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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Two big elections let big-city voters give their views on public safety.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

One city is Los Angeles, the other San Francisco. That famously progressive city recalled its progressive district attorney. Chesa Boudin lost his job. He was defiant, though, in his defeat.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHESA BOUDIN: We have two cities. We have two systems of justice, right? We have one for the wealthy and the well-connected and a different one for everybody else. And that's exactly what we are fighting to change.

FADEL: Opponents linked the DA's policies to crime during the pandemic.

INSKEEP: So what is the Pacific Coast telling us? KQED political correspondent Marisa Lagos is in San Francisco. Good morning.

MARISA LAGOS, BYLINE: Morning.

INSKEEP: Thanks for joining us so early.

LAGOS: Yeah.

INSKEEP: What was it that voters disliked about Boudin?

LAGOS: Well, I think you have to look at who he is. He's a former public defender. His parents were actually a part of the radical Weather Underground, and they spent decades in prison for their part in an armed robbery in which two police officers were killed, as well as another man. And he really always had a target on his back. Police and law enforcement did not like him. He also only won about a third of the city's vote in our ranked-choice voting system. And then he took over right as the pandemic was beginning, really ran promising reform, things like diverting more offenders away from jail and into treatment and not pursuing harsh sentencing enhancements. That wasn't that different from his predecessors, but the pandemic shook things up here, as everywhere, you know? And his opponents really managed to make him the face of crime and criminal justice failings, really using a handful of cases to paint him as the problem in this city. And not all of it fair, but, you know, people kind of vote with their hearts and their feelings.

INSKEEP: Should Democrats worry if progressive law enforcement gets voted down this way in San Francisco?

LAGOS: I mean, I think they are, and I think conservatives are cheering. But I would just caution that I think Boudin is a pretty singular candidate. And this was a very well-funded recall, more than $8 million, a lot of it from Republicans and folks out of town. And they really played into a lot of fears and frustrations that bubbled up over the past few years. But clearly, questions of public safety and crime are big, as are questions around policing and police accountability. But I will say, we're not seeing clear trends when we look at other races in California among prosecutors.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about another race. Wasn't public safety also an issue in yesterday's primary for mayor in Los Angeles?

LAGOS: Yeah, that and homelessness were the issues. And the candidates included Congresswoman Karen Bass, who was on the shortlist for vice president. She's in the top two now. Here's what she told her election party.

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KAREN BASS: We are going to build the Los Angeles of the future. We're going to fight for the soul of our city, and we are going to win the fight.

(CHEERING)

LAGOS: So, Steve, she'll be facing billionaire developer Rick Caruso, former Republican, former no party preference. He re-registered as a Democrat and has spent about $40 million. Here he was addressing supporters.

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RICK CARUSO: We will not allow this city to decline. We will no longer accept excuses. We have the power to change direction in Los Angeles, and that's the way we're voting.

INSKEEP: Okay. So they're going to vote again in Los Angeles. Are there other results that point at public safety as a big issue for Californians in yesterday's primary?

LAGOS: I think it's kind of clear it was a big night for Democratic incumbents in California, and it does seem like the frustration is being taken out more on local, not statewide, officials, including in our attorney general race and Democratic governor's race. So I think there's a lot of uncertainty about whether this will be the issue in November or whether it'll be more about gun control or abortion or inflation, quite frankly.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) At the pace history is going, it could be anything several months from now.

LAGOS: Exactly. Exactly (laughter).

INSKEEP: KQED's Marisa Lagos. Thanks so much.

LAGOS: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: The war in Ukraine has disrupted one of the world's great sources of grain.

FADEL: Many countries rely on Ukrainian grain, but right now the crops typically exported through the Black Sea are being blocked. Today, Turkey's top diplomat is meeting Russia's foreign minister in a possible effort to reopen a trade route through the sea.

INSKEEP: NPR's Peter Kenyon is in Istanbul. Hey there, Peter.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So the foreign ministers have been meeting in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. What are they saying?

KENYON: Well, once the meeting broke up, Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu came out for a news conference. The Turkish foreign minister said it's vital that all sides agree to a mechanism to get these exports moving again. And he added, if those exports are allowed to resume, then Russia should get serious consideration for its demand that Western sanctions against it be lifted. For his part, Lavrov sounded fairly diplomatic. He called on all sides to respect international treaties. He said Russia does need to have its security concerns addressed. So it basically sounds like these talks could help move things toward a diplomatic track and possibly a solution. Lavrov also said they are trying to minimize civilian damage and casualties. There'd be some dispute about that. But of course, we'll have to see what happens next.

INSKEEP: I'm just trying to figure out the mechanics of this. So they grow the grain in Ukraine on the planes. They get it into Black Sea ports in normal times. And doesn't it normally go right past your home there in Istanbul on the way to the Middle East and Africa and places like that?

KENYON: Well, it does. There are a lot of interesting vessels that come up and down the Bosporus strait, and those grain ships were certainly part of it. Not so many recently.

INSKEEP: Yeah.

KENYON: But if these talks are successful, then hopefully that will soon resume...

INSKEEP: And then...

KENYON: ...'Cause this is a lot of grain for Africa and the Middle East.

INSKEEP: And then help me understand - because it's Turkey that's now making this ask. And I see that Turkey is on the route, but do they have leverage somehow? Do they have anything they can offer or push on Russia to allow the grain through?

KENYON: I'm not sure it's a question of pushing and pressuring and powerful leverage. There is this convention called the Montreal Convention, and it does charge Turkey with administering the passage of vessels up and down to and from the Black Sea. It's largely a matter of them getting advance notification. It isn't so much that Turkey can just put its foot down and say no. But they clearly have a big interest here. They are trying to be the front edge of the diplomatic push to resolve the issue.

INSKEEP: So tell me about one other thing going on here because we know about the Russian ships, those that haven't been sunk, which are in the Black Sea, and declared these ports closed on the Ukrainian coast, but isn't there an issue of Ukrainian mines or somebody's mines in the water?

KENYON: There is very much. It's a big Russian concern that mines, particularly around Odesa, be removed and cleaned up. And that, according to a foreign policy analyst I spoke with - his name is Yoruk Isik; he's based here in Istanbul - he says it sounds like a reasonable demand, but it entails possibly great risk for Ukraine if it does de-mine Odesa. Here's a bit of what he said.

YORUK ISIK: So now they are telling us, of course, they should de-mine - the Ukrainians de-mine the Odesa port. Of course, there is absolutely no issues. What world is promising to Ukraine that Russians won't suddenly change their mind and invade the only remaining Black Sea port area that Ukraine still has?

KENYON: So he says it may look bad now, but things could get much worse for Ukraine.

INSKEEP: Peter, thanks for the insights. Really appreciate it.

KENYON: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul.

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INSKEEP: In this country, Americans may soon have access to a fourth COVID-19 vaccine.

FADEL: An FDA advisory committee has voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the agency authorize a more traditional type of shot. The injection was created by the company Novavax, based in Maryland. Data shows it's about 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.

INSKEEP: NPR health correspondent Rob Stein is on this story. Rob, good morning.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Leila just called it a more traditional type of shot. What are we talking about here?

STEIN: It's what's known as a protein subunit vaccine because it works by injecting a protein from the virus, along with a substance called an adjuvant, which kind of turbocharges the immune system's reaction to that protein. And a study involving about 30,000 people found two shots of the vaccine three weeks apart was about 90% effective at protecting people against COVID-19.

INSKEEP: Isn't that about the same as the vaccines we already have?

STEIN: Yeah, you're right. This Novavax vaccine looks like it probably works just about as well as the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech injections, but the Novavax vaccine works in an entirely different way. It uses that much more traditional approach, a strategy that's been used for decades to make many other vaccines. So the hope is that it just may make it more appealing to some of the millions of people who still haven't gotten vaccinated, you know, people who just don't like the idea of using the brand-new mRNA technology that the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines use. Those vaccines inject genetic coding that turns cells into little factories that churn out a protein from the virus, and that makes some people nervous and has been the fodder for lots of misinformation that has made some people avoid getting vaccinated. Now, the FDA says the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are very safe, but here's how Dr. Peter Marks from the FDA put it during a daylong meeting of the agency's outside advisers yesterday.

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PETER MARKS: A protein-based alternative may be more comfortable for some in terms of their acceptance of vaccine.

STEIN: Now, some experts are skeptical that this distinction will make much of a difference. And there are still some questions about the Novavax vaccine. It may cause the same kind of rare inflammation of the heart that sometimes occurs in people who get the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Here's Dr. Arthur Reingold from the University of California, Berkeley, one of the FDA's advisers who endorsed the vaccine at the meeting.

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ARTHUR REINGOLD: I'm hoping to be proven wrong and that there are large numbers of people who sign up for this vaccine who wouldn't take an mRNA vaccine, but count me as skeptical about that.

STEIN: It's also unclear how well the Novavax vaccine works against the omicron variant since that strain wasn't circulating when the vaccine was tested. Several omicron subvariants are now dominant in the U.S., including two that are now on the rise that are even better at dodging the immune system.

INSKEEP: OK, I guess we don't have final-final approval then for this new Novavax vaccine. What happens next?

STEIN: That's right. That's right. The FDA will now have to decide whether to go along with the advisory committee's recommendation and authorize the vaccine. It doesn't have to, but it usually does. And if the FDA does greenlight the Novavax vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will weigh in with recommendations about how best to use it. We'll also have to see how much of this vaccine will actually become available. One of the reasons this vaccine wasn't authorized sooner was the company has had problems ramping up production. But, you know, Steve, another role this vaccine might be able to play is as a booster. The federal government's planning another big booster campaign in the fall to try to protect people against another potential surge next winter, and the Novavax vaccine might end up being one of the options for that.

INSKEEP: Rob, thanks very much for your reporting.

STEIN: Sure thing. It's always a pleasure, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Rob Stein. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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