Ukraine Blackouts, Long-Lost Star Map, and America's Rattiest Cities Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Oct. 19, and we're covering blackouts throughout Ukraine, the discovery of parts of the earliest known star map, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].


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Blackouts in Ukraine

Nearly 30% of Ukraine's power stations have been destroyed by Russian airstrikes over the past week, causing blackouts and damaging water supplies for thousands of Ukrainians across the country, officials said yesterday. Russia has broadened the use of Iranian-made kamikaze drones (see 101) in Ukraine since Oct. 10 in retaliation for the explosion of a lone bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.


Energy facilities have been hit in the capital of Kyiv, where at least three people died yesterday; Kharkiv in the east; Dnipro, Mykolaiv, and Kryvyi Rih in the south; and Zhytomyr in the west. In total, more than 100 missiles have struck critical infrastructures and residential buildings in the past week. 


Separately, a survey (see here) found that 70% of Ukrainians say their country should continue to fight Russia until it wins the war, of which 91% said victory would include Ukrainian forces retaking all territory seized by Russia, including Crimea. Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. 

Guilty Plea in ISIS Payoffs

French cement company Lafarge SA pleaded guilty in a US court yesterday to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group and the Al-Nusra Front in Syria. Prosecutors had accused the company of paying millions of dollars to the terrorist groups to keep its plant in Syria operating.


The company agreed to pay roughly $778M, including criminal fines of around $91M and an additional $687M in forfeitures, the largest penalty paid by a private corporation for providing material support to a terrorist group.


The payments were made to the terrorist groups from August 2013 to October 2014, during a time when the groups kidnapped and killed prisoners, including many Westerners. Lafarge allegedly purchased production materials, such as oil, from the Islamic State and paid the group fees in exchange for the permits.


Lafarge, which joined Switzerland-based Holcim Group in 2015, is also facing criminal charges in France for being complicit in crimes against humanity.

Earliest Star Map Found

Parts of the world's oldest known star map, long attributed to the second-century BCE Greek astronomer Hipparchus but never discovered, were found hidden in medieval Christian texts housed in northern Egypt, according to a paper published yesterday


Researchers analyzed filtered images of writings known to be palimpsests—where earlier texts are removed in a form of ancient recycling—using multispectral imaging, a technique that quantifies light data outside normal human vision (see 101). On one folio, or leaf of paper, researchers were surprised to find the coordinates of the constellation Corona Borealis, suggesting more of the map may be found using the technique on other documents.


Hipparchus' star catalog is often cited as the basis of Ptolemy's "Almagest," a work that established the concept of the universe as Earth-centered for a thousand years. Learn more about Hipparchus' life here.  

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka's novel "The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida" wins prestigious Booker Prize for best English-language novel published in the UK or Ireland (More)


> Defending champions South Carolina top preseason AP Top 25 women's college basketball poll (More) | North Carolina is No. 1 in men's AP poll (More)


> New York Yankees top Cleveland Guardians 5-1 in Game 5 to advance to American League Championship Series against Houston Astros (More) | Philadelphia Phillies top San Diego Padres 2-0 in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series (More)

Science & Technology

> Meta (Facebook) to sell Giphy, a popular online database and search portal for GIF files, following UK antitrust ruling; internal Giphy estimates suggest the platform reaches 700 million daily active users via its various channels (More)


> Scientists demonstrate prototype of a bionic nose; the prosthetic pairs with brain implants to deliver electronic signals representing different smells (More)


> Physicists sync two clocks over record distance of 70 miles using open-air laser beam; achievement is step toward more accurate ways to define units of time (More) | How current atomic clocks work (More)

Business & Markets

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> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +1.1%, Dow +1.1%, Nasdaq +0.9%) for second consecutive session (More) | Netflix adds 2.4 million subscribers after consecutive quarters of losses, beats revenue and earnings expectations; shares up double digits in after-hours trading (More)


> Amazon warehouse workers in Albany, New York, reject bid to unionize on a vote of 406 to 206 (More)


> Mobileye—self-driving subsidiary of Intel—to target initial public offering valuing the business at nearly $16B; Intel will remain in control (More)

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Politics & World Affairs

> Divers capture footage of damage to Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline; video reveals explosion, believed to be sabotage, created a 164-foot gash in the pipe (More) | See background on pipeline attack (More)


> Early voting begins in Georgia, with more than 131,000 ballots cast Monday; figure doubles the state's first day turnout from 2018 midterms (More) | See current projections ahead of Nov. 8 elections (More) | Analyst Igor Danchenko acquitted of charges of lying to the FBI about a disputed dossier alleging ties between former President Donald Trump and Russia during the 2016 election (More)


> At least 600 people killed, more than 1.3 million displaced, as Nigeria grapples with worst flooding in a decade (More)



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Ranking America's rattiest cities


Actress Anna May Wong to be first Asian American on US currency.


Visualizing 20 years of trending Google searches.


Americans' trust in media nears record low.


NASA image captures surreal glow of lightning and moonlight.


Watch a mountain climber fight off a bear. (via Twitter)


See some of the world's most amazing trees.


Tuk-tuks, the latest crime-fighting tool.


Clickbait: Plump parrot banned from beauty contest.


Historybook: British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, effectively ending the Revolutionary War (1781); John Jay becomes first US chief justice (1789); Abolitionist and suffragist Lucy Stone dies (1893); Actor and director Jon Favreau born (1966); Black Monday stock market crash, Dow Jones drops 22% in one day (1987).


"Now all we need is to continue to speak the truth fearlessly, and we shall add to our number those who will turn the scale to the side of equal and full justice in all things."

- Lucy Stone

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