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Good morning. It's Thursday, Dec. 22, and we're covering a major (surprise) speech to Congress, a repressive crackdown by the Taliban, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Zelenskyy Addresses Congress

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared before a joint session of the US Congress yesterday, capping a surprise visit that had been kept under wraps until less than 24 hours in advance. Zelenskyy thanked the US for its support while urging lawmakers to support his country for an extended conflict against Russia. It marked the Ukrainian president's first trip outside his country since Russia's invasion; watch the full speech here


The speech followed warnings from Ukrainian officials that Russia is preparing a massive offensive sometime around February, possibly attempting once again to take the capital city of Kyiv. Analysts say about 150,000 Russian troops that have been called up during a partial mobilization will have completed training by early 2023.


Separately, President Joe Biden confirmed reports the US would send state-of-the-art Patriot missile defense systems to Ukraine. The systems are capable of targeting aircraft and ballistic and cruise missiles within a 100-mile radius (see 101), though they are ineffective against attack drones. 


The US has provided roughly $48B in aid to Ukraine over the past year (see in charts), with around $20B in direct support provided in the FY23 appropriations bill under consideration. 


See updates on the war here.


Taliban Ban Girls' Education

The Taliban-led Afghan government suspended primary school education for girls yesterday, a day after issuing a decree prohibiting women from attending universities. The move institutes a complete ban on education for women in Afghanistan.


The Taliban, which took over the capital of Kabul last year after US troops withdrew, have also barred female teachers and other staff from working in schools, which had been one of the few professions still open to women under the new government. The strict Islamist group's actions have been a reversal of a previous pledge to maintain increased freedoms gained over the past two decades. 


Since its takeover last year, the Taliban has continued to impose restrictions on women and girls in Afghanistan. In March, the group banned female passengers from boarding flights without a male chaperone, and in May, it required women to cover their faces and bodies in public. See the history of the Taliban here.


SBF Extradited to New York

Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and former CEO of failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, agreed yesterday to be extradited from the Bahamas to face trial in the US. He was arrested Dec. 12 and charged with eight criminal counts in addition to related civil allegations brought by US financial regulators.


The 30-year-old is accused of secretly using billions of FTX deposits to cover losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research, ultimately leading to the exchange’s implosion. Once valued at around $32B, FTX collapsed after news of its transfer to Alameda caused a surge in customer withdrawals it couldn't cover, forcing it into bankruptcy. Bankman-Fried has denied the allegations; he wrote an apology letter in November prior to his indictment.


Legal analysts estimate a trial may not take place for a year and a half. If convicted on all eight criminal counts, Bankman-Fried faces up to 115 years in prison

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with ButcherBox

> Franco Harris, Pro Football Hall of Fame running back and four-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, dies at 72 (More) | Watch Harris' famous "Immaculate Reception" play (More

> New York Mets will sign former Minnesota Twins superstar shortstop Carlos Correa to 12-year, $315M contract after a similar deal with San Francisco Giants falls apart (More)

> Academy Awards releases its shortlist of 10-15 nominees in 10 categories (More) | Netflix's "Wednesday" hauls in second biggest week ever on Nielsen streaming chart with 6 billion viewing minutes (More)

From our partners: Ground. Beef. For. Life. Need we say more? ButcherBox is offering new members 2 lbs of 100% grass-fed and grass-finished ground beef for free in every box for the lifetime of their membership. Pair that with regular shipments (to your door) of free-range organic chicken, wild-caught seafood, and more of the meats you and your family deserve. Claim free beef for life today while it lasts.


Science & Technology

> Airbus loses two satellites after a failed launch by a European Vega C rocket; the pair was half of four total satellites in a planned $635M Earth observational network (More)

> Researchers identify the mechanism by which plant cells construct chloroplasts, the key organelle involved in photosynthesis (More)

> Neuroscientists discover brain circuit responsible for linking spatial knowledge to taking action to escape danger (More)


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +1.5%, Dow +1.6%, Nasdaq +1.5%) on better-than-expected US consumer sentiment (More)

> US existing home sales in November down 8% over last month and 35% over last year, the 10th consecutive month of declines; median sale price of $370,700, up 3.5% over last year (More)

> Athletic wear giant Under Armour to hire new CEO effective late February; Stephanie Linnartz currently serves as president of Marriott (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> Millions of Americans under a wind chill warning, with extreme cold air and dangerous winds moving from the northern Plains to the East Coast by Friday (More)

> House Jan. 6 Committee to release today the full report of findings from the investigation into the 2021 storming of the US Capitol (More) | Thousands of migrants have gathered at the US-Mexico border as they wait for the US Supreme Court to decide whether and when to lift pandemic-era Title 42 immigration policy (More) | What is Title 42? (More)

> French serial killer, portrayed in "The Serpent" TV series, to be freed from prison in Nepal due to poor health and good behavior; ordered to return to France after 19 years in prison for the 1975 murder of two tourists in Kathmandu (More)



> The Mysterious Song of the Dinosaurs 

BBC Future | Richard Gray. Dinosaurs are often associated with ground-shaking roars, but new research suggests dinosaurs may have actually sounded a bit different. (Read)


> An Economist's Guide to Ruining Christmas

Kite and Key | Staff. Researchers have studied what the perfect Christmas gift is, and the answer might surprise you. (Watch

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Looking back on the hottest food trends from 2022.


How old is the water we drink?


See some of the creepiest mall Santas in history.


… and a professional Santa tells all.


The history behind Christmas carols.


What was the Star of Bethlehem?


A shipwreck found in North Carolina remains a mystery.


Good news from the past year you might have missed. 


Clickbait: What's the right way to eat a candy cane?


Historybook: Beethoven’s "Fifth Symphony" premieres (1808); Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson born (1912); Maurice and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees born (1949); Colo becomes first gorilla born in captivity (1956); “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy repealed (2010).

"The bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man."

- Lady Bird Johnson

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