Good morning. It's Thursday, Aug. 20, and in overnight news, Michigan will reportedly pay almost $600M to victims of the Flint water crisis, while a top critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been poisoned. Have feedback? Let us know at email@example.com.
California's Bay Area was blanketed in smoke as dozens of wildfires raged on three sides of San Francisco. Intense lightning storms earlier in the week sparked at least three major clusters of fires: to the south, at least 25,000 acres have burned in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, with 22,000 evacuated; to the east, fires exploded in size overnight Wednesday to more than 100,000 acres; and to the north, 125,000 acres near the city of Vacaville had been consumed. As of this morning, at least one death had been reported; see a map of the fires here.
The flames are fueled by a weeklong heat wave stifling Western states with low humidity and gusty, hot winds. The fires come as utility operators enacted the first rolling blackouts in the state since 2001 to meet energy demand amid high
Apple became the first US company to surpass $2T in market value yesterday, briefly eclipsing the mark ending the day at $1.98T. The milestone comes just over two years since it passed $1T—which took four decades to reach—and punctuates a remarkable year during which its stock has risen 60% despite the historic, pandemic-induced economic crash. Its success also reflects the Big Tech boom, driven in part by a homebound population more reliant on technology—Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet (Google) now make up almost 25% of the S&P 500's value.
The news comes as Epic Games, maker of the popular video game Fortnite, is suing Apple and Google. The pair control nearly 100% of the US mobile operating system market, taking a 30% revenue cut of all in-app purchases—a practice many developers have criticized as anticompetitive.
Life Without Uber?
Ridesharing giants Uber and Lyft may suspend their California operations as early as tomorrow, barring a last-minute legal intervention by courts. The move follows a ruling last week by a state judge requiring the companies to adhere to a 2019 law reclassifying many gig economy workers from independent contractors to employees. Uber and Lyft appealed that ruling, which goes into effect tonight at midnight.
State officials argue classifying workers as independent
contractors allows companies to avoid providing benefits afforded to employees—including not having to pay into state unemployment insurance funds (see differences). The companies say it increases worker flexibility and allows them to quickly bring on new drivers. Uber, which has 22,000 employees but almost 1 million drivers in the US, has argued it's not a transportation company, but a technology platform ($$, Wired).
A November ballot initiative would create an exemption to last year's law for app-based rideshare and delivery drivers.
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IN THE KNOW
Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
>Actress and filmmaker Olivia Wilde tapped to direct an upcoming female-centric Marvel movie (More) | Study says male film critics outnumber female critics nearly two to one (More)
>Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion to give away $1M to women while promoting their new song "WAP,” which broke a record with 93 million streams in its first week (More)
>NFL considering bubble-like environment for the postseason (More) | New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft wins appeal in prostitution case (More)
Science & Technology
>Lab-on-a-chip prototype demonstrates low-cost, accurate testing for COVID-19 antibodies; may be available for clinical use by the end of the year (More)
>Methylmalonic acid, a byproduct of digesting protein and fat, found to accumulate in the blood over time while promoting the spread of cancer cells (More)
>Scientists demonstrate microrobot capable of carrying 2.6 times its own weight using only methanol (More)
>Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) accepts Democratic vice-presidential nomination, with Joe Biden to formally accept presidential nomination tonight; watch speech here (More) | Former President Barack Obama gives remarks (More)
>US intelligence determines local officials in Wuhan, China, hid the extent of early coronavirus outbreaks, slowing global response (More) | US reports 5.53 million total cases, with 173,181 deaths, as of this morning; see how your state is doing here (More)
>Operation Legend nets more than 1,000 arrests, with over 200 federal charges and 90 homicide suspects; Justice Department effort deployed federal agents to nine cities to clamp down on rising violent crime (More)
Seven Months In, What We Know About COVID-19
STAT | Staff. What's safe, what's dangerous, how the virus spreads, why some experience months of symptoms, and more—review everything we've learned (and what we don't know) about the coronavirus. (Read)
Editor's note: Also check out this harrowing personal account ($$) of the
illness from LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke.
The Man Without a Name
Vox | Katya Cengel. The rise of genetic genealogy and the true crime boom have allowed throngs of amateur sleuths to track down missing persons and reveal unknown identities. But should some people have the right to disappear? (Read)
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 comedian Jerry Lewis (2017).
"I've had great success being a total idiot."
- Jerry Lewis
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