12.16.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Saturday, Dec. 16, and in this weekend edition, we're covering a verdict against a British newspaper publisher, the defamation trial of a former New York mayor, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

You share, we listen. As always, send us feedback at [email protected].

One Big Headline
 

Royal Tabloid Trial

London's High Court yesterday ruled in favor of Prince Harry in a lawsuit accusing a British tabloid publisher of using illegal methods to report on the private lives of celebrities, athletes, and royalty, including phone hacking and high-level cover-ups.

 

The court found sufficient proof of unlawful information gathering by Mirror Group Newspapers, concluding that 15 out of 33 sample news articles featured in the trial and published by The Mirror, The Sunday Mirror, and The Sunday People were the result of phone hacking or derived by other illegal means. The court also found Prince Harry's personal phone was hacked between 2004 and 2009. MGN previously apologized for using the tactic. Prince Harry, who provided testimony in June and became the first senior royal to do so since the 1890s, was awarded roughly $180K in damages. He was one of four plaintiffs in the lawsuit. 

 

The lawsuit is among other cases Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, have filed against UK tabloid publishers over privacy rights.

Quick Hits
 

Israeli military says it mistakenly killed three hostages in the Gaza Strip.

A representative for the Israel Defense Forces said troops found the three Israeli hostages during a ground operation in Gaza Friday, mistakenly identifying them as a threat and opening fire. At least 130 people remain hostage in Gaza after Hamas abducted more than 240 people during its cross-border attack Oct. 7. See latest war updates here.

 

Federal jury orders Rudy Giuliani to pay $148M to defamed election workers.

A judge in August found the former New York mayor liable for defamation for falsely claiming the two Georgia election workers, Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, committed ballot fraud during the 2020 presidential election. In the second phase of the case, the eight-person jury was tasked with determining the monetary amount Giuliani had to pay for damages to Freeman and Moss. 

 

Verdicts in Vatican financial corruption trial expected today.

One cardinal and nine other defendants were accused in 2021 of various financial crimes, including fraud, embezzlement, extortion, and money laundering. The case centers on the Vatican's roughly $380M investment in a luxury building in London, which was later sold at a loss of about $150M. The trial is considered historic, as the last time a cardinal was tried for financial crimes was in the 1730s. 

 

Mother of boy who shot teacher in Virginia sentenced to two years in prison.

The mother was sentenced for felony child neglect a year after her 6-year-old son brought her 9mm handgun to school and injured his first grade teacher in front of his classmates. Yesterday's sentencing is the second time the mother was held accountable for the shooting; she was sentenced in November to 21 months in prison for marijuana use while owning a gun, which is illegal under US law.

 

Ukraine village council member detonates grenades in meeting, kills 1.

At least 26 others were also injured after the local council member dropped at least two grenades onto the floor of a local government building in western Ukraine's Zakarpattia Oblast region. Council members had reportedly been in a heated discussion about the 2024 budget. The incident was streamed live on Facebook; see video here (warning—sensitive content). 

 

US mortgage rates fall below 7% for the first time since August.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has dropped for the seventh consecutive week to 6.95% from 7.03% the previous week, easing from an October peak of 7.79%, which was the highest level since late 2000 (see historical chart). However, the rate is still up from 6.31% a year ago. 

 

General Motors to lay off 1,300 workers from two Michigan plants.

The layoffs, which will begin in January, are tied to the ending of the production of GM's Chevrolet Camaro and electric Chevrolet Bolt. GM is discontinuing the Camaro—first introduced in 1966—partly due to a decline in sales, while the Bolt is being discontinued partly to make room for next-generation electric vehicles.

In partnership with Pendulum

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Humankind
 

High school senior creates "Pass the Bricks" project, collecting and refurbishing old Lego sets to donate to underprivileged children. (More)

 

California woman adopts chicken with missing toes; kind strangers send 64 pairs of tiny shoes to help the chicken walk. (More

 

Oklahoma man lights up 22 homes in his neighborhood with holiday lights. (More)

 

... and a Wyoming woman creates hundreds of personalized snowmen for her town. (More

 

A 10-year-old boy finds out he's cancer-free after receiving a heartwarming surprise announcement from a pilot on a flight. (More, w/video) 

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Humankind(ness)
 

Today, we're sharing a story from reader Carl O. in Broken Bow, Nebraska.

 

"Several weeks ago we had three small grandchildren at the Lincoln, Nebraska, zoo. They were very active and we were kept busy keeping up with them. All of a sudden Grandma noticed she did not have her purse. She and the grandchildren immediately homesteaded a bench while I started backtracking and looking. I had only gone a few hundred yards when I heard a voice behind me asking if I was looking for something. I turned around and told the young woman behind me that I was looking for my wife's purse. She said 'I thought it looked like you were looking for something; I just took it to the front entrance.' I thanked her profusely and rushed off to the front office where they gave me the purse when I told them what color it was and offered to call the phone I knew was in the purse. Everything was there and I only wish I had got her name and phone number before I rushed off."

 

What act(s) of kindness did you experience this week? Tell us here.

Etcetera
 

Bookkeeping

> Domestic cats hunt or scavenge roughly 2,000 different species, study finds

> "The American Dream" costs roughly $3.4M over a lifetime, analysis estimates.

The number of homeless people in America grew 12% in 2023 to 653,104 people, the highest level since the federal government began keeping records in 2007.

 

Browse 

> Visualizing America's most and least expensive puppy breeds.

> AI visualizes "Hunger Games" contestants from all 50 US states

> Artist creates hyperrealistic dioramas of '90s New York City.

> Photographer captures bold portraits of show birds.

> Oreos is introducing three new flavors next month.

 

Listen 

> A Dutch crime reporter uncovers a small-town murder and unravels what might be a global assassination plot.

 

Watch 

> The largest river on Earth is actually in the sky above the Amazon.

> Inside Pantone, the company that turns color into money.

 

Long Read 

> Digging into 2023: a visual interactive about the hottest year on record

> Brenda Lee, 78, on becoming the oldest person to top the Billboard 100.

> What 24 hours looks like in three prisons.

 

Most Read of the Week: America's best mountain towns

 

Historybook: Ludwig van Beethoven born (1770); Boston Tea Party occurs (1773); Author Jane Austen born (1775); Anthropologist Margaret Mead born (1901); World War II’s Battle of the Bulge begins (1944).

"The traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep."

- Margaret Mead

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