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Good morning. It's Monday, March 20, and we're looking back at two decades in Iraq, March Madness upsets, and much more—including the first day of spring! First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Iraq War Anniversary

Today marks 20 years since a US-led coalition launched its ground offensive in the Iraq War, the start of a nearly nine-year occupation. The conflict would topple Saddam Hussein's pan-Arab, secular Ba'athist regime (see history) while ushering in an extended period of instability and counterinsurgency in the region. 


A multinational force led by the US and joined by at least 40 other nations based the 2003 invasion on intelligence that Iraq had acquired weapons of mass destruction in addition to claims the regime was aiding terrorists in the West. Occupying forces were ultimately unable to substantiate either claim.


Estimates place the overall civilian death toll of the war between 100,000 and 500,000, with millions more displaced. At least 8,000 Americans died amid the initial invasion and subsequent occupation and counterinsurgency. Analysts estimate the war's overall cost at roughly $2.5T. Roughly 2,500 US personnel are stationed in Iraq today in mostly advisory roles. 


See the conflict's history in photos here (warning—sensitive content), or check out a series of images taken by civilians with disposable cameras in 2004 and 2023 here


Trump Probe Nearing End

Former President Donald Trump predicted over the weekend he would be arrested Tuesday in connection with an investigation into alleged hush money payments to adult film star Stephanie Gregory Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels.


It is unclear whether charges will be issued and an arrest made Tuesday, if at all. A representative for Trump later clarified he had received no notification from authorities as of yesterday, while a grand jury hearing evidence is still set to hear testimony from at least one other witness. The central allegation in the case is that Trump violated campaign finance laws by reimbursing his former lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130K payment to Daniels to stay quiet about her relationship with Trump in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. See an overview of the case here.


Trump and allies have framed the probe as politically motivated and timed to impact his 2024 presidential campaign. If an indictment is made, it would mark the first time a sitting or former president faced criminal charges in modern times (Ulysses Grant was briefly detained for speeding in a horse-drawn carriage in 1872). 


March Upsets Galore

The Sweet Sixteen in the men's NCAA basketball tournament is set after yesterday's action, with only two of the four No. 1 seeds advancing to the next round.


The first round of action saw No. 1 seed Purdue fall to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson, just the second time in the tournament's history a No. 1 seed has lost in the first round to a No. 16 seed, while No. 2 Arizona lost to No. 15 Princeton. On Saturday, reigning champs Kansas fell to No. 8 Arkansas (coach Eric Musselman went shirtless on the court in celebration). The Jayhawks were without coach Bill Self, who was hospitalized before the tournament with cardiovascular issues. See updated brackets here.


On the women's side, reigning champion and top seed South Carolina advanced in dominating fashion, with a 76-45 win over No. 8 seed South Florida. The final day of the second round will be held today—see updated brackets here

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Adam Sandler honored as 24th recipient of prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at Washington, DC's Kennedy Center (More)

> Lance Reddick, actor best known for roles in the "John Wick" franchise and "The Wire," dies at 60 (More)

> Team USA tops Cuba 13-2 to advance to the World Baseball Classic final; will face the winner of Japan and Mexico (More) | Brown University's Olivia Pichardo becomes first woman to appear in a Division I baseball game (More)


Science & Technology

> New analysis supports theory the COVID-19 pandemic began at a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, possibly carried by raccoon dogs; report comes weeks after the Department of Energy concluded with low confidence a lab leak was the most likely origin (More) | What are raccoon dogs? (More)

> Researchers release free app that protects artists' work from being scraped by AI training models; program adds nearly imperceptible changes to images that go unnoticed by current AI image generators (More)

> New study suggests a form of LSD that does not induce hallucinations is effective in treating certain types of mood disorders (More)


Business & Markets

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> US stock markets close lower Friday (S&P 500 -1.1%, Dow -1.2%, Nasdaq -0.7%) led by banking system fears (More)

> UBS to acquire fellow Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse for $3.2B; valuation approximately 60% lower than Friday’s close (More)

> Oil prices fall to lowest levels in 15 months (More)

From our partners: Targeting NASDAQ. Joint replacements have largely taken the one size fits all approach for decades. Monogram intends to change that. Using 3D printing and surgical robots, Monogram is advancing the $19.4B joint replacement market. Their personalized implants aim to make surgeries faster without compromising patient safety and long-term comfort. Learn more about Monogram's investment opportunity before they intend to list on NASDAQ. 


Disclosure: This is a paid advertisement for Monogram Orthopedics’ Regulation A+ offering. Learn more at invest.monogramorthopedics.com/disclaimers


Politics & World Affairs

> Russian President Vladimir Putin makes surprise visit to the Russia-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, his first appearance in Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict last February (More) | See updates on the war here (More)

> At least 16 dead and hundreds injured after 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit southern Ecuador and northern Peru Saturday (More) | Militants kill at least 22 civilians in latest string of attacks in resource-rich region of Democratic Republic of Congo Saturday (More) | See background (More

> Indian state of Punjab cuts internet for 27 million people for second day Sunday as part of search for fugitive Sikh separatist Amritpal Singh (More) | Who is Singh? (More)

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Are You Sabotaging the Quality of Your Sleep?


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The happiest colleges in the US


Mud-caked crocodile tops World Nature Photo Awards


Check out a livestream of Washington, DC's blooming cherry blossoms


Visualizing the biggest cities throughout history.


A deep dive into YouTube's "hustle culture" gurus


This guy is turning Elvis' private jet into an RV


The 50 best springtime drives in the US


How to spot five planets in the night sky March 28


Clickbait: SUV crashes a podcast recording


Historybook: Fred "Mister" Rogers born (1928); KFC founded by Colonel Harland Sanders (1930); Director Spike Lee born (1957); Libby Riddles becomes first woman to win Iditarod race (1985); Singer Kenny Rogers dies (2020). 

"The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they're loved and capable of loving."

- Mister Rogers

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