13 January 2023

Daily Newsletter

UAE Names Oil Chief to Lead COP28 Talks

Facts

  • The United Arab Emirates has named Sultan al-Jaber, who both leads Abu Dhabi’s state-run oil company and oversees its renewable energy efforts, to preside over the upcoming United Nations "COP28" climate negotiations in Dubai.
  • Al-Jaber, who serves as CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co — a firm that produces 4M barrels of crude a day and plans to expand to 5M — is known to be a trusted advisor to UAE leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
  • An analysis of those who registered for the previous COP27 showed significant connections to the oil and gas industry compared to previous meetings. This includes 70 people closely connected to fossil fuels within the UAE delegation.
  • Each year, the country hosting the UN negotiations for the so-called Conference of the Parties (COP) nominates an individual to chair the talks. As the hosts of the upcoming climate negotiations, the UAE was tasked with choosing this year's chairperson.
  • The UAE, a major OPEC oil exporter, will be the second Arab state to host the climate conference after Egypt convened the event in 2022.

Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

Sultan al-Jaber has the credentials and background to be attuned to trends that are already ongoing and understand climate negotiations from a well-informed standpoint. The UAE is committed to energy reform and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 — Sultan al-Jaber will play an integral role in these goals.

Establishment-critical narrative

Putting an oil CEO in charge of the negotiations for COP28 is clearly a conflict of interest. This is proof of the fossil fuel interests taking control of the process and shaping it to meet their own needs. There is no place for pollution enablers like al-Jaber in climate negotiations.

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Swedish Company Finds Large Supply of Rare Minerals

Facts

  • Sweden’s state-owned mining company LKAB announced on Thursday that it has identified over 1M tons of rare earth oxides in the county’s far north Kiruna area. It is the largest known deposit of such elements in Europe and could play a key role in the transition to green energy in the nordic nation and beyond.
  • Rare earth minerals are essential to many high-tech manufacturing processes and are used in electric vehicles, wind turbines, and many personal electronics.
  • LKAB’s President and CEO Jan Mostrom stressed the importance of mining for rare earth oxides as European countries look to transition to green energy and reduce reliance on China. The PRC mines the majority of rare Earth elements.
  • Ebba Busch, Sweden’s Minister for Energy, Business, and Industry, echoed Mostrom’s position stating, "Electrification, the EU's self-sufficiency and independence from Russia and China will begin in the mine."
  • The European Commission projects that the demand for rare earth minerals will increase by five times by 2030. The minerals are not currently mined in Europe.
  • LKAB says exploration of the mines won’t start for years, even if the permits are delivered quickly. Mostrom says the permit process must be changed because “it will be at least 10-15 years before we can actually begin mining and deliver raw materials to the market," under the current rules.

Spin

Narrative A

Rare earth elements are vital as we progress in a digital world and look to transition to green energy. Not only are these elements important for technological development and production, but they also have great significance in geopolitical struggles as Western countries look to become independent from China’s manufacturing. Sweden’s discovery has implications for Europe and beyond.

Narrative B

While rare earth minerals may play a key role in manufacturing, mining for them presents environmental concerns that cannot be overlooked. Unless carefully regulated, the extraction process can contaminate water and processing raw ore produces potentially toxic chemicals. This major discovery will need to be carefully managed and regulated in the years ahead.

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BLM Founder's Cousin Dies in Police Custody

Facts

  • Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said on Wednesday that teacher Keenan Anderson, a relative of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, died after going into cardiac arrest on Jan. 3. His death came hours after he was tasered multiple times by police officers in a struggle.
  • The news comes as authorities released body-camera footage of the incident in Venice, California, showing Anderson begging for his life while being detained. An officer appears to be restraining him – shortly after a traffic collision – by holding his elbow on Anderson's neck.
  • Though he was initially found in the middle of the road asking for help, Anderson eventually fled, seemingly concerned about a police official's behavior. He was Tased twice as an officer ordered him to stop resisting, and was later transferred by paramedics to a hospital where he died.
  • Police have stated that an autopsy carried out by their department found Anderson had traces of cocaine and cannabis in his system. LAPD Capt. Kelly Muñiz pointed out that witnesses described his behavior at the scene as "erratic" and blamed him for causing the collision.
  • Bodycam footage showing the killing of two other men, Takar Smith and Oscar Sanchez, during interactions with LAPD officers in separate incidents on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 have also been released. Moore has expressed his "deep concerns" about the deaths, and vowed to ensure greater transparency into investigations.
  • The three incidents have renewed questions about fatal use of police force in the US which, according to a 2021 study in the medical journal The Lancet that recorded over 30K deaths at the hands of US police from 1980 to 2018, is highest in non-Hispanic Black communities.

Spin

Right narrative

So far we know that the victim, who had cocaine and cannabis in his body, tried to flee the scene and resisted arrest after causing a traffic collision. Despite BLM supporters mobbing outside LAPD headquarters, the role that police officers played in this case remains unclear, as the Los Angeles County coroner's office is yet to rule on the cause or manner of Anderson's death.

Left narrative

The LAPD chief acknowledged that Anderson's death could have been avoided. Clearly, efforts taken in the wake of the 2020 killing of George Floyd to curb police violence have failed to change the dire reality that Black people face in the US. Anderson was the third man of color to die in violent encounters with the LAPD in the span of a week enough is enough.

Nerd narrative

There's a 2% chance that a large American city will fully abolish their police department before 2035, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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Japan to Release Fukushima Water in Spring or Summer

Facts

  • The Japanese government said on Friday that it could release treated water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean sometime in the coming spring or summer.
  • According to the revised policy, the government will also support fishermen in Fukushima and nearby prefectures to fight potential reputational damage resulting from the water release through a $385M fund.
  • In April 2021, Japan approved the release of over 1M tons of then-radioactive water – used to cool the reactors following the 2011 meltdown – in two years time.
  • In 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima plant's cooling systems, causing its reactors to melt and release large amounts of radiation. The highly radioactive water used to cool the reactors has since leaked into the plant's basements and has been stored in more than 1K tanks in that location.
  • Though the government deemed it safe to discharge the water, Japanese regulators admit it would still contain traces of tritium, a rare and radioactive isotope of hydrogen.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency had previously thrown its weight behind the decision, but it is now unsure if Japan's planned release of Fukushima water meets international standards.

Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

The Japanese government's decision to contaminate the ocean with large volumes of radioactive waste violates the legal obligations of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. By turning its back on the clear evidence that the "treated water" still contains harmful radionuclides, Japan has deliberately put marine and human life at risk of radiation exposure.

Pro-establishment narrative

The ocean release of Fukushima water is the most realistic and safe option available to improve the environment surrounding the nuclear plant. The Japanese government is doing its utmost — through preoperational analysis and preparation — to ensure people's safety, which is why all radioactivity levels meet regulatory requirements and are consistent with accepted international practices.

Cynical narrative

More information is needed to assess the potential impacts on environmental and human health of releasing the Fukushima water into the sea. Continuing with the pacific discharge plan at a time when the burgeoning climate crisis and growing scale of natural disasters pose significant challenges to the world would be premature.

Nerd narrative

There's a 28% chance that there will be a major nuclear accident before 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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Lawmakers Renew Push to Ban Congressional Stock Trading

Facts

  • US representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) have reintroduced the bipartisan "TRUST in Congress Act." It requires members of Congress, their spouses, and dependent children to place designated investment assets into a blind trust while the representative is serving in public office.
  • The so-called "Transparent Representation Upholding Service in Congress Act" was originally proposed in 2020. Democrat Spanberger has argued the bill would prevent insider trading and rebuild public confidence in elected officials.
  • Spanberger stated that voting on the matter was "long overdue," while also thanking Rep. Roy for his "continued partnership" in reducing conflicts of interest within the Capitol. The bill is endorsed by several organizations such as the Project on Government Oversight and the National Taxpayers Union.
  • A 2022 analysis by The New York Times found that nearly 20% of members of Congress were buying or selling stocks that could involve a conflict of interest. Roy stated that he and cosponsor Spanberger were willing to consider other options, claiming they wanted to "start this conversation."
  • The legislation currently has 35 sponsors from across the political spectrum, with more expected as the bill had over 70 backers in the previous Congress. The bill failed to make the floor under former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who cited funding bills as a higher priority.
  • A poll conducted just before the November midterm elections found that two-thirds of voters support a stock trading ban for public officials. Public officials like former speaker Pelosi have come under fire for their trading, prompting scrutiny from the public.

Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

The issue of how to prevent members of Congress from profiting from their positions in an improper manner has long existed. Lawmakers can obsess about money once they leave office. But while serving, they must stay focused purely on public interest and prove to their constituents that they are not self-serving.

Establishment-critical narrative

Given the continual violations of the previous so-called "Stock Act," it is unlikely that the TRUST in Congress Act would be effectively enforced. The current link between politicians and corporate interests is too strong, and for real change to occur, seismic changes in the political system must be made. Corporate greed has infected every ounce of American politics.

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Trump Businesses Fined 1.6M

Facts

  • After being convicted last month of 17 felonies in total, two Trump organizations have been dealt a roughly $1.6M fine, with entities Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. to pay $810k and $800k, respectively.
  • Though Donald Trump himself wasn't convicted, his name came up dozens of times throughout the trial, mainly during the defense's examination of witnesses. Prosecutors, however, claimed Trump sanctioned the fraud, showing the jury checks he signed and a memo he initialed.
  • The company's sentencing comes after long-time Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to evading taxes by receiving benefits instead of salary, was sentenced on Tuesday to five months in New York City's Rikers Island prison followed by five years probation.
  • New York District Attorney (DA) Alvin Bragg said Weisselberg received untaxed "perks such as a rent-free luxury Manhattan apartment, multiple Mercedes Benz automobiles and private school tuition for his grandchildren." He will also pay a $2M fine, though he didn't implicate Trump in his plea.
  • Though the companies' sentences today are a relatively small sum, Bragg has argued that the former president was well aware of the scheme and is reportedly pursuing another investigation into the integrity of his financial statements.
  • The tax fraud charges were an offshoot of former Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr.'s probe into Trump allegedly paying hush money to adult actress Stormy Daniels, which then pivoted to examine whether Trump and his company falsely valued assets. New York Attorney General Letitia James is now investigating that matter.

Spin

Pro-Trump narrative

This case was just another attempt to undermine Trump and his organization with frivolous lawsuits. Weisselberg had already pleaded guilty and is the clear culprit behind the alleged scheme, yet the former president's opposition is quick to use this as a weapon against him. Democrats seemingly won’t stop until they’ve bled Trump dry through legal warfare.

Democratic narrative

Any attempts to separate Trump from the fraud committed by his company are naïve. While the former president may not be on trial in this particular case, there's no doubt that the businessman was fully aware of Weisselberg's — and the rest of his companies — doings. The defense had a losing case from the start.

Nerd narrative

There's a 37% chance that any US court will rule that Donald J Trump is disqualified from holding the presidency before January 20, 2025, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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Day 324: Ukraine Denies Fall of Soledar

Facts

  • On Friday, the spokesperson for Ukraine's eastern military command rejected Russia's claims that it has captured Soledar in Donetsk, insisting the fight for the small mining town in the eastern part of the country was still going on. "Our units are there, the town is not under Russian control," Serhiy Cherevatyi stated.
  • Earlier, Russian lawmaker Viktor Vodolatsky said that Soledar is a turning point of the country's military operation, as it facilitates the capture of Bakhmut (Artyomovsk in Russian) and other cities, and allows Russian troops to cut off Ukrainian ammunition supply routes.
  • In the three-day fierce fighting to capture Soledar, Russian forces reportedly killed over 700 Ukrainian troops per Russian official media. In addition, they destroyed more than 300 Ukrainian weapon systems, three warplanes, and a helicopter, Russia's defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov reported.
  • Meanwhile, Andriy Yermak, chief of staff of Ukraine Pres. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, described the situation in Bakhmut and Soledar as the battle of Verdun [the longest battle of the first world war] in the 21st century. "The Russians are there, but not in control. It is a difficult situation, but we continue to pursue the same goal in this war, which is to liberate our territories..." he said.
  • US national security council spokesman John Kirby stated on Thursday even if both Bakhmut and Soledar fall to the Russian forces, "it's not going to have a strategic impact on the war itself" and "it certainly isn't going to stop the Ukrainians or slow them down..."
  • Elsewhere, Ukraine's defense minister Oleksii Reznikov reportedly characterized that Ukraine has become a "de facto" member of NATO, noting "we have weaponry and the understanding of how to use it."

Spin

Pro-Russia narrative

After taking Soledar, Russia can now use freed-up forces to achieve similar results in Bakhmut, which it can attack from multiple directions. The success in Soledar also opens the door for further Russian advances in the wider Donetsk region.

Anti-Russia narrative

Russia is spreading false news about the capture of Soledar to give its population positive news from an otherwise disastrous military campaign. Russia is also desperately trying to shore up support ahead of future mobilization drives.

Nerd narrative

There's a 42% chance that Russian troops will reach the center of Bakhmut before 0000 hrs local time on January 20th, 2023, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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Final Report on Deadly Seoul Halloween Crush Released

Facts

  • South Korea's special police team tasked with investigating the Halloween crowd crush that killed more than 150 people in Seoul last year published its final report on Friday, blaming poor safety planning and botched responses by police and public authorities for the tragedy.
  • This comes after the months-long probe involving over 500 investigators found that police and public officials failed to employ significant crowd control measures for the expected 100K attendance and failed to properly address emergency calls on Oct. 29.
  • The probe team drew on two on-site inspections with the National Forensic Service, some 180 videos recovered from CCTVs near the site, some 140K confiscated goods from relevant organizations, and 538 people.
  • The unit formed by the government of Pres. Yoon Suk-yeol three days after one of the worst peacetime disasters in South Korean history has asked prosecutors to indict 23 officials on criminal charges. Six officials have been arrested so far.
  • Those referred for prosecution with detention include Yongsan top officials who administer the Itaewon neighborhood. Meanwhile, officials from Seoul city, the interim ministry, and the national police agency weren't referred.
  • Opposition lawmakers and some relatives of the victims have requested further investigations into more high-profile figures, such as South Korea's Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min and National Police Agency Commissioner Gen. Yoon Hee-keun.

Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

While this long-awaited report — in conjunction with the request for indictments — is a step in the right direction, there are serious gaps in holding all of those responsible to account. The probe team has scapegoated local municipal and emergency service officials to protect higher-level officials who should also be held liable for this tragic incident.

Pro-establishment narrative

This in-depth probe has allowed the special investigation team to get to the bottom of this tragic incident, referring everyone who allowed this outcome by failing to comply with their legal responsibilities to the prosecution. Despite public pressure to hold them accountable, high-level officials aren't responsible for crowd control duties.

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Report: ExxonMobil Predicted Climate Change

Facts

  • A study published in the journal Science on Thursday revealed that oil giant ExxonMobil accurately forecast global warming dating back to the 1970s while publicly downplaying the impacts.
  • In 2015, journalists discovered internal company documents which were used in the study. A company memo from the late 1970s stated Exxon’s fossil fuel products could lead to global warming with “dramatic environmental effects before the year 2050.”
  • ExxonMobil used over a dozen different computer models to forecast climate trends, many of which yielded equal or greater precision in their projections compared to government or academic scientists.
  • Despite years of internal forecasts, then-Exxon CEO Lee Raymond in 1999 insisted that climate projections were based on unproven models and were essentially speculation. His successor echoed the sentiment in 2013 calling the models “not competent.”
  • The lead author of the study Geoffrey Supran — a University of Miami professor — called the findings a “smoking gun,” confirming speculation that Exxon knew about climate change while misleading the public.
  • Exxon faces more than 20 lawsuits from various states and local governments for climate-related damages. Company spokesman Todd Spitler says those who claim "'Exxon Knew' are wrong in their conclusions," adding that "ExxonMobil's understanding of climate science has developed along with that of the broader scientific community."

Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

While most people had an idea that ExxonMobil knew about the crisis and swept it under the rug, this new study reveals the depth of the oil giant’s complicity. ExxonMobil blatantly lied despite having some of the most accurate climate predictions recorded. Exxon must be held accountable and forced to pay for the irreparable harm it has done to our planet for the sake of profits.

Pro-establishment narrative

Activist groups and media have been misleading the public for years with their so-called “#ExxonKnew” campaign. Many flawed and false reports have come out trying to delegitimize ExxonMobile and its commitment to counteracting climate change. Nefarious actors are out in full force, and their reports are inaccurate.

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CIA Chief Visits Libya After Lockerbie Suspect Handover

Facts

  • Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) announced on Thursday that CIA Director William Burns met with PM Abdul Hamid Dbeibah just weeks after Tripoli authorities handed over a Libyan suspect allegedly involved in the 1988 Pan-Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland to the US.
  • The GNU said that they discussed cooperation as well as economic and security issues, posting a hand-shaking photo of the two on one of its social media pages. It's not clear when exactly the meeting took place.
  • Libyan media reported that Burns also met with Khalifa Haftar, the eastern Libya-based military leader who has marched on Tripoli in an attempt to overthrow the GNU in the past.
  • Burns's trip was the first visit by a CIA director to Libya since the 2012 attack against a US mission in Benghazi that killed the US ambassador and three others a little over a year after NATO-backed rebels overthrew Moammar Gaddafi's government in 2011.
  • Libya has seen on-and-off internal conflict between eastern and western factions since 2014. Both sides are supported by a variety of foreign powers, including the US and Russia, and armed militias of foreign and domestic origin.
  • The extradition of the alleged Pan-Am Flight 103 bomber, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi, sparked public outrage from the Libyan public as the country doesn't have an extradition treaty with Washington.

Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

Everything about the CIA's actions in Libya is highly suspicious and perhaps even illegal. Besides the fact that the US doesn't have an extradition treaty with Libya, it seems that Washington acquired Mas'ud via a brutal local militia that essentially kidnapped him from his home. How does the US expect to promote the rule of law and stability in Libya when it's actively undermining it?

Pro-establishment narrative

Though the details of how exactly Mas'ud was taken into custody might be murky, his arrest was a breakthrough for justice and the rule of law. Mas'ud is a murderer, and the families of his victims have the right to see justice. The Libyan government said as early as 2021 that it was open to extradition, so it's no surprise that such an action would be taken in conjunction with local authorities.

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