10.24.2019

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Need To Know
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More Blackouts in California
California utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to about 180,000 homes in the greater San Francisco Bay area yesterday - the second large-scale planned blackout in as many weeks. Dry weather and high winds prompted the move, a preventive measure to avoid sparking wildfires from faulty equipment, which follows Oct. 9-12 blackouts that affected more than 2 million people. 2018 was the deadliest wildfire season in state history, and the company had already been found liable for an equipment malfunction that started the Camp wildfire, which killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise, CA. In Southern California, SoCal Edison said it was also considering shutting off power, affecting more than 300,000 customers, a number that would leave an estimated 750,000 people in the dark through Friday. The companies say the shutoffs - coming under heavy scrutiny by regulators - are the only surefire way to prevent wildfires sparked by their equipment. 
Quantum Supremacy
Google scientists officially announced yesterday they have achieved quantum supremacy, passing a symbolic but important milestone in the development of useful quantum computers. While classical computers use logic bits that typically exist in either "on" or "off" states, quantum computers use bits that exist in multiple states at once (what is entanglement?), dramatically increasing the potential computing power. However, quantum computing has been difficult to realize at scale, since the bits generally must be kept ultracold (near -459 degrees F) and need to be manipulated at the atomic level. While it sounds imposing, quantum supremacy refers to the ability of a quantum computer to solve a problem too difficult for classical computers. Google's machine - a 54-qubit computer named Sycamore - checked the output of a quantum random number generator in about 200 seconds, something which would take a classical computer 10,000 years (an assertion challenged by competitors at IBM). 

The next milestone, quantum advantage, has more real-world impact
Turkey Sanctions Lifted
President Trump will lift recent sanctions placed on Turkey after the country reportedly notified the White House yesterday that it was halting its offensive in northern Syria and instituting a permanent cease-fire. The news comes one day after Russia said it would help Turkey establish a safe zone along its border with Syria and two weeks after President Trump ordered the withdrawal US troops from the area. Shortly after the US pullout, Turkey swept across the border to remove Kurdish forces - former US allies who helped stabilize the region against ISIS but whom the Turkish government considers a terrorist threat. Critics say the overall approach amounts to abandoning a key US ally while ceding influence to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Separately, House Republicans stormed a deposition to protest the ongoing impeachment inquiry. 
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In The Know
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Sports, Entertainment & Culture
> Washington uses six-run seventh inning to beat Houston 12-3, lead World Series 2-0; series continues with Game 3 tomorrow from Washington (8pm ET) (More)
> Louvre Museum in Paris opens long-awaited Leonardo da Vinci exhibit today; will display more than 160 Renaissance-era paintings and drawings (More)
> All-female moderator panel tapped for next Democratic debate; the Nov. 20 MSNBC broadcast will feature Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Kristen Welker, and Ashley Parker (More)
Science & Technology
> Study finds fetuses have their own microbiome, originally transmitted from the mother; results may help improve chances of healthy premature birth during high-risk pregnancies (More)
> White House revives the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), names 7 of 16 members (More)
> In a surprising reversal, failed Alzheimer's drug Aducanumab will be resubmitted to the FDA for approval; the highly-anticipated drug trial was shut down by independent review board in March over patient safety concerns (More)
Business & Markets
> Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies to House Financial Services Committee on election interference, free speech, and Libra cryptocurrency (More)
> Tesla smashes Q3 earnings expectations and reports Shanghai, China facility is ahead of schedule, shares up ~20% in after-hours trading (More)
> Earnings Season: Ford cuts full-year outlook on weak Q3, shares slide 3% (More) | Boeing sees earnings fall 50+% but optimistic about Q4 737 Max aircraft return (More) | eBay forecasts holiday revenues to fall with increased competition, shares slide 3% (More)

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Politics & World Affairs
> British officials find 39 people dead in a truck outside London in what is believed to be one of the country's worst human trafficking tragedies (More)
> House Ethics Committee to investigate freshman Democratic Rep. Katie Hill (CA-25) over inappropriate relationship with staffer (More)
> Hong Kong releases murder suspect whose case was behind a proposed extradition bill to mainland China, whose introduction sparked long-running protests (More)
In-Depth
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The Takeover
Tampa Bay Times | Tracey McManus. After butting heads with the city council over plans to redevelop the city's lucrative waterfront, the Church of Scientology went on a spending spree in Clearwater, Florida. Three years and $100M later, the church and its members have almost complete control over the city's downtown. (Read)
Inside the Rise and Fall of Gawker 2.0
Esquire | Kate Storey.  After Brian Goldberg, CEO of Bustle Media Group, bought the remains of one-time media darling Gawker, many wondered if the notorious and free-wheeling site would be resurrected. After an indefinite postponement and an entire staff layoff, is Gawker dead forever? (Read)
 
 
Etcetera
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The world's scariest haunted house requires a 40-page waiver
One-ton pumpkin sets California state record (w/ photo). 
Say hello to the world's first bee influencer
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Stanford tops the list of the world's most innovative universities

The number of pedestrians hit by cars has skyrocketed
The US Air Force can now use lasers to shoot down drones
Like fingerprints, we may have our own unique way of moving ($$, NYT). 
When your kid calls your bluff about dressing up for photo day
Clickbait: You'll never believe what happens to puppies at this cafe
Historybook: Black Thursday US stock market crash, exchange falls 11% in one day (1929); HBD rapper Drake (1986); RIP Jackie Robinson (1972); RIP Rosa Parks (2005); Bloody Friday worldwide stock market crash with most indices dropping 10% in single day (2008).
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