2.26.2024

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Good morning. It's Monday, Feb. 26, and we're covering Supreme Court arguments over social media content, new hope for those suffering from food allergies, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

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Need To Know
 

Content Moderation Cases

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today over whether states can bar social media companies from moderating political content on their platforms, one of three social media disputes before the court this term.

 

Both Texas and Florida passed laws in 2021 preventing platforms like Facebook, X, and YouTube from removing posts or users for political reasons, part of a broad conservative backlash to the sites driven in part by the restriction of former President Donald Trump's accounts in early 2021. 

 

The states argue the platforms are effectively digital public squares where First Amendment free speech rights should be protected (read case overview). Social media platforms currently have wide leeway to decide what can be published on their sites, arguing their product (and editorial discretion) is protected as free speech, similar to newspapers. Critics of the laws claim extremist content would proliferate under them.

 

If the laws are deemed constitutional, analysts say tech companies may consider unique content feeds for those states, a complex technical challenge.

 

Sweden's NATO Future

Hungary’s parliament is set to vote on Sweden’s NATO bid today, a move that would pave the way for Sweden to become the 32nd country to join the transatlantic military alliance.

 

The country is the only NATO member yet to approve Sweden’s bid, submitted shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hungary’s leadership had expressed a range of reservations with Sweden’s bid, including comments critical of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Hungary also maintains close diplomatic and economic ties with the Kremlin, now Russia's largest oil and gas customer in Europe. Last week, Orbán signaled approval for Sweden’s bid following a visit from Swedish leader Ulf Kristersson and the announcement of Hungary’s purchase of four Swedish fighter jets.

 

Sweden and Russia do not share a land border, but they do share a maritime border, with one Swedish island located over 180 miles from the base of Russia’s Baltic fleet. NATO members operate under a collective defense doctrine (see 101), requiring a mutual response in the event of an attack. 

 

Sweden’s bid—like Finland’s, approved to join NATO last year—marked the end of the two countries’ decadeslong policy of nonalignment.

 

Food Allergy Breakthrough

A widely used drug treating chronic severe asthma also significantly reduces reactions to many common food allergens, new research presented yesterday revealed. Marketed under the brand name Xolair, the drug is the first preventive treatment that protects users from accidental life-threatening exposures. 

 

The drug is composed of antibodies that bind and deactivate a molecule in the blood known as immunoglobulin E, which otherwise trigger the immune system when certain allergens are present. In trials, patients not only withstood exposures—two-thirds reported being able to ingest small amounts of food that would typically trigger a reaction.

 

Roughly 19 million people in the US (around 5.5 million children) have food allergies, resulting in about 30,000 emergency room visits annually. The drug—meant to be injected on a regular basis, not taken after a reaction begins—has already been approved for use in those older than 1 year old by health officials. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> "Oppenheimer" wins top film prize for best cast at Screen Actors Guild Awards while "Succession" and "The Bear" bring home top television awards (More)

> Kenneth Mitchell, actor known for roles in "Star Trek: Discovery" and "Jericho," dies at 49 from complications of ALS (More) | Golden Richards, Super Bowl-winning wide receiver, dies at 73 (More)

> NFL's 2024 salary cap to rise to record $255M per team, a 13.6% increase over 2023 (More)

From our partners: Say hello to a one-card wallet. If you’ve been dreaming of a “one-card wallet,” it’s time to wake up and get your hands on this credit card. Not only does it offer 0% APR into 2025, but cardholders can also earn up to an industry-crushing 5% cash back, with no annual fee to boot.

 

Science & Technology

> Odysseus moon lander lands horizontally after likely catching one of its feet on the surface during final descent; craft remains functional and is generating power (More) | Sends back first shot of lunar surface (More)

> Brain stimulation using low-frequency ultrasound may help treat certain brain disorders, including assisting in regaining control of motor functions after accidents (More)

> Researchers demonstrate a hypothetical cyberattack capable of causing smartphones to catch on fire while charging; approach manipulates signals from wireless chargers, causing rapid heating of the battery (More)

 

Business & Markets

> Markets end Friday mixed (Dow +0.2%, S&P 500 +0.0%, Nasdaq -0.3%), but all three major indexes end week up, led by Nvidia's strong earnings (More) | See previous write-up on Nvidia's report (More)

> Investor Warren Buffett issues annual letter for Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, pays tribute to former partner Charlie Munger (More) | Read full letter (More, begins on p. 3)

> US regulators accuse tax giant H&R Block of deceptive marketing and making it unreasonably difficult to downgrade services once customers realized upgraded options weren't necessary (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Former President Donald Trump wins South Carolina GOP primary over the state's former Gov. Nikki Haley, 60% to about 40%; Haley says she will remain in the race, Michigan primary set for tomorrow (More)

> Israeli officials to consider evacuation plan for the southern Gazan city of Rafah this week, ahead of a planned operation; an estimated 1 million refugees are in the immediate area (More) | US, UK forces launch wave of strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen, the fourth such mission in recent weeks (More) | See updates on war (More)

> Russia returns body of deceased opposition leader Alexei Navalny to family; Navalny died in an Arctic prison Feb. 16 (More) | Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says an estimated 31,000 troops have been killed since Russia invaded the country two years ago (More)

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Etcetera
 

Isolated scientists develop a unique Antarctic accent

 

The research behind children's shows

 

Deep sea expedition photographs hundreds of new species

 

Robot dogs can now (bust) open doors (w/video).

 

Archaeologists uncover an ancient tube of lipstick.

 

Brain surgery patient plays guitar while doctors operate.

 

Baseball stars sour on see-through pants

 

Americans have passed peak Tooth Fairy

 

Clickbait: When eavesdropping on your spouse goes very wrong.

 

Historybook: Fashion designer Levi Strauss born (1829); Grand Canyon National Park established (1919); Musician Johnny Cash born (1932); Musician Erykah Badu born (1971); World Trade Center bombing kills six, injures more than 1,000 (1993).

"You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. Don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."

- Johnny Cash

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