10.13.2023

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Good morning. It's Friday, Oct. 13, and we're covering uncertainty at the top of the US House, a looming invasion of the Gaza Strip, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Speaker Scramble

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R, LA-1) dropped out of the race to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-20), leaving the immediate future of the position up in the air. Scalise had topped Rep. Jim Jordan (R, OH-4) in a Tuesday internal caucus vote, 113-99, to proceed as the party's nominee. 

 

Following the internal vote, Scalise (or any potential candidate) needed a full House majority—217 supporters, assuming all Democrats vote nay. With a slim 221-212 edge, any candidate could only lose four GOP votes. Scalise faced a number of challenges, including conservative support for Jordan and questions over his health. Scalise was injured during a mass shooting at a practice for the annual Congressional baseball game in 2017 and, more recently, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. 

 

What happens next is unclear. Observers say the moderate block is sufficiently large enough to oppose a bid by Jordan, while no alternative to the two is yet to emerge. Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R, NC-10) is expected to oversee day-to-day proceedings for the foreseeable future. 

 

Gaza Ground Attack Looms

Israeli military officials said yesterday they would seek to end the presence of Hamas in Gaza, likely portending a coming ground invasion into the territory. Israel previously mobilized 360,000 reservists and has begun amassing forces along the Gaza border. Experts say a ground assault into Gaza—140 square miles, with 2.3 million residents (see maps here and here)—is likely to result in a prolonged conflict. 

 

The death toll in Israel, primarily from Hamas' initial Saturday attack (warning—sensitive content), rose to 1,300, with around 3,000 others wounded. Officials say the death toll in Gaza stands near 1,400, with 6,200 injured, largely from intense Israeli airstrikes. One strike yesterday killed at least 45 people in a refugee camp, as Hamas called for international protests today.

 

An estimated 150 hostages were taken by militants back to Gaza (including up to 50 foreigners, some believed to be Americans). Israel implemented a full lockdown of Gaza, halting the flow of food, fuel, water, and more, saying humanitarian aid would only be allowed upon their release. 

 

Reports of the brutality of the initial Hamas attack continued to emerge yesterday, including evidence of the intentional killing of children and teenagers

 

Many of the villages that bore the brunt of the assault were known as kibbutzim—communal living arrangements unique to Israel. Read more about their history and what their future may look like after the bloodshed.

 

Finally, the US and Qatar froze $6B intended for Iran in a previous hostage exchange with the US over allegations Iran assisted Hamas in the weekend attack. 

 

See photos from the war here (warning—sensitive content).

 

Actors Strike Continues

Negotiations between major Hollywood studios and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have hit a roadblock, with both sides stating they cannot find a middle ground on significant issues. The actors union has been on strike since July, with disputes revolving around compensation and the use of artificial intelligence in the entertainment industry.

 

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said it had offered wage increases—the average actor's salary is about $69K—and proposed further protections around the use of AI. However, they said the latest proposal from the actors included a revenue share from streaming shows that could cost the studios an additional $800M annually. SAG-AFTRA argued the AMPTP estimate was exaggerated by 60%. The strike has left more than 160,000 industry professionals unemployed and has so far caused an estimated $5B in losses to California’s economy.

 

The news follows the recent resolution of a 148-day strike by the Writers Guild of America, which secured better royalty payments for streaming content and a 5% minimum pay increase, with additional bumps in 2024 and 2025.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with Jones Road

> "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" concert film opens today, expecting to haul in up to $150M in its opening weekend at the box office (More) | Rudolph Isley, founding member of The Isley Brothers, dies at 84 (More)

> International Olympic Committee suspends Russia's Olympic committee for incorporating sports councils based in Ukraine (More)

> Jerry Seinfeld, Gal Gadot, and Michael Douglas among 700 Hollywood figures who signed letter condemning Hamas and calling for release of Israeli hostages (More)

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Science & Technology

> Researchers propose method to build paved roads on the moon using focused beams of sunlight; approach could facilitate rover missions, potential future lunar bases (More)

> Brain science consortium releases sweeping package of 21 papers providing the most detailed atlas of the human brain produced to date (More)

> Neanderthals hunted cave lions as early as 50,000 years ago for both food and their hides, new study shows; animals were the apex predator in Eurasia for roughly 200,000 years prior to extinction (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -0.6%, Dow -0.5%, Nasdaq -0.6%) snapping four-session winning streak (More)

> The consumer price index rose 3.7% in September compared to the same month last year, slightly above expectations (More)

> Software giant Atlassian to acquire video messaging provider Loom for $975M (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) charged with acting as a foreign agent to the Egyptian government; comes in addition to bribery charges (More) | See previous write-up (More)

> The CIA makes first public admission that the agency-backed Iranian coup in 1953 was undemocratic (More) | Comments came in an agency podcast (Listen)

> Suspect arrested after wounding five police officers in Minnesota while executing a search warrant; suspect named as 64-year-old Karl Thomas Holmberg (More)

 

In-Depth

> The Mystery of the Five-Cent Coke

Planet Money | David Kestenbaum. (Podcast) In 1899, Coca-Cola's president just wanted two lawyers to get out of his office. The accidental result? The soft drink cost a nickel for the next 70 years. (Listen)

 

> My Journey With Alzheimer's 

MIT Press Reader | Greg O'Brien. The author reflects on the deadly disease that has ravaged generations of his family—and now has come for him. (Read)

> Preserving the Muppets

Sidedoor | Lizzie Peabody. (Podcast) Explore the origins of Jim Henson's iconic "Sesame Street" cast of puppets and the experts at the Smithsonian tasked with keeping them intact. (Listen)

 

> Race to the Bottom

Vox | Staff. Countries and corporations are racing to mine the metal-rich seafloors in international waters in an attempt to supply the world's transition to renewable energy. (Watch)

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