12.16.2021

Derek Chauvin, NASA Touches the Sun, and The Killer Ts Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Thursday, Dec. 16, and we're covering a guilty plea by Derek Chauvin, a historic milestone for NASA, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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NEED TO KNOW

 

Chauvin Pleads Guilty

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded guilty yesterday to federal civil rights violations stemming from the arrest and killing of George Floyd last May. The decision likely avoids another trial expected to be subject to intense public scrutiny.

 

Chauvin was convicted of state-level murder and manslaughter charges during an April criminal trial, receiving a sentence of more than 22 years in prison. The federal charges were brought separately, alleging Floyd's rights were violated twice—once when Chauvin kneeled on his neck despite Floyd being handcuffed and not resisting, and again when Chauvin failed to call for medical care. A sentencing hearing is yet to be scheduled; experts say the plea may add around six years to his term.

 

Three other former officers involved in Floyd's death—Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao—go on trial in March.

Medals of Honor Awarded

The Biden administration will award three Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, to soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in a White House ceremony today. The soldiers receiving the honor include Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, Master Sgt. Earl Plumlee, and Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Celiz.

 

Cashe will become the first Black US service member to receive the honor since Vietnam. Cashe died in 2005 from injuries sustained while rescuing soldiers from a burning vehicle in Iraq. Plumlee, a member of the Army’s elite Special Forces, fended off Taliban suicide bombers in Afghanistan in 2013. Celiz, an Army Ranger, placed himself between Taliban soldiers and a US helicopter evacuating soldiers in Afghanistan in 2018; he died in combat.

 

Historically, Medals of Honor must be awarded within five years of the action. However, legislation was passed earlier this year that waived the five-year limit for Cashe, Plumlee, and two others. See all past recipients and their stories here.

NASA 'Touches' the Sun

NASA's Parker Solar Probe became the first spacecraft to successfully reach the sun's outer atmosphere, a long-awaited milestone expected to provide insight into solar dynamics and the star's influence on the rest of the solar system. 

 

Known as the corona, the outer solar region extends millions of miles above the visible surface (see diagram). The region is filled with extremely fast-moving charged particles that give rise to ever-changing magnetic fields and occasionally burst outward into space, a potential hazard for satellites and electrical equipment on Earth.  

 

The probe, now traveling at speeds over 200,000 mph, finished the roughly 90-million-mile trip in April, with results published this week. See a video overview of the mission here.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with NIPYATA!

> Bruce Springsteen sells rights to music catalog to Sony for $500M; includes more than 300 songs and 20 albums (More

 

> "Hamilton" among multiple Broadway shows that cancel performances due to rising COVID-19 cases in New York City (More) | bell hooks, author and activist known for "Ain't I a Woman?" and "All About Love," dies at 69 (More)

 

> Top recruit Travis Hunter makes history in selecting HBCU school Jackson State on college football national signing day (More) | See rankings of top recruiting classes (More) | Urban Meyer fired as Jacksonville Jaguars coach before finishing his first season (More)

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Science & Technology

> Cybersecurity researchers say state-sponsored hacker groups from China, Iran, North Korea, and more are exploiting a significant vulnerability in a widely used platform discovered over the weekend (More) | What is the Log4j exploit? (More)

 

> New analysis finds the Arctic is warming four times faster than the global average; unclear how much of increase is due to natural variability in ocean temperatures (More)

 

> Researchers determine how a fly's brain calculates its position in space; study finds a group of neurons that track direction of movement, regardless of the position of the insect's head (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets rise (S&P 500 +1.6%, Dow +1.1%, Nasdaq +2.2%) after Federal Reserve states it will likely raise interest rates three times next year to battle inflation (More)

 

> Airline executives from American, United, Delta, and Southwest testify before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to discuss the economic effects of the recent government aid (More)

 

> The Securities and Exchange Commission issues a series of new proposals including potential regulations of “swaps” derivatives and new restrictions on executive stock trading (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Congress passes annual defense bill, authorizing $770B for defense spending in fiscal year 2022; see major items here (More) | Everything you need to know about the federal budget (More)

 

> National Archives releases nearly 1,500 previously classified documents relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (More) | Explore here (More)

 

> Intense windstorms shut down highways and airports, spawn tornadoes across the central US; peak winds were recorded as high as 100 mph (More)

IN-DEPTH

 

The Breakthrough Problem

MIT Press Reader | Michael Bhaskar. How a history of scientific and medical advances makes it more and more difficult to achieve paradigm-shifting innovations. (Read)

The Killer Ts

Atlantic | Katherine Wu. A look at how the immune system's T cells work, and how they can provide protection against COVID-19 long after antibody levels wane. (Read)

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ETCETERA

 

Watch a Kentucky man play piano inside a tornado-destroyed home.

 

How the media misreported 2021.

 

The best road trip in each state.

 

A fascinating timelapse of a seed growing into a giant pumpkin.

 

The World Chess Championship in five charts.

 

An oddly fascinating simulator of human vocalization.

 

Kraft will pay you to not make cheesecake.

 

Organizers apologize for making teachers desperately scramble for $1 bills.

 

Clickbait: Rare deep-sea fish with transparent head can see through its skull.

 

Historybook: Ludwig van Beethoven born (1770); Boston Tea Party occurs (1773); Author Jane Austen born (1775); Anthropologist Margaret Mead born (1901); World War II’s Battle of the Bulge begins (1944).

 

"The traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep."

- Margaret Mead 

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