Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty, FDA OKs mixing COVID boosters: 5 Things podcast

·9 min read

On today's episode of the 5 Things podcast: Parkland killer Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty. The mass murderer will now try to avoid the death penalty after killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018. Plus, the House votes on whether to hold Steve Bannon in contempt, the FDA gives the OK on mixing COVID-19 vaccines, today is equal pay day for Hispanic American women and 'Dune' hits theaters.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Thursday, the 21st of October, 2021. Today, the Parkland shooter pleads guilty. Plus the House votes on holding Steve Bannon in contempt and more.

Taylor Wilson:

Here are some of the top headlines.

  1. The FBI says it has found possible human remains along with personal items believed to be from Brian Laundrie in a Florida park. Laundrie has been missing for weeks after his fiance Gabby Petito was murdered.

  2. Nearly 200 people are dead after heavy rains in Nepal and India. At least 40 people are still missing in Nepal.

  3. And a town in the Australian Outback has been overwhelmed by requests after putting out an offer of free land. The town of Quilpie came up with the idea to overcome a housing shortage.

Taylor Wilson:

The House will vote today to hold former Trump advisor Steve Bannon in contempt. Lawmakers say he violated a subpoena from the panel investigating the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Bannon was reportedly talking to then-President Donald Trump in the days leading up to the attack, encouraging him to focus on the electoral process while lawmakers were counting electoral college votes to confirm the victory of President Joe Biden. The House committee investigating January 6th voted early this week to hold Bannon in contempt. But during a House rules committee meeting on that resolution yesterday, democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin and Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz traded jabs.

Jamie Raskin:

Let's just change the hypothetical. This one element, Mr. Gaetz. Let's say it wasn't the Proud Boys. Let's say it wasn't the Oath Keepers. Let's say it wasn't the Three Percenters. Let's say it wasn't the Aryan Nations. Let's say it was Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Would you really not want an investigation into what happened with that attack on America?

Matt Gaetz:

If Al-Qaeda or ISIS attacked the U.S. Capitol, I would think that the least capable institution to bring them to justice would be this January 6th committee-

Jamie Raskin:

You would not want-

Matt Gaetz:

I would far prefer the legal process to play out or the military process to play out. If the American people had to rely on the Congress itself as an institution to protect us from ISIS without law enforcement, without the military, it would be in deep, deep trouble.

Taylor Wilson:

After the January 6th panel approve the ban in contempt vote, the full House will vote on it later today.

Taylor Wilson:

The gunman who killed 17 people in the infamous Parkland, Florida shooting in 2018 has pleaded guilty. Nikolas Cruz, who is now 23 years old, apologized for the atrocity yesterday while entering his guilty plea to 17 first degree murder charges.

Nikolas Cruz:

I am very sorry for what I did and I have to live with it every day. And that if I were to get a second chance, I will do everything my power to try to help others. And I am doing this for you and I do not care if you do not believe me. And I love you. And I know you don't believe me, but I have to live with this every day and it brings me nightmares and I can't live with myself sometimes.

Taylor Wilson:

The legal question in the case now turns to whether he will be sentenced to death. His attorneys say they will argue against the death penalty. At the hearing, a judge asked Cruz questions to test his mental competency. She also told him that entering a guilty plea would mean waving certain constitutional rights. The circuit judge, Elizabeth Scherer also read through the names of each of the students and teachers who Cruz killed, asking for a plea for each one, including additional counts of attempted murder.

Elizabeth Scherer:

To count one of the indictment, murder in the first degree of victim, Luke Hoyer. How do you wish to plea?

Nikolas Cruz:

Guilty.

Elizabeth Scherer:

Count 25, attempted murder in the first degree of Samantha Grady. How do you wish to plea?

Nikolas Cruz:

Guilty.

Elizabeth Scherer:

Count 26, attempted murder in the first degree of Samantha Fuentes. How do you wish to plea?

Nikolas Cruz:

Guilty.

Taylor Wilson:

Each murder charge carries a minimum of life in prison without parole. And a sentencing trial is expected in the next few months. Cruz was also sentenced yesterday to 26 years in prison on charges related to an attack on a jail guard nine months after the shooting. Armed with an AR 15 semi-automatic rifle, Cruz as a 19 year old shot and killed 14 students and three teachers on Valentine's Day, more than three years ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Survivors have been reacting to Cruz's guilty plea, including Anthony Borges who was shot five times.

Anthony Borges:

I didn't feel scared. He's a human. I'm a human too. He took his decision to shoot the school. That's for everybody. He took his decision to do it. Now he's facing it. That's not my right. I'm not God to take the decision to kill him or not. That's not my decision. My decision is to be better person and to change the world. And every kid, I don't want nobody to happen this again. It hurts. It hurts. It really hurts.

Taylor Wilson:

The rampage was the deadliest shooting at a high school in U.S. history and sparked national conversations on guns and school safety. A group of students who survived the shooting organized a massive protest in Washington weeks later to demand changes to gun laws.

Taylor Wilson:

The Food and Drug Administration has given the okay on mixing doses of different COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA's acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock said that the decision aims to give more people more flexibility on vaccines, adding that some may not even remember which vaccine they got and others may want to switch brands because they had some sort of reaction or side effect that they'd like to avoid. The CDC still needs to sign off on booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. A vaccine advisory panel will consider that today and the decision would then need approval from the CDCs director.

Taylor Wilson:

The Moderna booster would be half the dose as the original, while J&J's would stay the same. Pfizer's vaccine booster is already available for those who got that shot if they meet certain criteria. Like Pfizer boosters under FDA recommendations, those who got jabbed with Moderna will become eligible for boosters six months after their initial two doses if they're over the age of 65 or at high risk of the virus because of health problems, jobs, or living conditions. For Johnson & Johnson, anyone who got the single dose vaccine will be able to get a second dose two months after the initial dose with no restrictions.

Taylor Wilson:

Today is Equal Pay Day for Hispanic-American women. As of today, 22 months since the start of 2020, the average Hispanic woman's pay for 2020 combined with 2021 now equals $67,629. That's the average non-Hispanic white man's pay for 2020 alone. Women in general are overrepresented in many of the country's lowest paying jobs or those paying less than $12 an hour according to a 2018 National Women's Law Center Study of Labor Stats. And that's especially true for Latinas. In that study, they made up 7.7% of the overall workforce but 16% of the low-paid workforce and many are now out of work altogether. According to last month's jobs report, nearly half a million fewer Hispanic women are working full-time jobs than they were in February of 2020, just before the pandemic shutdowns. They currently have a 5.6% unemployment rate compared with 4.2% nationwide.

Taylor Wilson:

But those numbers would be 9.3% for Latinas and 5.7% nationally if those who left the workforce were included. Hispanic women disproportionately occupy low paying and high risk jobs, which they may have had to leave during the pandemic for a number of reasons. For more on these trends, including some graphics to help you make sense of the numbers I just went into, you can search Hispanic women on usatoday.com.

Taylor Wilson:

Dune is here.

Trailer audio:

My planet Arrakis is so beautiful when the sun is low. Rolling over the sands, you can see spice in the air. The outsiders ravaged our lands in front of our eyes. Their cruelty to my people is all I've known.

Taylor Wilson:

Director Denis Villeneuve's big budget adaptation of Frank Herbert's sci-fi novel hits theaters and HBO Max today. The movie follows a space prince played by Timothée Chalamet whose dad played by Oscar Isaac is caught in a war over the deadly planet of Arrakis, which has an abundance of a precious resource called spice. Also in the cast are Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and Josh Brolin. But our movie critic, Brian Truitt says it's a bit more style than substance and gives it two and a half out of four stars.

Taylor Wilson:

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. We ask that if you're on Apple Podcasts, to drop us five stars if you get a chance and you can find us on whatever your favorite podcast app is. Thanks as always to Shannon Green and Claire Thornton for the great work on the show. And I'm back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from the USA TODAY Network.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nikolas Cruz faces death penalty trial, Dune hits theaters: 5 Things podcast

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