Start Your Day Here: COVID Booster Shot Timeline And Remembering Actor Michael K. Williams

Published September 7, 2021 at 7:37 AM EDT
Actor Michael K. Williams is pictured ahead of the Screen Actors Guild Awards on March 31 in Miami.
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Actor Michael K. Williams is pictured ahead of the Screen Actors Guild Awards on March 31 in Miami. Williams died on Monday.

Good morning,

Welcome back from the long weekend. Here's what you need to know to catch up:

— The Morning Edition live blog team

Dana Farrington, Emily Alfin Johnson, Nell Clark, Manuela López Restrepo and Chris Hopkins


'Shang-Chi' Crushed Labor Day Box Office Records

Posted September 7, 2021 at 10:20 AM EDT
Jayden Zhang and Simu Liu attend the Toronto Premiere of 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' at Shangri-La Hotel on September 01, 2021. in Toronto, Ontario. Zhang and Liu play young and adult Shang-Chi respectively.
Ryan Emberley
Getty Images for Disney
Jayden Zhang and Simu Liu attend the Toronto Premiere of 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings' at Shangri-La Hotel on September 01, 2021. in Toronto, Ontario. Zhang and Liu play young and adult Shang-Chi respectively.

2014 was a big year for Marvel — the second of the Captain America films came out, and they introduced movie goers to the Guardians of the Galaxy.

So we wouldn't fault you if you missed a particularly fortuitous request (worthy of a Marvel post-credits scene Easter egg IMHO) made that year by actor Simu Liu.

When, Liu asked the studio on Twitter, will the MCU include an Asian American superhero?

Executives say they missed that tweet — but it set the stage nevertheless for this past weekend's box office success: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (starring none other than actor Simu Liu.)

The MCU origin story earned an estimated $75 million at U.S. theaters Friday through Monday.

Disney — the film's distributor — took a risk with the film: releasing it only in theaters and not on its streaming platform, Disney+.

Review from Fresh Air's Justin Chang


Why Wyoming Is All In On Carbon Capture (And Why It Has Its Skeptics)

Posted September 7, 2021 at 10:05 AM EDT
The a coal-fired power plant is pictured in Glenrock, Wyo., in 2018.
J. David Ake/AP
The a coal-fired power plant is pictured in Glenrock, Wyo., in 2018. The state has invested heavily in carbon-capture projects to keep the coal industry alive.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill that’s now in the House includes billions of dollars to capture climate-warming carbon emissions. It would be the largest ever federal investment in such a technology. But many environmental groups oppose it.

The biggest supporters include coal-producing states, like Wyoming.

Cooper McKim of Wyoming Public Media, host of the podcastCarbon Valley, explains the concept and how it’s playing out in his state on Morning Edition.

What is "carbon capture"?

Basically, it means grabbing those emissions straight from smokestacks, and then burying them underground — or creating something else with them.

Why is developing this technology so important to Wyoming?

Coal-fired energy is disappearing fast. Last year, consumption fell to its lowest level since 1949. And in Wyoming, fossil fuels are as much a part of the culture as the economy. They pay for everything from schools to sports complexes. You still see trains stacked with coal, a ton of oil rigs, but also surprising new competition: wind farms.

In many places wind and solar power are now cheaper than coal. So a decade ago, Wyoming leaders realized carbon capture could be a way to keep the economy going, keep coal plants going.

What’s Wyoming doing to promote carbon capture?

The state’s invested millions in this: There are projects to store CO2 and to build a pipeline network to transport it. Wyoming also built a carbon-capture testing center — and held a $20 million competition to help startups get off the ground. Turned out finalists were much more interested in helping the climate than coal.

So if you could make coal and gas plants less polluting this way, why do so many environmental groups oppose carbon capture?

They worry the tech will just prolong the life of fossil fuels. For example, the majority of large-scale facilities that capture carbon inject it into oil fields to increase production.

To be sure, many environmental groups do support carbon capture — even the United Nations has said it’s critical to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.

If the bipartisan infrastructure bill passes and puts a lot more money into carbon capture, what are the prospects? Could it help coal?

It’s an open question. This technology is so expensive. The only carbon-capture project at a commercial coal plant in the U.S. had to shut down last year. Other projects are either short on funding or behind schedule.

Meanwhile, the private money for carbon-capture projects is moving away from coal. More projects are connected to industrial plants, like cement, where reducing emissions would otherwise be tough.

Member Station Reports

The Pandemic Gave These Parents The Chance To Remake Public School To Serve Black And Latino Students

Posted September 7, 2021 at 9:45 AM EDT

Over the last year, you've likely heard a lot of parents — and even students — long for the before times when it comes to school. And while many students have returned to in-person learning of late, things are still not quite back to normal.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

As Vanessa Rancaño of KQED has been reporting, a group of parents in Oakland, Calif., have used the pandemic as an opportunity to reimagine the education system in service of the Black and Latino students in their community.

Here's how they did it.


Fauci Predicts 3 COVID Shots Will Eventually Become The Optimal Regimen

Posted September 7, 2021 at 9:35 AM EDT
A patient receives her booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine during an Oakland County Health Department vaccination clinic at the Southfield Pavilion on Aug. 24.
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A patient receives her booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine during an Oakland County Health Department vaccination clinic at the Southfield Pavilion in Michigan on Aug. 24.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, spoke with Morning Edition about the current outlook for COVID-19 booster shots. Here are the highlights:

Fauci says people who got the Pfizer shot may get their booster sooner than those who got other vaccine doses.
Pfizer and Moderna are on slightly different tracks for getting booster approval. Fauci says Pfizer has submitted their data to the FDA already, while Moderna is slightly behind that — meaning "there very well may be a bit of a gap, a week or two or so, between the rollouts of the two." Still, the FDA would need to approve both boosters before any such rollout (and get additional approval from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices).

Although vaccinated people are getting infected, the vaccine is still preventing severe illness and hospitalization.
“From the data that we're getting in this country, there is a diminution in the protection against infection and mild to moderate disease. But it looks like at least from our timetable, that protection against severe disease leading to hospitalization is really holding strong right now," he said. The plan for boosters is an attempt to "be ahead of the virus as opposed to chasing it." Fauci noted that hospitalizations from COVID-19 are "overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated."

Fauci says he is confident that as soon the vaccine gets regulatory approval, the proper regimen will be three shots for full protection from the virus.
“I'm fairly certain ... that ultimately we are going to get boosters," he said. "And I think very likely when we look back on this, the proper complete regimen for good full protection will almost certainly be three shots, the first two that we've spoken about, and a late third booster several months later."

🎧 Listen to the full conversation here.

The More You Know

A Flu Shot Could Save Your Life, Here's Why You Should Get One Soon

Posted September 7, 2021 at 9:11 AM EDT
A blue sign stands on a sidewalk. It read 'drive-tru flu shot clinic' with a red arrow.
AFP via Getty Images
A sign directing traffic to the drive through flu shot station is pictured at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, Michigan, November 10, 2020.

The coronavirus is still a threat across the country, but winter months bring another potentially fatal reparatory virus: The flu. Doctors are clear: Get your seasonal flu vaccine soon so you can be protected when flu season arrives.

And with the pandemic packing ICUs and forcing hospital staffing shortages, this isn't the year to skip the flu vaccine and end up needing care because of a life-threatening case of the flu.

Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases, lays out two main reasons why getting vaccinated against the flu is the smart choice.

"First, it's been proven year after year that you're in better shape to fight off the flu if you get the vaccine. Second, by getting vaccinated against the flu, you help protect the people around you, " says Dr. William Schaffner.

In most places around the country it's also easy and convenient — plus free or provided at a low cost. Some retailers even offer incentives like coupons or gift cards to boost vaccination participation.

This isn't the time to wait around and comparison shop though, getting a flu shot by the end of October should be your first priority according to experts.

Fran Kritz spoke with epidemiologists and doctors about why the flu shot is so necessary this year especially.

Keep reading for answers to some frequently asked questions about the vaccine ⤵

I heard the flu essentially disappeared last year. Do I really need a flu shot this year?

Yes. Last year saw a record-low number of flu cases, likely thanks to widespread mask wearing, remote work and school, and physical distancing.

But this year, experts fear that the reopening of schools, decreased adherence to pandemic precautions and surging delta variant infections could create a double whammy: a very serious flu and COVID-19-season.

Already, cases of RSV, a serious respiratory virus in children, are spiking. "This suggests that flu will be back [too]," saysLJ Tan, executive director of theImmunization Action Coalition.

Who should get the flu shot and when's the best time to get it?

Anyone six months and older should get a flu shot, unless your doctor has specifically recommended that you not get one because of a prior, rare severe reaction, says Dr. Lisa Grohskopf, a medical officer in the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As for the right window to get vaccinated, why not now?

Flu season starts in October in the U.S.

While there's some concern that immunity might wane before the end of flu season in May if you get the vaccine too early, there's not enough data to know the optimal time to get the shot, Grohskopf says.

The CDC says aim to get your flu vaccine by the end of October. By then, cases will have started to mount, and many people will be just a few weeks away from travel for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But if you miss getting one in October — don't wait. It's still worthwhile.

"Getting vaccinated at any time during the flu season will still be beneficial," says Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah Health.

Will the flu vaccine definitely keep me from getting the flu?

No. No vaccine is 100% effective. But if you do get the flu, the vaccine is likely to reduce your chance of getting very sick, being hospitalized or dying, Pavia says. Before last year, tens of thousands of people got hospitalized or died from the flu each year, usually people who weren't vaccinated.


Scenes From The Paralympics Closing Ceremony

Posted September 7, 2021 at 9:01 AM EDT

The Tokyo Paralympic Games have come to a close after nearly two weeks of competition. China led the way in medals, pulling in 96 golds. (See all the final tallies here.)

With all the flair of the opening ceremony, Sunday's performance of song and dance — and, of course, the parade of nations — shone.

Here are a few of the visual highlights. (You can also stream the ceremony on

Read more highlights from NPR's Paralympics coverage:

Must See
Pandemic Hobbies

After A Year Of Piano Lessons On Zoom, She's Now The Youngest Winner Of An Elite Music Prize

Posted September 7, 2021 at 8:57 AM EDT

At some point over the last 18 months, each of us has probably thought about taking up some new pastime. Some of us have even followed through — a gesture at self-improvement or just a way not to go stir-crazy in COVID times.

Last fall, Brigitte Xie took up the piano. Now, just a year later, she became the youngest winner of the prestigious Elite International Music Competition. The prize? A performance on stage at Carnegie Hall.

Even more impressive: Brigitte is currently 4 years old.

Here she is performing recently on ABC's Live With Kelly & Ryan.

Brigitte's dad, Tao Xie signed her up to take Zoom piano classes when she was 3 years old (and two months!) as a way to pass the time during the pandemic.

Her mom, Nicole Sun also plays — though they've had to add a special stool to their home set up so that Brigitte has somewhere to put her feet when she plays (otherwise her feet dangle when she sits on the piano bench).

There is a bit of a wrinkle though: Carnegie Hall currently requires all performers to be fully vaccinated — and at only 4, Brigitte is still too young for the vaccine. No word yet on if Carnegie Hall will give Brigitte a rain check on her performance.

Regardless, congratulations to Brigitte! 🎉 You've inspired us all to double down on our pandemic hobbies.


Just As Y2K Becomes Trendy With Gen Z, Ryan Murphy Takes Us Back To 1999 With 'Impeachment'

Posted September 7, 2021 at 8:34 AM EDT

The latest iteration of Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story series for FX drops today — following in the footsteps of seasons 1 and 2, which tackled the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the killing of Gianni Versace (respectively) — Impeachment focuses on a story burned into our public consciousness, the 1999 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

American Crime Story alum Sarah Paulson ( who is also an alum of Murphy's decade-long American Horror Story series) is back — this time as Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky's then-confidant who exposed her affair with the president.

Lewinsky, who in real life serves as a producer on this season, is played by actress Beanie Feldstein (who you may recognize from her role in the 2019 film Booksmart.)

Plus, comedian Billy Eichner fills in as Drudge Report creator Matt Drudge.

Check out the full review c/o NPR's TV critic, Eric Deggans


Sacrilegious Or Just Economical? Famous Maryland Chef Adds Tofu To His Crab Cakes

Posted September 7, 2021 at 8:01 AM EDT

Baltimore chef John Shields says he is “kind of a purist” when it comes to crab cakes.

Shields, who owns Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen, says he normally doesn’t add ingredients to extend the meat in his crab, but he’s started to do the unthinkable: add tofu to his crab cakes.

Crab cakes from Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen in Baltimore.
Courtesy of Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen
Crab cakes from Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen in Baltimore, where chef John Shields is experimenting with adding tofu to his crab mix.

Labor and supply shortages have made crabs more expensive in the Chesapeake Bay region. He calls this summer “one of the toughest years ever” for buyers of the bay’s iconic blue crabs.

“Most people that would like to have a bunch of people over and make crab cakes or something, they probably would have to take a second mortgage to do that,” Shields joked toMorning Edition.

Some area restaurants have had to take crab off the menu entirely. Shields still offers classic crab cakes at Gertrudes, but he admits they’re expensive. So he came up with an alternative that he currently offers as a special.

The “Crabfulicious” crab cakes are a 50-50 split between crab meat and locally made tofu.

“You have to be careful,” Shields says. “This could be deemed sacrilegious, what I'm talking about here. But I think people could be a little adventurous, a little playful. These are the kinds of things that could be done to see how we can still use crab meat, but we don't overuse it.”

But Shields, who has written multiple Chesapeake Bay cookbooks, says feeding more people with less is something Marylanders have done for generations.

Take the traditional Maryland crab soup, which combines crab meat with cheaper ingredients like vegetables and barley.

“You're still rooted in the Chesapeake,” Shields says. “You're still getting that taste and that sense of place.”


Highlights From Michael K. Williams’ Interviews With NPR Over The Years

Posted September 7, 2021 at 7:43 AM EDT
Williams wears a gray sweatshirt with the name "Trayvon" in block letters, with a black hat. He smiles in front of a poster.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Michael K. Williams attends the "Vice" Season 6 Premiere on April 3, 2018 in New York City.

Michael K. Williams the prolific actor known for playing Omar Little in The Wire and has died.

Williams died Monday of unspecified causes at his Brooklyn home; he was 54.

Nominated for multiple Emmy Awards, Williams was a consummate character actor, known for his skillful and sensitive portrayals of powerful complicated characters.

He appeared in many TV shows and films, including Lovecraft Country, The Sopranos and in the role of Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire.

But before those roles came along, Williams told NPR his career had stalled:

"My mom opened up a day care in the projects where we lived. So in 2000, she was like, 'why don't you come work in the day care? You know, I'm paying your rent anyway. You might as well earn it.' So I said, 'Ma, you know I want to give this acting thing one more shot. It doesn't work - I'm done. It's me and you. We're changing Pampers, baby.'"
Michael K. Williams

Williams says he was so depressed he was on the brink of giving up his dream. Until one day, when his mom called him downstairs and said a fax was waiting for him.

"I went downstairs to her office, and it was the breakdown for Omar from "The Wire" On HBO," Williams remembered.

The role jumpstarted his career and won him critical acclaim.

In 2014, he talked about landing the role and how a scar changed his life's course for NPR's series "My Big Break."

He was open about the toll playing intense characters took on his health.

He told Fresh Air's Terry Gross,"When I wear these characters to the extent that I wear them to, that [energy's] gotta go somewhere."

Eventually, Williams sought help at a church, and later learned how to differentiate himself from the characters he played.

In February, Williams starred in the crime thriller Body Brokers — his last performance released before his death.

Wendell Pierce played Detective Bunk Moreland on The Wire and recalled Williams as a singular talent.

NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans has this remembrance.

Climate Change

The Biggest Threat To Public Health Right Now Is Climate Change — Not The Pandemic

Posted September 7, 2021 at 7:30 AM EDT

That's according to a joint statement from the editors of more than 200 leading medical journals.

Rising temperatures could cause "catastrophic harm to health that would be impossible to reverse," the editors said.

Two piles of water-damaged items, including doors and trash bags, toys and other items sit on the street in front of two Queens homes.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Getty Images
A person walks past flooded homes in a Queens neighborhood that saw massive flooding and numerous deaths following a night of heavy wind and rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ida on Sept. 3 in New York City.

The most vulnerable populations are at the highest risk

One recent example? Hurricane Ida.

Most of the deaths in Louisiana were not a result of the extreme wind or rain.

As NPR's Lauren Sommer reports, hotter temperatures and carbon monoxide poisoning (caused by improper generator use) led to several deaths in the aftermath of the storm.

Just this summer, a record-breaking heatwave in the Northwest left hundreds dead, and wildfires (especially in the West) put dangerous levels of air pollution in the skies and triggered a spike in ER visits.

Taking action

President Biden will be in New York and New Jersey to survey the damage done to the region by Ida. According to NPR's Tamara Keith, the president is expected to make a larger case about the need for investments in resilient infrastructure to directly address the impact of climate change (a nod back to his infrastructure legislation currently being worked on in Congress).

President Biden stands at a podium in front of a home damaged by a tree blown over at the roots by Hurricane Ida in LaPlace, Louisiana, Friday. Behind him are four people, all wearing masks.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden delivers remarks after touring the Cambridge neighborhood affected by Hurricane Ida, in LaPlace, La., on Sept. 3.

The frequency of these severe weather events has given Biden an opportunity to pitch his effort to invest in critical infrastructure (like the power grids, levels and storm water systems) that are crucial to surviving extreme weather events.

In their joint statement, the editors of the medical journals say wealthier nations must lead the way — and there's still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

World leaders are gathering in November for the next round of climate talks.

News Wrap

Get Caught Up On The Weekend’s Top Stories

Posted September 7, 2021 at 7:20 AM EDT

Here are a few big stories that developed over the Labor Day weekend:

Unemployment benefits expire

Federal unemployment benefits put in place because of the pandemic expired on Monday, and the Biden administration isn’t pushing for an extension this time, at least on a national level.

Seven and a half million people will lose aid entirely, and even more will have their benefits reduced by $300 a week. Listen to some of the voices of people facing these cuts in the player below:

As NPR’s Scott Horsley reports, this is happening during a slowdown in hiring — U.S. employers added just 235,000 jobs last month, less than a quarter of the number they added in both June and July.

Horsley notes that about two dozen states had already cut benefits earlier in the summer, hoping it would push more people back to work. But the bigger impact of the cuts is people pulling back on their spending — meaning the end of the emergency benefits could impact local grocery stores, gas stations and people’s ability to pay rent.

DOJ looks at ways to defend people seeking abortions in Texas

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday that the Justice Department exploring “all options” to challenge Texas’ restrictive abortion law, adding, “we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.”

Citing the FACE Act, which prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction against someone seeking reproductive health services, Garland said, “The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack.”

More on this from Texas Public Radio

Private evacuation efforts hit roadblocks in Afghanistan

Several private planes organized by American veterans and others have been held up for days trying to leave Afghanistan with American citizens and Afghan interpreters.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Qatar, said the U.S. was working “around the clock to clear any roadblocks” for such planes, but he noted the government can’t verify who is on the planes without troops on the ground.

Blinken is meeting with the U.S. embassy staff who have been relocated from Kabul to Doha, and he’ll check on the status of refugees in the country. Roughly 58,000 have passed through Qatar as a first stop from Afghanistan.