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Good morning. It's Wednesday, Dec. 14, and we're covering a breakthrough in fusion energy research, charges unveiled against a fallen cryptocurrency CEO, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Fusion Breakthrough Achieved

US scientists revealed yesterday experiments at Lawrence Livermore National Lab achieved net energy gain in a controlled fusion reaction for the first time ever. The results mean more energy was released than was used to initiate the reaction—a critical step toward the ultimate goal of self-sustaining clean power generation.


A typical fusion reaction squeezes two hydrogen isotopes together to make a single larger helium atom while releasing excess energy (watch 101). In the current study, analysis estimates roughly 2 megajoules of laser light focused on a specialized chamber containing a hydrogen pellet triggered a reaction that produced just over 3 megajoules of energy. The extra energy output is roughly equivalent to a stick of dynamite. 


Many researchers have viewed fusion energy as a potentially paradigm-shifting, carbon-free power source. Despite the announcement, scientists say viable fusion power is likely decades away, given the numerous challenges of translating the complex process into a practical, self-sustaining, electricity-producing design. Read about the world's biggest effort to address these issues here.


The experiments took place at the lab's National Ignition Facility, which houses a massive experimental apparatus capable of focusing nearly 200 lasers onto a single fuel pellet. The lab is designed to produce and study the reactions but not generate electricity from them. Go inside the facility here.


Inflation Eases

The consumer price index rose 7.1% compared to the same time last year, according to data from the US Labor Department. The figure is slightly below the expectations of 7.3% and down from a June high of 9.1%, though remains higher than any point since the early 1980s (see data).


The metric is a proxy for purchasing power; higher inflation means consumers can buy fewer goods with each dollar they spend (see 101). Housing costs, which make up roughly one-third of the calculation, were the primary contributor, rising 7.1% year-over-year. Core CPI, which removes volatile food (10.6%) and energy (13.1%) costs, was up 6% year-over-year. Experts predict housing costs may decline in 2023 as US house prices have eased since summer and rent data are collected every six months.


The Fed is expected to continue to raise interest rates, with a predicted increase of 0.50 percentage points expected to be announced today and two 0.25-point hikes in the first half of 2023.


Bankman-Fried Charges

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and former CEO of failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, will face eight criminal counts of fraud and conspiracy, US officials revealed yesterday. He also faces related civil charges brought by US financial regulators for defrauding investors. Prosecutors allege the 30-year-old, arrested in the Bahamas late Monday, knowingly misappropriated customer deposits for years, diverting funds for alternative investments and personal use.


Most notably, Bankman-Fried is accused of secretly using billions of FTX deposits to cover losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research, ultimately leading to exchange’s implosion (deeper dive here). Once valued at around $32B, FTX collapsed after news of its transfer to Alameda caused a surge in customer withdrawals, which the exchange could not cover, eventually forcing it into bankruptcy. The charges came as current CEO John Ray III testified to Congress, describing a litany of issues uncovered thus far during the bankruptcy process. 


Find the charging documents here and here.

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Lionel Messi and Argentina cruise past Croatia 3-0 to advance to World Cup final (More) | See preview of today's France versus Morocco matchup (2 pm ET, Fox) (More)

> Adam Sandler tapped as 24th recipient of prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (More)

> Mike Leach, Mississippi State head football coach and former AFCA national coach of the year winner, dies at 61 of heart condition complications (More) | NBA to rename its MVP award after Michael Jordan (More)

From our partners: Rearrange often? Now move your credit card debt. The Ascent recommends this card for 0% interest on a balance transfer until mid-2024. Bonus: up to 2% cash back on purchases. Learn more.


Science & Technology

> Moderna's mRNA cancer therapy shown to reduce risk of recurrence or death in melanoma patients when taken with Merck's Keytruda anticancer drug; results are the first to show the efficacy of mRNA therapies to treat cancer in clinical trials (More)

> New fossil find suggests giant arthropods—ancient relatives of modern crustaceans, insects, and more—dominated oceans around 470 million years ago (More) | What was the Ordovician period? (More)

> NASA's Perseverance rover captures first-ever audio recording of whirlwinds traveling across the surface of Mars (More)


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.7%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq +1.0%) on reduced inflation report and ahead of today’s Federal Reserve rate announcement (More)

> United Airlines places order to purchase 100 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with option to purchase another 100 in the future (More)

> US average 30-year mortgage rate falls to 6.3%, the lowest level since September, but remains up over 100% since last December (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> French court convicts eight people for aiding 2016 terror attack in the city of Nice; 86 people were killed and hundreds injured after an attacker drove a cargo truck through Bastille Day celebrations (More)

> Russian President Vladimir Putin cancels annual year-end hourslong news conference (More) | The US preparing to send Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine (More) | See updates on the war here (More)

> President Joe Biden signs bill codifying federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages (More)

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Ditch the Sugar Gummies


Did you know the average kid’s vitamin is basically candy in disguise? Hiya was created by two dads out of frustration that typical gummy vitamins for kids just aren't as healthy as you might think—instead, they're filled with added sugar, unhealthy dyes, hard-to-pronounce chemicals, and sticky junk awful for kid's teeth.

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Historybook: President George Washington dies (1799); Author Shirley Jackson born (1916); Actress Patty Duke born (1946); Eugene Cernan is last person to walk on the moon (1972); 20 children and six staff murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School (2012).

"Curiosity is the essence of human existence."

- Eugene Cernan

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