9.28.2023

Facts, without motives.
 

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Good morning. It's Thursday, Sept. 28, and we're covering North Korea releasing a US defector, an American astronaut setting a NASA record, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

US Defector Returned

North Korea released US soldier Travis King into the custody of Swedish officials yesterday, two months after the 23-year-old crossed the heavily fortified demilitarized zone separating North from South Korea. King is expected to undergo a medical examination and mental health screening in Texas before likely facing military discipline.

 

The rare and unexplained foray into North Korea by an American triggered a minor international crisis, requiring weeks of mediation from Sweden, the United States' primary diplomatic channel in North Korea. The US and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations. US officials claim no concessions were required for his release.

 

King had served time at a detention facility for reportedly kicking a South Korean police car and was being escorted back to the United States in July to face discipline. He managed to slip through airport security and join a border tour before willfully crossing into North Korea. Read up on other US citizens entering North Korea here.

 

A Year in Space

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio returned to Earth early yesterday, capping a yearlong stay aboard the International Space Station. At 371 days, Rubio's voyage is the longest single spaceflight by an American astronaut in NASA history. 

 

Having initially launched last September, Rubio was scheduled to return in late March. Halfway through the mission, a stream of particles was observed emanating from the docked return craft. It was later determined a micrometeor—tiny space rocks traveling at average speeds of 22,000 mph—had punctured a 0.03-inch hole in the vehicle's cooling line. The incident required a replacement vessel to be sent to ISS, delaying the crew's return by six months. Rubio parachuted into Kazakhstan where he was immediately met by NASA officials, along with two Russian cosmonauts who endured the same tenure in space (see video).  

 

The record for the longest continuous time in space at 437 days was set by Russian Valeri Polyakov in 1994-95. 

 

Menendez Defiant 

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife pleaded not guilty to criminal bribery charges in a federal court in Manhattan yesterday, as more than half of Senate Democrats call on the 69-year-old lawmaker to resign.

 

Federal prosecutors allege Menendez, who currently seeks a fourth term in the Senate next year, and his wife accepted roughly $500K in cash, at least $100K worth of gold bars, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible in exchange for aiding the Egyptian government, including sharing sensitive US information (see previous write-up). A judge yesterday prohibited Menendez from foreign travel except for official business with notifying the court. Menendez maintains he will be cleared from the charges and that the cash found in his home was from personal savings, not bribes.

 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and at least 28 of the 48 Senate Democrats, including No. 2-ranking Sen. Dick Durbin (IL), No. 3-ranking Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Sen. Cory Booker (NJ), have pushed for Menendez to step down this week. Menendez is expected to address Senate Democrats today. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Writers Guild of America strike ends after 148 days following tentative agreement with film and TV producers (More

> Michigan State fires football coach Mel Tucker in wake of sexual harassment allegations (More) | Portland Trailblazers trade superstar Damian Lillard to Milwaukee Bucks as part of three-team deal (More)

> Bruce Springsteen to postpone remainder of his 2023 tour dates due to health concerns (More) | CNN launches its 24/7 streaming news service CNN Max (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with LiquidPiston

> Physicists report first experimental evidence demonstrating antimatter behaves the same under gravity as regular matter; findings rule out gravitational effects as the reason why the universe is filled with matter (More) | What is antimatter? (More)

> Earthworm study finds the organisms play key roles in the supply of more than 150 million tons of food annually, including 6.5% of global grain yields (More)

> Paleontologists discover 465-million-year-old trilobite fossil with preserved stomach contents, the first known window into the ancient species' eating habits (More)

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Business & Markets

> US stock markets close mixed (S&P 500 +0.02%, Dow -0.2%, Nasdaq +0.2%);
yield of 10-year Treasury up to highest level in 15 years (More)

> US crude oil at highest prices in 2023 as storage levels shrink (More)

> Peloton shares up 17% after announcing five-year content and athletic wear partnership with Lululemon (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Seven 2024 GOP presidential candidates face each other in second televised primary debate in California; see key takeaways (More) | House Republicans hold first live hearing today in their impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden over possible financial misconduct (More

> House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-20) rejects Senate's bipartisan short-term funding proposal, plans to bring Republican-led stopgap bill to the House floor Friday; government shutdown to begin Sunday if no deal is reached (More

> Azerbaijan arrests former head of the breakaway ethnic Armenian government in Nagorno-Karabakh as more than 50,000 people have left the region so far (More) | At least 93 people killed and 100 injured after a fire breaks out at a wedding hall in Iraq (More)

 

In-Depth

>  How Hip-Hop Fueled the White Sox Rebrand 

MLB | Matthew Ritchie. The Chicago White Sox's 1990 rebrand became a culture-defining moment, gaining popularity through influential hip-hop figures like Ice Cube and Dr. Dre while instilling a new sense of pride in the team. (Read)

 

> The Evolution of Beer 

Washington Post | Staff. An illustrative deep dive into the milestones and innovations in beer history, beginning more than 11,000 years ago—plus discover the historical beers you may have loved (or hated) through an interactive quiz. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

Visualizing the loneliness epidemic

 

Iowa State football players ink deal for "Porktober" ad campaign.

 

Win a stay at a famous ogre’s abode.

 

Panera launches a Roman Empire-themed menu

 

California gets ready for cannabis cafes.

 

New language discovered on ancient tablets found in northern Turkey.

 

Stunning art made with fallen leaves

 

A university in Ireland to offer degree in social-media influencing.

 

Clickbait: A new take on "news by the minute."

 

Historybook: Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin (1928); Ted Williams is last major league baseball player to bat over .400 (1941); Jazz legend Miles Davis dies (1991); American tennis great and color barrier breaker Althea Gibson dies (2003); Rapper Coolio dies (2022).

"No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you."

- Althea Gibson

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