3.30.2024

Facts, without motives.
 

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Good morning. It's Saturday, March 30, and in this weekend edition, we're covering the yearlong Russian imprisonment of a US journalist, OpenAI's voice cloning tool, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

You share, we listen. As always, send us feedback at [email protected].

One Big Headline
 

One Year in Russian Prison

American journalist Evan Gershkovich marked one year in a high-security Moscow prison yesterday as he awaits trial in Russia on charges of espionage. The Wall Street Journal reporter was imprisoned last March by Russia on accusations of spying on behalf of the US government. The 32-year-old's imprisonment marked the first time a US journalist was detained on spying allegations since the Cold War.

 

Gershkovich, who has pleaded not guilty, was accused of gathering state secret information on activities at a Russian defense plant while on a reporting trip in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Gershkovich's pretrial detention period was extended for the fifth time this week until June 30, with no details from Russian authorities on when his trial would begin. 

 

The US government has said Gershkovich was wrongfully detained and has been working to get him released via a prisoner swap. Gershkovich is among a handful of Americans who have been in Russia's custody.

Quick Hits
 

EPA sets new emissions rules for heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued new emissions standards that limit the amount of pollution allowed from large vehicles across a manufacturer's product line, with the limit decreasing over time. The rules apply to vehicles for model years 2027 through 2032 and are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US by 1 billion metric tons over the next 30 years.

 

Louis Gossett Jr., first Black man to win Oscar for best supporting actor, dies.

Gossett's cause of death was not announced; he was 87. He won the Oscar for best supporting actor in 1983 for playing Sergeant Emil Foley in the romantic drama "An Officer and a Gentleman." He made history as the second Black actor to win an Oscar after Sidney Poitier, who won best actor in 1963. Gossett also won an Emmy in 1977 for his role in the TV miniseries "Roots." See his life in pictures here.

 

OpenAI unveils technology that recreates human voices.

The ChatGPT creator previewed its latest tool called Voice Engine, which can clone a person's voice in several languages based on a 15-second recording. A small group of businesses are testing the new tool while OpenAI tries to understand its potential dangers before publicly releasing it. The preview of Voice Engine comes a month after OpenAI previewed its new Sora text-to-video generator. Listen to samples here.

 

At least 44 people killed in airstrikes targeting Aleppo, Syria.

A human rights group said 36 Syrian troops and seven members of Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group were among those killed. The Syrian army accused Israel of the attack; Israeli officials did not comment on the airstrikes. 

 

Forty-five people killed after bus crashes in South Africa.

The bus was traveling from Botswana to an Easter weekend church gathering in South Africa when it veered off a bridge and fell about 165 feet into a ravine, bursting into flames. An 8-year-old child, who was the only survivor, sustained injuries but is now in stable condition.   

 

Key US inflation measure rises in February in line with expectations. 

The core personal consumption expenditures price index, which measures costs consumers pay across a wide swath of items, excluding food and energy, rose 2.8% year-over-year and 0.3% month-over-month in February, as expected. The index is the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge.

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Humankind
 

New Jersey store that sold this week's Mega Millions winning ticket donates its $30K commission check to charity. (More)

 

Southwest Airlines employee goes viral on social media for cheerfully helping people and spreading joy. (More

 

Two friends living in South Africa surprise their apartment building's security guard with a helicopter ride. (More)

 

Six-year-old boy diagnosed with tumor-causing genetic condition fulfills wish to become a zookeeper for a day in Miami. (More

 

A 105-year-old eclipse chaser aims to witness his 13th eclipse April 8. (More)

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Humankind(ness)
 

Today, we're sharing a story from reader Alice F. from Blue Lake, California.

 

"I work at a school. One of my students is having a hard time as their parent is going through a second round of chemo. They really like tea, so on my way to school I stopped at my local co-op and picked out some of their favorite flavors of tea along with a few produce items I needed to make dinner. As I went to pay, I realized my card was expired. I had enough to pay for the tea on another card but asked the cashier if I could put the produce back. The cashier said, 'How about we do this,' as they pulled out their card and paid for it all. 'We all need help sometimes.' We do. It’s true."

 

"As I gathered my items, the cashier went on their break. I had never seen them before and did not get a chance to find out their name. All I could do was think about how much of an impact they had on me, and when I told my student I brought them tea that feeling of kindness flooded through me again, as they had the biggest smile on their face. Sometimes we just don’t realize how many people are impacted by our act of kindness."

 

What act(s) of kindness did you experience this week? Tell us here.

Etcetera
 

Bookkeeping

> Trader Joe's increases price of a banana to 23 centsfirst hike in 20 years.

> Dollar Tree to raise maximum price of its items to $7; previous price cap was $5.

 

Browse 

> The origins of the Easter Bunny.

> ... and how is the date of Easter determined?

Punxsutawney Phil and partner Phyllis welcome two babies.

Supernova corpse tops March's best science images.

> One of the world's rarest (and most beautiful) hummingbirds.

Why onions make us cry

 

Listen 

> How social interactions can go awry, plus tips for becoming an attentive listener.

 

Watch 

> The evolution of humans and music.

> What Earth could look like in 2050 under current trajectories

> How cartel money laundering works, as told by a DEA agent.

 

Long Read 

> Why dental health isn't considered primary medical care.

> How Dungeons & Dragons was created in a small Wisconsin town.

 

Best of the Week: America's coolest small cities to live in.

 

Historybook: Vincent van Gogh born (1853); Treaty of Paris ends Crimean War (1856); Céline Dion born (1968); President Ronald Reagan survives assassination attempt (1981); American musician Bill Withers dies (2020).

"What do I need to stay grounded, in touch, in love, connected, emotionally balanced? Look within yourself."

- Céline Dion

Why 1440? The printing press was invented around the year 1440, spreading knowledge to the masses and changing the course of history. More facts: In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. We’re here to make each one count.

 

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