12.8.2021

Putin Call, Merkel Exits, and the Year's Most Mispronounced Words Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Dec. 8, and we're covering a call between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, a power handoff in Germany, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

NEED TO KNOW

 

Biden-Putin Call

President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a two-hour video call yesterday, a conversation spurred by the reported possibility of a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.

 

US intelligence and satellite images have suggested an estimated 175,000 troops have amassed at, or are en route to, the countries' shared border, suggesting Russia may mount an invasion in the coming months. Russia previously invaded Ukraine, annexing the strategically important Crimean Peninsula in 2014. 

 

Transcripts have not been provided; however, Biden reportedly warned Putin of heavy economic sanctions by the US and allies. Putin was expected to try to extract a guarantee Ukraine would not gain membership to NATO, a military alliance led by the US and western European countries (see overview). It remains unclear whether Russia is using the buildup to extract concessions or intends military action. 

 

See background on the long-running conflict here.

Merkel Exits, Scholz Enters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel formally steps down today, ending her 16-year tenure as one of Europe's most prominent leaders of the post-World War II era. Current Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz will be sworn in as Merkel's successor. 

 

Head of the center-right Christian Democratic Union, Merkel announced in 2018 her current term would be her last, having led the country since 2005. Sometimes viewed as the de facto leader of the European Union, Germany's economy grew 34% during her time in office (though it has remained static in recent years). See a review of her tenure here.

 

The swearing-in comes one day after Scholz and his center-left Social Democrats party finalized a deal with the country's Green and Free Democrats parties. The coalition has vowed to emphasize climate policy, which became a key election issue after devastating July floods killed more than 180 people. 

USS Oklahoma Project

A six-year project by the Defense Department to assign names to 394 unidentified victims of the sinking of the USS Oklahoma came to an end yesterday, with the final remains reinterred after being analyzed. The closure came during a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Of the 2,403 US personnel killed in the attack, 429 came from the sinking of the Nevada-class battleship.

 

Using groundbreaking DNA testing techniques, investigators were able to identify 361 of the 394 unidentified remains. Historically, DNA from the maternal line has been used for identification, but new technologies now allow genetic material to be cross-checked from the paternal side. More than 13,000 bones were exhumed from Honolulu's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in 2015, and more than 5,000 DNA samples were collected to identify the remains. 

 

Efforts to identify crew members killed on the USS California and USS West Virginia are ongoing. Listen to a 101-year-old survivor recount his escape from the USS Oklahoma here.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Australia joins the US in diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics over China's human rights record (More

 

Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, to be melted down and converted into public artwork (More)

 

> Publisher HarperCollins cancels Chris Cuomo's book, "Deep Denial," which was due to be published in fall 2022 (More) | Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson among top winners at 2021 People's Choice Awards (More)

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Science & Technology

> Rohingya refugees sue Meta (Facebook) for $150B, saying its platform was used to perpetuate hate speech and fuel the killing of more than 25,000 people between 2016 and 2018 (More)

 

> US COVID-19 deaths averaging more than 1,500 per day following the Thanksgiving holiday, cases rise to around 120,000 per day (More) | Early reports suggest omicron variant may cause less severe symptoms, but spread faster (More) | ... and may evade antibodies more efficiently (More)

 

> New type of earthquake identified by geologists; the slow and long-lasting movements have been linked to stress around hydraulic fracturing oil and gas wells (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets climb (S&P 500 +2.1%, Dow +1.4%, Nasdaq +3.0%) on news omicron variant may have a lower severe infection rate than previously feared (More)

 

> Amazon Web Services experiences six-hour outage taking numerous services and businesses offline (More)

 

> American Airlines CEO Doug Parker to retire in March after running company for 20 years (More) | World Inequality Report finds the top 0.01% of individuals (those worth over $19M) hold 11% of global wealth (More

Politics & World Affairs

> Congress reaches deal on maneuver that would enable Democrats to raise the debt ceiling by simple majority; at least 10 Republicans would still need to vote to bring the proposed rule up for debate (More) | House passes $768B defense authorization bill (More)

 

> French police detain Saudi Arabian national suspected in the 2018 killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi; critical of the Saudi government, Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey (More)

 

> Mark Meadows says he won't cooperate with Jan. 6 committee probing the storming of the US Capitol; the former Trump chief of staff could potentially face contempt charges (More)

GIFTS TO IMPRESS

 

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ETCETERA

 

The year's most mispronounced words.

 

A Martian panorama tops December's best science images.

 

Visualizing what makes up the Earth's crust.

 

Take a peek inside Santa school. (via YouTube)

 

Ranking the art world's 100 most influential people and trends

 

Stunning snapshots of a winter garden's animal visitors.

 

Billionaire surrenders $70M in stolen art

 

The 50 best music albums of 2021.

 

Clickbait: A T. rex in a Christmas sweater.

 

Historybook: Mary, Queen of Scots born (1542); The US declares war on Japan (1941); Musician Jim Morrison born (1943); John Lennon murdered outside his residence in New York City (1980); North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, signed into law (1993); RIP astronaut and senator John Glenn (2016).

 

"We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves."

- John Glenn

Why 1440? The printing press was invented in the year 1440, spreading knowledge to the masses and changing the course of history. Guess what else? There are 1,440 minutes in a day and every one is precious. That’s why we scour hundreds of sources every day to provide a concise, comprehensive, and objective view of what's happening in the world. Reader feedback is a gift—shoot us a note at [email protected].

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