Supreme Court Retirement, Syria, and Charting American Incomes Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Thursday, Jan. 27, and we're covering a big announcement at the Supreme Court, a firefight in Syria, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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Breyer Retires

Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire from the Supreme Court before the beginning of the next term, according to reports. Breyer's decision marks the first opportunity to nominate a Supreme Court justice for President Joe Biden, who campaigned on filling a potential slot with a Black female candidate. 


Appointed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, 83-year-old Breyer is one of the court's three left-leaning justices (see overview). Breyer voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act, joined in the 2015 decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and backed a number of pro-choice rulings. 


The vacancy also marks the first time Senate Democrats will be able to confirm a nominee with a simple majority after Senate Republicans removed the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominations in 2017.


Breyer’s potential replacements include US Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, among others.

Syrian Prison Standoff

US-backed Kurdish forces said yesterday they had fully retaken a prison in the Syrian city of Hasaka, repelling Islamic State fighters who stormed the facility late last week. The assault was the largest offensive by the Islamic State in the region since the fall of the organization's self-declared caliphate in 2019. The sophisticated attack included a pair of suicide bombings timed with a riot inside the prison by jailed militants. 


At least 180 people were killed in the fighting, with the death toll expected to rise as recovery crews search for those missing. International aid groups raised alarm over the fate of more than 850 children detained in the facility. Officials say many minors were brought by parents seeking to join the Islamic State.


Kurdish officials estimate 12,000 IS suspects across 50 different nationalities are jailed across the region, with minimal capacity to try or repatriate the prisoners.

Fusion Milestone

Researchers detailed yesterday the generation of a so-called burning plasma, a key milestone toward self-sustaining fusion power. The paper covers the results of a series of experiments carried out over the past two years.


Unlike traditional nuclear power, which relies on fission—energy released when a heavy atom splits into lighter atoms—fusion power harnesses energy released when lighter atoms combine (watch 101). A burning plasma is one where fused atoms provide the majority of heat, a critical step toward the ultimate goal of creating a fusion reaction with enough power to sustain itself. Fusion reactions create millions of times more energy than sources like coal and natural gas, and many researchers consider the commercialization of fusion plants a holy grail of power generation.


The experiments took place at the National Ignition Facility at Livermore Lab in Livermore, California, a facility that focuses nearly 200 lasers onto a single fuel pellet. Go inside the facility here.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Spotify removes Neil Young's music at Young's request over alleged vaccine misinformation shared on Joe Rogan's podcast (More) | Amy Schneider's "Jeopardy!" winning streak ends at 40 games (More)


> Peter Robbins, actor best known for voicing Charlie Brown, dies of suicide at age 65 (More) | World's oldest male gorilla Ozzie dies at 61 at Zoo Atlanta (More)


> Disney Plus to launch in 42 countries and 11 territories across Europe, Africa, and West Asia this summer (More)

Science & Technology

> Meta (Facebook) cryptocurrency play likely ended as company reportedly looks to sell assets from its Libra and Diem Association efforts (More)


> Scientists find pairs of vibrating atoms can act as stable qubits, the basic processing units for quantum computing; quantum connection demonstrated across hundreds of atom pairs (More)


> Two major bat species show different inner ear bone structures used to help navigate surroundings; study sheds light on the evolution of echolocation (More)

Business & Markets

In partnership with Graze

> US stock markets mixed (S&P 500 -0.2%, Dow -0.4%, Nasdaq +0.02%) as Federal Reserve held interest rates unchanged, but signals it will steadily increase rates starting in March (More)


> Tesla reports record $5.5B profit in 2021; company delivered over 936,000 cars, up 87% over 2020 (More)


> Swiss banking giant UBS to acquire “robo-advisor” Wealthfront for $1.4B (More)

From our partners: Robot-turned-commercial-lawnmower disrupting a $100B market. Built by an experienced team with deep industry and robotics expertise, Graze is creating a fully autonomous, renewable energy-powered lawnmower. With preorders totaling an estimated $32M in potential revenue, they're helping golf courses, airports, parks, municipalities, and more cut down on fuel and labor costs. See how Graze is helping increase businesses' margins and learn more about their investment opportunity today.

Politics & World Affairs

> "Partygate" report detailing a series of parties and events held by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in violation of COVID-19 lockdown rules expected as early as today; findings may lead to a vote of confidence for Johnson (More)


> Six injuries reported after a chemical plant explosion at a facility near Lake Charles, Louisiana; accident occurred at tanks holding ethylene dichloride, a hazardous chemical used to make PVC pipes (More)


> Average US COVID-19 cases fall to around 600,000 per day, down 25% over the past two weeks; total hospitalizations drop 6% to around 144,000 patients, while deaths continue to rise, now near 2,300 per day (More)



The Long History of Hating NFL Overtime

Defector | Dan McQuade. The ending of Sunday's thrilling playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs—called one of the best in league history—ended in overtime without the Bills' offense touching the ball. (Read)

The Empire-Killer

Nature | Michael Marshall. Researchers are closing in on the reason people mysteriously fled thriving cities across ancient Mesopotamia roughly 4,000 years ago. (Read)



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Please support our sponsors!



Visualizing how much money Americans make.


Do we regret teaching computers to play chess?


How Dubai prevents desertification.


Shark attacks rebounded in 2021.


Beverage startup unveils the "Netflix for drinks."


A Henry III gold coin found in a field fetches $730K.


When your biscuit-throwing competition becomes too popular.


Photos or paintings?


Clickbait: Sausage drone saves lost dog.


Historybook: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart born (1756); Auschwitz concentration camp is liberated (1945); Paris Peace Accords brings end to Vietnam War (1973); RIP Andre the Giant (1993); RIP American author JD Salinger (2010).


"Be silent, if you choose, but when it is necessary, speak—and speak in such a way that people will remember it."

- Mozart

Why 1440? The printing press was invented in the year 1440, spreading knowledge to the masses and changing the course of history. Guess what else? There are 1,440 minutes in a day and every one is precious. That’s why we scour hundreds of sources every day to provide a concise, comprehensive, and objective view of what's happening in the world. Reader feedback is a gift—shoot us a note at [email protected].

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