Maui Residents Flee Deadly Fires | Crooked Media
August 09, 2023
What A Day
Maui Residents Flee Deadly Fires

In This Episode

  • Raging wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui have killed six people and displaced thousands more. Hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed as well, including within the historic town of Lahaina.
  • Leaders of eight South American countries that share the Amazon rainforest wrapped up a two-day summit in Belem, Brazil yesterday. By the end of the gathering, the group – known as the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, or ACTO – adopted a “new and ambitious shared agenda” to protect the rainforest, but it fell short of demands from some environmentalists and Indigenous groups.
  • And in headlines: Ecuador presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated Wednesday, the Biden administration released new rules to restrict U.S. investments in certain high-tech industries in China, and six Idaho college professors and two teachers’ unions sued the state over a law that limits public funds for abortion-related speech.


Show Notes:


Help those affected by the fires in Maui:


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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, August 10th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is What A Day where we hope whoever won the $1.58 billion lottery jackpot in Florida is trans. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I just want that to make Ron DeSantis as mad as humanly possible. And then maybe you can have a little bit of the leftovers, whoever won uh to get the fuck out of Florida. Feels like that might be useful. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. [music break] On today’s show, your takeaways from the recent summit to protect the Amazon rainforest. Plus, reporters found a memo that lays out the plot by Trump’s team to use fake electors to steal the 2020 election. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, raging wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui have killed six people and displaced thousands more. As of our recording time at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, the fires are still ongoing, so the full extent of the damage is not yet known. But hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed, including within the historic town of Lahaina, which is home to much of Maui’s tourism as well as thousands of residents. This is Clint Hansen, a resident of Kihei who is driving around the island trying to help people, describing the destruction to MSNBC from his car: 


[clip of Clint Hansen] It’s really kind of shocking to think about the places where you grew up to just no longer exist, to be fearful about your friends, whether or not they’re still alive because you can’t communicate with them. Watching footage of people burned alive in the streets and people panicking for their lives as they drive through flash points where if they were to step out of the car, there’s very little chance of them surviving.


Tre’vell Anderson: Woo, take a deep breath there. So what more can you tell us about the evacuation and rescue efforts? 


Priyanka Aribindi: The fires and the road closures have trapped residents and tourists alike, forcing some on the island’s western side to flee by swimming into the Pacific Ocean where they were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard. So, so bad, moving so quickly and so catastrophic that these people are forced to jump into the ocean just to avoid this fire, which is wild to even think about. According to the island’s mayor, over 2100 people were in evacuation shelters and an additional 1800 sheltered overnight on Tuesday in Maui’s airport. And news outlets say that six fire victims were flown into the neighboring island of Oahu and some of them are burn patients in critical condition. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, some of the photos and videos from Maui, they look devastating as well, like a scene out of a movie. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What more do we know about all of this? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So there’s no official count yet for the number of structures destroyed by these fires. But Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz said on X, once known as Twitter, that Lahaina is, quote, “almost totally burnt to the ground.” Here is another clip from Richard Olsten, who works in helicopter tours in Maui. He describes what he and his team saw yesterday morning to the local KISS FM radio station. Take a listen. 


[clip of Richard Olsten] There’s hundreds of homes burned to the ground. Hundreds of people that are displaced with no place to go. But the place literally looked like a war zone, like it had been bombed. I mean, the structures, there’s just nothing left. All of front street is gone. The harbor, the boats are burned down to the water. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. It’s sounding like complete devastation there. What do we know about how this fire started in the first place? 


Priyanka Aribindi: So there are no reports yet about what exactly started the blaze. Although the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization notes that humans are responsible for over 98% of the wildfires in the state. So we will stay tuned for any more details that we get in the coming days there. Also, though, climate change has made the state much more prone to wildfires in recent years. Hawaii is typically known for its tropical climate, but leading up to this, Maui has actually been extremely dry with much of the western side of the island, which is where these fires are experiencing drought conditions. That coupled with strong winds from Hurricane Dora, which is moving across the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles to the south of Hawaii, has fueled these fires and allowed them to move extremely quickly. The fires also took out cell service and 911 service on many parts of the island. So you have this very terrifying, very quickly changing situation coupled with extreme communication difficulties beyond anyone’s wildest nightmares, really. Hawaii’s governor, Josh Green, said that it’s almost certain that the cost of the damage from these wildfires will be in the billions of dollars. Yesterday, FEMA’s regional administrator authorized the use of federal funds to help Hawaii fight the fires. The winds have also gone down a bit, so hopefully that will help as well. But the scenes from the island are just truly, truly devastating. What once was known as paradise around the world is really just apocalyptic. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And for our listeners, wherever they are, what might be the best way for them to help locals? 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a good question. I’m glad you asked. So we are including a list of resources, including the Maui Mutual Aid Fund in our show notes. If you’re able to contribute, it is so desperately needed by so many at this time, you know, contributions to these people on the ground is a way to ensure that this help will get to people as fast as possible. And of course, you know, many people here have lost their homes, their livelihood, and they’ll need shelter as the island rebuilds. So now is not the time to plan leisure travel to Maui. Obviously, you wouldn’t do it in the midst of the fires. But in the coming days, weeks, months, when the spotlight is off Maui, but they are still recovering and still need time and space. Don’t plan your vacation. Don’t take the precious hotel rooms, food and resources that are needed by local people at this time. That is just something really important to keep in mind. This will be a process that will take a lot of time. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And thank you for that, Priyanka. Staying with some environmental news, the summit has wrapped between leaders of the eight South American countries that share the Amazon rainforest. They met in the Brazilian city of Belem over the last couple of days. And their goal, as we’ve mentioned on the show before, was to come up with a list of unified policies and measures to stop the destruction of the rainforest, which, according to Al Jazeera, is, quote, “a crucial buffer against climate change that experts warn is being pushed to the brink of collapse.” Here’s Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaking at the summit translated by Sky News. 


[clip of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva] [speaking in Portugeuse] It has never been so urgent to resume and expand this cooperation. The challenges of our age and the opportunities that arise demand joint action.”


Tre’vell Anderson: So this group is known as the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, or ACTO, and includes leaders from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. By the end of their summit yesterday, they did adopt a, quote, “new and ambitious shared agenda.” But it stops short of what some environmentalists and Indigenous groups had hoped for. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Okay, so before we get into that, I would love if you could break it down for us. What exactly was agreed to at the summit? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So the group’s final joint declaration, which they’re calling the Belem Declaration, is a nearly 10,000 word roadmap of sorts that aims to protect the Amazon. They asserted Indigenous rights and protections while also agreeing to cooperate on water management, health, common negotiating positions at climate summits and sustainable development. They also established a science body to meet annually and produce reports about the Amazon, similar to the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change. And then there’s an alliance for combating forest destruction that was also created. But that alliance doesn’t involve any actual specific goals. Each country has been left to pursue their own goals, which is one of the many things that environmentalists are up in arms about. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. I mean, very easy to see why anything short of a strong, explicit commitment here is disappointing. It’s hard to hold people to if you don’t actually state what you’re being held to. So can you remind us what is at stake with the rainforest and its future and just why this is so important? 


Tre’vell Anderson: As we’ve covered on the show before, the effects of climate change are literally everywhere, and it’s getting worse by the day. Between that and human caused destruction, up to 20% of the Amazon rainforest has disappeared in the last 50 years. And because it’s so bad, there really needs to be significant sweeping commitments worldwide to minimize the severity of what could happen. For example, Brazil has already pledged to end illegal deforestation by 2030. Activists wanted all of the ACTO countries to commit to the same, and they also wanted the countries to adopt Colombia’s pledge to halt new oil exploration. Some of their other gripes include there not being a shared fixed deadline by which to end illegal gold mining in the region. And the group also failed to establish as a shared goal having zero deforestation by 2030. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Okay. So definitely some disappointments. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Priyanka Aribindi: What exactly does it say that the activists and Indigenous groups’ demands weren’t fully met here? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, it says that the commitment to combating climate change, you know, isn’t as strong as perhaps it should be, and that the group isn’t fully aligned on some of those key issues I just mentioned, especially since for added context, this is only the fourth time in the ACTO’s 45 year history that they’ve even met. And this week’s meeting was the first convening of the group in 14 years. That said, the group is hoping that the Belem Declaration will be a shared call to arms of sorts for the major United Nations climate conference known as COP28, happening in November, especially as the declaration also calls on wealthier nations to help fund some of these efforts to protect the Amazon. Since the Amazon is such a vital resource for the entire globe. As Bolivian President Luis R.S. said, quote, The fact. That the Amazon is such an important territory doesn’t imply that all of the responsibilities, consequences and effects of the climate crisis should fall to us, to our towns and to our economies. Of course, we will be staying on the climate change beat because it’s super necessary. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break] [AD BREAK]


Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: An opposition candidate in Ecuador’s upcoming presidential election was assassinated yesterday. Fernando Villavicencio, who was fiercely anti-corruption, was shot dead at a political rally at a school north of the country’s capital, Quito. But at the time of recording, it was not yet known who killed him. The first round of the presidential election is set to take place on August 20th, just ten days from now. President Guillermo Lasso said he has called an urgent meeting to discuss the killing. He wrote on Twitter called X, quote, “My solidarity and condolences to his wife and his daughters for his memory and his fight. I assure you that this crime will not go unpunished.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: We have two updates on Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. First, it was revealed yesterday that prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith were granted a search warrant to look into Trump’s Twitter earlier this year. The warrant is part of the investigation into Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. But it’s currently unknown what prosecutors are specifically looking for. Some experts speculate that the prosecutors will focus on nonpublic aspects of the account, such as drafts that were never publicized. The prosecutors received permission from the judge to not reveal the warrant to Trump to prevent Trump from potentially destroying evidence. Twitter disapproved of the decision to keep the warrant a secret and did not comply with court orders until three days after the deadline, resulting in a $350,000 fine for the company. And for the other update, last week’s indictment revealed a previously unseen memo from the Trump campaign that outlines a three pronged plan to prevent Joe Biden’s victory on January 6th. The letter, which was written by Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro in December 2020, featured a plot that would, quote, “buy the Trump campaign more time to win litigation that would deprive Biden of electoral votes and or add to Trump’s column.” I too am curious. I would love to see the drafts, please. Whether or not they find relevant things to their investigation, I hope they just release whatever he had because I’d love to know what didn’t make the cut for his Twitter. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Because a lot of things shouldn’t have. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Did, right? 


Priyanka Aribindi: But um. What was he like no, can’t do this. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. Where are his boundaries at?


Priyanka Aribindi: Would love to know. Bet there are zero. But anyways. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The Biden administration released new rules yesterday to restrict U.S. investments in certain high tech industries in China as a way to protect national security. Investments between the two countries fell sharply the last several years, but U.S. venture capital and private equity firms continue to seek out chances to invest in China’s booming tech sector. Biden’s restrictions specifically target that. Emily Benson from the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the New York Times that, quote, “There is mounting evidence that U.S. capital is being used to advanced Chinese military capabilities and that the U.S. lacks a sufficient means of combating this activity.” China has made its frustrations with this decision known. But Biden officials have defended it, saying that these restrictions are all about protecting national security and not aimed at damaging the Chinese economy. 


Priyanka Aribindi: California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was hospitalized for a short time Tuesday afternoon after a fall, according to a spokesperson. Feinstein had a, quote, “minor fall in her San Francisco home where she tripped over a chair in her kitchen.” She suffered no injuries, thankfully, but was taken to the hospital out of an abundance of caution and remained there for an hour or two until her scans came back clear. It’s the latest incident in a series of health issues for the Senate’s oldest member. Let us remind everybody she is 90 years old, so not a problem for anyone’s grandparents. You know, your run of the mill citizen. But between that and her uh many health troubles, just a cause for concern among many. Concerns for Feinstein’s health and ability to serve in Congress have grown recently. And even some House Democrats have called on her to retire, citing that her extended medical absence earlier this year slowed the process of confirming judicial nominees, which is a very real and tangible consequence. She relied heavily on her staffers to carry out duties while she recovered from a severe case of shingles from February until May. Senator Feinstein is a trailblazer and icon, really. And she, like every ninety year old that is living, deserves time and space to recover from these things, deserves some time to relax. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: She just doesn’t have to do it on the floor of the U.S. Senate. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Retirement. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Retirement sounds nice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, if I’m still working at 90, something is wrong. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. It’s bad. Don’t do that.


Tre’vell Anderson: Rapper Tory Lanez was sentenced to ten years in prison for shooting Grammy winner Megan Thee Stallion in the foot in 2020. Lanez was found guilty of three charges in December of last year, including assault with a semi-automatic firearm, illegal possession of a firearm, and discharging a gun with gross negligence. The shooting happened back in July of 2020 after they left a party at Kylie Jenner’s home. The two artists got into an argument, and as Megan walked away, Lanez shot at her feet, and according to Megan’s testimony during the trial, shouted at her to dance. She was later hospitalized and underwent surgery. At Tuesday’s sentencing, Lanez said to the judge that the plaintiff was his friend and quote, “someone I still care for to this day.”. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Eew. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Megan was not in court for the sentencing, but in a written statement said, quote, “For once, the defendant must be forced to face the full consequences of his heinous actions and face justice.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: 1,000%. Megan is in the right here. Tory Lanez, disgusting human being, as is everybody who was supporting him and like trashing Megan, who was shot. And also little focus on detail here. Why is Kylie Jenner throwing a party in July of 2020 when all of us were fucking scared we were going to die? [laughter] I don’t know. Just asking the questions here. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, you remember the celebrities weren’t following all of the rules because they, you know, had money. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And access to all of the things that they needed. So they weren’t hoarding toilet paper like everyone else. If you remember that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: All too well, sadly. And finally, in Idaho, six college professors and two teachers unions sued the state on Tuesday to challenge a law that they argue violates their First Amendment right to academic speech. At issue is the No Public Funds for Abortion Act or NPFAA, a 2021 law which prohibits the use of public funds to, quote, “promote or counsel in favor of abortion.” Public employees who break that law could be fired, fined, imprisoned and required to repay any, quote unquote, “misused funds.” The lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Idaho argues that the law is, quote, “simultaneously sweeping and unclear” and, quote, “violates the First Amendment by banning academic speech that could be construed as supporting abortion.” The case includes a Boise State University professor of social work and five University of Idaho professors who teach political science, philosophy, American literature, and journalism. Because of the law’s vague terms, the suit says that educators in the state have already changed or removed course materials, and one professor said that they did so out of fear of prosecution. The plaintiffs in the case are asking the court to declare the law unconstitutional under the First and 14th Amendments and to bar its enforcement as it relates to discussions about abortion in the classroom. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I’ve been saying since I graduated high school that I was at a disadvantage because of how horrible South Carolina’s education system is. And now with all of these new rules popping up in various different places, I’m concerned about the future Priyanka. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The kids aren’t going to be getting even the horrible education that I got. They’re getting worse. 


Priyanka Aribindi: On one hand, it’s like a little egalitarian, like everyone’s getting a shitty education that’s not sufficient, but like, I don’t think this is what we were going for. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We were trying to rectify that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely that.


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Lend a hand to those in Hawaii and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just memos by team Trump like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And why can’t we win the lottery? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously, I can’t think of a more deserving duo. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I could do a lot of things with $1.6 billion dollars okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. You know how many dates of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé we could go to with $1.5 billion dollars, see the whole tour. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Every city. I’m traveling with Beyonce. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Every show! 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s you, me, and Blue Ivy just at every stop. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers. Our intern is Ryan Cochran and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.