Big Trouble in North Carolina | Crooked Media
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March 14, 2023
What A Day
Big Trouble in North Carolina

In This Episode

  • The Pentagon says two Russian fighter jets hit an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea, forcing it to crash into international water. It’s the first known instance of the two countries making contact since the invasion of Ukraine, which U.S. officials warned could lead to a dangerous escalation.
  • North Carolina’s state Supreme Court is rehearing a gerrymandering case that could have major impacts on future elections. The court’s new Republican majority seems ready to reverse an earlier decision that rejected state voting maps that heavily favored GOP candidates.
  • And in headlines: the Justice Department and the SEC have reportedly launched investigations into the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, Ohio’s Attorney General sued Norfolk Southern Railway over the East Palestine derailment, and an eleventh atmospheric river storm system hit California.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It is Wednesday, March 15th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day where we can’t believe Netflix actually pulled the plug on the new Nancy Meyers movie for being too expensive. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, if it was for starring Scarlett Johansson, that we could understand. 


Juanita Tolliver: Ding ding ding. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But the money? Give her what she wants. 


Juanita Tolliver: Give her all the cardigans. Give her all the locations that she wants. Just do it Netflix. We know y’all got coins. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, the feds are reportedly opening investigations into the sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. Plus, George Santos may seek reelection. 


Juanita Tolliver: Sickening. But first, Russia is making moves in the worst way. On Tuesday, at 7:03 a.m. local time, two Russian fighter jets intercepted an American surveillance drone over the Black Sea after one of the jets collided with the drones propeller, according to U.S. officials. And get this. The collision happened after both Russian jets took turns dumping jet fuel onto the drone. It’s almost like they went out of their way to destroy this drone. And U.S. officials warn that such provocations could lead to, quote, “miscalculation and unintended escalation between Russia and the United States.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that’s a crazy move. To dump jet fuel from your planes onto the drone like, I don’t I’ve never seen a move like that that wasn’t asking for escalation. 


Juanita Tolliver: I mean, it wasn’t in Top Gun, but when I heard this news, I literally was like, what the actual fuck? So the U.S.– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: –surveillance drone, also known as the Reaper, had taken off from its base in Romania in the morning for a scheduled routine reconnaissance mission, which typically lasts about 9 to 10 hours. U.S. officials have confirmed that the drone was unarmed and conducting surveillance about 75 miles southwest of Crimea in international airspace when two Russian jets intercepted it. After zooming past the drone, the Russian jets dropped the fuel on it, apparently in an effort to damage the drones cameras or its other sensors and officials said. And how do we know all of these specifics? Well, according to reports, U.S. military officials watched it all go down via a video feed from the drone to an operations center at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. According to General James Hecker, the commander of U.S. Air Force’s Europe and Air Forces Africa. The incident has led to a complete loss of the U.S. MQ9 as the U.S. was forced to down the drone in the Black Sea. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, so all of this is a lot and very unexpected, at least to me. But is this the first time a Russian fighter jet has encountered a U.S. surveillance drone like this? 


Juanita Tolliver: Absolutely not. According to John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesperson, there had been similar, quote unquote, “intercepts by Russian aircraft in recent weeks”, and he described them as not an uncommon occurrence. But this was the first to result in quote, “the splashing of one of our drones.” Kirby added, quote, “This one obviously is noteworthy because of how unsafe and unprofessional it was and indeed reckless and causing the downing of one of our aircraft.” Meanwhile, Russian officials are claiming that their jets did not come into contact with the drone. In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry actually blamed the crash on sharp maneuvering, which led the drone into uncontrolled flight. The Russian Defense Ministry added that Russia did not use airborne weapons against the U.S. drone. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it feels very Russia to counter video evidence and like– 


Juanita Tolliver: I mean. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –stuff that everybody else is seeing as a fact with like, oh no, that just didn’t happen. Not good, in my opinion. How has the U.S. been responding to this? Because I wouldn’t imagine that it would be very well. 


Juanita Tolliver: Well, yesterday, John Kirby also stated, quote, “If the message is that they want to deter or dissuade us from flying and operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, then that message will fail. We’re going to continue to fly and operate in international airspace over international waters.” So there’s that. Also, State Department Press Secretary Ned Price described this as a, quote, “brazen violation of international law.” And he informed reporters that the State Department will be summoning the Russian ambassador to express, quote, “strong objections to Russia’s behavior.” If that’s not diplomacy, I don’t know what is, but strong objections. All in all, the White House is clear that the surveillance program will continue and there will be lots of follow up with Russian officials as they sort out the intentions of the fighter jets. And man, oh, man, am I glad that a Democratic administration is leading this response because if Republicans like Ron DeSantis had their way, the U.S. wouldn’t even be involved in supporting Ukraine through this Russian invasion. This man had the nerve to say that Ukraine is not a, quote, “vital national interest for the U.S.” and look at what we’re dealing with right now with Russia. You can’t make this up, especially when polling shows that 65% of the nation still supports the U.S. engagement in Ukraine. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. I want to switch gears to some other news. In North Carolina, the state Supreme Court is rehearing a gerrymandering case that threw out the state’s Republican drawn maps last year. A rehearing like this is extremely rare and it could result in a whole new state congressional map from North Carolina. 


Juanita Tolliver: So remind us, why are they revisiting this case? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, it’s basically just because they have new people on the court. 


Juanita Tolliver: Ah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So the first ruling happened under the court’s previous 4-3 Democratic majority. They determined that the state’s Republican drawn maps were a partisan gerrymander and they struck them down. But in the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans regained control of the court. They now have 5-2 majority, and that majority granted state Republican lawmakers request to rehear this case. No facts of the case have changed. No new information has been presented. It’s just the makeup of the court that has become more amenable to these lawmakers and the partisan gerrymander that they’re trying to push through. 


Juanita Tolliver: This all sounds ridiculously familiar to what we’re seeing in the Supreme Court, where they’re going back and revisiting precedent and overturning precedent. So– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: –it’s like the Republican’s favorite move to edit undo. But here we are. This has implications beyond the state of North Carolina as well. Break that down for us. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, we can start with the obvious. So if Republicans get their way, they could propose a new map that would have 11 Republican leaning districts and just three Democratic leaning ones. That would have major implications on the U.S. House of Representatives and helping Republicans keep their very narrow House majority. The Supreme Court is also keeping an eye on this because it could affect whether it will still decide on Moore v. Harper, one of the most important potentially consequential cases before them this term. In Moore v. Harper the court is supposed to decide on whether or not North Carolina’s Supreme Court had the authority to strike down the gerrymandered congressional map because it violated the state’s constitution. The legislators in North Carolina who brought this before the court are relying on this concept known as independent state legislature theory. It posits that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislators the exclusive power to regulate federal elections, and only Congress can intervene, not state courts or governors. Even if what those state legislators come up with is a partisan voting map that violates the voter protections outlined in the state’s constitution. It’s a lot of mental gymnastics. It doesn’t really make sense. It requires you like really willfully misinterpreting the law and the Constitution. I know Josie dug into this at length in our episode from December 5th of last year. We’ll link to that in our shownotes. If you want some more details, but not good. 


Juanita Tolliver: Definitely doesn’t look good if this is the precursor to them rehearing the case. But what can we expect next? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, the fact that North Carolina’s Supreme Court is rehearing this at all is very telling. Uh. I’m not expecting good things out of this, especially with the makeup of the court now. As for the Supreme Court case, the justices have asked the parties in this case to file new briefs by Monday of next week on the effects of their rehearing. If North Carolina’s court reverses their decision on the map, it could actually make Moore v. Harpers point moot. But we’ll obviously keep following this, this case and the Supreme Court case. But that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Both the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly launched investigations into Silicon Valley Bank following its sudden collapse last week. Sources told The Wall Street Journal that while the separate probes are still in their early stages, federal prosecutors in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. are looking into whether the bank’s senior executives engaged in any insider trading or violated other banking regulations in the days leading up to its failure. Separately, regulators in Massachusetts had started their own investigation into SVB’s failing. The state is feeling a lot of the fallout because many of the startups and life sciences companies based there did business with SVB. 


Juanita Tolliver: Ohio’s attorney general has sued Norfolk Southern Railway. The federal lawsuit comes more than a month after one of the company’s trains derailed outside the town of East Palestine, forcing emergency responders to release its payload of toxic chemicals to prevent a massive explosion. The 58 count complaint from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost alleges that Norfolk Southern broke many state and federal environmental laws and that the company was negligent for causing the accident in the first place. The suit is seeking an as yet unspecified amount for damages to the surrounding environment and for causing a, quote, “substantial amount of damage to the local economy.” Norfolk Southern responded in a statement yesterday saying, quote, “We look forward to working toward a final resolution with Attorney General Yost.” Meanwhile, residents of East Palestine have filed at least six class action lawsuits against the railway since the crash. 


Priyanka Aribindi: An 11th atmospheric river hit California yesterday, dumping even more rain and snow across the already soaked Golden State. According to the National Weather Service, 70 flood watches and advisories were in effect statewide, along with avalanche warnings in the High Sierra and Lake Tahoe regions and residents of dozens of communities near some of the state’s major waterways, including the Sacramento and Salinas rivers were forced to evacuate amid intense flooding. Along the central coast crews scrambled to repair a levee break along the Pajaro River, which flooded a small farm town over the weekend. The storm also forced evacuation orders further south in Santa Barbara County, where officials warned that heavy rains could trigger mudslides in areas near wildfire burn scars. 


Juanita Tolliver: In a huge win for public health and environmental advocates. The EPA announced that it will soon require water systems nationwide to monitor its drinking water for two toxic chemicals. These chemicals are part of a class of chemicals called PFAS and known as quote unquote, “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down, making them very harmful to the environment. And exposure to PFAS chemicals has been linked to cancer, liver damage and many other long term health conditions. This is the first time the federal government has ever enforced limits on PFAS pollution. And the policy move is a huge deal because PFAS chemicals have been found in hundreds of everyday items from makeup to cleaning products, even our toilet paper. According to a study from 2020, over 200 million Americans have already been exposed to PFAS in their tap water. The new rule will take effect in mid-May. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Glad they’re doing something about it, but unclear why we weren’t– 


Juanita Tolliver: Girl. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –before. 


Juanita Tolliver: Better late than never is all I got. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s I guess the only thing we can say in this situation. Next, an update on the beat that we’re calling insulin sanity. Novo Nordisk, one of the world’s largest insulin manufacturers, announced yesterday that it plans to lower the price of its insulin products by 75% in the U.S.. The move follows plans made earlier this month by its competitor, Eli Lilly, to lower the prices of its own insulin. And to give you an idea of just how big a deal this is, a pack of five Novo Nordisk injection pens currently costs nearly $560. The new cuts would bring that price down to about $140. The price drop will cover insulin that comes in vials as well as injection pens that over 30 million Americans depend on to manage their diabetes. The price change is set to go into effect in January of next year. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yesterday, embattled Congressman George Santos filed the paperwork necessary to get this, run for reelection in 2024. Honestly, this man has no one who loves him enough to tell him this is stupid. What are you doing? No one’s questioning anything here. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Clearly. 


Juanita Tolliver: While the paperwork is not in itself a campaign announcement, it allows the freshman congressman to fundraise. Fundraising is, of course, George’s strong suit as he has a habit of making money mysteriously appear. Santos, who was elected in November to represent parts of Long Island and Queens, is currently under formal investigation by the House Ethics Committee, as well as federal and state investigators for campaign finance violations, among other things. And just last week, CBS News reported that Santos was linked to a Seattle area credit card fraud scheme from 2017. Reelection to Congress would be an uphill battle, to say the least. Back in January, 78% of Santos’s own constituents said they believe Santos should step down from office. But as they say denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. And shameless isn’t just the show Jeremy Allen White was on before the Bear. Literally. Santos, bruh. What?


Priyanka Aribindi: This has to just be a ploy for money. There’s no way this man thinks he’s going to win this election. But I’m sure it’s something with that “fundraising”, quote unquote, is what he’s after here. That’s my guess. 


Juanita Tolliver: He said I need to embezzle some money. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Help. 


Priyanka Aribindi: While I still can. While I still can. 


Juanita Tolliver: Allegedly. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s my guess. 


Juanita Tolliver: Allegedly. Come on. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday WAD squad and today we are applying our own high level scientific analysis to an important story from the world of tech in a segment that we like to call Geeks WAD. As always, Geeks WAD is spelled with the word geeks space and then the acronym WAD. No relation at all to the place where they fix your computer at Best Buy. If you are a representative of Best Buy, please do not sue us. But also feel free to sponsor this segment. We’re available. 


Juanita Tolliver: I’m sure legal will second your plea, but let’s get to the high level scientific analysis. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I will. No further ado. So on Tuesday, the artificial intelligence weirdos over at OpenAI launched the latest version of their chat bot technology with a product that they are calling GPT4. In a blog post about the launch, OpenAI flaunted the features of the AI update, claiming that GPT4 can see and describe images. Pass the bar exam in the 90th percentile and deduce a married couples standard tax deduction but can it tell if they are happy in their marriage? 


Juanita Tolliver: Uh! 


Priyanka Aribindi: Unclear. Unclear. [laughter] The tech company admits that the bot still has problems. For example, it doesn’t know about any world events past September of 2021, and it still is subject to what they are calling hallucinations or essentially lying and imagining facts from thin air. So far, the upgrade will only be available to chat GPT plus subscribers, but companies like Duolingo and Bing have already incorporated a technology into some of their features. So Juanita. Well, I am waiting to see if chat GPT plus gets any good TV shows before I throw any money their way. How are you feeling about the recent explosion of AI technology? 


Juanita Tolliver: Hard fucking pass and I just want to emphasize the date September 2021. So this is going to be peak vaccine misinformation. Peak COVID misinformation. This, with its hallucinations and lying and imagining facts, is giving Trump supporter and I want nothing to do with it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, not into it at all. Although a little bit I’m a little bit confused about the term hallucination, which I think is extreme. Like that conjures something– 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –for us. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You know sentient beings but openAI like doesn’t have a brain. So where is it having these hallucinat– I think this is the wrong term. Like I’m a little confused by this. Or maybe we have someone explain.


Juanita Tolliver: We should one have someone explain. But two, I’m going to hypothesize this is scientific analysis effort uhh- 


Priyanka Aribindi: All right. All right. We’re doing science.


Juanita Tolliver: I feel like this is the imprint from the coders. In a past life I used to code. [fake cough]. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Whoa. 


Juanita Tolliver: But coders leave traces of themselves, so I feel like this might be something that the developers put in here on purpose. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Mm mm. On purpose. Or maybe even, like, do you think people can do it without even knowing they’re doing it? 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, because, of course, there’s this thing called unconscious bias. That’s why most– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: –tech is racist. So– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Juanita Tolliver: –let’s add in some mental health issues, you know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And suddenly it needs a prescription. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Anyways, if you can take care of that, please let us know. That was Geeks WAD. Remember to restart your computer every three months to a year. I don’t know what happens if you don’t, but just just do it. 


Juanita Tolliver: Your computer will shut you down. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, that happened to my computer literally 20 minutes ago, as we started to read this section. It was really weird. 


Juanita Tolliver: She’s not exaggerating y’all. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Run for reelection like no one’s watching and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just lists of jobs a robot could never do like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And just retire George. 


Juanita Tolliver: How about George you make it through one term. Can we talk about that? It’s March. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, like, I don’t like want him to think that we’re encouraging him to make it through the term. I would rather he just drop out but like– 


Juanita Tolliver: Oooh facts.


Priyanka Aribindi: I think yes, you are correct. He is getting way ahead of himself. 


Juanita Tolliver: Simmer down, friend. Simmer down. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. [music break] 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 Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.