12.13.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Wednesday, Dec. 13, and we're covering Israel's military operation on an underground tunnel system, the aftermath of an alleged AI scandal, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Israel Tunnel Operation

The Israeli military has reportedly begun pumping seawater from the Mediterranean into a complex tunnel network underneath Gaza. The operation, likely to take weeks, is part of Israel's efforts to destroy the roughly 300-mile-long infrastructure used by Hamas to transport supplies and personnel (see overview). Some of the 140 remaining hostages from Hamas' Oct. 7 attack are believed to be held inside the tunnels. See more war updates here.

 

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to be at odds over the future of the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu said he would not allow the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza after the war and acknowledged disagreement with the US, which seeks a two-state solution. During a private event, Biden reportedly called on Israel's government to make changes to its approach to the war or risk losing international support.

 

Separately, the 193-member UN General Assembly voted to approve a nonbinding resolution for a humanitarian cease-fire. The US opposed the resolution; it also vetoed a similar but legally binding resolution in the 15-member UN Security Council last week.

 

Sports Illustrated Fallout

Sports Illustrated's parent company, The Arena Group, announced it has ousted CEO Ross Levinsohn, the latest in a string of firings allegedly related to the company's reported use of artificial intelligence to produce content on its website.

 

The news comes two weeks after tech and culture site Futurism reported the sports publication appeared to be publishing articles written by AI and using headshots from an AI marketplace—without disclosing it to their readers—with many of the articles filled with errors. After initially denying the report, The Arena Group said the articles were product reviews and licensed content from an external, third-party company. Listen to an interview with the journalist who broke the news here.

 

The report triggered backlash, sparking debates on AI's role in media and questions about media credibility. A recent study showed about 90% of newsrooms used some form of AI, although 60% were concerned about the ethical implications.

 

The Arena Group dismissed Operations President Andrew Kraft, Media President Rob Barrett, and Corporate Counsel Julie Fenster last week. Manoj Bhargava, founder of the 5-hour Energy drink, will serve as interim CEO.

 

UK Revives Rwanda Plan

British lawmakers have passed a revised bill to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda. The passage of the bill comes a month after the nation's high court struck down a previous draft of the policy, stating Rwanda was not a safe country and could expose the UK to liability under international law. Analysts viewed yesterday's vote as a win for Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who saw dozens of abstentions from his own party. 

 

The original April 2022 law was designed to deter the steep rise in the smuggling of migrants who arrived in the UK on small boats across the English Channel (see numbers). The law created a $180M fund to support the potentially thousands of asylees the UK would transport to Rwanda (see how it works). The program was paused amid legal challenges last summer. To circumvent last month's high court ruling, the new legislation declared Rwanda a safe country. The bill must undergo further debate before final approval. 

 

In related news, an asylum-seeker housed in a controversial 200-cabin barge docked along the UK's coast reportedly died by suicide Tuesday. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the video game industry's largest convention in North America, shutting down after 28 years (More)

> Andre Braugher, Emmy-winning actor known for roles in “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” dies at 61 (More) | Bulelwa "Zahara" Mkutukana, iconic multiplatinum-selling South African singer-songwriter, dies at 36 of reported liver problems (More)

> Netflix releases viewing data for full catalog for first time; the report captures over 18,000 titles and covers viewing data from January to June 2023 (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with Autonomix

> Researchers demonstrate a hybrid biocomputer, made with lab-grown brain tissue connected to conventional electronic circuitry; potential applications include use in future AI-powered robotics (More)

> Blue Origin, the Jeff Bezos-owned space flight company, to make its first launch since last September next week; uncrewed flight will carry scientific research payloads (More)

> Study suggests current AI models excel at imitation, fail at innovation when compared to children; study asked human and AI subjects to select tools for unconventional tasks (More)

From our partners: A potential quantum leap in healthcare. Autonomix is developing microchip-based technology to detect nervous system disorders. Other companies in the electrophysiology industry have been acquired for up to over $900M. And with $100B+ in potential markets and 100+ patents issued and pending, the company is attempting to take the world by storm. Invest in Autonomix before their planned Nasdaq listing.*

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.5%, Dow +0.5%, Nasdaq +0.7%); all three indexes reach new intraday 52-week highs (More)

> The consumer price index, which measures price changes for a basket of goods and services, rose 3.1% year-over-year and 0.1% month-over-month in November; both figures are in line with economist expectations (More) | See chart breakdown (More)

> Choice Hotels International launches $8B hostile takeover offer for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts after previous attempts were rebuffed (More) | Pfizer's $43B deal to buy cancer drugmaker Seagen expected to close this week (More)  

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets with President Joe Biden, US Congress; deal to provide further aid to Ukraine reportedly stalled over disagreement on package deal including immigration policy changes (More)

> Harvard Corporation, the top governing body of Harvard, backs university President Claudine Gay following controversial congressional testimony on campus antisemitism (More) | See previous write-up (More)

> New York Supreme Court orders state lawmakers to redraw New York's congressional map, finding the 2022 redistricting violated state law; analysts say decision may determine which party controls the US House after the 2024 election (More)

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Etcetera
 

Shipwreck measuring 230 feet long found in Baltic Sea.

 

Myanmar (Burma) is now the world's top opium producer.

 

This year's 21 best memes, via Rolling Stone.

 

The 16th-century astrologer Nostradamus' predictions for 2024

 

Visualizing the slowest depreciating cars.

 

Doritos to debut nacho-cheese flavored booze.

 

Russian man flies to the US without a passport, visa, or ticket.

 

... and a Delta flight is diverted to a remote town for nearly 24 hours.

 

Clickbait: Solving the mystery of the missing space tomato.  

 

Historybook: Diplomat George Shultz born (1920); Actor Dick Van Dyke born (1925); Taylor Swift born (1989); 10 new countries announced to join European Union (2002); Saddam Hussein captured by American forces (2003).

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