In This Episode
- Today is the first anniversary of President Biden taking office. Yesterday, he held his first formal news conference in months to discuss his administration’s accomplishments and progress over the past year. We share our biggest takeaways from the speech that covered COVID to Congress to Afghanistan, and more.
- Verizon and AT&T agreed to turn on nationwide 5G service yesterday, except near airports and runways due to ongoing safety concerns from the Federal Aviation Administration. Despite this decision, some flights were canceled yesterday. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants CWA, joins us to discuss workers’ safety concerns.
- And in headlines: the Supreme Court denied Trump’s request to block the release of White House records pertaining to the January 6th insurrection, two abortion-rights advocacy groups threatened to pull support from Senator Kyrsten Sinema for standing in the way of voting rights legislation, and the University of Michigan reached a $490 million settlement with over 1,000 survivors of sexual abuse by one of its former sports doctors.
- WIRED: “Why Airlines Are Fighting the 5G Rollout” – https://bit.ly/3fHVTG1
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, January 20th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, the only daily news podcast that is fully recorded using smart assistant devices that are always listening in our homes.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And in that sense, the 3rd mic on every episode is the robot called Alexa.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, but don’t say her name because she will wake up and start talking.
Gideon Resnick: And she could be in a bad mood. On today’s show, how the rollout of 5G is affecting already burned-out airline staff. Plus, a major backer of Senator Kyrsten Sinema says that it will not support her if she continues to block voting rights laws.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, today is the first anniversary of President Biden taking office and yesterday he held his first formal news conference in months to discuss his administration’s accomplishments and progress over the past year.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so that was certainly a long press conference, Priyanka. It covered a bunch of different topics, from COVID to Congress to Afghanistan and more. For those of us who did not have the full two hours to go through all of this yesterday, what were some of your biggest takeaways?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, I watched the entire thing so you all don’t have to. Lucky you. As you said, he covered a ton of ground, but they were definitely a few big takeaways. Let’s start with COVID. If you’re wondering why I sound a little stuffy right now, it’s because I actually have COVID currently. I am recovering. I’m doing a lot better. Yeah, it happens to the best of us. It’s a bummer. I was really glad I was boosted after my first J&J shot. But as more people continue to be infected with Omicron, I was really curious about what he had to say. Take a listen:
[clip of President Biden] Am I satisfied with the way in which we have dealt with COVID and all the things that go along with it? Yet I am satisfied. I think we’ve done remarkably well. Nobody has ever organized a strategic operation to get as many shots in arms by opening clinics and being able to get so many people vaccinated.
Gideon Resnick: Well, casting that aside for a second, I am satisfied that you are feeling better Priyanka.
Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you.
Gideon Resnick: That is the good news that I’m taking from all of this, in addition to everything else. Obviously, though, not everyone has been happy with the speed at which the administration has moved on COVID. So did Biden speak to that at all?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, he did. He acknowledged that people are frustrated right now, and he said that he wished he had moved a month earlier to ramp up testing capacity.
Gideon Resnick: Yep. Don’t we as well?
Priyanka Aribindi: Don’t we all? Obviously, that’s a thing that we have still been struggling with. We have been throughout the holiday season. Still are dealing with it now. But as we said yesterday, the Biden administration’s free tests are now available at covidtest.gov. It also announced yesterday that it’s making 400 million N95 masks available for free starting next week at local pharmacies and community health centers. More details on that will be coming soon.
Gideon Resnick: OK, got it. So that is a little bit of what Biden discussed on COVID. What were some of the other main topics here?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, he had a lot. So another big thing he hit on was Russia. The world has been watching as Russia has positioned nearly 100,000 troops along the border of Ukraine. And Biden says he expects Putin to invade Ukraine.
[clip of President Biden] Do I think he’ll test the West, test the United States and NATO as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will. But I think he’ll pay a serious and dear price for it that he doesn’t think now will cost him what it’s going to cost.
Gideon Resnick: Whoa. That seems crazy in the midst of all of this, you know, diplomatic effort that we’re seeing this past week.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right! He pretty much was like, Yeah, it’s going to happen, I expect. And we were all like, OK, all right. Anyways, he also talked about the Build Back Better Act, his signature piece of legislation that contained pretty much all of his legislative priorities. It hit a wall back in December, when Senator Joe Manchin said he would not support it. But Biden did not see that as the end of the road, saying that he believes the Congress will still pass parts of it if they break it up into pieces.
[clip of President Biden] I think it’s clear that we would be able to get support for the $500 plus billion for energy and the environmental issues that are there, number one. Number two, I know that the two people who opposed on the Democratic side at least, support a number of things that are in there. For example, Joe Manchin strongly supports early education, three or four years of age, strongly supports that. There is strong support for, I think, a number of, the way in which to pay for this proposal. So I think there is—and I’m not going to negotiate against myself as to what should and shouldn’t be in it—but I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, come back and fight for the rest later.
Gideon Resnick: Well, Biden mentioned Manchin in there, but most of his criticism was for other people that were standing in the way of some of his agenda, yeah?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely. He saved most of his ire for Republicans and seemed to be a bit surprised that they are pretty much fully opposed to doing anything that he wants to do.
[clip of President Biden] I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done.
Gideon Resnick: Come on. Right? I mean, one of the big Biden campaign things was like, I’m the guy who can work with these guys, negotiate with them, I have all this like administrative experience, senate experience—Really, that’s what we’re saying now?
Priyanka Aribindi: Just a bit surprising for, you know, the guy who’s been in the Obama administration, like he knows how this works, he knows how this goes. But you know, after that, he did make a point that he kept coming back to throughout yesterday’s address that I think we’re going to hear a lot more of this year.
[clip of President Biden] What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for.
Gideon Resnick: They are for not working with you, I think, is what we have ascertained.
Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe just not working, maybe just not working at all. I don’t really know what they’re getting done aside from not letting other people get things done.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Moving on to another story that we’ve had our eyes on yesterday, Verizon and AT&T agreed to turn on nationwide 5G service, except, notably near airports and runways. That stems from ongoing safety concerns from the Federal Aviation Administration. Despite this decision to keep 5G off in those areas, there were some flights, including international ones operated by Emirates, that were canceled yesterday. Though overall there were only minor domestic issues.
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, I am very excited that we’re talking about this because I have been seeing this. I know nothing about it. Tell me more. What are these safety concerns? What is all the hoopla about having this near airports?
Gideon Resnick: Well, when you see Priyanka, when you get a vaccine, you get it in your bloodstream—OK, so this does get a little bit wonky, but we’ll link to an article that can kind of walk people through this a little bit. Basically, the FCC auctioned off a portion of the radio spectrum called the C-band. Those massive telecom giants that we’re talking about purchased it for about $80 billion in 2020. They did that because those extra frequencies can represent a big upgrade for cell phones and other wireless devices so they can connect much more reliably and at faster speeds. But the important thing in this conversation to know about those frequencies is that they happen to be located right next to the same ones that are used by radio altimeters in aircraft.
Priyanka Aribindi: Uh-oh.
Gideon Resnick: Those devices help gauge pilot altitudes and become particularly critical when there is low visibility and/or bad weather. Oh, by the way, we are talking about this in the middle of winter. The companies have said that their technology is safe to use without this kind of interference and that other countries have figured out ways to implement it. But the CEOs of a bunch of passenger and cargo airlines recently wrote to a number of government officials about their concerns here and said in part quote, “to be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.” Now, part of what they’re looking for is a two-mile buffer zone around runways.
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, yeah, that is pretty blunt, I will say. Maybe there are just some things that shouldn’t be for sale. Like, I’m reading this and I don’t know. I don’t know if it was worth it, but it’s far from just the CEOs of these companies who were raising alarms here. What else is happening?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, the Airline Pilots Association has been vocal on this too, as has Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants CWA, who tweeted in part earlier this month quote, referring to Verizon, “their incentive is money, our incentive is safety.” Now, beyond the additional disruptions that this all poses, Nelson has also pointed out that important cargo like medicine could be impacted as well. And this is all on top of other weather-related and Omicron-related delays.
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, I trust Sara with my life, so I believe anything she has to say. That is one update on the airlines, but you also got to speak about COVID safety on flights with her last week. What is the latest that’s going on there?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, she has a lot going on and the union does too, much of it is coming from a change that Delta pushed for amid a crush in COVID cases. Late last month, they asked the CDC to shorten their isolation window for people with breakthrough infections. The CDC, as we know, pretty quickly changed its guidance, resulting in Delta doing the same. Here is Nelson on her view of that after it happened:
[clip of Sara Nelson] And the message that that sent was that they’re going to push people who are sick to come back to work to work these flights. So we had a lot of concern about that and we got out right away, very loud, about making sure that we were focusing everyone back on the fact that CDC had said asymptomatic. We also were very concerned that this was going to have an impact on the flight attendants that we do represent around the industry because other airlines would be looking to do the same thing. And so we very quickly also were sending out a message to our other airlines to say, You better talk with us first. And for the most part, we held them off. And ultimately we said not one worker should die because of this policy change.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And what followed was that Delta accused the union of posting defamatory information online. Nelson and the union had been on Twitter answering questions from attendants about returning to work with mild symptoms. But Priyanka, the fight over this issue really exemplifies why the union is trying to organize the flight attendants at Delta. It is one of the few major airlines whose attendants are not in that union. Here she is again:
[clip of Sara Nelson] People are feeling pretty worn out and feeling pretty abused. I think that they gave the airline a pass for the first year and a half, but now they see that management’s pay was restored, but they haven’t gotten a raise, they haven’t been recognized for their sacrifices. They haven’t been recognized for the fact that the airline cried poor and they took unpaid leaves and then the airline got the relief from the government. So we’re seeing a huge burst of enthusiasm and momentum in this campaign, and, you know, on track to get to an election in 2022.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Yeah. I did not know that Delta was one of the few airlines that didn’t have unionized flight attendants, and I mean, all of this other stuff. Yeah, it really adds up.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, seriously. So we’re going to be following all of this, the 5G news, Delta news and much, much more very soon. But that is the latest for now. We’re going to be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has accused the Trump Organization of inflating the value of its assets for financial gain.
Priyanka Aribindi: Say it ain’t so!
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I listen, I hope everybody sitting down. On Tuesday, James said her office had uncovered new evidence that the Trump family business engaged in quote, “fraudulent or misleading practices.” James also filed a motion that would compel a trio of Trumps—that is Donald, Ivanka, and Don Jr.—to answer her office’s subpoenas and to testify under oath. The AG has been investigating the organization’s finances since 2019. At a Trump rally in Arizona on Saturday, the former president claimed that he had no idea who James is. But the lawsuit he filed against her in December, accusing her of harassment and asking that she halt her investigation, indicates otherwise—
Priyanka Aribindi: God! [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: —to us, the detectives at What A Day. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court denied Trump’s request to block the release of White House records pertaining to the January 6th insurrection. Trump had originally sued to keep the documents sealed, but eight of the nine court justices agree that they seemed pretty important to the rest of the country. The ruling has cleared the way for the National Archive to hand over the hundreds of pages of documents to the House January 6th committee.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, that was a newsy headline, but every single part of it was pure comedy to me.
Gideon Resnick: It was enjoyable, for sure.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, yeah. Anyways, the University of Michigan reached an almost half billion dollar settlement on Tuesday with more than 1,000 survivors of sexual abuse by one of its former sports doctors. Dr. Robert Anderson was the director of the university’s health service and a physician for multiple sports teams, including football, for 37 years. He retired in 2003, but it wasn’t until after he died in 2008 that over 1,000 students, many athletes, and mostly men, accused him of sexually assaulting them during routine medical exams. The deal came just three days after the university fired its president, Mark Schlissel, for violating university policy after it was revealed that he was having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. The school’s Board of Regents also made the bizarre decision to post 118 pages of messages between Schlissel and that employee on the university’s website.
Gideon Resnick: What?!
Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely unhinged. If you want to see it, just go on TikTok, it is on literally every single video. Wild.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: U of M’s former President, Mary Sue Coleman, was named the school’s interim president.
Gideon Resnick: Whoa. Man!
Priyanka Aribindi: Messy.
Gideon Resnick: Two prominent abortion rights advocacy groups, Emily’s List and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have threatened to pull support from Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema for standing in the way of voting rights legislation by refusing to support changes to the filibuster. The president of Emily’s List said in a statement on Tuesday that because of Sinema’s actions quote, “she will find herself standing alone in the next election.” Now that election is not until 2024, so the threat maybe lacks a little bit of immediacy, but still the move is significant. Since Emily’s List was previously Sinema’s largest donor, having donated nearly a half a million dollars to her campaigns. Also in the electoral prospects of our lovely moderate Democrats, Senator Bernie Sanders told reporters on Tuesday that Arizona and West Virginia voters will be disappointed by their senators, and when asked if he’d support Democratic primary challengers, he said, quote, “Well, yeah.” In the pantheon with: Yeah, OK, good from the—
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly iconic.
Gideon Resnick: —debates that we all remember so fondly. Undeterred by all of this, Manchin and Sinema spent the better part of yesterday obstructing other Democrats who were trying to do the bare minimum to make elections function in America—late last night, they voted to stop a rule change to the filibuster, setting up Senate Republicans to block the voting rights bill.
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez. They can never catch a break with them.
Gideon Resnick: No.
Priyanka Aribindi: Restrictive lockdowns may chill the economy, but they can’t affect the productivity of cupid. One story out of China proves that. A couple that saw lockdown hit in the middle of their second date last December, turning a dinner into a multi-week sleepover, has now announced that they are getting engaged! Oh my god! Congrats. The two are Zhao Xiaoqing and Zhao Fei—I can tell they are a match based on the names alone. And they told the South China Morning Post that they discovered within a few weeks of being trapped together that their quote, “souls are compatible.”
Gideon Resnick: Wow!
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Though Fei’s parents, who are also part of their state and destiny-sanctioned bubble were urging them to get married after just a week—OK, things are moving fast over there—Xiaoqing, who works as an online Apple trader—gonna need to hear more about that job.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: —described the romance in the language of her industry. She said, quote “this is the biggest harvest for me in the year of 2021.”—Just in the year? OK.—”I am thankful for this special karma.” Not all director’s cuts extended edition lockdown dates have gone so well, sadly: another young woman from China who went viral after spending 10 days in a similar predicament, described her partner this way: quote, “besides the fact he’s as mute as a wooden mannequin, everything else about him is pretty good. Despite his food being mediocre, he is still willing to cook, which I think is great.” Honestly, that’s not the worst-case scenario.
Gideon Resnick: No.
Priyanka Aribindi: Seems like she got like a fine roommate. Little boring, but like, likes to pull his weight.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And what is an extended quarantine, if not a marriage? You know?
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly.
Gideon Resnick: This is the perfect practice for all of this.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Us two unmarried people . . .
Gideon Resnick: We’re highly qualified to opine on this.
Priyanka Aribindi: To tell you what it is.
Gideon Resnick: I will say we also both think that there should be many shows that are built around this concept.
Priyanka Aribindi: 1,000%. Replace the Bachelor with this, please.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it would be a benefit to us all. Congrats to the newly-engaged folks and to the others, you know, keep working on it. And those are the headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go: check out the latest episode of Pod Save The World. This week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken joins Ben and Tommy to discuss the threat of Russia invading Ukraine, the Iran deal, combating antisemitism and promoting democracy. What a get! That’s a pretty huge get for Pod Save The World. Congrats, guys.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: New episodes of Pod Save The World drop every Wednesday. Listen and follow wherever you get your podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, believe in love under lockdown, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just the mysterious signals in the sky known as 5G like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And please don’t wake up Alexa!
Priyanka Aribindi: Wouldn’t matter for us because we don’t have those devices in our homes, but I don’t know, the rest of you . . .
Gideon Resnick: Do not get near a mirror and say the name three times. It will not be good.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh no.
Gideon Resnick: That’s all I can say.
Priyanka Aribindi: I couldn’t tell you what will happen, but I know it’s going to be bad.
Gideon Resnick: It’s going to be really bad. And we warned you, so . . . What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.