghan Women Are Rallying For Their Rights As Taliban Restrictions Pile Up
Back under Taliban rule, many Afghan women feel they are watching two decades' worth of freedoms slipping away week by week.
Since last month's takeover, working women have been ordered to stay home and women have been banned from playing sports, NPR's Arezou Rezvani reports from Islamabad.
While the Taliban say women and girls can continue their education, classrooms will be gender segregated, Islamic dress will be enforced and subjects are still under review. Most recently, the Taliban is only allowing boys back into secondary school, Kabul's Taliban-appointed interim mayor is telling women who work for the city government to stay home, and the country's Ministry of Women’s Affairs has been replaced with the Ministry of Vice and Virtue.
Women across Afghanistan have spoken out in protests these last few weeks. But, as Rezvani reports, the Taliban government now requires a permit for demonstrations, and says it's free to crack down on female protesters without one.
She spoke with some Afghan women about their fears, hopes and strategy.
"They know that they are faced today with talented, educated, experienced women, and the Taliban are afraid of this," said 24-year-old Sudabeh Kabiri, who was a student at Kabul's American University prior to the Taliban takeover. "These Mullahs ... their place is at the mosques or ministry of religious affairs. They are not experts at running the government. They need us."
The FDA Is Set To Make A Booster Recommendation This Week Following Advisers' Guidance
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to make a decision this week on COVID-19 booster shots after advisers to the agency recommended additional shots for adults at high risk and those 65 and older.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also likely to weigh in soon, NPR’s Allison Aubrey reports. That group is scheduled to meet on Wednesday.
The FDA advisers on Friday declined to recommend boosters for younger people who were not at high risk. Many advisers indicated there wasn’t enough data yet to make a call for that group.
The administration's rollout plans are delayed
Meanwhile, the Biden administration had hoped to be able to administer booster shots to Americans 16 and older as soon as this week. The White House’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said that goal was always contingent on having the appropriate recommendation from the FDA and the advisory panel.
“I believe ... in the next weeks or so as we go along, you’re going to see more data rolling in that could actually modify and expand the recommendation,” Fauci told NPR’s Morning Edition.
Key to these decisions are data on waning effectiveness in preventing hospitalizations — not just preventing infection, Fauci said. He also noted Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are slightly behind Pfizer in seeking authorization for a booster of their vaccines.
3-Week-Old Garbage Is Stinking Up New Orleans. Residents Held A Trash Parade In Protest
New Orleans often celebrates with parades: Mardi Gras to honor the city's storied culture, funeral parades to celebrate a well-lived life, and now, a garbage parade to do the opposite of celebration — to protest.
Over three weeks after Hurricane Ida devastated parts of Louisiana, residents in New Orleans are still living alongside piles of household trash due to delayed trash collection pickups. The city's mayor says the situation has reached the point of a crisis.
Some residents agree and found a very New Orleans way to make their outrage known: they held a "Trash Parade," dressed in trash fashion, and marched carrying protest signs.
WWNO's Ryan Nelsen was at the protest, which went ahead despite a rainstorm. Here's what he saw.
Costumes made of trash bags, water bottles and even trashcans themselves bobbed to City Hall's doorstep.
NPR member station WWNO reports some of the trash waiting to be picked up includes spoiled food after refrigerators lost power for days following the storm. Temperatures in the city hit the mid-80s last weekend, and there are reports the city has taken on a pungent smell from the trash.
Are city officials holding anyone accountable?
The issue is spilling into the legislature. The City Council called a meeting to discuss the collection problem. In New Orleans, one of three companies responsible for trash collection is Metro Service Group.
Their CEO Jimmie Woods spoke at the meeting Aug. 17, telling lawmakers and residents he didn't believe there were residents who hadn't had their trash picked up after 24 days.
Wood began to respond but was interrupted by Eraina Jessie, a 7th ward resident. "I'm sorry, but he's lying," she said.
Jessie says her street was skipped by trash collectors.
You can watch the full exchange below.
Here is Jimmie Woods, the CEO of Metro Service Group, saying his company has been down every street in New Orleans collecting trash in response to a @CmGiarrusso question.— Ryan Nelsen (@rc_nelsen) September 20, 2021
Eraina Jessie, a 7th ward resident, interrupts. pic.twitter.com/j6pptHYESd
Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced the city will be implementing a task force to pull city workers away from jobs like mowing grass and fixing roads to put them on collecting the trash.
The council will meet again on Sept. 21 to continue to discuss what to do about the delays. City Council member Kristin Palmer says the city has received more than 9,000 calls about the trash problems.
Why is trash collection so delayed?
Industries across America are short-staffed, and it isn't only due to hundreds of thousands of deaths from the pandemic: Many Americans say they're done working difficult jobs for little pay and substandard benefits.
Metro Service Group acknowledges customers are complaining of trash piling up and cites staffing problems as the root cause. The company says it's increasing starting pay and incentivizing employees to get vaccinated, in attempts to boost hiring and prevent absenteeism.
Metro Service Group was behind on collections well before Ida hit. Workers for the agency went on strike in May 2020, calling for a raise from around $10 to $15 per hour and weekly hazard pay for working during the COVID-19 pandemic. The strike abruptly ended in September, with some workers returning to work and some leaving for better paying jobs.
Southerly spoke to two workers in New Orleans who returned to Metro Service Group after the strike. They say one year later, conditions haven't significantly improved.
For more on the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, follow along with WWNO's coverage.
Watch A Massive Violin Transport Musicians Down Venice's Grand Canal
The trademark gondolas of Venice's Grand Canal played second fiddle this weekend to a very unusual vessel: A giant violin carrying a live string quartet.
"Noah's Violin" is the most recent creation of Venetian artist Livio De Marchi. He's sent plenty of other wooden works out to sea, including a giant shoe and an origami hat.
This large-scale replica is made from about a dozen different kinds of wood, with nuts, bolts and space for a motor inside, according to the The New York Times.
De Marchi, who came up with the idea during last year's lockdown, told the newspaper that the violin is a "sign of Venice restarting." He named it after Noah's ark because he sees it as bringing a message of hope — artistically and culturally — after a storm.
The violin made its journey down the canal on Saturday, as musicians on board performed works by Vivaldi (De Marchi also cited the Venetian violinist and composer as a source of inspiration for the craft's design).
After its roughly hour-long ride, the violin was blessed by a reverend, who said he hoped it would send a message of hope to the world. The Times reports that businesses in Italy and a museum in China have already expressed interest.
Man Whose Heroism Inspired ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Is Convicted On Terrorism Charges
A court in Rwanda has convicted Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroism inspired the film Hotel Rwanda, on terrorism charges related to a group he supports. Rusesabagina has been a prominent opposition activist, calling for democracy in Rwanda.
Rusesabagina has been a vocal critic of President Kagame, who has now led Rwanda for more than 20 years. His arrest followed his calls for change — and his support for a group that is affiliated with a rebel group accused of carrying out violence.
As journalist Anjan Sundaram told NPR last year, “In general, any opposition to President Kagame has almost been like a death sentence for most politicians or opposition candidates. Many of them have ended up dead, in prison, sometimes beheaded.”
The court’s finding comes months after Rusesabagina withdrew from his trial in March, saying the proceedings were unfair and would not bring justice. Authorities deported his attorney, Vincent Lurquin, earlier this year. Lurquin, who is Belgian, told the media that he hadn’t been allowed to see his client in the past year.
Rusesabagina was arrested under circumstances that have been described as both a kidnapping and a trick: He had been living abroad, aware of the reprisals he would likely face in Rwanda. But when he got on the plane that took him to Rwanda, he had apparently been told that he was going to Burundi, at the invitation of a pastor.
Rwandan authorities have been holding Rusesabagina in custody since his arrest last year. He has been attending trial wearing a pink prison uniform.
Prosecutors are seeking a life prison term for Rusesabagina, according to the state-run Rwanda Broadcasting Agency.
Rusesabagina, 67, is of Hutu and Tutsi descent. In 1994, with the Rwandan genocide putting all Tutsis under threat, Rusesabagina used his position at the Hotel des Mille Collines to help more than 1,200 Tutsis and others survive. His actions were turned into a film, with Don Cheadle portraying Rusesabagina.
Gymnast Aly Raisman Wants Broader Accountability For Investigation Of Nassar's Abuse
Disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar may be behind bars, but those who survived his abuse are still seeking justice.
At a Senate hearing last week, four world champion gymnasts testified about the sexual abuse they suffered under Nassar and the mishandling of the investigation by law enforcement, including the FBI.
During the hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged that the bureau mismanaged the investigation.
“I'm especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed. And that is inexcusable,” Wray told the athletes.
Aly Raisman was one of the gymnasts who testified. She tells Weekend All Things Considered host Michel Martin that sharing her story with the FBI was a traumatic experience.
“To not feel validated and to feel like your experience is diminished, it's really hard,” she says. “I think it's really something that's going to take some time to heal from.”
In her testimony before the Senate, Raisman described an FBI agent trying to convince her that her abuse “wasn’t that bad.”
“The FBI made me feel like my abuse didn’t count and that it wasn’t real,” she testified.
Raisman says she doesn’t blame any one particular person. Instead she calls for an independent investigation of the FBI, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and USA Gymnastics.
“I think there needs to be an understanding of the interplay among all three of them and how they worked together to cover up our abuse,” she says. “Without that, we can't believe in a safer future.”
Pfizer's New Trial Results Bring COVID-19 Vaccines For Young Kids One Step Closer
Pfizer and BioNTech say their COVID-19 vaccine should be authorized for kids 5 to 11 years old based on their encouraging trial results. The companies said the antibody responses in that age group were comparable to those seen in people 16 to 25 years old, and that the side effects were similar, too.
Still, it will be a while before younger kids can actually get the vaccine. Read more here about the announcement and what’s next.
In the meantime, the U.S. is averaging about 140,000 new cases of coronavirus per day and about 1,500 people are dying each day from the virus.
There’s some indication that hospitals — which have been at capacity in the South especially — have passed a peak. But NPR’s Allison Aubrey says pediatricians are not seeing the same decline in kids.
“What we actually seem to see is that kids who come in with COVID plus a concomitant respiratory viral illness seem to have more severe disease, and they can have asthma as an underlying condition. On top of that we have flu season right around the corner,” says pediatric infectious disease Dr. Charlotte Hobbs.
Kids under 12 can’t get a COVID vaccine — yet — but they can get a flu shot, Aubrey notes. Here's what kids and adults need to know about flu shots this year, courtesy of NPR's Life Kit.
The U.S. Is Deporting Haitian Migrants As A Makeshift Border Camp Grows To More Than 10,000
The Biden administration is sending migrants camped at the border in Del Rio, Texas, back to Haiti. There are still more than 10,000 people, many from Haiti, camped out in squalid conditions under the International Bridge, NPR’s Joel Rose reports.
“We are working around the clock to expeditiously move migrants out of the heat, elements, and from underneath this bridge in order to quickly process and remove individuals from the United States consistent with our laws and our policies,” Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz told reporters in Del Rio over the weekend.
The administration is using a public health order that dates to the Trump administration,which allows expedited deportations to stem the spread of coronavirus. Immigration advocates oppose the law and say it is particularly cruel to implement it in this case since Haiti is still recovering from a recent earthquake and major political turmoil.
Immigration authorities say they have removed about 3,000 migrants from the makeshift camp already, with just over 300 expelled on flights to Haiti. Ortiz said the goal is to move all of the remaining migrants within a week. More on the mass expulsion here.
The problems at the border come as Democrats in Congress were trying to include immigration overhaul into the budget reconciliation process, which allows Democrats to pass the package without Republican support. The Senate parliamentarian recently said that effort does not comport with chamber rules.
About Last Night's Emmy Awards ...
Last night's Emmys were a big night for a short list of shows. They rewarded some fan favorites, and shone a spotlight on the problems with production and representation that we see nearly every awards season.
NPR television critic Eric Deggans offers this recap on Morning Edition, including multiple wins from The Crown and Ted Lasso, as well as standout speeches from Jean Smart, Michaela Coel and Governor's Award winner Debbie Allen.
"A quality awards ceremony is a mix of good pacing, great entertainment and a few surprises," he said. "Unfortunately, by offering a ceremony that was a little too predictable, a little too scripted, and a little too white, last night's Emmy awards fell short in just about every category."
Whether you were watching live, keeping tabs on Twitter or getting a head start on sleep, NPR's got you covered. Here's some recommended reading and listening:
- The full list of winners. The Crown swept the drama category awards. Comedy awards went to Ted Lasso and Hacks, and prestigious limited series awards were divided among Mare of Easttown, The Queen's Gambit, Halston and I May Destroy You. Not a single actor of color won an award, however.
- Five sharp takeaways from pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes. Among them: There's room for improvement when it comes to giving winners equal time to make their speeches, as well as those "regrettable comedy 'bits.'"
- Pop Culture Happy Hour's recap episode, recorded at 1:15 a.m. ET. Listen as two of the podcast's hosts unpack the evening's highs and lows, including "a few real surprises, genuinely touching moments, and memorable speeches — some memorable for perhaps all the wrong reasons."
- Ahead of the big event, Deggans laid out all the shows he hoped would win. See how last night's awards compared to those of the "Deggys."
Four Big Stories From This Weekend
Welcome to the week. Here are some of the big stories we're catching up on this Monday morning, from the halls of the Senate to outer space:
The D.C. rally for Capitol riot suspects was relatively quiet
Saturday's event — a far-right protest of the ongoing arrests and detention of people accused of participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection — saw high security and low turnout. As NPR's Scott Simon put it, the demonstrations were "pretty much a dud." Speakers made remarks from a podium as people milled about, with Capitol Police estimating there were between 400 and 500 people in the protest area (excluding law enforcement). They made four arrests, including two for possession of a firearm. Read more about the rally here.
A body has been found in the search for Gaby Petito
The 22-year-old disappeared while on a cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie (who has been identified as a person of interest and is now himself the subject of extensive search efforts in a Florida nature preserve). The FBI said a body believed to be Petito's was found Sunday by law enforcement agents who spent the weekend searching camp sites on the eastern border of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Here's the full story.
The first all-civilian space crew came back to Earth after three days in orbit
SpaceX's Inspiration4 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast on Saturday evening local time, after circling the planet some 45 times in three days. Its mission was to study the human body in space and raise $200 million for children with cancer through St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, including by auctioning off some unique items on board. Now that its four civilian crew members have spent time in orbit, can they be considered astronauts? It's complicated, reports WMFE's Brendan Byrne.
A Senate official dealt a blow to Democrats by blocking immigration reform efforts in their budget bill
Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled against Democrats' efforts to incorporate immigration reform into their $3.5 trillion proposed spending bill. As NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales writes, that decision "very likely closes the door on efforts to include a pathway to citizenship in the partisan legislation." Democrats had argued that a pathway to citizenship for 8 million immigrants could be included in the budget reconciliation process because it would raise the budget deficit by some $139 billion. MacDonough disagreed, writing that such a policy change would "far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation." Here's what Dems say they will do now.