8.20.2018

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All your news in a single email. We scour 100+ sources so you don't have to. Culture, science, sports, politics, business, and more - all packaged in a 5-minute read below.
Need To Know.
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Devastating Floods in India.
At least 350 people were killed and nearly 800,000 displaced from their homes after severe flooding in southern India over the weekend. It was the worst flooding in the country in over a century, according to officials (see photos). Flooding is concentrated in the state of Kerala, which typically experiences significant rainfall during the region's monsoon season - a season of heavy rains running from June to September - though officials say rainfall is 40% greater than average so far. Some also blame deforestation in the region for increasing runoff during heavy rains and furthering the risk from landslides. Rains are expected to lessen over the next few days, during which officials hope to increase emergency relief efforts. 
Genetic Code of Wheat Unlocked.
In a milestone achievement, an international group of scientists announced the nearly-complete genetic mapping of one of the most common types of wheat. Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop on Earth and provides about 20% of the world's caloric intake (deeper dive here). Poor harvests can lead to everything from economic downturns in developed countries to starvation, famine, and social unrest in developing nations. The 13-year, $75M effort will allow scientists to develop new breeds of wheat that are higher yield, more nutritious, and most importantly, more resilient to drought, heat, and insects. While it may seem simple, the wheat genome has befuddled geneticists for years - modern-day wheat is actually a combination of three ancient strains. The result is a genetic code more than five times the size of the human genome.  

Heard about genetic mapping but aren't really sure what it means? Here's a good starting point.
Former UN Chief Passes.
Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, passed away over the weekend. As a Ghanaian diplomat, Annan joined the UN in 1962 and oversaw the body from 1997 to 2006. He was awarded the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize - along with the organization at large - for shifting the UN's emphasis towards human rights, as well as its efforts to contain the spread of HIV in Africa. Annan faced calls to resign for overseeing the UN during the much-maligned Oil-for-Food program, which allowed Saddam Hussein's regime to sell oil on the international market in exchange for food, medicine, and other goods for Iraqi citizens. A postmortem analysis of the program estimated that Hussein was able to amass over $10B in illegal kickbacks and smuggled oil (see report). Annan - who was cleared of personal wrongdoing in the scandal - was 80 years old.
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In The Know.
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Sports, Entertainment & Culture.
> Reports say Asia Argento, actress and leading voice in #MeToo movement, paid $380K to settle lawsuit with her own underage sexual assault accuser (More)
> Crazy Rich Asians wins box office weekend with $34M opening haul; is first major studio film in 25 years to feature a nearly all Asian-American cast (More)
> Simone Biles wins US women's gymnastics championships in dominating fashion; becomes first woman ever to win 5 national championships (More)
Science & Technology.
> New process developed to make desalination membranes - which remove salt from water - that uses 95% less chemicals and can add nanometer-thick layers (More)
> Top geneticist loses $4.5M grant over allegations of bullying in first implementation of landmark new policy (More)
> Researchers develop laser-based underwater optical communications based on Earth-to-satellite technology (More)
Business & Markets.
> Pepsi to buy at-home carbonated drink maker SodaStream for $3.2B (More)
> Food delivery startup DoorDash raises $250M at $4B valuation (More)
> Reports suggest Saudi sovereign wealth fund which has been named in Tesla buyout by CEO Musk is in discussions to invest in electric car rival Lucid (More)
Politics & World Affairs.
> Report says former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen under investigation for $20M in bank fraud (More)
> Annual hajj pilgrimage begins in Saudi Arabia, expected to draw 2 million Muslims to city of Mecca (More)
> Taliban take over 100 hostage in Afghan bus attack, one day after Afghan president Ashraf Ghani offered conditional cease-fire (More) | Breaking: US Blackhawk helicopter crashes in Iraq with 10 reportedly on board (More)
Etcetera.
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Parents are the most in need of friends at work.
Low pay is driving teachers to Airbnb and other parts of the sharing economy.
Scarlett Johansson tops this year's list of highest-paid actresses.
Watch a robot arm find Waldo using facial recognition and machine learning.
A polar research ship from 1918 is tugged home to Norway.
Sauce vs rubbed? The 33 best BBQ joints across the country (via Thrillist).
...And if you're tired of chasing down your favorite food truck, try a food hall.
The uneasy science behind why you get hungry when hungover
Clickbait: Meet the 3-year-old Mensa member with an IQ of 171
Historybook: First around-the-world telegram sent (1911); Valley of the Dolls author Jacqueline Susann is born (1918); Leon Trotsky fatally wounded in Mexico (1940); NASA launches Viking 1 probe toward Mars (1975); RIP Jerry Lewis (2017).
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