In This Episode
- Five Americans detained in Iran for years are on their way back home as part of a rare agreement between the United States and Iran. In exchange, the U.S. released a group of Iranian prisoners, and restored Tehran’s access to some $6 billion dollars in oil revenues.
- Illinois became the first state in the nation to fully eliminate cash bail on Monday. The new law is a major win in the fight against criminalizing poverty, and includes other provisions that are expected to improve the way criminal courts operate.
- And in headlines: Hunter Biden sued the IRS for releasing his tax records, Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat over ‘credible allegations’ that India’s government was behind the killing of a Canadian Sikh activist, and talks between the Writers Guild of America and major Hollywood studios will start back up this week.
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
- Jarrett Hill & Tre’vell Anderson: Historically Black Phrases – https://www.historicallyblackphrases.com/
- All She Wrote Books: Author Conversation with Tre’vell Anderson, September 23rd – https://tinyurl.com/7wd776bz
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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, September 19th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson and this is What a Day where we are currently shopping around for someone to buy our entire back catalog.
Josie Duffy Rice: Now we haven’t produced any albums or chart toppers actually we haven’t made any music, but that’s not the point. We know what we’re worth.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, we do. If you’re interested, we take Venmo, Cash app, Zelle, PayPal, cash is fine too just no crypto, please, and thank you. [music break]
Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, Hunter Biden has sued the IRS, claiming the agency illegally released his tax information. Plus, someone lost a whole fighter jet in South Carolina. And by someone, we mean the US military.
Tre’vell Anderson: Right. [laughing] Of course they did. But first, five Americans who were detained in Iran for years are on their way back home. They’re released as part of a rare agreement between the U.S. and Iran and is in exchange for the release of Iranians and Iranian American prisoners in U.S. custody and the unfreezing of some $6 billion dollars in oil revenues that Iran can now use.
Josie Duffy Rice: This is surprising news.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Josie Duffy Rice: Can you tell us a little bit about the Americans that were detained?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So they include Morad Tahbaz, who is an environmental activist that was detained back in 2018, and Emad Shargi, who was also detained that same year while visiting Iran. There’s also Siamak Namazi, who has been jailed in Iran since 2015, making him the longest held American, at least since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. He’s 51 now and back in January had sent a letter from jail to President Biden pleading for help. In a statement after his release, he said, quote, “As a hostage, 2898 days of what should have been the best days of my life were stolen from me and supplanted with torment. What I want more than anything is assurance that no one else will know the anguish that my family and I experienced. But sadly, many are suffering those miseries right now.” In addition to Tahbaz, Shargi, and Namazi, there are two other Americans who were released, but their names haven’t been released publicly. In total, two of the five had served a majority of their sentences. The other three were awaiting trial and had not yet been convicted. All of them to the U.S. were wrongfully detained. And like I mentioned earlier, they were traded for a group of five Iranian prisoners held here in the U.S., most of whom were charged with or convicted on charges of violating sanctions laws. So nothing violent. One of the guys was serving out a 63 month prison sentence for obtaining equipment that could be used in missiles or nuclear weapons. And another had been sentenced back in February to 30 months in prison for buying high tech electronic gear for Iran’s nuclear program.
Josie Duffy Rice: So what else did the deal include?
Tre’vell Anderson: So in addition to some new sanctions on the country, the deal also included the unfreezing of nearly $6 billion dollars of oil revenues that have been frozen in a South Korean bank account. That money has now been transferred to accounts in Qatar, but can only be used for humanitarian needs, such as food, agricultural products, medicine and medical devices, things that are not subject to U.S. sanctions. But it’s this part of the deal that is already receiving criticism, even from Namazi, one of the released Americans. He said that in this situation, Iran has, quote, “mastered the nasty game of caging innocent Americans and other foreign nationals and commercializing their freedom.” And that’s something that concerns Republicans as well. They believe that the transfer of the money is damaging to the United States credibility abroad and could be an incentive for adversaries to wrongfully detain American citizens if they know that they can make trades like this. They also think, despite the restrictions on the funds that the unfreezed monies will be used to fund terrorism. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, quote, “Over the past two and a half years, the administration’s weakness and desperation have emboldened a massive state sponsor of terror and would be nuclear armed aggressor. The Biden administration’s record of appeasement and squandered leverage has left America less secure.” And then, former vice president and 2024 presidential hopeful Mike Pence also had some words, especially about a connected decision to all of this that allows Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to enter the U.S. to speak at the United Nations. Pence said, quote, “When I’m president, I won’t give criminals like Raisi a visa to allow them to set foot on American soil. And we will never, ever pay ransom to terrorists or terrorist states,” which, you know, I find really rich. Once you remember that back in 2019 and 2020 when Pence was vice president under that mad man Trump, at least two deals were made to release Iranians from U.S. custody in exchange for a Princeton University graduate student and a U.S. Navy veteran. So really, really interesting coming from Pence himself.
Josie Duffy Rice: But guess what? Guess who will never be president.
Tre’vell Anderson: Right.
Josie Duffy Rice: Mike Pence.
Tre’vell Anderson: We can only hope.
Josie Duffy Rice: So in other news, Illinois became the first state to eliminate cash bail legislatively on Monday. The law, called the SAFE-T Act, is a major win in the fight against criminalizing poverty, and it includes some other provisions that are expected to improve the way that criminal courts operate in Illinois.
Tre’vell Anderson: So I know some social justice folks in Chicago in particular that are really excited about this new law. Tell us more about it.
Josie Duffy Rice: I am really excited about this new law because it is, it’s very exciting. It’s a big step forward. We’ve talked about cash bail on the show before and what a biased tool it is. Basically, poor people are forced to sit in jail for days, weeks, even months on end because they don’t have the money to get out, even if their bail is like $100 or $500 or $1,000 if you don’t have the money you don’t have the money. Right? And the problem is that cash bail doesn’t actually detain the most dangerous people, but it just detains people with the least resources, which makes it a pretty imperfect way of assessing if someone should be held pretrial. And these laws have, like really serious effects on people’s lives, because if you’re locked up, even for a few days, right, you can lose your job, you can lose your housing, you can lose custody of your children even. Even if you’ve been locked up for like a relatively minor thing. It can have a major impact. So this law will hopefully reduce that unequal burden that is carried by the poor.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I know so many people, people in my family who have spent entirely too long in a cell because they did not have the money to be able to get out. One of the interesting things, though, about this law is how it works. The way the law works will depend on the specific charges that a person is facing. Is that right?
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s right. So it’s an especially big deal for people charged with really low level offenses like littering or some speeding charges or possession of marijuana over the limit. Those people will probably not even have to go to jail at all. They’ll get a citation, a court date, they have to show up for court. It’s like getting a traffic ticket. Right. And there will be some exceptions to that where police will have discretion. But for the most part, these people won’t even really be arrested. So that’s a major, major change. For some more serious misdemeanors, like some shoplifting charges, underage drinking, people might actually be booked at the police station. They might actually get the handcuffs, go to the police station, but they likely won’t be jailed. And for felonies that don’t include allegations of violence, the accused may be detained, they may be released, they may be placed on electronic monitoring. It kind of depends on the circumstances. It depends on the person, depends on the actual accusation, etc.. For more serious offenses like murder, domestic violence and sex crimes, or for people perceived as a threat, which is a general word that gets abused by prosecutors very often. But let’s take it at face value right now. Prosecutors can seek to have that person detained pretrial. But the point here is that like there isn’t going to be the same presumption that people will be locked up for all kinds of offenses and forced to pay their way out. We know who that hurts. It hurts poor people. And there are some other important protections that the law includes as well, like detained people have the right to make three calls within 3 hours of being detained instead of the like, you get one phone call that we see in the movies.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
Josie Duffy Rice: Now you get three and you get them fairly speedily. So there’s some other improvements in the law as well.
Tre’vell Anderson: I always thought that one call thing was weird.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: I am not someone who has ever, you know, had to be in that position. Praise the Lord.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: However, I was like just one call? What if they don’t answer?
Josie Duffy Rice: I have missed more than one call from jail. And it does not feel good to miss a call from jail. You feel bad.
Tre’vell Anderson: All right. So tell us who is upset about this. I’m sure somebody likely a Republican, is very upset about this because they always are when you are trying to help out poor people.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, of course, Republicans are yelling and screaming that this will mean suffering for victims or potential victims of crime. But the actual truth is that now judges will be able to detain only the people that they think are an actual risk versus resorting to kind of setting high bond amounts reflexively. This idea that cash bail keeps people safe, it’s really misleading and often lets wealthier people out regardless of their actual threat to safety. We’ve seen dozens of people die in jails even recently. That should not be the price you pay for being arrested. It’s not as if jails are rehabilitation facilities. They’re not improving anything for anybody. They’re basically just keeping people detained often because they’re poor. It’s worth noting that this new system could also have many problems, like there’s the possibility of judges being overcautious. There is the possibility of judges relying too much on what we call e-carceration, meaning like electronic monitoring or other surveillance techniques. Perhaps they locked too many people at pretrial and then there is no way for them to get out. There could be negative externalities, but it’s a big move to go forward with no cash bail across the entire state. And Illinois is the first state in the country to really do this. So we are going to see how it goes. But I’m hopeful. And that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads. [music break]
Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines.
Josie Duffy Rice: Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, sued the IRS yesterday, alleging that the agency unlawfully released his tax information. He claims that two agents breached his privacy rights and, quote, “targeted and sought to embarrass him” when they shared details about his taxes to Congress and the media. While the suit doesn’t specifically name them, the allegations focus on disclosures made by IRS investigators Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, both of whom testified before Congress and made public statements and appearances about their probe into Hunter Biden’s tax liabilities. Lawyers for the agents have previously said they’re protected under whistleblower laws, but Hunter’s legal team argues that’s not the case because such laws are meant to protect whistleblowers if they catch any alleged government wrongdoing, not allegations against a private person. Among other things, Hunter Biden is asking for $1,000 for each unauthorized disclosure and also wants the IRS to admit that it unlawfully revealed his confidential tax information.
[clip of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] Mr. Speaker, today I am rising to inform the House of an extremely serious matter.
Tre’vell Anderson: That was Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressing lawmakers in the country’s House of Commons yesterday afternoon with some serious accusations surrounding the death of a prominent sick activist.
[clip of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Tre’vell Anderson: Back in June, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot to death in his truck by two masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia. The shocking killing raised fears within the Sikh community that Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was murdered over his political views. He was a vocal advocate of creating an independent Sikh nation that would include parts of northern India. Shortly after Trudeau’s comments, Canadian officials expelled a top Indian diplomat, specifically the head of India’s external intelligence agency in Canada. While the investigation into Nijjar’s death continues, the move comes amid mounting tensions between Canada and India, especially when it comes to India’s human rights record. Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have pointed to the growing trend of violence against religious minorities since his Hindu nationalist government came to power in 2014.
Josie Duffy Rice: Back in this country, an ugly legal fight over a heartbreaking case in Indiana is getting uglier. A disciplinary panel from the state Supreme Court has accused its own attorney general, Todd Rokita, of professional misconduct. This is over remarks he made last summer about Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the Indianapolis doctor who provided an abortion for a ten year old rape victim from Ohio. The little girl was forced across the state line for the procedure to avoid being charged in her home state after Roe v Wade was overturned. Rokita told Fox News last year that his office would investigate Dr. Bernard for child abuse and abduction and also called Bernard a, quote, “abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report.” Needless to say, that claim has since been proven very false. Monday’s complaint alleges that Rokita improperly disclosed his office’s investigation on national TV before making a referral to the state’s medical licensing board, and that he broke rules that bar attorneys from using tactics to, quote, “embarrass, delay or burden a third person.” And just last Friday, Rokita’s office filed a federal lawsuit against the state’s largest health care system, alleging that it violated patient privacy laws when Dr. Bernard went public about the girl’s story. An early review by the hospital system cleared Bernard of any wrongdoing, though she was hit with a small fine by the state’s medical licensing board.
Tre’vell Anderson: Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the major Hollywood studios are expected to start back up tomorrow. The meeting comes as writers have now been on strike for more than 140 days. And in a message to union members confirming the sit down, the WGA said, quote, “You might not hear from us in the coming days while we are negotiating, but know that our focus is getting a fair deal for writers as soon as possible.” The last time the union met with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, was last month and they haven’t met since. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on whatever comes out of that. But in case you were wondering what Bill Maher has been up to, you are definitely listening to the wrong podcast. In any event, Maher’s show Real Time won’t be coming back as promised next week after all, pending the outcome of this new round of contract negotiations. Maher said last week that he would bring back the show without writers, a decision the WGA called, quote, “disappointing,” as they should have. The union had also planned to picket the show, but really, we should all picket this man anyway.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we just feel like we all got a list of people we just can’t deal with. And he’s on my list.
Tre’vell Anderson: Understandable.
Josie Duffy Rice: And finally, in this addition of lost and not quite found, U.S. military yesterday said it lost an F-35 fighter jet in South Carolina. Just lost it. [laughter] This makes me feel better as like a person who loses things. [laughter] I have yet to lose a jet. It happened on Sunday after the pilot of the aircraft was forced to eject themselves during a training mission after some sort of quote unquote, “mishap” on board. The military has since found a debris field north of Charleston where the aircraft went missing. Thankfully, the pilot is all right, but the very expensive, very advanced F-35 jet is probably not. It was apparently left on autopilot. So it’s possible that it just kept flying around for some time. Search efforts have been concentrated north of Joint Base Charleston, near the Jet’s last known location and where the debris has since been located. And you might be wondering the same thing as South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace, who tweeted this very important question yesterday, how the hell do you lose an F-35? How is there not a tracking device? And we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in? Yes, that’s what we’re asking, Nancy.
Tre’vell Anderson: We need find my iPhone for the jet.
Josie Duffy Rice: Where is OnStar?
Tre’vell Anderson: Where is OnStar when you need them? Okay. [laughing]
Josie Duffy Rice: Anyway, those are the headlines.
Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Shame Bill Maher out of existence and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading and not just books by an of the moment and in demand culture reporter like me uh huh, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
[spoken together] And come get you fighter jet.
Josie Duffy Rice: If you can find it.
Tre’vell Anderson: I was about to say it’s tucked away in my garage somewhere.
Josie Duffy Rice: Ugh.
Tre’vell Anderson: Ya know it’s on a farm in the middle of nowhere outside of Charleston or something.
Josie Duffy Rice: I truly hope someone found the fighter jet and just decided to keep it and never gets caught, because that’s the lesson that the American military should learn from. [laughter] [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: 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 senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.