23 February 2023

Daily Newsletter

Report: Drought in Horn of Africa Worse Than 2011 Famine

The Facts

  • On Wednesday, [the Kenya-based regional] Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Applications Center said the Horn of Africa is experiencing a historic drought, with rainfall in the next three months expected to be below normal for the entire region. The center said the lack of rain could have wide-ranging impacts on populations throughout Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

  • The researchers at the center warn that parts of eastern Africa could be facing a sixth consecutive failed rainy season. Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and parts of Uganda, had been hit hardest by drought, with half their population at risk of starvation; parts of Burundi, eastern Tanzania, Rwanda, and western South Sudan are now worsening.


The Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

The UN and other non-governmental organizations have warned that catastrophic hunger levels were imminent in the Horn of Africa for over a year. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated an already severe problem, which now is a global problem. According to the World Food Programme, 349M people across 79 countries face acute food insecurity — up from 287M before the conflict in Ukraine. More than 900K people worldwide are fighting to survive famine-like conditions; these numbers are expected to increase dramatically unless aid efforts ramp up quickly. The international community must rise to this urgent challenge.

Establishment-critical narrative

Western powers argue that Russia and Putin are to blame for the world famine crisis. In reality, supply chains have been disrupted by Western sanctions against Russia, which include restrictions on the movement of goods. When the US and Europe try to punish Russia for the war in Ukraine, they do so without considering the effects of such policies on the people in Africa. The main reason for the famine crisis is not a lack of food but Western disruptions of global markets and logistics.

Nerd narrative

There's a 35% chance that more than 400M fatalities will occur if there's a 10% global agricultural shortfall by 2030, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Day 365: Tensions Rise Over Breakaway Region of Transnistria

The Facts

  • On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war, tensions are rising over the breakaway region of Transnistria — a narrow strip of land between the Dniester river in Moldova and the Ukrainian border — sparking fears that a third country could become directly embroiled in the war.

  • During the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mainly Russian-speaking region proclaimed independence from Moldova in 1990 and fought a war until a ceasefire was signed 1992. However, Transnistria's status as a state hasn't been internationally recognized; an estimated 1.5K Russian troops are believed to be currently stationed there.


The Spin

Pro-Russia narrative

Ukrainian forces are planning a "false-flag operation" in Transnistria to justify launching an invasion of the region. Russia's defense ministry is closely monitoring the situation and will respond accordingly to any changes.

Anti-Russia narrative

Russia's claims about a "false-flag operation" in Transnistria are likely a cover for its potential plans to invade Moldova. Not only would this flagrantly violate the sovereignty of another country, but it could also open up a western front in its war with Ukraine.

Nerd narrative

There's a 40% chance that Moldova will control Transnistria before 2028, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Turkey Fines Broadcasters for Earthquake Criticism

The Facts

  • Three Turkish TV stations — Halk TV, Tele 1, and FOX — were fined on Wednesday for reporting on alleged shortcomings in the government’s response to the earthquake that killed more than 42K earlier this month.

  • All three channels fined by the Television Supreme Council — the government telecommunications regulator — are known for being critical of the Erdoğan administration; Halk TV is linked to the CHP party, which is Turkey’s main opposition.


The Spin

Narrative A

These sanctions against the media outlets follow a direct warning to journalists and broadcasters by the regulating agency that they had a legal obligation not to share information that harms the search and rescue efforts in the earthquake zone and causes panic and disinformation. Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council simply cannot look the other way when organizations make manipulative broadcasts with malicious intent — this is in line with the clear language of the earthquake disaster declaration.

Narrative B

The three TV stations were fined for criticizing President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party for poor performance in coordinating search and rescue efforts following the earthquake. The authorities allegedly failed to mobilize enough people, and the coordination among the teams functioned poorly. This inefficient performance contributed to earthquake victims tragically freezing to death underneath the rubble. Punishing media for reporting and informing the public — especially in times of a major catastrophe — is a crime and should not happen in a democracy.

Nerd narrative

There is a 59% chance that Erdoğan will abdicate the presidency if he loses the 2023 presidential election, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

WHO: One Woman Dies Every Two Minutes During Pregnancy or Childbirth

The Facts

  • According to a World Health Organization report released on Thursday, one woman worldwide dies every two minutes during pregnancy or childbirth — mostly from treatable conditions.

  • The report — which tracked maternal deaths nationally, regionally, and globally from 2000 to 2020 — found that there were an estimated 800 deaths every day in 2020.


The Spin

Narrative A

Leaders of the global public health community must recognize that reproductive rights are human rights and that every government must ensure access to high-quality critical health services before, during, and after childbirth. It's time to step up funding, training, and improving supply chains to reduce the maternal mortality rate worldwide.

Narrative B

While it's critical that women have control over their reproductive health, issues related to income inequality, family planning, education, race, and ethnicity marginalize pregnant women more than the lack of health care services or preventable conditions in pregnancy. Solving the global crisis requires a new look at the entire holistic environment that impacts women — not only providing access to health care.

See sources

Report: US Extremist Mass Killings Spiked Over Last Decade

The Facts

  • According to a new report published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Thursday, the number of mass killings linked to extremism in the US over the past decade was three times higher than in any other decade since the 1970s.

  • Between 2010 and 2020, there were 21 extremism-linked mass killings, compared to between two and seven in each of the previous decades from the 1970s onwards. The number of deaths also jumped to record highs, reaching 164 — higher than any other decade except the 1990s, during which the Oklahoma City bombing killed 168.


The Spin

Left narrative

Left-wing extremists do exist and commit violence, but unlike those on the right, they typically target property rather than people. Right-wing extremism is the most dangerous movement facing the US due to how broad it is. From individual hate crimes to mass shootings targeting people of color and the LGTBQ+ community, the white, straight, and male supremacy ideologies have garnered tremendous support, leading to this dangerously high spike in violence and death.

Right narrative

The so-called studies published by the ADL in recent years have fraudulently rearranged real statistics to promote blatant lies and brainwash the American people into thinking conservatives are the evilest among us. It does this by secretly combining groups such as Islamic radicals with white supremacists — who don't embody conservative values — while conveniently ignoring the vast majority of shooting deaths committed by non-ideological gangs. The US does face a lot of violence, but it has little to do with either left-wing or right-wing extremism.

See sources

Study: Robots May Do 39% of Domestic Chores by 2033

The Facts

  • Within a decade, 39% of household chores could be completed by robots, according to research published in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday.

  • Researchers surveyed 65 artificial intelligence (AI) experts across the UK and Japan. The responses showed that grocery shopping is the chore most likely to be automated while child care is the least likely.


The Spin

Narrative A

Humans who yearn for more leisure time will benefit from these robotic technologies, which will be able to do housework, and eventually become so personalized they’ll require little human direction. Interactive toys will also enhance childhood education. Assuming ways could be devised to avoid invasions of privacy and cybersecurity breaches, consumer robots will make people’s lives much better.

Narrative B

Introducing robots into everyday life is a slippery slope, and could change humanity forever. Humans will grow dependent on robots, reduce interactions with other humans, and it will be difficult to return to life before robots. We could be headed to a hybrid society, where we live and work with robots in an uneven dependency.

See sources

Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner Subpoenaed by Special Counsel

The Facts

  • Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the daughter and son-in-law of former Pres. Donald Trump, have reportedly been subpoenaed by special counsel Jack Smith as part of his investigation into the Jan. 6 riots and the days leading up to that day.

  • In addition to being close family members of the former president, Ivanka and Kushner also served in the Trump admin. as trusted advisors.


The Spin

Pro-Trump narrative

Smith is one of the worst partisan hacks the Washington establishment has to offer. For over a decade, he abused the justice department to target conservatives, starting with his role in the Obama-era IRS scandal in which he fabricated criminal prosecutions against conservative nonprofits. As the head of this sham investigation into Trump, he will now continue his pursuit of political vengeance.

Democratic narrative

Both Ivanka and Kushner are key witnesses in the probe, and Smith is merely doing his due diligence by rightly prioritizing justice over the perception of his investigation. These latest subpoenas show he's willing to challenge power in the pursuit of truth, especially when it comes to Donald Trump’s attempted coup.

Nerd narrative

There's a 53% chance that Donald Trump will get indicted on criminal charges in 2023, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

App Designed to Protect Children Online Gets £1.8M EU Funding

The Facts

  • The development of a new app intended to work in real-time — using artificial intelligence to identify potential child sexual abuse material online and stop users from seeing it — has received £1.8M ($2.16M) of funding from the EU.

  • The European Commission-funded Project Protech, which will launch in March to create the app named "Salus," is led by a university hospital in Berlin, with the support of the UK tech company SafeToNet.


The Spin

Narrative A

Put together with criminal investigations and the removal of the imagery, the Salus app is likely to become a key tool for the long-term prevention of child sexual abuse content. It will provide a technical barrier for those willing to avoid starting or continuing consumption. In addition, this safety tech will decrease the workload of law enforcement pursuing criminals.

Narrative B

The EU is heading down a dangerous path as its efforts to quell child sexual abuse material may create a mass surveillance regime across the bloc. While this voluntarily-deployed app is well-intentioned, it would be prone to error as available technology is nowhere near enough to be reliable. Instead of focusing on the online world, the EU should be pushing for more accountability, transparency, and strong independent organizations that rebalance power to prevent abuse and provide justice for victims.

See sources

Report: US to Send More Troops to Taiwan

The Facts

  • A US official confirmed Thursday that the nation is preparing to send 100-200 troops to Taiwan to expand an existing training program that has used members of the National Guard, Special Operations Units, and Marines.

  • The deployed troops, increasing from 30 who were reportedly stationed in Taiwan a year ago, are expected to train the Taiwanese military to defend itself using both US weapons systems and combat tactics.


The Spin

Pro-establishment narrative

The time to increase support for Taiwan was yesterday. China's increasingly aggressive posturing and lack of communication with US military officials are concerning, and Washington — seeking to maintain peace in the Taiwan strait — is right to stand up to Beijing's hegemony.

Establishment-critical narrative

Every economic, political, and military move the US makes in the Asia-Pacific region is calculated toward the goal of dominating China and the world. The Pentagon doesn't deploy troops and establish military bases to "defend democracy" but rather to scare China into submission. By antagonizing the superpower of the East, the US is asking to go to war over nothing but greed.

Nerd narrative

There's a 5% chance that China will recognize the sovereignty of Taiwan by 2050, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

See sources

Google Blocking News Content From Some Canadian Users

The Facts

  • On Wednesday, Google said it's blocking approximately 4% of its Canadian users from viewing news content as a test of their response to the legislation "Bill C-18," also known as the Online News Act.

  • The bill was introduced by Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal government in April, and requires Google — and other platforms, including Facebook — to negotiate with news publishers to pay for their content.


The Spin

Narrative A

It’s disappointing that Google doesn't appear to care about the harm it causes to Canadian media outlets, and is now stooping to bullying tactics that are disrespectful to Canadian users. Instead of running on greed, Google, and all the Big Tech firms, should be open to solutions that will sustainably support a free press and democracy.

Narrative B

This test isn’t an attempt to bully the Canadian government or users, but hopefully, it will catch legislators’ attention. Bill C-18 is overbearing and the Canadian Parliament should consider amending how it defines which news outlets fall into the group that gets to negotiate with social media platforms. Certainly, Big Tech companies can’t be expected to establish deals with tiny outlets that don’t adhere to journalistic standards.

See sources

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