1.30.2024

 

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Good morning. It's Tuesday, Jan. 30, and we're covering new details of an attack on US troops, the dismantling of a Chinese property giant, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Drone Identity Mix-Up

US officials said yesterday American air defenses failed to intercept a weekend drone strike in northeast Jordan that killed three US troops because the incoming drone was mistaken for an American one. A US drone had been scheduled to return to the military base, known as Tower 22, following a surveillance mission at the same time as the incoming hostile drone, a preliminary report found.

 

The Pentagon also identified the three slain soldiers and raised the number of wounded US troops to at least 47. Roughly 350 US military personnel were deployed at the base at the time. US officials believe Iran-backed militants are behind the Jordan strike; Iran denies being involved. At least 165 attacks on US troops—98 in Syria, 66 in Iraq, and one in Jordan—have occurred since the Israel-Hamas war began in October (see graphics). 

 

Separately, Israeli intelligence shared with the US claims that at least 12 UN workers had ties to Hamas' Oct. 7 attack and roughly 10% of its 13,000-person staff in Gaza had overall affiliations to militant groups.

 

See war updates here.

 

China's Evergrande Crisis

A Hong Kong court has ordered Chinese real estate giant Evergrande Group to undergo liquidation following multiple failed debt restructuring attempts. The company has over $300B in liabilities and hundreds of unfinished apartment complexes nationwide. 

 

The world's most heavily indebted property developer, Evergrande has been trying to avoid bankruptcy since 2021, when the company defaulted on its debt. The company aggressively borrowed for decades as it helped fuel the country's construction boom. In addition to prolific spending, a government crackdown on debt financing pushed the company into a cash crunch.

 

The decision allows for a court-appointed liquidator to sell assets globally and repay debts, though much of the company's assets have reportedly already been sold or seized. The impact is expected to ripple through China's struggling real estate sector, which makes up about a quarter of the economy. It is unclear whether Chinese authorities will recognize the court's ruling. 

 

Feds Raid Bolsonaros

Federal police in Brazil conducted raids of homes and offices belonging to former President Jair Bolsonaro and his son, Carlos, yesterday, amid allegations the former leader's administration spied on political enemies using high-tech intelligence software. The news follows similar raids last week of Bolsonaro's former top intelligence official Alexandre Ramagem, who is alleged to have run the clandestine espionage program.

 

The search warrants mainly targeted 41-year-old Carlos, a close confidant of the former president who is currently a city lawmaker in Rio de Janeiro. Police allege Ramagem, Carlos, and others illegally utilized FirstMile, an Israeli-made software purchased in 2018, to track communications devices of Bolsanaro's political opponents—including judges, journalists, and politicians—roughly 30,000 times. Bolsonaro and Ramagem have denied the accusations.

 

The investigations come six months after a panel of judges banned the former president from running for office until 2030 for casting doubt on the country's electoral process. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> "Suits" hauled in 57.7 billion viewing minutes in 2023, breaking the single-year record held by "The Office"; "Moana" led all films with 11.6 billion minutes viewed (More)

> Russia to lose 2022 Olympics team figure skating gold medal to the US after Russian star Kamila Valieva was disqualified, two years after a positive test for a banned drug (More)

> N. Scott Momaday, novelist and first Native American to win Pulitzer Prize, dies at 89 (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with EnergyX

> Neuralink CEO Elon Musk says the company has completed its first implantation of a brain-computer interface in a human subject (More)

> Scientists discover a new type of organism inside the human microbiome made from short strings of genetic code; may bridge the gap between simple molecules and complex viruses (More)

> Inner ear fossil from 6-million-year-old ape suggests upright walking evolved in ancient human ancestors via three phases (More) | How the inner ear structure affects balance and spatial perception (More)

From our partners: The next gold rush. Demand for lithium—the essential component in EV batteries—is projected to soar 20x by 2040. Perfect timing for EnergyX. Their technology extracts up to 300% more lithium than traditional methods. That’s why General Motors led a $50m funding round in EnergyX earlier this year. Now you can invest in EnergyX before their share price changes next week. Become a shareholder here.*

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close up (S&P 500 +0.8%, Dow +0.6%, Nasdaq +1.1%) with S&P 500 closing at another record high ahead of this week's Big Tech earnings reports and latest batch of economic indicators (More)

> Amazon scraps proposed $1.7B deal to buy iRobot—robotics maker of popular Roomba vacuum—amid regulatory scrutiny in Europe; Amazon to pay iRobot $94M termination fee (More) | iRobot laying off 31% of workers following news (More)

> Philips Respironics, maker of over 5 million recalled sleep apnea machines, agrees to halt US sales of the devices as part of agreement with regulators that could cost the company $400M (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Former IRS contractor sentenced to five years in prison for leaking federal tax returns of America's wealthiest people, including former President Donald Trump, Warren Buffett, and Jeff Bezos (More

> Justice Department charges Iranian, two Canadian nationals in murder-for-hire plot against two people in Maryland (More) | FBI report finds one in 10 hate crimes occur at schools, with crimes up from 500 in 2020 to over 1,300 in 2022 (More) | Judge denies new trial for Alex Murdaugh, who was convicted of killing his wife and son (More

> French farmers block major Paris roads as part of weekslong protest over pay, working conditions, taxes, and regulation (More) | See our previous write-up (More)

 

In-Depth

> Why Pessimists Are Wrong

Quillette | Maarten Boudry. A philosopher lays out the "seven laws of pessimism," reasons why things are hardly ever as bad as they seem. (Read)

 

> China's Taiwan Ambition

CFR | David Sacks. If China invades Taiwan, it could be the most complex military operation in modern history. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

Latest Webb telescope images depict 19 spiral galaxies.

 

Amelia Earhart's missing plane possibly found.

 

Analyzing home pricing shifts in America's largest markets.

 

See rare glimpse of a newborn great white shark.  

 

Why Titanic Champagne bottles didn't implode.

 

A brief history of the Latin alphabet

 

Meet the man who collects lost pet posters

 

Trader Joe's unveils annual list of customer favorites.

 

Clickbait: Minnesotans vote for Taylor Drift, Beyonsleigh

 

Historybook: American flag maker Betsy Ross dies (1836); Franklin D. Roosevelt born (1882); Mahatma Gandhi assassinated (1948); The Beatles give their last public performance (1969); 14 killed on Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland (1972).

"We need the courage of the young... May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us."

- Franklin D. Roosevelt

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