In This Episode
- Signs of a massacre in Bucha, a town near Kyiv, have intensified calls for investigations into possible war crimes by Russia. Footage and photographs from Bucha show the corpses of at least twenty men strewn across the streets. The town’s mayor has said the victims included men and women and at least one child, and that they’ve already buried 280 people in mass graves.
- Today, hundreds of people are assembling at the U.S. Department of Education in D.C. to urge President Biden to cancel all federal student debt. The pause on payments is currently slated to end on May 1st, and Biden has yet to announce either another extension or any kind of relief for borrowers. Braxton Brewington, the press secretary for The Debt Collective, joins us to discuss why debt needs to be canceled rather than paused.
- And in headlines: Six people are dead after a mass shooting in Sacramento, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan dissolved the country’s parliament, and Amazon workers at a warehouse in New York voted to form the company’s first union in the U.S.
- The Debt Collective – https://debtcollective.org/
- Washington Post: “What the student loan payment pause has meant to Black women” – https://wapo.st/3K5SjTH
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, April 4th, I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, recipient of one of the one million or so Grammy Awards that were given before the broadcast started last night.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, they only give away like five awards during the show and about 80 before, so just trust us, we were one of the first 80.
Priyanka Aribindi: Don’t look for any red carpet photos or anything like that, but like, it definitely happened.
Tre’vell Anderson: On the show, today is the day of action for student debt cancelation, and we hear from one of the organizers. Plus one Amazon warehouse votes to unionize while another is too close to call.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, signs of a massacre in a town near Kiev have intensified calls for investigations into Russia’s war crimes.
Tre’vell Anderson: All right, so tell us what’s going on.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, the details that we have come from a town northwest of Kiev called Bucha. After peace talks last week between Ukraine and Russia, Russian forces had started to leave Kiev to reposition elsewhere. But once they departed,. Photos and videos captured the destruction and brutality that they left behind, specifically in Bucha. The footage and photographs show the corpses of at least 20 men strewn across the city streets. Some of their hands have been tied behind their backs, and they had gunshots in the back of their heads. The town’s mayor has said that the victims included men and women and at least one child, and that they’ve already buried 280 people in mass graves. Ukraine’s President Volodymir Zelenskyy also said that as Russian troops retreat, they are leaving behind landmines, creating a catastrophic threat to Ukrainian civilians. Here he is speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday through a translator.
[clip of Volodymyr Zelenskyy] Indeed, this is genocide, the elimination of the whole nation and the people. We are the citizens of Ukraine. We have more than 100 nationalities. This is about the destruction and extermination of all these nationalities. We are the citizens of Ukraine, and we don’t want to be subdued to the policy of Russian Federation. This is the reason we are being destroyed.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. So President Zelenskyy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and several Western leaders reacted to these images from Bucha by calling for war crimes investigations. What’s happening there?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, as you said, they are calling for investigations and there are a couple avenues, you know, that they could take ths. War crimes can be brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and Ukrainian officials have asked the court to visit the mass graves in Bucha to gather evidence. But according to experts, it’s very challenging to successfully prosecute these types of crimes in courts, and there isn’t much in the way of enforcement. They could also be brought before the International Court of Justice, but the U.N. Security Council is responsible for enforcing any ruling against Russia, and Russia is a part of the U.N. Security Council, meaning they could just veto it. So really not very effective over there, either. Beyond calling for investigations into the war crimes, these latest atrocities really seem to be pushing leaders in the EU to impose sanctions of their own against Russia. That is something that Ukraine and the U.S. have been calling on them to do for some time now, but up until now, they’ve been extremely hesitant because of reliance on Russian oil and gas. And in the U.S., lawmakers are saying that these reports justify even more assistance to Ukraine as quickly as they possibly can provide it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, so much going on. How have the Russian officials responded to all of this?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, honestly, they are responding the same way that they have been responding to every allegation of violence against civilians: they are denying everything, they’re calling the footage fake. They have even said that their military was actually there delivering aid to civilians in these areas, which is just untrue.
Tre’vell Anderson: We know they’re lying, OK? Because this is not the first time that we’ve talked about Russian forces killing innocent civilians in Ukraine. So talk to us a bit about how this fits into the larger picture here.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this certainly is not. On Sunday, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting war crimes by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians in Chernihiv, Kharkiv, as well as Kiev. This is all based on interviews with witnesses, victims, and local residents. Their reports contain evidence of rape, murder, and other violations of laws of war. And that doesn’t even include the details from recent weeks, including in places like Bucha. But we’ve been hearing so many instances of violence against civilians at the hands of Russian troops since this war started at the end of February. Russian troops have shot at civilians trying to evacuate. They’ve made it impossible to use humanitarian corridors to travel safely. In the port city of Mariupol, which has been under siege and cut off from critical resources for over a month, a maternity ward and a theater being used as a bomb shelter were both attacked. So this footage from Bucha is yet another extremely disturbing example of Russia’s ongoing brutality. That is the latest update that we have on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We will continue to share more details of this story as they develop.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. Turning back to some domestic issues: today, hundreds of people are assembling at the U.S. Department of Education in D.C. to urge President Biden to finally cancel all federal student loans at.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: Back in 2020, the Department of Education paused all payments in an effort to provide some relief for over 40 million borrowers during the pandemic. That pause is currently slated to end on May 1st, so the clock is ticking. But Biden has yet to announce either another extension or the cancelation of all student loan debt, despite having promised to provide borrowers with some kind of relief during his campaign for president. Now I don’t know about you, Priyanka, but I’ve got some loans that I wouldn’t mind seeing poof, disappear, honey.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Is there any reporting out there about whether or not it’s likely that Biden will extend the pause again?
Tre’vell Anderson: So, according to the New York Times, they report that it’s unlikely that borrowers will actually have to start making payments again in May.
Priyanka Aribindi: OK.
Tre’vell Anderson: Loan servicers have said that the Department of Education hasn’t given them guidance on whether they should bill borrowers any time soon, and that apparently is a sign that another pause or extension may be in the works.
Priyanka Aribindi: Got it! OK, fingers very much crossed over here. And when we talk about the 40 million Americans who are struggling with student debt and who have benefited from the two-year pause, who are we talking about? Who are these people?
Tre’vell Anderson: We are talking about me. I am all 40 million Americans who has benefited from the two-year pause. But as usual, we’re talking about marginalized communities, right? Particularly Black women, according to a Washington Post story that we can link to in the show notes. For more insight, I got to talk to Braxton Brewington yesterday. He is the press secretary of the Debt Collective, the group organizing today’s action in D.C., and Braxton went into more detail about who all is impacted.
[Braxton Brewington] The people who have student debt are actually disproportionately Black and brown Americans, women, folks who live at the intersection of those identities, people who work to for-profit colleges and were taken advantage of by these predatory private or for-profit institutions, they’re veterans, they’re librarians and social workers and teachers. And they’re not the typical wealthy white economist that I think a lot of folks have this image of in their head.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And what does the Debt Collective day of action entail? What are they advocating for and how are they doing this?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So the overall message is that extending the pause isn’t actually enough, that it’s important to cancel this debt for everyone. And canceling debt won’t just relieve borrowers like myself, but boost the economy. If it’s a pause that eventually resumes, Braxton says, there will be a huge economic fallout.
[Braxton Brewington] We will see massive defaults. We will see people taking such drastic efforts to be able to pay the student debt that people are considering selling all of their personal belongings, selling their homes. Some people are taking measures as drastic as hurting themselves, right? And so canceling this debt is not going to cost taxpayers money, it’s actually going to boost the economy.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. While we wait for Biden to act, there are some federal student loan debt forgiveness initiatives out there, such as income-driven repayment plans or public service loan forgiveness. Do we know if or how those programs are providing any relief here?
Tre’vell Anderson: So the short answer is no, not really. An NPR investigation published last week revealed that these programs don’t actually live up to their promises. Here’s Braxton again:
[Braxton Brewington] They have been systemic failures. 99% of people have been denied public service loan forgiveness. The amount of people that have had their debt forgiven or canceled after 20 or 25 years through an income-driven repayment program is 32, not 32,000. 32. So these people don’t work no matter how long you’ve been on them, whether you get the paperwork right, and it’s because it’s designed to fail.
Tre’vell Anderson: And that is why he, along with hundreds more, are in D.C. today to push for a broad cancelation plan that wipes the debt clean for every single person. We’ll add a link in our show notes to the Debt Collective so folks can read more about their work and how they can get involved. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Six people are dead in Sacramento in what local officials are calling one of the worst mass shootings in the city’s history. It happened in downtown, close to the state Capitol, near a bunch of nightclubs as they were closing early Sunday morning, and the shooting scene covered an area that was two by four blocks wide. In addition to the six people killed, 12 more people were wounded. As of our reporting time at 9:30 p.m., Eastern, authorities are still searching for suspects and believe multiple shooters may have been involved. Authorities have asked the public for any assistance. Details of the shooting still haven’t been confirmed, including whether the attack was planned, but police said they were looking into the possibility that there’s a connection between this incident and a fight that same night captured on video and spread on social media. Police also recovered at least one stolen firearm from the scene. During a press conference yesterday, Mayor Darrell Steinberg pushed for stronger gun laws and said this:
[clip of Mayor Darrell Steinberg] We mourn the victims, we grieve for their families. But as I said this morning, thoughts and prayers are not enough. That’s too easy, and it will be too easy to mourn for a week and then move on. We can’t do that. In our city, we will take stock and we will do everything we can on the investment side, on the public safety side, on the gun side.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Yeah. Re-Tweet. Exactly what he said. Pakistan is in a constitutional crisis because Prime Minister Imran Khan dissolved the country’s parliament yesterday–which is apparently a thing he can do–in a move to protect himself. Parliament was days away from ousting Khan through a no-confidence vote orchestrated by an alliance of politicians who criticized his leadership over the country’s struggling economy, rising inflation, and more. Khan, however, claimed that their effort was part of a US-backed conspiracy to topple his government, a claim that the U.S. denies. Faced with getting the boot, Khan dismissed Parliament on Sunday before they could get rid of him, and he called for new parliamentary elections within 90 days. His opponents have called his motion a quote, “open coup against the country and the Constitution” and they’ll argue their case today before the country’s Supreme Court. One expert on Pakistan’s constitution told The New York Times that it’s likely that the court will rule against Khan. But to prepare for possible violence that might occur with the stand-off, paramilitary troops and police have sealed off the area where governmental buildings are in the capital of Islamabad.
Tre’vell Anderson: The veins on Jeff Bezos’s head were extra easy to spot on Friday after Amazon workers at a warehouse on New York’s Staten Island voted to form the company’s first union in the U.S. in a historic win for labor activists.
Priyanka Aribindi: Woo!
Tre’vell Anderson: Employees at the warehouse, known as JFK-8, will now be represented by Amazon Labor Union. Chris Smalls, a former Amazon employee at the warehouse who had been fired and who Amazon’s Chief Counsel once described in an email as quote, “not smart or articulate” actually helped lead this unionization effort and on Friday said this:
[clip of Chris Smalls] I hope that everybody’s paying attention now because a lot of people doubted us.
Tre’vell Anderson: Period. They sure did.
Priyanka Aribindi: They definitely are paying attention now.
Tre’vell Anderson: In the coming days, we’ll speak to Smalls about this victory. Meanwhile, the outcome of the union election at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, remains undetermined. The preliminary results from the do-over vote came out last Thursday and initially appeared that the unionization effort failed. However, the final results were too close to call due to hundreds of contested ballots. The National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, is expected to hold a hearing to review those ballots in the next few weeks. As a reminder, this recent vote happened because the NLRB found Amazon improperly interfered in the original vote last spring.
Priyanka Aribindi: I, for one, cannot wait to hear from Chris Smalls on the show. What an incredible victory.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Such vindication. Very exciting for him and for everybody. A man who has never heard the phrase “leave them wanting more,” disgraced former governor of New York Andrew Cuomo slithered out into the public eye once again this weekend to sue New York’s ethics commission. The lawsuit pertains to Cuomo’s pre-Delta Pre-Omicron Pre-BA-2 memoir about how he helped beat the pandemic and the $5.1 million he made off of that book. The commission contends that when it gave Cuomo permission to work on the book, it did so under false pretenses, as such, it wants Cuomo to turn over his profits. Getting that money would require the commission to conduct an investigation, which Cuomo is suing to block by alleging that the commission has made prejudicial comments. Cuomo obviously has a financial motivation to sue, but he also has a reputational one since he might be gearing up for another run at the governor’s mansion! For reasons that may include retrieving the ring light that he once used to film COVID-era with his brother on CNN–can’t think of any other good ones because, I don’t know. There’s really, really none. Cuomo has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars running ads contesting in multiple claims of sexual harassment against him and has made public appearances blaming his downfall on quote, “cancel culture”–could speak on that forever, but we will not. According to a Siena College Research Institute poll released last week, Cuomo trails current New York Governor Kathy Hochul by eight points in a primary, with 30% support. He has not indicated whether he will run, but if you want to do, he need to file 15,000 signatures by this Thursday– everybody, please don’t sign anything from now to Thursday. We don’t need that. We’re doing fine.
Tre’vell Anderson: Leave us alone. Remove us from the narrative of the Cuomos. All of them. They need to leave us alone. They need to leave us alone. Priyanka.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I hate to say it all. Hope I don’t sound ridiculous. I don’t know who this man is. Get him out of here.
Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go: check out the latest episode of Crooked’s newest podcast, Strict Scrutiny, to catch up on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings. On the latest episode, law professors Leah Litman, Kate Shaw, and Melissa Murray recap some of the best, worst, and weirdest moments throughout the four days of the hearings–oh my god, there are so many. New episodes of Strict Scrutiny drop every Monday, wherever you get your podcasts.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, avert your gaze from Jeff Bezos’s head veins, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just books written by anyone other than governors in the midst of a pandemic 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.
[together] And congrats to our fellow Grammy winners!
Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t even know who won Grammys aside from us. We’re the only winners I know of.
Tre’vell Anderson: We’re the only ones that matter. OK?
Priyanka Aribindi: True.
Gideon Resnick: What A Dy 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.