08 February 2023

Daily Newsletter

Super Bowl Betting Projected To Hit Record $16B

The Facts

  • The American Gaming Association (AGA) on Tuesday projected that more than 50M people – approximately one-fifth of the US population – will place bets on Sunday's Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs, for a total of about $16B.

  • This comes as data from an online survey on behalf of the AGA indicates that about 30M adults will make wagers online, at a retail sportsbook, or with a bookie, and 28M people will casually bet with friends in some type of pool or squares contest.


The Spin

Narrative A

It’s disgraceful that sports governing bodies that long expressed opposition to gambling, such as the NFL, have jumped on the bandwagon of the multimillion-dollar sports betting industry while almost 7M Americans struggle with gambling addiction. Casual betting may be fun in the moment, but sportsbooks are using Super Bowl week to get people hooked on their devastating product.

Narrative B

Sports betting has been a huge boost for fans, who are now extra invested in the games they already love. NFL games, in particular, have been enhanced by legal gambling, especially with the exotic prop bets offered in relation to the Super Bowl. Most legalized betting operations have ways of setting limits to make sure gamblers can enjoy the thrill but also wager responsibly.

Nerd narrative

There's a 44% chance that the Eagles will win the Super Bowl, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Biden Delivers Second State of the Union Address

The Facts

  • US Pres. Biden on Tuesday delivered his second State of the Union address. He called for unity in a divided Congress, where the House now has a Republican majority, and asked Congress to work with him to rebuild the economy and unite the country.

  • Biden highlighted US job growth, infrastructure, and drug price cuts for seniors, while also establishing the Democrats’ position on higher taxes for billionaires and immigration reforms. He also discussed the Ukraine war, energy, and China.


The Spin

Democratic narrative

Given with vigor and verve, Biden’s second State of the Union was meant to assure Americans who feel ignored that the government can work on their behalf. Of course, the president’s urging for Democrats and Republicans to work together for the betterment of the country was quickly disrupted by some Republicans’ unhinged response to his calls for bipartisanship. Most importantly, Biden made a strong and convincing case for a second term.

Republican narrative

Biden’s speech was nothing but falsehoods, boasts about his supposed accomplishments and legislation that has no chance of passing, and fake calls for bipartisanship. He conveniently glossed over China, crime, and the border crisis — issues he’s been proven weak on. His negative approval rating shows that the American people haven’t been fooled by Biden’s claims of success, and they’re not likely to be tricked by his rhetoric.

Narrative C

Biden’s speech was heavily focused on domestic accomplishments and plans but short on foreign policy. It’s dangerous to reduce foreign policy to an afterthought when the US is facing challenges from Russia and China, and heavily funding Ukraine’s war with Russia. Biden, the Democrats, and the GOP alike owe the world a clearer and more cohesive vision for US foreign policy.

Nerd narrative

There is a 74% chance that Biden will officially declare his re-election campaign by Nov. 15, 2023, according to the Metaculus Prediction Community.

See sources

Iran Reveals Underground Air Force Base

The Facts

  • Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday that the country has unveiled an underground air force facility — dubbed "Eagle 44" — purportedly the first of its kind large enough to house fighter jets.

  • The underground complex is serving as one of the country's major air force facilities and is said to be capable of storing and operating several aircraft, including long-range cruise missile fighters and bombers, as well as military drones.


The Spin

Anti-Iran narrative

The fact that the Mullah regime is now disclosing "Eagle 44" underscores the danger it poses to Israel as well as to the West. Add to this the brutal crackdown on protests for women's rights and Tehran's support of Moscow for its Ukraine war, and it becomes clear that the previous policy of indifference and appeasement has failed. The risk of open confrontation with the theocratic dictatorship is increasing — a fundamental rethink is needed before it is too late.

Pro-Iran narrative

The underground base impressively underlines that Tehran will not give in to the West or Israel. As a sovereign country in a strategically important region, Tehran is a thorn in Washington's side, but its efforts to overthrow the government will be met by the unity of the Iranian people. Moreover, the strength and innovation of the Iranian military will help ensure that Iran will never again allow itself to be controlled and plundered as in the days of the Shah regime.

Nerd narrative

There's a 47% chance that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon by 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Wickremesinghe: Sri Lanka May Return to Growth By Year-end

The Facts

  • Sri Lanka's Pres. Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament on Wednesday that he expects the country's economy to grow again by the end of the year and that the government aims to exit bankruptcy by 2026.

  • His speech came after hundreds of public workers stepped out of government buildings to protest the introduction of a new income tax in January, ranging from 12.5% to over 36%, as the country attempts to boost government revenue from 8.3% of GDP to 11.3% in 2023 in order to access International Monetary Fund (IMF) resources.


The Spin

Anti-China narrative

Despite Western creditors to Sri Lanka being fully committed to the debt restructuring process, the international effort to rescue the island nation could be delayed or complicated as China, whose lending accounted for about one-fifth of Sri Lanka's public debt last year, remains unilateral in its decision not to join them. Beijing's attitude will ensure the island nation remains trapped in unsustainable amounts of debt.

Pro-China narrative

China's share in Sri Lanka's external public debt is less than 10%, and Beijing has provided an extension on the debt service due in 2022 and 2023. Nevertheless, the West continues to use China as an excuse to evade its primary responsibility in reducing the debt burden for the developing world, trying to force Beijing to accept Western rules, political demands, and conditions on debt relief.

See sources

Day 350: Zelenskyy Visits UK, Discusses Military Assistance

The Facts

  • Ukrainian Pres. Zelenskyy on Wednesday conducted his first visit to the UK since the beginning of the Russian invasion almost one year ago. He addressed British lawmakers and met with King Charles III during his visit, and expressed gratitude for UK military assistance including tanks and long-range missiles.

  • The news comes amid an escalation of Ukrainian officials' public lobbying for Western fighter jets. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed that Britain "will expand" its support of Ukrainian soldiers to include providing training for "NATO-standard fighter jets." Sunak said the move, "underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine."


The Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

Making sure Ukraine continues to be well-armed is the only way to fend off Putin and Russia in this unprovoked war of aggression. The US and NATO must not simply offer up their latest and most hi-tech weapons however; combat is about supply lines and the West must ensure basic equipment and ammunition are kept flowing as needed.

Establishment-critical narrative

Multi-billion dollar weapons packages will make little difference in the outcome of the war. The US has been meddling in Ukraine since the end of the Cold War, and what we're witnessing is a geopolitical ponzi scheme to benefit those aligned with the military-industrial complex. War is a lucrative racket.

Nerd narrative

There is a 5% chance that Ukraine will receive a security guarantee from another country before 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

CVS to Buy Oak Street Health

The Facts

  • In its third largest deal in the last decade, CVS Health Corp. has agreed to buy Oak Street Health Inc. and its primary care centers for $10.6B, or $39 a share, representing a roughly 73% premium to Oak Street's last closing price.

  • Along with Oak Street's 169 clinics, the deal will add about 600 physicians and nurse practitioners to CVS's inventory. The primary care network is senior-focused and provides COVID vaccinations, strep tests, and other medical services that CVS currently provides through its pharmacies.


The Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

Fewer competitors will lead to higher prices, and this economic reality hits hardest in the healthcare industry. Despite its aggressive rhetoric, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has done little to block the vast majority of primary care mergers, and the trend is only getting faster. The government needs to step in before every patient becomes just a data point on corporate investment charts.

Pro-establishment narrative

In opposition to recent fearmongering, data shows healthcare mergers lead to lower costs and higher-quality care. According to the American Hospital Association, hospital operating costs have dropped more than 2% throughout the recent primary-care merger boom – a positive for administrators, doctors, and patients.

See sources

Amnesty: Thai Children May Face Prison After Protests

The Facts

  • Human Rights NGO Amnesty International on Wednesday reported that almost 300 children in Thailand have faced criminal charges, including sedition, for their role in the 2020 pro-democracy protests that called for political reforms to Thailand’s monarchy.

  • Over 200 criminal charges are still active, with 17 minors reportedly facing up to 15 years in prison per charge for violating laws that make defaming, insulting, or threatening members of the royal family a crime.


The Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

Thailand's history of authoritarianism and human rights violations extends far past the 2020 protests, but these arrests of and criminal charges against children are a new low. As the long arm of the Thai monarchy, in coordination with the Prime Minister, continues its crackdown on speech both in the streets and online, it's up to the global community to step up and call for drastic political change.

Establishment-critical narrative

As is the case in Myanmar, the Philippines, and throughout the East, US-funded media outlets are drawing previously non-existent divisions between segments of sovereign nations. First, they pitted Buddhists against Muslims, and now they're pitting so-called "pro-democracy" children against their parents and government. Reports like this aren't trying to bring about democracy, but are creating conflict so that the US can eventually intervene militarily and continue its long history of colonizing the region.

See sources

UK MPs: HSBC Complicit in Violating Rights of Hong Kong Expats

The Facts

  • A probe by UK peers and MPs has concluded that HSBC is complicit in allleged human rights abuses by complying with China's directive to prevent overseas citizens of Hong Kong from withdrawing pension contributions from the city's Mandatory Provident Fund.

  • Wednesday's report accused HSBC of being motivated by a desire to protect profits and remain in favor with China's government when it imposed the measures on Hong Kongers who had traveled to Britain following Beijing's alleged anti-democracy crackdown.


The Spin

Pro-China narrative

Despite a consistent sour grape mentality among some Western media and observers, Hong Kong has managed to attract endorsement from global financial leaders, including representatives of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Blackstone. Investment from the industry has shown clear confidence in the "one country, two systems" governance of Hong Kong. Any deviation from laws in Hong Kong, such as NSL, would undermine the success of this global financial hub.

Anti-China narrative

As businesses worldwide rapidly shift to put ethics and sustainability at the heart of corporate processes, HSBC needs to reassess its own principles. Despite global condemnation of Beijing's brutal crackdown, HSBC defended its draconian legislation on the world stage, putting domestic law in Hong Kong above global international human rights law, begging the question of whether it values profit over the defense of democracy and human rights.

Nerd narrative

There's a 50% chance that Hong Kong will stop being a Special Administrative Region of China by November 2044, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Former Twitter Execs Testify Over Handling of Biden Laptop Story

The Facts

  • Three former Twitter executives testified before the US House Oversight Committee on Wednesday regarding the platform’s temporary suppression of a New York Post story involving then-candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election.

  • House Oversight Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said the hearing was the "first step in examining the coordination between the federal government and Big Tech to restrict protected speech and interfere in the democratic process."


The Spin

Republican narrative

Now that former Twitter executives are testifying under oath, they are finally admitting to their complicity in suppressing a story about Hunter Biden. While the mainstream media has tried to question the legitimacy of the Post’s story and Elon Musk’s Twitter Files, it's now clear that Twitter, under previous leadership, engaged in politically motivated censorship and must be held accountable.

Democratic narrative

In an attempt to navigate a hyper-augmented climate of disinformation, Twitter's former leaders admittedly made mistakes in their handling of the Hunter Biden story. However, Republicans' desperate attempt to spin Elon Musk’s Twitter Files into a smoking gun of collusion between Twitter and Biden has fallen painfully flat. This hearing is nothing but an illegitimate performance.

See sources

Report: US Responsible for Bombing Nord Stream Pipeline

The Facts

  • On Wednesday, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a report on his Substack claiming that the US was responsible for bombing the Nord Stream pipelines last year. Hersh cited a source allegedly with “direct knowledge” of the plot.

  • Hersh claims that the US deployed highly trained deep-water Navy divers to plant remotely triggered explosives used to destroy three of the four Nord Stream pipelines. Under the cover of a well-known NATO exercise called "BALTOPS 22," the divers allegedly planted the explosives in June and detonated them three months later in September.


The Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

All the signs pointed to the US being responsible for blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines, and now we have a report from an esteemed journalist that details exactly how the US government plotted its attack. Biden said the Nord Stream 2 would be gone if Russia invaded Ukraine, and that was one of the only promises he kept.

Pro-establishment narrative

Seymour Hersh’s blog post blaming the US for destroying the Nord Stream pipelines is utterly false and not corroborated by any reputable media outlet. The US and NATO have already declared that the pipelines’ explosion was an act of sabotage, and reports implicating the US are utterly fictitious.

See sources

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