12.5.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Tuesday, Dec. 5, and we're covering charges against a former US ambassador accused of being a spy, a breakthrough in treating traumatic brain injuries, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Ex-US Diplomat Charged

US officials unsealed charges yesterday against a retired US diplomat who has been accused of spying for Cuba for more than four decades in what is considered one of the longest-lasting infiltrations of the US government.

 

Manuel Rocha, 73, was arrested Friday in Miami and charged with conspiring to act as a foreign government agent, acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government, and lying to obtain a passport. Rocha's efforts to gather intelligence for Cuba allegedly began in 1981 when he started working for the US State Department. His stints included serving on the National Security Council and holding top posts in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, and the US Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Havana (when the US and Cuba lacked diplomatic relations). 

 

Court documents (see here) state Rocha made incriminating statements and referred to the US as "the enemy" during three meetings within the last year with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Cuban intelligence operative. Rocha's charges come after a former US defense intelligence agency analyst convicted of spying for Cuba was released earlier this year after 21 years in prison.

 

Cyclone Michaung Hits India

Cyclone Michaung made landfall early this morning along India’s southern coast as a severe cyclonic storm, with wind speeds of up to 62 mph and gusts of up to 70 mph. At least six deaths have been reported due to the heavy rainfall, and thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate. Officials in Chennai said the rainfall from Michaung (pronounced “mig-jaum”) is the most the city has encountered in 70-80 years, with some parts of the city recording nearly 10 inches of rain in 24 hours.

 

Cyclone season in the northern Indian Ocean typically runs between April and December. Although the area accounts for less than 6% of the world’s cyclones, it has seen an uptick in cyclonic activity in recent years due to several factors, including warmer sea surface temperatures. However, the Bay of Bengal accounts for more than 80% of global cyclone-related fatalities due to its high population density. See photos of the destruction here.

 

Separately, at least 63 people died following heavy flooding and landslides over the weekend in northern Tanzania. 

 

New Brain Injury Treatment

Electrical stimulation of a key information relay in the injured brains of five patients improved their cognition by up to 52%, according to a new study released yesterday. The small feasibility trial was designed to prove the safety of the implanted electrode device and is a step toward broader clinical studies.

 

Researchers surgically inserted an electrode near the almond-sized central lateral nucleus of the thalamus (see 3D model) in each patient, all of whom had suffered moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injuries between three and 18 years prior. Tests taken before the procedure and after a year of daily, 12-hour deep brain stimulation showed participants' cognitive abilities improved between 12% and 52%.

 

Health officials estimate over 5 million Americans suffer from chronic issues as a result of TBIs suffered primarily via falls and accidents. Healthy brain functioning relies on an active neural network that integrates the brain's many regions, a process hampered in TBI patients. Learn more about TBI here

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Hollywood strikers, Barbie, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Taylor Swift among nine shortlisted for Time magazine's 2023 Person of the Year, which will be announced tomorrow morning (More)

> FSU tops Stanford 5-1 to win the 2023 NCAA women's soccer national championship (More) | Milwaukee Brewers sign outfield prospect Jackson Chourio, 19, to a $82M contract extension, the highest ever paid to a player before their MLB debut (More)

> Brenda Lee’s "Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree" tops Billboard's Hot 100 for the first time since its release 65 years ago marking Lee's first No. 1 hit since 1960 (More) | Taylor Swift is first living artist to concurrently have five top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 (More)

 

Science & Technology

> IBM reveals world's first quantum computer chip with more than 1,000 qubits, along with a 133-qubit chip with record low error rates (More) | How quantum computers work (More, w/video)

> Genetic testing company 23andMe says hackers stole ancestry data on nearly 7 million users during a breach in October, affecting roughly half of the company's user base (More)

> Ancient mosquito fossils found trapped in amber suggest males of the species used to suck blood hundreds of millions of years ago; only female modern-day mosquitoes have the ability to bite (More)

 

Business & Markets

In partnership with The Ascent

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -0.5%, Dow -0.1%, Nasdaq -0.8%) (More) | Bitcoin tops $41K, the highest level since April 2022 (More) | Gold prices notch record high of $2,100 per ounce (More

> Streaming music giant Spotify to cut 17% of workforce, or roughly 1,500 jobs, in third round of layoffs this year (More

> Swiss bank Banque Pictet admits to hiding $5.6B of Americans' money from IRS, settles case for $123M (More

From our partners: $300 is the new $200. This card is offering a rare $300 welcome bonus. Bonuses like this don't come around that often. That's why thousands are lining up for this card. Learn more now.

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Israel presses further into southern Gaza, continues to order residents to move west toward the Mediterranean coast or south toward Rafah near Egypt's border (More) | See updates on the war (More)

> Venezuela's referendum to claim sovereignty over oil-rich region of neighboring Guyana passes by 95%; Guyana views the proposal as a step toward annexation (More) | See our previous write-up (More

> North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) ends 2024 presidential campaign (More) | Remains of five crew members found in wreckage of US military aircraft that crashed off Japan last week (More

 

In-Depth

The Prodigy and the Protégé

ESPN | Aishwarya Kumar. How former NBA player Harold Miner, once dubbed "Baby Jordan" and who spent years agonizing over his unrealized dreams, healed from guiding his daughter, Kami Miner, in becoming one of the best volleyball players in the country. (Read)

 

> Hiding Behind Home Schooling

WashPo | Peter Jamison. A deep dive into how lax home education laws can enable and conceal child abuse, focused on the case of Roman Lopez, an 11-year-old who was tortured and eventually killed by his stepmom. (Read

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Etcetera
 

The 100 best songs of 2023.

 

Stem cells, satellite trails among November's best science images.

 

Why no one can hear you scream in space

 

Oxford University Press names "rizz" its word of the year.

 

The year's 50 best innovations via Popular Science.

 

A roundup of five of the year's best feel-good videos.

 

Fog creates dream-like landscape in British Columbia (w/video).

 

Spend a night in a historical mansion in Italy

 

Clickbait: ChatGPT is writing legislation now

 

Historybook: Mozart dies (1791); Walt Disney born (1901); Rosa Parks helps lead Montgomery bus boycotts (1955); 21st Amendment ratified in the US, repealing the nationwide ban on alcohol (1933); Nelson Mandela dies (2013).

"The only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

- Rosa Parks

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