13 February 2023

Daily Newsletter

FBI Finds Another Classified Document at Pence's Home

The Facts

  • After he delivered two boxes of classified material to the Bureau more than three weeks ago, the FBI on Friday discovered one additional classified document and six unclassified records at the home of former VP Mike Pence. Pence spokesperson Devin O'Malley said the five-hour search was "consensual," "thorough," and "unrestricted."

  • According to a source familiar with the matter, Pence and his wife weren't home during the search, but a member of the former VP's legal team was present as the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) searched for what it considered might be original records that should have been sent to the National Archives.


The Spin

Democratic narrative

Though the GOP is trying to equate Biden's handling of documents with that of Trump, both Biden and Pence have actually cooperated with the national archives while Trump actively fights them, which is why the current president and former VP will likely face more leniency from the DOJ than their counterpart. As 2024 approaches, the potential presidential campaigns of Pence and Biden will face less controversy simply due to this fact.

Pro-Trump narrative

As Biden continues to tout his cooperation with the national archives as evidence of his moral superiority, what the other side won't mention is that Trump's Mar-a-Lago was protected by the Secret Service, while Biden's documents were stashed in an unguarded public building. It's hard to imagine what the FBI would find if it raided the private property of any former president — say, Obama — because those politicians are friends of the powers that be, which is the true double standard here.

See sources

12 Al-Shabaab Fighters Killed in Airstrike, US Military Says

The Facts

  • The US military said Sunday that it killed 12 al-Shabaab fighters in a "collective self-defense" airstrike in central Somalia amid the federal government's efforts to recapture territories from the Islamist militants.

  • In its statement, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) stated that the airstrike, targeting what it says is the world's largest and deadliest al-Qaeda offshoot, was carried out at the request of the Somali government.


The Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

The uprising of a terror-weary population and the government's readiness to deprive al-Shabaab of its military and social breeding ground is pushing the extremists increasingly into trouble. Recent successes in the struggle against the terrorists and the population's courage must now be sustained by intensified Western stabilization efforts and bolstered military support. Otherwise, the window of opportunity could quickly close again with Somalia turning into an international security threat.

Establishment-critical narrative

Al-Shabaab is merely a symptom, not the cause, of Somalia's malaise. The terrorist threat may eventually be overcome, but Mogadishu's political elite, supported by the international community, will continue to pursue primarily its own interests rather than those of the people. Added to this is the lack of will for structural reforms and the fragmentation of society along ethnic lines promoted during the colonial era. With or without al-Shabbab, Somalia's tragedy is likely to continue.

See sources

Israel Legalizes Nine West Bank Settlement Outposts

The Facts

  • The new Israeli government on Sunday approved the legalization of nine Jewish settlements in the West Bank that had previously been considered unauthorized outposts. Tel Aviv also announced plans to build new settlement homes.

  • Prime Minister Netanyahu argued that this decision was a response to a string of recent "murderous terrorist attacks" in East Jerusalem. Earlier, he had expressed his willingness to "strengthen settlements" in the West Bank, where over 475K Israelis live.


The Spin

Pro-Israel narrative

Israel's new coalition government has made good on its campaign promise to legalize the so-called "young Israeli settlements" in the West Bank within 60 days in office. As the Jewish people have an exclusive and undeniable right to all parts of the Land of Israel, it is legitimate that it applies its sovereignty to Judea and Samaria.

Pro-Palestine narrative

The legalization of outposts in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal both under international and Israeli law, is part of a major offensive against Palestinians. Even Israel's most loyal ally, the US, has strongly opposed this unreasonable decision, but the apartheid regime is now preparing to introduce legislation to strip Palestinians of Israeli citizenship if they are charged with terrorism.

Nerd narrative

There is a 44% chance that Israel will recognize Palestine by 2070, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Cambodia: Prime Minister Orders Shut Down of Independent Broadcaster

The Facts

  • One of the last remaining independent broadcasters in Cambodia, Voice of Democracy (VOD), has ceased operations after Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday ordered its shutdown over alleged attacks by the outlets on the politician and his son.

  • VOD was accused of reporting misleading coverage about earthquake aid to Turkey — claiming that Hun Sen's son Lt. Gen. Hun Manet signed a document authorizing $100K in relief aid on behalf of his father. Such foreign aid packages can only be signed off with the authority of the prime minister.


The Spin

Narrative A

VOD has built a reputation for doggedly investigating corruption and human rights abuses in Cambodia, such as issues of human trafficking and scam compounds. Hun Sen has not shut this organization down due to misreporting, he is seeking revenge for VOD's role in exposing official complicity in systemic fraud and exploitation. The international community cannot let this suppression of the free press go unchallenged.

Narrative B

VOD has taken responsibility for its conduct, having sought forgiveness for misreporting over humanitarian aid. Despite the Ministry of Information facilitating a meeting with VOD representatives, the broadcaster failed to apologize for misleading the public about the prime minister. News organizations cannot be allowed to publish unsubstantiated claims without accountability. The global community must put this issue in the proper context.

See sources

China Says it Recently Detected US Spy Balloons

The Facts

  • China on Monday accused the US of flying high-altitude balloons over PRC airspace without permission at least 10 times since early last year. Wang Wenbin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "It is nothing rare for U.S. balloons to illegally enter other countries’ airspace."

  • Wang didn't specify whether the balloons were for military or espionage purposes, but suggested that the US should re-evaluate and change its international behavior.


The Spin

Anti-China narrative

China’s claims are an attempt at damage control after it failed to convince the world that the surveillance balloon was a weather balloon. As the world’s leading espionage actor, China won’t be able to easily cast the US as the antagonist in this situation.

Pro-China narrative

By using its advanced technology for spying — not just in China but on every continent — the US is the one saber-rattling and posing military risks, not China. The US should respect the sovereignty of all nations and put its technology to more peaceful, helpful uses.

Nerd narrative

There is a 19% chance that there will be a US-China war by 2035, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Day 355: Russia Claims Gains Along Ukraine Frontline

The Facts

  • Russia's defense ministry said on Monday that its troops had managed to advance a few kilometers west in four days of fighting, without specifying where the advances were made. The claim couldn't be independently confirmed.

  • Meanwhile, Ukraine's military made no mention of any Russian advances but reported heavy shelling along the frontline on Monday — including the Donetsk city of Bakhmut where fighting remains the heaviest.


The Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

Russia's inability to take the Donetsk city of Bakhmut is symbolic of its wider deficiencies that will prevent it from conducting further successful offensives in Ukraine.

Pro-Russia narrative

Russian forces continue to make advances in the Donetsk. It's only a matter of time before they take the city of Bakhmut and the remainder of the Donetsk region.

Nerd narrative

There is a 2% chance that Ukraine will officially recognize a former Ukrainian territory (Luhansk, Donetsk or Crimea) as independent before 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Turkey Investigating Over 130 People Over Building Collapses

The Facts

  • On Sunday, Turkish authorities announced that they would investigate 131 people who could potentially be held responsible for the collapse of buildings in Turkey's devastating earthquakes last week. Of the reported suspects, authorities said that they ordered the detention of 113.

  • Twelve people, including building contractors, have already been taken into custody as of Sunday night. With 33K dead in Turkey alone, the public is demanding answers as to why so many buildings collapsed as suspicions regarding building code violations continue to grow.


The Spin

Narrative A

The Turkish government is doing everything that it can to hold corrupt developers, officials, and contractors accountable. For too long, contractors and building companies have cut corners, leading to thousands of deaths in this horrific tragedy. The government's investigation will be as thorough as possible, as the public deserves answers to why so much devastation has occurred.

Narrative B

Sadly, many impacts of this earthquake could have been lessened if only Erdoğan's government had dealt seriously with supervising urban development in quake-prone areas, enforcing the mandatory earthquake-resistant design codes to buildings its legislation approved in 2000. There are two major fault lines along the Anatolian Plate, and earthquake mitigation is vital given the likelihood of catastrophic tremors. Erdoğan's prospects for re-election seem to be dwindling as anger grows.

See sources

BOE: Brexit Has Cost UK Economy $29B in Lost Investment

The Facts

  • Bank of England (BoE) policy maker Jonathan Haskel said Monday that Brexit has cost the UK £29B ($35B US) — or £1K per household — in lost investment. The assessment came in an interview about Britain's position as an "extreme outlier" in terms of productivity.

  • The external member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) said that investment had been "stopped in its tracks" by the 2016 vote, resulting in a "productivity penalty" that has significantly affected the UK in comparison with remaining EU nations.


The Spin

Left narrative

Everyone knew Brexit would be a disaster — this is only the latest account to prove it. PM Rishi Sunak should show the same humility and courage as conservative MP and Brexiteer Michael Gove who, despite his hardline support for the UK's exit from the EU, attended the recent meeting to assess Brexit's failures. As the UK economy shrinks and the Northern Ireland trade war worsens, it's central to the national interest that the PM compromises with the EU, even if it means defying his pro-Brexit allies in the process.

Right narrative

Haskel's economic commentary is simply an interpretation of the data motivated by political agenda. The modeling relies on a prediction of what the economy would have looked like had the UK not left the EU, meaning it's built on a foundation of supposition that undermines its conclusions. Haskel has also failed to factor the recession of 2010 into his analysis, or the effect of the pandemic. This modeling lives solely in Haskel's biased mind, and Britons shouldn't believe that they'd all have an extra £1K to spend if they hadn't left the EU.

Cynical narrative

British politicians need to stop kicking Brexit around like a political football. The majority supported leaving the EU not due to the economic arguments, but because they believed it would reinvigorate the UK's democracy. In order to establish Britain as a nation free from the EU's tight grip, politicians must turn away from partisanship and ask more seminal questions concerning the reconciliation of alleviating poverty while incentivizing self-improvement. The upholding of national sovereignty is at stake and Westminster must do more to achieve this goal.

Nerd narrative

There is a 50% chance that the UK will apply to rejoin the EU by August, 2049, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

US Govt: Americans in Russia Should Leave 'Immediately'

The Facts

  • Ahead of Russia's reported upcoming new round of military mobilization, the US Embassy is urging Americans in Russia to leave immediately — citing an elevated risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws and harassment, and the possibility of being conscripted to fight in the war against Ukraine.

  • US authorities warn that it may get increasingly difficult for Americans to leave Russia, as US credit and debit cards continue to not work in the country and the US government's ability to help becomes "severely limited."


The Spin

Anti-Russia narrative

The situation in Russia has been dangerous for a while and will likely continue to worsen as the country prepares for a second mobilization of troops to fight in Ukraine. Americans have been told to leave Russia for several months now, and if they choose not to leave, there is very little the US government can do to help them.

Pro-Russia narrative

These warnings that Russia "may do this" and "may do that" are nothing new, and the US government's inability to help its citizens leave is due to its own budgetary cutbacks. The fearmongering over banking issues is also not new, as they are the result of economic sanctions similar to those imposed on Moscow by the West. As was the case months ago, these are empty fear tactics with no evidence behind them.

See sources

Georgia Judge Orders Partial Release of Trump Grand Jury Report

The Facts

  • A partial report from a Georgia special grand jury investigating efforts by former Pres. Trump and his colleagues to overturn his 2020 election loss will be released later this week on orders from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney.

  • The report’s introduction, conclusion, and a portion regarding worries from the jurors that witnesses had lied under oath, will become public Thursday.


The Spin

Pro-Trump narrative

Enough is enough. Willis convened this special grand jury nine months ago, and she can’t keep dragging the former president through this without revealing what she does or doesn’t have on him. There was nothing wrong with Trump’s initial call to Raffensperger, and if the special grand jury has something else on Trump or anyone from his inner circle, it’s time to make it public.

Democratic narrative

The judge is striking just the right balance by protecting most of Willis’ potential prosecutions while revealing that, at the very least, many in Trump’s inner circle might’ve lied under oath — which is a crime. Those pushing for a full release of the report will find out in due time how Trump, and those around him, acted criminally to stop the lawful passing of the presidency.

See sources

Sign up to our daily newsletter