Your Daily Brief

December 22, 2023

Good morning and happy Friday! We start with some reassurance that us humans may stand a chance against the computers after all. A man claims he got a ChatGPT-powered chatbot on a California car dealership's website to agree to sell him a new Chevy Tahoe for $1. And the bot made it very clear that its offer was binding! We will be off Monday and Tuesday before returning to your inbox on Wednesday. Have a great weekend and holiday!

In Today’s Brief

  • Giuliani: Files for bankruptcy after ruling
  • Prague: Mass shooting at university, 15 dead
  • Jo Koy: Tabbed to host Golden Globes
  • Nike: Announces plan to cut $2B in costs

... and more

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Top Tips

Johnson wants Biden to act on border

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson has asked President Joe Biden to unilaterally strengthen border security.

  • Johnson's pitch: The speaker requested executive action in a letter to Biden yesterday. Johnson acknowledged ongoing Congressional negotiations -- which have been paused due to the holiday recess -- but said the border crisis is too great to wait for significant action. Johnson called on Biden to reinstate border policies set by former President Donald Trump's administration, such as construction of a border wall and the end of parole prigrams for migrants who cross the border illegally.
  • State of play: Biden has said he is open to negotiating with the GOP on border security in return for a supplemental spending bill that would send $61B in aid to Ukraine. He pushed for a deal before the end of the year, but legislators were unable to hammer one out. There is bipartisan belief an agreement will be reached in early 2024. It is unlikely Biden would unilaterally address the border before then, especially if he is asked to return to Trump-era rules. Biden's challenge is accepting reforms that will pass muster with Senate and House Republicans, with the latter demanding stricter measures, while also keeping his own Democratic Party on board.
  • Other news: Biden spoke to Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador yesterday as southern border crossings spike; a U.S. delegation including Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Mexico soon. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott -- who recently signed a state law expanding police and judicial powers to enforce the border -- said the state will begin flying migrants to Chicago. A private flight of more than 120 people arrived at O'Hare Airport from El Paso on Tuesday.

U.S. resumes military talks with China

The U.S. and China have resumed high-level military talks, the latest sign of a thaw in relations between the countries.

  • It's been a while: Gen. CQ Brown Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke yesterday with Gen. Liu Zhenli, his Chinese counterpart. It was the first time the countries' top military leaders have spoken in over a year. China cut off military dialogue in 2022 after former Speaker of the House and current California Rep. Nancy Pelosi made an official visit to Taiwan.
  • The readout: The generals discussed several topics, including maintaining lines of communication and avoid misunderstandings. The Pentagon raised the issue of unsafe and unprofessional intercepts by Chinese fighter jets over the South China Sea. U.S. officials said the call was a result of President Biden's November talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco. The call also came a day after news reports said Xi told Biden his government planed to reunify Taiwan with its mainland. Regular calls are scheduled to resume in the spring.
  • Elsewhere: China dismissed a U.S. request to assist commercial shipping vessels in the Red Sea. The U.S. has formed a multinational coalition -- Operation Prosperity Guardian -- to provide security for cargo ships in the critical commercial lanes amid drone and missile attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels, an Iran-backed militant group. Beijing indicated it has no interest in participating, but said the lanes should be kept safe.

Another UN Security Council Gaza delay

The United Nations Security Council delayed a resolution vote related to Israel's war against Hamas yet again.

  • Waiting game: Yesterday was the fourth straight day the vote was postponed due to behind-the-scenes negotiations. The vote is now rescheduled for today. There have been continuous talks to craft a resolution that the U.S. will not veto. The council's initial ceasefire resolution was blocked by the U.S. earlier this month. The resolution reportedly no longer contains a call for an immediate ceasefire or the establishment of UN monitoring of aid entering Gaza. UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. can support the current draft and it would allow aid deliveries to increase, but it was not clear if it will vote in favor or abstain.
  • Hostage talks: Israel recently offered Hamas another one-week pause to the war in return for the release of about 35 hostages, including the remaining women in captivity and elderly, wounded and sick men. But the militant group rejected the proposal. Hamas claimed yesterday it will not release any more hostages until Israel ends military operations. But the U.S. reportedly believes there is still a path to get Hamas to negotiate and agree to release hostages. There are approximately 120 hostages still held captive in the enclave.
  • Other news: Israel said it destroyed an elaborate network of Hamas tunnels in Gaza City and has killed 2K terrorists in Gaza since the war resumed. The UN said over 570K people in the enclave are now starving. Greece agreed to join the U.S.-led maritime security force protecting commercials ships from Houthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea.
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Quick Tips

U.S. News

  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has filed for bankruptcy, listing liabilities between $100M and $500M. A jury last week ordered Giuliani to pay $146M in damages for defaming two Georgia poll workers following the 2020 presidential election (More)
  • Embattled Harvard President President Claudine Gay has requested corrections to her 1997 dissertation after new accusations of plagiarism. House investigators said they will probe how Harvard handled the plagiarism complaints; Gay has been under fire for her controversial congressional testimony on campus antisemitism (More
  • The FBI said it has pursued almost 2K potential domestic terrorism threats related to Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza since it began on Oct. 7. The bureau said it has over 100 active investigations that are tied to the conflict in some fashion (More)

World News

  • A Czech man killed his father, then killed 14 people and injured 25 at Charles University in Prague. It was the worst mass shooting in Czechia's modern history; police said they eliminated the gunman and believe he may have killed two additional people last week (More)
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he has agreed to a bilateral summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Orban blocked European Union efforts to send aid to Ukraine last week and has sought ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin (More)
  • The Democratic Republic of Congo experienced a second chaotic day of voting as concerns grew about the credibility of its elections. President Felix Tshisekedi is seeking a second term after a disputed victory in 2018; the African continent has seen numerous government upheavals in recent years (More)

Entertainment & Sports

  • Jo Koy will host the Golden Globes on Jan. 7. It will be the comedian's first time hosting a major awards show; Koy's selection ends speculation about who would front the embattled event (More)
  • A European court ruled UEFA's rules prohibiting professional soccer competitions outside its organization on the continent are unlawful. But a revised proposal for a European Super League has already met stiff resistance (More)
  • Tomorrow's Buffalo Bills-Los Angeles Chargers game -- the first NFL contest exclusively on Peacock -- will have no commercials during the fourth quarter, a first in league history. NBC said viewers will get 12 additional minutes of game-related content as a result (More)

Business & Markets

  • Major indexes all closed higher yesterday, roaring back after a rough Wednesday. The Nasdaq almost erased its losses while the S&P 500 also jumped a full point (Dow + 0.87%, Nasdaq +1.26%, S&P 500 +1.03%).
  • Nike announced plans to cut $2B in costs over the next three years amid concerns about soft revenue outlooks. The sneaker giant plans to simplify its product offerings and increase automation and technology use, among other measures (More)
  • Over 2.5M Acura and Honda vehicles have been recalled due to a fuel pump defect. The issue can cause engine failure and stalling; the recall impacts an array of cars released in 2017-20 (More)

Tips & Tricks

  • Feel Good: Here is another end-of-year list, and a unique one. Positive News, fittingly, examined the top-25 good news stories in 2023. Among them: Medical breakthroughs, climate change awareness and more.
  • Go DeepWeight-loss drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy have become extremely popular for adults. However, experts are still divided on whether they should be used on children. One Missouri teenager's family decided to try them, making their daughter an accidental pioneer as the medical community grapples with the issue.
  • Funny Money: Kudos to the Gray Lady for tackling the important stuff. A trio of reporters at The New York Times worked with Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago economists to determine how wealthy Home Alone's McCallister family was. After all, they had a big house and were all going to Paris. The answer: Pretty rich!
  • Sneak Peek: HBO has released a trailer for The Sympathizer, its upcoming series based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. It stars Hoa Xuande as a North Vietnamese spy who infiltrates the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War, only to be forced to flee to America.
  • Drink Up: Running to the grocery or liquor store to get stocked up for the holidays? Here is a rundown of a dozen great Christmas beers to have on tap for any festive occasions.
  • New FrontierIf scientists can master nuclear fusion, they would theoretically provide the world with a virtually endless source of clean energy. Researchers are not there yet, but they are making progress. The National Ignition Facility replicated a breakthrough process where a nuclear fusion reaction created more energy than it burned three times in 2023 -- a significant step forward.
  • Life Hack: Just because there is fruit in your smoothie does not mean it is healthy. Experts say you must be mindful about the other ingredients before determining whether your favorite cold concoction is good for you. And many store-bought smoothies are loaded with extra sugars. So when in doubt, take the safe route and eat your fruits (and veggies) in solid form.

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King Charles likes to give strange Christmas gifts to his staff.

... and some sage wisdom about how to coach youth sports.

Almost 10% of America's houses are now worth at least $1M.

Check out some of the world's most spectacular bowling alleys.

A man tried to board a plane in NYC with a diaper full of bullets.

... while The Sphere in Las Vegas continues to amaze visitors.

President Biden wants "serious scrutiny" for any U.S. Steel sale.

There may be another Capitol Hill sex tape scandal brewing.

Looking Ahead …

The Department of Transportation has fixed its oversight authority on airline frequent flyer programs. The DOT says it will investigate whether airlines are engaging in deceptive or unfair practices; it has reportedly been meeting with airlines for several weeks as it ramps up its scrutiny of the industry. Some key issues: Booking transparency and the devaluation of award miles.

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Question of the Day

Which Christmas movie would you pick from this list?

It's a Wonderful Life

Home Alone


Die Hard

Yesterday's results

Do you have passports from multiple countries?

No (89%)

Yes (8%)

In the process of obtaining one (3%)

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