2.24.2023

Facts, without motives.
 

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Good morning. It's Friday, Feb. 24, and we're covering the anniversary of the war in Ukraine, surprise testimony in a high-profile South Carolina case, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

One Year of War

Today marks the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, escalating an armed conflict which simmered in Ukraine's east since 2014. The move triggered what has become Europe's largest land war since World War II. 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin began massing troops along the Ukraine border in March 2021, though whether a full-scale invasion was imminent was debated at the time. The past 12 months have included a rebuffed initial Russian surge, a Ukrainian counteroffensive, and intense fighting in Ukraine's south and east. See a map of how the battle has evolved over time here.

 

Western intelligence suggests military casualties—those either dead or wounded—are nearing 200,000 for Russia and have reached 100,000 for Ukraine. International groups have confirmed the deaths of more than 8,000 Ukrainian civilians but believe the true toll to be higher.

 

Estimates suggest at least 8 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while 8 million others have fled the country. Ukraine's population was above 41 million before the invasion. 

 

Total Western aid—including military, economic, and humanitarian support—has topped $135B. Of that total, more than $75B has been provided by the US. 

 

Putin, in recent days, has cast the war in a historical context, referring to countries adjacent to the country as originally Russian land. Analysts have warned Russia is ramping up for a renewed offensive while also questioning its remaining military capacity. 

 

See photos from a year of war here (warning—sensitive content).

 

R. Kelly Sentenced

Former R&B singer R. Kelly was sentenced in a Chicago federal court to 20 years yesterday, his second sentencing in less than a year. Kelly, 56, was convicted in September on three counts of production of child pornography and three counts of enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.

 

Kelly will serve 19 years concurrently and one year consecutively to his prior 30-year sentence for a federal racketeering conviction in New York, bringing his total to 31 years. Prosecutors had asked for a 25-year sentence to be served once his other 30-year sentence was complete, while Kelly’s defense argued that he is already serving a “de facto life sentence” as the singer may be nearly 90 when he is released.

 

Kelly has been accused of sexually abusing underage girls for nearly three decades. He still faces solicitation charges in Minnesota; Chicago prosecutors dismissed similar charges against Kelly last month. See the timeline of the case here.

 

Murdaugh Testifies

Former influential South Carolina lawyer Alex Murdaugh took the stand yesterday to testify in his own defense against charges he murdered his wife and son. His testimony included his first admission he was present on the property the night of the crime, though he maintained his innocence in the killings.  

 

Murdaugh is accused of killing his wife Maggie and son Paul at the family's hunting lodge in June 2021. At the time, Paul Murdaugh was facing felony charges in a 2019 drunken boating accident that left one person dead. The case has included a number of twists and turns—Alex Murdaugh was found to have embezzled funds from his firm, he attempted to have himself killed, and investigators opened new separate probes into two unusual deaths of family acquaintances from 2015 and 2018. 

 

See the testimony here, and read a deep dive into the family and its history.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 16 years in prison on Los Angeles rape charges; Weinstein is already serving 23 years on separate New York City charges (More)

> UK government confirms role of independent regulator that can block English soccer clubs from joining the upstart European Super League (More) | YouTube star Jake Paul takes on undefeated British boxer Tommy Fury Sunday (2 pm ET, ESPN+ PPV) from Saudi Arabia (More)

> US Copyright Office rules artwork and images produced using artificial intelligence tools cannot be copyrighted (More)

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Science & Technology

> European Commission and European Council become latest Western governmental organizations to ban social video platform TikTok over security concerns (More)

> New implants allow scientists to measure octopus brainwaves during free-moving activity; study of the animals' brains is of great interest due to their large size and evolution in underwater environments (More)

> Google makes key quantum computing advance, demonstrating for the first time error rates of computations can be reduced by using more qubits (More) | Quantum computing 101 (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.5%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq +0.7%) snapping S&P 500 four-day losing streak (More)

> President Joe Biden nominates Ajay Banga, former MasterCard CEO and current private equity firm partner, to serve as president of the World Bank (More)

> FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried charged with four new criminal charges related to commodities fraud and illegal political donations (More) | Ozy Media CEO and cofounder arrested Thursday, pleads not guilty to fraud charges (More

 

Politics & World Affairs

> More than 800,000 customers in Michigan lose power after severe winter storm rolls through the Upper Midwest; system expected to hit US Northeast beginning today (More) | Portland, Oregon, sees second snowiest day on record; first blizzard warning for Southern California mountains since 1989 (More)

> Safety inspectors release preliminary report on East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment; find cause was an overheated axel, crew lacked sufficient time to react (More) | See an overview of the incident here (More)

> Police identify suspect in Orlando, Florida, shooting spree that killed three, including a television reporter and a 9-year-old girl (More)

 

In-Depth

> Inside the Publisher Merger Trial

Harper's | Christian Lorentzen. The two largest US publishing companies in the US were blocked from merging in November, and one critic—who sat through the three-week trial—reports on the serious and silly takeaways. (Read)

 

> Baltimore's Highway to Nowhere

Baltimore Magazine | Ron Cassie. Amid attempts to connect major highways through downtown, entire Baltimore neighborhoods were razed for a project that never came to be. (Read)

> A Year of Protest

Economist | Staff. Despite the significant risks posed by protesting the war in Russia, thousands have spent the last year resisting their government's invasion of Ukraine. (Watch)

 

> The Last Soviet

Kaleidoscope | Lance Bass. (Podcast) As the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, solo cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev remained on the Soviet space station Mir for 311 days until things on earth settled down. (Listen)

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Etcetera
 

Onlooker captures a rockfall at Yosemite's El Capitan. (via YouTube)

 

A selfie with the Chinese spy balloon.

 

Americans are largely satisfied with their personal life.

 

Ranking the countries with the longest healthy retirements.

 

What happens when you make an AI clone of yourself?

 

Beautiful flowers that bees can't use.

 

Can you use kombucha to make circuit boards? Apparently, yes.

 

Heinz searches for the man who survived for a month at sea on ketchup.

 

Clickbait: Creepy Cookie Monster stalks Santa Cruz.

 

Historybook: Marbury v. Madison establishes principle of judicial review in the US (1803); Nike cofounder Phil Knight born (1938); Steve Jobs born (1955); "Hidden Figures" NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson dies (2020); Russia begins full-scale invasion of Ukraine (2022). 

"History is one long processional of crazy ideas."

- Phil Knight

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