4.21.2023

 

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Good morning. It's Friday, April 21, and we're covering a deadly crowd surge in the Middle East, the shutdown of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newsroom, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

Yemen Crowd Surge

At least 78 people were killed and 77 were injured in a crowd surge in Yemen's capital of Sanaa. Authorities yesterday said residents had gathered at a school late Wednesday to receive cash donations from merchants during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

 

The ruling Iran-backed Houthi rebels (see overview) reportedly fired guns in the air in an attempt to control the crowd, hitting an electrical wire and causing an explosion that triggered panic. The Houthis said families who lost a relative would receive roughly $2,000, while those injured would receive roughly $400. 

 

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the battle continues for control of Sudan's capital of Khartoum between the military and opposition groups (see previous write-up). Over 330 people have been killed so far, and thousands of civilians have escaped. The US military is positioning forces in the country of Djibouti to possibly evacuate US Embassy personnel from Sudan.

 

Both Yemen and Sudan will mark the holiday of Eid al-Fitr today, which signals the end of Ramadan (see 101). 

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Starship Launches, Then Explodes

SpaceX's massive Starship launch vehicle exploded four minutes into its flight yesterday from Boca Chica Beach in South Texas, capping off the company's first test of the world's tallest and most powerful launch system. No crew or supplies were on board the vehicle as it crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. See video here.

 

As the first test of the integrated Starship with the Super Heavy first-stage boosters, the launch itself was considered a success by SpaceX. The company had hoped to test the vehicle's ability to separate from the first-stage boosters before briefly reaching orbit, but the system failed to release the first stage and tumbled several times before exploding. Observers noted several of the 33 methane-fueled Raptor engines were not ignited during parts of the flight.

 

Both Starship and the rockets are ultimately intended to be reusable, and their development is integral to NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said another test launch would likely come in the next few months.

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BuzzFeed News Shutters

BuzzFeed is shutting down its news division and will reduce its workforce by about 15%. CEO Jonah Peretti wrote in a memo to staff yesterday that parent company BuzzFeed, founded in 2006, would continue to operate as a media organization, focusing on HuffPost, which it acquired in 2020.

 

BuzzFeed News, the Pulitzer Prize-winning news division, was known for breaking major stories on issues such as China’s mass detention of Uyghur Muslims. The outlet is also known for publishing the unverified Steele dossier, which claimed the Russian government had compromising information on then-President-elect Donald Trump.

 

However, the company’s social media-based news strategy failed to turn a profit, losing around $10M per year. The company has cut down on operations in recent years, including closing its Australia and UK offices in 2020 and cutting 12% of staff in December.

 

BuzzFeed has recently been experimenting with AI-written articles, and says it will now aim to ramp up its AI-generated content and sales. 

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Criminal charges dropped against Alec Baldwin in fatal "Rust" shooting as filming shifts to Montana; charges against the film's armorer still stand (More)

> Oakland Athletics agree to purchase land near Las Vegas Strip to build ballpark; A’s franchise would move into new stadium in 2027 after over 50 years in Oakland, California (More)

> Twitter removes legacy blue check marks from verified accounts, including Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, and other celebs (More)

 

Science & Technology

> Google plans to introduce generative AI—underlying its Bard chatbot—into its advertising business to create sophisticated campaigns akin to marketing agencies (More) | Google merges AI research units Brain and DeepMind (More)

> Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets now losing more than three times as much ice annually as they were three decades ago, international study finds; the two ice sheets hold 99% of the world's fresh water (More)

> Northern elephant seals found to average two hours of sleep per day at sea while on monthslong foraging trips, rivaling the record for the least sleep among all mammals, currently held by African elephants (More

 

Business & Markets

In partnership with Monogram

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -0.6%, Dow -0.3%, Nasdaq -0.8%) dragged down by tech sector (More) | UK annual inflation grows by higher-than-expected 10.1% in March (More

> Existing US home sales fall 2.4% from last month, 22% from last March; median price of $375,700 is 0.9% lower than last March (More)

> IKEA to invest $2.2B to expand to 17 new US stores over three years, adding to 50 current US stores (More)

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Politics & World Affairs

> At least three people killed after eight confirmed tornadoes hit Oklahoma; at least 15 total tornadoes reported across Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa (More)

> President Joe Biden reportedly preparing to formally announce 2024 presidential campaign bid next week (More) | IRS agent seeks whistleblower protection, alleges mishandling of probe into Biden's son, Hunter Biden (More) | Richard Riordan (R), former Los Angeles mayor, dies at 92 (More

> Fourth and fifth suspects arrested in Dadeville, Alabama, birthday party mass shooting that killed four people and injured 32 others (More)

 

In-Depth

> Lonely America

New York Times | Ezra Klein. (Podcast) An expert suggests America's loneliness epidemic is not inevitable, and is likely the result of our choices about technology use in our everyday lives. (Listen)

 

> A World Walk

Guardian | Simon Hattenstone. Twenty-five-year-old Tom Turcich set off from a suburb in New Jersey to walk around the world, returning to his hometown seven years later as the 10th person ever to accomplish the feat. (Read)

> Lying the American Dream

Narratively | Robert Kerbeck. The story of how one aspiring actor used his talent to steal contact information in a corporate espionage technique called "rusing." (Read)

 

> Neurobiology and Demonic Possession

Big Think | Patrick McNamara. An experimental neuroscientist looks into the basis of nightmares and highlights their importance for our emotional and spiritual lives.  (Watch)

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Outdoor Furniture Made to Last

 

If you’re shopping for outdoor furniture, you’ll quickly find that revolutionary cushion fabrics are hard to come by … until you discover Outer.

 

Check out how Outer is simplifying outdoor living with water-resistant, sustainable, stain-fade-mold and UV-resistant cushions. Don’t miss Outer’s annual Earth Day sales event happening now and save up to 30%.

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Etcetera
 

Ranking the best European cities to live, work, and invest in.

 

See photos of this week's rare hybrid solar eclipse

 

How maps distort the way we see the world.

 

Take an elevator ride to space.

 

Physicists discover how to make a playground swing go higher

 

 ... and researchers create an edible rechargeable battery

 

A 50-mile race, a car ride, and a cheating scandal

 

The biggest flex on a T-ball field (via Twitter). 

 

Clickbait: Calling all Kyles

 

Historybook: American author Mark Twain dies (1910); Queen Elizabeth II born (1926); 100,000 students begin protests at Tiananmen Square (1989); Singer-songwriter Nina Simone dies (2003); Musician Prince dies (2016).

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