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February 01, 2024
What A Day
TikTok's Timeout

In This Episode

President Joe Biden issued an executive order imposing sanctions and visa bans on Israeli settlers who were accused of attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the violence in Gaza continues. The Palestinian death toll has reportedly surpassed 27,000. More than 66,000 people have been wounded by Israel since Hamas’ attack killed 1,200 and took about 250 largely civilian hostages.


Universal Music Group started pulling their music from TikTok Thursday morning. The move comes after the previous licensing deal between UMG and TikTok was set to expire on Wednesday. And on Tuesday, Universal released a strongly worded open letter to TikTok outlining their concerns.


And in headlines: the European Union agreed to a $54 billion funding deal for Ukraine, Oregon’s Supreme Court ruled that the Republican lawmakers who walked off the job last year to block progressive legislation cannot run for re-election, and newsroom staffers at the Chicago Tribune and six other publications around the country walked off the job to demand better pay amid stalled labor talks.


Show Notes:


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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, February 2nd. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What a Day, the podcast that you will be listening to over and over and over again, whether you like it or not. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, today is Groundhog Day, aka the day when Punxsutawney Phil predicts the weather. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I never saw the movie, but I do know the day is supposed to repeat itself. So I really hope you enjoy today’s episode, because you’ll be hearing it for a while. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Over and over. Love that for y’all. [music break]  


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, the European Union has agreed to a $54 billion dollar funding deal for Ukraine. Plus, we preview music’s biggest night. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, I’ve got a few updates out of the Middle East, starting with the latest on Israel, Gaza, and Palestine. President Biden issued an executive order imposing sanctions and visa bans on Israeli settlers that have attacked, killed or forced the evacuation of Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the West Bank. The order was followed by the State Department publicly identifying four Israeli settlers and the acts of violence they are accused of. Attacks that have intensified in the region since Hamas’s October 7th attack. The executive order makes clear that these attacks in the West Bank undercut the US’s policy objectives for the region, quote, “including the viability of a two state solution and ensuring Israelis and Palestinians can attain equal measures of security, prosperity and freedom.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Appears the U.S. is doubling down on this long held position, but it appears that this is very different from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s POV. How did he respond to this announcement? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, U.S. officials did say that he was notified before the public announcement. So I guess that’s a little bit of diplomatic courtesy there. But as you alluded to, Netanyahu has made it abundantly clear that he is opposed to any plan that involves a free Palestine and anything that aims to hold Israel accountable for the humanitarian crisis its war on Hamas has created. So he was quick to say that most of the Israeli settlers in the occupied territory are law abiding citizens, and that because Israel, quote, “takes action against lawbreakers in every place,” that there was no reason for the executive order. Relatedly, major donors to UNWRA, which is the main aid agency supporting Palestinians, said they anticipate resuming funding to the group. We mentioned earlier this week that donor nations pulled funding after Israel accused 12 of the agency’s employees of participating in Hamas’s October 7th attack. Not having that funding potentially exacerbates the humanitarian issues of the region. Well, U.N. reps from donor countries are now coming out saying that as soon as the UN completes its investigation and takes, quote, “quick and decisive action” to restore donor confidence that the funding will return. UNWRA has already fired nine of those accused as they investigate. Meanwhile, the violence in Gaza continues. The Palestinian death toll has reportedly surpassed 27,000. And more than 66,000 have been wounded by Israel since Hamas’s attack killed 1200 and took about 250, largely civilian hostages. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Just devastating numbers. That toll continues to climb every time we discuss what’s going on in the region. And so many updates here. But this is not the only area of the region that is currently experiencing conflict. Can you give us some other updates while we are discussing this?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So there is the impending U.S. response to the recent attacks on U.S. forces in the region, including that drone strike in Jordan over last weekend that killed three service people and injured more than 40 others. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: CBS news is reporting that U.S. officials have approved a series of strikes with targets in Iraq and Syria. Now, the White House hasn’t confirmed that this is the plan of action, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did answer some questions while speaking to the press yesterday. This was his first press conference since the whole, you know him not telling anybody he was in the hospital thing. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Yup.


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. But when reporters asked about the forthcoming military response after the Iran-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah announced Tuesday that it was suspending its military operations against U.S. forces. Here is what Austin said. 


[clip of Lloyd Austin] In terms of my response to KH’s statement. We always listen to what people are saying, but we watch what they do. And again, actions are everything. Um. So, we’ll see what happens in the future. We will have a multi-tiered response. And again, we have the ability to respond a number of times depending on what the situation is. 


Priyanka Aribindi: All right. So that was a response. Not exactly clear what will happen though. But we will stay on top of this and bring you all the updates as soon as we know more. Anyways, thank you for all of those updates Tre’vell. Now we’re going to switch gears a little bit because it is time to talk about my favorite topic, TikTok. And specifically why it’s sounding a little bit different lately. As of yesterday morning, Universal Music Group or UMG, which is the record label behind artists like Taylor Swift, Drake, Bad Bunny and so many more started pulling their music from the app. If you are not addicted to TikTok and don’t quite understand why this is a big deal, let me explain. So on TikTok, snippets of songs are provided by labels like Universal, and others are available in a library to users, who often add them as background audio to videos that they upload to the platform. This can be makeup tutorials, funny animal videos, dance challenges, truly any and everything on that app. And once a sound or snippet of a song starts trending on the app, it can lead the song that it came from to blow up. Over the past few years, this has led to smaller artists being discovered by huge audiences. Bigger artists have started coming to the platform to tease new releases. It’s even introduced older songs to entirely new audiences. Fleetwood Mac is a really good example of that. Their songs have gone super viral on the app and introduced a bunch of younger people to the band. But as of the time of recording at 9:30 p.m. eastern on Thursday night, TikTok users are no longer able to add any audio from songs licensed by UMG to their videos, or to hear those songs and videos that have already been made and uploaded. And seeing as UMG is the biggest record label in the world, that is a pretty big deal. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, and this is definitely going to impact so many of our experiences on the clock app, as we call it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But can you tell us a little bit more about how we even got here? Who else’s music will no longer be on the app? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot of artists. Aside from the three that I mentioned earlier, Universal has deals with Olivia Rodrigo, Nicki Minaj, Billie Eilish, Post Malone, just tons and tons of artists, big and small, you name it. But this was not completely out of the blue. The previous licensing deal between Universal and TikTok was set to expire on Wednesday of this week, and the day before that, Universal released a strongly worded open letter to TikTok outlining their concerns. Of course, Universal wants more money. The two companies didn’t agree on a royalty rate, and according to universal, TikTok wants to pay its artists a quote, “fraction of the rate of other social platforms.” In their letter, they said, quote, “TikTok is trying to build a music based business without paying fair value for the music.” But money isn’t their only issue. They also have concerns about the proliferation of AI generated recordings on the platform that threaten the livelihood of their artists, as well as the online safety issues that plague the platform. In response to UMG, TikTok said on Tuesday it was, quote, “sad and disappointing,” but they claim that Universal’s narrative is not true. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So they’re just throwing their hands up, I guess. What does this mean for the millions of us on the app who are used to seeing videos with these folks’ music in it? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, in order to comply with Universal’s withdrawal from their agreement, TikTok started removing all of their songs from the platform’s music library so no one can make new videos using these songs and for older videos that were already made using Universal’s music. That audio is just gone. You go to play those videos and it’s completely silent. Some of them include the note this sound isn’t available. This has left many popular videos, including a number by celebrities and videos that have gone super viral, completely mute. It’s unclear exactly how many existing TikToks will be affected by this change, but given the popularity of this music, it’s not at all unreasonable to estimate that it could be millions and millions of videos. 


Tre’vell Anderson: This is going to be wild. And just in terms of our experience on the app, right? People be dancing to songs and stuff like that. We won’t have any of that–


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –anymore. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s just silent. They’re dancing to nothing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh my God. And what about the artists? How is this going to impact them? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, that could be a real determining factor here in what happens in the long term. Universal maintains that they are looking out for their artists. Concerns about streaming revenue have been ongoing. This, you know, isn’t the first time that this has come up, certainly won’t be the last. And most artists do believe that they’re getting ripped off by streaming and these platforms. But on the other hand, being absent from such a popular platform that is such a big part of music discovery today could end up hurting some of these artists, especially, you know, smaller ones who don’t have the reach of a Taylor Swift and rely on the platform to promote their new releases or to surface their songs to new listeners. As for which side will ultimately prevail here, we will just have to wait and see. Will TikTok decide that losing out on so many of the world’s most popular songs and artists isn’t worth it? Will they decide they don’t care, as long as they still have deals with other companies in the industry. Or on the other side, will Universal turn around and decide that not being on the app actually hurts their artists more than being paid unfairly does. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Lots of decisions to be made, but we will keep you updated as this plays out. That is the latest for now.  [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The European Union agreed to a $54 billion dollar funding deal for Ukraine yesterday, at a pretty significant point in this almost two year war. This funding had been blocked by Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, who is buddy buddy with Putin, and argued he didn’t want the funds to come from the EU budget. It was definitely crucial that it passed, since additional military aid from the US is currently stalled in Congress. At the same time, a renewed Russian assault has been pushing the Ukrainian front. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Tax season is upon us and Washington heard the calls. The House approved a $78 billion dollar bipartisan tax package on Wednesday that would boost the child tax credit and restore some business tax benefits that were rolled back during the Trump administration. It was a rare moment of bipartisanship, with a bill passing overwhelmingly. The child tax credit expansion in the deal would really benefit lower income families, who could claim more of the credit. It could also help increase the supply of low income housing and contains relief for Americans impacted by natural disasters. Some Republicans criticized the proposal, however, because they say it could disincentivize work. Why do they believe this about absolutely anything that remotely helps anyone? I don’t know, maybe they just believe that we all deserve to die unless we are being worked to death. That’s kind of seems like it. [sigh from Tre’vell] And some more progressive Democrats said that the deal didn’t make the credit accessible to more families with no or very little incomes. It heads next to the Senate, so we will be keeping an eye on this. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oregon’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Republican lawmakers who walked off the job last year to block progressive legislation cannot run for reelection. You might remember that last summer, ten Republican state senators refused to come to work for about six weeks to keep their colleagues from considering new laws, including bills about abortion and trans health care. The walkout finally ended when Democrats made a deal to adjust some of the language in the contested bills. But state officials demanded accountability from these Republicans for getting in the way of the democratic process. In August, Oregon Secretary of State Laffon Griffin-Valade invoked measure 113, a rule that bans lawmakers from running for reelection if they rack up more than ten unexcused absences during their term. Five lawmakers sued, appealing the matter to the state Supreme court, and the Supreme Court this week sided with the secretary. Alexa, please play Karma by Taylor Swift. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Love it when you hit them with the rules. Like what could be more delicious than that? 


Tre’vell Anderson: So perfect. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Now we turn to Chicago, where the city council voted Wednesday to pass a resolution demanding a cease fire in Gaza. The nail biting vote came down to a tie with 23 council members on each side. It was all up to Mayor Brandon Johnson to cast the deciding vote. Take a listen to the moment when activists found out that the mayor was on their side. 


[clip of activists in Chicago] He voted aye! [cheers]


Priyanka Aribindi: This makes Chicago the biggest city in the country to demand a cease fire between Israel and Hamas. And while the resolution is only symbolic, the victory signals a divide among Democrats nationwide over Biden’s refusal to call for a cease fire. About 70 cities have passed similar resolutions pressuring Biden to act. Also in Chicago, newsroom staffers at the Chicago Tribune and six other publications around the country walked off the job yesterday to demand better pay amid stalled labor talks. The strike is set to last for 24 hours as local journalists, photographers and editors pressure their employer, Alden Global Capital, for a new fair labor agreement. The union representing these workers, NewsGuild CWA, told The Associated Press that some of its members have been going back and forth in bargaining for five years. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Five years is a very long time to go without a union contract. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Far too long. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, the latest on Donald Trump’s many, many legal woes, a verdict in former President Donald Trump’s New York civil business fraud trial is expected to come down sometime this month. The verdict was initially anticipated to arrive on Wednesday of this week, but a court spokesman told CNBC that early to mid-February is more like it. As a reminder, this is the civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James that accuses Trump and his business of inflating their assets in order to get better terms from banks and insurers. Trump could face a $370 million dollar fine and could also be banned from doing business in New York. And if he does have to pay that fine, it could come in addition to the $83.3 million that Trump has to pay writer E. Jean Carroll. A New York jury ordered him to pay that amount last week for defaming Carroll, and she recently spoke to Crooked Media’s Strict Scrutiny about that case. Take a listen to what she said when asked about her previous comments to do something good with the awarded money. 


[clip of E. Jean Carroll] This enormous amount of money uh is startling. It’s hard for me to even think about it. And then we’re going to do some good with it. Ravi and I are talking. We have ideas. He stacked the Supreme Court, took away women’s rights over their own bodies. So that’s just where I’d like to put the bulk. Let me get women’s rights back. That’s it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You can listen to that episode out today on the Strict Scrutiny feed. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next week about whether or not Trump can appear on Colorado’s Republican primary because of his role in the January 6th insurrection. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen. So many thoughts, so many Trump cases to keep straight. Thank you for keeping us updated on all of them. I know the man is supposedly rich, but does he have that kind of money? I don’t think he has that kind of money. 


Tre’vell Anderson: He ain’t got this kind. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Can he afford that? [laughter] No!


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t think he can. And I don’t think he’s got this. I don’t think. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Those Celebrity Apprentice checks went this high. You know what I mean?


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Unfortunately for him, that’s just a him and only him problem. [laughter] So best of luck with that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to talk about music’s biggest night. 




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we’re going to the Grammy’s. Not quite, but I’d be happy to change that if they want to give some– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Invite Tre’vell!


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, I give good fashions. Okay.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, you’d come in a great outfit. I knew it, that’s exactly what I was going to say. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] If nothing else. All right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: If nothing else. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] Okay, so anyway, the 66th Annual Grammy Awards are happening this Sunday night at the Crypto.com Arena in L.A.. I hate that we have to call it the Crypto.com Arena. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The worst. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But here we are. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Disgusting.


Tre’vell Anderson: Nonetheless we are so excited for a night of great music. Hopefully some good looks on the red carpet. It looks like it might rain. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So maybe folks need to bring an umbrella as a nice accessory. Who knows? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Do we cover the carpet? Can we do that? [laughter] Maybe like a little indoor outdoor situation? 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know? Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Just some thoughts. Just some thoughts. Anyways, it is also a big year for women in pop music. Some of the top nominees this year include SZA, Victoria Monét, Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Boy Genius, just to name a few. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, and if you are wondering where Beyoncé is among this line up, listen, I hate to inform you, okay, that Renaissance came out in 2022. It felt like it came out last year, but it didn’t. Okay. So just let it go. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Time isn’t real. It’s a construct, everything and nothing, it’s fine. [laughter] And I understand why you might have felt that way, but Tre’vell, I would love to know. What are you looking forward to at this year’s Grammys? 


Tre’vell Anderson: I am looking forward to Tracy Chapman performing. Okay. Variety is reporting that she is joining Luke Combs on the stage. You’ll remember that his country version of her song became this huge massive hit, allowed her to break some records as a Black woman in country music. So– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Very cool. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely looking forward to that. There’s also Canada’s icon of folk music, Joni Mitchell, performing. I find this interesting, not necessarily because I’m a fan of Joni, but because she’s 80 years old and I just feel like you have to give folks their due respect when they’re still performing. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, totally. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, at that age. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s awesome. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And then last but not least, I’m excited to see Victoria Monét collect multiple awards. Okay, in her own words, she’s been deep in her bag like a grandma with a peppermint. [laugh] And so now she can add some Grammys to that bag. But what about you, Priyanka? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes please. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What are you looking forward to the most? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, we all know what I’m looking forward to the most. Taylor, I mean, it’s not like I really care what Grammy she comes home with or doesn’t. We all know she had an amazing tour, has amazing albums. I think that is just pretty far accepted at this point. But it is exciting. I’m excited to see what she wears. I’m excited to see if this prompts like a surprise album drop of some kind. I feel like there have been hints here and there. I’m ready. But yeah, we all know. We all know the only thing I’m here for. Sorry. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I have to ask because I know you will know this. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh will I? 


Right, the weekend after the Grammys is the Super Bowl. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Is the Super Bowl. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We know that Taylor will likely be at the Grammys. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah she will. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Is that man going to be there with her too? Since everybody’s talking about it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah everybody is talking about it. He came out and said that he will not be there because he is practicing for the Super Bowl. That–


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I guess makes sense. I feel like if I was his teammate and I was like, oh, the I don’t know what his position on the team is, but oh, like this important person on our team is at the Grammys at a party in LA instead of practicing for the biggest game of our lives, I’d be pretty pissed. Um. So it makes sense. That is a good thing. I do hope she can make it back in time from Japan for the Super Bowl, because that is the perfect arc. That’s the end of the season. That is what we deserve. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m sure she will fire up the private jet and–


Priyanka Aribindi: Fire up the jet fire, fire it up.


Tre’vell Anderson: Be where she needs to be okay. [laughing] And just like that, we have checked our temps. They are cloudy with a chance of meatballs. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Always. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Because such is life, you know. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Such is life. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go. A reminder that starting this Saturday, we are rolling out a sixth episode of What a Day, doing a deeper dive on the biggest stories of the week and answering the questions, how did we get here? Hosted by Erin Ryan of Hysteria and Max Fisher from Offline, our first episode will ask the question, why does it feel like the southern border is always in crisis? Make sure to subscribe to What a Day wherever you get your podcasts to check this out. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Nominate WAD for a Grammy. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We’re ready. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just how to get Universal artists back on TikTok 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 Happy Groundhog Day. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Do I have to watch the movie? 


Tre’vell Anderson: No, I think you’re okay without it. [laugh]


Priyanka Aribindi: Sorry. There’s like three movies I will watch. It’s Eloise, The Parent Trap, The Devil Wears Prada. That’s it. I’m sorry. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s giving taste. Priyanka. Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you. I don’t know if I feel like that was such a good thing to admit to the world, but– 


Tre’vell Anderson: Here we are. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. Here we 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 showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.