News Updates

Breaking Points: 11/1/22 FULL UNCUT SHOW Midterm polls, Ukraine military aid, Vine possibly returning, affirmative action, Pelosi attack, more

Krystal and Saagar cover the midterm polls, Ukraine military aid, Vine possibly returning, affirmative action, Pelosi attack, Twitter’s business model, cable news’ managed decline, & Biden’s failed booster rollout!


Vinay Prasad:

Timestamps: Midterms: 0:0021:51 Ukraine: 21:5239:32 Vine: 39:3348:50 Affirmative Action: 48:511:03:07 Paul Pelosi: 1:03:081:10:54 Saagar: 1:10:551:22:23 Krystal: 1:22:241:30:44 Vinay Prasad: 1:30:451:47:39

11/1 NEWSLETTER: Midterm Polls, Ukraine Weapons, Vine, Affirmative Action, Covid Booster & More!
Welcome to the 11/1 Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar premium newsletter. With election coverage heating up, we are so thankful for your support and loyalty. We will have more to say about our election night programming very soon!
Now to the 11/1 Show:
The New York Times has released its final round of polling ahead of the midterm elections. Their figures show Democrats winning contested senate races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, with Nevada as a toss-up. One major caveat is that the Pennsylvania survey was conducted before the debate between Fetterman and Oz, which could have affected the final result. In a month of Republican odds for senate control growing, The Times’ poll will be welcomed by Democrats as the good news they need. Detractors noted that Siena college, the research institute partnering with the Times, overestimated Democrats in final polls heading into the 2020 election. Typically, Siena was about five points off in favor of Dems last time around. If that figure holds up, based on NYT numbers, Republicans would win senate contests in Georgia and Nevada. The caveat being that measuring polling errors is a speculative task and pollsters have no control over whether people respond to polls.
To shore up support for Democrats in Pennsylvania, Former President Obama will be campaigning with President Biden to support Democratic candidates. They will be rallying support for senate candidate John Fetterman and gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro on Saturday. Election day is the following Tuesday and many Americans, particularly Democrats, will be early voting over the weekend. Biden’s decision to appear in Pennsylvania is likely tied to his 42% approval rating there, which is higher than the other swing states.
Ukrainian officials are concerned about house Republicans pulling back on aid if they win the house. Their message to Republicans is that defeating Russia required more money for weapons and the Ukrainian economy as a whole. Dissident factions of the right have objected to the large aid packages sent to Kyiv, but officials are confident that party leadership will support even more robust weapons packages. With Russia targeting Ukrainian infrastructure and power plants, they believe non-military funding will be crucial to their fight going forward. Ukrainian President Zelensky is aware of the political challenges that will come from deeper relations with the US and midterm elections around the corner. So far, they have received bipartisan support, but comments from GOP House minority leader Kevin McCarthy have generated questions about what Republicans will do next. GOP Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell quickly pushed back on McCarthy’s comments, indicating that the GOP support will not be fizzling out. On the Democratic side, progressives’ botched letter on Ukraine policy reflects the party’s steadfast commitment to supporting Ukraine. It does not mean Ukraine can take support for granted, given that Biden and Zelensky reportedly clashed during a June phone call. President Biden is aware of the lessening public support for Ukraine aid, which the White House continues to advocate for. In the lame duck session after the midterm elections, Congress could send them as much as $50 billion more in military and economic assistance.
Norway’s military has been placed on a raised level of alert in response to the war in Ukraine. The country’s prime minister stated that there was no reason to believe Russia will invade and increased preparedness is due to developments over time. Several Russian citizens have been detained in Norway over the past few weeks and they have since been released. Norway shares a border with Russia in the arctic and their security measures could be influenced by the explosion that ruptured the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea. A more dramatic shift could be happening in Finland, where domestic reports indicate NATO could place nuclear weapons on the border with Russia once they join the alliance. Finland’s application to NATO places no restrictions on military bases or nuclear weapons, but Prime Minister Sanna Marin says it’s unlikely nuclear weapons will be stationed on Finnish soil.
Elon Musk has instructed Twitter engineers to work on Vine reboot that could be ready by the end of the year, sources told Axios. Fans of the app were left dismayed when Twitter shut down the video sharing app four years after they acquired it. Vine’s old code base has not been changed since the shutdown and reportedly needs plenty of work. Adding the feature could enable the company to expand beyond the general Twitter discourse dominated by political elites. In a poll posted by Elon Musk on Twitter, 70% of respondents supported bringing Vine back, including prominent YouTuber Mr. Beast. Vine is perceived as a precursor to TikTok, except the latter relies on its potent recommendation algorithm instead of followers for serving up videos to users. Many stars who emerged from Vine went on to become large on other platforms and have since turned into mainstream entertainers.
The issue of race conscious college admissions will be brought before the Supreme Court towards the end of this year. The court’s conservative majority signaled skepticism of the practice during hearings about a lawsuit brought against policies at Harvard and North Carolina. Depending on the court’s ruling, results of the case could impact diversity programs in corporate America and elsewhere. They could rule that universities do not have an interest in upholding racial diversity at all, or they could rule that diversity is important but Harvard and UNC’s tactics were misguided. Several of the conservative justices noted that a 2003 decision permitting the use of racial factors in college admissions urged for policies not to be in place indefinitely. At the time, the court decided racial consideration did not violate the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause because of its status as a “plus factor” in an otherwise individual assessment. Groups opposed to affirmative action have pointed to discrimination against Asian students who are routinely given lower metrics on personal evaluations. The liberal justices issued support for racial consideration in college admissions because of the need for American pluralism. A contentious issue, affirmative action influences hiring practices in corporate America, government, military academies and other institutions besides typical colleges and universities. Most Americans believe race should not be a factor in attempts to further campus diversity, with slight variation depending on race. It’s an unpopular liberal position compared to other policy positions the Democratic party has taken in the past few years, sitting at levels close to ‘defund the police’ and enabling 16 year olds to vote.
More details are coming out about the attack on Paul Pelosi over the weekend. California man David DePape was charged with assault and attempted kidnapping by federal prosecutors yesterday. The announcement was made by a US attorney in Northern California, San Francisco FBI agent, and a Capitol Police commissioner. DePape stated that he broke through the back entrance by using his hammer on a glass door before he headed up to Pelosi’s bedroom. No security was present at the home as he targeted Speaker Nancy Pelosi and sought to break her kneecaps. He had been in the US illegally due to a visa overstay from when he immigrated from western Canada many years ago.
In his monologue, Saagar gives his perspective on Elon’s plans for twitter. Musk is planning on charging $20/month to verified users who want to remain on the platform. His plan is based on eliminating bots first and foremost, something Musk has been obsessed with. Another dynamic involved is his wish for Twitter to achieve half of its revenue through subscription fees alone. Breaking Points can attest to the benefits of relying on paid subscribers instead of algorithms or market trends. Unlike our show, Elon has to deal with major advertisers, who he tried to reassure in a letter asking them to remain patient amid the turmoil. Business press reported that advertisers were considering pulling ads if Donald Trump’s account was reinstated. Any ad supported business faces the conundrum that users are not customers, it’s the people who pay. If their ideology is contrary to the benefit of users or American body politic, it becomes a structural problem for the business. Compared to Facebook or Google, Twitter’s ad business has made a fraction of the revenue generated by those platforms. For all of its cultural cache, Twitter has much less daily users than its competitors and has been unable to deliver growth. The business is not great for ad revenue despite its enormous influence on the elite level. Activity on the platform can influence the global economy and yet the company captures none of the value that comes with it. Subscription fees for verification will not provide them with that value or the value users get from up to date information. Elites who drive discourse on twitter have their standing on the site as part of their identity. To target this very small group of high volume users, charging based on follower count could be a way to maximize value capture. Tiers could be created to get large fees from established brands and users who benefit substantially from their following on the platform. This system would be similar to how fees work with other tech services in email distribution and other essential functions for the creator economy.
Twitter matters because it enables younger political reporters and professionals to publish their work in a place where they can get noticed. It enables people to distribute their work with the potential for mass exposure and it can facilitate political debates between curious younger politicos. Bringing profitability and aligning incentives can make the internet a place we like, not just something we use addictively. When you use something for free online, you are the product, not the customer. Let’s see if twitter can change that and become more than Elon’s vanity play.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar discuss major questions around the internet that have been part of discourse since the 2016 election. Creating a profit motive and shareholder imperative without public accountability makes it difficult for social media companies to make a better internet. Making creators pay to be on Twitter would be a risky gamble when other platforms actually pay creators to post on their platforms. If people slowly leave Twitter, the platform could eventually decline in the eyes of elite opinion. Less people making content and lower engagement can generate a spiral of even more inflammatory and combative discourse on a platform. Users are not meant to enjoy the experience online because they are not the customer, they are the product. Some platforms are incredibly effective advertising tools like Facebook and Google but Twitter has not shown effective ad capabilities. Surveillance and ad spamming in exchange for pay is a deal users have made that works for the companies. Once you put up paywalls and drive away users, the benefit of it being a free and open public square goes away.
In her monologue, Krystal provides her commentary on CNN’s new morning show and the slow death of cable news. The program spearheaded by new boss Chris Licht is called CNN This Morning with co-hosts Kaitlan Collins, Don Lemon, and Poppy Harlow. More of a shuffling of the chairs approach than any new direction for Licht, showing a lack of ambition. He is signaling that CNN will not try to compete in the new media and will settle for cutting costs and holding on to what they’ve got. A managed decline that will keep the network churning in the years to come. Under Jeff Zucker, CNN put $300 million into its CNN+ streaming service believing it would vault the network into the new era. He believed he could remake the zombie cable news business stuffed into a streaming service. Taking the new programming and making it more cringe was the plan, which ended in disaster. Licht is taking a more realistic approach that concedes the network has no future. His first few moves from killing CNN+ to high profile firings gave the appearance of revitalization. Now, we are getting more insight into how Licht actually sees the network moving forward. More than 1,000 jobs are set to be eliminated by the end of the year and the network will stop paying for any original content. Their thinking is the costs of these series are not outweighed by their relative popularity. CNN’s positioning itself to contain the bleed in hard times instead of shooting for expansion.
All three cable networks are facing the same fate as ratings go down and people cut the cord, regardless of the compelling midterm season. Compared to CNN and MSNBC, Fox has the larger audience because of its consolidation of conservative viewership. The other two have to compete with each other and the rest of the mainstream news networks. MSNBC made it clear they see the writing on the wall when they did not try to fill Rachel Maddow’s slot with someone who could match her ratings. Today, if you can draw a large audience, you do not have to deal with nightmarish cable dictates. All the personnel left are people skilled at networking and access rather than audience building. Even when Trump comes back and ratings go up, the long term trajectory of decline is not going anywhere. Make no mistake, we are well past the peak of cable news. The remnants will hang on due to relevance and elite power for a long time. But the networks have already accepted their fate and CNN’s cut backs are just the beginning.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar analyze the CNN and MSNBC concessions that their business is not sustainable. The morning show model for feel good audiences will not work for CNN and the political insider show will not work either. Good Morning America dominates the former and Morning Joe dominates the latter. It’s not a sustainable model but for now, the networks will still hold power as their trajectory declines.
Krystal and Saagar are joined by Dr. Vinay Prasad to talk more in depth about the Biden administration’s failed booster campaign. Dr. Prasad is a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and he is a practicing hematologist-oncologist at San Francisco General Hospital and VA Hospital. As someone deeply involved in the field, Dr. Prasad believes the Biden administration’s unilateral regulatory standard for a yearly vaccine reminiscent of the flu led to very few people getting the vaccine after a rushed approval process. People probably want to see some better evidence because America is unique in its strategy to pursue vaccines for children as part of universal standards. The rushed process for a flu vaccine is different from the covid vaccines because they are creating vaccines against older variants that have already circulated. These flaws in the flu shot model do prevent the shot from being effective in some seasons and strain predictions do not always work out. Flu strain predictions are based on measurements in other countries at the time. It’s abundantly clear that no matter how many doses one can obtain, vaccines will not prevent people from getting covid-19. But it does make the disease like a cold instead of the
The biggest safety concern is myocarditis in men, particularly younger men. There is a low risk but the number matters because young people have almost no risk of hospitalization from covid, especially after the initial vaccine. To develop an idea of vaccine efficacy human trials are necessary to figure it out. If the number comes back very low, which it could, trust among the American people would be shattered. Individuals are still getting covid cases and further doses are not combating the problem. We have to be open to detecting the myocarditis signal whenever a new vaccine arises. On a broader level, vital global campaigns for vaccinating against other diseases will be undermined in the years to come. Surveys have shown a greater reluctance to vaccinate children for other vaccines, even if it’s not appropriate to equate measles vaccines for children to covid. America’s FDA has been the premier regulatory agency on drugs that other nations have looked to, but now the trust has been shattered. Regulatory hurdles on vaccines and other products are going down, which greatly benefits pharmaceutical companies. This gives the appearance of increased innovation without knowledge about how useful the products are. Big Pharma profits have become an incentive for governments because of a revolving door where FDA regulators go to work in the industry after their job is finished. Another problem is that the Biden administration has wanted vaccines to be the answer for the American people to end the political question of covid. True belief and wishful thinking are present in the scientific establishment because we are all human beings who want to be part of the next scientific breakthrough. When Americans go to see the doctor, they should be an empowered consumer of healthcare now that more attention is being given to the field. Biden’s covid policy is a medical liability and a political liability that could come back to harm Democrats as a party. Rolling out vaccines and boosters among young children suggests a disconnect between the Biden administration and the American people. Regular Americans do not believe they need it and they do not think the next shot will benefit them. Going a different direction on covid policy could be a Biden policy with a lot of buy-in from the public.
Thank you for reading the Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar premium newsletter. Be sure to catch the next full show on Thursday and look out for more information about election night coverage!

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