3.25.2023

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Good morning. It's Saturday, March 25, and in this weekend edition, we're covering an escalation in the Middle East, new capabilities for a popular chatbot, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

You share. We listen. As always, send us feedback at [email protected].

One Big Headline
 

US, Iran Trade Airstrikes 

US forces launched airstrikes in eastern Syria on sites used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (see background) after a suspected Iranian-made drone struck a US coalition base in the region, killing a US contractor and wounding six other Americans. The US' retaliation, which killed four people, drew another strike from the Iranian militia group on a second US base in the region Friday, though no casualties were reported. 

 

US forces have been in northeast Syria since 2015 as part of a fight against the Islamic State militant group (see overview). The US claims Iran's Revolutionary Guard and its affiliate groups support terrorist organizations. About 900 US troops and an unknown number of American military contractors are based in Syria, working with Iranian Kurdish separatists. See more on the conflict in Syria here.

 

The latest development isn't the first time the US and Iranian groups have traded airstrikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq, but observers say the pace of the strikes has escalated after Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020. 

Quick Hits
 

US, Canada reach agreement to restrict asylum seekers at the border.

The deal, formally announced Friday, expands a decades-old treaty between the countries, known as the Safe Third Country Agreement (see 101). The agreement requires asylum seekers to request refugee protection in the first country they arrive in, allowing Canada to turn away asylum seekers from the US at both official and unofficial points of entry. 

 

"Hotel Rwanda" hero Paul Rusesabagina’s prison sentence commuted.

Rusesabagina, a critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2021 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The 68-year-old US resident and Belgian citizen inspired the film, "Hotel Rwanda," for saving hundreds of people from the 1994 Rwandan genocide (see overview). 

 

North Korea claims to test underwater 'radioactive tsunami' drone.

North Korea said Friday it tested a nuclear-capable drone designed to generate a massive tsunami and destroy naval groups and ports. The test is the latest in North Korea's series of simulated attacks. Analysts say the device doesn't seem to present a new threat.

 

Hong Kong warehouse fire forces 3,600 people to evacuate.

Authorities are investigating the cause of a six-hour fire at a warehouse Friday in Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong, which left seven people injured and caused thousands of others to evacuate from nearby schools and homes. 

 

ChatGPT can now browse the web, help book flights, and more.

OpenAI announced it is rolling out plug-ins to expand ChatGPT's functionality. The first batch of new functions has been made available to select users and developers and allows the chatbot to tap new sources of live data from the web, rather than being restricted to information from its training data. 

In partnership with Pendulum

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Humankind
 

Los Angeles Dodgers renew contract for former player to grant him access to health insurance and mental healthcare. (More)

 

... and siblings make March Madness history playing for UCLA men's and women's basketball teams. (More)

 

Entrepreneur with autism inspires others with booming pretzel business. (More)

 

An 11-year-old animal advocate raises over $61K with lemonade stand. (More

 

Utah mom dresses as a traffic cone to help keep drivers alert near school. (More)

 

Off-duty pilot helps land Southwest flight after its captain falls ill. (More)

 

Colorado man scales three-story building to rescue neighbor from fire. (More

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Humankind(ness)
 

Today, we're sharing a story from reader Beth M. in North Carolina.

 

"My sister lives in Houston, and I was there last week to attend my brother-in-law's memorial service. He wanted his ashes scattered in Galveston Bay, and while buying flowers for the service the cashier asked me if they were for someone special. I explained the occasion to her, and when it was time to pay, she smiled warmly and said there was no charge for the flowers."

 

What act(s) of kindness did you experience this week? Tell us here.

Etcetera
 

Bookkeeping

> More than 158 million people are expected to travel this spring, with an estimated 2.6 million people every day through March and April
> Nebraska coffee chain bakes 848-pound cake ball, breaking a world record.

 

Browse 

> The world's largest child-sized bat species.

Winners of the 2023 Golden Haiku competition

> How do authors come up with character names?

> Panera tests palm-scanning device for payments and more

> Aldi drops new merch, including a tracksuit

 

Listen 

> Why are catchy jingles still popular in the insurance industry?


Watch

> How does diabetes drug Ozempic help lose weight

> Why strict password rules may be bad for security.

The hidden genes that make us human

> What it was like to go to a Michigan high school in 1977.

 

Long Read 

> These beetles were once as valuable as gemstones.

> Why French authorities placed a young Pablo Picasso under surveillance

> The impossible job: Inside the world of premier league referees.

 

Best of the Week: How to unmask liars.

 

Historybook: Journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett dies (1931); Singer Aretha Franklin born (1942); Sir Elton John born (1947); Saudi Arabian King Faisal assassinated by his nephew (1975); Race car driver Danica Patrick born (1982); Children's author Beverly Cleary dies (2021). 

"It’s the rough side of the mountain that’s the easiest to climb; the smooth side doesn’t have anything for you to hang on to."

- Aretha Franklin

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