Move Over, Monkeypox | Crooked Media
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September 25, 2022
What A Day
Move Over, Monkeypox

In This Episode

  • Almost 750 demonstrators were arrested in Russia on Saturday. They were protesting president Vladimir Putin’s declaration from last week of a “partial mobilization” or a draft in which some men are being called up to join the war. Plus, Ukraine’s response to Putin’s nuclear threats.
  • The number of new cases of monkeypox in the U.S. are down significantly since their peak just about a month ago. Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, host of Crooked’s “America Dissected,” tells us why.
  • And in headlines: an Arizona judge reinstated a near-total abortion ban from 1864, Hurricane Fiona hit eastern Canada, and Rihanna announced that she will headline next year’s Super Bowl halftime show.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, September 26th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Abdul El-Sayed: And I’m Abdul El-Sayed. And this is What A Day where we help you fight against news burnout as hard as the Costco hot dogs fight against inflation. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, but that heartburn you going to get when you’re done, maybe it’s not worth it. I don’t know. I don’t know. 


Abdul El-Sayed: I said inflation, not indigestion. [laughter] On today’s show, an Arizona judge reinstated an abortion ban from the 19th century. Plus, NASA is gearing up to hit an asteroid with a spaceship. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That does not sound good, but we’ll get into it. But first, an update on the Russia Ukraine war. Almost 750 demonstrators were arrested in Russia on Saturday. They were protesting President Vladimir Putin’s declaration from last week of a so-called partial mobilization. Those are basically Putin’s code words for a draft in which some men are being called up to join the war. The move was supposed to prioritize men with service experience, but there are already reports about folks with no experience being summoned. Now, up to this point, we haven’t spoken too much about dissent within Russia. And that’s because the Kremlin doesn’t exactly believe in free speech. So criticism of the government is more muted and you’re not often going to read or hear mass public dissent as you might in the U.S. But there is this youth democratic movement known as Vesna, which translates to spring. They’re behind these recent anti mobilization demonstrations that have folks assembling in the streets under the motto, quote, “No mobilization to the grave”. And in response to these protests, police searched the homes of members of Vesna and the homes of several activists and journalists working for independent news outlets. Police also broke up demonstrations and arrested people in confrontations that were recorded and spread widely on social media. Oh, and get this, many of the men who’ve been detained at these demonstrations over the last few days were given actual draft summonses while they were in custody. 


Abdul El-Sayed: So Putin’s approach to trying to win this war is to put a bunch of people protesting against war on the front lines of war. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Great. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Real logical, for sure. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Makes a lot of sense. These protesters could face up to 15 years in prison for, quote, “spreading false information about the military”, which became a criminal offense in Russia this March. So what exactly is motivating people to stand up right now? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, well, it should be noted that you have the folks in the streets who are protesting, but you also have citizens showing kind of their dissent or at least trying to in other ways as well. You’ve got the folks that are trying to flee the country, right? The cost of one way flights from Russia skyrocketed last week with many airlines selling out. And the border crossings with Finland and Georgia have apparently been clogged with cars over the last couple of days. And then you’ve got some of the actual men who’ve been drafted also pushing back. In one video on social media, a group of men being loaded onto a bus break out into a skirmish with police, telling the officers to come die with them. And I think it’s that point, right, that these men are being forced to risk their lives for this war is the main thing motivating dissent? And how could it not be right? We’ve seen prior reports about local Russians trying to kind of stay out of politics as a means of survival. Right. You don’t talk about it then you don’t have to worry about the police showing up at your house. But the partial mobilization has made many of them literal pawns in the war, as Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address over the weekend. He was speaking directly to folks in Russia. He said, quote, “Russian commanders do not care about the lives of Russians. They just need to replenish the empty spaces left by the dead, wounded, those who fled, or the Russian soldiers that were captured. The key moment has come for you. Right now, it is being decided whether your life will end or not”. 


Abdul El-Sayed: That is so dire. You can imagine these folks recognize that the real fight for their lives isn’t on the battlefield. It’s right here in Russia. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Alongside Putin declaring the mobilization last week, he also made some barely veiled nuclear threats. 


Tre’vell Anderson: He did, yes. Among other things, he said that Russia would use, quote, “all weapons systems available” to protect the country’s, quote, “independence and freedom”. And you don’t need to read too far between the lines to know that he’s talking about the country’s large nuclear arsenal. I say every day on this show, I don’t like when people play around with nuclear codes and stuff like that. Zelensky, for one, by the way, is trying to get folks to take Putin’s threat seriously. On yesterday’s Face the Nation, Zelensky said, quote, “I don’t think he’s bluffing. He wants to scare the whole world. These are the first steps of his nuclear blackmail. We need to keep putting pressure on him and not allow him to continue”. Now, on Friday’s show, we played a bit of President Biden’s remarks from the U.N. General Assembly in response to Putin, which basically amounted to, in the words of the great songwriter, quote, “run up, get done up”. All right. And on Sunday, administration officials said that while they take the threat seriously, there has been no evidence of Russia moving or preparing to actually use a nuclear weapon. So that’s some good news, I suppose. Meanwhile, Russia is still supporting referendum votes in four Ukrainian regions that they control. They’re basically asking people if they want to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The voting, which ends early this week, is widely believed to be a pretext for Russia to annex these territories like they did with Crimea back in 2014, even though much of the world sees the votes as illegal. So as always, we will keep covering this story as it develops. 


Abdul El-Sayed: And it just seems to get deeper and deeper into this morass of sorrow. On that note, I do want to move on to a story that maybe offers a glimmer of hope. And it’s public health news. But in a rare twist. Positive. The number of new cases of monkeypox in the U.S. are down significantly since their peak just about a month ago. The doubling time, the time it takes for the number of cases to double is a helpful way to assess viral spread. At the peak of the spread just a month ago, doubling time was eight days and there were 500 new cases every single day. Now there are only about 200 a day, prolonging the doubling time, almost threefold to 25 days. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. Less cases a day, longer doubling time. I’m following. This is good news, Abdul. Thank you for that. We needed it. But do we know why this is actually happening? 


Abdul El-Sayed: There’s never really just one explanation. Instead, the decline in cases is a result of a few key trends. First, it’s vaccinations. Early response to the virus was really slow, with lots of delays in the effort to get vaccines in arms. But since many more folks have been vaccinated across the country, the administration has given nearly 500,000 doses of vaccine. And it’s not just that they’ve put doses in arms, it’s that they’re targeting the folks at the highest risk. Public health officials have turned to the same tactic that we used to eradicate smallpox decades ago, which is called ring vaccination. It takes advantage of the fact that monkeypox is such a long period between when someone might be exposed and when you can vaccinate them to prevent them from actually getting the disease. So the minute someone tests positive for monkeypox, officials identify all of that person’s potential contacts and vaccinate them, forming a sort of ring around the individual. And you’ve also got to give a lot of credit to folks who’ve been taking the public health advice to reduce the number of sexual partners and encounters seriously. A recent survey of folks at the highest risk who public health folks call men who have sex with men, found that about half had implemented that advice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I will also shout out the broader LGBTQ community when when some of those issues that you mention that were happening with the rollout, particularly here in L.A., were going on, community kind of got together and started, you know, connecting people to different resources. It took me 3 hours to get my first shot Abdul, waiting outside in a very long line in the hot sun. But we did it anyway, so I’m glad to hear this positive news about the numbers being down. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, I just want to echo that shout out. It’s amazing how the LGBTQ community have come around and rallied both to hold government accountable and then to do things like wait in line to get vaccinated, to stop the spread. You know, major kudos. And it’s a reminder that uh too often the public health community has ignored the LGBTQ community. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Abdul El-Sayed: And it harkens back to a terrible history when it comes to HIV. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So does all this mean we’re done with monkeypox? 


Abdul El-Sayed: Not quite Tre’vell. As much as I wish that were true. One of the leaders of the federal monkeypox response said that they’re aiming for a, quote, “full eradication”. But there’s one hiccup here. Eradication means that the virus is actually gone. And one of the challenges with this virus is that it’s not just a human virus. It can jump into animals. So even if we reduce the spread among humans, there’s always the risk it can jump back into humans from infected animals. That means it’s not likely that we can fully eradicate monkeypox like we did with it’s cousin smallpox, which doesn’t infect animals. There’s also the fact that we’re only now starting to understand some of the complications of the virus. There have been two deaths tied to monkeypox, and doctors are still trying to understand the long term consequences of infection. These can range from scars to neurological damage that can cause really terrible chronic pain. So there’s still a lot more to learn and a lot more that the public health community needs to do for folks. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 




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


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Polls closed yesterday in Italy after voters cast their ballots for the country’s next parliament and prime minister. As we go to record at 9:30 p.m. Eastern, the country’s ultra conservative political party, the Brothers of Italy, looked poised to win the most seats in parliament. If they do win the majority, their leader, Giorgia Meloni, will likely become Italy’s first female prime minister and her government will likely be Italy’s most conservative administration since World War Two. This comes after former Prime Minister Mario Draghi stepped down earlier this year, triggering a snap election for his replacement. And the Brothers of Italy have been hungry for power after refusing to join Draghi’s parliament. Still, nothing is confirmed yet. The official results of the election are expected later today. 


Abdul El-Sayed: You know Tre’vell, the tell here is that the first female prime minister is being elected by a party called the Brothers of Italy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, we in the upside down honey. [laughter]


Abdul El-Sayed: An Arizona judge perfectly summed up the backwards march of the American right last Friday by reinstating an abortion law dating back to wait for it, 1864. The law is a near-total ban on abortion, even more strict than the 15 week ban passed by Arizona lawmakers that went into effect this past weekend. It came under the consideration of a superior court judge, thanks to Arizona’s Republican attorney general. He filed a motion to vacate an injunction against it, which had resulted from the Roe decision in 1973. Reproductive rights groups have already signaled that they will appeal the judge’s decision requiring the 1864 law to be enforced. There’s disagreement in Arizona over whether the 15 week ban or the stricter ban should take precedence with the state’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, arguing for the former and the somehow more evil AG arguing for the latter. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, one of the things that I find very discouraging about all of this is we’re not debating whether or not there should be a ban or not. They’re debating how long it should be, how strict it should be, which is friggin absurd to me. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Mm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But here we are. A new autopsy report was released on Friday clarifying the cause of death for Elijah McClain, a 23 year old black man who died after an encounter with Colorado police in 2019. Remember that McClain was walking home when cops tackled him and killed him. The original autopsy said that McClain’s cause of death was undetermined, but the new report says he died due to a fatal overdose of ketamine, which paramedics gave him while he was being restrained in a chokehold by police. A Colorado grand jury indicted the three police officers who stopped McClain and the two paramedics who administered the ketamine last year. And the five defendants face a total of 32 charges, including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. They’re set to be arraigned in November. 


Abdul El-Sayed: This is a terrible, terrible story. Hurricane Fiona continued its path of destruction this past weekend, becoming one of the strongest storms on record to hit eastern Canada, including Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Officials said roofs were ripped off of buildings, homes were destroyed and it would take weeks before essential services are restored. Meanwhile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency yesterday as Tropical Storm Ian moves closer to the Sunshine State. Authorities warned the storm is likely to grow into a hurricane by today. This could likely cause flash flooding in Florida before Ian makes landfall in Cuba this week. Meanwhile, potential hurricane Ian asked for a declaration of emergency for Governor Ron. So there’s that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] That was good. If it rains at this year’s Super Bowl, we know we are staying dry because as the recently announced halftime act likes to say:. 


[music clip of Rihanna’s song Umbrella] You can stand under my umbrella. Ella, Ella, Ay ay ay. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Of course, pop icon and the titular Fenty beauty herself, Rihanna, will headline next year’s Super Bowl halftime show. Both Rihanna and the NFL announced the news yesterday. While she hasn’t released an album since 2016’s Anti, as I’m sure we all know very deeply, last year, the nine time Grammy winner let us know she was working on new music. And over the last couple of weeks, the rumor mill, you know, the Twitter streets have been catching her, coming in and out of studios. So she’s working on something. She’s cooking on something. Okay, Abdul, we can only hope that this high profile performance means it’s all coming soon. Meanwhile, this will be the first Apple Music sponsored Super Bowl halftime show as longtime sponsor Pepsi steps away after a decade of producing the annual musical spectacle which has us all asking, is Pepsi okay? 


Abdul El-Sayed: Yeah, they just stepped away to get a Coke. [laughter] Speaking of a Coke, NASA’s double asteroid redirection test team is trying out something new tonight. And they’re counting on a smash hit. At 7:14 p.m. Eastern Time tonight, NASA’s scientists and engineers are hoping that a vending machine size spacecraft, filled with Coke, [laughter] 7 million miles away will collide directly with an asteroid 500 feet in diameter. This effort represents NASA’s first planetary defense test mission, which poses the important question, if we shoot a small thing in space at a big thing in space, can we keep the big thing from killing all life on Earth? While Dimorphos, the targeted asteroid in tonight’s test, is not an unidentified threat to the Earth in its current trajectory, and nor is any asteroid for at least the next half century. Scientists say asteroids of similar size have the capacity to wipe out major cities with a direct hit. If NASA’s scientists can pull off tonight’s planned collision, a similar strategy could be deployed in the case of an actual planetary threat. Let’s hope they succeed, because I’m pretty sure our Plan B is just letting the events of the movie Don’t Look Up, play out scene by scene, or asking Rihanna if we can stand under her umbrella. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] This is giving very Galactica energy. You shoot something, it breaks into a million pieces. You save the day. Luckily, there’s no impending threat, and so they’re just experimenting but–


Abdul El-Sayed: At least not while we’re on Earth right? [laughter] Take joy in that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And those are the headlines. 


Abdul El-Sayed: One more thing before we go. What would have happened if, like fluoride, the COVID vaccine would have just been in the water? That’s one of the questions Malcolm Gladwell asks in his latest season of his podcast, Revisionist History. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And he joined our close friend and current co-host Abdul to talk about the science in practice of public health, how the way we talk about it gets in the way and how to fix it. Listen to new episodes of Abdul’s show America Dissected every Tuesday wherever you get your podcasts. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, hurdle yourself into a big asteroid and tell your friends to listen. 


Abdul El-Sayed: And if you’re into reading and not just the beautiful names of every new hurricane like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Abdul El-Sayed. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And drop the album Rihanna. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We’ve been waiting patiently for so long. 


Abdul El-Sayed: Under an asteroid proof umbrella. [laughter] Eating a Costco hot dog. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Love that for us. 


Abdul El-Sayed: And drinking a Coke! [laughter] [music break] 


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.