1.17.2023

Facts, without motives.
 

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Good morning. It's Tuesday, Jan. 17, and we're covering the capture of Italy's most wanted fugitive, a breakthrough in deflecting lightning strikes, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Mafia Boss Arrested

Italian authorities announced yesterday the capture of mafia leader Matteo Messina Denaro, one of the most wanted criminals in the country. He had been evading arrest since 1993 and was apprehended in the city of Palermo while allegedly receiving medical treatment for cancer.

 

Messina Denaro is believed to be the head of the notorious Sicilian Cosa Nostra mafia. The 60-year-old was previously tried and sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in 2002 for his involvement in multiple terrorist attacks and murders in 1992 and 1993, including the killing of two anti-mafia prosecutors. He received another life sentence in 2012 for his role in the torture and murder of the 12-year-old son of a former mafia informant. Overall, he is believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than 50 people.

 

See background on Messina Denaro here and on a man leading the fight against the Italian mafia here.

 

Musk Faces (Another) Trial 

Jury selection begins today in a securities fraud trial against Elon Musk over misleading tweets he sent in 2018 floating the possibility of taking Tesla private at $420 per share. A class-action lawsuit argues Musk's tweets (see here) of securing funding were false and fueled swings in the company's share price, costing investors billions of dollars. 

 

The deal, which would have been valued at $72B, never materialized. Musk, the chief executive at Tesla, was forced to pay a $40M settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Musk has said he agreed to settle under duress. A US district judge has already decided Musk acted recklessly and his tweets weren't true. The San Francisco trial hinges on the jury's interpretation of the motives behind Musk's tweets and whether they were material to investors.

 

Musk is expected to take the stand as early as this week, about two months after appearing in court for a separate trial in Delaware over his pay package at Tesla. Tesla's stock landed at around $122 per share at market close yesterday.  

 

Scientists Steer Lightning

Researchers successfully diverted lightning using a high-powered laser in the first demonstration of the technique outside a laboratory. Scientists believe the technology could eventually help control lightning strikes around airports and launchpads while potentially reducing the thousands of fatalities and $3B in damages each year resulting from the phenomenon. 

 

Traditional metal lightning rods only cover an area as wide as the rod is tall, limiting their application on large sites. To test covering a wider area, the researchers created a virtual lightning rod using a laser pulsing 1,000 times per second near a 400-foot tower in Switzerland. During storms in the summer of 2021, the laser's rapid beams heated a path of charged air near the tower, ultimately steering four lightning strikes through the ionized channel over six hours (see images). Read how it works here

 

Observers believe the car-sized laser will require more research before it is commercially available. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Dallas Cowboys top Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-14 in NFC Wild Card round (More) | NFL divisional round matchups now set (More)

> "The Woman King" takes top prize of Best Picture at African American Film Critics Association awards (More) | CJ Harris, singer and former "American Idol" contestant, dies at 31 of reported heart attack (More)

> Gina Lollobrigida, iconic Italian actress and photojournalist who secured exclusive interview with Fidel Castro, dies at 95 (More) | Hector Ramirez, 20-time Emmy-winning cameraman, dies at 78 (More)

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Science & Technology

> Trio of artists sue creators of AI-powered text-to-image platforms Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DreamUp, arguing they violated copyright laws by using their work without permission to train algorithms (More)

> New rapid scan technology allows quick diagnoses and removal of overactive, aldosterone-producing nodules in the adrenal gland; the nodules produce elevated levels of aldosterone, one of the most common causes of high blood pressure (More)

> Engineers develop thin film coating capable of jamming radio frequencies, including those used in radar applications, with the flip of a switch (More)

 

Business & Markets

> Economists polled by a Wall Street Journal survey estimate probability of a recession at 61% in next 12 months, down from 63% in October (More)

> Bitcoin passes $21K over the weekend, up approximately 25% since the start of January (More)

> Electric vehicles comprised 10% of global sales in 2022 with 7.8 million EVs sold, up 68% over 2021 (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Search crews retrieve flight data and cockpit voice recorders from deadly Nepal plane crash, which officials believe killed all 72 people on board; cause of the crash is still unclear (More) | New details reveal copilot of the Yeti Airlines flight lost her pilot husband in a separate Yeti Airlines plane crash in 2006 (More

> Death toll from Russian missile strike on Ukrainian apartment in city of Dnipro reaches 40 (More) | German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht resigns amid criticism over the country's response to the Ukraine invasion (More) | See more war updates (More

> Islamic extremists abduct at least 50 women in Burkina Faso's northern Sahel region; violence has overrun the West African nation, killing thousands of people and displacing nearly 2 million (More

 

In-Depth

> The Undead Author

NY Times | Ellen Barry. More than two years ago, romance author Susan Meachen died by suicide, only to reemerge last week. Former friends and fans, who contributed over a thousand dollars to crowdfunding for funeral expenses, are now calling for fraud charges. (Read)

 

> Live Animal Export

Vox | Sophie Kevany. Nearly 2 billion farm animals are exported to other countries each year while still alive, often suffering from starvation and drowning during transport. A look into the practice and why more countries are contemplating a ban. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

Browse slang terms from the 1910s.

 

The best and worst states to drive in.

 

Man spends eight years tracking 464 pizza slices in New York City.

 

Meth contamination forces second Colorado library to close

 

Forty-foot sperm whale washes ashore in Oregon (w/video). 

 

Hotel charges guests $50 for opening the mini fridge (via Reddit).

 

A woman and her dog venture on an epic trip by motorbike

 

Quirky cat photography to make you smile

 

Clickbait: Iowa's hilarious husband calling contest (w/video). 

 

Historybook: Benjamin Franklin born (1706); Actress Betty White born (1922); Muhammad Ali born (1942); UN Security Council holds its first meeting (1946); Michelle Obama born (1964).

"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life."

- Muhammad Ali

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