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Good morning. It's Friday, May 17, and we're covering a new approach to marijuana, a big moment for the Dow, and much more. First time reading? Join over 3.5 million readers. Sign up here.

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Need To Know

New Caledonia Unrest

France declared a 12-day state of emergency in its semiautonomous Pacific territory of New Caledonia yesterday amid violent protests against a voting reform. The unrest has left at least five people dead, including two police officers, and hundreds more injured.


The protests stem from a proposed amendment to the French Constitution to expand local voting rights to residents of at least 10 years, potentially adding 20,000 to 25,000 voters. Critics say the move weakens a 1998 accord limiting voting rights to the Indigenous Kanak people—who make up 40% of the current population—and those who lived on the islands before 1998, as well as their children. French Parliament approved the amendment Tuesday.


New Caledonia, part of France since 1853 as one of its 12 overseas territories, is home to roughly 270,000 people and lies 930 miles off Australia's east coast. The area has seen tension for decades over whether to remain a French territory or become an independent state, with voters opting to remain part of France in three referendums since 2018.


Marijuana Reclassification

The Justice Department yesterday took steps to reclassify marijuana as a lower-risk drug. Short of decriminalization, the proposal—which now enters a two-month comment period—would expand researchers’ access to marijuana and allow cannabis producers to deduct business expenses on their tax returns. 


Following the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, the federal government listed marijuana as a Schedule I drug—the most restrictive of five classes of controlled substances, considered to have no accepted medical benefit and a high potential for abuse. The classification places marijuana on par with heroin and ecstasy and above fentanyl and methamphetamine, two substances driving drug-related overdoses in the US (see previous write-up).


Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services recommended marijuana be reclassified to Schedule III, treating it as a lower-risk substance alongside ketamine and testosterone. Marijuana is currently legal for recreational use in 24 states and for medicinal use in 38. See a map here.


Dow Breaks 40,000

The Dow Jones Industrial Average briefly surpassed 40,000 points for the first time yesterday on news of strong quarterly earnings from Walmart before ending the day down 0.1%, at 39,869.4 points. Launched in 1896 by journalist Charles Dow—who cofounded The Wall Street Journal—the index tracks the prices of 30 large US companies' stocks (see how it's calculated). 


Popularly viewed as a barometer of the US economy's health, the Dow has more than doubled since March 2020, when it sank from 29,000 to under 19,000 in a span of weeks amid global shutdowns (see chart). The recent bullish trend comes as investors price in expected profits from the artificial intelligence boom and potential interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve amid slowing inflation. 


Professional investors tend to prefer the S&P 500 index as an economic bellwether, which tracks the market capitalization of 500 companies (see difference). That index closed down 0.2% yesterday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed down 0.3%.

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan looks to win the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown at tomorrow's 149th Preakness Stakes (6:50 pm ET, NBC) (More)

> Miss Hawaii Savannah Gankiewicz crowned Miss USA 2023, one week after previous titleholder Noelia Voigt resigned citing her mental health (More) | Painting by Leonora Carrington sells at auction for $28.5M, a record for a UK-born female artist (More)

> Caitlin Clark's professional debut with the Indiana Fever hauls in 2.1 million viewers, the largest ESPN audience ever for a WNBA game (More) | EA Sports "College Football 25" video game to be released July 19 after an 11-year hiatus from the previous edition (More)


Science & Technology

> James Webb Space Telescope captures image of the most distant black hole merger to date; objects combined roughly 740 million years after the birth of the universe (More) | Learn how black holes form and work (More, w/video)

> Quantum entanglement demonstrated across miles of fiber optic cable in a city environment, a key step toward a usable quantum internet (More) | Entanglement, termed "spooky action at a distance" by Einstein, explained (More)

> Scientists calculate the energetic cost of pregnancy, finding it takes roughly 50,000 dietary calories over the course of nine months; an estimated 96% goes to support the mother's body (More)


Business & Markets

In partnership with The Ascent

> Walmart shares rise to all-time high after better-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue, reports 22% annual growth in e-commerce sales (More) | Online furniture retailer Wayfair to open its first large physical store next week (More

> Shares of Chinese property developers rise on report of China considering a plan for local governments to buy millions of unsold homes; plan is part of efforts to ease China's real-estate debt crisis and slowdown (More)

> Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Martin Gruenberg faces second day of questioning from lawmakers on Capitol Hill over report alleging sexual harassment and toxic workplace culture at the agency (More)

From our partners: Did you hear? 2024 was declared The Year of the One-Card Wallet. If you’ve been dreaming of a “one-card wallet,” it’s time to wake up and get your hands on this credit card. Not only does it offer 0% APR into 2025, but cardholders can also earn up to an industry-crushing 5% cash back, with no annual fee to boot. Talk about a dream.


Politics & World Affairs

> President Joe Biden invokes executive privilege to block release of audio from interview with special counsel Robert Hur in classified documents investigation (More) | House Judiciary Committee votes to advance resolution holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for denying access to the recordings (More)

> US Supreme Court upholds funding structure for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which draws funding from the Federal Reserve as opposed to annual congressional appropriations; concludes Congress has wide discretion in how federal agencies are funded (More

> Nadine Menendez, wife of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), is battling breast cancer, will undergo a mastectomy; the couple face federal bribery charges, with the senator currently on trial and his wife to begin trial in July (More



> 'It's Not Just the Phones'

Plain English | Derek Thompson. (Podcast) Smartphones are often blamed for the stark dip in mental well-being among the young in recent years, but research suggests there's more to the story than just devices. (Listen)


> Native Language Loss

NY Times Mag  | Madeleine Schwartz. A bilingual author explores the research on how our brains manage to hold on to two or more languages over time—and what's behind the sudden inability to speak a once-native tongue. (Read)

> A Timeless Lake

TED-Ed | Nicola Storelli, Daniele Zanzi. Lake Cadagno is one of roughly 200 meromictic lakes in the world, where beneath a freshwater layer lies an oxygen-free pool filled with sulfur—conditions similar to Earth 3 billion years ago. (Watch)


> Adorable Nudibranchs

Smithsonian | Helen Sullivan. Over 3,000 species of these colorful, obscure slug-like mollusks inhabit the world's oceans, and one man has spent over two decades cataloging nearly 800 of them—and telling anyone he can about them. (Read)

In partnership with Incogni

Identity Theft Affects 1 in 3 Americans


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A new Rothko exhibition in Norway.


A Virginia lighthouse is on sale for $450K.


... and a $460 Lego set inspired by a "Lord of the Rings" fortress.


A rare glimpse at a glowing, deep-sea squid. (w/video)


The first Mexican taco stand to receive a Michelin star.


... and a judge rules tacos are sandwiches.


A send-off for a retiring TSA dog. (w/video)


Where chipmunks end and squirrels begin.


Clickbait: Nikola Jokić's SpongeBob sneakers.


Historybook: Aristides is first winner of the Kentucky Derby (1875); Brown v. Board of Education decision outlaws racial segregation in public schools (1954); Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard born (1956); First legal same-sex marriages performed in the US (2004); Singer Donna Summer dies (2012).

"Within our dreams and aspirations, we find our opportunities."

- Sugar Ray Leonard

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