Russia, Olympic Upset, and America's Least Affordable City Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Friday, Feb. 18, and we're covering tensions in Ukraine, a surprise upset in Olympic ice skating, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].



Russia Boots US Diplomat

Russia expelled Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman yesterday, the latest escalation of tensions between Moscow and the West. The dismissal of the second-highest-ranking US diplomat in Russia comes as the US has accused President Vladimir Putin of adding troops at the Russia-Ukraine border despite a widely publicized announcement of a drawdown. 


President Joe Biden warned that Russia may invade Ukraine "within days." A similar warning was issued by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier in the week, foreshadowing an invasion Wednesday—a day during which Russia said it was pulling troops back in the hopes of further diplomacy. Despite the pledge, NATO officials said Russia added at least 7,000 troops, bringing the total force surrounding Ukraine to almost 150,000.   


See a deep-dive visualization on how Russia has used energy dependence as leverage over Europe here.

Valieva Falls Short

Russian Olympic Committee’s Kamila Valieva, the women’s free skate favorite, failed to medal yesterday after falling multiple times in the women’s individual competition. The 15-year-old figure skater placed fourth, while teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova came in first and second, respectively. Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto took the bronze medal.


The performance was overshadowed by a possible doping controversy, revealed after the Russian team took the gold in the team competition. Valieva was cleared to compete in the individual competition despite testing positive for three heart medications in a sample taken in December. (NYT, paywall) One of the drugs, trimetazidine, is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The other drugs, hypoxen and L-carnitine, could increase endurance, but are not currently banned.


Separately, US skier Mikaela Shiffrin did not place in her final event, alpine combined skiing. As a result, the three-time Olympic medal winner will finish with no individual medals. See current medal count here

Death Toll Rises in Brazil

The death toll from devastating mudslides in Brazil has reached at least 117 victims, with more than 110 people remaining unaccounted for, according to officials yesterday. At least 700 families were forced from their homes. Officials said it was the worst rain in almost 90 years.


The mudslides were triggered by widespread flooding following torrential downpours Tuesday. The city of Petropolis, home to about 300,000 residents located roughly 30 miles north of Rio de Janeiro, saw more than 10 inches of rain—more than a month's worth—in roughly three hours. 


The country has been battered by floods and landslides this year, including a disaster in São Paulo in January that killed at least 24 people, including eight children.


See footage of the disaster here (warning—sensitive content).

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with ButcherBox

> "Stranger Things" to wrap after five seasons, Netflix officials announce; fourth season will be released in two volumes beginning May 27 (More)


> Team LeBron takes on Team Durant at Sunday's NBA All-Star Game (8 pm ET, TNT); see full preview of All-Star weekend, including three-point and slam dunk contests (More)


> Joe Rogan's deal with Spotify reportedly worth $200M over three and a half years (More) | Academy Awards to require nominees and guests to be vaccinated (More)

From our partners: Ground. Beef. For. Life. Need we say more? ButcherBox is offering new members 2 lbs of grass-fed and grass-finished ground beef for free in every box for the lifetime of their membership. Pair that with regular shipments (to your door) of free-range organic chicken, wild-caught seafood, and more of the meats you and your family deserve. Claim free beef for life today while it lasts.

Science & Technology

> Truth Social, social media platform backed by former President Donald Trump, reportedly opens to 500 invite-only beta users (More)


> Engineers develop an approach to store information in large-scale quantum computing networks; new method would rely on the spin of an atom's nucleus (More) | How quantum computing works (More)


> Scientists demonstrate evidence of self-awareness in fish; study showed animals identified different sides of their body using a mirror self-recognition test (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets drop (S&P 500 -2.1%, Dow -1.8%, Nasdaq -2.9%) on growing fears of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine (More)


> Tesla lawyers accuse the Securities and Exchange Commission of harassing CEO Elon Musk over compliance with a 2018 settlement (More)


> Billionaire investor Carl Icahn may plan a Proxy fight against McDonald’s if the company continues to partner with pork suppliers using gestation crates (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Canadian police increase presence in downtown Ottawa in response to trucker protest over anti-COVID-19 restrictions, raising the prospect of widespread arrests over the weekend (More)


> Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof ruled ineligible to run for Oregon governor; Pulitzer-prize winning writer left job after forming a political action committee for the election (More)


> Senate passes short-term funding bill, will keep federal government open through March 11 (More)



The Bitcoin Widow

The Walrus | Jennifer Robertson, Stephen Kimber. When Jennifer Robertson's husband died, she discovered his cryptocurrency empire was a sham. (Read)

Loss of Sight

IEEE Spectrum | Eliza Strickland, Mark Harris. After biotech startup Second Sight collapsed, hundreds of users with bionic eye implants were suddenly left in the dark. (Read)

The Legacy of Redlining

FiveThirtyEight | Ryan Best, Elena Mejía. A data-driven look at how urban development formed around the historical discriminatory practice of redlining. (Read)

Batteries Not Included

CFR | Gabrielle Sierra. (Podcast) Why lithium, a critical ingredient in electric vehicles, may be the biggest challenge facing a clean energy economy. (Listen)



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Miami is now the least affordable housing market.


Visualizing the evolution of the American census.


Four-story-tall rogue wave is the biggest ever recorded


New York City has the rudest Uber riders.


NASA snaps a photo of a gas cloud around an exploded star.


Waste time with this interactive traffic simulator (best viewed on desktop). 


An epic volcanic storm over Italy's Mount Etna.


Rams fans celebrate their first Super Bowl parade (in photos).


Clickbait: Memes of Putin's massive table.


Historybook: RIP artist Michelangelo (1564); “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” published in the US (1885); Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto (1930); HBD television personality Vanna White (1957); Auto racing legend Dale Earnhardt killed in crash at Daytona 500 (2001).


"You can't let one bad moment spoil a bunch of good ones."

- Dale Earnhardt

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