In This Episode
- President Joe Biden will send CIA Director William Burns to help negotiate a new deal between Israel and Hamas to release hostages. Meanwhile, protests in the U.S. continued around America’s involvement in the war and whether we should officially call for a ceasefire. Universities in particular have been in the spotlight as the sites of many of these demonstrations.
- L.A. Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong appointed Terry Tang as interim executive editor, making her the first woman ever to be the paper’s top editor in its 142-year history. Her appointment came after a tumultuous couple of weeks at the paper. But as publications downsize and shutter, we also saw newsrooms unionize or otherwise stand up for better pay, improved working conditions and a seat at the table.
- And in headlines: Alabama carried out the nation’s first ever execution using nitrogen gas, transgender veterans sued the Department of Veterans Affairs over its failure to provide coverage for gender-affirming surgeries, and housing was unaffordable for half of all renters in the United States in 2022.
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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, January 26th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What a Day where Americans have finally found the right microaggression towards the UK for all of the colonization.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, a US chemistry professor’s new book says that the best way to make tea is by adding a pinch of salt. And the British media is, as they say, whinging babes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Have no idea what that means, but I get the gist. I get the gist. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, we talk about the state of journalism, with even more outlets unionizing or workers walking out this week. Plus, Alabama carried out the country’s first execution using nitrogen gas.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, President Biden will send CIA Director William Burns to help negotiate a new deal between Israel and Hamas, the goal being the release of all the remaining Israeli hostages being held in Gaza, as well as reaching the longest pause in the fighting since the war began over three months ago. This is an ambitious goal, especially after recent proposals on both sides have fallen through. But Burns will travel to Europe to meet with both his Israeli and Egyptian counterparts, as well as the prime minister of Qatar. Egypt and Qatar, of course, have played really key roles in negotiating between Israel and Hamas throughout this war, and Burns himself was actually a big part of the negotiations back in November to get much needed humanitarian aid into Gaza.
Tre’vell Anderson: You mentioned recent proposals from both Israel and Hamas to kind of, you know, do pauses in the conflict. Can you tell us more about those?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. So Israel proposed a 60 day pause in the fighting in exchange for a phased release of all of the remaining hostages. At this time, there are believed to be more than 130 Israeli hostages who are still being held in Gaza. But that proposal would mean that fighting could presumably start up again in two months. Benjamin Netanyahu said he wants to fully eradicate Hamas, so it is probably anticipated that they would, under those terms, start fighting right back up two months from now, which Hamas officials don’t want. They are hoping for a permanent cease fire in exchange for the release of all the remaining hostages. Israeli officials also want all senior Hamas leaders to leave Gaza, which they do not want to do. So a lot of nonstarters on both sides lately. But all of this comes as the carnage from this war continues to mount. Currently, Israel’s army is circling the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, where, according to humanitarian organizations, thousands of people are trapped, many of them in hospitals. Earlier this week, the UN accused Israel of shelling a UN compound in the area that housed 30,000 displaced people. Israel denied responsibility for any strikes. As a reminder, since the fighting began, over 25,000 Palestinians and 1400 Israelis and foreign nationals have been killed, as well as 83 journalists and at least 167 aid workers. So just a staggering human toll from this conflict.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And, you know, we’ve spent a lot of time on the show discussing the U.S. government’s role in this conflict, how it’s acted in Washington and abroad. But can you update us on what’s been happening here at home in terms of the many, many protests? Right?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of the way that regular everyday people, not people in Washington, are sort of interacting with this war, aside from, you know, reading the news and engaging with friends and family members about it. So as this war has continued, protests have obviously continued, specifically around the US’s involvement and whether we should officially be calling for a ceasefire or if we should be so actively funding and supporting the Israeli military amid the deaths of so many civilians in Gaza. All of these are valid questions to be asking of our government. These protests happen all over the place. We mentioned one just yesterday that took place at the United Auto Workers endorsement of Joe Biden. But universities in particular have really been in the spotlight as the sites of so many of these demonstrations and so much of the conversation around what constitutes legitimate criticism of Israel and the US and what crosses that line into antisemitism or hate speech or, you know, even violence. As you’ll remember, there was really massive fallout after the congressional hearings with the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT back in December. And as that day kind of underscored, universities, especially high profile ones, have been under a lot of pressure to respond to allegations of antisemitism on their campuses and are really struggling with this distinction between speech and action that is protected by students First Amendment rights and speech and action that is not.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I remember the hearing and them basically seeming like they had not actually thought this out before, or that they were like wrestling with it in real time.
Priyanka Aribindi: There are a few different things happening on campuses around the country this week. Just to give you a sense of how this is very much continuing to play out because it has not stopped. Just yesterday, American University in Washington, DC banned all protests inside university buildings and mandated that clubs welcome all students and that posters and events around campus, quote, “promote inclusivity.” The university didn’t say that this was related specifically to protests around Israel and Gaza, but this does follow protests on the school’s campus in November and December. Meanwhile, at Northwestern University, the Department of Education opened a civil rights investigation on Tuesday after a complaint from an editor of a self-proclaimed conservative watchdog site alleged that the university didn’t adequately respond to what he called instances of antisemitism in October, November and December of last year. This is one of many such investigations that have been opened at schools all over the country, and at the end of last week at Columbia University, pro-Palestine student protesters were attacked with foul smelling chemicals during a demonstration. We don’t actually know what the chemicals were. That hasn’t been released publicly. They specifically said that students with posters saying things like Jews for cease fire were targeted the most aggressively. The university promptly banned the people accused of spraying them from the campus as the police investigate the incident. So, you know, clearly a lot going on on campuses. Still a lot to be concerned over. I mean, of course, instances of violence and students being attacked, not okay, but also like a lot of concerns around the First Amendment, with schools like American instituting these kind of policies that really seem to toe the line of wanting to avoid culpability and not be the subject of ire of people who are accusing them of not doing enough to curb antisemitism, but also posing the question of are they infringing on students rights with these rules? These are all things we will continue to keep an eye on and continue to keep you updated as um they progress.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Thanks for that update, Priyanka. Now on to a story we’ve been covering this past week. And that is the state of the journalism industry. I’m going to start with the latest with the L.A. times. Its billionaire owner, Doctor Patrick Soon-Shiong, has appointed an interim executive editor. Her name is Terry Tang, and she is the first woman to ever be the paper’s top editor in its 142 year history. This appointment, of course, comes after a tumultuous couple of weeks at the paper. Not only did the previous executive editor, Kevin Merida, step down due to disagreements with the owner over the future of the paper, two other masthead level editors resigned recently as well. Then there was the one day strike last week that the paper’s union organized to protest then impending layoffs that the company announced. And then earlier this week, the company actually went through with those layoffs, cutting at least 115 roles across the newsroom.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it really feels like every day this week, there was another story of another publication downsizing or shuttering altogether. Both national publications and local ones, like this week in particular, really has felt brutal. But this has been ongoing for quite some time.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And you know, this week specifically, I know a lot of us who are somehow connected to the L.A. times. That’s where I got my start. We were especially hurt, especially saddened, right, by the course of events. But so many others, I think, have accurately been looking at these layoffs as a sign of how bad things have really gotten in the industry writ large, right? As fellow former L.A. times journalist Justin Ray said in a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle this week, quote, “of the biggest conclusions to be made from the tragedy is that even large news outlets can’t avoid the economic reality, that news is dying and that journalists of color likely will be hurt the most.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it is incredibly disheartening. And that reality that it’s journalists of color and from communities that are underrepresented will be the ones the most harmed by this. And the voices that we will not hear because of this is really, really disheartening.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And like obviously the LA times is considered, I think like a national publication. Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: But it’s the local ones, right, that are being hit the hardest. Right. Even more so, those are the ones closing so often that according to the Medill School of journalism at Northwestern last year, now over half of the counties in the U.S. have just one or no local news outlets being in danger of becoming news deserts.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: And as we’ve seen these closures happening more quickly, we’re also seeing, right newsrooms all over the place unionize or otherwise stand up for better pay and better working conditions. They want a seat at the table. In fact, the Texas Tribune, after dealing with layoffs a few months ago, their journalists announced plans this week to unionize. They said in a statement Wednesday, quote, “we want a seat at the table next to management, making decisions about our organization’s future and how to best serve our members and readers.”
Priyanka Aribindi: It makes sense. We see this in like a whole variety of industries.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely.
Priyanka Aribindi: Of workers and people who are making the product wanting a seat at the table. But also in journalism specifically, this industry has been plagued by so many dumb decisions, by people in leadership. Like we all remember the pivot to video. No? Like had we had actual journalists and people doing things at the table, maybe we could have avoided trying to feed an algorithm that was just never like, there’s so much that would have perhaps not happened had we had the right people at the table.
Tre’vell Anderson: Literally. And then you also have the union at Forbes magazine, which is actually in the middle of a three day walkout through Monday right now, it’s the first known work stoppage in that publication’s 106 year history. Antonio Pequeno the fourth, is a breaking news reporter for Forbes. Here’s what he told us was on his mind as the Forbes walkout kicked off.
[clip of Antonio Pequeño] Personally, I mean, I’ve been thinking a lot about myself as a young journalist, and I look at all the obstacles before us in terms of the hazards of this industry. And it’s a bit like, you know, trying to climb a mountain and the ground beneath you is kind of crumbling.
Tre’vell Anderson: So, you know, as I gingerly step back onto my soapbox here, I want to reiterate for everyone, right, that if this trajectory doesn’t change course, we will really be in the shitter in so many ways. The decline in news outlets has been linked to increased sociopolitical corruption in many local communities, which is already bad in and of itself. But imagine what an election year will bring, right? The reality is that we all are already playing a role in what’s unfolding. And if you want to be part of the solution and not the problem, you’ve got to subscribe to your local newspaper or your favorite outlet. If they don’t do subscriptions, you can donate even actually just clicking on and reading the reporting of journalists covering the news that you say you care about, not just clicking on the headline or reading the headline on TikTok. Okay, that’s helpful as well. We all have a role to play.
Priyanka Aribindi: And it’s good for you. I mean, you’re going to learn something. It’s going to be good for the industry. It’s a win win all around. There’s no reason not to do it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, you scratch my back, we scratch yours, okay? You see how that works? That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break].
Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Last night, Alabama carried out the first ever execution in the nation using nitrogen gas. Kenneth Smith died at the hands of the state for his role in a 1988 murder for hire. As we’ve discussed on the show, Smith is a rare example of a person who has actually survived a state’s execution attempt. Prison staff tried to put Smith to death in 2022 using lethal injection, but they couldn’t insert needles into a suitable vein, so it got called off. Smith’s lawyers had been fighting last night’s execution and claimed that Alabama wasn’t adequately prepared to carry out this execution. They added that another malfunction of this new method could have caused Smith to suffer further. But several courts, including the US Supreme Court, allowed this execution to move forward. Yesterday morning, Smith ate his very last meal a T-Bone steak, hash browns and eggs from Waffle House. The local news website AL.com says Smith’s last words before he died were these quote, “tonight Alabama causes humanity to take a step backwards. Thank you for supporting me. Love all of you.” And after the gas began to flow, AL.com reports Smith smiled and nodded toward his family and signed, I love you.
Priyanka Aribindi: Moving on to more upsetting news and just a heads up that this story mentions rape and sexual violence. So please feel free to skip ahead if you need to by about a minute. Researchers estimate that nearly 65,000 pregnancies caused by rape likely occurred in the 14 states that implemented total abortion bans after Roe v Wade was overturned. That is according to new research published by the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this week. And it’s worth noting that the lead author is the medical director of Planned Parenthood Montana. Texas accounted for 45% of that total number, amounting to more than 26,000 rape related pregnancies. Researchers also found that just ten or fewer legal abortions took place in those states post Dobbs. So if you were banking on those exceptions that those laws supposedly had baked into them for situations like this, I don’t know what’s ten over 26,000? You can do the math on how often that is working out. The researchers wrote that their findings indicate that, quote, “persons who have been raped and become pregnant cannot access legal abortions in their home state, even in states with rape exceptions,” which is, I think, what a lot of people have been trying to say for a long time. It’s not as simple as just hopping over one state and being done with it. The researchers used data from the CDC, the FBI, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics for their analysis. If I sound pissed off about this, it’s because I fucking am. And you should be too.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. A group of transgender veterans sued the Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday over its failure to provide coverage for gender affirming surgeries. The federal lawsuit was filed by the Transgender American Veterans Association, or TAVA, and it seeks to compel the VA to act on a 2016 rulemaking petition. That petition asks the VA to amend its health benefits to include medically necessary gender confirmation surgery for trans veterans. And according to the lawsuit, even though the VA has publicly stated its intentions to provide these surgeries to veteran patients and even proposed rules for cost benefits analysis and held hearings, it hasn’t taken any formal action in the eight years since the petition was filed. So the lawsuit calls on the VA to, at the very least, grant or deny the petition and not keep trans veterans waiting any longer. In a statement released yesterday by TAVA, the association said in part, quote, “gender confirmation surgery dramatically reduces the risks of suicidal ideation, depression and psychological distress for transgender people who live with gender dysphoria.” And yesterday, the court ordered the VA to respond within 14 days.
Priyanka Aribindi: Good, because they’ve already had eight years to think about it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Plenty of time.
Priyanka Aribindi: So 14 days should be more than enough time. Housing was unaffordable for half of all renters in the U.S. in 2022. That is according to a new report from Harvard University. The school’s Joint Center for Housing Studies looked into data from rental households nationwide in 2022. Researchers found that rents spiked that year during the pandemic, so much so that a record 50% of renters spent more than a third of their monthly income on rent and utilities. If you live in a big city like Los Angeles or New York your probably like that’s normal. I didn’t know that that wasn’t. [laugh] The report also found that nearly a quarter of renters were spending more than half of their monthly income on rent. This comes after the rate of homelessness in the U.S. hit a record high last year, with officials counting more than 650,000 people living in tents, cars and shelters, a trend that experts say is driven by a lack of low rent housing and the end of pandemic era federal aid. Chris Herbert, the managing director of Harvard’s Center for Housing Studies, said in a press release that the study’s findings demonstrate how the federal government must establish more rental assistance programs, similar to the ones that kept people afloat during the pandemic but have since expired. He wrote, quote, “only then will the nation finally make a meaningful dent in the housing affordability crisis, making life so difficult for millions of people.”
Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, White Lotus star Tom Hollander gave an interview about how he once received a seven figure paycheck in the mail that was supposed to be sent to Spider-Man actor Tom Holland. The revelation comes from when Hollander appeared as a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers earlier this week. Meyers asked Hollander if people ever mistake him for Holland, given how similar their names are. Here’s what the 56 year old actor had to say.
[clip of Tom Hollander] The interval came and I thought I’d check my emails and I got an e-mail from the agency saying, payment advice slip your first box office bonus for the Avengers. And um [laughter] and I thought [laughter] I don’t think I’m in the Avengers.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] If you’re familiar with both Toms, you’ll know that they don’t look much alike outside of being two British white guys. Hollander is known for his work playing other British guys in movies like Pride and Prejudice. Holland, on the other hand, is most known for playing the American teenage superhero Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Priyanka Aribindi: And, of course, dating our queen, Zendaya.
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, obviously yes. [laughter] While the two don’t share much of a resemblance, Hollander told Meyers that he and Holland shared the same agent at one point during their careers, so the payroll office probably just got them mixed up. You know somebody got fired. And I would just like to say, if somebody would like to get me mixed up with some other Tre’vell Anderson or related Anderson, who makes seven figures in a bonus check.
Priyanka Aribindi: In a bonus, in a bonus.
Tre’vell Anderson: Not even the regular check.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, Priyanka Chopra?
Tre’vell Anderson: Priyanka Chopra. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: Priyanka Chopra, I would not mind. I’m around. Who’s your agent? I need to get. I need to do some dialing. Get in touch.
Tre’vell Anderson: I love that for you.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I think a case of mistaken identity could be great for us.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know what I mean? I’m just saying. And those are the headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go, we want to take a moment to congratulate the one and only Tre’vell Anderson, for their NAACP Image Award nomination. Their book, Historically Black Phrases from I Ain’t One of Your Little Friends to Who All Gonna Be There was nominated in the Outstanding Literary Work instructional category. From authoress to nominee, we absolutely love to see it. Congratulations Tre’vell. So–
Tre’vell Anderson: Y’all so funny surprising me with this.
Priyanka Aribindi: –so well deserved.
Tre’vell Anderson: But thank y’all so much. [laughing] Shout out to me.
Priyanka Aribindi: We had to. We had to.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah!
Tre’vell Anderson: I love this for me.
Priyanka Aribindi: This is amazing. How does it feel? Speech. Speech.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, I have waited so long for a NAACP Image Award nomination because, you know, this is Black people’s Oscars for the record.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: And so I’ll take it. Thank you so much.
Priyanka Aribindi: I can’t think of anyone more deserving. I also think that there’s probably another Tre’vell out there hoping that their name gets mixed up with yours. [laughter] Your goals.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] Thank you. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, don’t be so salty over tea Brits and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just checks for Tom signed over to me like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
[spoken together] And we’re all Tom Holland today.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, he’s a cutie. Wouldn’t mind being Tom Holland for a day.
Tre’vell Anderson: Just to get the check. To be quite honest.
Priyanka Aribindi: The check, the super powers, the girlfriend. Love it. I’m into it all.
Tre’vell Anderson: You and me both. [laughing] [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.