7.11.2022

Iran, Sri Lanka Collapse, and the Science of Smelly Wine Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Monday, July 11, and we're covering an escalation in tensions with Iran, an economic collapse in Sri Lanka, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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NEED TO KNOW

 

20% Enrichment

Iran has begun enriching uranium at levels up to 20% at its underground Fordo facility using the country's most advanced reactor setup, officials revealed yesterday. Analysts said the sophisticated reactors allow the country to swiftly change between enrichment levels. 

 

Most commercial nuclear power reactors rely on natural uranium enriched with 3%-5% of the fissile uranium-235 isotope (watch overview). Reactors with 20% enrichment are typically used for research, while weapons-grade material requires 90% enrichment. However, experts say the move from low- to weapons-grade material can be made fairly quickly.

 

The country has gradually resumed enrichment activities following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, and the announcement appears timed with President Joe Biden's upcoming trip to the Middle East, which begins Wednesday.

 

Recent reports suggest Iran has also stockpiled around 95 pounds of 60% enriched uranium, enough to convert into a single nuclear weapon should the country choose to pursue it. 

Crisis in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s top two leaders pledged to resign over the weekend amid mass protests, which saw demonstrators storm the presidential residence. Lawmakers met Sunday to form a new government as both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe remained out of public view, with protesters occupying their homes.

 

The country has been gripped by a monthslong economic crisis spurred by a combination of tax cuts, significant public spending, and a pandemic-induced drop in tourism revenue. In May, Sri Lanka defaulted on $50B in foreign debt and now seeks an aid deal with the International Monetary Fund—an agreement that would come with significant curbs to public programs. Its default may signal a broader trend of nonpayment among developing countries, as experts warn (paywall, Bloomberg) the number of at-risk nations has doubled in six months.

 

Sri Lankans have faced severe shortages of food and fuel, among other necessities. See video of protesters storming the presidential compound here.

Elections in Japan

Japan's Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition secured a supermajority in the upper chamber of the country's parliament yesterday, in elections held just two days after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

 

Abe, who left office two years ago, was shot to death Friday by an attacker while publicly campaigning for a fellow LDP candidate. Gun ownership and firearm-related deaths are both exceptionally rare in Japan, which averages fewer than one gun death per 1 million people each year. Reports suggest the gunman used a homemade gun and held a grudge against Abe for purported links to a religious organization.  

 

The results may allow lawmakers to achieve one of Abe's longtime goals—revising the country's constitution to allow for a traditional military force. In principle, the document currently disallows permanent war-capable forces; read more about Article 9 here

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Elena Rybakina wins Wimbledon tennis tournament, becomes first Kazakhstan winner of a Grand Slam singles title (More) | Novak Djokovic tops Nick Kyrgios to win his fourth consecutive men's Wimbledon title (More)

 

> Tony Sirico, actor best known for role in "The Sopranos," dies at 79 (More) | LQ Jones, veteran character actor with more than 60 film credits, dies at 94 (More)

 

> Las Vegas Raiders tap Sandra Douglass Morgan as NFL's first Black female team president (More) | Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani among headliners announced as  MLB All-Star Game (July 19) starters (More)

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Science & Technology

> NASA announces the five targets captured in the first public batch of photos from the James Webb Space Telescope; images to be released tomorrow (More)

 

> Influenza B vaccine candidate found to stimulate a broad immune response against a number of different strains; influenza B variants accounted for roughly half of reported cases during the 2019-20 flu season (More)

 

> Engineers develop first synthetic heart model with muscle cells aligned in a natural spiral structure, a key step toward building an artificial human heart (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close mixed Friday (S&P 500 -0.1%, Dow -0.2%, Nasdaq +0.1%); all three indices end the week higher (More)

 

> US gas prices fell to average of $4.72 per gallon Friday, down from June record of $5.01 per gallon (More)

 

> May housing-affordability index from the National Association of Realtors reaches most expensive month since 2006 to purchase a US home (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> At least 15 people killed, dozens believed trapped in rubble, after Russian missile strikes residential neighborhood in eastern Ukraine (More) | See updates on the war here (More)

 

> Louisiana abortion ban goes into effect after judge lifts block on law amid legal challenges (More) | See state-by-state laws following Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade (More)

 

> Steve Bannon, ex-adviser to former President Donald Trump, agrees to testify to House Jan. 6 committee (More) | Next committee hearing scheduled for tomorrow (More)

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ETCETERA

 

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Meet the Pringles spider.

 

Clickbait: Why your wine smells like a wet dog.

 

Historybook: President John Q. Adams born (1767); Vice President Aaron Burr mortally wounds Alexander Hamilton in duel (1804); "To Kill a Mockingbird" is published (1960); RIP iconic actor Laurence Olivier (1989); RIP former first lady Lady Bird Johnson (2007).

 

"The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom."

- Lady Bird Johnson

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