11.4.2021

Pegasus Sanctions, 'My Name is Cleo,' and the Tsar Bomba Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Thursday, Nov. 4, and we're covering sanctions on an Israeli tech company, a sigh of relief in Australia, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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NEED TO KNOW

 

Pegasus Sanctions

The US placed well-known Israeli spyware firm NSO Group on a Commerce Department blacklist yesterday over its purported role in a phone-hacking scheme exposed over the summer. Three other businesses based in Israel, Russia, and Singapore were also added. 

 

A series of joint articles published in July revealed one of NSO's core tools, Pegasus, had been used by intelligence agencies and law enforcement groups around the world to spy on journalists, activists, politicians, and others. The software is capable of covertly installing on mobile phones (see overview), often requiring no user interaction, and provides access to text messages, photos, and more. Among other targets, the software was reportedly used by Saudi Arabia to monitor slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi. See others potentially targeted here.

 

The company maintains it sells its tools to governments to combat crime and terrorism.

'My Name is Cleo'

Police in Western Australia successfully recovered 4-year-old Cleo Smith yesterday, ending a case that had gripped the country for more than two weeks. Smith was found in good health and reportedly with no visible harm. 

 

The odd details of the abduction captured the nation's attention. Smith had been camping with her parents at a remote seaside campsite. Her mother reported Cleo asked for water around 1:30 am Oct. 16, but was missing by morning; the parents said the tent, whose zipper was too high for the young girl to reach, had been left open. 

 

Despite a $750K reward, police said tips did not yield the suspect. Rather a series of undisclosed pieces of evidence ultimately led to a 36-year-old suspect who lived just 2 miles from the family's home.

 

See the moment Cleo was rescued here.

Violence in Ethiopia

A United Nations report released yesterday detailed atrocities in Ethiopia's civil war,  condemning both the government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front for their roles in the yearlong civil war. The report comes a day after Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency after Tigrayan rebels gained territory near Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed—who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize—called on citizens to take up arms against Tigrayan forces.

 

The Biden administration announced it would remove the country from a special trade program over the rights issues. The program gives sub-Saharan African countries duty-free trade status with the US; removal could significantly harm Ethiopia's manufacturing sector.

 

The conflict began last November, and both sides continue to fight for control of the northern Tigray region; thousands of people have been killed, and more than a million have been displaced. See a background on the country's civil war here.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> South African author Damon Galgut's novel "The Promise" wins prestigious Booker Prize for best novel written in English and published in UK or Ireland (More)

 

> Reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to miss game after positive COVID-19 test; Rodgers reportedly is not vaccinated (More) | Prosecutors say wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was driving 156 mph before crash that killed woman Tuesday morning (More)

 

> The 2021 World Series averaged 11.7 million viewers; up 20% from last season but still second lowest audience ever (More)

Science & Technology

> Genetic mutation responsible for up to 20% of cases of a common progressive heart condition, known as dilated cardiomyopathy, identified; results may help lead to treatments for the disease (More)

 

> Engineers demonstrate first start-to-finish device converting water and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into usable synthetic fuel using solar power (More)

 

> New research suggests large whale populations play a more important role in ocean ecosystems than previously thought, supporting populations of phytoplankton that form the base of the ocean food chain (More)

Business & Markets

Brought to you by Miso

> US stock markets up (S&P 500 +0.7%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq +1.0%) to all-time highs for fourth consecutive session as Federal Reserve keeps rates unchanged, announces plan to end its bond-buying program (More)

 

> Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, sees quarterly profits increase to $5.5B up from $947M last year (More)

 

> Shares of Allbirds, the popular eco-friendly shoemaker, up over 90% in first day trading to roughly $4B valuation after raising $303M in initial public offering (More)

From our partners: Would you like your wings mild, medium, hot, or robot-flipped? Miso Robotics—the company responsible for robotic frying solution Flippy—just announced its latest partnership with Inspire Brands (parent company of Buffalo Wild Wings). They're calling it Flippy Wings, and it's forecast to increase food production speed 10%-20%. They're currently working with 10 of the top 25 brands in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry, with dozens of pilot programs like Flippy Wings along the way. Take a bite in the future of the QSR industry today, and check out Miso Robotics' investment offering before it closes Nov. 18.

Politics & World Affairs

> House Democrats to add paid family leave back into potential social spending package; narrowed provision would provide four weeks at a cost near $170B (More) | Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has previously rejected the provision (More)

 

> Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) projected to beat challenger Jack Ciattarelli (R) by a margin of 0.8%; becomes the first Democrat to be reelected governor in New Jersey since 1977 (More) | Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D) wins reelection in second round of ranked-choice voting (More)

 

> Pentagon watchdog finds no misconduct or negligence in airstrike that mistakenly killed 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, in final days of US withdrawal (More)

IN-DEPTH

 

The Untold Story of the Tsar Bomba

The Bulletin | Alex Wellerstein. Sixty years ago, a Russian plane detonated a school bus-sized nuclear bomb over a desolate Arctic tundra—by far the most powerful atomic explosion in history. Newly released documents reveal just how seriously the Kennedy administration took the threat. (Read)

The Butcher of Havana

Atavist | Tony Perrottet. How a Milwaukee drifter rose through the rankings of Fidel Castro's rebel army to become the chief executioner of the Cuban revolution. (Read)

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ETCETERA

 

Children's screen time doubled during the pandemic—but never recovered.

 

History's richest people, before the Industrial Revolution.

 

Water bear fossil among October's best science photos.

 

Indiana city offers "stand-in" grandparents for new residents.

 

Surreal finalists of the Redesign the World competition.

 

Bots are coming for your two-factor authentication.

 

Oceanside nuclear plants have a jellyfish problem.

 

Get a steal on Carrie Bradshaw's Manhattan apartment.

 

Clickbait: Man jumps into lake to escape bees, gets eaten by piranhas.

 

Historybook: Journalist Walter Cronkite born (1916); Nellie Tayloe Ross becomes first woman elected governor in the US (1924); HBD Sean "Diddy" Combs (1969); Iran hostage crisis begins (1979); Barack Obama becomes first African American elected US president (2008).

 

"There is no such thing as a little freedom. Either you are all free, or you are not free."

- Walter Cronkite

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