12.15.2023

Facts, without motives.
 

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Good morning. It's Friday, Dec. 15, and we're covering a big step forward for Ukraine's shift to the West, a foiled terror plot in Germany, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

EU Membership Talks

The European Union agreed yesterday to begin talks with Ukraine and Moldova on bringing the countries into the 27-member organization. Ukraine applied for membership last February, four days after Russia's initial invasion.  

 

Similar to NATO—for which talks of Ukraine's membership have not meaningfully progressed—the EU has a mutual defense clause. The condition would, in principle, require the EU to defend Ukraine's border with Russia, were Ukraine to eventually join. The formal accession process is likely to take years and requires wide-ranging conditions on Ukraine's side. 

 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán left the room during the vote to allow for a unanimous decision, days after saying he would derail the bid (notably, EU officials separately agreed to unblock $11B to Hungary Wednesday evening). 

 

In related news, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled openness to a prisoner swap for two US citizens currently imprisoned in the country.

 

Terror Plot in Germany

European officials said yesterday they had detained four men—three in Germany and one in the Netherlands—on suspicions of plotting terror attacks on Jewish sites across Europe. The suspects are believed to be members of Hamas—authorities said one person had been tasked with locating a stockpile of weapons that had been secretly stored in the past. Authorities said there was not a direct link with the Israel-Hamas war, as their investigation preceded Hamas' Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel. 

 

Separately, at least 12 people were killed and 34 injured during a three-day raid by Israeli troops in the West Bank, Palestinian officials said. Israeli officials said they found multiple explosives labs. 

 

Meanwhile, US officials reportedly warned Israel to limit civilian casualties as it pushed through southern Gaza, calling for the end of intense fighting. 

 

See updates on the war here (w/maps). 

 

The Golden Age of Volleyball

No. 1 Nebraska will face defending national champions Texas in the NCAA women’s volleyball national championship Sunday (3 pm ET, ABC). Texas, who has won four titles, will be led by standouts Madisen Skinner—the Big 12 player of the year—and middle blocker Asjia O’Neal. The five-time champion Huskers (32-1), whose only loss this season was to Wisconsin, are led by captains Merritt Beason and Lexi Rodriguez. 

 

The match comes during a boom in popularity for the sport, with last year’s title game bringing in almost 1.2 million viewers. This year's Nebraska versus Omaha game filled Nebraska’s football stadium with just over 92,000 fans and set an all-time attendance record for women’s sports. USA Volleyball membership—the national governing body of the sport in the US—increased by 9.6% in the 2022-23 season, the largest percentage growth since 1998. The number of high school girls and boys playing the sport has grown by almost 40% since 2017.

 

The first women’s professional league, Athletes Unlimited, debuted in 2021. The Professional Volleyball Federation will launch a seven-franchise league starting in January, and League One Volleyball—partnered with USA Volleyball—will arrive in 2025.

In partnership with Timeline

Discovered, a 'Speed Limit' on Healthy Aging

 

 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Comedian Trevor Noah tapped to host Grammy Awards (Feb. 4) for fourth consecutive year (More) | Director Greta Gerwig selected as president of 2024 Cannes Film Festival jury (More)

> College football bowl season begins tomorrow, with 43 bowl games over the next three weeks; see complete viewing schedule (More)

> George McGinnis, Basketball Hall of Famer, dies at 73 of a cardiac arrest (More) | Emmanuelle Debever, actress who accused French actor Gérard Depardieu of sexual assault, dies at 60 by apparent suicide (More)

 

Science & Technology

> Amazon's Project Kuiper demonstrates communication between satellites via infrared lasers; allows the space-based internet network to send 100GB of data per second between multiple satellites (More)

> Daydreaming may play a role in brain plasticity, training the brain to react in certain ways to the subject of the daydream (More) | Neuroplasticity explained (More) | Scientists identify neurons linking poor sleep with high stress (More)

> Proof-of-principle device extracts uranium from seawater, demonstrating a potential alternative source of nuclear fuel; estimates suggest 4.5 billion tons of uranium is diluted in the world's oceans (More)

 

Business & Markets

In partnership with The Ascent

> US stock markets close up (S&P 500 +0.3%, Dow +0.4%, Nasdaq +0.2%), Dow sets new record close; US 10-year Treasury yield falls below 4% for the first time since August (More) | European Central Bank and Bank of England hold interest rates steady, giving no signal for future rate cuts (More

> General Motors' self-driving vehicle business Cruise to lay off 900 employees, or 24% of workforce; news comes after Cruise dismisses nine senior leaders amid vehicle safety investigation (More)

> French media giant Vivendi mulls splitting into three businesses: a premium television channel, an advertising unit, and an entity that includes its majority stake in publishing group Lagardère (More

From our partners: The art of the balance transfer. This card offers not one, not two, not six, but 18 months of 0% intro APR on qualifying balance transfers, giving you a year and a half to save big. All with no annual fee. Learn more about this card today.

 

Politics & World Affairs

> US Supreme Court declines to hear arguments challenging Illinois ban on owning and selling high-power semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines (More)

> House passes $886B annual defense authorization bill; legislation extends controversial foreign surveillance program, leaves out provisions limiting abortion coverage and transgender care for service members (More)

> Former FBI counterintelligence chief sentenced to more than four years in prison for working on behalf of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (More)

 

In-Depth

GLP versus GPT

Ringer | Derek Thompson. (Podcast) Learn why one endocrinologist thinks the arrival of GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic and Mounjaro could have a bigger impact on humanity than AI chatbot ChatGPT. (Listen)

 

> Glacier Ghosts

NY Times | John Branch. Fifty years after the bodies of two US climbers were left behind on Aconcagua, the Western Hemisphere's tallest peak, a melting glacier surfaced one of their intact cameras. (Read)

> Moved Along

Portland Press Herald | Grace Benninghoff. A day in the life of Desirae Rowe, a 35-year-old homeless woman in Portland regularly displaced by the city's encampment sweeps. (Read)

 

> Tattoo Immunity

Kurzgesagt | Staff. Watch how our immune systems respond to tattoo ink by deploying millions of cells to enclose it, preventing it from damaging the body. (Watch)

In partnership with Timeline

Urolithin A: a New Era in Healthy Aging

 

Maintaining muscle function is a pillar of healthy aging, but as we get older, our muscle integrity diminishes. In clinical studies testing skeletal muscle, a healthy-aging molecule called Urolithin A increased strength and endurance by improving cellular energy–with no change in the participants’ exercise routine.

 

Mitopure, the only highly pure, clinically validated Urolithin A supplement, is supported by 5 clinical studies and 56 patents. Try it for yourself: 1440 readers can get up to 20% off their first order of Mitopure with code 1440XX.

Please support our sponsors!

Etcetera
 

A brief history of the ugly Christmas sweater.

 

Astronaut captures photos of icebergs from space.

 

... while a photographer catches the Durdle Door "sunstar."

 

Language may influence your perception of time.

 

The year's strangest Guinness World Records.

 

Public speakers captured on the earliest-known audio recordings.

 

Neanderthal DNA makes for early risers.

 

Startup aims to end turbulence on planes.

 

Clickbait: Meandering bull wanders into Newark's Penn Station

 

Historybook: US Bill of Rights ratified, becomes law (1791); Eiffel Tower builder Gustave Eiffel born (1832); Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull killed (1890); Walt Disney dies (1966); Actress Joan Fontaine dies (2013).

"I ought to be jealous of the tower. She is more famous than I am.

- Gustave Eiffel

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