2.21.2023

Facts, without motives.
 

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Good morning. It's Tuesday, Feb. 21, and we're covering a fresh wave of aftershocks in the Middle East, the culmination of Mardi Gras, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Gonzalez v. Google

The Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week that could redefine the rules of online speech and content moderation. The two cases deal with how social media companies have handled terrorist content and argue the companies should be held responsible for their algorithms.

 

At the heart of Gonzalez v. Google is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—regulations that treat internet companies as publishing intermediaries, meaning they are not liable for content others post (see background). The case argues Google violated US antiterrorism law when YouTube’s algorithms featured ISIS content as recommended videos. If the court rules against Google, it could force tech platforms to fundamentally change their ranking algorithms or engage in aggressive content moderation.

 

The other case, Twitter v. Taamneh, argues Google, Twitter, and Facebook violated US antiterrorism law by knowingly enabling ISIS to maintain some of their content on their platforms, despite company policies to limit it.

 

A ruling in the cases is expected this summer.

 

Aftershocks in Turkey, Syria

At least six people were killed and hundreds more feared to be trapped under rubble as a pair of major aftershocks hit southern Turkey and northern Syria yesterday. The shocks came two weeks after another earthquake claimed almost 45,000 lives. Dozens of already weakened buildings are believed to have collapsed in the 6.3 and 5.8 magnitude quakes.

 

The seismic jolt hit Turkey's Hatay province near the Mediterranean coast atop the juncture of the African and Anatolian tectonic plates (see map). Over 6,000 aftershocks have been recorded since the 7.8 magnitude quake Feb. 6, keeping the 1.6 million Turks in temporary shelters on edge.

 

Turkey estimates over 100,000 structures have been damaged or destroyed out of 2.5 million in the affected area. Leaders announced a plan to rebuild these areas within a year at an estimated $25B cost.

 

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken toured the leveled region, committing $100M in aid to Turkey and Syria. 

 

Fat Tuesday Arrives

Cities around the world are set to celebrate Mardi Gras today, the final day before the Christian fasting and religious observance period of Lent begins. Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival season, which officially begins Jan. 6 of each year, the 12th day after Christmas. 

 

New Orleans, home to the best-known Fat Tuesday festivities in the US, is poised to see at least 1 million visitors and up to $1B in revenue as it brings back its full slate of events after canceling them in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shortening routes for all parades in 2022. The city's iconic krewes—Mardi Gras-focused social clubs (see overview)—have returned to the streets and will culminate with parades by the Krewes of Rex and Zulu today, among others. Watch a livestream here (7 am ET). 

 

Separately, one person was killed and four others injured after a shooting along a Krewe of Bacchus parade route in New Orleans Sunday. A suspect is in custody.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Charges downgraded for Alec Baldwin and "Rust" film armorer, removing a possible five-year sentence; both still charged with involuntary manslaughter with possible 18-month sentence (More)

> Red McCombs, Texas billionaire and former owner of San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Vikings, dies at 95 (More) | Former MVP Russell Westbrook to sign with Los Angeles Clippers after being traded from Los Angeles Lakers to Utah Jazz last week (More)

> "Avatar: The Way of Water" tops $2.24B at global box office to pass "Titanic" for third highest-grossing film ever (More) | Richard Belzer, comedian and actor known for "Law & Order: SVU," dies at 78 (More)

From our partners:  And the top 6 bonus cards are (cue drumroll) ... 2023 is here, and experts at The Ascent have sorted through hundreds of credit cards. These 6 are among the best bonus cards they’ve ever seen.

 

Science & Technology

> Scientists demonstrate light-activated tumor treatments, a targeted approach with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy (More)

> Researchers find common blood pressure drug fasudil reverses some key symptoms of schizophrenia (More)

> New model reveals how the blood-brain barrier protects against harmful diseases, replicating the cell-to-cell interactions primarily responsible for the fluid dynamics within blood vessels (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US venture capital fundraising falls 65% in Q4 over previous year; $20.6B raised is lowest Q4 figure since 2013 (More)

> Telecom giant Ericsson to reduce headcount by 1,400 to cut costs amid slowing demand (More)

> Meta (Facebook) fights off $3.7B UK collective lawsuit alleging the company abused its power (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> At least 40 people killed in Brazil's São Paulo state after heavy rain triggers flooding and landslides; several cities cancel Carnival celebrations (More) | Cyclone Freddy—currently equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane—forecast to hit Madagascar Tuesday evening and Mozambique later this week (More

> President Joe Biden makes surprise trip to Ukraine's capital of Kyiv, announces $500M in new round of aid (More) | Japan pledges $5.5B in additional aid to Ukraine, plans to host online summit with G-7 nations and Ukraine (More) | See war updates (More)

> Asbury University in Kentucky ends two weeks of nonstop worship services for the general public, which had attracted thousands of people from across the country after going viral on TikTok (More) | Suspect arrested in the fatal shooting of Roman Catholic auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles David G. O'Connell (More)

 

In-Depth

> Explaining ChatGPT

Stephen Wolfram | Stephen Wolfram. Using simple examples, a computer scientist explains the concepts behind ChatGPT and how other neural networks work. (Read)

 

> The Children of the Ice Age

Aeon | April Nowell. A window into what children’s lives might have been like during the Paleolithic era with the help of new archaeological approaches. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

Apple releases 31 new emojis, including a shaking face.

 

Venice waterways are drying up

 

Every US president as a Pixar character. (via Twitter) 

 

Saudi Arabia unveils plans for a giant cube-shaped skyscraper.

 

Peek inside the Caribbean's most expensive home

 

AI artist creates a fashion show featuring senior models.

 

An IT firm shuts down employees' computers when it's time to go home.

 

A dog takes on a hammerhead shark (w/video). 

 

Clickbait: Russian pranksters dupe Germany's ex-leader Angela Merkel.

 

Historybook: "The Communist Manifesto" is published by Karl Marx (1848);  Musician Nina Simone born (1933); NASCAR founded (1948); Malcolm X assassinated (1965); Rev. Billy Graham dies (2018).

"I'll tell you what freedom is to me—no fear."

- Nina Simone

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