12.27.2023

Facts, without motives.
 

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Good morning. It's Wednesday, Dec. 27, and we're covering efforts to reach a cease-fire in Gaza, a ban on some of Apple's top gear, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Egypt Floats Peace Proposal

Top Israeli officials are reviewing a draft peace proposal crafted by neighboring Egypt to end fighting in the Gaza Strip, focusing on initial steps including renewed hostage and prisoner swaps, according to reports yesterday. The role of Hamas in a postwar governing structure—a nonstarter for Israel, say experts—remains a key hurdle. Hamas and partner militant group Islamic Jihad were said to have quickly dismissed Egypt's plan.

 

Discussions come as the Israeli military said it had expanded operations into urban refugee centers in central Gaza, where Hamas leaders claim at least 70 people were killed in an airstrike at the al-Maghazi camp. Israel said it was reviewing the incident.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited troops in northern Gaza Sunday, reiterating the war may continue for months. He has faced increasing pressure to focus on the safe return of about 130 hostages still held by Hamas—family members booed Netanyahu during a Monday speech to the country's legislature.

 

Separately, an Israeli airstrike yesterday killed Sayyed Razi Mousavi, a high-ranking official in Iran's Revolutionary Guard responsible for coordinating the military alliance between Iran and Syria. 

 

See updates on the war here (w/maps).

 

Apple Watch Ban

A ban on the sale of two of Apple's flagship smartwatches will continue for the foreseeable future after a ruling by US trade regulators over a patent dispute went into effect yesterday. The Biden administration declined to veto the decision, which affects US sales of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches, early yesterday morning.   

 

California-based health startup Masimo initially alleged Apple stole the intellectual property behind its light-based pulse oximetry technology (see overview)—a way to measure oxygen levels in the blood by analyzing light reflecting off the wrist. The company also claimed Apple had approached Masimo about integrating its technology into Apple Watches but instead hired away top employees to develop a similar product in-house.  

 

Reports suggest Apple, which filed an appeal yesterday, is evaluating updates to how the devices collect and analyze data that may act as a workaround to the ruling. 

 

China on Ice

Temperatures across much of China rose above freezing for the first time in weeks Sunday, capping the most severe cold snap in the country in seven decades. Thermometers in Beijing had remained below 0 degrees Celsius since Dec. 11, with some parts of northeastern China reaching minus 40 degrees (in both Celsius and Fahrenheit; see here).

 

Researchers say the culprit may be a weakened polar vortex—a wobbling in the jet stream that circles the Arctic, see illustration here—which allows frigid air masses to dip down from the Earth's northern pole. A similar phenomenon was responsible for severe winter weather in 2021, which dipped as far south as Texas, leaving almost 250 people dead. 

 

The freezing temperatures are the latest in a series of extreme weather events for the region. Record temperatures were set in Beijing for 27 consecutive days this summer, while the northeast saw its heaviest rainfall in 140 years.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" breaks Spotify record for most streams in a day, bringing in nearly 24 million streams on Christmas Eve (More)

> Taylor Swift's "1989 (Taylor's Version)" returns to No. 1 on Billboard 200, tying Swift with Elvis Presley for most weeks by a solo artist spent atop the album charts (More)

> "The Color Purple" musical film adaptation leads domestic box office with $18M on opening day, the second largest Christmas Day opening ever (More) | Kamar de los Reyes, "One Life to Live" star, dies of cancer at 56 (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with hear.com

> Apple expects to ship an estimated 500,000 Vision Pro headsets in 2024, going on sale in the first two months of 2024; $3,500 device is Apple's first big step into virtual reality (More)

> Study suggests reindeer can go to sleep while eating, allowing the animals to maximize energy conservation during Arctic winters (More)

> Engineers develop fiber offering similar warmth to down jackets despite being 80% less thick; material mimics polar bear fur, with each strand possessing a porous core and a waterproof outer layer (More)

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Business & Markets

> All three major markets rise (S&P 500 +0.4%, Dow +0.4%, Nasdaq +0.5%) as S&P 500 nears all-time high (More) | Retail sales increase 3.1% from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 compared to the same period last year (More)

> Roughly 1.2% of US flights were canceled during the preholiday travel period, the lowest in five years; Southwest Airlines reports more than 100 cancellations, 1,000 delays on Christmas Eve (More)

> Chipmaker Intel to invest $25B in Israel, including an expansion of a silicon wafer manufacturing facility; deal follows $3.2B incentive package from Israeli government (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly says he's open to cease-fire discussions in Ukraine in private conversations (More) | Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny located in Arctic penal colony 1,200 miles north of Moscow (More)

> The US launches drone strikes on Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq after three US service members were injured in a Christmas Day attack on Erbil Air Base (More)

> Migrant caravan totaling around 6,000 people reportedly begins heading toward US-Mexico border from southern Mexico (More) | Group would equal less than 3% of the total reported border encounters in November; see stats here (More)

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Etcetera
 

Snapshots of Christmas from around the globe.

 

US National Parks that shine in the winter.

 

The economics of unused gift cards.

 

Capturing the best sports moments of 2023 (in photos).

 

Wild turkey photo tops the year's best from young wildlife photographers.

 

Las Vegas wedding chapels eye a record New Year's Eve

 

Santa goes water skiing in the Potomac River.

 

Winter captured in a five-year time-lapse video

 

Clickbait: Alabama woman gives birth to two babies—but not twins.

 

Historybook: Chemist Louis Pasteur born (1822); Actress and singer Marlene Dietrich born (1901); Radio City Music Hall opens in New York City (1932); Pakistan politician Benazir Bhutto assassinated (2007); Carrie Fisher dies (2016).

"I don't want life to imitate art. I want life to be art."

- Carrie Fisher

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