1.26.2024

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Good morning. It's Friday, Jan. 26, and we're covering surprise economic data, the spread of agricultural protests in Europe, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Growth Beats Expectations

The US economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.3% in the final quarter of 2023, according to preliminary data released yesterday, significantly outpacing analyst expectations of around 2%. Sustained consumer spending fueled the growth, including a holiday season that saw record retail spending of almost $965B (unadjusted for inflation). 

 

The fourth quarter figure brings full-year gross domestic product growth to 3.1%, capping a 12-month period that began amid fears of a recession and inflation near 6.5% (currently 3.4% as of December). The federal reserve has signaled at least three interest rate cuts are likely in 2024 if current economic conditions hold (see how that affects the economy), moves analysts say would likely sustain continued growth in the near term. 

 

The country's total yearly GDP is roughly $27.6T, with a debt-to-GDP ratio of 120%. See historical data here and here

 

French Farmer Protests

French farmers continued protesting yesterday, blocking roads and dumping imported produce across the country, demanding government action to address numerous grievances. The protests, now in their second week, are moving toward Paris after breaking out in the southwest agricultural region. At least two people have died during the protests.

 

France has roughly 456,000 farms and is among the EU's highest-producing countries, with an output of over $79B. The FNSEA farming union, which is leading the protest, is demanding better protection against cheaper foreign competition, continued diesel tax breaks, immediate EU agricultural subsidy payments, guarantees on health and climate insurance payouts, and aid for winemakers and organic farmers.

 

The protests have become the first major challenge for newly appointed Prime Minister Gabriel Attal. Officials say a response from the government could be announced today. The protests join similar farmer demonstrations recently in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Romania.

 

Michigan School Shooting Trial

The mother of the convicted Oxford High School shooter went on trial yesterday for involuntary manslaughter charges, the first time a parent of a US school shooter has been charged directly in connection with an attack. The father faces a separate trial in March.

 

Prosecutors argue Jennifer Crumbley, 45, was grossly negligent of the dangers her son posed prior to the shooting, claiming signs of his mental instability and violent tendencies were clear. Her son, then 15, killed four students and injured seven others at his school on Nov. 30, 2021, using a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun his father bought him for Christmas four days before. The younger Crumbley pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in December. 

 

Crumbley has claimed she was unaware of the extent of her son's mental health issues, with the defense arguing she was an imperfect but attentive parent. Crumbley faces up to 15 years if convicted.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> The NFL postseason continues Sunday with the AFC (3 pm ET, CBS) and NFC (6:30 pm ET, Fox) Championship games (More) | Quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Brock Purdy among finalists for MVP; see finalists for major NFL awards (More)

> Melanie, singer-songwriter known for chart-topping single "Brand New Key," dies at 76 (More) | Herbert Coward, actor known for iconic supporting role in "Deliverance," dies in car accident at 85 (More)

> WWE founder Vince McMahon accused in lawsuit of sexual assault and trafficking by former employee; McMahon stepped down as CEO in 2022 amid separate allegations of misconduct (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with EnergyX

> Japanese moon lander reaches the lunar surface, lands upside down after battery and thruster issues during descent; craft will attempt to be repowered in coming weeks (More) | See previous write-up (More)

> Oldest known evidence of syphilis infections in South America discovered, dating to roughly 2,000 years ago; where the family of disease-causing bacteria first emerged remains an open question (More)

> New 3D printing technique using liquid metal can build furniture-size aluminum components in minutes (More)

From our partners: The next gold rush? The demand for lithium is projected to grow 20X by 2040, creating a massive opportunity for investors. Elon Musk described it as “like minting money.” Enter EnergyX. Their tech can extract 300% more lithium, earning them investments from GM and POSCO. Now you can invest in EnergyX at their $8/share price before it changes on Feb. 8. Become an EnergyX shareholder here.*

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.5%, Dow +0.6%, Nasdaq +0.2%); S&P 500 extends streak of record highs (More) | Turkey's central bank raises key interest rate to 45% to curb annual inflation of nearly 65% (More

> General Motors' self-driving vehicle unit Cruise faces probes by US Justice Department, US Securities and Exchange Commission over October collision with pedestrian (More) | Federal Aviation Administration halts production expansion of Boeing 737 Max aircraft, but clears the way for 737 Max 9 to return to service (More)

> Microsoft lays off 1,900 staff, or roughly 9% of workers, from its video game division following its Activision Blizzard acquisition (More) | Health insurer Humana reports lower-than-expected full-year guidance, citing rising medical costs (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> CIA Director William Burns to lead negotiations on a potential deal including a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of hostages taken by Hamas (More) | See updates on the war (More)

> Former President Donald Trump testifies in defamation lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll; Carroll was awarded $5M in a previous civil sexual abuse lawsuit against Trump (More)

> Japanese court delivers death penalty sentence for arsonist who killed 36 people in a 2019 fire at a popular anime studio (More) | South Korean lawmaker hospitalized after the second attack on politicians in the past month (More)

 

In-Depth

> Everything is Interesting 

Noema | Alastair Humphreys. A renowned world adventurer turns his explorer's gaze on the hills, yards, and bogs of his hometown. (Read)

 

> The Pentagon's Alien Hunter

In the Room | Peter Bergen. (Podcast) A rare, lengthy interview with Sean Kirkpatrick, the man tasked with heading up the Pentagon's unit for investigating unidentified anomalous phenomena, including reports of UFOs. (Listen)

> Trucking School

Harper's | Emily Gogolak. A Texas writer draws an intimate portrait of her trucking school classmates while making sense of the essential industry's 90% turnover rate. (Read)

 

> Parasitic Butterflies

TED-Ed | Francesca Barbero. The Alcon blue is one of 200 butterfly species known to act as parasites among ants, entering their colonies as masked ant larvae and subtly taking more and more resources from the unwitting ants. (Watch)

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Etcetera
 

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Experts say beware of frozen alligators.

 

Clickbait: Political duels may be making a comeback

 

Historybook: Actor Paul Newman born (1925); Ellen DeGeneres born (1958); Football coaching great Paul "Bear" Bryant dies (1983); Condoleezza Rice becomes first Black woman appointed US secretary of state (2005); Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna among nine deaths in California helicopter crash (2020).

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