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Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
Feb 08, 2023
President Joe Biden took on outspoken Republicans and China in a wide-ranging State of the Union address. Survivors in Turkey and Syria said they’ve received little assistance as the death toll hits 11,000. Somaliland weathered a second day of violent clashes between government forces and militia groups. And the Pentagon revealed China knocked back a phone call request from Washington. All this and more in today’s PDB.
State of the Union: A Raucous Affair as Biden Takes Center Stage
“The people sent us a clear message” for unity in politics, President Joe Biden said during his second State of the Union address Tuesday. Part reflection on the year that was and part stump speech for the 2024 elections, Biden sparred with some of the more outspoken Republicans in the House. Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene heckled POTUS with “liar” as he alleged some Republicans have been undermining Medicare and Social Security: “Contact my office,” he quipped. He also briefly touched on China’s spy balloons that have rattled Washington in recent weeks, saying that the U.S. wants “competition, not conflict” with China. (Sources: The Hill, NYT)
Earthquake Death Toll Pushes 11,000 as Anger Sets In
Officials and rescue workers warn the death toll from Monday’s earthquake in Turkey and Syria will grow significantly. It comes as anger mounts from survivors who said they’ve been all but abandoned. “We survived the earthquake, but we will die here due to hunger or cold here,” one resident of the southern Turkish city of Antakya said. In Syria, a newborn baby was pulled from the rubble still attached to her mother via the umbilical cord. Rescuers said she was likely born after the earthquake hit. Her mother and the rest of the family were killed. (Sources: The Guardian, Reuters, WaPo)
24 Killed in Somaliland Clashes, Violence Drags Into Second Day
Violence erupted Monday between militias and government forces in the contested town of Las Anod. Hours earlier local elders had pledged support for “the unity and integrity of the Somali Federal Republic” and urged militia groups to stand down. Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991, but has struggled to gain international recognition. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk slammed the violence, noting it comes just a month “after at least 20,000 people were displaced by clashes in Las Anod” and could worsen the humanitarian crisis. “Resolution will never be attained with guns,” Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said. (Sources: France24, Reuters)
Beijing Refuses Call With US as Spy Balloon Search Continues
Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe declined a phone call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after Washington shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on the weekend, Pentagon officials said. “Our commitment to open lines of communication will continue,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard are combing the South Carolina coastline with underwater drones to find debris from the downed balloon, which will eventually be sent to the FBI for analysis. U.S. intelligence maintains that the balloon is linked to a global surveillance program run by China. (Sources: Reuters, DW)
Here are some things you should know about today:
Memphis blue. A further eight police officers will face undisclosed charges in the death of Tyre Nichols last month. An investigation into the death is continuing with at least 13 officers charged with a range of offenses. (Source: CBS News) Olympic ring. Prosecutors in Japan have nabbed a former senior Tokyo Olympics official and three businessmen in a wide-sweeping probe into Olympic bid-rigging. (Source: AFP) Kidnapped. A New Zealand pilot has been taken hostage by separatists in Indonesia’s restive Papua region. Philip Mehrtens is “safe,” his captors said, as Indonesia eyed a search and rescue mission. (Source: BBC)
Sorry Kareem, LeBron James Is Officially the GOAT
The LA Lakers superstar took a 14-foot jump shot in the third quarter against Oklahoma City Thunder, exceeding Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 38,387 career points. It wasn’t enough for the Lakers to trump Thunder — losing 130-133 — but no one was counting. Crypto.com Arena erupted into cheers of “MVP! MVP!” and the game paused for around 10 minutes for James to celebrate with his family and Abdul-Jabbar, who watched the shot from the sidelines. “To be able to be in the presence of such a legend as great as Kareem, it’s very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the Captain, please,” an emotional James said. (Source: ESPN)
Whose Line Is It?
Google, Microsoft Fire Opening Salvos in A.I. Chat Wars
Google employees will get to work testing Bard, the tech giant’s answer to ChatGPT, from next week, according to CEO Sundar Pichai. Pressure has been building on the company to develop an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot since Microsoft-backed OpenAI ChatGPT took the internet by storm. “We’re looking forward to getting all of your feedback — in the spirit of an internal hackathon,” Pichai wrote. Microsoft won’t be resting on its laurels. It’s moving on to the “next generation” of A.I. with a slated overhaul of search engine Bing and the Edge browser. The unnamed project will be “customized specifically for search,” Microsoft executives said. (Sources: CNBC, Techcrunch)
Glacier Melting Will Impact 15 Million People Worldwide
Lakes formed by melting glaciers could spark sudden and devastating flooding, researchers at England’s Newcastle University warned. High Mountain Asia, spanning India and Pakistan, is at threat with around 9 million people at risk, but Peru and China will be most affected. The planet has seen a 50% increase in glacier lakes in the last 30 years as global warming — twice as fast in mountainous regions — takes a toll. Glacier lakes are dammed only by loose sediment and other debris, and a breakthrough can come suddenly. Half of the world’s 215,000 glaciers are expected to melt by the end of the century. (Source: AFP)
Taking the Mickey
The ‘Wokest’ Place on Earth Will Retain Special Florida Status
The feud between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron de Santis has reached a detente, allowing the company to keep many of its perks as an independent special district. This despite the introduction of a new bill dissolving special tax districts formed before 1968 — widely seen as targeting Disney. The company had spoken out against some of de Santis’ more aggressive culture-war laws, including a “Don’t Say Gay” law, barring teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. In exchange for keeping benefits — including huge tax breaks — Disney will be expected to temper its criticism of the governor, Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani said. (Source: Hollywood Reporter)
New Zealand’s Ocean Discovery a Blow to International Syndicate
A discovery of 3.5 tons of cocaine floating in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean would have been worth about $316 million wholesale, New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said Wednesday. Police said the haul was likely bound for neighboring Australia and was tossed overboard at a designated transit site. It was later spotted by law enforcement as part of a special operation launched in December. “We believe there was enough cocaine to service the Australian market for about one year, and this would be more than New Zealand would use in 30 years,” Coster said. The cocaine will be processed and destroyed. (Source: AP)
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