2.8.2024

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Good morning. It's Thursday, Feb. 8, and we're covering pivotal elections in Pakistan, the demise of a border security bill, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Hostage-Release Negotiations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday rejected a counterproposal from Hamas for a cease-fire and hostage-release plan, saying Israel would continue its military operations in Gaza until an "absolute victory" is reached against Hamas. Israel claims to have dismantled 18 of Hamas' 24 battalions so far and is preparing to move its forces into Rafah near Egypt's border, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have been residing. 

 

Hamas reportedly proposed a three-phase plan over a 135-day pause in fighting that included a full withdrawal of Israeli forces in Gaza, exchanging hostages for Palestinian prisoners, increasing deliveries of food and aid, rebuilding the enclave, and ending the war. Hamas' proposal came in response to a plan from the US, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt, for which details are sparse. Roughly 136 of the previously kidnapped 240 hostages are still being held by Hamas; Israel believes at least 31 of the remaining hostages are no longer alive

 

Separately, a US drone strike in Iraq killed a senior commander of the Iran-backed group Kataib Hezbollah, who is believed to be behind a deadly attack on a US base in Jordan. See war updates here.

 

Pakistan Elections

Pakistanis will cast ballots today in a twice-delayed parliamentary election, the first since former cricketer Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party ascended in 2018. The popular Khan, who has been jailed since last year and recently received three more jail sentences, was ousted in 2022 after losing support from the country's military.

 

Analysts expect the military-backed Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz party will receive the most votes, paving the way for three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to be elected to a fourth term. Sharif returned to Pakistan in October after spending four years abroad waiting for corruption charges against him to be dropped. No prime minister has held office for the entirety of a five-year term in the country's 76-year history. 

 

The election comes a day after 30 people were killed in twin bomb attacks in the country's southwest and as the nuclear power faces worsening economic conditions and escalating tensions with neighbors Iran, India, and Afghanistan.  

 

Border Bill Fails

The Senate failed to advance legislation combining border security provisions and supplemental foreign aid yesterday in a 49-50 vote, ending a monthslong effort by a small bipartisan group of senators to forge a compromise package. Sixty votes were needed to move the package forward.

 

The $118B bill included $20B in border funding while implementing a number of policy changes, including raising the standard for asylum and shutting down ports of entry if migrant arrivals pass 5,000 per day (see details). The majority of remaining funds were directed toward military aid—$60B for Ukraine, $14B for Israel, and about $5B for the Indo-Pacific region. 

 

GOP negotiators had initially pushed for border security measures as a prerequisite for approving the foreign aid. The caucus ultimately soured on the deal, with many arguing the provisions did not go far enough and would normalize historically high levels of migration. 

 

Debate is expected to continue today on a standalone bill encompassing only the overseas funding components. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with Nom Nom

> Disney announces "Moana 2" release for Nov. 27 (More) | "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" concert film to be released exclusively on Disney+ March 15 (More)

> Standalone ESPN streaming platform to launch in fall 2025 (More) | PGA Tour outlines plan to distribute $1.5B in equity to former, current, and future players (More)

> Kevin Spacey to pay "House of Cards" production company $1M to settle sexual harassment case (More)

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Science & Technology

> Scientists discover a new type of immune cell that remembers allergies and produces antibodies that trigger reactions; findings may lead to new treatments for common allergies (More)

> Robotics firm Boston Dynamics demonstrates its Atlas robot performing tasks similar to working in an auto factory, including lifting 30-pound components (More, w/video)

> Researchers identify single mutation that may allow engineered T cells to effectively target solid tumors; current CAR-T therapies largely focus on blood cancers (More) | CAR-T therapy explained (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.8%, Dow +0.4%, Nasdaq +1.0%); S&P 500 notches another record close (More)

> Uber posts first full-year profit since going public in 2019, reports better-than-expected 4Q revenue and earnings (More) | Arm shares rise more than 35% in after-hours trading after British chipmaker raises annual and quarterly sales forecast (More) | Disney shares rise 7% in after-hours trading after raising fiscal year forecast and announcing $1.5B equity stake in Fortnite-maker Epic Games (More)

> US imports of goods from Mexico surpass US imports from China for the first time in two decades, according to latest government data (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> US Supreme Court to hear arguments over whether former President Donald Trump is ineligible for Colorado's GOP primary ballot; plaintiffs argue Trump's role in events of Jan. 6, 2021, bar him from running under the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause (More)

> Search underway for five US Marines after their missing helicopter was found outside San Diego amid California's historic storm (More) | Death toll related to California's storm rises to nine; storm damage expected to reach $11B (More)

> Russia fires missiles and drones across six regions in Ukraine, killing at least five people and injuring 50 (More) | Sweden closes investigation into Nord Stream pipeline explosions (More) | See previous write-up (More)

 

In-Depth

> Sci-Fi's Censorship Scandal 

Esquire | Adam Morgan. After four leading contenders for the 2023 Hugo Award—the genre's preeminent prize—were deemed ineligible, fans wondered whether the process had fallen prey to Chinese censors. (Read)

 

> Saving Hazard, Kentucky

The Free Press | Sam Quinones. The departure of coal mining and the arrival of cheap and readily available opioids decimated the small Appalachian town of Hazard. Now, recovering addicts are helping to revitalize their community. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

How the world's rarest wine is made.

 

Polar bear resting on iceberg wins wildlife photography award. 

 

How people around the world say, "I love you."

 

Man spends eight years building Eiffel Tower with 700,000 matchsticks.

 

Coca-Cola reveals spicy new flavor.

 

Live from Bikini Bottom, this is Super Bowl LVIII.  

 

... and how the Super Bowl became the Super Bowl.

 

Robo-dinosaur startles grasshoppers in dinosaur feather study. 

 

Clickbait: Rapper Lil Jon to drop a guided meditation album.

 

Historybook: Author Jules Verne born (1828); Boy Scouts of America is founded (1910); Hollywood legend Lana Turner born (1921); Actor James Dean born (1931); Nasdaq Stock Market index opens (1971).

“Only the gentle are ever really strong.”

- James Dean

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