3.31.2023

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Good morning. It's Friday, March 31, and we're covering a grand jury decision against former President Donald Trump, big changes to one of the country's biggest health coverage programs, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Trump Indicted

A Manhattan grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump yesterday on charges related to alleged hush money payments to adult film star Stephanie Gregory Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, and a potential second woman. Trump has denied the charges since they were first made; see his statement from yesterday evening here.

 

The timing of the announcement came as a surprise—Trump himself previously predicted he would be arrested last Tuesday and called for protests, but no indictment was made. As recently as yesterday, reports suggested the grand jury would break until at least late April.  

 

The central allegation in the case is that Trump violated campaign finance laws by reimbursing his former lawyer Michael Cohen for a $130K payment to Daniels to stay quiet about her relationship with Trump in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. See an overview of the case here.

 

Reports suggest New York officials are negotiating with the former president's legal team over specifics, with an arraignment possible Tuesday. Trump, who becomes the first former president to face criminal charges, has said the case wouldn't impact his 2024 presidential campaign. 

 

Russia Jails US Journalist

Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich has been detained in Russia on espionage charges, according to Russian officials. Gershkovich, a US citizen, was arrested in Yekaterinburg and accused of spying on behalf of the US government—the first time a US journalist has been detained for spying allegations since the Cold War.

 

The 31-year-old journalist, who works for the newspaper’s Moscow office, is accused of gathering state secret information regarding activities at a Russian defense plant. He pleaded not guilty in a Moscow court yesterday and faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

 

The arrest comes amid rising tensions between the US and Russia, with the Biden administration continuing to roll out new sanctions against Russia and after a Russian fighter jet collided with a US drone over the Black Sea. See updates on the war here.

 

In related news, Turkey signed off on Finland's membership in NATO, which will be formally admitted to the mutual defense bloc in July. The Nordic nation shares its eastern border with Russia. 

 

Medicaid 'Unwinding' Begins

Pandemic-era policies affecting Medicaid eligibility will begin expiring tomorrow, a change expected to affect between 4 million and 15 million Americans currently enrolled in the low-income healthcare coverage program.  

 

Notably, a provision known as continuous enrollment will end. The rule barred states from dropping participants during the pandemic in exchange for increased federal funding. Combined enrollment in the similar Children's Health Insurance Program grew by an estimated 30% to nearly 92 million participants during the pandemic. Analysts say the surge was due to economic disruption and the rule preventing existing beneficiaries from falling out of the system. 

 

Each state will determine how to unwind the policy, figuring out which participants are no longer eligible or need to renew paperwork—at least 40 states have said they will spread the renewal process over a 12-month window. See a survey of plans here.

 

See an overview of how Medicaid works here

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> NCAA women's basketball Final Four tips off tonight with Virginia Tech taking on LSU (7 pm ET, ESPN) and South Carolina against Iowa (9 pm ET, ESPN) (More) | Men's Final Four begins tomorrow (More)

> Gwyneth Paltrow found not liable in civil suit for damages from 2016 ski accident (More) | Lawyer for "Creed" actor Jonathan Majors releases texts purportedly from woman appearing to take the blame for the fight which led to his arrest (More)

> MLB and minor league players reach first-ever collective bargaining agreement that will more than double salaries in the minor leagues among other benefits (More)

From our partners: This credit card is a reward-seeker's dream, offering unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases and a $200 welcome bonus. The Ascent's independent team of experts is calling it one of the best all-around cards. Learn more today.

 

Science & Technology

> Text-to-image AI platform Midjourney halts free trials after a number of realistic deepfakes go viral; company also cites surging demand (More)

> New study reveals how whale sharks can see in the low-light environment of the deep ocean; a mutation in the photoreceptor rhodopsin more efficiently detects blue light and is stable at low temperatures (More)

> Tyrannosaurus rex and other theropods likely had lips to protect the thin enamel coating covering their teeth; new analysis contradicts popular depictions of the dinosaurs (More)

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.6%, Dow +0.4%, Nasdaq +0.7%) for second consecutive session (More)

> Virgin Orbit fails to secure emergency financing; rocket company will cease operations and lay off majority of workforce (More)

> Average Wall Street bonus of $176K falls 26% from last year; cumulative total for the year estimated at $33.7B (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Nashville officials release recordings of 911 calls made during Monday mass shooting at a private Christian school; no motive publicly identified in the attack that left six dead, including three children (More)

> Nine US soldiers killed after two Black Hawk helicopters crash late Wednesday in a training exercise outside Kentucky's Fort Campbell (More)

> Severe spring storms expected to roll through the Mid-South and Midwest today, with 65 million people in the US potentially under storm warnings (More)  

 

In-Depth

> Baseball's Newest Superstar

GQ | Joseph Bien-Kahn. At just 22 years old, Julio Rodriguez has already signed a $400M, 17-year contract playing centerfield for the Seattle Mariners, and fans can't get enough of him. (Read)

 

> The Business of Instagram Bans

ProPublica | Craig Silverman, Bianca Fortis. The story of a scam artist making hundreds of thousands of dollars getting high-profile Instagram accounts falsely banned, and the journalists who think they identified him. (Read)

> Amazon's Quirky Brand Names

Half as Interesting | Staff. Diving into why sellers on Amazon have names like Nertpow and ZGGCD, and why that's making life really hard for the US Patent Office. (Watch)

 

> Shelter at the Theater

This is Love | Phoebe Judge. (Podcast) As Russia launched its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, one couple took shelter in an unlikely place: a theater, where dozens of others would join them. (Listen)

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Etcetera
 

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Clickbait: China gives college students a week off "to fall in love."

 

Historybook: Eiffel Tower opens in Paris (1889); Workers’ rights leader Cesar Chavez born (1927); American track legend Jesse Owens dies (1980); Singer-songwriter Selena killed (1995); Rapper Nipsey Hussle killed (2019).

"Find the good. It's all around you. Find it, showcase it, and you'll start believing in it."

- Jesse Owens

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