3.17.2023

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Good morning. It's Friday, March 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day! We're covering footage from the downing of a US drone, a surprise move in France, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Drone Footage Released

US officials released video yesterday showing the moments a Russian fighter jet engaged with a US drone over the Black Sea Tuesday, capturing the most direct interaction between the two countries since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.

 

The tape reveals two Russian Su-27 jets intercepting an uncrewed MQ-9 Reaper (watch here), a type of drone typically used by the US and allies to conduct high-altitude surveillance. One of the two jets performs a fuel dump, reportedly damaging the drone's propeller and forcing it to crash into the sea. Officials say the US routinely conducts reconnaissance in the international airspace above the Black Sea—an area the Kremlin has claimed now falls under its territory as part of its war in Ukraine. 

 

In related news, Poland became the first NATO member to agree to transfer fighter jets—four Soviet-era MiG-29 planes—to Ukraine. See updates on the war here.

 

Macron Goes Alone

French President Emmanuel Macron's government invoked a special provision of France's constitution yesterday to bypass parliamentary votes on a proposal to increase the country's retirement age to 64 by 2030. The pension overhaul plan has been met with weeks of nationwide protests (see photos).

 

The bill passed France's Senate yesterday and was due for a vote in the National Assembly, the lower house of France's parliament. To avoid potentially having it voted down, administration officials invoked a constitutional provision that allows Macron to circumvent the legislature (see 101)—but also allows opponents the chance to call for a no-confidence vote. If such a vote passed, the bill would be scrapped and the Macron government must resign (otherwise, the bill will become law). 

 

Polls suggest around 60% of the public oppose the proposed reforms, which were a pillar of Macron's reelection campaign. Macron, who is 10 months into his second five-year term, also no longer has a majority in parliament. 

 

El Salvador's Mega Prison

El Salvador officials transferred a second batch of 2,000 suspects to its newly built Terrorism Confinement Center while extending emergency powers for the 13th consecutive month in the fight against gangs. The prison, built to house 40,000 suspected gang members, will be the largest in the world if it reaches capacity.

 

The emergency measures allow arrests to be made without a warrant and include a suspension of some constitutional rights, including access to a lawyer. Approximately 65,000 alleged gang members have been arrested since the measures were enacted. The crackdown largely targets members of the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs and is supported by many Salvadorans. However, human rights groups have criticized the measures for arbitrary arrests, torture, deaths of prisoners, and the wrongful detainment of innocent people.

 

El Salvador has the world's highest incarceration rate, with nearly 2% of the population behind bars. See video from inside the center (warning—sensitive content).

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> No. 15 Princeton's victory over No. 2 Arizona highlights a number of upsets in first round of NCAA men's basketball tournament (More) | See latest men's bracket (More) | Women's first round begins today (More)

> MLB star Mike Trout leads Team USA to 3-2 victory over Colombia in 2023 World Baseball Classic; USA will face off against Venezuela in quarterfinals tomorrow from Miami (More)

> Taylor Swift drops four previously unreleased songs as her "Eras" tour kicks off today from Glendale, Arizona (More) | Stephen Sondheim’s final musical to premiere off-Broadway this September; Sondheim died in 2021 at age 91 (More)

From our partners: This credit card is a reward-seeker's dream, offering unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases and a $200 welcome bonus. The Ascent's independent team of experts is calling it one of the best all-around cards. Learn more today.

 

Science & Technology

> Researchers find best evidence to date that at least one volcano on the surface of Venus is currently active (More)

> US maternal death rates increased for the fourth straight year in 2021, new data show, to 32.9 deaths per 100,000 live births; see breakdown by age and race here (More)

> Engineers develop low-cost device to accurately measure air pollution, provide instructions on how to build and use the prototype at no charge; pollution leads to an estimated 4 million premature deaths each year, but is not well tracked globally (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +1.8%, Dow +1.2%, Nasdaq +2.5%), 11 largest US banks deposit $30B into First Republic Bank in effort to curb banking fears (More)

> Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen tells Senate Finance Committee the US banking system is healthy (More)

> European Central Bank increases interest rates by 0.5% in effort to reduce inflation (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Death toll from Tropical Cyclone Freddy passes 400 in southeast Africa as search and rescue efforts are slow to begin (More) | System was the longest-lasting and had the most accumulated energy of any cyclone on record (More)

> Michigan Legislature set to overturn state's right-to-work law, the first time such a law has been rescinded in six decades (More) | Current law allows workers in union jobs to opt out of union membership; see background here (More)

> Social video platform TikTok says Biden administration has requested Chinese owners give up stake in US operations or face a ban of the platform; US officials cite national security concerns (More)

 

In-Depth

> Beyond the Booze

The Manual | Steven John, Dannielle Beardsley. Brush up on the history of the real St. Patrick and the holiday celebrated all over the world in his name. (Read)

 

> Human Lab Rats

Free Press | Katherine Dee. The wild story of professional participants in clinical drug trials where freelancers join a "giant sleepover" for sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. (Read)

 

> Mappa Mundi

Aeon | Jeremy Shuback. The largest surviving complete map of the medieval world reveals how 14th-century Europeans imagined their cosmos. (Watch)

 

> Fabio Saved Me From a Cult

Was I In A Cult? | Tyler Measom, Liz Iacuzzi. (Podcast) Male supermodel Hoyt Richards tells his dramatic story of being lured into—and eventually rescued from— the Eternal Values cult. (Listen)

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Etcetera
 

1440 List: A history of stargazing.

 

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Researcher revives debate over Leonardo da Vinci's mother.

 

The year's best mobile phone photography.

 

OpenAI's latest language model will (probably) not take over the world.

 

Clickbait: Couple ties knot at a Metaverse Taco Bell.

 

Historybook: First St. Patrick’s Day parade held (1601); Golf legend Bobby Jones born (1902); Singer Nat King Cole born (1919); National Gallery of Art opens in Washington, DC (1941); Soccer great Mia Hamm born (1972).

"Celebrate what you've accomplished, but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed."

- Mia Hamm

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