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Good morning. It's Wednesday, April 5, and we're covering an unsealed indictment against a former president, a new NATO member, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Trump Arraigned

Former President Donald Trump yesterday pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to the alleged use of campaign funds as hush money payments in 2016. 


The charges stem from a $130K payoff made from an intermediary to adult film star Stephanie Gregory Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, as well as $150K to a second woman. The indictment, unsealed yesterday, also noted a $30K payment from an intermediary to a Trump Tower door attendant who claimed to have a story about a child Trump had out of wedlock.


In principle, the counts altogether carry a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison under New York law—four years for each count. Legal experts say Trump, as a first-time offender with no criminal record, is unlikely to face jail time in the event of a potential conviction at trial. Prosecutors will have to prove Trump is guilty of maintaining false business records with the intent to hide the hush money payments. 


After his arraignment, Trump returned to Mar-a-Lago, where he delivered public remarks.


See the indictment here, and the statement of facts here.


Finland Joins NATO

Finland formally became the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the world's largest military alliance, ending the military nonalignment it has maintained since 1945.


The move adds 832 miles to and nearly doubles the alliance's border with Russia and is seen as a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who cited one reason for invading Ukraine was opposition to NATO's expansion toward the east. Putin warned Russia would take unspecified countermeasures and scale up forces near the border if NATO sent troops or equipment to Finland.


The NATO collective defense principle maintains all allies must respond if one ally is attacked. Finland has well-equipped, active armed forces of about 23,000 and can call on around 280,000 reserves in wartime. It also boasts the largest artillery capability in Western Europe, with a reported 1,500 pieces in operation.


Neighboring Sweden, which has also applied, has faced objections from Turkey and Hungary for allegedly supporting Kurdish militants.


A Slushy Earth

Seaweed fossils found in China dating from over 600 million years ago suggest ancient Earth was not as ice-covered as previously thought, according to new research released yesterday. The study sheds light on how life survived two of the planet's most severe global glaciation events.


Scientists posit two distinct, extended ice ages covered the Earth in glaciers during the Cryogenian Period (720 million to 635 million years ago). According to the Snowball Earth theory, the planet was completely covered in ice from pole to pole most of that period, drastically limiting what forms of life could survive. Researchers have not reached a consensus on what prompted the massive frozen period.


The new study claims the presence of shale-encased fossils of multicellular organisms dating from the glacial period indicates pockets of complex life survived in "slushy" oases further from the Equator than formerly believed, advancing models of how life evolved through the period. 

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Jimin of K-pop group BTS becomes first South Korean solo artist to top Billboard Hot 100 chart with his song "Like Crazy" (More)

> HBO and Warner Bros. in talks for "Harry Potter" series based on each of the seven books (More) | "Shrek 5" in the works, featuring voice actors from original film (More)

> US National Women's Soccer League franchise tapped for Bay Area will begin play in 2024; ownership team includes four former members of women's national team (More)


Science & Technology

> Stanford University's 2023 AI Index finds of the significant new machine learning models released in the past year, 32 came from private industry while three came from academia (More) | Read report here (More)

> Researchers grow "minihearts" in a lab dish; the organoid emulates early phases of heart growth and will allow scientists to study developmental disorders in the organ without live test subjects (More)

> Brain scans reveal habit-forming neural circuitry becomes unusually active in patients with eating disorders; study may provide new interventions for binge eating and bulimia (More)


Business & Markets

In partnership with The Ascent

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -0.6%, Dow -0.6%, Nasdaq -0.5%); US job openings fall below 10 million for first time since 2021 (More)

> Virgin Orbit files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; rocket company was founded by billionaire Richard Branson in 2017 (More)

> JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon warns in annual shareholder letter the US banking crisis is ongoing and its impact will be felt for many years (More) | Founder of student loan startup Frank arrested on fraud charges for allegedly defrauding JPMorgan out of $175M with fake data (More)

From our partners: We aren't given many 21-month grace periods. Oil checks, doctor appointments, Tax Day ... time speeds by between them. But The Ascent found a credit card offering 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months—among the longest we've seen to avoid interest charges. Learn more about this card today.


Politics & World Affairs

> Brandon Johnson (D) wins Chicago mayoral runoff election against former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas (More) | Judge Janet Protasiewicz wins 

Wisconsin Supreme Court race, marking the first time in 15 years the court will have a liberal majority (More)

> Nashville officials recover suicide note, additional weapons from home of school shooter who killed six people, including three children, in an attack last Monday (More)

> Former chief of staff to ex-Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) killed in altercation with federal officials after weekslong search; Ray McGrath fled after being charged in corruption probe (More)

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Historybook: Booker T. Washington born (1856); Actress Bette Davis born (1908); Actor Gregory Peck born (1916); Former Secretary of State Colin Powell born (1937); Kurt Cobain dies (1994).

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."

- Colin Powell

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