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Good morning. It's Wednesday, March 20, and we're covering charges against Brazil's former leader, a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

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Need To Know

Brazil's Bolsonaro Indicted

Brazilian federal police have indicted former President Jair Bolsonaro over allegations he falsified his COVID-19 vaccination data in the country's public health database in December 2022 to falsely indicate that he, his daughter, and close associates had received the vaccine. He also faces charges of criminal association for allegedly conspiring with his aides to enter the false data.


The news follows a yearlong investigation into whether the then-president, who was openly skeptical of the vaccines, forged his vaccine card to bypass international entry requirements. This marks the first indictment for the former president, who faces several investigations, including corruption related to vaccine purchases from Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech in 2021 and an alleged coup attempt in 2022.


Brazil’s prosecutor-general will now decide whether to file charges, which would then be judged by the Supreme Court. Analysts suggest he could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted of falsifying health data, with up to four years for the criminal association charge. Bolsonaro has denied any wrongdoing.


Hong Kong Security Law

Hong Kong lawmakers unanimously passed a national security law yesterday strengthening punishments for offenses tied to dissent and espionage. The law, effective Saturday, will expand the city’s ability to crack down on activists and journalists, many jailed following the 2019 antigovernment protests.


Article 23, named after a section of Hong Kong's 1997 mini constitution that mandated such a law, was fast-tracked by the city's pro-Beijing legislature. It expands upon a China-imposed national security law from 2020, punishing treason and insurrection with life in prison. It also penalizes the theft of state secrets and “external interference,” a term critics say is so broad it endangers over 6,000 foreign businesses with offices in Hong Kong. The law also allows the city’s chief executive to bypass the legislature to establish related offenses punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison.


Hong Kong lawmakers attempted to pass similar legislation in 2003 but scrapped the bill following mass protests (see timeline). The city—whose leaders are seen as increasingly aligned with China—is scheduled to become more closely integrated with the mainland in 2047 following the UK's 1997 handover (see history).


Unilever Splits from Ice Cream

British consumer products giant Unilever will spin off its ice cream division by the end of 2025 as part of a broader restructuring, which will see 7,500 jobs cut for a savings of $870M over three years. The company owns some of the highest-profile ice cream brands in the world, including Ben & Jerry's, Breyers, and Magnum. Shares in the company closed up 3% on the news.


Unilever, the world's largest soap producer, owns a stable of consumer product brands, including Dove, Hellmann's, Vaseline, and Axe (see list). Its capital-intensive, $8B ice cream unit—which depends on highly energy-dependent refrigerated supply chains—has underperformed in recent years, receiving half the profits of its personal care offerings amid declining sales. Recently hired CEO Hein Schumacher announced plans last year to focus on 30 of the company's brands to simplify and accelerate growth.


The move concludes an occasionally tumultuous 24-year relationship with pun-loving Ben & Jerry's, a brand known for its outspoken political views. 

In partnership with EnergyX

The Next Gold Rush


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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with Babbel

> Blink-182, SZA, and Tyler, the Creator among headliners tapped to perform at 2024 Lollapalooza in Chicago (Aug. 1-4); see full festival lineup (More)

> "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" becomes Disney+'s most-streamed music film three days after its release on the streaming service (More) | NFL star Travis Kelce in talks to host "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" reboot (More)

> NCAA women's basketball tournament kicks off tonight with "First Four" matchups (More) | ESPN announces $7.8B deal to maintain broadcasting rights for the College Football Playoff through 2031 (More) | Russian and Belarusian athletes barred from 2024 Paris Olympics opening ceremonies (More)

From our partners: Ever wish you spoke another language? Stop dreaming and start doing with Babbel, the app that teaches you to start speaking a new language in just 3 weeks. Created by expert linguists, Babbel teaches bite-sized daily lessons to help you speak like a local quickly. Simply pick one of 14 languages and voilà–you’ll be guided through podcasts, games, and live virtual classes. Get 55% off a Babbel subscription today and learn your dream language(s)!


Science & Technology

> Google's DeepMind unveils TacticAI, an AI-powered model capable of providing strategic suggestions for soccer, including accurately predicting the outcome of corner kicks (More) | Nvidia announces the world's most powerful chip for AI applications (More)

> World Meteorological Organization releases annual global climate assessment, finds March 2023 to February 2024 was the warmest 12-month period in 174 years of record keeping (More)

> Protein found in human sweat helps protect against Lyme disease, new study suggests; finding may lead to new preventive treatments for the condition that affects half a million Americans annually (More)


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.6%, Dow +0.8%, Nasdaq +0.4%); Federal Reserve is expected to keep interest rates steady today (More) | Nordstrom shares close up 9% following report of its founding family looking to take the US retailer private (More)

> Bank of Japan raises interest rates for first time in 17 years, bringing rates to a range of 0% to 0.1%; move ends an eight-year era of negative interest rates (More) | How negative interest rates work (More) | Chinese property giant Evergrande's unit Hengda Real Estate and founder fined $590M for allegedly inflating revenues by $78B in 2019-20 (More)

> Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announces donation of $640M to 361 small nonprofits (More) | Microsoft hires DeepMind cofounder Mustafa Suleyman to run consumer AI division (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> US Supreme Court clears Texas to implement law allowing local officials to arrest and deport migrants; court’s order in effect while issue plays out in appeals court (More) | Congressional leaders agree on Department of Homeland Security funding, one of multiple bills needed to avoid partial government shutdown Saturday (More)

> Businessman Bernie Moreno wins Ohio Republican primary to challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in November (More) | Former White House adviser Peter Navarro begins four-month prison sentence following conviction for contempt of Congress (More) | Former President Donald Trump sues ABC over alleged defamation (More)

> Vatican criticized by legal analysts after Pope Francis issued four secret decrees during trial over Vatican's failed $380M investment in London property; decrees allow prosecutors to wiretap and detain suspects without a warrant (More

In partnership with EnergyX

How GM Is Securing Its Lithium Supply


The world will need to produce 3.8 million tons of lithium per year by 2035 to meet the demand for electric vehicles. General Motors is turning to one startup to unlock US-based lithium supply: EnergyX. EnergyX’s patented LiTASTM technology can extract up to 300% more lithium than traditional methods.


GM led a $50 million funding round in EnergyX last year, and EnergyX is now opening up the opportunity to join them to all investors. Don’t miss out: Become an EnergyX shareholder today.*

Please support our sponsors!


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Historybook: Fred "Mister" Rogers born (1928); KFC founded by Colonel Harland Sanders (1930); Basketball coach Pat Riley born (1945); Spike Lee born (1957); Kenny Rogers dies (2020).

"It's not the honors and prizes of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It's the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff."

- Mister Rogers

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