Overdose Deaths, Malcolm X, and the Perfect Hug Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Thursday, Nov. 18, and we're covering a fentanyl-fueled surge in overdose deaths, the exoneration of two people accused in the killing of Malcolm X, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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Overdose Deaths Top 100,000

More than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdose between May 2020 and April 2021, according to new estimates released yesterday. It marks the first time on record overdose fatalities have hit six figures in a 12-month window and represents an almost 30% increase from the same period during the previous year. 


Such deaths have more than doubled since 2015, largely fueled by the increasing prevalence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 50 times more potent than heroin (how it works). Opioids accounted for more than 75% of the reported deaths during the reporting period. Only four states—Vermont, New Jersey, Delaware, and South Dakota—saw a decrease in overdose deaths across the 12-month period. See data here.


Experts say the pandemic has accelerated overdose deaths, spurring increased drug use and making access to treatment clinics more challenging. 

Who Killed Malcolm X? 

Two men convicted of the 1965 killing of Malcolm X are expected to be exonerated today, following an investigation concluding the original authorities withheld evidence in the case. The decision revives decades-old questions around those involved in the assassination of the fiery civil rights leader. 


Born Malcolm Little, the Nebraska native rose to prominence as a lead figure in the Nation of Islam. He was shot to death in a Manhattan ballroom while beginning a speech, almost one year after a bitter high-profile split with the Nation of Islam.


Three members of the Nation of Islam were arrested for the crime—Thomas Hagan, Muhammad Aziz, and Khalil Islam. Hagan admitted to the killing but claimed Aziz and Islam, who maintained their innocence, were not involved. Aziz, now 83, was released in 1985, while Islam, released two years later, died in 2009.


Public interest in the case was rekindled by a Netflix documentary released last year; watch the trailer here.

Recovery in the Northwest

Conditions have started to improve after storms with torrential rainfall and strong winds hit the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia in recent days, inundating homes and closing roads and schools. At least one person has died from mudslides caused by the weather and tens of thousands of people lost power.


The conditions were caused by a weather phenomenon known as an atmospheric river—a plume of deep tropical moisture that stretches across the Pacific and creates 30%-50% of the West Coast’s annual precipitation. However, the recent atmospheric river reached the highest level of five, striking an area that suffered heat waves and wildfire smoke for much of the summer.


Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a state of emergency proclamation Monday to assist the hardest-hit areas. See photos of the flooding in Sumas, Washington, here.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Queen Elizabeth II, 95, makes first public appearance since overnight hospital stay nearly a month ago (More)


> Authors Jason Mott and Tiya Miles win National Book Awards for fiction and nonfiction (More) | Young Dolph, rapper with three Billboard top 10 albums, fatally shot in Tennessee at 36 (More)


> Toronto Blue Jays' Robbie Ray and Milwaukee Brewers' Corbin Burnes win American League and National League Cy Young awards as the top MLB pitchers (More)

Science & Technology

> Apple will begin allowing users to make common repairs to iPhones and other products, providing tools, components, and manuals (More)


> Researchers identify a group of neurons in the brain's cerebellum that signal the sense of being full after eating; mice under study ate 50%-75% less when the neurons were artificially activated (More)


> mRNA vaccine for tick bites, potentially protecting against Lyme disease, shows promise in lab-stage results in guinea pigs; shot preps the immune system to ward off infections from tick bites (More)

Business & Markets

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> US stock markets down (S&P 500 -0.3%, Dow -0.6%, Nasdaq -0.3%), despite strong retail earnings from Target and Lowe’s (More) | Five-week strike at John Deere ends as United Auto Workers ratifies contract offer (More)


> President Joe Biden calls for federal regulators to investigate if oil and gas giants are engaging in “illegal conduct” to drive gasoline prices higher (More)


> Yogurt maker Chobani files for initial public offering, company reported $1.4B in 2020 sales; analysts expect it could fetch valuation of over $10B (More)

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Politics & World Affairs

> Deliberations in the homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse stretch into day three today; defense asks for mistrial after prosecutors concede they provided a lower-quality drone video of the events in question (More)


> Jacob Chansley, also known as the "QAnon Shaman," receives more than three years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol (More)


> House votes to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R, AZ-4) for tweeting an anime video depicting him killing a photoshopped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY-14); Gosar becomes the fourth member censured in four decades (More)



Singapore's Utopian Nightmare

Rest of World | Peter Guest. How Singapore's pursuit of a society awash in "smart tech" has turned the nation into a surveillance state nightmare. (Read)

How Your Family Tree Could Catch a Killer

New Yorker | Raffi Khatchadourian. How genetic genealogy is redefining the way police approach cold cases—and raising new questions about what info can be gleaned from DNA analysis. (Read, paywall)



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Scientists identify the perfect hug.


Waste time balancing some virtual rocks.


Mapping the geographic center of the US population since 1790. (via YouTube)


Goodbye Staples Center, hello Crypto.com Arena.


Corpse farm helps advance forensic science.


Stunning high-definition time-lapse footage of the sun.


Accidental Thanksgiving tradition enters year six.


The time Mike Tyson took psychedelic toad venom.


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Historybook: Abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth born (1797); HBD poet and novelist Margaret Atwood (1939); 918 people die in a mass murder-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana (1978); Massachusetts court ruling makes the state the first to recognize same-sex marriage (2003).


"It is the mind that makes the body."

- Sojourner Truth

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