2.10.2023

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Good morning. It's Friday, Feb. 10, and we're covering an update on the spy balloon, an NFL lawsuit, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Spy Balloon Update

US officials released details on the Chinese spy balloon shot down Saturday as investigators began to analyze the parts of the craft collected from the ocean’s surface. The main electronics payload, reportedly the size of a midsize plane, has not yet been recovered from where it sank.

 

Officials claimed the spy balloon (see history) was equipped with several antennas and solar panels, enough to indicate the presence of multiple intelligence collection systems, likely including high-resolution photography and audio collection of both encrypted and public signals. Analysts observed the craft’s trajectory traced a path proximate to several sensitive US military sites (see map).

 

The system is said to be part of a much larger Chinese program of spy balloons known to have surveilled at least 40 countries. Officials believe the order did not come directly from President Xi Jinping.

 

NFL Benefits Lawsuit

Ten former professional football players filed suit against the NFL yesterday, alleging the league intentionally arbitrarily denied benefits and misrepresented medical information to keep costs down. The group includes ex-running back Willis McGahee and former veteran cornerback Mike McKenzie.

 

Disability plans for former players are relatively generous, ranging from $65K to $256K annually. The players argue the issue is not the level of benefits but the difficulty in having medical claims approved—particularly the difficulty in establishing a direct causal link between long-term repetitive damage, including brain injuries, which may not manifest with symptoms immediately. Read more about the challenges NFL players face in securing injury claims here.

 

The suit comes ahead of Sunday's LVII Super Bowl, where the Philadelphia Eagles will take on the Kansas City Chiefs (6:30 pm ET, FOX). See our previous write-up here.

 

Quake Toll Tops 20,000

The death toll from a series of earthquakes in central Turkey and northern Syria earlier this week passed 20,000, making it the deadliest seismic event since the quake that left hundreds of thousands dead in Haiti in 2010. 

 

The impact of the disaster was acute in Syria's rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, which remains largely cut off from aid. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for a three-month state of emergency in 10 of its provinces, including Gaziantep, the quake's epicenter along the East Anatolian fault zone. See previous write-up here.

 

Geologists built a visual showing the pace and magnitude of the over 200 shocks Monday. View it here

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Burt Bacharach, six-time Grammy, three-time Oscar, and Emmy Award winning music composer, dies at 94 (More) | Exhibition displaying largest collection of Johannes Vermeer paintings opens today at Rijksmuseum museum in Amsterdam (More) | Explore Vermeer's works online (More)

> Phoenix Suns acquire superstar Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets in blockbuster trade (More) | See full list of deals at the NBA trade deadline (More)

> Family of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins file lawsuit against Alec Baldwin and producers of "Rust" for emotional distress caused by Hutchins' death on the set of the film (More) | "Toy Story," "Frozen," and "Zootopia" sequels in the works at Disney (More)

 

Science & Technology

> Paleontologists discover fossils suggesting complex ecosystems were present around 250 million years ago; find challenges long-held beliefs around the Permian-Triassic mass extinction (More)

> Materials scientists grow lithium metal on an engineered substrate; prototype may provide a route to future fast-charging electric vehicle stations (More) | Why is lithium important? (More)

> The Hubble Telescope captures new "spoke season" on Saturn, the equivalent of new seasons on the gaseous planet (More)

 

Business & Markets

In partnership with Dymicron

> US stock markets extend recent losses (S&P 500 -0.9%, Dow -0.7%, Nasdaq -1.0%) as investors continue to digest corporate earnings (More)

> Yahoo to lay off 20% of staff, or around 1,600 people, as it restructures its ad tech unit, ending a yearslong effort to compete with Google and Meta for digital advertising (More) | Credit Suisse reports biggest annual loss since 2008 global financial crisis (More) | Lyft shares drop 30% in after-hours trading after sales outlook falls short of $1B (More

> Nextracker shares close at $30.46, above the solar company's initial public offering price of $24 per share; company raises $638M from selling 26.6 million shares in the biggest US listing since October (More)

From our partners: A “gem” of an investment. Replacement joints wear over time, leaving debris that can be harmful. Enter Dymicron. Their artificial cervical disc replacement uses the hardest stuff on earth. Made with lab-grown diamonds, their patented implant doesn’t degrade, is cheaper than spinal fusion, and reduces patient downtime. Implanted 500 times internationally, Dymicron is going through FDA approval. Check out their investment offering.

 

Politics & World Affairs

> More than 220 political prisoners freed in Nicaragua, flown to the US as humanitarian refugees; arrests came amid a political crackdown by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (More)

> South Africa declares state of disaster as parts of the country deal with up to 10 hours of blackouts per day (More) | See overview (More)

> Rep. George Santos (R, NY-3) was involved in 2017 case involving alleged pet theft, per reports (More) | GOP members increasingly disavow Santos (More)

 

In-Depth

> When Algorithms Make Mistakes

Untangled | Charley Johnson. (Podcast) Can algorithms really make errors, or are they reflective of the humans that build them? Professor Mike Ananny unpacks this deceptively simple question. (Listen)

 

> The Dirt on Pig-Pen

Astra Mag | Elif Batuman. A meditation on the enigmatic, perennially dirty character in Charles M. Schulz's beloved comic strip series, including his hiatus during the 1970s. (Read)

> A Nonalcoholic Beer Golden Age

Punch | Jordan Michelman. A decade ago, the market for nonalcoholic brews was almost nonexistent. Here's the exciting story of the industry's rapid growth. (Read)

 

> Why Airline Logistics Keep Failing

Wendover Productions | Staff. A deep dive investigation into the minutiae of recent failures at Southwest Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration—and what regulators might do to fix it. (Watch)

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Etcetera
 

A resting rhino tops the best travel photos of the year.

 

The economy remains Americans' policy priority

 

Killer whales are helicopter moms.

 

Google's new chatbot debuts with a cosmic mistake.

 

Archaeologists uncover a 7.5-foot burial sword.

 

Inside Mary Queen of Scots' secret messages.

 

New York City gets a Chicago-like bean.

 

Blurring the lines between work and home.

 

Clickbait: Quench your thirst with a tall glass of cockroach milk.

 

Historybook: French and Indian War ends (1763); “Roots” author Alex Haley dies (1992); American playwright Arthur Miller dies (2005); Hollywood legend and diplomat Shirley Temple dies (2014).

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