12.28.2023

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Good morning. It's Thursday, Dec. 28, and we're covering a legal collision between media and AI giants, the death of a South Korean movie star, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Blinken Heads South

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to Mexico City yesterday, meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador over a record number of migrants flowing through Mexico toward the US border.

 

Border officials have recorded more than 240,000 migrant encounters in both October and November (see stats)—a pace surpassing the post-pandemic surge of the past three years and well above peaks in the '80s and '90s, which averaged around 130,000 encounters per month. Only about a quarter are Mexican nationals, and just over half are listed as single adults.  

 

The talks come as a migrant caravan set out Sunday, traveling north from southern Mexico. Estimated around 8,000 people—said to include migrants from 24 different countries—the group is roughly equal to 3% of last month's total border encounters.

 

Many of those arriving will apply for asylum in the US. While only a fraction of applications are approved, the backlog of cases has approached 2 million. Read about the process here.

 

NYT v. OpenAI, Microsoft

The New York Times sued Microsoft and OpenAI yesterday for mass copyright infringement, estimating damages to be worth billions of dollars. The Times, the first major media company to file a lawsuit against Microsoft and OpenAI, accuses them of using its articles to train artificial intelligence chatbots without permission. 

 

Large language models (see overview) scrape information available online to help AI platforms generate images or human-like text. The Times said at least 16 million unique records of content from its publications were used in a dataset underpinning OpenAI's ChatGPT-3. The Times also said such platforms could reduce traffic to its site and decrease revenue from advertising and subscriptions. Among the examples in its filing (read here), the Times showed both ChatGPT and Microsoft's Browse With Bing reproduced nearly verbatim information from the Times (starting p. 29) and how ChatGPT can bypass its paywall when asked to do so (p. 33). 

 

OpenAI also faces a similar lawsuit from novelists, including George RR Martin and John Grisham.

 

'Parasite' Star Dies

South Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun was found dead Wednesday of an apparent suicide in central Seoul. His death came amid a national investigation into his alleged drug use, reports he denied and characterized as extortion. He was 48.

 

Born and educated in Seoul, Lee rose to fame in Korea in the late 2000s for several successful TV and film roles. He reached international recognition by playing a leading role in 2019's black comedy thriller "Parasite"—the Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival—which became the first non-English language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards in its 92-year history. He also starred in the 2021 sci-fi thriller series "Dr. Brain," the first Korean-language show produced for Apple TV+. Several projects were underway at the time of his death.

 

Drug policy experts view South Korea's drug laws as strict, and the country of 52 million has fewer than 10 drug rehabilitation centers. The country also ranks among the highest globally in suicide rates. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> NBA approves majority stake sale of Dallas Mavericks from Mark Cuban to casino magnate Miriam Adelson for a reported $3.5B (More) | Detroit Pistons' losing streak reaches NBA single-season record 27 games (More)

> US domestic box office hauls in $8.58B in 2023, the highest since the pandemic and a 15% jump from 2022; see year-end box office numbers for each studio (More)

> Tom Smothers, comedian best known as half of the Smothers Brothers musical comedy duo, dies of cancer at 86 (More)

From our partners: Simplify your cash back in 2024: One card, endless possibilities. Run, don't walk, because we're talking about a card with 3% cash back on purchases, a $200 bonus, and 0% intro APR until 2025.

 

Science & Technology

> Apple Watch ban paused by US appeals court as regulators consider whether proposed software updates are sufficient to end ongoing patent dispute (More) | Series 9, Ultra 2 watches were banned for US sale Tuesday; see previous write-up (More)

> Researchers demonstrate glucose-responsive insulin, capable of regulating blood sugar for up to a week; may eventually provide an alternative to daily injections for patients with Type 1 diabetes (More)

> The Small Magellanic Cloud is likely made up of two separate dwarf galaxies, with one situated behind the other (More) | The galaxies are viewable from the Southern Hemisphere and played a role in the lore of ancient societies; see overview (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close up (S&P 500 +0.1%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq +0.2%); Dow notches new record closing high (More)

> Tesla expected to post record quarter for electric vehicle deliveries in next week's earnings report (More) | Elon Musk incorporates AI startup xAI as a benefit corporation, an entity that prioritizes public good alongside profit-making (More)

> Pizza Hut franchises in California to lay off 1,200 in-house delivery drivers in February ahead of new state law boosting fast-food minimum wage to $20 an hour (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> At least 20 people killed after Israeli airstrike hits Gaza's southern city of Khan Younis; Gaza death toll rises above 21,000, according to Hamas-run Health Ministry (More) | UN appoints Dutch diplomat to coordinate Gaza humanitarian aid efforts after last week's Security Council vote (More) | See war updates (More, w/maps)

> Michigan Supreme Court rejects bid to remove former President Donald Trump from state's 2024 GOP primary ballot, declines to hear appeal from lower court's ruling (More) | Former Wisconsin businessman and senator Herb Kohl dies at age 88 (More)

> At least five people killed in Ukraine's southern city of Kherson after Russia fires nearly 50 drones, knocking out power for 70% of households (More) | The US to deliver $250M military aid package to Ukraine amid congressional stalemate over future assistance (More)

 

In-Depth

> The Longevity Lab

Bloomberg | Ashlee Vance. A deep dive into Retro Biosciences, a startup backed with $180M from OpenAI's Sam Altman, and how it aims to extend human life by a decade. (Read)

 

> Christmas Ornaments 

Business Insider | Staff. While most Christmas decorations are mass-produced in China, one factory in Germany is still making 1.5 million ornaments each year by hand. (Watch)

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Etcetera
 

The year's most fascinating treasure discoveries.

 

What does “Auld Lang Syne” actually mean?

 

A collection of the best photos taken in 2023.

 

The 10 best US cities to ring in the new year. 

 

The history behind the classic Fair Isle sweater.

 

Exciting space missions to look out for in 2024.

 

Why healthy groceries are often more expensive

 

Behind the tradition of eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve.

 

Clickbait: The toddler who stole Christmas

 

Historybook: President Woodrow Wilson born (1856); Comic book writer Stan Lee born (1922); British actress Dame Maggie Smith born (1934); Denzel Washington born (1954); Indonesia AirAsia flight crashes, killing 162 (2014).

"Luck is when an opportunity comes along and you're prepared for it."

- Denzel Washington

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