The global crisis of plunging birth rates
Also: Netflix’s black Cleopatra series flops
👋 Good morning, and welcome back. Remember the overpopulation narrative? It turns out that the real problem we face is the complete opposite—a plunge in birthrates across the globe. Some are taking this problem into their own hands, like Elon Musk, who now has ten children. He’s said he’s doing his part. No kidding.
Today, the team is covering:
📺 Black Cleopatra gets the worst ratings ever,
📉 The global birthrate crisis,
🇮🇱 Washington and Israel collide,
➕ And everything else you need to know.
By the way, it’s been just over a year since we launched this newsletter five days a week. It’s been a lot of fun, and we can’t thank you enough for tuning in every morning to get your news scoops from us. Onward and Upward!
Netflix’s black Cleopatra series debuts with dismal ratings
What’s happening? The second season of Netflix and Jada Pinkett Smith’s documentary series African Queens, titled Queen Cleopatra, has drawn ire from critics and audiences alike. This primarily comes from its casting of black actress Adele James in the title role. Many are calling it a false representation of history — created specifically to “represent black women” — on top of simply being a poorly-made show. It currently boasts a 15 percent rating from critics and a 3 percent rating from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, possibly making it the lowest-rated TV series ever on the platform.
Where was Cleopatra really from? Queen Cleopatra was born in Egypt but was of Macedonian Greek ancestry. There is not sufficient information on her mother or paternal grandmother’s ancestry to suggest that either woman was black. Instead, evidence points to Cleopatra being either pure Macedonian Greek or partially Egyptian, with no room for any black African blood.
Part of a trend: Having non-white actors play roles that were historically white, which critics refer to as “racebending,” has been controversial for some time. Storytellers most commonly “race-bend” white characters with the stated goal of promoting diversity in a film or show, prioritizing the progressive idealism of diversity rather than artistic quality. The casting of Halle Bailey in the upcoming Little Mermaid live-action remake is another well-known and contentious example.
The bottom line: The many examples of racebending and subsequent backlash seem to indicate that audiences would prefer on-screen adaptations of characters that are historically accurate and true to the original appearance of the characters.
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WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
🚇 Subway witness calls Daniel Penny a “hero” for his response to Jordan Neely. "It was self-defense, and I believe in my heart that he saved a lot of people that day that could have gotten hurt,” the woman said regarding the man accused of second-degree manslaughter for putting Neely in a fatal chokehold on a New York City subway. She said people were “scared for their lives” due to the homeless criminal’s aggressive and erratic behavior.
⚖️ SCOTUS sides with Big Tech while leaving Section 230 alone in new rulings. In two highly anticipated rulings, the Supreme Court held that Google and Twitter cannot be held liable for what their users post. The court chose not to modify the well-known liability protection statute known as Section 230, thus affirming the status quo, even though many believed these cases could have significantly changed the internet. The oral arguments for the cases in February, however, indicated that justices had difficulty understanding the complex issues in the case.
🚨 “Non-binary” ex-Biden appointee was arrested as a “fugitive from justice.” After the Biden administration fired him for stealing women’s clothes, police once again arrested Sam Brinton in his Maryland home for alleged luggage theft after tracking him down. President Biden previously chose the cross-dressing LGBT activist to be a top nuclear energy official in his administration.
🎡 Disney scraps its plan to build a new campus and hotel amid spending cuts, fight with DeSantis. Disney has canceled plans to build a new corporate campus for over 2,000 employees and a Star Wars-themed hotel. This comes during an ongoing dispute with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom the company has sued for trying to curb its influence and power ever since it promised to challenge his Parental Rights in Education Act. Though some have tried to frame the cuts as a DeSantis loss against Disney, the spending cuts had been planned since Chapek returned as CEO.
Possible answers for the plunge in global birthrates
What’s happening: The world is experiencing a precipitous drop in birthrates, potentially setting the stage for a bleak future. Prior to the 1980s, the world fertility rate was a stable 4-5 children per woman. It’s now a little over 2.3 per woman. Data scientist Stephen J Shaw has some answers regarding the causes behind the falling birth rates.
What’s the cause? The issue is what he calls "unplanned childlessness." It is estimated that 30-40 percent of the total population of developed countries is now childless, with only 5 percent of these individuals choosing this path voluntarily. Shaw attributes the decline to societal and cultural changes, such as delayed childbearing due to career and educational pursuits, difficulties in finding the right partner, and overreliance on assisted reproductive technologies. This makes it a societal issue as women are choosing other things over having children.
The effects: The repercussions of this trend are far-reaching, with potential negative impacts on economies, healthcare systems, and welfare provisions. Decreasing birth rates coupled with aging populations may lead to deserted cities and increased loneliness among the elderly, contributing to a rise in suicide rates (happening in Japan). South Korea faces an extreme situation as its birth rates are so far behind its death rates that it experiences a net decrease of one person every 14 minutes.
Possible solutions: While the governments of various countries—Hungary, Russia, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, Italy, China, and soon, possibly America—are attempting to fight the problem with financial incentives, extended parental leave, or tax reductions, these have not proven significantly effective in the long term. Shaw proposes heavily advocating for starting families earlier in life while revamping education and employment structures to accommodate later-in-life career advancement.
Washington and global liberalism collide with an inevitably right-wing Israel
What’s happening: Last week, the European Union canceled a high-profile event because Israel’s right-wing national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was planning to attend. The presence of the democratically elected representative was too much for a German Ambassador, who said “I wish this hadn’t been necessary — but it was.”
This pushback isn’t new. Late last year, the Biden Administration held a sensitive meeting on how to deal with Israel’s new far-right coalition and were concerned that Ben Gvir’s values were too alien for America’s liberal order. This year, Washington used its influence through diplomats, funding, and its executive powers to foment chaos in Israel and spark an uprising against Netanyahu’s right-wing administration.
The Obama administration also attempted to oust the Netanyahu administration years ago by funding political opposition.
Israel is changing: The liberal and secular faction of Israel is losing the demographic game to a fast-growing population of religious…
Note: This is a tiny preview of our latest Upward+ deep dive. The left is pushing for Washington’s help. The right wants independence. The developing situation is a high-stakes game of power, and the future of Israel hangs in the balance. Intrigued?
🔗 Paid readers can read it here.
📖 Free readers can read it with a 7-day free preview here.
IN THE LOOP
✍️ Montana’s governor signed the first complete TikTok ban enacted in the U.S. The ban goes into effect on January 1 of next year.
👀 DeSantis tells his donors that the only presidential candidates capable of winning in 2024 are “Biden and me.”
🇺🇦 Western allies worry that divisive politics in America will block military aid to Ukraine during the 2024 election cycle.
🚫 Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines, who has advocated against males competing in women’s sports, says that athletes should boycott Adidas for featuring two male models in its clothing.
Do you think entertainment is being ruined by political ideologies?
Poll results will be in Monday's newsletter
POLL RESULTS FROM YESTERDAY
Should LGBT-themed books be allowed in public schools?
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 👍 Yes (35)
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 👎 No (616)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤔 Unsure (40)
"Any books containing sexually explicit material - of any kind - should be banned at the elementary and middle school levels. For high schoolers, it is a bit more acceptable, but only if it's for educational purposes, and not an attempt to push an agenda onto children or encourage them to partake in risky behavior."
"My kids are not in school to learn about sex and gender orientation. Kids will access this stuff one way or another at some point, but it shouldn't be readily made available by public schools."
"In my humble opinion, it would depend on the content of the book. For example, if the book gave the history of the LGBT movement, I wouldn't object to it. If the book had sexually explicit dialogue and pictures, I would be against that book being available to children."
✍️ Today’s newsletter was written by Ari, Hudson, and Joanna and edited by Alyssa.
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