9.19.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Tuesday, Sept. 19, and we're covering a prisoner swap between the US and Iran, a discovery shedding light on a potentially new human species, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

US-Iran Prisoner Swap

The US and Iran executed a high-stakes prisoner swap yesterday, with five American citizens set to return to the US. In exchange, the US released five Iranians and unfroze nearly $6B in Iranian assets held in South Korea. The freed US prisoners include Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz, Emad Shargi, and two unidentified Americans.

 

The US will monitor Iran's use of the assets to ensure they are used for humanitarian purposes like food and medicine. The monthslong negotiations were mediated by countries such as Qatar, Switzerland, and Oman due to the US and Iran not having formal diplomatic relations. Qatar's central bank will oversee the regulation of the unfrozen funds. See an explainer on Iran's frozen assets here.

 

The news comes as the countries remain at odds on select issues, including Iran's nuclear program, military support for Russia, and crackdown on dissent. Sanctions limiting Iranian economic activity with the US and its allies have been in place for decades, with tensions escalating in 2018 when the US withdrew from a nuclear deal. See a timeline of relations here.

 

World Leaders Gather in New York

Top leaders from over 145 countries are convening in New York City this week as the United Nations opens the 78th session of the annual General Assembly. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will attend in person for the first time since Russia's 2022 invasion. 

 

The assembly is the most representative body in the United Nations, the world's largest intergovernmental association (see background). For nearly eight decades, the assembly has provided a forum for global security, aid, and cooperation (see past highlights) and is often viewed as the biggest opportunity for smaller countries to represent their interests to the international community.

 

Leaders from traditional US allies France and the United Kingdom will be absent. The heads from Russia, China, and India—three of the five members of the bloc of emerging economies known as BRICS, which includes South Africa and Brazil—will also not attend. Their absence comes after last month's expansion of BRICS to six more countries, a forum observers suggest aspires to reform the Western-dominated United Nations. 

 

Human Species Mystery

Scientists believe a 300,000-year-old fossilized jawbone found in a cave in eastern China might belong to an unidentified species of ancient humans. The recently published findings show the mandible—the lower part of the jaw—has both modern and archaic anatomical features, prompting questions about a possible new branch of the human family tree. 

 

Scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing excavated the cave in China's Anhui province and discovered the remains of 16 individuals as well as fragments of the skull of a 12- to 13-year-old juvenile. They eventually pieced together fragments of a mandible belonging to the same skull.

 

They found the mandible's thick jawline is a feature shared with early human species, such as Homo erectus, while the lack of a prominent chin is a feature shared with Homo sapiens. However, the Homo sapiens-like features of the mandible differ from those of other hominins from the Middle Pleistocene, from around 126,000 to 800,000 years ago, which palaeoanthropologists say could represent a previously unknown ancestor of early Homo sapiens. 

 

Explore the human family tree here.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Comedian Russell Brand postpones stand-up tour dates amid sexual assault allegations; Brand was accused by four women of rape and sexual assault (More)

> Bill Maher delays proposed return date of "Real Time" as writers strike negotiations are ongoing (More) | Katy Perry sells full music catalog rights for $225M (More)

> Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes restructures contract, will be paid $210M through 2026, an NFL record for a four-year span (More) | Former NFL player Sergio Brown missing after his mother was found dead near her Chicago home (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with Apollo

> MGM Resorts reportedly enters second week dealing with a chainwide cyberattack, potentially losing up to $8.4M per day (More) | See previous write-up (More)

> Stanford's Linear Accelerator Center turns on upgraded beamline, which will produce the most powerful X-ray pulses in the world (More)

> Study links genes responsible for cellular waste removal with resistance to cold temperatures and exercise endurance; researchers hypothesize exercise may help the body clear cell waste (More)

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Business & Markets

> Delivery giant Instacart prices initial public offering at $30 per share, valuing the company at approximately $10B; shares to start trading on the Nasdaq exchange today (More)

> Evergrande Group—China’s second-largest property developer—sees shares fall 25% intraday after police detained employees for potential misconduct (More)

> Famed early stage investor Chris Sacca raises $550M for new climate tech startup venture funds (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismisses entire defense cabinet after a series of corruption scandals (More) | See more war updates (More) | China flies 103 warplanes toward Taiwan in 24-hour period—a new high—as part of military drills (More

> Hunter Biden sues IRS for allegedly violating his privacy after two agents shared his tax data amid criminal probes into his overseas business dealings (More) | Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D, VA-10) will not seek reelection after progressive supranuclear palsy diagnosis (More) | Former President Donald Trump reportedly to skip GOP primary debate Sept. 27 in California, plans to travel to Detroit (More)

> Los Angeles police arrest 29-year-old suspect in fatal shooting of LA County sheriff's deputy who was found in his vehicle over the weekend (More) | El Chapo's son Ovidio Guzman Lopez pleads not guilty to US charges, including drug trafficking and money laundering (More)

 

In-Depth

> The Return of the American Chestnut

Grist/Native News Online | Maya L. Kapoor. As a transgenic version of the American chestnut tree that can withstand blight is on the cusp of being deregulated by the US government, Indigenous people are asserting their rights to access and care for them. (Read)

 

> The Doula Duper

Cosmopolitan | Sarah Treleaven. Five accusers recount their experiences of being manipulated by Kaitlyn Braun, who falsely claimed to be a scared young woman about to give birth to a rapist's baby and is now facing 52 criminal charges for fabricating her story. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

See new images of shipwrecks from WWII's Battle of Midway

 

Being conscientious is apparently linked to a long life

 

The US Senate now has a loosened dress code.

 

Visualizing the ages of residents in each US state.

 

Gator with missing upper jaw finds a new home.

 

Barry the dinosaur heads to auction in Paris

 

3D-printed vegan salmon hits the shelves in Austria

 

Clickbait: "I'm talking to America here, excuse me." 

 

Historybook: President James Garfield dies from gunshot wounds (1881); British cultural icon and model Twiggy born (1949); First-ever underground nuclear test takes place in Nevada (1957); Jimmy Fallon born (1974); Deepwater Horizon oil spill is sealed after five-month oil leak (2010).

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