12.9.2022

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Good morning. It's Friday, Dec. 9, and we're covering the long-awaited release of a star US athlete, an escalation in Iran, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Griner Returns Home

WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner arrived back in the US after being released yesterday from Russian detention in exchange for notorious Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

 

Griner was serving a nine-year sentence in a Russian penal colony after being caught with cannabis oil in her luggage in February. Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death,” had served 10 years of a 25-year sentence for conspiracy to support terrorist organizations—he attempted to supply missiles and rocket launchers to the Colombian rebel group FARC.   

 

Former US Marine Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since 2018, was not included in the swap and remains one of the few known Americans imprisoned in the country. It is believed Russia is holding Whelan’s release to a higher standard due to his espionage charges, which the US government has said are baseless.

 

Griner is being treated at a medical facility in San Antonio, Texas.

 

Iran Executes First Protester

Iranian officials have carried out the first execution of a protester involved in the monthslong demonstrations across the country, according to reports yesterday. Mohsen Shekari died by hanging after being found guilty of violating the country's religious law; his infractions allegedly included blocking a road and attacking a member of a volunteer paramilitary force. 

 

Described by some observers as the biggest challenge to the Iranian regime since the 1979 revolution, the nationwide protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the country's morality police (see previous write-up). Demonstrations have spread to dozens of cities and span both age and social class, while estimates suggest at least 450 people have been killed and 18,000 others arrested.

 

International aid groups say at least 21 other protesters are facing the death penalty but have not yet been executed, including five sentenced Tuesday. See an overview of the unrest here

 

Same-Sex Marriage Bill

The House passed legislation adding federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriage by a vote of 258-169 yesterday, sending the Senate-approved language to President Joe Biden for signature.

 

Such protections have been de facto legalized following Supreme Court decisions in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015, same-sex marriage) and Loving v. Virginia (1967, interracial marriage). However, supporters of the bill argued the legislation was needed following the court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, on the basis that future potential court decisions may return the matter to individual states. Critics argued the legislation addressed a nonexistent threat that wasn't addressed in this spring's abortion decision.

 

Notably, the bill does not force all 50 states to perform same-sex marriages but does require states to recognize ceremonies performed in other jurisdictions where the process is legal. 

 

Surveys show support for same-sex marriage has more than doubled over the past 25 years, up from 27% to 71%. See data here

In partnership with Revela

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Over 1,000 New York Times journalists and staff walked off the job yesterday in the paper’s biggest labor dispute in more than 40 years (More)

> Celine Dion postpones tour, reveals she was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that causes muscle stiffness and painful spasms (More)

> World Cup quarterfinals kick off today with Croatia against Brazil (10 am ET, Fox) and Netherlands versus Argentina (2 pm ET, Fox); see full schedule (More)

From our partners: Now may be a good time to transfer your balance. This leading balance transfer card offers 0% intro APR for 21 months. With no annual fee. Find us a card that offers longer than 21 months. We'll wait.

 

Science & Technology

> Journalist Bari Weiss releases next round of "Twitter Files," documenting internal deliberations around the platform's decision to ban various users; see Twitter thread here (More)

> New theory proposes certain types of gamma-ray bursts—short but intense batches of high-intensity cosmic radiation—may come from the merging of neutron stars instead of supernovas (More) | GRBs explained (More)

> Parent strain of yeast used to brew modern-day lager beer found in Ireland soil; discovery sheds light on the shift of brewing practices in late medieval Europe (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.8%, Dow +0.6%, Nasdaq +1.1%) to end longest losing streak since October (More)

> Federal Trade Commission to sue Microsoft to prevent its $69B acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard (More)

> Securities and Exchange Commission releases guidance requiring public companies to disclose any cryptocurrency risks or material exposures (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo appears in court one day after being impeached and arrested after attempting to dissolve country's legislative body in alleged power grab (More) | Castillo, a left-leaning former school teacher, was elected last summer; see background here (More)

> House passes annual National Defense Authorization Act by a 350-80 vote; the $847B annual defense bill moved forward after an agreement to repeal COVID-19 mandates for service members, among other roadblocks (More) | Why is the NDAA important? (More)

> DNA analysis resolves identity of the victim in Philadelphia's notorious "boy in the box" murder case more than six decades after occurrence (More) | Case was considered one of America's most notorious unsolved murders during the mid-20th century; see background here (More)

 

In-Depth

> A Power Struggle in Saudi Arabia 

Guardian | Anuj Chopra. Inside the palace intrigue in Saudi Arabia that ultimately led to Mohammed bin Salman supplanting his cousin as crown prince. (Read)

 

> In Search of the Real Adam Smith

Freakonomics | Stephen J. Dubner. (Podcast) Part one in a series exploring the person who has become ubiquitous with the concept of capitalism's invisible hand. (Listen)

> Unmasking 'The Scholar'

Denver Post | Sam Tabachnik. How a Colorado woman helped smuggle and sell dozens of priceless Cambodian artifacts. (Read)

Thicker Hair, Less Stress

 

In partnership with Revela

 

“For women’s hair loss—there are two drugs and one of them is from the 1950s and the other is from 1982. There hadn’t been anything new and targeted developed in a long time." - Evan Zhao, Ph.D.


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Please support our sponsors!

Etcetera
 

Stunning photos of US high-rises captured by drones

 

Inside China's declining population

 

How the greatest movies of all time shift over time.

 

The world maps of the future may be vertical

 

Ranking the 15 best new restaurants in the US.

 

Zooming around on the world's fastest trains

 

Probe finds phone distraction caused Ever Forward mishap

 

From the Great Resignation to the rise of returnships

 

Clickbait: San Francisco pauses lethal robots.

 

Historybook: Actor Kirk Douglas born (1916); Actress Dame Judi Dench born (1934); “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuts (1965); Diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche dies (1971); Smallpox declared eradicated (1979).

"Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals."

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