5.8.2024

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Good morning. It's Wednesday, May 8, and we're covering a key witness in Trump's criminal trial, learning how sperm whales speak, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

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Need To Know
 

Stormy Takes the Stand

Adult film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, testified yesterday in a criminal trial against former President Donald Trump, detailing for jurors a supposed 2006 extramarital affair between the two and a subsequent hush money payment. See key takeaways here.

 

The case centers on a $130K payment made to Daniels by Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election in exchange for Daniels staying quiet about the alleged affair (see timeline). Trump faces charges for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws by falsely listing a reimbursement payment to Cohen as a legal expense, which prosecutors argue was meant to conceal the hush money. Trump denies allegations of the affair, which first arose in 2018. Trump, now 77, and Daniels, now 45, allegedly met at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 2006. 

 

Trump's attorneys sought a mistrial over portions of Daniels' testimony, which they say differed from prior public statements and went beyond the scope of the trial; the trial judge denied their motion.

 

In related news, the trial against the former president over charges he improperly took classified documents after leaving office was postponed indefinitely, with the presiding judge citing a backlog of pretrial matters. 

 

The ABCs of Sperm Whales

Sperm whales employ a system of communication much more sophisticated than previously believed, researchers revealed yesterday, using the equivalent of a phonetic alphabet that varies depending on context. The new study analyzed nearly 9,000 codas—short bursts of clicks—using AI to uncover vocal patterns and potential meanings in how the animals signaled to each other in their deep-sea environment.

 

The team of marine biologists and computer scientists found the phonetic alphabet of sperm whales features 18 rhythms, five tempos, three types of rubato (variation in duration), and two extra clicks called ornamentation, which are modified depending on conversational context. Using machine learning algorithms, the scientists identified 143 regularly used combinations they believe structure a form of phonetic alphabet. They are now exploring whether these signals convey specific intentions, like making group decisions or coordinating hunts.

 

Scientists hope, with the help of AI, to eventually be able to communicate with the whales, which would be the first time humans have spoken with another species.

 

Boy Scouts Rebrand

Boy Scouts of America announced yesterday it would change its name to Scouting America in February of next year, the first rebrand in its 114-year history. Membership in the youth organization known for outdoor activities and patriotic values has halved in the last decade to 1 million, below its 1972 peak of 5 million.

 

The news comes as the BSA grapples with a yearslong bankruptcy process prompted by thousands of allegations of sexual abuse of its youth members by at least 7,200 individual adult group leaders, with some cases dating back to the 1960s. The organization agreed to contribute—alongside insurance companies—to a $2.4B settlement fund last year to compensate the over 82,000 men who have submitted claims of abuse. It marks the largest payout in a sexual abuse lawsuit in history. 

 

The name change follows the organization's decision to allow girls of every age to join in 2019. Boy Scouts of America is a separate organization from the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Disney shares drop nearly 10% despite news that streaming platform Disney+ brought in its first-ever quarterly profit (More)

> Ian Gelder, "Game of Thrones" actor, dies of cancer at age 74 (More) | Susan Buckner, actress known for role in "Grease," dies at age 72 (More)

> Borussia Dortmund tops Paris Saint-Germain to advance to UEFA Champions League final (More) | Real Madrid takes on Bayern Munich today (3 pm ET, Paramount+) in other semifinal matchup (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with EnergyX

> OpenAI debuts tool to detect images generated by its text-to-image DALL-E 3 platform; detection worked with 98% accuracy, but accuracy rate dropped if images were modified after being generated (More) | Watch 1440's new explainer on how generative AI works (More)

> Engineers develop millimeter-thick fabric capable of suppressing sounds in large rooms or spaces; the electrically active material acts as a "sound mirror," can reduce ambient noise by up to 75% (More)

> NASA's Roman mission to search for primordial black holes; theorized but never observed, the low-mass objects formed shortly after the Big Bang and may be as small as Earth (More) | How black holes form (More, w/video)

From our partners: The lithium boom. It takes 10,000 smartphone batteries to make one set of EV batteries. With over 350 million global EV sales projected by 2030, demand is soaring. Enter EnergyX. Their tech can extract 300% more lithium, earning them a $50M investment from GM, deals with top producers like POSCO, and a $5M DOE grant. Now EnergyX is accepting investors for a limited time. Become an EnergyX shareholder here.*

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close mixed (S&P 500 +0.1%, Dow +0.1%, Nasdaq -0.1%) as investors wait on news of Federal Reserve interest rate cut timing (More) | Reddit shares jump over 14% in after-hours trading on news first-quarter revenue rose 48% from 2023; marks first quarterly earnings report since March initial public offering (More)

> TikTok sues US government over law forcing Chinese parent company ByteDance to divest or face a US ban; argues video platform should be allowed to operate under First Amendment free speech protections (More) | See previous write-up (More)

> London-based self-driving car company Wayve raises $1.1B in Series C funding led by SoftBank (More) | Federal investigators question Tesla over uptick in crashes despite rollout of autopilot software updates (More

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Israel takes control of Gaza's side of Rafah crossing with Egypt as the UN warns of potential for collapse of aid flow to the territory; Israel-Hamas cease-fire discussions continue (More) | See updates on war (More)

> Ukrainian officials say they have foiled an assassination plot against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, arrest two colonels accused of acting as Russian spies (More) | See updates on war (More)

> At least one person died and more than 30,000 people left without power following tornadoes in Oklahoma; parts of central and eastern US under tornado and thunderstorm watches (More

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Etcetera
 

AI deepfakes spread of stars on the Met Gala carpet.

 

Panera plans to phase out its controversial Charged Lemonade.

 

A second grade teacher visited every country on Earth.

 

Food products that came out the year you were born.

 

Did lead exposure cause Ludwig van Beethoven's deafness?

 

The push to subsidize kebabs in Germany.

 

... and indulge in red pineapples costing almost $400.

 

Nude cruise to set sail from Florida.

 

Clickbait: Introducing robot snails.

 

Historybook: Poet Phillis Wheatley born (1753); President Harry Truman born (1884); Boxing legend Sonny Liston born (1932); Germany surrenders, ending World War II in Europe (1945); Smallpox is eradicated (1980).

"The world is a severe schoolmaster, for its frowns are less dangerous than its smiles and flatteries, and it is a difficult task to keep in the path of wisdom."

- Phillis Wheatley

Why 1440? The printing press was invented around the year 1440, spreading knowledge to the masses and changing the course of history. More facts: In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. We’re here to make each one count.

 

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