12.29.2023

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Good morning. It's Friday, Dec. 29, and we're covering 2024 primary turmoil, a boom year for the stock market, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Trump Nixed From Maine Ballot (For Now)

Former President Donald Trump will not appear on the Republican ballot in Maine's presidential primary after Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) ruled his role in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, made him ineligible under a clause in the 14th Amendment. The decision follows a ruling with similar effect by Colorado's Supreme Court, and a decision by Michigan's Supreme Court leaving him eligible for the primary race. 

 

The Trump campaign said it would file an appeal challenging the decision. In Colorado, the US Supreme Court must issue a decision or suspend the lower court's ruling by Jan. 4 for Trump to appear on the ballot. 

 

Primaries in both Colorado and Maine fall on Super Tuesday (March 5), after critical votes in early states including Iowa (Jan. 15), New Hampshire (Jan. 23), and South Carolina (Feb. 24), among others (see calendar).

 

See an overview of the legal theory here.

 

Year-End Market Rally 

US stock markets are on pace to wrap up the year with double-digit gains. The S&P 500, which is hovering near its all-time high, closed up 25% for the year yesterday. The technology-heavy Nasdaq closed up 45% for the year and is nearing its best year since 2003. The Dow closed up 14% for the year, setting a seventh record high for the month yesterday.

 

This year's rally marks a reversal from 2022, when all three major indexes closed lower (S&P 500 -19.4%, Dow -8.8%, Nasdaq -33.1%), ending the worst year for markets since 2008. Gains in 2023 have been partly due to the rise of artificial intelligence and big tech stock increases, primarily with a group known as the Magnificent Seven: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Tesla, and Nvidia. 

 

A softening economy, marked by a cooling labor market and easing inflation, paired with next year's expected interest rate cuts also helped drive stock market gains. The annual inflation rate was at 3.1% in November, about a percentage point away from the Federal Reserve's annual target rate (see 101).

 

Gypsy Rose Blanchard Walks

Gypsy Rose Blanchard, convicted of coordinating the 2015 murder of her abusive mother, was released from Missouri state prison yesterday after serving seven years of a 10-year sentence. The 32-year-old Blanchard's story garnered international attention via numerous documentaries, with a series of prison interviews set to air next week on Lifetime.

 

The case stemmed from Dee Dee Blanchard, Gypsy's mother who reportedly suffered from Munchausen by proxy syndrome—a mental illness where a caregiver fakes sickness in their patient to gain sympathy for themselves. Neighbors and friends were made to believe Gypsy suffered from cerebral palsy, leukemia, and many other major ailments while being forced to use a wheelchair and undergo invasive surgeries.

 

The extent of the mother's abuse was only uncovered amid the investigation into her stabbing death at the hands of Nick Godejohn, Gypsy's then-boyfriend, whom Gypsy asked to commit the murder. Godejohn was sentenced to life in prison in 2019; explore the case in-depth here.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow fired after pornographic videos of Gow and his wife are uncovered (More)

> College Football Playoff kicks off Monday with No. 1 Michigan taking on No. 4 Alabama (4 pm ET, ESPN) and No. 2 Washington against No. 3 Texas (8 pm ET, ESPN) (More) | See full college football bowl schedule (More)

> Mbongeni Ngema, iconic South African playwright and six-time Tony and Grammy Award nominee, dies in a car crash at 68 (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with Brilliant

> US military's X-37B space plane begins seventh mission; vehicle was launched via a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, allowing it to reach as high as 22,000 miles above Earth (More)

> Scientists discover source of mysterious type of immune system cells known as stem-like central memory T cells, which play a key role in remembering previously encountered pathogens (More)

> Study suggests ultra-dense neutron stars contain quarks—fundamental particles that make up protons and neutrons, which help make up atoms—at their core (More) | Learn more about neutron stars, collapsed super giant stars roughly 10 miles wide (More, w/video)

From our partners: Make 2024 your smartest year ever. Brilliant is the one app for learning everything you need to stay on top of our rapidly changing world—from AI and data science to programming, technology, you name it. Bite-sized, interactive lessons make it easy to sharpen your skills in minutes a day. Join 10M+ global learners and start your 30-day free trial today.

 

Business & Markets

> Global mergers and acquisitions fell 17% to $2.87T in 2023, the lowest level in more than 10 years and driven partly by tightening markets; Japan was the only country to see M&A growth at 32% (More)

> Detroit-based General Motors sues San Francisco for $121M refund, alleging the city miscalculated its tax bill for seven years by improperly including GM's separate San Francisco-based Cruise unit (More)

> Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi unveils first electric vehicle in bid to compete with Tesla, Porsche (More

 

Politics & World Affairs

> An estimated 150,000 people forced to flee central Gaza as Israeli troops expand operations against Hamas to refugee camps (More) | See updates on war here (More)

> Rep. Lauren Boebert (R, CO-3) to move residences, will run in Colorado's 4th District after facing tough reelection bid; former President Donald Trump won the 4th District by 16 points in 2020, current Rep. Ken Buck (R) is retiring (More)

> US homicide rate dropped by as much as 12% between 2022 and 2023, but remained higher than 2008-20 period, according to preliminary data (More)

 

In-Depth

> Burning Bodies for Science

Undark | Will Peischel. After decades of viewing fire fatality investigations as an intuitive art, a growing movement of scientists is furthering the field with concrete experiments. (Read)

 

> Seriously, Have Fun

Psyche | Mike Rucker. Work, chores, relationships, everything—experts say they all feel and do better when you bring playfulness into the picture. (Read)

> What Would Socrates Do?

Hidden Brain | Shankar Vedantam. (Podcast) A look back at how three ancient Greek philosophers made sense of identity, purpose, and happiness. (Listen)

 

> When We Stopped Being Naked

PBS Eons | Staff. Trace the fascinating (and scant) archaeological evidence that reveals the prehistoric moment humans started covering up. (Watch)

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Etcetera
 

Eighty-one science facts you probably didn't know.

 

This year's most moving black-and-white photography.

 

Have a good cry with these autogenerated tear-jerkers

 

Glacier gurus rank US and Canada's best ski resorts

 

Americans projected to spend $32B less on gas next year.

 

Visiting the most unique hotels of 2023.

 

Rare "dancing lemur" born at British zoo (w/video).

 

A scantily clad shindig causes an uproar in Russia.

 

Clickbait: Bambi gets a taste for blood in 2024.

 

Historybook: President Andrew Johnson born (1808); Texas becomes the 28th US state (1845); US Army kills over 250 Lakota people at Wounded Knee (1890); Actress Mary Tyler Moore born (1936); Soccer legend Pelé dies (2022). 

"Pain nourishes courage. You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you."

- Mary Tyler Moore

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