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News brief: Colorado shooting, railroad contract, Thanksgiving meal costs

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are learning more about the shooting over the weekend that killed five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The shooter could face five charges of murder and five charges of violent hate crime. We're also learning more about the man who tackled the gunman and stopped the violence.

MARTIN: KUNC's Lucas Brady Woods has been covering all this, and he joins us now from Colorado. Thanks for being here, Lucas.

LUCAS BRADY WOODS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: What more can you tell us about the investigation at this point?

WOODS: Well, law enforcement held a press conference yesterday afternoon, and they hadn't actually confirmed the charges then, and they didn't elaborate on them, but officials stress that the investigation is ongoing, including into the shooter's motivation. At that point, they had not quite called this a hate crime. They hadn't officially gone that far yet, although Colorado Springs' police chief did say it felt like one. District Attorney Michael Allen said his office is going to be very careful about what information it releases.

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MICHAEL ALLEN: We have an interest in making sure that any conviction we achieve in a case like this can withstand the appeal process. So we'll be very careful about the information that we share, at least as it relates to the DA's office.

WOODS: The alleged shooter, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, was still in the hospital as of last night but will appear in court by video as soon as he's released.

MARTIN: And we're learning more about the victims, right?

WOODS: Yeah. Two of the victims, Daniel Aston and Derrick Rump, were well-known bartenders at Club Q. The others were patrons of the nightclub - Kelly Loving, Raymond Green Vance and Ashley Green Paugh (ph). Also, two club patrons were the ones who actually stopped the gunman. One of them is an Army veteran named Richard Fierro, who was at the club with his family. He says he was able to pull the gunman to the ground, which made him drop the rifle. Then Fierro and another bystander, Thomas James, were able to subdue him.

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RICHARD FIERRO: I was proud to be a soldier. I'm not a G.I. Joe. I'm just a normal guy, man. I'm protecting my family. And I reached up, and I did what I had to do.

MARTIN: That was a clip from Fierro there speaking on CNN yesterday.

WOODS: Yeah. Law enforcement said the shooter would definitely have inflicted more harm if they didn't intervene. I should note that Vance, one of those killed, was the boyfriend of Fierro's daughter.

MARTIN: You're having conversations with people in Colorado Springs. What are they telling you as they work through what's happened there?

WOODS: Well, Colorado Springs is a particularly conservative city, and Club Q is one of just a few LGBTQ-friendly venues there. It's been a place where that community could come together and have fun, while, most importantly, feeling safe. But I want to touch on the timing of the shooting. The midterm elections just ended, and a lot of people are pointing to the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric voiced by many of the candidates here in Colorado and across the country. In Colorado, though, for example, Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who just won reelection in a surprisingly close race, has repeatedly said that the LGBTQ community is, quote, "grooming children." And Republican Heidi Ganahl made anti-transgender misinformation a centerpiece in her failed bid for governor against incumbent Jared Polis, who is openly gay.

Yesterday, I talked to Brianna Titone, who is Colorado's first openly transgender lawmaker, and she said this kind of rhetoric has consequences.

BRIANNA TITONE: They're just fueling the fire on these issues, which makes somebody with a gun want to do something. And that's a dangerous combination.

WOODS: Just this year, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in legislatures across the country, and data show hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people are on the rise.

MARTIN: KUNC's Lucas Brady Woods for us in Colorado. Thanks for your reporting, Lucas. We appreciate it.

WOODS: Thank you.

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MARTIN: We depend a whole lot on rail workers. They are at the heart of this country's supply chain. That's why there is so much concern right now that they could go on strike.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. This week, the largest of the freight rail unions became the latest to vote down a five-year contract agreement.

MARTIN: NPR's Andrea Hsu is here to explain how we got here, what to expect going forward. Hey, Andrea.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: Hey, Rachel.

MARTIN: First off, I thought we reported this already. I thought there was a deal not that long ago. What happened?

HSU: Yeah. Well, let's go back to summer. Back then, the railroads and the unions had been negotiating this contract for three years and getting nowhere. It was so bad President Biden had to intervene. So he appointed this emergency board to come up with a framework for an agreement. And then in September - this is what you remember - the two largest rail unions and the railroads came to D.C. They huddled with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh for 20 hours straight. They emerged with a deal that they thought the rank-and-file would be happy with or at least accept. And you'll recall, Biden even took a little victory lap celebrating the deal as a win for everyone.

But the workers still had to vote on it. And here's how that's gone. There are 12 freight rail unions in all. Four of them have rejected the deal, and those four represent half of all the workers covered by this agreement. Now those unions have about 2 1/2 weeks to try to reach new deals with the railroad companies.

MARTIN: And if they don't, they strike?

HSU: Well, possibly. The earliest they could strike is December 9. And I should point out, the railroads could also lock workers out at that point. It's happened before. But there's some expectation that Congress would intervene. By law, Congress does have the power to do any number of things to keep trains moving, including imposing the contract that the unions voted down or an earlier version or extending the negotiations. So any strike or lockout, if it were to happen at all, might only last hours, not days.

But there's still a lot of anxiety. The National Retail Federation warned that a strike at peak holiday season would be devastating for American businesses and families who are already facing higher prices because of inflation. And, you know, more supply chain problems could cause prices to rise. The White House has called a shutdown unacceptable, noting the harm it would inflict on jobs, families, farms, businesses and communities.

MARTIN: All right. So say more, though, Andrea, about what rail workers want that the contract does not give them right now.

HSU: Well, a lot of them will tell you it's quality-of-life issues. They want paid sick days. They want more flexibility, especially those who are subject to strict attendance policies. Some are happy - unhappy with the raises built into this contract, 24% over five years - sounds like a lot, but the workers point out that barely beats inflation. And meanwhile, the railroads have been enjoying record profits, in part because they've reduced the workforce so dramatically in recent years. I talked yesterday with Jeremy Ferguson. He's president of SMART Transportation Division. That's the union that just voted down the deal yesterday. He sees the no votes as workers finding a way to have their voices heard.

JEREMY FERGUSON: I hope the railroads are listening and that the CEOs realize that they have a serious issue, you know, with the workforce.

HSU: And, Rachel, that's something we've seen in other industries as well this year, whether it's nurses and mental health workers going on strike or baristas and warehouse workers trying to form unions. They're all trying to send a message to the bosses that they're not OK with the status quo. So I think we shouldn't be too surprised that rail workers, who are so crucial to the nation's supply chain, that they're holding out at this moment just before the holidays. After all, they have the nation's attention right now, and they want to make the most of that.

MARTIN: They got a little bit of leverage, yeah. NPR's Andrea Hsu. Thank you.

HSU: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: OK. Emergency workers in Indonesia are racing to locate people who are trapped after an earthquake happened yesterday. Officials say the death count is already at hundreds and is expected to rise.

MARTÍNEZ: Rescue equipment arrived overnight in the city of Cianjur near the epicenter of the quake.

MARTIN: We're going to turn to freelance journalist Aisyah Llewellyn, who is in Sumatra, Indonesia. Good morning. Thank you so much for being here.

AISYAH LLEWELLYN: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Just give us a sense, Aisyah, of the rescue efforts. What's the status at this point?

LLEWELLYN: Well, obviously, it's a really difficult time. You have to understand also the context of what's going on in the country at the moment. So the quake itself was 5.6 in magnitude. That's relatively small. We've seen much bigger. But it was also quite shallow, just 10 kilometers, which is quite close to the surface. But unfortunately, also, we're gripped by the rainy season at the moment, so the earth is very wet. We call this time of year in Indonesia disaster season from November, December into January. That's often when we see a lot of disasters because the rains come, it causes flooding, and that can cause landslides. And unfortunately, that's exactly what happened in this case.

The earthquake came, and because the land around it was so wet and unstable, it then also triggered these landslides which collapsed on top of villages and carried away houses. And, of course, as you said, the rescue workers are desperately trying to dig people out, but because of all that mud and debris, of course, it's going to be really, really difficult.

MARTIN: Can you describe the area where this happened? I mean, is it densely populated?

LLEWELLYN: The center is quite densely populated, but there's also a lot of damage out in the villages around the main area. And my understanding is that those are the areas that have been badly hit because in the center of town, obviously, the buildings are a lot more sturdy. Out in the villages, the buildings are much more rustic and, you know, not built, really, to withstand an earthquake of this kind. And so my understanding is that a lot of the houses there, just as soon as the earthquake started, just collapsed. I mean, I spoke to one man today who said he ran out of his house in a village on the outskirts of town, and he said, all I could see around me was my neighbors' houses just falling, just toppling to the ground.

MARTIN: Oh. Any reports on critical infrastructure, like hospitals?

LLEWELLYN: Well, that was also another problem. So in Cianjur, there are a number of hospitals, but of course, what happened when the earthquake hit was they needed to evacuate all the buildings, and that included the local hospitals. So you had a situation where you had hundreds of people outside the hospitals in Cianjur because all the patients who were already in hospital were being evacuated for safety reasons. And then you had all the injured from the earthquake coming to the hospital. At the same time, the electricity went out, as you would expect, across Cianjur. So there was no electricity, and so everyone was kind of pooled outside in the parking lots of the hospitals, and really, the emergency responders just had to treat them there.

We saw people lying in the parking lots with IVs being put into them, people being stitched up who had cuts all over them, people who had broken limbs kind of having to have them splinted and just having to wait outside until it was safe to go back inside. My understanding is that today the authorities worked really hard to get all those people back inside the hospital. But what - just what an awful confluence...

MARTIN: Yeah.

LLEWELLYN: ...Of factors to all come together at the same time.

MARTIN: Aisyah Llewellyn, journalist reporting from Medan in Sumatra, Indonesia, on the earthquake that has occurred there. Thank you so much for sharing your reporting. We appreciate it.

LLEWELLYN: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.