03 January 2023

Daily Newsletter

Mexico's Supreme Court Elects First Female President

Facts

  • Mexico's Supreme Court on Monday elected Justice Norma Lucía Piña as its first female chief justice in history, a result welcomed by opposition parties as she is not thought of as an ally of Pres. Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
  • Justice Piña, who was appointed for a 15-year Supreme Court term in 2015, received six votes against five for Justice Alfredo Gutiérrez Ortiz Mena in the third round of voting to succeed Arturo Zaldívar as the head of Mexico's top court and the Federal Judicial Council until December 2026.
  • As she was sworn in, Piña vowed to keep the country's highest court independent amid strained relations with the López Obrador administration.
  • López Obrador, who has candidly challenged the Supreme Court, had supported Justice Yasmin Esquivel in the hope of seeing a more sympathetic chief justice, but her candidacy was overshadowed by allegations that she had plagiarized her graduation thesis in 1987.
  • He has pressured the court to back his nationalist energy agenda, particularly his drive to give control of the energy sector to national power utility Comisión Nacional de Electricidad and state oil firm Pemex, but Justice Piña has defended Mexico's transition to renewable energy.
  • Though former Interior Secretary of the López Obrador admin., Sen. Olga Cordero, welcomed the election deeming it "the time for women," López Obrador stated that "the judicial branch has been kidnapped; it has been eclipsed by money, by economic power."

Spin

Narrative A

A constitutional law specialist, Piña's breaking of the glass ceiling in the legal profession has created an opening of women to positions of power. However, there is more to her extensive experience and exceptional abilities than her gender. The next four years of her presidency could bring a proper balance of powers, an absolute defense of the Constitution, and judicial independence against any attempt at intervention by Obrador's government.

Narrative B

Mexico has serious challenges when it comes to gender equality. Femicide, the crime of killing women, is rampant. Piña's victory may not be enough to win the battle for Mexican women living in fear and fighting for social, political, and economic justice. Only time will tell if her ascent can reform the criminal justice system that all-to-often lets murderers and rapists roam free.

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Report: Australia's Health Chief Urged Against COVID Checks for PRC Flights

Facts

  • Internal documents made public on Tuesday, reveal that Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, had advised the government against imposing any restrictions on travelers coming from China just a day before Canberra announced new testing requirements.
  • Kelly argued to Health Minister Mark Butler that there was no "sufficient public health rationale" for new travel rules, citing Australia's high level of vaccination and prior infection as well as the fact that the BF.7 Omicron subvariant was already circulating in the country.
  • Instead of travel restrictions, Kelly suggested that the government consider expanding wastewater testing, implementing volunteer-based sampling for international arrivals, and improving follow-up of people who test positive for COVID and recently traveled overseas.
  • On Sunday, Australia joined the growing list of countries to implement COVID testing for travelers from China, announcing that they will have to submit a negative test before departure starting this Thursday.
  • Travelers whose flights originate from China — including Australian citizens — must use a PCR-style test or a rapid test to demonstrate they were COVID-negative. Exceptions are children, airline crew, and those that can prove they have recovered from the virus in the previous 30 days.
  • This comes as the PRC recently relaxed its restrictions and requirements for residents, changing its policy from "zero-COVID" to "living with the virus" amid reports that the nation has been facing a severe spike in infections.

Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

It's unacceptable that the Australian government has imposed new restrictions claiming they were out of an abundance of caution even though available evidence and scientific information indicate that Australians have already been exposed to variants circulating in China. Rather than protecting the nation, this move will only interrupt family reunions and affect the country's economic activity.

Pro-establishment narrative

The Australian government is right to adopt precautionary measures as China arrivals resume. Although an imminent public health threat is unlikely, China has long failed to provide trustworthy information so other variants could be circulating unreported there. This is a prudent move given the extraordinary mass infection occurring in the PRC.

Nerd narrative

There's a 50% chance that China will first reach 250k confirmed COVID cases per day by May 2023, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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Bills’ Hamlin Awake, Still in Critical Condition

Facts

  • Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin, who collapsed from cardiac arrest during the team's NFL Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, was awake and able to communicate through writing Thursday, according to his doctors.
  • Hamlin's collapse occurred following his tackle of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, which saw Hamlin hit in the chest. He stood up for around three seconds before collapsing, with athletic trainers immediately rushing onto the field to administer treatment.
  • According to the Bills, the second-year player's heart had stopped but was restored on the field following treatment by medical personnel. He was then taken by ambulance to the UC Medical Center.
  • The NFL on Thursday announced it would not resume the game because it would not have an “effect on which clubs qualify for the postseason.” The game had previously been suspended after Hamlin’s collapse and treatment.
  • Josh Allen, the Bills’ quarterback, said Hamlin’s improvement has inspired the team to return to the field and play for their teammate’s honor, adding “it’ll be a huge driving force.”
  • Hamlin was the 212th overall pick of the 2021 draft. In his rookie season, he played 14 games, and so far this season has played in 16 games, producing 91 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

This type of situation is the reason the NFL and NFLPA developed emergency action plans for each city and stadium, including providing an ambulance and a Level 1 trauma center at every game. The league understands serious injuries can occur during the game, and it goes to great measures to ensure players receive the best treatment available.

Establishment-critical narrative

With incidents like this becoming commonplace in the NFL, this injury serves as another reminder that the league prioritizes monetary gain over the safety of its players. It took the league a staggering hour after CPR was first administered to Hamlin to postpone the game, and the postponement only happened after coaches, captains, and players declared they wouldn’t continue.

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Day 314: Russian Backlash After Makiivka Strike

Facts

  • According to multiple reports, a number of prominent Russian nationalists and military bloggers, as well as some lawmakers, have demanded punishment for commanders they accused of ignoring dangers after a Ukrainian attack in the Donetsk region on New Year's Eve killed dozens of Russian troops.
  • In a rare disclosure on Monday, Russia's defense ministry said 63 soldiers were killed on New Year's Eve blasts that destroyed a temporary barracks in a vocational college in the city of Makiivka, just nine miles (15 km) east of and a twin city to the regional capital of Donetsk city. Donetsk city and Makiivka have been controlled by Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) forces since 2014.
  • Russia said the attack was carried out with six rockets from US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). Russian military bloggers questioned housing large numbers of soldiers in single buildings when in the known range of HIMARS rockets; others alleged that soldiers were housed near munitions depots.
  • While critics also alleged that real casualty figures are much higher, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces called the Makiivka attack a "strike on Russian manpower and military equipment" without making a claim to casualties. Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not refer to the attack in his nightly address.
  • Since the incident, Russia and pro-Russia forces launched a number of attacks within the Donetsk region overnight and on Tuesday. Overnight attacks were recorded in the cities of Kramatorsk and Druzhkivka, where two civilians were injured and an ice rink was reportedly destroyed.
  • A Russian attack on a water plant in Donetsk's Kurakhove on Tuesday also struck a residential building, killing one civilian and injuring two others. Russia also carried out attacks in the regions of Sumy, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Zaporizhzhia without reports of civilian casualties; two civilians were also reported killed after their car ran over a mine in Kherson.
  • Widespread Ukrainian attacks have also continued to be reported in the Donetsk region over the past day. DPR officials reported artillery shelling on 70 occasions, with bombardment recorded in Myronivskyi, where one civilian was reported killed, and in Donetsk city, where two were reported injured; shelling was also reported in Yasnuvata and Horlivka.
  • Elsewhere, following a call with Zelenskyy and European Commission (EC) Pres. Ursula von der Leyen, a readout of the call from Ukraine's presidential office said Zelenskyy raised the first tranche of a new EU macro-financial assistance program for Ukraine worth €18B ($19B USD). According to the statement, Zelenskyy further thanked Von der Leyen for other humanitarian aid and informed her of Ukraine's progress in seven areas recommended by the EC in the context of Ukraine's pursuit of EU candidate status.

Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

Putin is losing the narrative war against his nationalist base after the deadly strikes in Makiivka. Some reports say the vocational college housed as many as 600 newly mobilized troops and that as many as 100 were killed.

Pro-Russia narrative

Ukraine's strike on Makiivka was carried out with US-supplied HIMARS rockets and killed 63 Russian soldiers on New Year's Eve. This is another example of the deadly carnage resulting from US and Western meddling.

Nerd narrative

There's a 46% chance that Ukraine will join the EU before 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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US Study: Increase in Kids Sickened by Marijuana Edibles

Facts

  • According to a study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics, the number of children younger than six accidentally ingesting cannabis edibles rose 14% as recreational marijuana use became legal and has grown in popularity in the US over the last five years.
  • A retrospective analysis of the National Poison Data System data reveals that more than 7K confirmed cases of kids eating marijuana edibles were reported between 2017 and 2021 — up from about 200 in 2017 to over 3K in 2021.
  • In addition, the researchers found that 22.7% of the children inadvertently consuming cannabis-laced products — such as candies, chocolate, and cookies — were hospitalized. More than half of the critical cases were young children aged two and three, and there were no deaths.
  • Furthermore, nearly 8% of children required critical care unit admissions, 15% were admitted to non-critical care units, and over a third were treated and released from the emergency room. Hospitalizations jumped during the last two years of the study, coinciding with the pandemic, the researchers noticed.
  • Noting that 97.1% of children found the edibles at home, lead author Dr. Marit Tweet called for greater vigilance by parents and making recreational marijuana less appealing and accessible to children.
  • Though marijuana has yet to be legalized at the federal level, 37 US states allow the medical use of marijuana, while 21 states and Washington D.C. have begun to regulate its adult recreational use.

Spin

Narrative A

Cannabis exposure can be dangerous and life-threatening for young children, which is why urgent local, state, and federal action is required to stop unregulated sellers and copycat products from reaching American households. Kids under six years old can't read the health warnings on pot-laced edibles in the first place. Therefore, by shifting to plain packaging of marijuana products, regulators can reduce their appeal and protect children from accidental ingestion.

Narrative B

While the issue of kids accidentally ingesting cannabis edibles does need to be addressed, a thoughtful, multi-pronged approach is needed. Federal narcotics regulation has barely changed since the 1970s. Regulators can enhance safety for children while loosening the drug classifications that have long punished law-abiding adults. This issue doesn't show that cannabis is dangerous but that regulators must catch up to the times.

Nerd narrative

There's a 60% chance that cannabis will be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act before 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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Kashmir: Two Children Killed In Blast

Facts

  • Indian officials stated that a bomb blast killed two children and wounded five other civilians on Monday in Dhangri village in the southern Rajouri district, located in Indian-administered Kashmir. This is the same area where four people died a day earlier after two gunmen opened fire at a row of houses.
  • This comes as a blast was reported near the home of a victim of Sunday's attack despite a massive ongoing search operation to track down those suspected of involvement in the shooting.
  • A reward of 1M rupees ($12k) has been announced for any specific information about militants involved in the attacks, while a special team of the National Investigation Agency reached the crime scene to investigate.
  • The six victims of the twin attacks were cremated on Tuesday at Dhangri village cremation ground.
  • Police have blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for both attacks targeting the Hindu-majority Dhangri village, which is close to the highly militarized Line of Control that divides the disputed region between Pakistan and India.
  • India's Kashmir has been without an elected government for over five years and has been directly controlled by New Delhi since 2019. India regularly accuses Pakistan of supporting the Kashmir fighters — an allegation Islamabad denies.

Spin

Narrative A

The Jammu and Kashmir region was incorporated into India's union territory four years ago on claims that stripping the state of its constitutional autonomy was the only way to tackle terrorism. However, the central government has failed to achieve this goal. As New Delhi contributes to the atmosphere of hatred, innocents will continue to be killed as militants do not discriminate between their victims.

Narrative B

These latest incidents in Jammu and Kashmir expose the importance of the Indian nation remaining united and standing with its security forces who are battling Pakistani terrorists daily. An in-depth probe into the security lapses that allowed these twin terror attacks to occur must be conducted to prevent the further targeting of civilians as Pakistan-based terrorists seek to infiltrate the country.

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Israeli Minister Visits Contested Holy Site, Sparks Outrage

Facts

  • Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Al Aqsa mosque, whose Jewish name is Temple Mount, on Tuesday, sparking condemnation from Palestinians and other Arab communities.
  • Ben-Gvir, surrounded by police, briefly toured the religious site in his first public act since Israeli PM Netanyahu's government was sworn in five days ago. The hilltop site is considered the most sacred place in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.
  • Ben-Gvir tweeted a photo of himself walking past the iconic golden Dome of the Rock with his security detail. The tweet read, "The Temple Mount is open to everyone."
  • In response to the minister's visit, an associate of Netanyahu said it doesn't threaten any past agreements and reassured that the PM is committed to the decades-old status quo. Meanwhile Jordan, the site's custodian, claims it violates international law.
  • Netanyahu's scheduled trip to the UAE next week has been postponed following Ben-Gvir's visit, as the UAE, which normalized relations with Israel in 2020, condemned the move. Officials close to Netanyahu, however, say the delay is due to logistical factors and denied any correlation between the two events.
  • The religious site has been a flashpoint of violence between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli security forces. As per past agreements after Israel captured the site in 1967, Jews and non-Muslim tourists are permitted to visit, but they aren't supposed to pray there.

Spin

Pro-Palestine narrative

Considering that the Second Intifada was sparked by former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon's storming of Al Aqsa Mosque in 2000, Ben-Gvir's recent stunt is clearly a dangerous provocation. Israeli politicians like Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir are far-right religious nationalists who believe that all of Palestine should be annexed and occupied by Israel. Theatrics like this could seriously worsen an already violent situation; in the last year, Israeli forces have killed over 200 Palestinians, and Ben-Gvir's visit signals that such violence will continue.

Pro-Israel narrative

The controversy regarding Ben-Gvir's visit is just another example of the double standard to which Israel is held. When Jews want to visit the Temple Mount, which they consider the holiest site in their religion, they're severely criticized by world governments and the media. However, when Palestinians incite violence and riots because they can't accept Jews' rights to pray at their holy site, they're applauded. Either way, Ben-Gvir's visit doesn't threaten the status quo or previous agreements.

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Tesla Announces Record Sales for 2022

Facts

  • On Monday, Elon Musk's Tesla announced it set a new record by delivering 1.3M cars in 2022, 40% more than in 2021 but less than needed to meet the billionaire's 50% annual growth target.
  • The company reportedly delivered more than 405k vehicles in the final three months of the year, just shy of the 430k predicted by Wall Street analysts.
  • The Austin, Texas-based manufacturer attempted to meet expectations by offering a rare $7.5k discount on some models, but a number of factors, including a rise in COVID cases in China, led to the shortfall.
  • In a statement, Tesla thanked its customers, as well as its employees, suppliers, and shareholders, for contributing to a “great” year despite the COVID situation and problems in the supply chain.
  • This comes as COVID, supply chain issues, potentially lesser demand for the vehicles, and concerns that Musk has been distracted from Tesla since his purchase of Twitter have caused Tesla's stock to dip over 65% last year, more than triple the S&P 500 dip of 19.4%.
  • Amid Tesla’s mixed sales news, Reuters has reported that Tom Zhu, the company’s vice president for Greater China, was promoted to overseeing production in the US, as well as sales in North America and Europe, in addition to his role in China.

Spin

Narrative A

Musk should consider devoting less time to Twitter and more time to helping Tesla meet its current challenges. Although its increase in sales outpaced the rest of the industry, much of the company’s appeal has relied on Tesla’s ability to grow at an even greater rate, like other Big Tech companies. If Musk doesn’t get things under control, Tesla’s stock dip could be just the start of great troubles.

Narrative B

There’s no reason to panic. Tesla is still growing, and there’s still a strong chance it’ll be the most valuable company in the near future. The stock market is volatile, and it’s not an accurate — or sole — indicator of a company’s success, especially relative to the excellent work of Tesla’s employees and the car-maker's record performance during a strenuous year.

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Japan Offering Reward for Migrating Out of Tokyo

Facts

  • In an attempt to revitalize areas with shrinking demographics and reduce density in Japan’s main city, Japan’s government is offering ¥1M ($7.5K) per child to families who leave Tokyo and move to less populated regions.
  • The current program, in which the government pays families ¥300K ($2,291 USD) to make the move, has achieved growing success, with annual household relocations jumping from 71 to 290 between 2019 and 2020, and again to 1,184 in 2021.
  • The incentives apply to people currently residing in the 23 core wards of Tokyo, and program participants must move to a host municipality outside the greater Tokyo area. People may also move to low-density mountainous areas of Tokyo.
  • Families' children have to be under the age of 18 — or 18 if in the final year of high school — and must also live in their new municipality for at least five years. Moving out before five years will result in the recipients returning their payments.
  • Other requirements include employment at a small or midsize company in the area of relocation, continuing existing work remotely, or starting a new business in the place of residence. A couple with two children that starts a business could receive up to ¥5m ($38,302).
  • Japan is experiencing birth rates of 1.3 children — far below the 2.1 children required to maintain its present population size — with the nation's population falling by 644K people from 2020-21 and current trends projecting the total population to fall from 125M to 88M by 2065. The government hopes 10K people will have moved to rural areas by 2027.

Spin

Narrative A

Japan’s population is in crisis as birth rates continue to stay catastrophically low and the population rapidly shrinks. Communities are being hollowed out, and even Tokyo is experiencing a population loss. As fertility issues are nation-specific and no single solution exists, Japan’s government must try whatever it can to increase families and birthrates, or else the consequences will be massive.

Narrative B

Japan’s shrinking population, especially in rural areas, is not as big of a problem as it initially seems. While the current mindset is focused on growth at all costs, there is a positive aspect to downsizing and slowing down the pace of life. As the country has failed in its attempts to reverse fertility issues for decades now, rural areas in Japan are simply learning how to adapt. Scaling down can be correlated to happiness.

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US: Kevin McCarthy Loses Third-Round House Speaker Vote

Facts

  • With a 218-vote majority needed to secure the position, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday lost three rounds of votes to become Speaker of the House after a small group of Republicans voted against him. Voting has been adjourned until noon local time Wednesday.
  • McCarthy received 203 GOP votes in favor to 19 against in the first and second rounds, and 202 in favor and 20 against in the third round. As the GOP only holds a slight majority in the House and every Democrat voted for Rep. Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), McCarthy could only afford to receive four Republican "no" votes.
  • The California representative's first-round loss was historic in and of itself, as the last time a candidate for speaker lost round one was in 1923. Though many predict it's likely to end in McCarthy's favor eventually, subsequent votes will continue until someone receives the 218 votes needed.
  • Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio received six votes in round one but took the floor to encourage his colleagues to vote for McCarthy.
  • After Jordan nominated McCarthy for the position, every single opposition Republican moved to vote for Jordan in the second round.
  • The controversial vote follows several demands from conservatives regarding changes to House rules, including more representation on committees and a special panel to investigate the Biden admin.'s handling of COVID, the border, and federal authorities' probes into Jan. 6. McCarthy has agreed to open investigations into the alleged "weaponization of the Federal Government."

Spin

Republican narrative

After coming up embarrassingly short in the midterms, the fringe hard-right wing of the GOP is giving Democrats even more to celebrate. Whether he's the perfect candidate or not, Kevin McCarthy wasn't at fault for the Trump-endorsed midterm losers, and he's the only one that can realistically lead the party into the next Congress. Until these fringe detractors finally give up, the party won't be able to conduct any of the business they've been talking about for the past several months.

Conservative narrative

Just like Mitch McConnell in the upper chamber, Kevin McCarthy may have "Republican" next to his name, but he's only really on team Washington elite. A man like Jim Jordan, however, has proven to put the American people, and true Republicans more specifically, first. The GOP base has changed for the better and is showing its distaste for establishment players like McCarthy.

Democratic narrative

What's supposed to be a routine and celebratory procedure has quickly turned into division, animosity, and chaos, marking an ominous beginning to Republican control. Neither Jordan nor McCarthy are fit for the role of speaker, and the infighting that has followed this reality will likely pave the way to a GOP civil war, making the 2024 presidential election ripe for a blue wave.

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