No Bull With Raging Robert.
The US leveled sanctions yesterday against 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials over Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on political freedoms in the semi-autonomous Hong Kong. The news comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan prepare to meet with Chinese diplomats today in Alaska.
The meeting, the Biden administration’s first high-level engagement with China, will cover a number of contentious topics. In addition to Hong Kong, the State Department has upheld the Trump administration’s previous finding that China’s treatment of its Muslim minority Uighur population amounts to genocide. Domestically, Microsoft uncovered a Chinese-led hack of its Exchange servers that exposed 30,000 organizations in early March. Blinken is coming off trips to Japan and South Korea, emphasizing US alliances in the region ahead of the meeting.
In related news, the Senate unanimously confirmed Katherine Tai as the country’s top trade negotiator.
House Republicans voted yesterday 102–84 to restore earmarks in federal spending bills. House and Senate Democrats have already signaled support for the practice, while Senate Republican backing is unclear.
The practice allows individual lawmakers to single out funding for specific projects in their districts or states. The practice was banned in 2011 over claims of corruption and wastefulness, including a kickback scandal and Alaska’s infamous Bridge to Nowhere.
Advocates for earmarks argue their ban has shifted too much power to the executive branch, with federal agencies largely determining funding decisions, and say the practice provides more incentives to negotiate, decreasing gridlock. The new rules would require public disclosure and ban personal ties to funding, among other transparency measures.
Earmarks accounted for about 1.5% of appropriated spending in 2010, while the first known instance came in 1789 to build a pier in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Scientists have demonstrated a process allowing mice embryos to grow in artificial wombs for longer than ever before, according to work published yesterday. The study suggests embryonic development in mammals may not require a uterus, as previously thought.
Mice have a typical gestation period of 20 days. Previously, scientists could observe fertilized eggs outside the womb for up to four days, at which point cells begin to differentiate into organs and body parts, a process requiring a uterus. The new technique, which utilizes rotating bottles infused with nutrients (see video), extends this window to 11 days. The achievement allows researchers to watch live how the brain, heart, and other organs and body parts develop — processes previously hidden inside the mother’s womb.
The approach opens new paths to study how fetal disorders arise during embryonic development, though repeating it with human embryos past 14 days would violate current international scientific guidelines.
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IN THE KNOW
Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> California’s Disneyland and California Adventure parks to reopen April 30 to state residents more than a year after closing due to pandemic (More)
> Sabine Schmitz, professional race car driver and “Top Gear” host, dies at 51 of cancer (More) | Former Met Opera music director James Levine, who was fired in 2018 over sexual abuse allegations, dies at 77 (More)
> Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson accused of sexual misconduct in two separate lawsuits (More) | Men’s NCAA First Four games begin today including Michigan State versus UCLA (More) | Former NBA center Shawn Bradley paralyzed after January bike accident (More)
Science & Technology
> Analysis finds between 30% and 99% of Mars’ water is trapped in the planet’s crust, challenging the theory that most of its water evaporated into space; trapping process occurred between 3 billion and 4 billion years ago (More)
> The 2021 Abel Prize, one of the highest honors in mathematics, shared by László Lovász and Avi Wigderson for complementary work bridging pure math theorems with computer science and cryptography (More)
> Scientists demonstrate the first tear-gland organoids, clumps of human cells that resemble miniature organs; the samples produced tears under chemical stimulation (More) | Separate study replicates blastocytes, one of the earliest stages of embryonic development, using stem cells (More)
Business & Markets
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> US stock markets up (S&P 500 +0.3%, Dow +0.6%, Nasdaq +0.4%); S&P 500 and Dow close at record highs after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell predicts faster 2021 economic growth and states interest rates will remain at near zero (More)
> Internal Revenue Service to postpone 2021 tax filing deadline from April 15 to May 17 (More)
> Coinbase says recent private transactions valued the cryptocurrency trading giant at $68B; company plans to undergo an initial public offering later this year (More)
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Politics & World Affairs
> Florida baby born with COVID-19 antibodies after mother receives vaccine while pregnant; first known instance in the US (More) | Almost 74 million people in the US have received at least one vaccine dose (More) | US has reported 538,087 COVID-19 deaths, up 1,138 yesterday; see rolling averages (More)
> Atlanta shooter that killed eight people at three separate Asian American-run spas Tuesday charged with murder; 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long denies the killings were racially driven, claims a link to sex addiction, while police continue to investigate motive (More)
> Tanzanian President John Magufuli dies at age 61 of heart disease; Magufli began career fighting government corruption but was criticized in recent years for squashing political opposition and free speech (More)
The Identity Hoaxers
The Atlantic | Helen Lewis. The recent rash of outed identity hoaxers — typically professionally successful people passing themselves off as a minority — has captured the public’s attention. Yet the world of those pretending to be something they’re not, from 9/11 survivors to cancer patients, is more expansive than many realize. (Read, $$)
How Much Growth Would End Poverty?
Our World in Data | Max Roser. Economic growth has pulled most industrialized nations out of abject poverty, yet 85% of the world still lives on less than $30 per day. Take a data-rich look at how much we still have left to go. (Read)
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Eyewitness videos in California capture a massive firework explosion.
The US is politically segregated, down to its neighborhoods. ($$, NYT)
Ten architecture projects from the 2021 Pritzker Award winners.
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Man with autism writes heartfelt letter to future employers.
Monitor Tokyo’s public train system in real time — from your desk.
Scientists are one step closer to recreating the Antikythera mechanism.
Watch lions frolic after a historic snowstorm.
Labrador retriever named most popular dog for 30th straight year.
Clickbait: When the university president breaks your ankles. (via Instagram)
Historybook: President Grover Cleveland born (1837); HBD actress and first Black Miss America Vanessa Williams (1963); Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov becomes first person to walk in space (1965); HBD Queen Latifah (1970); RIP rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry (2017).
“The wiser you get, the more experience you have, and the more you see people for who they are as human beings, as opposed to figures you have to fight against.”
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