The Search For Survivors In Syria And Turkey | Crooked Media
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February 06, 2023
What A Day
The Search For Survivors In Syria And Turkey

In This Episode

  • A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake and a series of aftershocks struck Turkey and Syria early Monday, killing thousands of people and devastating a region already grappling with civil war and a refugee crisis.
  • The U.S. military on Saturday shot down a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic Ocean, days after it entered American airspace. The incident prompted U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a trip to China, saying it “undermined” efforts to repair the relationship between the two countries.
  • And in headlines: officials in Ohio started releasing hazardous chemicals from a train derailment to prevent a massive explosion, Google unveiled its own chatbot tool to compete with ChatGPT, and Crooked Media workers voted to unionize.


Show Notes:



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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, February 7th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is What A Day where we are giving the shadiest side eye to anyone talking about downloading the new Harry Potter video game. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, J.K. Rowling does not need your money, nor does she deserve it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I thought we agreed that it was okay for you to watch the old movies that are on streaming. It’s fine. Nostalgia. We get it. But all the new stuff, you can’t do it, okay? 


Josie Duffy Rice: You can’t do it. Can’t do it. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, Ohio officials have started the controlled release of toxic chemicals from the site of a train derailment. Plus, some personal news from the hard working folks who bring you this podcast. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, early Monday morning, an earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, devastating the region and killing at least 3800 people. The earthquake, a magnitude 7.8, caused widespread destruction in both countries and could be felt in other places, including Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, and Lebanon. Meanwhile, both countries endured hundreds of aftershocks afterwards, including an unusually strong 7.5 magnitude aftershock in Turkey. 


Tre’vell Anderson: This was obviously devastating. Has the region seen an earthquake, you know, this serious before? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh. It’s so devastating. And honestly, this is thought to be the most serious earthquake the region has seen since 1939. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That earthquake killed almost 30,000 people. And tragically, this one is expected to reach numbers at least nearing that. One World Health Organization official said, we do often see in the order of eight fold increases on the initial numbers. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So there’s obviously a lot more devastation that we’ll learn about in the coming days. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What impact is this having on Syria, which, you know, as we know, is in the middle of a civil war that has lasted for a decade at this point? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, Tre’vell. The impact on Syria is honestly unimaginable. It’s just such a devastating situation. Over the years, millions of people in the country fled north, which is kind of the only region that is not under the government’s control. Much of that area is controlled by quote, “Turkish based opposition groups”. And about 4.6 million people live there. And according to The New York Times, those people have been, quote, “sheltered in tents, ancient ruins and any other place they could find after their former homes were destroyed”. That was all in the civil war. And it wasn’t just a lack of housing. The country’s economic collapse meant people were starving, mostly unable to get food. Then this winter, a fuel crisis meant that they didn’t have heat. Reports said that people were burning trash and pistachio shells for warmth, that people only had about an hour of electricity a day. And what’s more, without infrastructure and sufficient clean water, thousands of people have gotten sick with cholera. And as you can imagine, so many hospitals have been ruined over the past few years that people can’t get the treatment they need. Right. This is all before the earthquake. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And then the earthquake happens and it makes this truly unimaginable situation even worse. The New York Times notes that in Syria on Monday, quote, “Apartment blocks, shops, even entire neighborhoods were wiped out in seconds.” Now, 1200 people in Syria are dead and that number is sure to increase. And in Aleppo on Monday, it was too dangerous to stay in buildings. So people were living in their cars and parked in open spaces like soccer fields. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. I wonder, you know, how has the international community responded to help or aid Syria and Turkey? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, there’s been a response from many countries. Countries like Dubai, Qatar, the UAE and Iran have pledged money, resources, search and rescue teams, etc.. France, Germany, Israel, and other European countries have also pledged help, although in some of those places we’re not sure what that will look like. We’ll find out in the coming days. Meanwhile, President Biden has pledged help from the U.S. saying, quote, “Our teams are deploying quickly to begin to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquake.” According to Politico, U.S. aid will also send search and rescue teams from fire departments in Los Angeles County and Fairfax County, Virginia. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And we will link to some resources in case any of you all out there want to help in our show notes. So check that out. Now on to the story I’m sure you’ve seen headlines about last week, and that’s the alleged Chinese spy balloon. The U.S. military finally shot it down over the weekend. But I want to first recap the eight days before that and give everyone a little bit of context. So first off, what is a spy balloon? I’m glad you asked Josie. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Hmm. I have a lot of questions. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] So a spy balloon is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a balloon used for surveillance purposes. There’s a long history of countries worldwide using balloons to spy on people. That includes the U.S., which used balloons for surveillance during, for example, the Civil War and World War One. Now, the balloon we’re talking about today sent from China was gigantic, they say 200 feet tall or roughly four times the size of the Snoopy balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. So really, really, really, really, really big. And then the balloons payload, which is the monitoring instrument under the actual balloon was the size of three large busses. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I was thinking regular sized balloon. I mean, I guess I thought it was a little bigger [laughter] than a regular sized balloon. I did not think it was four times the size of the Snoopy balloon at the Thanksgiving Day parade, like now I’m in a totally different headspace. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: You know? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Like, that’s different. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Absolutely.


Josie Duffy Rice: Because I was like, how did we even see this balloon? But now I get it. Okay, so how long was the balloon floating around our country? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So this balloon first entered American airspace on January 28th. It was flying around Alaska initially before dipping into Canada a couple days later. U.S. government officials didn’t publicly acknowledge the balloon, though, until January 31st, so three days after it was first seen. Now, when it floated back into the U.S., it showed up in Idaho, and that’s when we started seeing headlines and officials started discussing what to do. It was ultimately decided that they wouldn’t shoot it down at that time because they couldn’t mitigate potential risk to people on the ground. You know, obviously, when you shoot something down, debris and whatnot falls. And, you know, they wanted to protect, you know, the citizens and whatnot. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Now, when the balloon made its way to Montana, near Malmstrom Air Force Base, where several nuclear missile silos are housed, that’s when Biden reportedly first authorized shooting it down, quote, “as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to American lives under the balloon’s path.” Okay, a couple days go by. We’re now at last Friday, after the balloon had moved to Kansas and Missouri. We finally hear from China’s foreign ministry. And they said in a statement that the quote unquote, “airship” was a civilian weather balloon that had strayed from its intended course by mistake. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. So first of all, I’m thinking of balloon boy. I know that’s not super relevant right now, but it does feel somewhat related. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Sure. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But I just feel like this balloon has seen all of America. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, it definitely, you know, went on a little tour of sorts. But, you know, China was basically saying that, like, this is a balloon that we use for like monitoring the weather. It went off course. It’s not a spy balloon. But amid all of this, Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to China, saying the balloon, which we believe to be a spy balloon, had quote unquote, “undermined the purpose of the trip”. And then on Saturday, as I mentioned, the U.S. military shot down the balloon as it hovered over the Atlantic Ocean off of the coast of South Carolina. It had been flying 60 to 65,000 feet high. And so some flights in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina were grounded shortly before the shooting took place. 


Josie Duffy Rice: This whole thing is wild. So there are reports that this is not the only balloon there were and maybe are other balloons? Is this correct? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So the Pentagon says that they’ve seen reports of at least one other balloon recently. This one was over Latin America last week, which they also suspect is a Chinese spy balloon. But we’re also finding out in this moment that there have been Chinese balloons floating in the U.S. airspace before, as recently as under the Trump administration a couple of years ago. And obviously former senior officials for the Trump administration have come out and said this is not true, that it’s a fabricated lie by the White House. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. You said that China has said that the balloon was a civilian aircraft, which I’m like imagining building this balloon as a civilian and feels like something I could not do. [laughter] But um what has their response been to the balloon getting shot down? What’s going on over there? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, so like I said, it was shot down on Saturday. The Chinese foreign Ministry declared its, quote, “strong discontent and protest at the decision”. And they said in a statement, quote, “China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved and retains the right to respond further”. Which not really a great response, you know. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Because it’s very imprecise, uh– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Um. Which I don’t like. But, you know, all of this is prompting even more questions about Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership, especially after he upended norms last year by securing a third term and since has received a lot of local blowback for his, quote unquote, “zero COVID measures” and a partnership he agreed to with Russia mere weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now, China and the U.S. have been seeking to improve their ties with each other. Hence Blinken’s now postponed trip. And analysts do say that the repairing of that relationship is likely on track despite, you know, what’s going on with this balloon situation. So a lot of information there. I know we will definitely be keeping an eye on this story and on any other, you know foreign objects in the sky that may or may not be spies. 


Josie Duffy Rice: If we get in a war over a balloon, will that be the dumbest reason in history to start a war? Probably not. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughter] Probably not. Probably not. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It might not even be top five. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It might not be. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But it will be the dumbest one of my lifetime, maybe? I don’t know. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Who knows? But in the meantime, let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Officials yesterday started the controlled release of toxic chemicals from the site of a freight train derailment near the town of East Palestine, Ohio. Investigators say the train jumped the tracks Friday night as it was coming across the state line from Pennsylvania. No one was hurt, but five of its cars contained vinyl chloride, an extremely toxic and flammable chemical that could trigger a massive explosion. The governors of Pennsylvania and Ohio issued evacuation orders for everyone living within the immediate area of the derailment and warned that anyone staying behind could face serious injury or death. It’s not clear when residents can safely return to their homes, though local schools will be closed for at least the rest of the week. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The Justice Department will begin an investigation into the Memphis Police Department following the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols. The city requested the review specifically to evaluate the department’s use of force policies, as well as the effectiveness of its special crime units. The Memphis P.D. has already disbanded the so-called Scorpion unit that five of the officers involved in Nichols’ beating were a part of. The department on Friday also announced it fired a sixth officer who was at the scene of the initial traffic stop. The DOJ has already opened a civil rights investigation into why Nichols was pulled over in the first place. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Tonight’s the night for America’s annual define the relationship talk. Otherwise known as the State of the Union. This is President Biden’s second address in office, but his first since Republicans took control of the House. Biden is expected to tout his achievements from the past two years. Talk about the economy, the Chinese balloon controversy and national police reform. Tyre Nichols family will be in attendance. Meanwhile, the president’s speech comes amid ongoing tensions with the GOP over raising the debt ceiling. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reiterated that his party will only agree to raising the debt ceiling in exchange for yet to be defined federal spending cuts. You’ll see the speaker appearing over the president’s left shoulder tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern. And following the main event, Arkansas governor and former press secretary to Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders will deliver what is sure to be a riveting and totally sane Republican response. I thought we left Sarah Huckabee Sanders behind? 


Tre’vell Anderson: I thought the same. But apparently the Republicans did not get the memo. Unfortunately. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: On this show, we normally tell you about the news of the week, but today we are the news. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Woo! 


Tre’vell Anderson: A group of creative staffers at Crooked Media, the company behind the podcast you’re listening to right now overwhelmingly voted to form a union with the Writers Guild of America East. The bargaining unit includes 55 employees across several departments, including designers, audio engineers, and the producers that make all of your favorite podcasts possible. They’re organizing for pay transparency, hiring, and retaining diverse staff and more. Crooked Media announced yesterday that the company has started the process of recognizing the union and is in contact with the Writers Guild to talk about next steps. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The AI chat bot field is about to go from iRobot to Wee Robot. Google announced yesterday that it will be launching its own service to rival the infamous chat GPT. The technology is called Bard and the tech giant says that it will be able to break down complex information and make it easier for people, especially kids, to understand. Like how to play the piano or how to prepare for A.I. to infiltrate my entire life. Oh boy. Google said it plans to test the bot’s features out with employees and focus groups before making it more publicly available in the coming weeks. 


Tre’vell Anderson: No, thank you. We don’t need this. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t need it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Abort mission Google. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t need it.


Tre’vell Anderson: Please and thank you. AMC Theaters announced they will soon price movie tickets based on where you sit in the theater with less desirable seats offered at a discount and the best seats offered at a premium. If only Nicole Kidman could have prepared us for this. The new pricing model, which they are calling Sight Line at AMC, will begin at select theaters in their Chicago, New York and Kansas City markets as soon as Friday, with the theater chain citing concerts and sporting events as inspiration for the change. All I can say is from our sightline, it’s giving Spirit Airlines and we don’t like it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: No, I do not like it. They’re already so expensive. 


Tre’vell Anderson: They are so expensive. You’re already paying, what, $30 for a ticket. And now if you’re like me and you like to sit at the back of the theater. Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Which is probably considered some of the better seats, now you got to pay more, which, you know, that means no popcorn. 


Josie Duffy Rice: No popcorn. 


Tre’vell Anderson: No no frozen coke, nothing. 


Josie Duffy Rice: We have already accepted that we are paying absurd amounts of money to go to the movies. Don’t push it, AMC. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, cut it out. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to talk about our feelings about the Grammys. [music break] 




Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we’re talking about the Grammys. In case you missed the ceremony because LA traffic also trapped you in Beyonce’s uber XL, we’ll catch you up on some of the highlights. Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first openly non-binary and transgender singers, respectively, to receive honors. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Viola Davis got her EGOT, and after winning four trophies, Beyoncé became the winningest artist in Grammy history. Although there’s more to that story. So, Tre’vell, what stood out to you across the nearly four hour ceremony? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, the more to that story about Beyoncé– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –is what stood out to me. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I saw you nodding. 


Tre’vell Anderson: They made this whole big deal about her, you know, being about to break the record and then breaking the record only for us to get to the last award of the night, album of the year, which is why we all showed up. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Because she deserves and they gave it to that little boy. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. For his little album, Harry Styles. Right. And I just would like to say the Recording Academy, we are protesting you all at dawn tomorrow. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And every day.


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. Stay tuned because you played in our face and we don’t like it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What about for you, Josie? What stuck out to you? 


Josie Duffy Rice: I loved it until the end. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Nothing against Harry Styles. I’m sure he’s wonderful. Love his outfits, love his concerts. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Sure. But his album did not change the game like Renaissance did. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It did not. And Beyonce’s been in the game for 30 years now. Let’s give her album of the year. She’s never gotten album of the year. I think it’s been since 1999 that any Black woman has gotten album of the year. And I’ve been listening to music since 1999. And I just want to say we’ve done some good work. [laughter] We’ve really done some good work since 1999. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It feels ridiculous. Like Beyonce’s obviously had album of the year, what, six time since then? 


Tre’vell Anderson: At least. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’ll never forgive them for Lemonade. 


Tre’vell Anderson: At least. It doesn’t make sense. And we’re very upset about it. But you know what? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: As I’m sure some activist that is listening to us is yelling out, we should not be expecting these institutions to recognize the greatness of– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Correct. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, our art. And– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The art can be great with or without a Grammy. And yet still– 


Josie Duffy Rice: That is true. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –she deserves, for the record. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I do want to say there were some great moments. I liked Bonnie Raitt winning. I loved Lizzo’s speech. Quavo and Takeoff. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I loved Big Boi doing ATLiens like lots of good moments. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The hip hop tribute was great actually. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It was great. It was really good.


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, a number of people were left out. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But totally fine. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We’ll accept it as is. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, we’ll take what we can get. And I love the intros from like the old bosses and the old teachers and the old, doing the intros of the performers. That was great. I love me some Kacey Musgraves. I mean, I had some great moments, but the end was a bummer. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It was a great show. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It was. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It was a great show. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It was. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It de– it was a great show. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So I don’t know why they had to end it like that. No offense, Harry. 


Tre’vell Anderson: All offense. It’s fine. He’ll be all right. He’s. He’s okay. He already got the Grammy. 


Josie Duffy Rice: He’ll be fine. [laughter] Right. Right. Harry, if you’re listening, call me. Just kidding. Don’t call me. [laughter] But yeah, that part was disappointing. But the show in general, I think it was better than most award shows. So there’s that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Just like that. We’ve checked our temps. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Make a new award for Viola Davis to win and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just the plot points of the movie you missed from your obstructed view like me. What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And Renaissance was robbed. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Y’all better stop playing in our face. We’re tired of it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly. Beyonce. Do not ever go to the Grammys again. Ugh. Now I’ll never win a Grammy. Just kidding. That wasn’t on the table. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day 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 Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.