In This Episode
- The Biden administration is pressuring Israel to scale back its war by the end of the year. And earlier this week, President Joe Biden warned that Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza was whittling away international support. But it seems like the language shift hasn’t yet caused a meaningful development in the area.
- European Union leaders decided on Thursday to open EU membership negotiations with Ukraine. This has been a longtime goal of Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky and is a boost at a time when he’s trying to bolster his country’s support from allies both in Europe and in America.
- And in headlines: the House passed a $886 billion defense policy bill, New York Republicans have figured out who should replace George Santos in his old job, and we crown WAD’s first-ever Person of the Year.
- Sign a petition for a ceasefire on Jewish Voice for Peace’s website – https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/resource/ceasefire/
- IfNotNow’s demand for a ceasefire – https://www.ifnotnowmovement.org/ceasefire-now
- Donate to the Palestinian Youth Movement – https://goodbricks.org/campaign/palestinianyouthmovement.com/donate-2022
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Friday, December 15th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is What a Day where none of you had better be taking out student loans for Musk University.
Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely not. That is Elon Musk’s university he is reportedly trying to open up in Austin, Texas.
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, you better off going to DeVry at this point. Okay.
Priyanka Aribindi: You’re better off doing a lot of things honestly. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, the European Union opened the door to Ukraine as a member. Plus, we open up the envelope to reveal WAD’s person of the year.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. But first, as we head into our holiday break, we want to update y’all on the latest regarding the war in Gaza, where despite reports that the United States is pressuring Israel to end the war by the end of the year, Prime Minister Netanyahu is digging his heels in. His office released a statement Thursday saying, quote, “I told our American friends, our heroic fighters have not fallen in vain. From the deep pain of their falling, we are more determined than ever to continue to fight until Hamas is eliminated, until absolute victory.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, those are two very different sentiments. I mean, we spoke earlier on the show this week about the shift in language that we’re starting to see with President Biden from the White House on this issue. How has that been impacting conversations?
Tre’vell Anderson: Earlier this week, Biden said that Israel’s, quote, “indiscriminate bombing was whittling away whatever international support they had,” which as you mentioned, is very different than what he and the administration was saying during the earlier parts of this conflict. But it would seem like this shift that we’re seeing now, both in terms of the administration’s articulation and in the broader court of public opinion, I’d add, hasn’t yet caused a meaningful, positive development in the area. And I think that might be because the administration is still trying to have its cake and eat it, too. They want to call out Israel for what is a lack of care for over 18,000 Gazans who’ve been killed thus far and the over 50,000 others who’ve been injured, or the millions displaced from their homes, but they’re also still endorsing Israel’s supposed right to defend itself against Hamas. And so, for example, in one breath you have National Security Council spokesman John Kirby calling for, quote, “lower intensity operations,” but unable or unwilling to describe in any real terms what that actually means. Here he is in a press conference yesterday responding to questions from a reporter, trying to get specifics about just that.
[clip of John Kirby] I think that’s best left to our discussions with the Israelis and and for the Israeli Defense Forces to to describe. This is something that they have said they’re going to do and they’ll do it in their due course. But again, I don’t want to get into too much detail here from this particular podium about that.
[clip of unspecified reporter] And if they weren’t to transition into those lower intensity operations in the coming weeks, would the U.S. reconsider its support for Israel?
[clip of John Kirby] It’s a great hypothetical. I’m not going to engage.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I understand the need, as he’s said before, you know, to be cautious about what is said publicly, what is said in the press, because this is a live military situation, many moving parts, but that feels a little bit different. That feels like he’s really trying to tow a line here in what he’s saying.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And he was right, especially with this statement coming at the same time as Israel estimating that it could take, quote, “more than several months” for them to accomplish their goal of eliminating Hamas. And speaking of Hamas, their political leader, which to be clear, is very different than the military leader. He has said that they are, quote, “open to any ideas or initiatives that could end the war.” But he also noted that Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for 16 years, will remain a presence in the region even after the war does end. This, of course, is a defiant statement, especially as Israel and the U.S. see Hamas’s mere existence as a problem. But really, what all of this means as we go into Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations over these next few weeks of the holiday season is that the violence in Gaza will continue. Even though the United States would like Israel to be more precise and surgical in their operations, all as a means of protecting civilians. We actually haven’t seen that happen yet. Right. And so if you are listening and you want to know how you can join the millions of people demanding a cease fire or you want to otherwise get involved, we’re going to put a couple links in our show notes for you to check out.
Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you for that update, Tre’vell. Now switching gears to another topic that has been top of mind for us throughout this entire year. That has been Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. We have some new developments with regards to Ukraine. Yesterday, European Union leaders decided to open EU membership negotiations with Ukraine. This has been a longtime goal of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and is certainly a boost at a time when they’re trying to bolster support from their allies, both in Europe and here in America.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Can you tell us about the significance of Ukraine joining the EU?
Priyanka Aribindi: Being a part of the EU means a lot of things. It means mobility for people. It means economic growth, it means security. And the opening of these negotiations sends a very clear message to Russia and Vladimir Putin that both Ukraine and Moldova, who they also open negotiations with, are not up for the taking. The process to actually join the EU typically takes around a decade long. So it’s not something we should expect to happen overnight here. Countries typically have to make reforms and restructure their governments to become up to par with the EU’s rules and standards. But to their credit, Ukraine has already started working towards a lot of these changes because this has been a longtime goal of theirs. There is one particular hurdle in their way, however, and that is opposition from Hungary. Hungary is another member of the EU. Their Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, is an ally of Vladimir Putin’s and he has previously said that he would block efforts by Ukraine to join the EU, that he didn’t feel that they were ready. But that didn’t actually happen yesterday, though he still says that he opposes Ukraine’s membership in the bloc. In the vote to open the negotiations, he actually abstained. So for now, this will move forward.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. So all of that is what’s happening with Ukraine in relation to Europe. Let’s circle back to what’s happening with Ukraine here at home.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, lots happening. So, as we know, President Joe Biden has been very committed to supporting Ukraine. He has called on Congress to approve $50 billion dollars in new funding for Ukraine as they fight in this war against Russia, as well as $14 billion dollars in funding for Israel as they wage their war against Hamas. But the same cannot be said about all of the members of Congress. Earlier this week, Zelensky visited the White House and the Capitol to ask for more funding, but he was not immediately successful. As we’ve reported, Republicans have tried to stipulate that any new funding for Ukraine be connected to more money for border security, which is one of their main priorities. The House actually left yesterday for their holiday recess, all but ensuring that no new funding will be approved before the new year. But the Senate is actually sticking around until Monday to vote on military aid for Ukraine and Israel. They have delayed their holiday break by a couple of days. Lucky us. [laughter] We will see what comes of that.
Tre’vell Anderson: All right. And then over in Russia, I know Putin is starting to close out the year with some choice words about the war.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yes.
Tre’vell Anderson: What is he rambling on about now?
Priyanka Aribindi: So Putin resumed his annual end of the year news conference yesterday in Russia. Over the course of 4 hours he reiterated that his objectives in this invasion of Ukraine remain unchanged. He wants to, quote unquote, “demilitarize and denazify” the country. It was word salad when he said that when he started the war two years ago. It continues to be a very wilted word salad at this point. But he was confident throughout this whole conference. He also pointed to Zelensky’s visit to the U.S. earlier this week to say that he believes that Western support for Ukraine is running out, which, you know, would be a blessing to Russia at this point. Russia has struggled immensely throughout this conflict. According to U.S. intelligence, they have lost 87% of the total number of active duty troops that they had before they launched this invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago. That is just a staggering amount of human loss that they have suffered.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: And they’ve also lost tons of equipment and supplies. But that doesn’t appear to be phasing Putin, at least not publicly. The counteroffensive launched by Ukraine slowed over the fall, and according to U.S. intelligence, Ukraine isn’t expected to make any major gains in the next few months. So securing additional funding and support at this point in time really could be make or break for Ukraine as they stare down a depleted but not at all dejected Russia. Obviously, we will continue following this. Hopefully, we will have some better news for you in the new year. But that is the latest for now. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: The House yesterday passed an $886 billion dollar defense policy bill. The legislation known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, is now headed to President Biden, who is expected to sign it into law. So what exactly is in the legislation, you ask? Well, among other things, it authorizes a 5.2% pay raise for members of the military. The biggest pay bump for service members in more than two decades. It also expands military partnerships in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, and it extends the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative through fiscal 2027. But what’s also notable is what was left out and what House Republicans wanted to remain in the defense bill. The bill does not have restrictions to gender affirming health care for transgender service members. It also does not block the Pentagon’s policies on abortion, which allows servicemembers to be reimbursed for travel costs when they need to go out of state for an abortion. But Republicans, unfortunately, did have some wins as part of the compromise, like a salary cap and hiring freeze on diversity, equity and inclusion training positions, a restriction on the teaching of critical race theory in military schools. I promise you, they weren’t teaching critical race theory in military schools anyway. And a ban on unapproved flags on military bases, including the Pride flag, which is wild to me.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m fine to let them have the fake win of no more critical race theory–
Tre’vell Anderson: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –in the military’s schools. Great. Take that and run with it. Tell that to everyone. Whatever. Go off. After interviewing about 20 candidates. New York Republicans have finally figured out who should replace Cameo superstar George Santos in his old job. They tapped Mazi Melesa Pilip as their nominee for representing the state’s third Congressional district, which will be determined in the special election on February 13th. She will be running against the New York Democratic nominee, Tom Suozzi. Pilip is an Ethiopian born legislator in Nassau County, New York. When she was a kid she fled to Israel and also served as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces. And according to Politico, while she is currently serving as a Republican, she’s actually a registered Democrat. But Pilip has little political experience that would usually signal a competitive candidate. In 2021, she ran on the issue of fighting antisemitism, but the rest of her actual policy views are actually unknown. She hasn’t taken any public stances on major issues that have shaped house measures such as gun laws, abortion and criminal charges against former President Donald Trump. It appears that this seat is really a wild card.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, and it appears as if the Republicans will continue trying to exploit this moment of antisemitism and related conversations to Israel in hopes of reclaiming this seat. So we will see how that turns out.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we already saw what happens when someone with absolutely no business being in Congress had this seat. I don’t know if the constituents want to see that again. Maybe they do, but I would bet that they don’t.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Now for an update on a story we covered back in November. Earlier this year, three companies that make applesauce pouches for kids recalled their products because some of them tested positive for lead. Now, the FDA says that the pouches may have been contaminated on purpose. That’s according to FDA Deputy Commissioner Jim Jones. Not the rapper.
Priyanka Aribindi: Not the rapper. [laughter] At least we think he hasn’t had a career change. [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: He and his fellow officials have been investigating the three affected brands of Applesauce, Weis, WanaBanana, and Schnucks ever since their products caused several children to fall ill with lead poisoning. And in an exclusive interview with Politico, Jones said, quote, “All of the signals we’re getting lead to an intentional act on the part of someone in the supply chain.” He went on to explain that all three brands have been traced back to one manufacturing facility in Ecuador. The FDA, the CDC and Ecuadorian officials are still investigating the issue.
Priyanka Aribindi: The largest credit union in the U.S. has the widest disparity in mortgage approval rates between white and Black borrowers of any major lender. That is according to a report from CNN. The Navy Federal Credit Union, which lends to military service members and veterans, approved more than 75% of white borrowers who applied for a new conventional home purchase mortgage in 2022. But Black borrowers who applied for the same type of loan, less than 50% of them got approved.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: That same analysis also found that Navy federal approved a higher percentage of applications from white borrowers making less than $62,000 a year than it did from Black borrowers was making $140,000 or more. Zooming out the gap in homeownership rates between Black and white families is bigger today than it was before the civil rights era. This is important in the broader conversation about systemic racism in the U.S., especially since homeownership is still the principal way that most families build wealth. This is really just staggering to take in.
Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, scientists have found the primary culprit to severe morning sickness. Researchers confirmed that the nausea and vomiting that often happens during pregnancy is mainly caused by one single hormone called GDF15. That’s according to a new study published this week in the journal Nature. And its findings could lead to better treatment options for people who experience morning sickness. So it is a big deal, especially as more than two thirds of pregnant folks experience the symptoms during the first trimester of pregnancy, and about 2% experience an extreme condition that causes persistent vomiting and nausea and can lead to malnutrition, dehydration and weight loss. Researchers now know that the severity of symptoms is informed by the amount of GDF15 in a person’s blood during pregnancy, exposure to it beforehand, as well as sensitivity to the hormone. And the findings suggest that lowering or blocking the hormone could help prevent the sickness. Researchers also say that prior exposure to low doses of the hormone before pregnancy could also be another way to reduce the symptoms. In a news release, geneticist Dr. Marlena Fejzo at the University of Southern California and coauthor of the paper said in part, quote, “We’re a step closer to developing effective treatments to stop other mothers from going through what I and many other women have experienced.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Really amazing. Wow.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely.
Priyanka Aribindi: We love this. Some happy news.
Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely.
Tre’vell Anderson: Happy news to close out the day.
Tre’vell Anderson: And we needed it. Absolutely.
Priyanka Aribindi: We did.
Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to reveal who WAD’s first ever person of the year is.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, WAD Squad and the time has come to crown WAD’s first ever person of the year.
Priyanka Aribindi: So exciting.
Tre’vell Anderson: We asked you, our listeners in our Discord Channel to vote for the person you think had a big impact on 2023. And y’all turnt it out at the polls. We love to see it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, we do. The results are in. And here to announce the winner is our very own producer, Raven Yamamoto. [sound of cheers and applause] Raven, welcome back to the show.
Raven Yamamoto: Thank you. I know y’all have missed me, and I’m here running on half a Charged lemonade. Ready to go.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hell yeah. [laughter] That is the appropriate way to pregame a podcast appearance. I love it. All right, Raven, tell us who the winner is.
Raven Yamamoto: All right, look, it was a crowded race with several great nominees, but only one person rose to the top. Democratically elected by our very own WAD squad in the discord, winning by a landslide.
Priyanka Aribindi: Ooh.
Raven Yamamoto: WAD’s person of the year award for 2023 goes to [sound of drum roll] [crinkling paper unfolding sounds] the late Ady Barkan.
Tre’vell Anderson: Aw.
Priyanka Aribindi: I can’t think of a more deserving person.
Tre’vell Anderson: This is a really good one. To help folks remember though, Ady was a progressive lawyer who passed away earlier this year due to complications with ALS. He was 39 years old. He was most known for being a champion of universal health care, and his life changed when he was diagnosed with ALS back in 2016, shortly after the birth of his first child. He eventually lost the ability to walk and speak, but that never stopped him from sharing his story. Testifying before congressional lawmakers and fighting for a future where health care is treated as a human right. Here’s a clip of him from his documentary, Not Going Quietly. When he was on the campaign trail in 2018.
[clip of Ady Barkan] At the end of my life when I look back I want to be proud of what I’ve done. I am willing to give my last breath to save our democracy. And I’m here to ask you what are you willing to give? [sound of cheers and applause]
Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm
Raven Yamamoto: Such a good clip.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s so moving to hear him speak. In his life that was far too short he spent so much time and so much effort doing so much good. It really is amazing.
Raven Yamamoto: Touching so many lives.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Priyanka Aribindi: You asked our listeners to share a few words about why they voted for Ady. What did some of our friends of the pod have to say?
Raven Yamamoto: Yeah. So one of our friends in Discord, Monique was actually a constituent of Jeff Flake, who, if you know, was the then senator that Ady confronted in a 2017 viral video urging him to vote no on a bill that would slash billions of dollars for Medicare funding.
[clip of Ady Barkan] You can be an American hero.
Raven Yamamoto: Monique has bipolar disorder, and she was terrified that she was going to lose her health care after Trump got elected in 2016, rightfully so. And she said, quote, “There was so little in me that thought I could do anything to stop it. And then I saw Ady confront my senator on a plane, and it gave me a breath of hope and a way to direct my anger and fear.” She went on to say, quote, “He was relentless until the very end, and his legacy is in the lives he saved through his work. My life among them.”
Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm. That’s so beautiful.
Raven Yamamoto: I also want to read another response that really moved me from our friend Sam in the Discord. This one actually really made me, like, sob, honestly. His mother suffered a stroke earlier this year, and she survived, but it mostly confined her to a wheelchair or a bed because she lost a lot of her motor functions. Sam wrote to us, quote, “She can’t speak anymore, aside from a handful of single words. And on good days, yes and no. By now, she can comprehend the things I tell her, and she’s frustrated, being locked in as a passive observer, unable to express herself. I told my mom about Ady Barkan, about the interviews on the pods, about his activism, about a loving family that is there for you in your most trying times, and about how we can all inspire the world around us, even without climbing a mountain or a career path, even in a wheelchair. Even if you can’t speak easily or fluently. Or maybe at all.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow.
Raven Yamamoto: Like I’m tearing up again like, just reading it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Raven Yamamoto: And I thought it was so beautiful for him to even share that with us.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. I think of really what Ady represented for so many people was possibility, right? That you–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: –didn’t have to be limited by how you were moving through the world. I also know that another member of the WAD squad, our fellow co-host Josie Duffy Rice, actually knew Ady.
Raven Yamamoto: That’s right. Josie actually worked with Ady at her first job out of law school. Ten years ago, together, they were building this group called Local Progress, a network of local progressive elected officials very on brand for both of them. And here’s what Josie had to say about who he was as a person.
[clip of Josie Duffy Rice] He truly was and I’m not exaggerating, one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met in my life. Even before he got ALS, he was just laser focused on making the world better for struggling people.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Truly, from the beginning to the end, he was really committed to helping people. That is so beyond evident and amazing to see how his work spoke to and reached so many people in our audience, so many people from so many walks of life in so many areas. It really is incredible.
Raven Yamamoto: I think it’s really beautiful that these are all people who have so many amazing things to say about what he did for them, despite never having met him probably, or even like just seen him in person. Just it was so much more about like his story and his willingness to use his last days, I think, when he didn’t have to. He absolutely didn’t have to, but he did.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Raven Yamamoto: Like, he truly was like the best of us. And I just think it’s amazing that we get to spend some time like honoring him and giving him his flowers today.
Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Raven, for putting all of this together. Really special to hear from our audience. Really special to have a person of the year. Can’t think of a more fitting first person–
Raven Yamamoto: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –of the year for WAD to have.
Raven Yamamoto: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Priyanka Aribindi: And a huge thank you to everyone in our discord who voted and participated. Especially, you know, Monique and Sam, people like you who shared such personal stories about why Ady, you know, meant so much to them. And Raven, once again, thank you for keeping democracy alive and well, hosting this [laughter] very important election. It’s huge. You got the people ready for what they need to do in 2024. We couldn’t be more appreciative.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Raven Yamamoto: I know. I already can’t wait to do it next year. Um. This election was free and fair, but also fabulous. And I think we really killed it here. [laughter] I will go. I’ll leave. I’ll see myself out. I got to go check my pulse. Uh. But thank you, guys. [laughter].
Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you so much Raven, incredible as always. If you liked participating in that election, you’re going to love what we have for you in 2024, what we have for you, what um–
Tre’vell Anderson: The country has for you.
Priyanka Aribindi: What our country has for you. [laughter] Just if you enjoy participating, just try it again. Why not? [laugh]
Tre’vell Anderson: Why not? [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: Two more things before we go. Don’t miss Pod Save America’s special Pundies episode dropping next Thursday. In this episode, Jon, Jon, Tommy and Dan award the worst political takes of 2023, including their own. There are some bad ones out there so, I wasn’t talking about there’s either there’s some bad one’s, not theirs out there, but I’m excited to see what turns up. Find out if you agree only on Pod Save America.
Tre’vell Anderson: Also, this is our last WAD of 2023. We are taking our holiday break to roast all the chestnuts and toast all the bubbly. We will be back in your feeds with a new episode on Wednesday, January 3rd. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Thank Ady and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just the course catalog of Musk University like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And we will see you in 2024.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hopefully a better year honestly, we need it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Crossing my fingers.
Priyanka Aribindi: We say it every year and it just is like everyone gets progressively worse and worse and it’s like, all right. I would like to say this is the bottom and we can only go up. Don’t prove me wrong. I don’t want to be proved wrong.
Tre’vell Anderson: Dun dun dun dun. [laughter] [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.