6.8.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Thursday, June 8, and we're covering Canadian wildfire smoke threatening the US, the sudden departure of CNN's chief executive officer, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Wildfire Smoke Hits US

Nearly 100 million Americans were under air quality alerts yesterday as smoke from over 400 Canadian wildfires blanketed the eastern US (see satellite images). The historic pollution levels—which saw major events canceled, flights halted, and school systems closed—are expected to taper off today while remaining elevated for several days. 

 

Canada's wildfires have been exceptionally severe so far this year, with over 3 million hectares—roughly the size of Maryland—scorched from over 2,000 fires across the country, causing destruction 13 times worse than the 10-year average (see historical data). Recent heat waves and drought conditions across the country have dried out grasslands and forests, turning them into wildfire fuel. Models suggest this year's wildfire season in Canada may become the worst on record.

 

The air quality index—which measures the concentration of microscopic particles able to bypass the body's natural filters—in much of the Northeast surpassed official "hazardous" levels yesterday; New York City's reached 413, the highest in the world. See images of the smoke here.

 

CNN Shake-Up

CNN chair and CEO Chris Licht abruptly stepped down yesterday, capping a rocky yearlong stretch during which he attempted to reorient the cable news network around a more centrist positioning. The move comes days after an exposé in which Licht, among other statements, accused the network of excessive COVID-19 coverage to juice ratings under his predecessor.  

 

Licht was brought in last spring, shortly after CNN's parent company WarnerMedia merged with Discovery. Reports suggest decisions made by Licht, including firing top talent and a contentious town hall with former President Donald Trump, caused employee morale to sink.

 

At the same time, improved ratings never materialized. CNN’s prime-time ratings in March were down 60% compared to 2022, with average prime-time viewership around 470,000—far behind competitors MSNBC (1.1 million) and Fox News (2.1 million).  

 

Read the profile of Licht released last week here (paywall), or see an overview here.

 

Messi Picks Miami

Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, named the world's best male soccer player a record seven times, announced yesterday he would join Major League Soccer's Inter Miami club, co-owned by David Beckham. The deal, which is not yet final, would mark the first time Messi has played for a soccer club outside of Europe. The 35-year-old's decision comes as his two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires June 30.

 

Messi, who last year led Argentina's national team to its first World Cup victory since 1986, turned down an offer from Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal, which reportedly would have paid the star more than $400M annually. He also turned down FC Barcelona, where he previously played 17 seasons before leaving due to the club's financial problems

 

Inter Miami currently sits in last place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference and last week fired its coach, Phil Neville, as a result of its losing streak. Messi's offer from Inter Miami includes a profit-sharing deal with Adidas and Apple TV+, with the streaming service also working on a four-part documentary series on the player.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Nikola Jokić powers Denver Nuggets to 109-94 victory over Miami Heat in NBA Finals Game 3; Nuggets take 2-1 series lead (More)

> The Iron Sheik, pro wrestling icon and WWE Hall of Famer, dies at 81 (More) | Françoise Gilot, French painter, writer, and partner to Pablo Picasso, dies at 101 (More)

> Los Angeles Times lays off 13% of its newsroom staff, following in the steps of many media outlets that have downsized in recent months (More)

 

Science & Technology

> Russia-based hacker group gives ultimatum to BBC, British Airways, and other companies to negotiate by June 14 or risk the release of stolen data compromising as many as 100,000 employees (More)

> Large study suggests a link between the shingles vaccine and up to a 20% reduced risk of dementia; analysis of 300,000 patients is awaiting peer review, hints at link between viral infection and neurological disorders (More)

> AI platform built by Google's DeepMind shown to create its own algorithms capable of sorting data faster than those written by human coders (More)

 

Business & Markets

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> US stock markets close mixed (S&P 500 -0.4%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq -1.3%); 

Regional Banking ETF up 3% (More)

> Sources say Amazon plans to launch Prime Video ad-supported tier (More)

> Video game retailer GameStop shares fall double-digits in after-hours trading after firing CEO, naming Ryan Cohen executive chairman (More)

From our partners: An innovation 150+ years in the making. Since the 19th century, the combustion engine has been pretty much accepted as is … until now. LiquidPiston’s newest rotary engine delivers the same power as legacy piston engines while being 80% smaller. The company is already profitable (impressive for a startup) and growing rapidly with $30M+ in US government award contracts. Don’t miss your last chance to invest at their current valuation.

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Former Vice President Mike Pence (R) formally launches 2024 presidential campaign, delivers speech in Iowa (More) | North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) launches 2024 presidential bid (More) | See all presidential candidates (More)

> Officials in California and Texas launch criminal and civil investigations into whether migrants were relocated via private planes under false pretenses through a Florida-run operation (More)

> Pope Francis, 86, undergoes successful three-hour surgery to repair hernia in abdominal wall caused by scars from previous operations; is expected to stay in the hospital for at least five days (More) | Kīlauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii begins erupting in a closed area (More)

 

In-Depth

> Kid Cop Returns (Again and Again) 

The Verge | Matt Stroud. The true story behind Vincent Richardson, a Chicago legend who gained fame as a teenager for impersonating a police officer, and the turn his life took following the incident. (Read)

 

> The Vanishing Refugees 

AP | Kristen Gelineau. An investigation into a missing boat carrying 180 Rohingya refugees—a persecuted Muslim minority from Myanmar—that began its journey from Bangladesh and tragically sank during a storm in December. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

Study finds great white sharks lurk near swimmers 97% of the time.

 

Man sues OpenAI after AI fabricates his involvement in embezzlement lawsuit.

 

Redditor creates working anime QR codes.

 

Cheez-It-pumping rest stop opens in California.

 

Australia takes the crown for best wines in the world.

 

Teachers reveal how they recover from burnout.

 

Hong Kong’s famous rubber duck now has a friend.

 

A look at the baccarat scandal—the last time a senior royal testified in UK court.

 

Clickbait: Happy birthday, Grimace.

 

Historybook: Architect Frank Lloyd Wright born (1867); Former first lady Barbara Bush born (1925); George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" published (1949); James Earl Ray arrested in London for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (1968); Kanye West born (1977).

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