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Good morning. It's Thursday, Jan. 4, and we're covering one of the deadliest attacks in Iran in decades, details of a notorious sex trafficking case, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Cemetery Blast in Iran

At least 95 people were killed and more than 210 wounded yesterday after a pair of bombings at an Iranian cemetery in the southeastern city of Kerman. The attack took place during a memorial near the gravesite of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the former leader of the country's Revolutionary Guard. Soleimani was killed by a targeted US drone strike four years ago. 


No group has claimed responsibility for the explosions, which reportedly were triggered 20 minutes apart. The attack—Iran's deadliest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution—comes amid spiraling tensions in the Middle East. Iran has long supported a network of Shia Muslim militant groups in the region, including Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and the blasts come one day after an Israeli strike killed a Hamas leader in Lebanon.  


Analysts say it is unclear whether the bombings were linked to the conflict in Gaza—Iran has grappled internally with attacks from antigovernment and Sunni militant groups.


Epstein Docs Released

Names of numerous people who interacted with or had ties to deceased sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein were released yesterday, detailed in newly unsealed documents produced from a 2015 lawsuit.


In the case, Epstein victim Virginia Giuffre accused Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell (serving 20 years in prison for sex trafficking) of defamation. Individuals, many of whom had previously been linked to Epstein, were referenced throughout emails, texts, depositions, and other materials presented during the suit.


See the full document release here. Those mentioned include retail mogul Les Wexner, Britain's Prince Andrew, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and more. Both former Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump appear—the former is listed more 50 times, including comments attributed to Epstein (see p. 147), while the latter is referenced four times in passing (see p. 184, 244, 278).


A handful of remaining names will be made public by Jan. 22, according to the judge. See an overview and timeline of Epstein's activities here.


National Debt Grows

The gross US national debt surpassed $34T earlier this week for the first time, according to a Treasury Department announcement Tuesday, an increase of $1T since September and $14T since early 2020. The US currently adds roughly $5B to its debt each day, and recent estimates suggest the debt will reach $50T by 2033. See an explainer here


The federal government will pay roughly $800B to service its debt this year amid higher interest rates—equal to approximately 18% of 2023 federal revenues. Close to $8T of the total debt is intragovernmental—debt the government owes itself, the bulk of which comprises trust funds that pay out Social Security, Medicare, and others. 


Economists often compare a nation’s public debt to its gross domestic product—the total value of the goods and services produced—as an indicator of its ability to pay it down. US debt is currently approximately 123% of its GDP, one of the highest in the world. A congressional limit on federal debt was suspended in June until January 2025.

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

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> TV executive Nigel Lythgoe faces two new sexual assault lawsuits just days after Paula Abdul filed a similar lawsuit (More) | Rapper TI and wife Tiny accused in lawsuit of 2005 sexual assault (More)

> Francoise Bornet, subject of Robert Doisneau's iconic Kiss by the Hotel de Ville photo, dies at 93 (More) | See history behind the photo (More)

> England's Luke Humphries tops 16-year-old Luke Littler to win 2024 World Darts Championships (More)

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Science & Technology

> SpaceX deploys first Starlink satellites with direct-to-smartphone capabilities; company says it will work with carriers to expand coverage, complementing its space-based Wi-Fi service (More)

> Neuroscientists find uncommon phrases or complex sentence structures cause the brain's language processing center to fire rapidly, while nonsense phrases generate little to no neural activity (More)

> AI models, satellite imagery combine to create the most detailed map of human activity across the Earth's oceans to date (More)


Business & Markets

> Markets close down (S&P 500 -0.8%, Dow -0.8%, Nasdaq -1.2%) as the tech-heavy Nasdaq notches fourth losing day in a row (More)

> Xerox to cut around 3,000 workers, or 15% of its workforce, amid operational and organizational restructuring (More) | US job openings drop to 8.8 million, the lowest since March 2021 (More)

> General Motors sales jump 14% year-over-year in 2023, led by a more than 60% increase in sales of its Buick brand vehicles (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> At least nine state Capitols (CT, GA, HI, KY, ME, MI, MN, MS, MT) temporarily evacuate or delay operations due to bomb threats; no incidents reported, officials say threat was received via a mass email (More)

> Former President Trump appeals Colorado Supreme Court decision to bar him from the GOP primary ballot; name will remain on ballot while legal challenges are considered by US Supreme Court (More)

> Ukraine and Russia carry out largest prisoner exchange between the two countries since the beginning of the current conflict (More) | Series of retaliatory strikes between both continue; see updates here (More)



> Cracking the Case of Seven Doe

Associated Press | Sophia Tareen. How cold case investigators linked the death of an elderly woman with no memory of where she came from to a missing persons report from the 1970s. (Read)


> Inner Thoughts Revealed

Undark | Fletcher Reveley. Brain-computer interfaces capable of decoding a subject's thoughts are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In the future, will anything be truly private? (Read)

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Massive waves reveal 1960s military practice bomb on California shore.


The fascinating geometry of snowflakes up close.


Exploring the mental health benefits of listening to new music.


"Hack" tops Michigan university's list of banished words.


Thirteen-year-old become first to officially beat Tetris


Meet the American Kennel Club's newest breed: the Lancashire heeler.


A preview of April's total solar eclipse, the last in North America until 2044.


Explaining "damp January," the new alternative to "dry January."


Clickbait: We got ears, say "fears"—introducing nightmare Mickey. 


Historybook: Boxer Floyd Patterson born (1935); Biographer and journalist Doris Kearns Goodwin born (1943); Luna 1 is first spacecraft to reach vicinity of the moon (1959); Poet TS Eliot dies (1965); Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world, opens in Dubai (2010). 

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."

- TS Eliot

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