10.12.2023

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Good morning. It's Thursday, Oct. 12, and we're covering the fallout from the weekend attack in Israel, the launch of a unique asteroid mission, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Israel-Gaza War Intensifies

The last operational power plant in Gaza went offline yesterday, running out of fuel after Israel fully closed the two entry points into the area, prohibiting the transport of food, fuel, water, and more. The lockdown followed a surprise assault by Hamas over the weekend and the subsequent taking of hostages back into Gaza. See ongoing updates here.

 

The death toll in Israel, primarily from the initial attack and almost entirely civilians, has risen to at least 1,200. At least 22 Americans were reported to been among those killed. At least 1,100 Palestinians—including children, though sources vary on exact figures—have been killed in retaliatory strikes by Israel. 

 

The fate of an estimated 150 hostages taken into Gaza remains unknown. Hamas officials threatened to execute hostages in response to unannounced airstrikes (no reports of such acts have surfaced as of this writing). Some number of Americans are believed to be among the hostages. 

 

Reports of atrocities from Hamas' initial Saturday attack continue to mount as Israeli forces sweep through small towns near the Gaza border, most notably in the kibbutz villages of Kfar Aza and Be'eri

 

Meanwhile, intense Israeli airstrikes have forced hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents to flee their homes. Egypt has thus far rejected the idea of an evacuation corridor across its border with Gaza.

 

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and prominent opposition figure Benny Gantz agreed to form an emergency unity government. The partnership will expire when the current war ends.

 

Analysts say the prospect of a ground invasion of Gaza by Israel appears increasingly likely. See visuals of the situation in Gaza here.

 

NASA's Newest Mission

NASA is set to launch its Psyche spacecraft this morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a new mission aiming to study a metal-rich asteroid believed to be the ancient core of a protoplanet. View the 10:15 am ET livestream here (weather permitting).

 

The 16 Psyche asteroid (see rendering), located over 2 billion miles from Earth in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is composed primarily of iron and nickel rather than the ice or rock comprising most asteroids. Theorists speculate the 173-mile-wide, potato-shaped object is the core of an early-solar system planet that could provide more direct insights into the Earth's unobservable core. 

 

The van-sized spacecraft will deploy highly efficient solar-powered ion propulsion technology—where electromagnetic fields charge xenon ions to generate thrust—to reach the asteroid's orbit in 2029 and will spend 26 months capturing images, measuring magnetic fields, and more. 

 

Separately, NASA revealed rock samples harvested from the asteroid Bennu yesterday. 

 

Exxon Mobil's Megadeal 

Exxon Mobil Corp. has agreed to buy Pioneer Natural Resources for $59.5B in an all-stock deal, or $253 per share, making it the largest oil-and-gas merger in more than 20 years since Exxon bought Mobil for $75B in 1999. 

 

The deal allows Exxon Mobil to expand its footprint in the Permian Basin, the highest-producing oil field in the US, which spans West Texas and southeastern New Mexico (see overview). With Pioneer being the Permian's largest well operator, the combined entity would have 16 billion barrels of oil equivalent in the Permian and double Exxon Mobil's daily production to 1.3 million barrels of oil equivalent. The daily figure will rise to 2 million barrels by 2027. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2024 once it receives regulatory approval. 

 

The move comes three months after Exxon Mobil, which had a record profit of $56B in 2022, bought pipeline operator Denbury for $4.9B to harness its carbon capture capabilities (see 101). 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Las Vegas Aces top New York Liberty 104-76 to go up 2-0 in WNBA Finals best-of-five series (More) | Houston Astros eliminate Minnesota Twins to advance to 7th straight AL Championship Series (More)

> Jada Pinkett Smith reveals she and husband Will Smith have been separated since 2016 (More) | Author Salman Rushdie's memoir, detailing the knife attack that blinded him in one eye, to be released April 16 (More)

> Ex-NFL player Sergio Brown arrested for allegedly murdering his mother; Brown had been missing since his mother was found dead Sept. 16 (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with LiquidPiston

> Lab monkey survives for two years after receiving a gene-edited pig kidney, the longest survival for an interspecies transplant; marks the latest advance in the use of pigs as an organ donor source (More)

> Researchers demonstrate first-of-its-kind quantum eraser, capable of pinpointing and correcting quantum computing errors in real time (More) | Quantum computing 101 (More, w/video)

> Study finds the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt is being fed by a yet-to-be-determined source of nutrient supply; the roughly 5,000-mile-long seaweed patch appeared in 2011 (More)

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Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.4%, Dow +0.2%, Nasdaq +0.7%) for fourth consecutive session (More)

> Birkenstock trades 13% lower in first day of trading following initial public offering that valued the sandal maker at nearly $9B (More)

> Federal Trade Commission proposes rule banning businesses, including ticket sellers, hotels, and utility providers, from charging hidden and misleading fees (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Majority Leader Steve Scalise (LA-1) secures House GOP speaker nomination by a vote of 113-99 in a closed-door meeting, defeating Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (OH-4); Scalise will next need 217 votes from a full House floor vote (More

> At least one killed and 120 injured after 6.3 magnitude earthquake hits western Afghanistan following weekend quake that killed about 1,000 people (More) | More than 90% of victims from first quake were women and children, UNICEF says (More)

> Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes surprise visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, urges defense ministers for military aid (More) | The US announces $200M in additional aid to Ukraine, raising the US' total commitment to Ukraine to $43.9B (More

 

In-Depth

> The Secret History 

The Intercept | James Risen. Inside the conflict behind how a New York Times journalist swiped the Pentagon Papers—7,000 pages of a top-secret study on the US involvement in the Vietnam War—from military analyst Daniel Ellsberg. (Read)

 

> When Lions Were King

Archaeology | Jarrett A. Lobell. Dive into how ancient cultures, from Spain, Greece, Rome, Mesopotamia, Nubia, and India, regarded lions as symbols of spirituality, kingship, divinity, peace, and more. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

Defensive mama bear, 128 Grazer, crowned the best fat bear.

 

Guinness Storefront named Europe’s best tourist attraction.

 

Golden horseshoe crab tops the year's best wildlife photos.

 

A 150-year-old lighthouse, dark for a decade, is lit again in the Florida Keys.

 

Lahaina’s famous banyan tree is sprouting new leaves.

 

UK university offers first postgraduate degree in magic and the occult.

 

Why Friday the 13th is considered unlucky.

 

The most popular Halloween candy in every state.

 

Clickbait: The seaweed is always greener, in somebody else's couch.

 

Historybook: Christopher Columbus reaches the Caribbean, believes he reached the Indies (1492); American playwright Alice Childress born (1916); Wilt Chamberlain dies (1999); USS Cole is attacked by suicide bombers, killing 17 American sailors (2000); Eliud Kipchoge becomes first person to run a sub-two-hour marathon (2019)

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