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Good morning. It's Wednesday, Dec. 20, and we're covering conflict in a key international trade route, a settlement in an antitrust case, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Red Sea Shipping Snag

Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi rebels, who support Hamas, vowed yesterday to continue targeting commercial ships passing through the Red Sea, a key global trade route bookended by the Suez Canal in the north and the Bab el-Mandeb (Gate of Tears) Strait in the south (see map). The militant group's comments came hours after the US announced it would lead an international initiative to protect ships on the route.


The Houthis (see overview) claim they are targeting ships linked to Israel or its Western allies, with most of the attacks occurring in the southern Red Sea, an area roughly as long as Interstate 95 from Washington, DC, to Boston. Houthi rebels have attacked or seized ships in the Red Sea at least 12 times over the last four weeks, prompting shipping giants to reroute (w/map) around southern Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Approximately 12% of global trade goes through the Suez Canal, the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe.


Separately, the UN Security Council is expected to vote today on a new resolution for a humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas; the US has vetoed previous versions. See all war updates here.


China Quake Aftermath

The death toll from China's 6.2 magnitude earthquake has risen to more than 130 people with about 700 more injured, marking the country's deadliest earthquake since 2014. The quake struck China's mountainous northwestern region just before midnight local time Monday near the Gansu-Qinghai border at a depth of 6.2 miles. Despite being only a moderately strong seismic event—more than 100 earthquakes between 6.0 and 7.0 occur globally each year—shallow quakes tend to be more damaging than deeper ones.


Officials expect the death toll to increase as rescuers and survivors face ice-covered mountainous terrain and subzero temperatures—overnight temperatures Tuesday dropped to as low as -8.7 degrees Fahrenheit. The quake—described as a 5.9 magnitude quake by the US Geological Survey (see why it's different here)—caused severe damage to houses, roads, and power lines in the remote region, one of China's poorest and least accessible provinces.


Gansu has a population of nearly 26 million and sits just east of the tectonically active Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. At least nine aftershocks have been recorded. See photos here.


Google App Store Settlement

Google will pay $700M to settle a 2021 lawsuit brought by a coalition of state attorneys general and millions of customers alleging its app store violates antitrust laws. More than 70 million customers are expected to be eligible for immediate payment under the settlement, pending final court approval (see eligibility). The penalty is 7% of the initial states' demand of $10.5B. 


Google's parent company, Alphabet, which operates the world's most popular search engine as well as its highest-earning advertising platform, also owns Android, the mobile operating system present on over 70% of the world’s roughly 7 billion smartphones. Claimants argue Google’s smartphone dominance allows it to squelch competing payment systems and app stores on its devices, reducing competition and leading to higher costs for consumers and developers. A separate antitrust case against Google—which could upend internet search—will conclude in May. 


The news comes just a week after Fortnite-maker Epic Games won a separate antitrust suit against Google after previously losing a similar case against Apple's app store. 

In partnership with SmartAsset

7 Mistakes When Choosing A Financial Advisor


Working with a financial advisor can be a crucial part of retirement planning.


Research suggests that people who work with a financial advisor feel more at ease about their finances and could end up with about 15% more money to spend in retirement.¹ But choosing the wrong one could potentially wreak havoc. Know the 7 mistakes people make when hiring one, so you can work to avoid years of stress. See the list.


Ready to kickstart your retirement plans? With thousands of options available, it can seem daunting to choose an advisor. That's why SmartAsset developed a no-cost quiz to help match you with up to 3 vetted financial advisors serving your area, each legally bound to work in your best interest. It's never too late to work toward a comfortable retirement. Get matched today.


1. "Journal of Retirement Study Winter" (2020). The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of your future results. Please follow the link to see the methodologies employed in the Journal of Retirement study.

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with Upway

> Singer Celine Dion has reportedly lost control over her muscles amid battle with stiff-person syndrome (More) | What is stiff-person syndrome? (More)

> New York Jets superstar QB Aaron Rodgers, 40, won't return from injury this season, intends to play in 2024 and beyond (More) | Former Super Bowl champ Derrick Ward arrested for allegedly robbing at least five Los Angeles businesses (More)

> Madonna, 65, reveals she was in an induced coma for 48 hours during June hospitalization stemming from a bacterial infection (More)

From our partners: Who said e-biking had to be e-xpensive? With Upway, you can buy a brand-new or pre-owned e-Bike from top brands (think: Specialized, Giant, Aventon) up to 60% off retail price! Just browse and buy; your brand-name e-Bike will arrive within a week, 99% assembled. You can even speak to an e-Bike expert for guidance, plus every bike comes with a master mechanic's approval & 1-year warranty. Gift an e-Bike with FREE express shipping to receive your e-Bike before Xmas with the code UPWAYTREE.


Science & Technology

> Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin launches first spacecraft since September 2022; both the first stage and uncrewed rockets landed successfully (More

> Great apes and chimpanzees can remember faces of friends and relatives for more than two decades, study finds; sets record for longest nonhuman memory (More)

> Artifact analysis suggests ancient Scythian fighters used human skin to make leather; findings support contemporary accounts from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (More) | Who were the Scythians? (More)


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.6%, Dow +0.7%, Nasdaq +0.7%), with S&P 500 0.6% away from surpassing its record close in January 2022 (More)   

> US court orders cryptocurrency trading giant Binance and former CEO Changpeng Zhao to pay $2.7B and $150M, respectively, to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission to settle money-laundering probe (More) | Bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX agrees to settle dispute with Bahamian liquidators (More

> Construction of new homes in the US rose 14.8% in November compared to the previous month, marking the highest monthly growth rate since May (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> Colorado Supreme Court disqualifies former President Donald Trump from state’s GOP primary ballot, citing 14th Amendment clause barring those supporting government uprising; decision stayed until Jan. 4 to allow US Supreme Court appeal (More) | Read the ruling (More)

> Lava flows from a Monday night eruption on Iceland's Reykjanes peninsula currently moving away from nearby town, smoke plumes unlikely to disrupt air traffic (More) | See photos (More)

> Senate negotiators say package combining Ukraine aid with US-Mexico border security measures unlikely to pass before end of year (More) | See previous write-up (More) | Immigration groups, El Paso county sue Texas over new law allowing local police to arrest and deport migrants accused of entering the country illegally (More)

In partnership with SmartAsset

Vanguard vs. Fidelity vs. Schwab


Who are you partnered with? It’s no secret these could be considered three of the most popular brokerage firms. But they stack up slightly differently when it comes to fees and their specific suite of services. Learn more about who should work with Vanguard, Fidelity, and Schwab.


Try SmartAsset's no-cost tool to get matched with up to 3 vetted financial advisors serving your area. While your advisor matches may not necessarily be associated with the above institutions, consulting a fiduciary can be a great first step toward a comfortable retirement. Get started today.

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Historybook: Louisiana Purchase finalized (1803); Sacagawea dies (1812); "It’s a Wonderful Life" released (1946); Astronomer Carl Sagan dies (1996); Space Force becomes sixth US armed forces branch (2019).

"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever."

- Carl Sagan

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