A Tragic Building Collapse In Miami | Crooked Media
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June 28, 2021
What A Day
A Tragic Building Collapse In Miami

In This Episode

  • A 12-story residential building collapsed in Miami last week, resulting in the deaths of at least 9 people, with more than 150 people still missing. An engineering report from 2018 found major structural damage to the building, and it was supposed to undergo repairs this year. There’s a climate change connection, too, with some suggesting that rising temperatures and sea levels might have accelerated the building’s erosion.
  • Republicans in several states have been trying to audit the results of the November election to prove there was some kind of fraud that led to Trump’s defeat. We talk through some recent L’s state-level Republicans have taken, and the tactics they’re still trying to deploy. Plus, Liz Plank fills in for Gideon.
  • And in headlines: a historic heat-wave in the Pacific Northwest, Turkish police crack down on a pride march, and a woman with a sign causes a pileup at the Tour de France.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Monday, June 28th. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Liz Plank: And I’m Liz Plank, in for Gideon Resnick.


Akilah Hughes: And this is What a Day, the podcast that is 10% hard work, 10% talent and 80% air conditioner.


Liz Plank: Yes, popsicles are also an integral part of the entire process.


Akilah Hughes: That’s right. And we are currently looking for an ice sponsor. So hit us up. We are ready to talk about it. On today’s show, Republicans stumble in their effort to find voter fraud in last November’s presidential election, plus some headlines. But before we get started, Liz Plank joins us today. Liz is an award-winning journalist who’s been featured on NBC News and Vox. She’s also a filmmaker, author of the book “For The Love of Men: A Vision for Mindful Masculinity.” A friend of mine. We love you here, Liz. Welcome to WAD.


Liz Plank: I cannot believe I’m on my favorite podcast. It’s, it’s blowing my mind. Thank you for having me.


Akilah Hughes: We are so happy to have you. And now to the latest:


[clip of Mayor Daniella Levine Cava] Everybody that is needed is on the site and doing the work. And we’re continuing our efforts to find people alive.


Akilah Hughes: So that’s the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, speaking to CBS yesterday about the continued efforts to rescue the victims of a residential building that collapsed, the Champlain Tower South early Thursday morning. It happened while many of the people inside were asleep. So, Liz, where does it stand right now?


Liz Plank: Yeah, it’s absolutely heart wrenching to think it only took a few seconds for a 12-story building with 55 units to completely plummet to the ground in the middle of the night. So as we are recording this on Sunday night, nine people are confirmed dead with more than 150 people who are still missing. And many worried families are expressing frustration that the recovery effort isn’t going fast enough. So those friends and those relatives of the missing are panicked, as the hours are going by without any news of their loved ones. And some have actually even started begging to help with the search. So that request has been unfortunately denied because the site is still deemed way too treacherous and dangerous given the mountains of debris. And to make matters worse, fire and smoke from deep within the rubble also hampered rescue efforts over the weekend. But search rescue teams have started discovering unspecified human remains, so families of those who are still missing have started the process of providing DNA samples to help identify them. At the moment, rescue teams are still working overnight through fire and through rain, trying to dig out any remaining survivors as families hold out hope that their missing relatives are still alive.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that’s really just devastating. And, you know, what do we know so far about what might have caused this collapse?


Liz Plank: Well, it’s still too early to tell, but a 2018 engineering report from the building is starting to offer some pretty devastating clues. The report found, quote “major structural damage” to a concrete slab below its pool deck that needed extensive repairs. And then there was also the parking garage that had, quote “abundant cracking . . . of columns, beams and walls.” In fact, quite tragically, the building was supposed to go through a repair this year. And there were actually reports that a building inspector may have come on site at the Champlain Towers as recently as the day before the collapse to begin the process of those repairs. But that’s not the whole story. There’s also climate change that could have played a really big role in the crumbling of the towers. So the property rests on a barrier island that faces the ocean. And with rising sea levels, this could have caused enough damage to create the sudden collapse. And then there’s rising temperatures that are also known to increase sinkholes and that could have also damaged the land that the building was resting on too. So given that Miami has seen its sea level rise by one foot in the past 100 years, with an exponential rise since the 1990s, it’s especially at risk. But like all things related to climate change, we’ll probably only find out just exactly how horrendous the consequences of it once it’s too late.


Akilah Hughes: That’s right. And this tragedy has prompted a major review of other similar buildings close by as well. So can you tell us a little bit more about that?


Liz Plank: Yeah. So a few hours after that very troubling architecture report was made public, for example, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced an audit of residential buildings that are more than 40-years old that haven’t been recertified. So here’s the kicker: while Florida has some of the strongest building codes in the country because of hurricanes, residential towers like the one that collapsed were built before those codes were strengthened after Hurricane Andrew decimated the area in 1992. So experts are calling on the recertification process to be accelerated for buildings in the area, particularly because climate change has in many cases intensified the damage and the corrosion of these structures. But the age-old question is who pays for it? What’s devastating is that most of the older buildings that need the most repairs tend to be occupied by older residents with lower or fixed incomes who may not be able to foot the bill for these long overdue renovations. But hopefully the Champlain Towers tragedy can help put the right amount of pressure on local officials to foot the bill to ensure the safety of all residents. So let’s now turn to another story, the latest on the big lie that the election was somehow stolen from Donald Trump.


[clip of Mike Lindell] We’re going to put it out and you’re going to [unclear]. You’re going to go wild. Here it is. Now we’re going to bring it as a [unclear] to the Supreme Court. It’s going to be 9-0. They’re going to take this election down. And yes, Donald Trump will be your president. He is your president—


Akilah Hughes: All right. So that was delusional pillow lunatic, Mike Lindell last week, claiming the Supreme Court in a 9-0 decision will instate Trump as president more than half a year after Trump lost the election. It’s part of the big lie from the right, which is still being spread on weekend shows and cable news. And in several states, Republicans have been trying to audit the election results to prove that there was some fraud that led to Trump’s defeat. But regardless of their feelings, officials and courts have handed the GOP and former President Trump Ls in the past few days. We love to see it.


Liz Plank: Hmm. So Akilah are you saying that facts and courts don’t care about your feelings?


Akilah Hughes: Mm hmm.


Liz Plank: That’s shocking. That’s really, really shocking. So where have the Ls come from lately Akilah?


Akilah Hughes: All right. So let’s see, in Georgia last week, a judge dismissed a lawsuit to inspect the ballots in Fulton County, probably because they’ve been inspected and counted and recounted and it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Last Wednesday in Michigan, a GOP report actually refuted claims that there was any fraud in the state’s election. And Trump, like clockwork, whined in a statement to the press about it. In sidebar, it is so good having him off of Twitter. Like I cannot overstate.


Liz Plank: You can’t. I can finally hear myself think. I can hear silence again, you know.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Exactly. I almost forgot what that was. But finally, in Arizona, GOP-hired consultants finished counting 2.1 million ballots for Maricopa County last weekend. But that audit won’t change the results. So more money and time wasted from a waste of time party.


Liz Plank: You know, I for one, I find it extremely satisfying to see the GOP continuously learning that they extra lost the election. It feels almost like it should be therapy, like, like a form of reverse gas-lighting, a very expensive form of reverse gas-lighting. But it feels kind of nice. But Akilah, it’s not just official courts, right, and state-level Republicans that are telling Trump to get a grip. There are others as well.


Akilah Hughes: They’re all out there. So former animatronic dinosaur baby and Attorney General Bill Barr told ABC News journalist Jonathan Karl—in an excerpt from his book that I’m not going to buy—that he knew the whole voter fraud thing was a lie, saying, quote “We realized from the beginning it was just bullshit.” Just to be clear that as an attorney general, speaking about a former president. [laughs] God, another sidebar: it would have been great for Jonathan Karl to put America before his book and put this out back then, but, you know, I’ve always had high standards for decency—that’s on me and how I was raised. And I just got to get over that.


Liz Plank: [laughs] I mean, like some days I wonder, I’m like: how is it possible with the level of, you know, such high-integrity journalism that we have that Trump got elected. But today is not, it’s not one of those days.


Akilah Hughes: Nope.


Liz Plank: Thanks for nothing, Jonathan Karl—if that’s even your name.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, we don’t know.


Liz Plank: So with all this nonsense, what are the implications for future elections and elections that the GOP loses?


Akilah Hughes: OK, so it does seem like we can count on the Republican Party to continue peddling misinformation and conspiracy theories, and mostly because it works on people who are too emotionally immature to handle a loss. And they’re already using the playbook from those states I just mentioned to lay the groundwork elsewhere. In Wisconsin, the Republican state House speaker recently hired a bunch of retired cops and an attorney to probe the 2020 election results. In Alabama, a new law gives the secretary of state and three judges the authority to conduct a one-time post-election audit after next fall’s midterms. And in Pennsylvania, State House Speaker Brian Cutler, a Republican, introduced legislation to establish a, quote “Bureau of Election Audits” under the purview of the state auditor general’s office. So it does seem like the strategy for Republicans now is just this: lose elections, challenge the results, then keep losing publicly and expensively, then seek any validation at all in the conspiracies that you desperately mainlined for years. And it’s possible, you know, that one day someone may just have enough power to grant them their wish and help them steal an election. It is a pretty pathetic moment, though, when you only accept democracy when it is in your favor. But that’s the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Monday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re discussing the mysteries of talking. In Australia, a woman named Angie Yen woke up the morning after having her tonsils removed and noticed her Australian accent had been replaced with an Irish accent. She’s been documenting her experience on TikTok. Here’s a clip:


[clip of Angie Yen] Hi. I’m making this video to document the second day of something that’s happened to me yesterday that was very weird. I woke up with an Irish accent, and I’ve never been to Ireland before.


Akilah Hughes: I’m trying not to laugh. OK. [laughs] More than two months later, Yen still talks like an Irish native. She underwent a brain scan that didn’t detect anything wrong, so it’s OK for us to laugh. And doctors have now diagnosed her with foreign accent syndrome, a rare speech disorder which was first documented in 1987. Yen’s team doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to get her Aussie accent back. So Liz, truly shocking that this is a thing that can just happen to you in life. But if it were to happen to you, which accent would you most like to wake up with?


Liz Plank: I would love to wake up with like the 2016 Lindsay Lohan accent. You know, when she just popped out of nowhere and she, she like had a mix of a French, a British and like kind of like a Greek accent, because she’d spent time in Mykonos. [laughs] And no one could figure out what it was, it was just very unique and amazing, and I feel like I could, if I were to get my tonsils taken out and like the whole, at least I would have the cool Lindsay Lohan accent, you know, I’d get something good out of it. What about you?


Akilah Hughes: For me, I’m hoping for something like a deep New Orleans sort of Creole bayou accent. I think it just sounds so soulful and interesting and also like you never hear anybody like that doing the news. So I just feel like that one works.


Liz Plank: That’s so true. That’s so true. You know, where you do hear that, though, is in Montreal. Like because I’m French Canadian. The one thing I would hate is to wake up with my old French Canadian accent. I worked so hard to get rid of it. Like, I kind of talk like I was like Celine Dion—


Akilah Hughes: Oh, I love that.


Liz Plank: And it was, it was a lot. And now I, so that would be very devastating. But any other accent would just kind of add some spice to my life. Like it’s just like a new adventure.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I just can’t wait to see the sub tweets that are written about me trying to be interesting. Like, oh, here goes Akilah again, just trying to get attention. [laughs] Well, anyway, just like that, we’ve checked our temps. Stay safe and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Liz Plank: The Pacific Northwest is experiencing a historic record-breaking heat wave that’s expected to last several days. Portland hit 110 degrees over the weekend, making it the highest temperature the city has recorded in 80 years. Seattle reached 102 degrees, which is the highest temperature it’s ever observed in the month of June. In the coming days, the region is forecasted to break many more temperature records, with peak heat expected between Sunday and Tuesday. Over 20 million people across the West Coast are under some kind of heat warning or advisory. Experts say that these heat levels are supposed to happen only once every several thousand years, but climate change is making them more frequent.


Akilah Hughes: That is unfortunate. I mean, you know, I do live on Earth, so I’m feeling it. Well, more bad news: police in Turkey violently crack down on an annual Pride parade in Istanbul over the weekend, using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse marchers. At least 20 people were arrested and the city refused to grant a permit for the parade for the seventh year in a row, but hundreds of people still showed up to fight against LGBTQ discrimination. The police response signals Turkey’s growing hostility towards the queer community, and it follows the passage of increasingly discriminatory laws and bans on LGBTQ celebrations. In other protest news, people in Pakistan came out to demonstrate against Prime Minister Imran Khan after he ignorantly suggested that women who wore revealing clothes were provoking sexual violence. These comments sparked nationwide protests, with women bringing the clothes they wore when they were sexually assaulted. Calls also grew for Khan to make a public apology.


Liz Plank: He should apologize and we might not even accept it. So far-right congressman and boyfriend you can’t wait to introduce your dad to, if your dad is a flag that says, “Don’t Tread On Me” Madison Cawthorn, is not really a ‘facts’ kind of guy in the sense that many of the details of his biography are straight up not true. So it’s ironic that in a speech from the House floor last week, he led with this quote:


[clip of Rep Madison Cawthorn] It was Thomas Jefferson that said: facts are stubborn things and whatever may be our wishes, or the dis—dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts in evidence.


Liz Plank: What makes this quote even more ironic coming from Cawthorn is that he considers himself a big history buff, and he got the history very twisted. It wasn’t Thomas Jefferson who said this, but his more grumpy, less proslavery counterpart, John Adams. A CNN article from last week rounded up a bunch of other Cawthorn history goofs—yes, there are more things like this—like a moment where he said with total confidence that his age of 25 wasn’t too young to change the world, seeing as James Madison signed the declaration at 25. Except really, Madison didn’t sign the document at all. Anyways, everyone forgets history sometimes, you know, but one historical fact that we should never forget is that 150 of Cawthorn’s former college classmates signed onto a letter describing him as a sexual predator.


Akilah Hughes: Yep, I’m not going to forget that for a second. The return of sports crowds is working out the way we all knew it would: with one million bikes flipping over each other at the Tour de France. So, on Saturday, a spectator caused a massive pileup at the first stage of the race by stepping into the road to display a sign that translates to “Go Grandpa-Grandma.” The fan was holding up the sign for TV cameras and didn’t see dozens of the world’s best cyclists coming up behind her. German rider Tony Martin hit the sign, kicking off a very expensive domino effect that injured both spectators and cyclists. Officials at the Tour De France plan to sue the fan, but as of last night, she hadn’t been identified, having run away soon after the accident. But she better run fast because the people who want to catch her have legs that are part horse and they don’t get tired very easily. Today, riders compete in the tour’s third stage. My god.


Liz Plank: Wow. I don’t even know what to say. I mean, people will do anything to be famous—


Akilah Hughes: Yeah it’s true.


Liz Plank: But like, it’s like, do it like the rest of us. Just spend six hours learning how to do the Renegade . . . and then fail miserably at it.


Akilah Hughes: You’re not wrong. I hope that Grandma-Grandpa wins. And those are the headlines. [laughs].


Akilah Hughes: One more thing before we go. In case you missed our Pride livestream this week, don’t worry, you can catch highlights from “Out of the Closets, Into the Streets” in the latest episode of Lovett or Leave It. During the stream, we raised over $50,000 for the Trans Justice Funding Project, a community-led funding initiative to support grassroots trans justice groups run by and for trans people across the U.S.. It’s not too late to still be a part of it. Watch on Crooked’s YouTube channel or make a donation at Crooked.com/pridefund.


Liz Plank: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, be a respectful spectator of bike racing. And tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re in the reading, and not just kind words about air conditioners like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Liz Plank: I’m Liz Plank


[together] And study history!


Akilah Hughes: Study it.


Liz Plank: Please.


Akilah Hughes: Madison: first, learn to read. Second, commit it to memory. [laughs] It’s not that hard.


Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.