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October 31, 2023
What A Day
The Tragedy of War, Made Worse

In This Episode

  • Israel confirmed that an airstrike targeting a top Hamas commander hit a densely populated refugee camp in northern Gaza, killing at least 50 people and wounding hundreds more. The attack raises fears that Israel’s continued push into the enclave will put even more Palestinian civilians in harm’s way.
  • On Capitol Hill, anti-war protesters interrupted a U.S. Senate hearing over the White House’s emergency aid request for Israel and Ukraine.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin both testified that the $106 billion request is imperative for national security.
  • And in headlines: Republican Rep. George Santos could face an historic vote to expel him from Congress, a federal judge in Texas ordered Border Patrol agents to temporarily stop removing razor wire along the US-Mexico border, and a Kansas judge ruled that officials there cannot enforce laws that discourage anyone from seeking an abortion.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

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TRANSCRIPT

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, November 1st. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.

 

Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What a Day. On today’s show, it was an unexpectedly chilly Halloween for many Americans. Plus, lawmakers could vote to expel George Santos from Congress. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: But first, the devastation mounts in the war between Israel and Hamas. Yesterday, Israel confirmed that it deployed airstrikes on a densely populated refugee camp in northern Gaza, called Jabaliya, killing at least 50 people and wounding hundreds of others. According to the Israeli military the strikes killed their intended target, Hamas commander Ibrahim Biari, who helped plan the attacks on Israel on October 7th. They also said that it killed other Hamas militants and destroyed the, quote, “underground terror infrastructure beneath the area.” But according to medics and eyewitnesses, the strikes also killed many others in the area and left chaos in their wake. Images from the scene show a decimated area with a large crater in the ground where people had assembled the bodies of the dead. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht about this strike and the civilians that it put in harm’s way. Take a listen to their exchange from yesterday: 

 

[clip of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer] But you know that there are a lot of refugees, a lot of innocent civilians, men, women and children in that refugee camp as well? Right. 

 

[clip of Lt. Col. Richard Hecht] This is the tragedy of war, Wolf. I mean, we as you know, we’ve been saying for days, move south. Civilians are not involved with Hamas. Please move south. And– 

 

[clip of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer] Yeah. I’m just uh trying to get a little bit– 

 

[clip of Lt. Col. Richard Hecht] We–

 

[clip of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer] –more information. You knew there were civilians there. You knew there were refugees, all sorts of refugees. But you decided to still drop a bomb on that refugee camp attempting to kill this Hamas commander. By the way, was he killed? 

 

[clip of Lt. Col. Richard Hecht] I can’t confirm yet. There’ll be more updated. He yes, we know that he was killed, about the civilians there. We’re doing everything we can to minimize. Uh. I’ll fill it I’ll say it again. Sadly, they’re hiding themselves within civilian population. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Wow. What a just heartbreaking exchange. And I appreciate Wolf Blitzer for probing further to ask about the civilian toll here. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: What more do we know about the area that the Israeli military targeted with these strikes? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. So Jabaliya is the largest of eight refugee camps in Gaza, and it’s been home to Palestinians for almost 75 years. Again, according to the Israeli military, they claim this area was also a Hamas stronghold. In addition to the militants and tunnel network, Israel said that they targeted a weapons production facility and rocket launch positions. Jabaliya is just north of Gaza City, which the Israeli army is currently advancing on with troops and armored vehicles. As you heard Lieutenant Colonel Hecht reference, Israel had issued warnings to evacuate northern Gaza and for people to head south. But there have been airstrikes in southern Gaza as well. That was actually part of the holdup in getting aid to that area earlier. Aid organizations have said that nowhere in Gaza is safe for civilians at this point. And they’ve repeatedly emphasized that over the past week, people have become increasingly desperate for food, water and for shelter. The death toll in Gaza has also passed a new milestone. 8500 people have been killed there since this war started less than a month ago. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Save the Children also shared another milestone that the number of children reported killed in just three weeks in Gaza is more than the number killed in armed conflict globally over the course of an entire year. And that also gave me pause. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: So what other updates do you have for us on this, especially as it relates to the hostages being held in Gaza? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, I do have a few updates. So a spokesperson for Hamas did say earlier yesterday that the group will allegedly release more foreign hostages in the coming days after receiving requests from their home countries. That, I’m sure, is very welcome news for the families of these hostages. But it’s a far cry from releasing all of them. I mean, many–

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –Israeli civilians are still being held as hostages. This statement did come before Israel confirmed the strike on Jabaliya. So it’s unknown at this time if that will change Hamas’s stance at all. Hopefully it will not. Regarding the hostages that Hamas took, the Pentagon said yesterday that American special operations forces are on the ground in Israel to help locate over 200 hostages who have still not been returned. And that includes a number of Americans as well. And unfortunately, more of our fears about this conflict expanding have started to become a reality as well. Yemen’s Houthi militia, which is backed by Iran, said yesterday that they had launched a, quote, “large number of ballistic missiles and drones at Israel and that there would be more to come.” This is not the first time that they have launched aerial threats at Israel over the course of this conflict. All the previous attempts were successfully intercepted, some by Israel and at least three by the U.S. But this kind of declaration is certainly not a step in the direction of peace or stability in the region. It puts innocent Israeli civilians in harm’s way, which is not what anyone wants to see. Yeah, it’s not good. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: 100%. And definitely goes against all the calls that we’ve heard from the Biden administration for this to be contained and not expanded. So–

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: It’s truly scary to hear that. And I think that goes hand in hand with the fact that the Biden administration started making its push on Capitol Hill for the $106 billion dollar national security funding request for additional aid for Israel, Ukraine and U.S. border security. Just as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin were beginning their opening statements before the Senate Appropriations Committee, protesters in the Senate hearing room spoke out. 

 

[clip of Antony Blinken] Thank you for this opportunity to testify before you today [the voice of protester in the background loudly speaking indistinctly]

 

[clip of unidentified Capitol policeman] Sir, sir, your demonstrating needs to stop. 

 

[clip of unidentified protester] Stop supporting the genocide and ethnic– 

 

[clip of unidentified security person] Sir, you’re coming with me. 

 

[clip of unidentified protester] –cleansing of the people of Gaza. 

 

[clip of unidentified person witnessing the protester] Be gentle. 

 

[clip of unidentified protester] Ceasefire now say the children of Gaza. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: As the protester was escorted out of the room. Other protesters remained seated and raised their hands that were covered with red paint. Later during the proceedings, though, the protesters began shouting, cease fire now! And they were all ultimately removed by Capitol Police. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, you could really hear the pain in that man’s voice as he is protesting, clearly an issue that has struck a chord and has affected so many people. So how did Secretary Blinken and Austin react to the protesters being in the room with them? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Well, both Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin seem unfazed. But Blinken did take a moment to acknowledge the, quote, “passions expressed” and they continued with their prepared remarks. During the hearing, Secretary Blinken specifically emphasized that passing the national security funding package would send a signal to foreign adversaries who are, quote, “making the bet that the United States is too divided or distracted at home to stay the course.” Secretary Austin also made a prediction about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when he said, quote, “Sooner or later, Putin will challenge Nato and we will find ourselves in a shooting war.” And to reiterate how connected the Israel and Ukraine funding requests are, Blinken added, quote, “Allowing Russia to prevail with Iran’s support will embolden both Moscow and Tehran.” 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, they have have really made an effort to tie these two conflicts together. But I mean, as a lot of people have been noting, $106 billion dollars is a lot of cash. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Mm hmm. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Do you know the breakdown of the proposed spending here? Can you, you know, share a little of those details with us? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. Take out your calculator, friend. It’s a lot. So here we go. President Biden has requested $61.4 billion dollars for Ukraine with a lot of that being used to replenish weapons stocks. $14.3 billion dollars will be dedicated to Israel with $9 billion dollars for humanitarian relief in both Gaza and Israel. Though the specific split there is unclear. $13.6 billion dollars would be for security at the US-Mexico border and $7.4 billion dollars for Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region. And part of the reason that the Ukraine aid is such a huge amount is because during the last effort to fund the government, Republicans in Congress cut out aid for Ukraine entirely, and that effectively prompted Ukraine to deplete the last round of aid and military assistance that the U.S. provided. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So newly minted House Speaker Mike Johnson has been clear that he wants a separate aid package for Israel without Ukraine funding attached. How are Senate Republicans responding to Johnson’s posturing on this issue? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Look, Mitch McConnell is essentially like bump Mike Johnson. I don’t know him. Let’s advance this national security package and the included aid for Ukraine. And it’s a little bit of a different posture than what McConnell took with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, where he was more cautious. But McConnell’s going all out this time. Earlier this week, McConnell even reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to supporting Ukraine during an event with Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States. Interestingly enough, even though McConnell is on board with folks like Senator Lindsey Graham, they’re with him. There is grumbling from other Senate Republicans who want to at least reduce the amount of aid going to Ukraine. To make matters worse, House Speaker Johnson faced bipartisan backlash after presenting an Israel specific funding bill that also called for cuts to the Internal Revenue Service. Like, make it make sense. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: What are you doing? Read the room. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House all shut this idea down and called it a nonstarter. But that’s not going to deter Johnson, who is looking to hold a vote on Friday. Of course, we will keep following this story as it unfolds on Capitol Hill, but that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after a short break for some ads. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Republican Representative George Santos could face a historic vote to expel him from Congress later today. We told you earlier the motion to give him the boot was introduced by some of his own GOP colleagues from New York. And while House Democrats are certainly on board, it is not clear if the rest of the Republican caucus will come to its senses to help clear the two thirds majority needed to show Santos the door. Come on everybody. Let’s make this–

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –a bipartisan issue. A beautiful thing to come together over. We all can take down a scammer. It could be fun. It could be, just a little bonding exercise. Only five members of Congress have ever been kicked out this way. But Santos would be the first to be ousted without first being convicted of a crime. Santos has pleaded not guilty to 23 federal charges of fraud, money laundering and identity theft. He is also under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, which announced yesterday that it will take its next steps on or before November 17th. Meanwhile, ahead of today’s vote, Santos said on Spaces, the audio platform on X/Twitter that, quote, “If this motion passes, I think it’s a clear indication that this country has now gone down the drain.” 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Wow. That is not the indicator I was thinking. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I think there are many George Santos related indicators that this country has gone down the drain. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: But none of them have to do with him potentially getting kicked out of Congress. I think that’s the sanest part of this whole story. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I just need two thirds of Congress to do what needs to be done here so we can move on.  

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Please, please.

 

Juanita Tolliver: A federal judge in Texas has ordered Border Patrol agents to temporarily stop cutting or removing razor wire set by state officials along the US-Mexico border. The order comes after Texas sued the Biden administration last week, accusing the federal government of illegally destroying state property and allowing migrants to enter the country without permission. For context, we’ve told you before that Texas officials have spent about $11 million dollars to put up the razor wire along a busy border crossing called Eagle Pass, and it has seriously injured many people, including children who have tried to get through it. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has also ordered the installation of floating barriers in the Rio Grande, bussed thousands of migrants out of the state and could soon sign a law giving state police the authority to arrest migrants and order them to leave the country. I feel like the inhumanity just keeps jumping. Add on a–

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: –layer of racial profiling that will only emerge from this new practice they’re proposing next. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: The restraining order against taking down the razor wire will remain in effect until November 13th, and a hearing on the case is set for next Tuesday. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And over in Michigan, State prosecutors say that they can no longer pursue criminal charges against former Governor Rick Snyder and other former state officials for their role in the 2014 Flint water crisis. That is because Michigan’s Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal made earlier this year that would have reopened the case against Snyder and others. Snyder, who was governor at the time of the crisis, had been charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. In a joint statement, prosecutors said of the court’s decision, quote, “Our Supreme Court has put the final nail in the coffin of the Flint water prosecutions. Our disappointment in the Michigan Supreme Court is exceeded only by our sorrow for the people of Flint.” The prosecution team said that it will deliver a full report on its findings sometime next year. It really is just injustice after injustice. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: For these people of Flint. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Literally no accountability, no clean water. I checked little Miss Flint’s page. They still don’t have clean water in Flint, but nothing is going to come of this scandal with Governor Snyder. Moving on to some updates on the fight for abortion access. Ohio voters have until November 7th to decide whether to codify the right to the procedure in the state’s constitution. But state Republicans, as always, are doing everything they can to make that process harder. We recently learned that Ohio’s secretary of state quietly canceled the registration of nearly 27,000 supposedly inactive voters. To be considered active, voters must confirm their registration or have voted in the last four years, and the cutoff to reregister in time for this upcoming election was October 10th. So these people are just being disenfranchised casually. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Totally in the dark after they have an opportunity to do anything about it. It’s completely unfair. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: But we do have some good news to share about abortion access elsewhere. In Kansas, a state judge ruled that officials there cannot enforce laws that discourage anyone from seeking an abortion. These include an older law forcing patients to wait 24 hours before the procedure and more recent rules that require providers to tell patients that medication abortion can be reversed, which is completely false. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, what? 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, it’s just casual misinformation about basic health care. But okay, The judge said that such restrictions infringe on the right to bodily autonomy and the right to free speech for abortion providers. The order will stay in place until a trial in the case begins next year. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And finally, it was a very chilly Halloween for many trick or treaters last night. That is because a strong and very spooky cold front swept across the country, hitting especially hard in the Midwest and East Coast. Maybe this is why it’s called a cold spell. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Yikes. But I love this song. I love it. [laughing] 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Big yikes. Big yikes. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: In any event, temperatures in some areas were as much as 30 degrees below average for this time of year. This is not a hot time of year so that is not good. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Mm mm. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: The Twin Cities woke up yesterday morning to over two and a half inches of Halloween snow, Juanita’s probably thrilled. Juanita is ready for Christmas. I’m–

 

Juanita Tolliver: I can’t wait. I can’t wait.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I’m on the side of the trick or treaters, though. I am just like justice for the trick or treaters they needed one night. And this this did not need to happen. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: They had 80 degrees last week. Give me the snow, please. Thank you.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It was not 80 degrees when they’re trying to get candy. Anyways through yesterday’s peak trick or treating time conditions ranged from chilly to downright bone chilling as 120 million Americans were under freeze watches or warnings. So all of this really begs the question, when is it too early to start decorating for Christmas? Because to me, snow on the ground means that Mariah Carey will materialize. Those are just the rules. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I wish I could sing, because if I could, I’d sing, it’s time! Y’all! 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. I mean, you nailed it. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: I don’t have the whistle tones, but. [laughing] 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: No one has the whistle tones. No one could do it. Juanita’s buzzing. I just I’m on the side of the trick or treaters. I like, remember what it felt like to be a child in Chicago, trick or treating in the frigid cold. Probably wasn’t even that bad, at like eight years old anything is probably cold, but, like, I feel bad for these kids. I hope they still got their candy. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: Is it bad that I’m like, bump these kids? [laughter]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Juanita’s like yeah, whatever. Make room for the tree. [laughter] And those are the headlines. 

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Juanita Tolliver: What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. [music break] 

 

Juanita Tolliver: 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 Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.