Ukraine On The Offensive | Crooked Media
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September 11, 2022
What A Day
Ukraine On The Offensive

In This Episode

  • Yesterday marked 21 years since the September 11th attacks, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives and remains the deadliest act of terror on U.S. soil.
  • Ukraine’s military says it has made significant gains in recent days after taking back some of its territory from Russia in a major counteroffensive.
  • And in headlines: thousands of railroad workers could walk off the job by the end of the week, the growing Cedar Creek wildfire continues to burn in Oregon, and Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin arrived in Scotland ahead of her state funeral next week.


Show Notes:


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For a transcript of this episode, please visit




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, September 12th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan and this is What A Day. Offering self-defense classes for any celebrities planning on making rude jokes at the Emmys tonight. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We can teach you how to dodge all kinds of slaps from hard slaps to light slaps, all slaps in between. 


Erin Ryan: And in case you do get slapped, we’ll teach you how to handle being in the news for the next six months to a year. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Maybe think twice before doing it. [music break]


Erin Ryan: On today’s show, a possible labor strike at the end of the week threatens to derail the economy. Plus, Queen Elizabeth the second has embarked on her final journey. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, yesterday marked 21 years since the September 11 attacks, which claimed nearly 3000 lives and remains the deadliest terror attack ever on U.S. soil. 


Erin Ryan: The anniversary was marked by somber memorials in lower Manhattan in the footprint of the Twin Towers, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers and crew members of Flight 93 thwarted what could have been an attack on the U.S. Capitol. And at the Pentagon, where President Joe Biden called on Americans to honor and remember the victims while looking toward the future. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] We have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to defend, preserve and protect our democracy, the very democracy that guarantees the rights of freedom that those terrorists of 9/11, sought to bury and the burning fire and smoke and ash. And that takes a commitment on the part of all of us. 


Erin Ryan: Of course, we can’t talk about 9/11 without mentioning its enduring legacy. Like the sweeping and often controversial changes to intelligence gathering and counterterrorism. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And while many of us have gotten used to concepts like Homeland Security and ICE, taking off our shoes at the airport and ultra patriotic displays at sporting events, the consequences of the so-called war on terror are still very real for people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere as well. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah, two things can be true at once. 9/11 can be an unprecedented tragedy, and everyone who is lost should be mourned. And the people responsible for it were deeply evil. And decisions that were made after 9/11 led to harm and pain for people around the world. And um yeah, those two things coexist. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And we should always keep them in mind at the same time. Let’s turn now to an update on the war in Ukraine. Sunday marked 200 days since the beginning of the Russian invasion. Just a few weeks ago it wasn’t looking good for the Ukrainian defense. But now Ukraine’s military says it has reclaimed a broad swath of land back from Russia, marking what some believe might be a new phase of the war. They did this by launching a counterattack that started in late August, which first focused on the southern city of Kherson. That was the first Ukrainian city that fell to Russian forces back in February. And when Russia tried to respond. Ukraine launched another attack in the northeast near Kharkiv. It’s this move that experts are saying pose the biggest challenge to Russia since it launched the invasion. Moscow ultimately pulled back its troops from Kharkiv because otherwise their forces would basically have been surrounded. 


Erin Ryan: According to Ukraine’s top generals, since the start of this month, they’ve reclaimed control of more than 3000 square kilometers of territory. And on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelensky taunted Russia over its withdrawal, saying the Russian army was, quote, “demonstrating the best it can do, showing it’s back”. [laugh] Wow. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Very, very, very much love that Zelenksy is talking his shit. Because if my smaller initially less resourced military had held on for 200 days in a war that shouldn’t be happening in the first place. And we actually began to claw our way back. I’d be talking my shit too. 


Erin Ryan: I hate to see you go Russia, but love to watch you leave. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. So far, more than 40 settlements that were occupied by Russian soldiers are now back under Ukrainian control. This includes the city of Izium, which sits near the border between Kharkiv and the Donetsk regions. It’s been under Russian occupation for more than five months and was used as a launching pad for their attacks. As you might imagine, Ukrainian citizens are super excited about these rapid developments. One woman told The New York Times, quote, “We are a bit shocked, but we are full of joy”. But they are also a bit skeptical because the war right, which has become Europe’s largest conflict since World War Two, isn’t yet over. 


Erin Ryan: Which makes sense because Russia still occupies extensive Ukrainian territory, including the major city of Mariupol. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Exactly. And in response to Ukraine’s recent advances, Russia has been attacking critical infrastructure. Two Russian missiles hit a major heat and power plant, which knocked out the power to Kharkiv and several other regions. Water supply has also been impacted, but President Zelensky remains undaunted. He’s kind of, you know, I think teasing, perhaps Russia at this point. He said Sunday, quote, “Do you still think you can scare us, break us, make us make concessions? Read our lips. Without gas or without you. Without you, without light or without you, without you, without water or without you, without you”. 


Erin Ryan: I mean, weren’t you the one who tried to break me with desire? Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Erin Ryan: Uh. This is like a brilliant geopolitical rewriting of I will survive and uh I deeply appreciate it. And speaking of critical infrastructure, an update on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Those who have been following news out of Ukraine may recall that the Zaporizhzhia facility, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and one of the ten largest in the world, has been occupied by Russian forces but run by Ukrainian engineers since April. Calls to demilitarize an area around the plant in order to stave off the potential of a Chernobyl level nuclear disaster have gone unheeded. As a result, shelling and fires near the facility damaged the power lines that connected with the country’s electric grid. Last week, the plant was completely cut off from any outside source of power. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You would think that we would want to avoid nuclear power plants, you know, just like stay far away. But that doesn’t seem to be Russia’s M.O. here. 


Erin Ryan: I mean, even in a war, you don’t nuke your nose to spite your face. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right. 


Erin Ryan: As a result of being cut off from the grid, the plant was running in island mode. So I hear island mode and I think of a festive little paper umbrella sticking out of one of the nuclear silos, like it’s a pina colada. But no, when it comes to nuclear power plants, there is nothing less fun than island mode. Island mode is what happens when one reactor is powering all of the cooling systems in order to prevent a meltdown. It’s like a survival mode, basically. Well, here’s the tiniest sliver of good news. As of Sunday, Zaporizhzhia has been reconnected to Ukraine’s power grid, saving us from more Island mode. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Love to hear that. So are we out of the woods yet? 


Erin Ryan: No. So if you breathed the full sigh of relief, you may want to counterbalance that with another half gasp of existential dread. The plant needs to remain connected to power for about 30 hours in order to bring its sixth and final reactor safely into what engineers call a, quote, “cold shutdown state”. After that, the plant’s safety systems will need power. And the Zaporizhzhia plant is currently connected to the grid by one single measly line. As shelling and fighting continues uncomfortably close by, if the plant is taken offline again, it will have to resort to using diesel powered generators, which is something that makes everybody nervous because the whole facility only has enough diesel to fuel itself for about ten days. That’s why establishing a safe zone around the plant is best for everybody involved. According to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, we got to come with it, [?]. I don’t need nobody blowing up a nuclear plant. I know we’re all the way over here, but that doesn’t seem good for any of us. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah, we’re all living on the same planet. We probably want to avoid nuclear meltdown at any point on this shared planet where we all live. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 




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


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Tens of thousands of railroad workers could walk off the job by the end of the week. That is, unless two unions representing them can reach a deal with the largest freight operators in the country. They have until midnight this Friday to work out a new contract. Though negotiations have been going on for more than two years. In the meantime, the threat of a strike is already sending a chill to businesses nationwide. If it happens, it would stop about a third of the nation’s freight dead in its tracks, pun very much intended. But on a serious note, it could deal a major blow to the economy to the tune of $2 billion dollars a day. And a lot of basic consumer goods and food could get more expensive if suppliers can’t get them onto store shelves. Railroads are expected to start cutting service today in anticipation of a work stoppage. Meanwhile, representatives for the trucking and agricultural industries have called on Congress to step in to prevent it. 


Erin Ryan: Well, solidarity with the workers, but I hope that it is able to work out in their favor. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Erin Ryan: Visa, American Express and MasterCard announced plans to start categorizing gun sales. The move is meant to improve how the U.S. tracks firearm purchases. On Friday, the organization responsible for setting standards for retail transactions voted to create a special code for gun stores. Clothing stores, candy stores and bakeries don’t sell anything that’s lethal. I don’t know. Went to a bakery with a pretty lethal carrot cake recently. And they have their own merchant codes and so does pretty much every other retail category. These show up on your monthly statement when you pay for something with a credit or debit card, and now guns will finally join the party. I’m just going to say, if we’re having a party, I don’t want guns there. [laughter] This is a major win for gun control advocates who say the change will help authorities flag suspicious purchases. But gun lobbyists say this will unfairly flag transactions and they argue it could stop people from buying firearms altogether. Oh, no. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: Sounds like that’s something we want. I’ll just–


Erin Ryan: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –Put it out there. 


Erin Ryan: I’m fine with it. Fine with it. [laugh]


Tre’vell Anderson: The Cedar Creek wildfire that’s been burning for over a month in Oregon has quadrupled in size in just the past week. On Friday, Governor Kate Brown declared a state fire emergency. And on Saturday, strong winds and high temperatures fueled the flames even more. As of our recording time, the fire is 0% contained and thousands of residents in towns southeast of Eugene remain under evacuation orders. 


Erin Ryan: Here’s a reminder to let nothing stop you from taking that road trip. Queen Elizabeth the second drove 6 hours across Scotland this weekend and she’s deceased. Today, her coffin will lie in state for 24 hours at a cathedral in Edinburgh to be seen by the Scottish public. It will then be flown to London and set up for public viewing at Westminster Hall. Moving on to the question, that’s been nipping playfully at the minds of dog fans since last Thursday, who will inherit the Queen’s two corgis? In what seems like a worst case scenario for the dogs, the answer is Prince Andrew and his ex-wife, Sarah. Wah wah. Prince Andrew might have had many of his honors stripped away after he was credibly accused of sexually abusing at least one minor with the help of Jeffrey Epstein. But he has one new royal title, Dog Dad. And that is why Dog Dad is not enough information to judge whether or not someone is a good person. You’re on a dating app and they say Dog dad. Mm. Good. I have more questions. [laugh]


Tre’vell Anderson: The art of the follow up, Erin. Okay. There’s chaos in the big brain community as the number one ranked chess player has accused his opponent of cheating. Reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen was defeated last week at a prestigious tournament in Saint Louis by 19 year old grandmaster Hans Niemann. The event’s lowest rated player. Hours later, Carlsen tweeted he was dropping out and his peers began attacking Neimann’s character, suggesting that he could not win the match without cheating and claiming he had cheated before in online chess. Neimann was subsequently banned from the largest Internet chess platform, As to how Neimann could have cheated in the in-person tournament. Theories are varied, but at least one involves transmitting instructions from a chess computer using get this vibrating anal beads. 


Erin Ryan: What? Oh, my goodness. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 


Erin Ryan: I’m wearing a monocle. And it just popped out [laughing] when I heard. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, all of this begs the question, should we all be cheating more in chess? 


Erin Ryan: You know, juxtaposing vibrating anal beads. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Erin Ryan: And the sport of chess. Not something that I’ve ever done before. Also, this gives an entirely new meaning to the Queen’s Gambit, and I’m not sure what that meaning is. But I feel like we should stop talking along these lines. Cause it will get us reported to H.R.. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Very, very, very soon. And those are the headlines. 


Erin Ryan: One more thing before we go, some exciting news. The Wilderness is back for season three. Crooked’s Jon Favreau sat down with grassroots organizers, strategists and voters across the country to talk about the future of democracy. And you’ll hear about what it will take for Democrats to reach folks in battleground states in the midterms who turned out for the last election but aren’t sure if they’re going to do it again. The first episode is out now and you can listen wherever you get your podcasts. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, visit a candy store, and tell your friends to listen. 


Erin Ryan: And if you are into reading and not just maps like the Queen’s road trip buddies and me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Erin Ryan. 


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


[spoken together] And cheat responsibly with beads. 


Tre’vell Anderson: If you’re going to do it, you should do it responsibly. 


Erin Ryan: I’m too old for cheating. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: You’re like, just use the anal beads if you want to. You don’t need a reason. 


Erin Ryan: I will lose to a person who is cheating responsibly with anal beads because I’m like, nope, not for me anymore. I’m done. [laughing] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It is recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martínez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.