Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Joe Veyera discuss the uncertainty surrounding Twitter, plus more on supporters of Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan gathering in Islamabad, the Shanghai marathon, US and Russian officials meeting to discuss the nuclear arms reduction treaty and a US Senate hearing on the FTX cryptocurrency exchange situation.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Awais Ahmad, Hus Hsieh, Alex Moore, Jaime Calle Moreno, Jeff Landset and Joe Veyera. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is Nov. 24
In this week’s forecast we’ve got supporters of Pakistan’s Imran Khan gathering in Islamabad, the Shanghai marathon, US and Russian officials meeting to discuss nuclear arms reduction, a US Senate hearing on the FTX cryptocurrency exchange collapse and a look at what’s happening with Twitter.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
Imran Khan tells supporters to gather in Islamabad
Information compiled by Awais Ahmad
JIMMY: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked supporters of his PTI party to resume his long march to Islamabad on Saturday. This comes just after he was shot and injured during a rally earlier this month.
Khan has called on his supporters to gather in Faizabad, an area of Rawalpindi bordering the capital city Islamabad. That’s where, according to a senior party official, a camp will be set up a day prior for protesters arriving from across the country.
The former premier has announced that he will have a “surprise” for everyone on Sunday, but it remains to be seen what that entails and how that might affect the political future of both the country and Khan himself.
Now, Khan’s relationship with the government continues to remain strained after he accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and some other senior officials of an assassination plot.
This allegation, combined with security concerns, has put Islamabad police on alert for the possible closure of all entry points into the capital city.
The goal being to ensure a peaceful rally and avoid repetition of the unrest during PTI's last long march in May.
Information compiled by Hua Hsieh
JIMMY: The Shanghai Marathon will be held Sunday. It comes after the 2021 marathon was postponed and then canceled in January due to concerns over coronavirus.
This year, only permanent Shanghai residents over 20 years old are allowed to participate due to government restrictions.
The Shanghai Marathon is the second major event to resume in the country after the The Beijing Marathon, which took place on Nov. 6.
And while questions were raised after coronavirus cases soared in the capital, it’s not yet clear whether a recent rise in nationwide infections will affect the Shanghai event.
Now, the resumption of large-scale sports events follows recent easing of China’s zero-covid policy. A policy that’s resulted in strict lockdowns and has taken its toll on the economy and frustrated residents.
The resurgence of cases in recent days, however, has already caused local governments to tighten restrictions again, with Beijing shutting parks and museums and Shanghai tightening rules for people entering the city.
This marathon will likely serve as a test case for the continuation of large-scale events in Shanghai, particularly as the city gradually recovers from a May lockdown.
U.S. and Russian officials meet in Egypt to discuss key arms control agreement
Information compiled by Alex Moore
JIMMY: American and Russian diplomats will meet Tuesday in Egypt. They’ll be discussing a key arms control agreement known as the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, as it’s commonly referred to.
It’s the final remaining treaty regulating each side’s respective strategic nuclear forces.
The New START represents the latest in a string of agreements over the last half-century. The goal of which is to freeze and roll back the number of strategic nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles deployed by both the US and Russia.
The treaty is set to expire in early 2026, following a five-year extension after President Biden’s election.
Now, the meeting follows Russia’s announcement in early-August that it was suspending on-site weapons inspections, which is part of the treaty’s verification mechanisms.
Of course, on-site inspections have been suspended since 2020 due to the pandemic, meaning the announcement had little practical impact.
Still, it did raise fears over Russia’s willingness to negotiate a follow-on treaty given the context of Moscow’s nuclear threats in Ukraine.
Political pressures for a follow-on treaty also exist on the American side given the reflexive hostility to arms control arrangements displayed by Republicans over the last two decades.
Biden has emphasized his desire to negotiate a follow-on treaty “expeditiously.”
U.S. Senate to hold FTX hearing
Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno
JIMMY: The sudden collapse of cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX will be the subject of a US Senate committee hearing next Thursday.
The company, founded by renowned crypto expert and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried filed for bankruptcy last week. The exchange-trading empire reportedly owes $3.1 billion to its major creditors.
And after Bankman-Fried’s balance sheet was made public by the Financial Times, suspicions arose over the bankruptcy filing details, including large amounts of missing funds and discrepancies in assets.
Now, the FTX collapse is rippling through the cryptoworld and also across politics.
While it is unclear whether Bankman-Fried’s actions leading to the company’s collapse are criminal, the fact remains that he and FTX were the single biggest political donors in 2022.
That will no doubt be brought up in both the Senate hearing and the U.S. House hearing planned for later in December.
Many politicians and financial experts are already calling for more regulation and oversight into cryptocurrency markets, and the hearing’s contents may push for bills to be signed.
What seems undeniable is that cryptocurrencies have taken a strong hit financially, morally and reputationally due to the FTX collapse – and that poses an uncertain future for the decentralized economies.
Information compiled by Jeff Landset and Joe Veyera. Interview with Joe Veyera.
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the uncertainty surrounding Twitter. For more on that I spoke with our lead for The Americas desk, Joe Veyera.
JIMMY: Hi, Joe
JOE: Jimmy before long you’re going to have to put me on retainer to keep me coming back like this.
JIMMY: Yeah, three weeks in a row. Kind of crazy. Anyway, I always thought there might be a day when you and I’d be talking about Twitter on the podcast and apparently that day is today. So, I’m sure by now everyone listening is aware that Elon Musk bought and is now in charge of Twitter, but there’s been a ton of developments since the deal closed just four weeks ago. Maybe to start, can you kind of highlight some of the big stories that have popped up? And, you know, it's fine if this podcast runs several hours long.
JOE: Well, it’s amazing how much can happen over the course of a month, isn’t it? The latest reports suggest a workforce of 7,500 has been slashed by about two-thirds via layoffs and voluntary departures, and you may have seen Musk's ultimatum to employees commit to “working long hours at high intensity,” the “hardcore” era as he called it, that pushed a lot of people to the exits. That has also left multiple “critical” teams inside Twitter with few to no employees left. All that being said, during an all-hands meeting earlier this week, Musk reportedly said the layoffs are over and they are actively recruiting for engineering and sales roles, so they may have stemmed the bleeding there. But what Musk says one minute may not be how he responds the next. For instance, late last month he said, “no major content decisions or account reinstatements" would happen without the input of a forthcoming content moderation council "with widely diverse viewpoints.” Then late last week, he reinstated the account of former President Trump nearly two years after his ban for inciting violence following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, citing the results of poll he conducted on the site. So, who really knows what happens next.
JIMMY: You know, hearing that so many people have either been fired or quit Twitter makes me wonder if things are going to keep running. There any risk that this train just falls off the track?
JOE: I won’t pretend to be any sort of engineering expert here, but departing employees have warned of outages, glitches, and security risks, along with concerns about the site’s capacity to handle traffic during major events. That last part is one test it has appeared to have passed, with no significant issues during the opening days of the World Cup. But as with most things in this saga, we’ll see.
JIMMY: Now, between the two of us we’ve probably spent many, many thousands of hours on Twitter gathering news and whatnot, so I think we probably have a different perspective than many. Basically, if Twitter goes down, it’s not just a sudden loss of dank memes and hot takes on football. What are some of the bigger concerns you have if Twitter stumbles?
JOE: Well as you just noted it would severely impact my ability to wax poetic on the Seattle Mariners, which would be a devastating outcome. But in all seriousness, increasingly we have seen fire departments, police departments, other emergency responders use the site to convey important information in regards to public safety in real time on Twitter, think wildfire evacuations or shelter-in-place orders for instance. If Twitter were to collapse, and to be clear, that’s still a gigantic if, and really a worst-case scenario, how does that information reach the people it needs to reach. Because truly, the more outlets the better. A text blast might reach some people, Facebook others, Twitter others still, but you want to cover all your bases in a moment like that, and if one of them disappears, where do those people go? And that brings up another concern. If the site goes down for a significant period of time, it could lead to a mass exodus of users. And then that becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy where, if your friends left the site, why are you still there, and it cascades.
JIMMY: Just to change gears here for a second, how have Twitter’s advertisers reacted to all this?
JOE: They don’t seem to love it. And that’s a major problem when regulatory findings showed that almost 90 percent of the company’s revenue came from advertising. A new Washington Post analysis of marketing data found that more than a third of the top 100 clients have not advertised in the past two weeks, including 14 of the top 50. And among those companies to publicly confirm an ad pause are General Mills and Audi. These are heavy hitters. But for them, it’s comparatively a drop in the bucket compared to their other ad spends.
JIMMY: You know, one of the biggest concerns advertisers – and a lot of users – seem to have is not wanting to be associated with some of the controversial stuff that old Twitter used to ban people for, but new Twitter seems cool with. How do you think Twitter is doing in addressing those concerns?
JOE: Well, I think the hesitation from advertisers says a lot, and both the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League have called for an advertising boycott. For his part, Musk has said the new policy is freedom of speech but not freedom of reach, with the idea that people can say basically whatever they want as long as it's not illegal, but they’ll demonetize and not promote instances of hate speech and negative content. That raises another host of questions, particularly what is the line. And is there a lane for moderation that appeases both those who think hate speech has no place on the platform and others who believe freedom of speech also means freedom from consequences. That’s going to be a very, very difficult needle to thread, if it’s even possible.
JIMMY: Well, you know, as I always ask, what do you think folks should be watching for next?
Joe: Oh, so many things, Jimmy. So many things. To just recap our conversation, does the site continue to run as normal? Is Musk successful in hiring new engineers willing to commit to his “hardcore” vision? Does a viable alternative emerge? Will advertisers be satisifed with any changes? We should learn a lot in the coming days and weeks, but for now it’s all up in the air
JIMMY: Well, I think we’ll leave it there for today, but as always, thank you for getting us up to speed.
Joe: Thanks as always, Jimmy. And you can follow me on Twitter @JoeVeyera
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.
Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Awais Ahmad, Hua Hsieh, Alex Moore, Jaime Calle Moreno and Jeff Landset. Our interview featured editor Joe Veyera and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe