Jun 18, 2021 - Podcasts

Where the U.S.-Russia relationship goes from here

Let’s go back to a moment earlier this week when President Biden was talking to the press in Geneva about his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin had done a lot of lying to reporters in his presser. But when it was Biden’s turn to face the media, things got a little testy...

  • Plus, how TV is embracing queer people and stories.
  • And, a Western heat wave intensifies.

Guests: Culture critic and journalist Naveen Kumar, and Axios' Hans Nichols and Andrew Freedman.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Justin Kaufmann, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected].

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, June 18th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s how we’re making you smarter today: the record breaking, sweltering heatwave in the West. Plus, how TV is embracing queer people and stories.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: where the US-Russia relationship goes from here.

NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning. Welcome to Axios today. It's Friday, June 18th. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Here's what you need to know today. The record breaking sweltering heat wave in the West. Plus how TV is embracing queer people and stories, but first today's one big thing where the U S Russia relationship goes from here.

It's Friday, which means it's time to talk politics. Let's go back to a moment earlier this week, when President Biden was speaking to the press in Geneva about his meeting with Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Putin had just done a lot of lying to reporters in his news conference when it was Biden's turn to face the media, things got a little testy when he was pressed on the meeting..

KAITLAN COLLINS: Why are you so confident? He'll change his behavior, Mr. President

JOSEPH BIDEN: Yeah, I'm not confident he's change his behavior. Where the hell-What do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident? I said, I said,what I sad was, let's get it straight: I said what will change their behavior is in the rest of the world, reacts to them, then diminishes their standing in the world.

NIALA BOODHOO: That was an exchange with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. Axios' Hans Nichols is here with us to talk about that moment in the aftermath of president Biden's first foreign trip. Hey, Hans!


NIALA BOODHOO: Hans, so the headlines are reading and the relationships between the two countries are at a cold war low. Can we first unpack this moment for America and Russia? What does a summit mean for foreign policy?

HANS NICHOLS: Look, I finally get to use this line and that is that all happy summits are the same and all unhappy summits are uniquely different to sort of paraphrase Tolstoy. And what you saw there at the end was what happens when a summit goes south. Now that's not to say this is the worst summit in the history of summitry or that the conversation behind closed doors was terrible. In a lot of ways the G7 and NATO utterly forgettable, right? There are communiques, there's an Atlantic charter. They said they had an agreement. None of that will be remembered. What will likely be remembered are the optics of this trip. And then that final press conference and Biden losing his cool. Now the challenge for The White House is to sort of overlay that with other talk on what they think their accomplishments were.

NIALA BOODHOO: Do you think that this, the way that he handled this speaks to The White House trying to put a good face on it, or is this Joe Biden's optimistic way of looking at the world?

HANS NICHOLS: Anyone that knows Joe Biden or covered him during the campaign know that he can snap. And then he has a temper. Sort of the broader question is you have to be optimistic coming out of these meetings, he was, so in this case, you know, they are going to have ambassadors return. There was some talk maybe on a convention on cyber, although that's a little fluffy. There's some talk on maybe on, on what to do next on arms control and strategic stability. So, uh, you know, the deliverables here, weren't huge packages, but they were something, uh, whether or not that's something qualifies as anything. If that makes sense in English and or Russian.

NIALA BOODHOO: Axios' Hans Nichols covers the Biden White House for Axios. Thanks, Hans.

HANS NICHOLS: Thanks for having me.

NIALA BOODHOO: In 15 seconds, this pride month. One take on LGBTQ representation on the small screen.

NIALA BOODHOO: In 15 seconds, this pride month, one take on LGBTQ representation on the small screen.

NIALA BOODHOO: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

NIALA BOODHOO: There are tons of shows today that feature LGBTQ+ characters across networks and streaming devices. But those shows look so different than they did 10 to 15 years ago. Naveen Kumar is a New York based culture critic and journalist and he's here with us now to talk about how much television has changed when it comes to queer representation. Hey Naveen!

NAVEEN KUMAR: Hey, how are you?

NIALA BOODHOO: So how much different does this look than 10 or 15 years ago?

NAVEEN KUMAR: Very different. The big difference that we see, is the explosion of streaming services If we look back at historical moments, big LGBTQ, moments in history of television, like Ellen coming out on her series, or even something like Will and Grace, that was really a breakthrough. There were only sort of four or five networks every night where there were, sitcoms or dramas on and everyone was watching one or the other of them. So the audiences for those series, were so big that it was, if something happened, it was a cultural moment. So now of course, you know, our attentions in so many ways are fractured all over the place, right? So, everything is just streaming, every week it seems like there's a new service. And a lot more of them are, feature diverse characters. Queer characters and characters of color and trans characters. But their audiences are sort of tough to measure. So it's, it's hard for us to know how many of them are breaking through. There are exceptions where we see, something like Pose, which just, around it out its final season, broke through to the culture in a way that people were, talking about it, aware of it, its its place in history.

NIALA BOODHOO: As a culture critic, I wonder how you're thinking about television's ability to affect change when most of our society has kind of moved on from these mass viewing events.

NAVEEN KUMAR: So the television that we're seeing now is reflecting real changes in society, right? So television that's aimed towards young audiences, like has to incorporate, this idea that, something like twice as many, Gen Z people are identifying as, as queer or, gender variant than in previous generations. And I think we're also sort of past the point where, you need Ellen coming out on TV to show you that lesbians exist. Right? So there's more of a sense that group people are part of the fabric of our culture. In my mind like series that are aimed towards young audiences, that are full of teachable moments about coming out and finding acceptance and communicating with your friends, young kids are at home and they can stream that in their bedroom and they can see, look, It's not just me. I'm not alone. When I was the age would have been, you know, really significant thing for me to see.

NIALA BOODHOO: Are we seeing this visibility behind the scenes?

NAVEEN KUMAR: There is both an idea lingering that audiences don't necessarily want to see. queer stories and that queer actors or creators can only do one thing. So, I think the big push to be focused on is getting a crew representation behind the scenes, in the director's chair, in the writer's room, because you know, there's a depth of understanding to our stories that they have, that, you know, you can't replace.

NIALA BOODHOO: Naveen Kumar is a culture critic and journalist.. Thank you for joining us, Naveen.

NAVEEN KUMAR: Thank you for having me.

NIALA BOODHOO: We told you last week about the record drought in the Western U.S. Well, this is Andrew Freedman is here with an update as a heat wave intensifies in the American West and Southwest. So much so that 40 million people are likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100 degrees over the coming days. Andrew, what's causing this?

ANDREW FREEDMAN: We have, what's known as a blocking high pressure system that's parked over the Western U.S.. You know, ordinarily we like high pressure systems cause they bring nice weather, but they bring sinking air.. When air sinks, it warms and dries. And it's diverting all other weather systems around it. Meteorologists are kind of geeking out over how strong it is. The epicenter of the heat has just sort of migrated from one section of the West to another,

NIALA BOODHOO: What does this mean for power demand?

ANDREW FREEDMAN: Power demand spikes during a heat wave . And because of the drought, you're having a lower capacity for hydroelectric dams. Even the Hoover Dam is not putting out as much energy as it normally would. So when everybody turns on the air conditioner in Arizona and New Mexico, California, these, grids need to really figure out exactly how to continue to meet demand. And, this is the type of situation that authorities have been fearing for this summer. And it's only June.

NIALA BOODHOO: That's a good reminder also for everyone to check on their neighbors. If you were experiencing that this weekend, Axios' Andrew Freedman covers climate and energy. Thanks, Andrew.


HARRIS: “Today is a day of celebration of pride and for us to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action...and with that I wish you happy juneteeth”

NIALA BOODHOO: Vice President Kamala Harris there, just before President Biden signed a bill into law yesterday making Juneteenth a federal holiday in the United States. Biden - said the moment will be one of the greatest honors of his presidency.

Tomorrow - on Juneteenth, we’ll be dropping the latest in our Hard Truths series about systemic racism, focused this month on business and entrepreneurship. We’ll talk to two Latina and Black women about getting involved in the very white cannabis industry, and working to profit off the same drug that crushed their communities growing up.

That’s all for this week. Axios Today is brought to you by Axios and Pushkin Industries.

We’re produced by Alexandra Botti, Justin Kaufmann, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Naomi Shavin and Amy Pedulla. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Dan Bobkoff is our Executive Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is our Executive Editor. And special thanks Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

At Pushkin, our executive producers are Leital Molad and Jacob Weisberg.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Have a great weekend.

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