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November 19, 2023
What A Day
Closed Doors at OpenAI

In This Episode

  • Israel, Hamas and the U.S. are close to an agreement to free some hostages held in Gaza, according to The Washington Post. The tentative deal, which is being brokered by the U.S., would involve a pause in fighting in exchange for the release of at least 50 women and children hostages.
  • Sam Altman, the CEO and co-founder of OpenAI, was ousted from his own company by its board of directors on Friday. In a statement, the company – which is the maker of ChatGPT – said of Altman: “The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.”
  • And in headlines: at least seven people are dead after an underwater earthquake struck the southern Philippines, former President Donald Trump can remain on Colorado’s primary ballot, and former first lady and humanitarian Rosalynn Carter died peacefully on Sunday.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, November 20th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice and this is What a Day where we are living for RiRi’s look at the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix. What is the Grand Prix? 


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t know what an F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix is, but she looked amazing. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I would love to see an album in the form of that look. [laughter] No pressure, just encouragement. [laughter] [music break] On today’s show, at least seven people are dead after an underwater earthquake struck the southern Philippines. Plus, Donald Trump can remain on Colorado’s primary ballot. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, an update on the war in Gaza. According to The Washington Post, Israel and Hamas are close to an agreement in the latest stage of this decades long conflict. The tentative deal, which is being brokered by the U.S., would involve an at least five day pause in violence in exchange for the release of at least some of the women and children hostages in batches every 24 hours. The pause in fighting would also allow a significant increase of humanitarian aid, including much needed fuel to make it into Gaza. This all reportedly comes from an anonymous administration official. But nothing is set in stone as of yet. It remains a volatile situation and anything can happen to thwart the agreement still. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, as we’ve obviously learned these past month or so, all this stuff feels very precarious. But this is some of the most promising news we’ve gotten recently at least. I do notice that you used the word pause and not cease fire, which feels important. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So you’ll remember that President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both floated the idea of a potential pause. They’ve been calling them humanitarian pauses over the last couple of weeks. They’ve not used the word cease fire, seemingly because of the social and political associations attached to it. But I think the word pause is also being used because Israel intends to resume the violence after this break. On Friday, the head of Israel’s National Security Council told reporters that a limited cease fire could be possible, but only after hostages were released. He added, quote, “And it will be limited and short because after that, we will continue to work towards achieving our war goals,” which they have already said is to wipe out Hamas. No matter the language choice, though, if this deal does come through and a pause in violence does happen, it’ll be welcomed news for the entire region over there, which is in extended turmoil over this. Over the weekend, for example, Houthi rebels in Yemen, which is an Iran backed group, they took over a cargo ship linked to Israel that was traveling in the Red Sea, taking hostage over two dozen crew members. The group said, quote, “All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets.” And we’ve spoken over the last couple of weeks how, you know, the Biden administration wanted to make sure that the conflict was as contained as possible and it did not spill over to other countries. But we’re beginning to see that it already is doing so. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So there was a time in this war where it seemed like Israel would never consider a deal like this. Even like a few days ago, this seemed. A pause didn’t seem on the table. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It took kind of a lot to get a couple hours pause fairly recently. So what has changed? Like, why now? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And why are they willing to kind of even take a five day break, which, again, like you said, not a cease fire. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Ceasefire is stopping indefinitely, but a five day break still seems like a pretty big step from where they were. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And it is. It absolutely is. According to someone on the inside, this again is coming from The Washington Post. It is partly due to domestic pressure that is forcing Israel’s Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to really reconsider these options. As we mentioned on the show before, some Israelis, especially those family members of the hostages, they feel like not enough is being done to bring their loved ones home and that Israel should have prevented the October 7th attack by Hamas in the first place. Thousands of folks actually ended a five day march from Tel Aviv to Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem on Saturday to demand a different type of action. So domestic pressure is significant. But then I also think international pressure is proving to be effective. In so many ways, Israel is losing the narrative battle as it relates to the conflict. Part of that is because of the disproportionate scale of violence. Hamas killed about 1200 people in their initial attack, while over 11,000 people in Gaza have been killed since. Countless others wounded or injured. That’s in addition to the millions displaced from their homes and that don’t have enough food to eat or water to drink. Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, is according to the United Nations, a quote unquote “death zone now.” Relatives said that three more journalists have been killed by Israel, bringing the number to 48, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Also, more than 100 countries have called for a full and immediate ceasefire. And Netanyahu even acknowledged the impact of the international community on Saturday saying, quote, “For international support to continue, humanitarian aid is essential. Because of that, we accepted the recommendation to bring fuel into Gaza.” So he’s basically saying that the only reason he was allowing fuel into the Gaza Strip is to maintain whatever international support that is going on. But as I already mentioned, this supposed deal is not final, as we have seen, as you have just mentioned, the conflict is ever evolving. But we will be sure to bring y’all any updates as we have them. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s definitely a choice to say like we’re giving them aid because it’s a PR move. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And that’s exactly what it sounds like. Yes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Thank you for that Tre’vell. Now in other news, on Friday Sam Altman, the CEO and co-founder of OpenAI was ousted from his own company by the board of directors. OpenAI of course is the company that created ChatGPT, the most visible A.I. tool of our time. Altman’s ousting was not only a shock to him, but also a surprise to others in the company and to Silicon Valley more broadly. And it could have an effect on the immediate future of A.I.. But as of record time, the question is actually whether or not his firing will even stick. So a lot has happened this weekend. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Definitely a lot has happened. This kind of came out of nowhere. Let’s start with what happened on Friday. Tell us a little bit about Altman and what he experienced. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So Altman founded OpenAI in 2015. It originally was a nonprofit focused on like making sure that A.I. benefited humanity. In 2019 it became a for profit company. Its entire focus has basically been AI,  developing AI, controlling AI, etc.. As you probably already know, ChatGPT is one of the leading and most public AI projects in existence. 100 million people use it every week. And it’s really accelerated regular people’s access to AI and therefore the conversation around the need to regulate AI. And in fact, Altman has been a pretty vocal proponent of regulation, at least to some degree, which I will get to more in a minute. Anyway, suffice it to say that Altman was one of the tech industry’s most prominent leaders and CEOs, especially over the past year. And basically, no one expected him to be fired, including, as I mentioned himself. He did not see this coming. But on Friday morning, the board fired him. They did it. They said in a statement that, quote, “Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI.” In the hours after he was fired, the president of OpenAI, George Brockman, also quit. Brockman had co-founded the company with Altman. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Deliberative review process sounds very intentional, like they know exactly what they did and why they did it. Sounds like they’re implying that Altman either lied to or misled the board somehow about something. Do we know what they’re talking about? 


Josie Duffy Rice: The short answer is that we don’t. What we do know is that according to internal messages obtained by the New York Times, the decision was not made in response to, quote, “malfeasance or anything related to OpenAI’s financial business safety or security/privacy practices.” So that kind of covers like the main things that you would think when you hear that someone’s like not been honest. And so it really kind of poses a question of like, what was this? Is this kind of a way of excusing their decision to I don’t know. It’s hard to know what’s going on. Right. The details are still very, very unclear. It is worth noting that ChatGPT has been criticized for not being cautious enough when it comes to the potential harm that AI could cause. And Altman has actually done a lot on this front, at least publicly. He’s testified in front of Congress asking for more regulation of AI, etc. But some people feel like that’s just kind of been for optics and that he in actuality is not careful enough that he’s more concerned with ChatGPT being number one than he is with controlling the technology. In an interview on Wednesday before he was fired, he stated, quote, “I believe that this will be the most important and beneficial technology humanity has ever invented. And I also believe that if we’re not careful about it, it can be quite disastrous. And so we have to navigate it carefully. I think you want the CEO of this company to be somewhere in the middle, which I think I am.” But again, some have criticized him for not really being careful enough. It’s not clear if that’s the source of the board’s decision, maybe the board thought he was too careful. We don’t really know anything, but that has certainly been kind of like a more public criticism of the company. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So what happens with OpenAI now? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Well, as of Friday, Mira Murati, who was formerly OpenAI’s chief technology officer, was appointed as the interim CEO. But wildly enough, it’s possible that Altman will be reinstated actually, like it seems like this weekend, at least according to reports, he’s waged a pretty intense pressure campaign on staff, on board members, on investors that could basically put the board in a position to reinstate him in order to keep the company together. And it could also lead to some fundamental shifts on the board. So instead of him really being ousted, we could see board members losing some power here or power shifting. But as of right now, that reinstatement is not a guarantee, at least as of record time on Sunday night. So we are going to keep our eyes on this story as it continues. But that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads. [music break] 




Tre’vell Anderson: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: At least seven people are dead and two others are missing after an underwater earthquake struck the southern Philippines on Friday. The 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the Mindanao region at 4:14 p.m. local time. No tsunami warning was in effect. The tremor damaged a school and dozens of homes, caused ceilings in shopping malls to fall and cut power across villages. City officials said on Saturday that 32 people were hospitalized and more than 500 others had minor injuries. Earthquakes in the Philippines are frequent because the group of islands lie along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region that the United States Geological Survey describes as the quote, “most seismically and volcanically active zone in the world.” Earlier this year, a 7.0 earthquake struck the northern Philippines and killed at least four people. 


Josie Duffy Rice: On Friday, a Colorado judge dismissed an effort to keep former President Donald Trump off the state’s primary ballot in 2024. It’s another win for Trump after courts in Minnesota, Michigan and New Hampshire rejected similar legal claims in recent weeks. Colorado District Judge Sarah Wallace wrote that the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause, the part of the amendment that bars insurrectionists from public office, did not apply to a president. However, Wallace simultaneously ruled that Trump, quote, “engaged in an insurrection” by sparking the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol and rejected his attorney’s arguments that he was simply exercising his free speech. The case brought by the watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington was the first to go to trial and is seen as a test case for the broader disqualification effort. The group has already said that they would appeal to the state’s Supreme Court. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Former first lady and humanitarian Rosalynn Carter died peacefully yesterday with her family by her side in her Georgia home. She was 96 years old. Rosalynn devoted herself to different social causes throughout her life, but particularly in mental health advocacy. She was seen as an extension of President Carter and his decision making, earning her the nickname of the Steel Magnolia. In fact, she was the first first lady to set up an office in the East Wing of the White House and only the second to testify in Congress after Eleanor Roosevelt. After leaving Washington, the husband and wife team founded the Atlanta based Carter Center in 1982, which houses Jimmy Carter’s presidential library and an influential nonprofit focused on international peacekeeping. Rosalynn was diagnosed with dementia in May, and on Friday, the Carter Center announced she had entered hospice care. Former President Jimmy Carter said in a statement shortly after his wife’s passing, quote, “Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished. She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.” 


Josie Duffy Rice: As a Georgia native and current Georgian, it’s very sad but she lived a really good life. And finally, we’ve got some good news for Angelenos ahead of the holiday weekend. The ten Freeway in Los Angeles is expected to be, quote, “fully operational” before this morning’s rush hour. That’s according to California Governor Gavin Newsom, who said at a news conference yesterday that the freeway was safe to reopen as early as Sunday night. He was joined by L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senator Alex Padilla. I feel like to understand how important this freeway is to L.A. and California, all you have to know is that the vice president was part of this announcement. Take a listen to what Vice President Harris had to say. 


[clip of Vice President Kamala Harris] The work that happened here is extraordinary. And it really is a function of the will and the ambition of the workers on the ground who understood what closure of the ten would mean for folks on a daily basis and their commitment as public servants, as union members to get this thing done. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I have to say, this is like the only infrastructure project I’ve ever seen be finished ahead of schedule. So that alone feels like news to me. The mile long stretch of Interstate ten was shut down after a fire erupted on November 11th and damaged more than 100 support columns. The arson fire was fed by flammable materials that were stored under the freeway, including wooden pallets, construction materials and hand sanitizer, among other things. And according to the Associated Press, state inspectors had visited the location six times since 2020 and flagged problematic conditions for years at the leased space under the I-10. About 300,000 vehicles use the freeway every day, and officials had initially said it could take anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks for the freeway to reopen. In the meantime, Angelenos can expect periodic closures as repairs go on in the weeks to come. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I just want to shout out the people who actually did the work to get the freeway back together, because it must have been a lot of overtime. I can only imagine for it to go from potentially five weeks, well over a month right to now, a few days it feels like? Maybe a week, I think? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Since the fire itself. So shout out to them and shout out to our improved holiday commutes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, this is not a small undertaking at all. So it’s pretty amazing that this happened. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Thank the workers who repaired the freeway and tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just Silicon Valley drama like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. So check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And Rihanna, we’re ready for the album whenever–


Tre’vell Anderson: –you’re ready. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –you are. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I feel like every time someone brings it up, she turns the clock back. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I know. It’s like–


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s–


Josie Duffy Rice: We just have to all be very quiet. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Starts from scratch. 


Josie Duffy Rice: You have to be really quiet and let her take her time. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Let her take her time. Or guess what? We’re going to end up like Andre 3000 with a new album, and he don’t say not nary a word on it. It’s all wind instruments and stuff.


Josie Duffy Rice: Look, at this point, I’ll take whatever I can get from both of them so. [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 showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.