Apr 25, 2023 - Podcasts

Humanitarian emergency in Sudan

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Monday that the two opposing military forces in Sudan have agreed to a three-day cease fire. This comes after more than 400 people have been killed and thousands injured in the fighting, according to the WHO.

  • Plus, as more stores go cashless, reverse ATMs are taking bills and dispensing cards.
  • And, host Tucker Carlson is out at Fox News.

Guests: Axios' Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath and Jennifer A. Kingson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, April 25th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today: as more stores go cashless, reverse ATMs are taking bills. And, host Tucker Carlson is out at Fox News. But first, a humanitarian emergency in Sudan – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

Humanitarian emergency in Sudan

NIALA: Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced yesterday that the two opposing military forces in Sudan have agreed to a three-day cease fire, after nearly 10 days of violence.

More than 400 people have been killed and thousands injured since the start of the fighting – that’s according to the World Health Organization.

Many foreigners and diplomats were evacuated to their home countries, but many who can’t leave Sudan are left without access to food, water and medicine.

Axios’ Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath is here with the big picture.

LW, a lot of nations are pulling their citizens out of Sudan. Can you tell us what it's like in the country right now?

LAURIN-WHITNEY GOTTBRATH: Yeah, I think it's a nation that currently has two sides, not officially at war, but fighting and, and we're talking about urban fighting. So we're talking about fighting in Khartoum and around Khartoum and then some other areas in Sudan. And unfortunately that's trapped people in their homes. It forced the closure of several hospitals. It really limits how humanitarian assistance can get to people in need. And also it limits people from being able to go outside of their homes, get to safety, if they have a way to get out of the country, to get even to a place where they can get out of the country because the airport in Khartoum, is inoperable because of the fighting. So it's a really dire situation. And sadly, it doesn't seem like it's going to end anytime soon.

NIALA: At the beginning of this crisis, international aid workers from the UN Food Programme were among the initial people killed. Are aid workers being targeted? Is that also complicating relief efforts?

LW: Yeah, absolutely. So a number of aid organizations have suspended their humanitarian operations. This includes a number of UN programs. So the UN has not left Sudan. And the UN Secretary General made it very clear this week that the UN won't abandon the people of Sudan. Though the UN has moved hundreds of their workers into a more, a safer area, but that's just so they can sort of set up shop there where they aren't necessarily hunkered totally down and away from the fighting.

NIALA: LW, a lot of the reporting around Sudan talks about its strategic importance in Africa. Can you explain why?

LW: So Sudan is resource rich. It obviously is incredibly important to Egypt because the Nile runs through both and the Nile supports Egypt from a water perspective. It's not just important to Africa, but also to the Middle East. So a lot of Gulf countries in particular, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, they're quite close with the Rapid Support Forces or the RSF, who is currently fighting the Sudanese military. RSF fighters were involved, in sort of the Saudi-led effort against the Houthis and Yemen. And then, you know, Egypt has very close relations to the military.

So I think when we think about Sudan, obviously what's happening at the moment inside Sudan and the humanitarian crisis that we're seeing as a result, is awful and, and really dire. But I think there's a huge, huge worry that this violence can easily spill over into neighboring countries and throughout the region as a whole.

NIALA: If you were to sum up the current humanitarian crisis in Sudan, how would you describe it?

LW: I would describe it as dire. You know, watching this from a desk in the United States, when a number of aid organizations are forced to suspend their operations in a country, from someone who watches humanitarian crises unfold, from around the world, when you have some of the biggest organizations saying they cannot do their work, that is a really scary thing from a humanitarian point of view. And knowing that so many people were already in need, and now cannot get it. You know, it's a really desperate situation, that these people are unable to get the help that they need.

NIALA: Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath edits Axios’ World News. Thanks, LW.

LW: Thank you.

Tucker Carlson is out at Fox News

NIALA: Some BIG announcements rocked the cable news world yesterday – Axios’ Media Reporter Sara Fischer has the details.

SARA FISCHER: Fox News shocked the media industry on Monday when it said that it was parting ways with its star primetime host Tucker Carlson. Just days after it had settled a historic defamation lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for $787 million. Fox said that Tucker Carlson's last show was last Friday, which means that the network didn't even give him a chance to sign off to his viewers.

Someone who got similar treatment was CNN's Don Lemon. The network fired Don Lemon Monday, just minutes after we found out that Fox was firing Tucker Carlson. While the networks didn't give any specific examples of why Lemon was being fired, Lemon had been at the center of many controversies over the past few months, most recently by alluding to the fact that Nikki Haley was past her prime age, at age 51.

Now, both of these firings came the day after Comcast said that it had fired its top CEO for NBCUniversal Jeff Shell. Shell admitted to having an inappropriate workplace relationship. All of these firings are putting a spotlight on the instability within the cable news and the media ecosystem as streaming begins to upend traditional television.

NIALA: That’s Axios’ Sara Fischer.

In a moment, what going cashless looks like in stores across America.


Reverse ATMs are taking bills and dispensing cards

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

As more stores and restaurants go cashless, “reverse ATMs” are starting to pop up... machines that take cash and give shoppers cards with store value on them. This technology could provide a bridge for the 4.5% of Americans who don’t have bank accounts and others who rely on cash daily, though some are worried fees could exclude some people… Axios’ Jennifer Kingson reports for our What’s Next newsletter. Hi Jennifer!


NIALA: First of all, can you explain why more places are going cashless? Don't fees from credit cards make that more expensive for businesses?

JENNIFER: It's called the cash 22 dilemma, actually. On the one hand, merchants don't like paying credit card and debit card fees, which they have to do for every transaction. That's Visa, MasterCard, American Express. On the other hand, handling cash is a huge hassle for them and opens them up to theft, both from employees and from outsiders. So, card payments are cleaner, easier. During the pandemic, this was all accelerated.

Remember when we all thought that money was dirty and we didn't wanna handle it? That's when, uh, stores started trying to, uh, get rid of the cash that they handled and they started going cashless. Immediately, uh, cities started reacting because a lot of people don't have bank accounts, and the city started passing laws saying you have to accept cash. This is when the reverse ATMs sort of stepped into the rescue with bars, restaurants, baseball stadiums and the like able to say, here, if you need to use cash, go convert it to a card at these machines.

NIALA: Are there fees for turning your cash into a card at these reverse ATMs?

JENNIFER: I have heard anecdotally that, uh, sometimes they can charge you, uh, $5 to get the card. Like they do if you have a laundry room where you have to buy a card initially, and then you can reload it. But for the most part, it's the merchants that are paying for these machines letting you get the card free as a perk, and they're, they're trying to recoup it a little bit by selling advertisements on the screens of the ATMs.

NIALA: Jennifer, what are some reasons people might still prefer cash over a card or need to use cash over a card?

JENNIFER: So yeah, according to the Federal Reserve 4.5% of Americans do not have bank accounts. They're known as the unbanked and the figure may be larger. There's a big immigrant community of people who largely use cash. It's transparent, you know, you don't have to report it to the government. There are all kinds of reasons that people may want to use cash instead of cards. They may have bad credit, they may have problems getting a bank account. I anticipate that reverse ATMs will be something of a bridge technology where people who lack bank accounts and, and credit cards may eventually go towards having a stored value account on their phones so that these physical tokens won't be as necessary.

NIALA: Do we expect that we will continue to see these over the next couple of years, maybe at even more places?

JENNIFER: I think so. I think that they will proliferate, and since you can't, they don't look any different from the standard cash machines that we're accustomed to. I don't think we'll think twice about it.

NIALA: Jennifer Kingson is Axios’ chief correspondent. Thanks Jennifer.

JENNIFER: Thank you so much.

NIALA: And one final note before we go…today is the last day you can use those big blue coupons for Bed Bath and Beyond that seemed to endlessly arrive in the mail - and I know, like me - you probably have a few in your car. The company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over the weekend, and said it began liquidating immediately. So dig out those coupons today if you’ve still got ‘em.

And that’s it for us today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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