Nov 29, 2022 - Podcasts

Protests and upsets at the World Cup

The United States will either win the World Cup game against Iran or go home on Tuesday afternoon. The stakes are high, and so are tensions. Iranian state media has called for the U.S. to be kicked out of the World Cup after the U.S. Soccer Federation changed the Iranian flag on its social media platforms to show support for protesters there. And the Iranian soccer team could face repercussions back home for its support of protests.

  • Plus, the world’s largest active volcano is erupting.
  • And, President Biden looks to Congress to avert a rail strike.

Guests: Axios' Jeff Tracy and Hawaii Public Radio’s Jason Ubay.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, November 29th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: the world’s largest active volcano - Hawaii’s Mauna Loa - is erupting. Plus: President Biden looks to Congress to avert a rail strike. But first, protests and upsets at the World Cup – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: This afternoon, the United States will either win our World Cup game against Iran or go home. The stakes are high and so is tension around the game. Iran state media has called for the US to be kicked out of the World Cup after the US changed the Iranian flag on its social media platforms to show support for protesters there. And the Iranian soccer team may be facing their own repercussions back home for their support of the protesters.

Axios’ Jeff Tracy is covering the tournament and here to catch us up quick. Hey Jeff.

JEFF TRACY: Hi Niala. Yeah, thanks for having me on.

NIALA: So, if all of that wasn't enough Jeff, CNN's reporting that families of Iran's team have been threatened with imprisonment and torture if the players fail to quote, “behave” at today's game. What can we expect from the beginning of this?

JEFF: You know, we've already seen Iranian players protest during this very World Cup. You know, standing up for those protesters at home, they refuse to sing their national anthem before their opener against England last week. And numerous players have commented, saying they stand beside those back at home. Again, we don't know what we're gonna see, you know, at this 11th hour change if Iranian players will quote, behave, you know, as the government hopes they will. It's gonna be very, very intriguing to watch. And that's just the off field stuff, of course, there's a pretty big soccer game going on as well.

NIALA: Yeah. What about the actual game? How evenly matched are these teams?

JEFF: Pretty evenly matched. This Group B is one of the quote groups of death, really hard one to get out of. You know, with two of three matches down now in the group stage, all four teams are still alive. And, this particular game is just a winner go home. You know, the US has to win to advance to the next round. Iran advances with a win, and they could even advance with the tie. They're both top 20 teams in the world. This would actually mark the first time ever that Iran has made it through to the next round. So it's, you know, extra charged for the players and team, just on the soccer side of things.

NIALA: The US match on Friday against England broke records with more than 15.3 million viewers on Fox. I was one of them. According to the network, it was the most watched men's soccer match in history on English language TV in the US. What does that say about how popular as a sport soccer is becoming?

JEFF: Oh, I mean, it's been growing by leaps and bounds for years now. It's one of the big reasons, it was such a bummer that in 2018 the US failed to make the World Cup. It would've been this really big sort of inflection point, I think. But despite that, with the NWSL, the Women's Professional League growing, with MLS continuing to expand and getting more popular by the year. And now this really young, exciting US team on the verge of making the knockout stage right now. Even if we draw or lose and don't make it to the knockouts, its been a pretty good showing, a lot of good things to look forward to in the next four years, and certainly when we host the World Cup in 2026.

NIALA: Meanwhile, this 2022 World Cup has been a crazy one of upsets, Argentina, Belgium, Japan. Jeff, is this gonna go down as the upset World Cup?

JEFF: You know, it certainly looks like that right now. But, there is a possibility. We sort of see similar things in March Madness every year, which this does sort of feel like a very similar tournament, albeit on a much broader, you know, more important stage. But oftentimes the narrative through the first few days of the World Cup is that March Madness narrative. A ton of upsets. “Oh my, is this gonna finally be the year that the Cinderella goes all the way?” Usually by the end of the tournament, you're seeing teams in the final four, the elite eight, that you would've expected to be there, from the start. And again, with one group stage match left for every team, that still very well may be the case. Still a lot of soccer left and a lot of teams still alive for the knockouts.

JEFF: Jeff Tracy covers sports for Axios. Thanks, Jeff.

JEFF: Thanks so much.

President Biden looks to Congress to avert a rail strike

NIALA: President Biden last night asked Congress to intervene to avoid a major rail strike. In a statement Biden called for legislation that would force rail worker unions to accept a deal… a deal they voted against because it doesn’t include paid sick leave.

This is a change for the administration, which had said it hoped the parties would work it out. But Biden said yesterday the Secretaries of Labor, Agriculture and Transportation don’t think an agreement can be reached - and have recommended Congressional action. A coalition of business groups led by the US Chamber of Commerce also asked Congress yesterday to intervene…saying a strike would cost the US economy $2 billion a day.

In last night’s statement, Biden said that as a pro-labor president, he was reluctant to go against the wishes of the unions… But that quote “in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.” End quote.

A strike could come as soon as December 9th if the agreement isn’t adopted.

NIALA: In a moment, we go to Hawaii for the latest on the eruption of Mauna Loa.


The world’s largest active volcano is erupting

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

The world's largest, most active volcano Mauna Loa began erupting late Sunday night, the first activity in almost 40 years. Hawaiian authorities say the volcano poses no current threat to humans and are urging calm vigilance. Hawaii Public Radio’s Jason Ubay joins us now from Honolulu. Hi Jason.


NIALA: Jason, since the last eruption in 1984, the Big Island's population has more than doubled. To around 200,000 residents, but right now authorities are saying people are not in danger?

JASON:Not with this current eruption. So, as you mentioned, Mauna Loa, this is the first time since 1984. We have had different volcanoes erupt. Kīlauea has been off and on since 1983. And the last big eruption in 2018 did disrupt the community but Mauna Loa has currently, the eruption has been in the summit, but has been slowly flowing down to the northeast zone, which is going into more rural areas where it's less populated.

There is concern that if it does go to the Southwest area, it could get to more populated communities and it has done that in the past. Those have been historically populated areas since the early 20th century. So that is the main concern. But as of Monday, everything's looking okay and mostly in the summit and mostly in unpopulated areas.

NIALA: You mentioned Kīlauea's eruption in 2018. I know that changed the island of Hawaii forever. There were 700 homes destroyed. How prepared are people for something like this?

JASON: The seismic activity started back in September. So there were some earthquakes, actually earthquakes all year. But sometime in September people started like, “oh, this could be, you know, it could erupt within the year or it could erupt in 20 years.” Cause it is, we are talking about geologic time, which could span eons. So people were prepared. They have their go bags, a matter of hours in some places where they can get a call and they have to evacuate. But you know, if you live on the Big Island, you kind of know that, you are sitting next to volcanoes, and it could be erupted at any time. So you just gotta be ready to go.

NIALA: Jason, what do you think is often misunderstood about volcanoes and volcanoes erupting?

JASON: I grew up in California, so when I moved here, I always thought, oh, if the volcano erupts, it's gonna be like Mt. Vesuvius. And we're just, you know, it's over. And I'm gonna be cased in ash forever and a, you know, thousand years from now, they're gonna find me. But, that's usually not the case here. There was some ash so the air quality is pretty bad right now on the Big Island. But the warnings have been lifted. The other thing about Mauna Loa, it is the largest volcano on the island. So compared to Kīlauea, there is just a bigger reservoir for magma. So there could just be a lot more lava in there. The other thing is, you know, people do live here and there will probably be a rush for rental cars and those sorts of things. Just please be patient and roads are not closed now, but they could be in the future and there could just be a lot of traffic. And just like with the volcano in 2018, I think people did want to see the volcano. It is something that is awe inspiring, but people's lives are upended by these sorts of events, and I think it is good to have empathy and compassion for folks that, you know, this is a natural disaster for some, and not just a spectacle for everyone.

NIALA: Jason Ubay is the managing editor of news for Hawaii Public Radio. Thanks Jason.

JASON: Thank you.

NIALA: That’s it for us today! I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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