9.12.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Tuesday, Sept. 12, and we're covering a major US antitrust trial against a tech giant, FDA clearance for updated COVID-19 vaccines, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

US v. Google 

A monopoly trial against Google begins today, marking the biggest tech antitrust trial in over two decades. The Department of Justice, with over 30 state attorneys general, has accused the tech giant of violating antitrust laws by allegedly abusing its dominance in search and search advertising to suppress competition.

 

The trial will center on Google's billions of dollars in payments to browser creators (like Apple) for ensuring its search engine would be the default. It will also touch on contracts with Android phone manufacturers requiring them to preload Google apps, which often can’t be deleted. Officials say the result is a self-reinforcing monopoly that has locked up 90% of the search query channels, obstructing competition. Google says users prefer its search engine and argues these agreements did not prevent other companies from developing or promoting their own search engines.

 

The case parallels a 2001 antitrust suit against Microsoft when the maker of the Windows operating system was accused of pressuring computer manufacturers to preload Internet Explorer. The trial is expected to last up to 10 weeks, with a ruling expected in 2024.

 

New COVID-19 Shots

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved reformulated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that target the omicron variant XBB.1.5, which was dominant in June when the FDA selected the vaccine strain. The vaccines will be the first sold commercially, rather than to the federal government.

 

XBB.1.5 accounts for roughly 3% of new cases in the US (see data). The largest currently circulating variants are EG.5 (22%) and FL.1.5.1 (15%)—both are members of the XBB subvariant family (see overview). The latest vaccines are monovalent, unlike previous boosters, meaning they target a specific variant of the virus rather than both the original and other strains.   

 

Hospitals have seen a rise in new COVID-19-related admissions since July, though the figures remain lower than past peaks. Such hospital admissions rose to 18,871 for the week ending Sept. 2, up 192% from the 6,464 admissions recorded for the week ending July 8. The latest figure is still lower than a year ago when roughly 35,000 new COVID-19-related hospital admissions were recorded. See data here.

 

An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to recommend guidance today on who should receive the vaccines. 

 

Cloning Scientist Dies

Sir Ian Wilmut, the British scientist behind the cloning program that produced Dolly the Sheep in 1996, died Sunday from Parkinson's disease, the University of Edinburgh announced yesterday. He was 79. 

 

Dolly—who was named after Dolly Parton—was the first mammal cloned using an adult cell, rather than an embryonic cell, a feat previously believed to be impossible. The process, known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, produces an exact genetic clone by removing the DNA from an egg and replacing it with frozen genetic material from an adult sheep cell, which is then transferred to a surrogate. The original project's primary goal was to develop genetically engineered sheep capable of producing therapeutic proteins.

 

The announcement of Dolly's cloning in February 1997 sparked worldwide debate over the ethics of the procedure and whether it would be used to clone humans. Over 40 countries subsequently outlawed human cloning, while further developments in gene therapy have rendered Wilmut's process obsolete in medical research. Watch an overview of Dolly here

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Disney and Charter Communications, which operates Spectrum Cable, reach contractual agreement, ending blackout of ABC and ESPN for Charter customers (More)

> LeBron James recruiting fellow American NBA stars to compete at Paris 2024 Summer Olympics following Team USA's fourth place finish at the World Cup (More)

> "The Drew Barrymore Show" faces protests from the Writers Guild of America after the daytime talk show announced it will return Sept. 18 despite the ongoing writers strike (More) | "The Talk" and "The Jennifer Hudson Show" also to resume production (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with The Ascent

> Archaeologists reveal cave site near the modern-day city of Valencia, Spain, with more than 100 Paleolithic paintings (More)

> James Webb Space Telescope discovers carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere of K2-18b, an Earth-like planet 120 light-years away; data also suggest the potential presence of an ocean (More)

> Researchers produce an analysis of the human "lipidome," a mapping of the types and functions of lipids—small fatty molecules, including cholesterol—produced by the human body (More)

From our partners: $1,863? Yes, you read that right. You could save $1,863 in interest charges alone with this five-star card. It features 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a whopping 18 months, so you can spend the next year and a half with less stress. Learn more today.

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.7%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq +1.1%) led by tech stocks (More)

> Food giant J.M. Smucker to acquire Twinkies maker Hostess Brands for $5.6B (More)

> Oracle misses revenue expectations and reduces 2023 guidance; shares of software giant down near double digits in after-hours trading (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Death toll surpasses 2,800, with more than 2,500 injured, from Morocco's deadly earthquake (More) | See our previous write-up (More) | At least 2,000 people feared dead after weekend flooding in North African nation of Libya; confirmed death toll stands at 61, as of this writing (More)

> North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives in Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin (More) | Ukraine claims it recaptured key oil and gas drilling platforms near Crimea in the Black Sea, which Russia had seized in 2015 (More) | See more war updates (More)

> The US finalizes deal with Iran for release of five detained Americans, includes waiver for international banks to transfer $6B in frozen Iranian funds from South Korea to Qatar (More) | American researcher rescued from Turkish cave (More

 

In-Depth

> The Decline of Places to Hang Out 

Insider | Eliza Relman. A look at the decline of so-called "third places" (bars, parks, coffee shops, etc.) that is exacerbating the US loneliness crisis, and the need to create more spaces that are walkable and affordable. (Read)

 

> 'Chuck Norris Made a Happy Meal Cry'

ESPN | Ryan Hockensmith. The creator of Chuck Norris Facts shares how his "facts" about the martial artist and actor took over the internet in 2005, becoming one of the world's first memes. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

See the winners of the annual dog surf-a-thon.

 

Visualizing the world's electricity sources.

 

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupts for the third time this year.

 

All about the blue crabs invading Italian seas.

 

Photographer snaps close-up shots of spiders.

 

Long-lost 1977 "Star Wars" X-wing fighter model is up for sale.

 

... and "The Brady Bunch" house sells for $3.2M

 

Red wine floods Portuguese town

 

Clickbait: Meet Chico, the world's fastest parrot on wheels

 

Historybook: Henry Hudson begins exploration of what will become known as the Hudson River (1609); Iconic track and field athlete Jesse Owens born (1913); Singer Barry White born (1944); Mae Jemison becomes first Black woman in space (1992); Johnny Cash dies (2003).

"The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself ... that’s where it’s at."

- Jesse Owens

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