May 12, 2023 - Podcasts

State of Play: debt ceiling talks and a murky 2024

The political fight over the debt ceiling continues to grow, as we approach a cliff that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says will come at the start of June. Meanwhile, lies were a central theme in politics this week. Axios' Hans Nichols explains in our weekly politics State of Play.

  • Plus, the FDA lifts a longtime restriction on blood donations.
  • And, Netflix says it will put billions into more Korean content.

Guests: Axios' Hans Nichols; University of California, Irvine's Kyung Hyun Kim; and LAist's Vivian Yoon.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, 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 BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Friday, May 12th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: the FDA lifts a longtime restriction on blood donations. Plus, Netflix says it will put billions into more Korean content. But first, debt ceiling talks and a murky 2024 election… our weekly politics State of Play is our One Big Thing.

Debt ceiling talks and a murky 2024 election

NIALA: While new data this week shows inflation is easing, the political fight over the debt ceiling continues to grow as we approach a cliff that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says will come at the start of June. Axios’ Hans Nichols is here to catch us up quick. Hey, Hans.

HANS NICHOLS: Good morning.

NIALA: Hans, are we seeing any movement on debt ceiling talks? What's the latest here?

HANS: The position from the White House had always been, no negotiation, and it's pretty clear we are in a negotiation. So yes, talks are taking place. They were suspended or postponed. That's between the leaders, between Biden, McCarthy, and the other three leaders. Now, my first thought was, oh, no, no progress.

But then officials, you know, privately indicated that this is actually a good sign. And it's a sign of progress. And the principles i.e. the president and the speaker don't need to get together just yet because so much progress is being made at the staff level. So, it seems as though there's momentum. The question is, is there enough and is there enough time?

NIALA: So former President Trump said in a CNN Town Hall Wednesday night that the U.S. should default if the White House doesn't agree to spending cuts. Is that a possibility at this point?

HANS: Yeah, it's a possibility. I mean, I think the bigger or better possibility with the Trump comment is just Trump negotiating and it's Trump taking a maximus position, or at least signaling to House Republicans that they should take a maximus position. We saw this throughout his presidency. In a lot of ways, Trump is saying the quiet part out loud, right? If you are using the debt ceiling as a negotiation tactic, you have to be prepared to trigger it, and you have to be prepared to default on it. What House Republicans and Senate Republicans are saying is use it in negotiating tactic but don't actually be prepared to fault. And those are sort of different messages.

NIALA: Hans, I think it's also hard to avoid that lies were a central theme in politics this week with Representative George Santos facing federal charges of fraud, lying on financial forms and more. And former President Trump after being found liable for sexual abuse and defamation, doubling down on that defamation again this week on the CNN Town Hall and repeated lies about the election. What are your takeaways about all of this?

HANS: Oh, we're in for a really confusing 2024, you know, as to calling out lies in real time. We need to be prepared for this for the foreseeable future in our politics, it's gonna get really murky and really weird, especially when you think of the deep fakes. Especially when you think of all the things AI can do. And we're in for a really challenging election season.

NIALA: Hans Nichols is part of Axios politics team. Thanks Hans.

HANS: Thanks for having me.

FDA lifts a longtime restriction on blood donations

NIALA: And one other headline we’ve been following…

The FDA relaxed its restrictions yesterday on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

For decades – men who have sex with men had to practice abstinence for three months before giving blood.

Now, all potential donors – regardless of sexual orientation or gender – will be screened to determine their personal risk for HIV.

In a moment, the rise of Korean entertainment in the U.S.


Netflix says it will put billions into more Korean content

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

In the past two decades interest in Korean culture has risen exponentially in the U.S. — from “Parasite” to “Squid Game” and of course BTS – Korean pop culture is everywhere.

Netflix recently announced that they are investing $2.5 billion over the next four years to produce more K-dramas, movies and reality shows.

Here to talk about the rise of Korean pop culture is the host of the podcast “California Love: K-pop Dreaming” Vivian Yoon and UC Irvine’s Kyung Kim. Welcome!

KYUNG KIM: Thanks for having us.

VIVIAN YOON: Thank you so much.

NIALA: Vivian, a lot of people are familiar with BTS, which is the Korean boy band that currently holds the record for the most streamed group of all time on Spotify with more than 31 billion streams. First, can you give us some background on how K-pop started?

VIVIAN: I think people would say that modern K-pop originated with a group called Seo Taiji and Boys in the early 90s. They were really the first group to be like a South Korean boy band and they mixed elements of rock, hip-hop, pop, and Korean music in this way. That was really new and really fresh and unfamiliar to Korean listeners. And South Korean music, in particular, has always had ties to the U.S. even to the early 20th century, things like jazz, the foxtrot, swing like they all influenced Korean music.

And, and then from the 19 like 40s onward, with the constant U.S. military presence, like that shaped K-pop in really, really, really deep ways. And then you have the global rise of hip-hop, which obviously was so instrumental in shaping K-pop. So, it's actually not like an overnight phenomenon. K-Pop has always had really deep and authentic ties to the U.S. and to Korean Americans, in Los Angeles specifically.

NIALA: Kyung, Netflix has said more than 60% of Netflix membership have watched Korean shows or films just in the last year. What do you think is drawing people in? Obviously these are not just Korean people that are watching this.

KYUNG: I think it's compelling, uh, stories that K-dramas have featured over the years, especially through, uh, Netflix. Because traditionally, K-dramas were television and, you know, Korean cinema was something that was different because that was theatrical. But, especially around the early times of the pandemic, those two things actually converged into one. And as you can actually see through hit Netflix shows like “Glory” or “Squid Game,” you actually see two separate streams of Korean dramas, whether it be theatrical or through television now converge into one big force. And that's been I think one of the main draws.

NIALA: Vivian, what has this rise in popularity been like for you? How different is this from when like you were a kid to now?

VIVIAN: So different. In Korean-American circles, there were definitely people who were outwardly like fans of Korean culture and K-pop and K-dramas. But, for me and my Korean-American friends, there was just this shared unspoken understanding that like, Korean music wasn't cool, not as cool as you know, mainstream white American music and pop culture and TV and things like that. And so for me and a lot of my Korean-American friends, from my generation, it's been kind of confusing seeing this like sudden explosion in popularity, among non Korean-American people and I think it's brought up a lot of complicated feelings about, you know, why now? Why are people now allowed to celebrate these things that we were sort of shameful of or hid, when we were growing up.

NIALA: Yeah, like to Vivian's point, 26 Korean words were added to the Oxford English dictionary. One of those words translates the Korean wave. Can you explain that word and its significance?

KYUNG: Yeah, hallyu. I mean that was first coined by Chinese journalists who actually saw all of a sudden, you know, Korean popular content becoming dominating in China. And they, hallyu is “han” with not just Korean wave, but cold wave. And so they thought it was, you know, kind of an interesting wordplay, cool Korean stuff. And then obviously it wasn't just China that got a big bite or chunk of, you know, the Korean wave.

I went to a Blackpink, you know, concert. They headlined Coachella, three, four weekends ago. It was probably one of the most diverse crowds that I've seen, right? In years at Coachella, uh, for headline concerts. It really has a reaching power and it's, that's not actually, very common. You go to, I don't know, Taylor Swift concert or Kendrick Lamar concert and the crowd tend to be very, you know, monolithic. K-pop actually draws from all kinds of diverse crowd.

VIVIAN: You know, it's interesting with the rise of Korean entertainment and food and beauty and everything. South Koreans are so hyper-visible in a way that's been really new. But at the same time, it's interesting because as a Korean-American person from Los Angeles, sometimes it feels like American history gets left out in the conversation. Korean-Americans will get conflated with South Koreans, right? And so for me, I think the hope is that this increase in interest and the conversation will also lead to an increase in the visibility of Korean-American people and stories and that Asian diasporic people will understand that we have to make space for our stories if no one else will.

NIALA: Vivian Yoon is host of the podcast, “California Love: K-Pop Dreaming.” Kyung Kim is a professor of East Asian Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Kyung, Vivian, thank you.

VIVIAN: Thank you.

KYUNG: Thank you.

NIALA: That does it for us this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Robin Linn. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And Aja Whitaker-Moore is Axios’ executive editor. Special thanks as always to Axios Co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.

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