10.13.2022

Social Security, Alex Jones, and the Champion of Chonk Everything you need to know for the day in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Thursday, Oct. 13, and we're covering an expected increase in Social Security benefits, a verdict in the Connecticut trial of Alex Jones, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

 

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NEED TO KNOW

 

Social Security Boost

The Social Security Administration will announce the annual cost-of-living increase today for more than 70 million Americans. The increase is estimated to be 8.7%, the largest since 1981. In comparison, the 2022 increase was 5.9%, and the average increase is 1.4% per year.

 

The number is calculated using the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers from July through September (see how it works). The 8.7% projection is based on data from July and August. September's data are due today. Another factor affecting the boost would be September's 0.75% interest rate increase. A larger benefit amount can maintain buying power in the face of rising inflation.

 

About a quarter of Americans, primarily retirees, receive Social Security benefits. Average monthly retirement benefits are $1,656; the new adjustment could increase that number by roughly $144. The current projected depletion date for the Social Security trust fund is 2035.

(Another) Alex Jones Verdict 

A Connecticut jury has ordered Alex Jones, radio host and founder of Infowars, to pay $965M in compensatory damages to eight families of victims killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting and to an FBI agent who was among the first responders. The Sandy Hook massacre is the deadliest mass shooting at an elementary school in US history, with 26 people dead. Jones had claimed the attack was a hoax. 

 

Yesterday's judgment is the second against Jones, whose claims have spurred conspiracy theorists to carry out harassment campaigns against victims' families. It follows nearly $50M in damages a Texas jury in August awarded to the parents of a slain 6-year-old. Jones eventually recanted his claims during a 2019 deposition, blaming his theories on a bout of psychosis

 

Jones faces a third trial in December in Texas. It is unclear how he will pay for the total damages; Infowars and two other companies owned by Jones filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year. 

Human-Rat Brains

Clumps of human neurons implanted into the brains of newborn rats have successfully integrated into the animals' brain circuitry, according to a study published yesterday. The procedure is expected to shed light on psychiatric disorders like autism by illuminating how genetic mutations influence neural circuits. 

 

Stanford researchers, led by Dr. Sergiu Pașca, reported the clumps of human cells—known as organoids—replicated millions of new neurons over several months, wiring themselves into the rat's brain. The grafted tissues were shown to be integrated when they responded to a puff of air on the animals' whiskers, among other tests. The team will use the procedure to observe how diseased organoids grow within neural circuits, which isn't possible in an isolated petri dish. 

 

The novel technique raised ethical questions, with the team consulting ethicists prior to experimentation on questions of animal welfare and how to classify organisms with hybrid brains. Learn the basics of the humane use of animals for research here

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> The 2022 MacArthur Foundation's "genius grant" recipients announced; winners of the $800K award include musicians, artists, scientists, and educators (More)

 

> NFL quarterback Tom Brady and tennis Hall of Famer Kim Clijsters become latest athletes to own a Major League Pickleball franchise (More) | Las Vegas Raiders star Davante Adams charged with assault following postgame shove of a photographer (More)

 

> US Supreme Court hears copyright dispute over Andy Warhol's silkscreen print portraits of Prince (More) | Netflix's Jeffrey Dahmer series becomes its second most watched English-language show ever behind "Stranger Things" (More)

Science & Technology

> Food and Drug Administration approves updated Moderna COVID-19 booster shot for ages 6 and older and Pfizer/BioNTech booster shot for ages 5 and older; both target the original coronavirus strain and BA.4 and BA.5 omicron strains (More)

 

NASA sets date for next attempt to launch its uncrewed Artemis I lunar mission, targeting Nov. 14, with backup dates of Nov. 16 and Nov. 19 (More) | Japan's space agency forces its Epsilon-6 rocket to self-destruct mid-flight after rocket veers off course; eight commercial satellites onboard also destroyed (More)

 

> Microsoft holds annual hardware event, reveals three new Surface devices, a new AI-powered graphic design app, iCloud on Windows 11, and more; see full list of announcements (More)

Business & Markets

In partnership with Blendid

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -0.3%, Dow -0.1%, Nasdaq -0.1%); S&P 500 posts sixth consecutive loss (More)

 

> US Producer Price Index, a key inflation metric tracking product prices, increases 0.4% in September over August (More)

 

> Average 30-year mortgage rate increases to 15-year-high of 6.81% per the Mortgage Bankers Association weekly reading (More)

From our partners: What do you get when robots start making smoothies? Greater profit margins. Blendid’s automated smoothie kiosks help brands reach more consumers at lower costs compared to traditional operations. Case in point: Jamba is using Blendid’s tech to expand its operations to locations like UCLA and Love’s Travel Stops. Blendid has 500+ kiosks already under contract and 70,000 more potential high-traffic locations identified like malls, offices, airports, and more. Learn how you can become a Blendid shareholder before its planned nationwide expansion! This opportunity ends tomorrow, Oct. 14!

Politics & World Affairs

> Poland detects oil leak in Druzhba pipeline, the main route through which Russian oil reaches Germany; cause of leak unknown (More) | Russia arrests eight people over blast on bridge connecting Russia with the Crimean Peninsula (More) | White House releases national security plan, cites concerns with Russia and China (More)

 

> House Jan. 6 Committee holds ninth public hearing today, will highlight new evidence (More) | Livestream here (Watch, 1 pm ET) | Former Los Angeles City Council president Nury Martinez resigns from council over leaked audio of racist remarks; California attorney general to investigate city's redistricting process (More)

 

> Average ACT score for 2022 high school graduates drops to 19.8 out of 36, the lowest since 1991; the percentage of graduates who took the ACT and failed to meet benchmarks in English, reading, science, and math rises to 42% (More

IN-DEPTH

 

Something's Jellyfishy in Italy

Hakai | Agostino Petroni. As several species of jellyfish become increasingly abundant, scientists and chefs are trying to figure out ways to interest Italians in consuming the gelatinous invertebrates. (Read)

Life Became Suffering

USA Today | Staff. A collection of illustrated stories depicting the memories of four people who endured one of the darkest moments of Russia's invasion of Ukraine: the siege of Mariupol. (Read)

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ETCETERA

 

World War II military site designated as US national monument.

 

Ranking US states most likely to sell haunted homes.

 

Massive, detailed mosaic unearthed in Syria

 

Wiped-out surfer tops 2022 ocean photography contest.

 

Meet the women running Antarctica's penguin post office.

 

Dancers' body heat helps power Glasgow music venue.

 

Robot dozes off while quizzed by UK Parliament committee. (w/video) 

 

Elon Musk sells $1M worth of Burnt Hair perfume

 

Clickbait: A champion of chonk is crowned.

 

Historybook: Continental Navy established (1775); UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher born (1925); Italy declares war on Germany (1943); Television host Ed Sullivan dies (1974); 33 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days underground (2010).

 

"It pays to know the enemy–not least because at some time you may have the opportunity to turn him into a friend."

- Margaret Thatcher

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