In This Episode
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington D.C. on Thursday to meet with President Biden and Senate leaders. Zelensky is trying to secure additional funding from the U.S. to help in the fight against Russian forces. But some Republican lawmakers are reluctant to continue financial support for Ukraine.
- Billionaire right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of News Corp. and Fox. His son, Lachlan, will come in to lead both companies. Murdoch’s exit caps a controversial, decades-long career that ultimately gave rise to the far-right discourse we see today.
- And in headlines: House Republicans once again failed to advance legislation on federal spending as the government shutdown deadline looms, India announced it has suspended visa services for Canadians, and free COVID tests by mail are coming back.
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
- COVID.gov: Free at-home COVID-19 tests – https://www.covidtests.gov
- All She Wrote Books: Author Conversation with Tre’vell Anderson, September 23rd – https://tinyurl.com/7wd776bz
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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, September 22nd. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What a Day where we are proud of the fact that we just spent $78 bucks on a meal at Newark Airport.
Tre’vell Anderson: And we can tell you we spent the majority of it on the alcohol.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. David Brooks won’t tell you that, but we’ll tell you that. We’ll be honest. [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: Right. [music break] On today’s show, House Republicans once again can’t get their act together on a defense spending bill. Plus, free COVID tests by mail are coming back.
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, to continue some of our coverage from earlier this week, following his appearance before the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington, D.C., yesterday to meet with Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle at the Capitol, as well as President Biden in his third visit to the White House. He, of course, is trying to secure additional funding for Ukraine to defend against Russia’s invasion. And President Biden appears to be on the same page. Biden is currently seeking congressional approval for an additional $24 billion dollars in funding, but that aid is now in jeopardy due to reluctance by some Republicans to continue financial support for Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion began, the U.S. had approved a total of $113 billion dollars in aid. And that faction of the GOP does not want to see that number rise.
Tre’vell Anderson: You mentioned that Zelensky was at the Capitol speaking to Senate leadership. What about the folks in the House?
Priyanka Aribindi: He’s certainly tried. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy actually denied Zelensky’s request to deliver a joint address to Congress. He said they were too busy. They didn’t have the time, which is a bit baffling, and then said that Zelensky had already had the opportunity to deliver a joint address in the past, basically implying that they shouldn’t give him one again. The majority of congressional Republicans still support aid for Ukraine. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shared a photo on Twitter with Zelensky, writing, quote, “American support for Ukraine is not charity. It’s in our own direct interests.” So you have it coming from pretty high up there at the top. But opposition is still mounting. Yesterday, 29 Republicans in the House and Senate signed a letter to the Biden administration stating their position against additional funding.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m sure they had a lot to say. They always do.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, they always do. Several pages, could have been one sentence, anyways. It is also worth noting that while these lawmakers and anyone living outside of Ukraine have the privilege of being able to tune out of the conflict from time to time as it’s gone on for 18 plus months, violence is still taking place there every single day. Just hours before these meetings in Washington, Russia unleashed a torrent of missiles and artillery in cities all across Ukraine, targeting energy facilities in particular. It was the largest strike in over a month and has resulted in fires, destroyed buildings, trapped people in the rubble and left at least five people dead all across the country, I mean, this wasn’t even isolated to one city, it took place all over. The attack on Ukraine’s infrastructure also comes as the country prepares for the winter months that will require more energy to be able to heat people’s homes, which really speaks to the nature of these kinds of attacks and what Russia is trying to accomplish here. That very much feeds into the way Volodymyr Zelensky was characterizing Russia’s attacks and their attempts to really inflict harm on regular Ukrainian civilians.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, the war is ongoing over there. Thanks so much for that update, Priyanka. Now on to the latest in Nepo baby news. 92 year old billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch is stepping down as chairman of his empire. His son Lachlan Murdoch will become the sole chair of News Corp and he will continue as executive chair and CEO of the Fox Corporation.
Priyanka Aribindi: This is major news for the media industry, for a lot of the English speaking world honestly. For those who don’t know, could you explain just how big Rupert Murdoch’s empire is? It honestly, is a little hard to even comprehend.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s wild. So Rupert’s net worth is estimated to be somewhere between $8.26 billion dollars that’s according to Bloomberg News and $17.4 billion dollars. That’s according to Forbes, making him one of the wealthiest media moguls ever. That’s entirely too much money, right?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now, I’m going to go down the long list of properties that fall under his reach, but I want to first dictate how we got to this point. It all started back in his early twenties when he inherited a small family owned a newspaper in Australia where he’s from after his dad died in 1952. He ended up expanding his print empire locally before turning his attention to the media market in the UK, eventually acquiring his first British tabloid, News of the World in 1968. He then bought The Sun, followed by the Times of London and the Sunday Times. But wait, there’s more. Over 70 years in the business, Rupert Murdoch’s portfolio includes or included the New York Post, publishing giant Harper Collins, Fox News, which to many of our chagrin is the top rated cable news channel right now. And it has been for a little minute. There’s also Fox Broadcasting, Fox Sports, Sky TV. The film and TV Studio 21st Century Fox, which was sold to Disney in 2017 for a whopping $71.3 billion dollars. He also owns the Wall Street Journal, for crying out loud, truly. This man has had his hands on and in so much.
Priyanka Aribindi: So much and um so many places that have mostly negative associations about them. Feels like probably not a coincidence. But anyways, he’s certainly had a huge impact on the entire media industry um and has for decades now.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And, you know, even though we might want to roll our eyes at him and his outsized wealth because nobody needs all of that money, he’s also hella conservative. We are in so many ways living through his influence. Most of the articles about Murdoch stepping down in this moment specifically have been focusing on the hellscape that is Fox News and how that channel changed things in the industry for the worse, in my opinion. But perhaps something we can all rejoice in across the political spectrum. If it wasn’t for Rupert Murdoch and his creation of the Fox Broadcasting Network to compete with CBS, NBC and ABC, we might not have gotten the iconic TV characters Al and Peggy Bundy from the show Married with Children, or Bart, Homer and Marge and the rest of them on The Simpsons. I’m personally going to choose to focus on that part of his impact.
Priyanka Aribindi: You can focus on that part. [laughter] I would trade these people in a heartbeat. Goodbye. No Simpsons. No Married with children for no Fox News? That is the easiest trade I would ever make in my life.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Anyway, Rupert will officially be stepping down in mid November, becoming chair emeritus, and his son Lachlan will take over. There is no expectation that the company’s operations might shift in any meaningful way, especially as Lachlan and his father are ideologically similar. Plus, Rupert basically said in a memo announcing his departure to staff that he ain’t really going nowhere. He said, quote, “I will be watching our broadcasts with a critical eye, reading our newspapers and websites and books with much interest and reaching out to you with thoughts, ideas and advice. When I visit your countries and companies, you can expect to see me in the office late on a Friday afternoon.” And to that, I have to say somebody tell this man to sit down somewhere. He is 92 for freaking sake. Like, what are you doing?
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, this man sounds like a nightmare. I’m sorry. He’s taking a step back and he is going to be there not only just to visit, but on a Friday afternoon. Late. He specifically said late. This man sounds like an absolute tyrant, an awful person to work for, and really just needs to take a beat. Like chill out.
Tre’vell Anderson: Chill all the way out. That is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: With the clock ticking toward a potential government shutdown. House Republicans once again sank a vote yesterday to start debate on a Pentagon funding bill. This was the second time just this week that Republicans failed to advance a defense bill from their own party. And that came after five hard line Republicans again joined Democrats to oppose the measure. Here’s what House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had to say to reporters after the vote.
[clip of Kevin McCarthy] It’s frustrating in the sense that I don’t understand why anybody votes against bringing the idea and having the debate. And then you got all the amendments if you don’t like the bill. This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down, but it doesn’t work.
Tre’vell Anderson: Republican leaders also sent lawmakers home for the weekend, yesterday, canceling votes scheduled for today and the weekend. Members were told they’d get, quote, “ample notice should that change.” As a reminder, lawmakers have until midnight on September 30th, which is only eight days away to figure this all out. Congress needs to pass something by that deadline and get it to President Biden’s desk to avert a shutdown.
Priyanka Aribindi: India announced that it has suspended visa services for Canadians, meaning that they won’t be issuing new visas and that those who don’t already have visas cannot travel to India. This is India’s clapback against Canada’s accusation this week that the Indian government may have played a role in the killing of a prominent Canadian Sikh activist. The move by India to suspend new visas for citizens of a Western country is unprecedented. A spokesperson for India’s Foreign Ministry justified the decision based on, quote, “security threats to its diplomatic staff in Canada.” India has not yet provided evidence or given details for that claim, but there’s a lot else that’s being left unsaid here. Canadian officials have also declined to say exactly why they believe that India is linked to Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder. Though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously said that it was based on, quote, “credible evidence.” Canada is home to the largest population of Sikhs outside of the northern Indian state of Punjab, and India has repeatedly accused Canada of supporting the Sikh separatist movement.
Tre’vell Anderson: 17 writers are suing OpenAI, the company that owns the popular and increasingly creepy artificial intelligence tool chat GPT for allegedly using their copyrighted work without permission. The lawsuit argues that GPT relies on, quote, “systematic theft of a mass scale to create complete unauthorized versions of books written by a number of human authors.” The plaintiffs include George R.R. Martin, who wrote the epic fantasy series that became the basis for the hit show Game of Thrones and Michael Connelly, who writes bestselling detective novels. Connelly recently said this to The Today Show about the suit.
[clip of Michael Connelly] It’s just not fair. Why should I take a year to write a 400 page novel if in 15 minutes it can be stolen and redistributed?
Tre’vell Anderson: Chat GPT, along with other AI platforms, rely on what are known as large language models, which are basically algorithms that can generate content using massive amounts of data. But OpenAI hasn’t been clear about where all this data and text comes from, and it’s become a huge concern within the creative community. This isn’t the first lawsuit against OpenAI brought on by writers either. A separate group sued the company earlier this month for, quote, “clear infringement of intellectual property.”
Priyanka Aribindi: Good on these writers. These are you know some of the most prominent names in the industry, and I think that this will really get attention coming from them, but also is working to support everyone in these creative industries. I mean, the same thing is happening in Hollywood. These people rightly are getting upset about OpenAI being able to use and learn from their work and as they should be. That wasn’t what it was intended to be used for. The UAW is expected to announce today whether or not it will expand its ongoing strike against Detroit’s Big Three automakers. Nearly 13,000 union members are currently on strike at three auto plants. And while negotiations for a new labor agreement continue, UAW President Shawn Fain said earlier this week that if automakers don’t make, quote, “serious progress” towards meeting their demands by noon Eastern today, more workers could walk off the job at undisclosed locations across the country. Sources familiar with the talks said yesterday that the two sides remain far apart on a number of issues like wages, scheduling and benefits. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, all three automakers furloughed more non striking workers in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Kansas, citing the impact of the strike on their operations. General Motors, which laid off 2000 people, also added that these workers will not be eligible for any kind of benefits that its laid off employees usually get. So those folks won’t be receiving any financial support from the company.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, these automakers aren’t doing themselves any favors in this situation by laying people off, blaming it on the strike like it doesn’t make any sense.
Priyanka Aribindi: No.
Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, a public service announcement, if you will. The U.S. government is once again offering free COVID 19 tests in the mail. Starting this coming Monday, you can order up to four rapid tests per household through the website COVIDtests.gov. And did I mention that they are free? That’s really good because we all know they’re not cheap. This move comes after the Biden administration this week announced a $600 million investment to produce these new at home tests. In a statement, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said it’s meant to, quote, “help mitigate the spread of the virus.” And that’s especially important going into the fall when other respiratory diseases like the flu start circulating. Not to mention that some areas are seeing an uptick in COVID cases. Make sure you all are protecting yourselves, still wearing your masks in crowded areas. You just want to make sure that you are as safe as you could possibly be.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Get that booster and get those tests.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And those are the headlines, we’ll be back after some ads with a shining example of why local news is so important.
Priyanka Aribindi: It is Friday WAD squad. And to close out the week, we have an update on a story we told you about just a few days ago. Military officials have located the wreckage of that missing F-35 fighter jet that, poof, disappeared in South Carolina. The pilot of the aircraft, who has not been publicly identified, was found alive. But we don’t know what led the pilot to eject from the aircraft before the crash.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, there are so many questions that we have. But meanwhile, military investigators this week have been busy interviewing witnesses in rural Williamsburg County. And one witness stood out from all the rest. Meet Randolph White, a 71 year old retired paper mill worker who spoke to local CBS affiliate WBTW News 13 on Tuesday, and he gave a very vivid account of what he heard. Take a listen.
[clip of Randolph White] I heard a speeching, something between a screech and a whistle. [screams in an imitation screech] [?] I said [?] this, and I heard a boom and my whole house shook. The first thought came to me as I thought must [?] a meteorite come out of space or something. And I say, well, if it’s an airplane it need to be reported. But the thing was flying just too low.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, my God. I just. I’m sorry. I couldn’t focus on a single word outside of the imitation screech. What? [laughter] What do you make of that Tre’vell?
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, you know, this is one of the things I can say I deeply appreciate about my fellow South Carolinians is we are very colorful people, okay? We’re great at giving descriptions of what we hear and what we see.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yes.
Tre’vell Anderson: Don’t you feel like you were there, like you witnessed the jet disappearing yourself?
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean. I’m Brian Williams right now. I was there on the jet. [laughter] [?] disappeared. [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, you got to love it. And just like that, we are going to call it a week. [music break].
Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Treat yourself next time you’re flying out of Newark and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just weird fantasy novels written by Chat GPT like [laugh] 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 salute you Randolph White.
Priyanka Aribindi: You are a new American hero.
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: I hope you get remixed. I hope you go viral. I loved everything about that.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Like it’s right up there with Sweet Brown and you’re next up Randolph.
Priyanka Aribindi: You are.
Tre’vell Anderson: We love to see it.
Priyanka Aribindi: You are. [music break] 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. [music break].