US Journalist Freed, the Esperanza Patient, and a Possum Hostage Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Nov. 17, and we're covering the release of a US journalist, a rare find in the fight against HIV, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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Jailed Journalist Returns

American journalist Danny Fenster, sentenced to 11 years of hard labor in military-ruled Myanmar, arrived in the US yesterday after being freed Monday. The 37-year-old managing editor of online magazine Frontier Myanmar had been convicted of allegedly spreading false or inflammatory information, contacting illegal organizations, and violating immigration law; he had already spent nearly six months in jail. The charges are believed to be related to previous work at online news site Myanmar Now, which the regime has banned.


Former US diplomat and politician Bill Richardson helped secure his freedom through in-person negotiations with current Myanmar leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. Richardson is the first prominent Western representative to visit the country since the military coup in February. It remains unclear if anything had been promised in exchange for his release. 


Although the prison is known for its poor conditions, Fenster said he was not starved or beaten while in custody.

The Esperanza Patient

Scientists have identified the second known person whose body is believed to have cleared HIV from their system without the use of drugs or medical intervention. Researchers hope genetic analysis of the patient's cells may lead to new treatments to fight the disease.


Known as the "Esperanza patient," the Argentine woman was found to have HIV in 2013. Despite the diagnosis, the patient never displayed any symptoms, with subsequent tests failing to show evidence the virus was replicating within her body. Researchers went as far as to test samples of her placenta, a rich source of immune cells; a study published this week revealed no signs of the virus. 


The first known case is believed to be a 67-year-old California woman whose body suppressed the virus for almost three decades before appearing to eradicate it. Doctors have also achieved sustained remission in two patients via a specialized bone marrow transplant.

Pfizer Licenses COVID-19 Pill

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced yesterday it would license its COVID-19 antiviral pill to the nonprofit Medicines Patent Pool in an effort to make the treatment available at an affordable cost for almost 100 low-income countries. The United Nations-backed group will work with other drugmakers to manufacture and distribute the pill. 


Unlike vaccines, the medication is meant to be taken orally early after a patient has already contracted the illness. Trials found the pill to be 89% effective in reducing hospitalization and death when taken shortly after diagnosis. Separately, the company filed for emergency use authorization in the US for the use of the pill in high-risk patients. 


In related news, the rolling average of newly reported COVID-19 cases in the US is near 84,000, up almost 15% since the beginning of the month (see data). The total number of hospitalizations has plateaued near 40,000, with an average of about 1,150 per day.


It is unclear how many cases and deaths are currently occurring in fully vaccinated patients, with data only being reported through August. The CDC has said it plans to release updated data shortly.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

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> More than 125 Astroworld attendees file $750M lawsuit against Travis Scott, Drake, and festival organizers (More) | Nike delays release of Travis Scott shoe after Astroworld tragedy (More)


> Frida Kahlo's "Diego y yo" self-portrait sells for $34.9M at auction, a record price for Latin American art (More)


> "Harry Potter" original cast and crew to reunite for 20-year reunion special on HBO Max Jan. 1. (More) |  Netflix debuts website to track Top 10 movies and shows (More

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Science & Technology

> Meta (Facebook) unveils prototype sensor glove that allows users to "feel" objects they encounter in virtual reality worlds (More)


> AI platform successfully predicts large range of 3D protein interactions, predicting structures of 700 previously uncharacterized interactions; modeling may help accelerate drug discovery (More)


> Russia confirms anti-satellite missile test; debris from the test reportedly forced astronauts aboard the International Space Station to take shelter over possible collision (More)

Business & Markets

> US retail sales up more-than-expected 1.7% in October; highest growth since March amid rising inflation (More) | Walmart and Home Depot exceed earnings expectations (More)


> Employees of gaming giant Activision Blizzard stage walkout calling for resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick following report he had knowledge of widespread sexual harassment allegations at company (More)


> Shares of Peloton, the connected exercise giant, up 16% after announcing $1.07B share sale (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Protesters gather in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as jury begins deliberations in the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse (More) | See photos (More)


> Polish guards use water cannons to repel migrants at the Poland-Belarus border; European officials accuse Belarus of manufacturing a migrant crisis as retribution for sanctions (More)


> Germany suspends approval of controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline transporting Russian gas into the country, saying the operating subsidiary must be German-based; critics have argued the line increases EU energy dependence on Russia (More)



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The year's best natural landscape photos.


A cool animation demonstrating how mRNA vaccines work. (via YouTube)


How to live in the coldest town on Earth.


Meet the Wall-E of the deep sea.


Breaking down the upcoming Beaver Moon eclipse.


Buy a sliver of the Green Bay Packers.


Just a fox, listening to a banjo.


Tat Granny goes viral on TikTok.


Clickbait: New Zealand woman held hostage by a possum.


Historybook: Suez Canal opens (1869); HBD actor Danny DeVito (1944); HBD former US national security adviser Susan Rice (1964); Arnold Schwarzenegger sworn in as governor of California (2003); First known case of COVID-19 traced to man who visited Wuhan, China (2019).


"Your struggles develop your strengths."

- Arnold Schwarzenegger

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