4.7.2023

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Good morning. It's Friday, April 7, and we're covering a step toward stability in the Middle East, a week of protests in Nashville, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

A Historic Handshake

Saudi Arabia and Iran formally reestablished diplomatic relations yesterday, a significant milestone in the relationship between two of the largest powers in the Middle East. The pair cut off ties seven years ago after Saudi embassies in Iran were attacked following the Saudi execution of a popular Shia cleric. 

 

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been engaged in a regional power struggle for decades, exacerbated by the differing sectarian religious views—Saudi is roughly 90% Sunni Muslim, while Iran is about 90% Shia Muslim (see background). The regional conflict has also become a proxy for greater world powers, with Saudi Arabia generally working with the West and Iran forging close ties with Russia and China. 

 

Notably, the deal was brokered by China, marking one of the country's biggest diplomatic moves in modern geopolitics. Analysts suggest China facilitated negotiations in an effort to gain global prestige, countering the deals made under the Abraham Accords during the Trump administration. 

 

Baltimore Church Scandal

The Maryland attorney general has accused officials of covering up and failing to act in the sexual abuse of at least 600 children in the Archdiocese of Baltimore since the 1940s. The 463-page report named 156 former clergy, deacons, teachers, and other employees and revealed some children were subject to abuse by multiple abusers. Church officials were also accused of silencing victims and dismissing or ignoring claims of abuse.

 

Investigators received more than 300 reports of sexual abuse and hundreds of thousands of documents since the investigation started in 2018. The report noted the number of victims is likely an understatement—one deacon admitted to abusing over 100 children. The report is the latest in a series of allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic Church officials in recent years.

 

Separately, the Maryland Legislature passed a bill yesterday to remove the statute of limitations for abuse-related civil lawsuits. Maryland's current law prohibits victims of child sexual abuse from suing after age 38.

 

Tennessee Protests

Two Tennessee lawmakers were expelled from the state legislature yesterday, almost one week after supporting gun reform protests that made their way inside the state capitol. Reps. Justin Jones (D), and Justin Pearson (D) were voted out; a move that has occurred twice in the state since the aftermath of the Civil War. Rep. Gloria Johnson avoided the ouster. 

 

Last week, hundreds of protestors demonstrated outside of the state legislature in Nashville, Tennessee, advocating for gun reform in the wake of a school shooting that left six dead, including three children. Protestors, reportedly largely high school students, eventually flooded inside the capitol building, entering the legislative chamber. Opposing lawmakers argued the expelled pair encouraged the crowd, including using a bullhorn to lead chants. 

 

Police have yet to release a motive for the shooting, though items recovered from the attacker's home suggest it was planned months in advance. See our previous write-up here

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> NBA regular season wraps up this weekend; see latest playoff scenario (More) | ... and see the format and schedule for Play-In Tournament (More)

> Three men found guilty in fatal shooting of rapper XXXTentacion, sentenced to life in prison (More) | Rapper Coolio's death in September at age 59 revealed to be from a fentanyl overdose (More)

> Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, and Viktor Hovland atop leaderboard after Round 1 at 2023 Masters (More) | See Round 2 tee times (More)

 

Science & Technology

> ChatGPT users report instances of the AI chatbot fabricating allegations of criminal activity against them based on nonexistent news articles (More) | ... and a professor is accused by the chatbot of sexual harassment (More)

> Study finds brain activity slows down when a subject focuses attention on an object; research reveals how neural activity flips between rapid and slow timescales (More)

> Accounts from medieval monks help shed light on the history of volcanic eruptions between the years 1100 and 1300, provide insight into the period before the "Little Ice Age" (More)

 

Business & Markets

In partnership with The Ascent

> US stock markets close up (S&P 500 +0.4%, Dow +0.01%, Nasdaq +0.8%) to end holiday-shortened trading week (More)

> Disney appoints Asad Ayaz as company's first-ever chief brand officer (More)

> Global venture capital funding in first quarter falls 53% over same period last year to $76B (More)

From our partners: A leading cash back card now has 0% intro APR until late 2024. Earn cash back and save money on interest? Throw in no annual fee and you have yourself a new card for the front slot in that wallet of yours. Apply today.

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Russian court to hear appeal for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich April 18; Gershkovich was taken into detention last week on charges of espionage (More) | See updates on the Russia-Ukraine war here (More)

> Supreme Court declines to intervene in decision allowing 12-year-old transgender girl to compete in track (More) | Report alleges Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted paid vacations and gifts for two decades without disclosure (More)

> At least one person killed, more than 1 million households lose power as ice storm passes over Montreal and Southern Quebec (More)

 

In-Depth

> The Holy Squeeze

Hustle | Staff. Catholic nuns painstakingly produced Communion wafers for local parishes in the early 20th century—until a new competitor came along to drive them out of the market. (Watch)

 

> MySpace Revisited

iHeart Radio | Joanne McNeil. (Podcast) The world’s first widely used social media network was also the first to collapse. Twenty years later, what’s the platform’s legacy? (Listen)

> The Black Caddies of the Masters

CNN | Jack Bantock. The tournament's first five decades saw the rise of one of the sport’s most effective caddie groups, only to see them all but disappear in 1983 after a rule change allowed golfer’s to bring their own caddies. (Read)

 

> Undersea Cable Cold War

Reuters | Joe Brock. The standoff between the US and China in their pursuit of global tech dominance includes cut-throat deals over who gets to build the world’s undersea internet cables. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

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French town prepares to make a 15,000-egg omelet.

 

Actual snakes on a plane.

 

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Clickbait: How not to play an April Fools' joke.

 

Historybook: English poet William Wordsworth born (1770); Jazz singer Billie Holiday born (1915); World Health Organization is established (1948); The US breaks diplomatic ties with Iran during Iran Hostage Crisis (1980); Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed as first Black female US Supreme Court justice (2022). 

"Somebody once said we never know what is enough until we know what's more than enough."

- Billie Holiday

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