“The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.”
🕵️♀️ I, Spy
A year-long Axios investigation published Tuesday found a suspected Chinese spy developed extensive ties with local and national U.S. politicians in a political intelligence operation run by China’s main spy agency from 2011 to 2015.
A deeper dive…
The woman behind the operation, named Fang Fang or Christine Fang, reportedly targeted up-and-coming politicians in California’s Bay Area and across the country, including current Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA).
Fang also engaged in romantic or sexual relationships with at least two Midwestern mayors according to U.S. intelligence officials, who said they ultimately do not believe Fang received or passed on classified information.
However… A current senior intelligence official said Fang “was just one of lots of agents” conducting covert surveillance in the U.S. on behalf of Beijing.
A Brief (Recent) Timeline:
May 1, 2019: Ex-CIA agent Jerry Chun Shing Lee was sentenced to 19 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from Beijing in exchange for classified information.
May 15, 2019: President Trump issued an executive order effectively banning companies within the U.S. from doing business with Chinese tech giant Huawei on grounds that the company poses a national security risk.
May 17, 2019: Ex-CIA officer Kevin Mallory was sentenced to 20 years in prison for espionage after he was found guilty of passing classified information to Chinese intelligence agents.
January 28, 2020: Charles Lieber, chair of Harvard University’s chemistry department, was arrested and charged with lying about accepting money from the Chinese government as part of its Thousand Talents Plan, while simultaneously receiving $15M in U.S. government grants.
July 23, 2020: The State Department ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, TX, accusing Beijing of using it as a base of operations for espionage and influence activities. In retaliation, China closed and seized the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, the capital of its Sichuan province.
China’s Global Power Tops the U.S.? New Measures Say No
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🇮🇱🇲🇦 Israel & Morocco Normalize Relations
Israel and Morocco agreed to full diplomatic relations as part of a U.S.-brokered deal, President Trump announced yesterday. Morocco joins the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan as the fourth country to normalize relations with Israel in as many months.
More: The deal also includes official U.S. recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over the contested Western Sahara region.
Death row inmate Brandon Bernard was put to deathlast night by lethal injection, the first in a series of five federal executions planned before Inauguration Day (Jan. 20). Bernard, now 40 years old, was sentenced to death after he and four other teens abducted, killed, and burned the bodies of an elderly couple in 1999 (when he was 18).
More: Bernard was the ninth federal inmate put to death since July when the Trump administration ended a 17-year hiatus in federal executions.
The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee voted 17-4 on Thursday to recommend Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine be issued emergency use authorization. The FDA typically follows the committee’s recommendations, but is not required to do so.
More: The agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is composed of independent scientific and public health experts from around the country.
🏘️ Airbnbstockdebuted yesterday morning on the Nasdaq at $146 per share before closing at $144.71, valuing the company at ~$100B (+113% from its IPO valuation).
🐭 Disneystockhit an all-time high as it held its annual investor day yesterday. Among a slew of content announcements, the company revealed Disney+ now has 86.8M subscribers, up from 73M announced Nov. 12. The full list of announcements.
💼 Unemployment Claims Adjuster
Another 853k Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week, up from 716k new claims the week before. (Department of Labor)
Yes, but… A government watchdog report published last month found the Labor Department’s weekly claims data was flawed due to inconsistent state data reporting and incidents of fraud.
However… the Labor Department said the measurement of continuous unemployment claims, which increased to 5.8M as of Nov. 28, reflects “a good approximation” of the current number of insured unemployed workers filing for benefits.
🚁 Up In The Air
The U.S. Air Force offered a safety endorsement for CA aerospace startup Joby Aviation’s all-electric passenger aircraft on Thursday. With the endorsement, the Air Force pledged to conduct test flights and generally help vet Joby’s aircraft capabilities through direct and indirect funding to enhance American competitiveness in the overall industry.
More: The announcement comes two days after Joby Aviation agreed to buy Uber Elevate, Uber’s air taxi division, in a deal with undisclosed terms.
🏅 That’ll Teach ‘Em
Darrion Cockrell of St. Louis, MO, joined a gang before the age of ten. Shortly after, the troubled youth – who entered the foster care system at age six – was transferred to a boys’ home, where he met a series of role models who taught him how to balance his toughness with compassion.
Now, the former gang member is a beloved physical education teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in St. Louis and was named the 2021 Missouri Teacher of the Year.
👓 See For Yourself
In late November, ABC 7 Chicago news anchor Tanja Babich learned that her 10-year-old daughter – who had just started wearing glasses – was worried about what the other kids at school would say about her new specs.
Thus, Tanja wore a pair of glasses during television broadcasts all last week to boost her daughter’s confidence. She was joined by her colleagues, who also donned their eyewear.
“Just be yourself, authentically and unapologetically. The rest will work itself out,” Tanja told her viewers last Friday.
🍺 Spreading Christmas Cheers
Abra Shiner has happily run her bar, Swan Dive, in Toronto for the past five years. However, last month, with COVID-19 restrictions forcing her to dip deep into her savings, Abra worried that she would have to permanently shut down her bar. Feeling defeated, she put out a plea for help on Facebook.
Swan Dive’s loyal customers bought more than 90 cases of the bar’s stock beer in response, boosting sales enough to keep Abra’s business afloat until it can reopen safely in the spring.
Self-reflection just got social
Daily Haloha is a simple and uplifting daily routine, wrapped in a charming little app. It’s designed to help us all look inward and then share outward with others, positively and anonymously.
Say hello to your new daily routine
Each day the entire world gets a new thought-provoking fill-in-the-blank question. Then, all you have to do is open the app, and…
1: Check in with yourself
Take a moment to pause, reflect, and fill in the blanks with a little bit of “you”.
2: Connect with another
Then “swap” your Haloha with another random human somewhere in the world, anonymously and judgment-free.
3: Be a part of the bigger picture
Then browse the Haloha Wall to see how the world is feeling.
Be a part. Not apart.
The Daily Haloha app is free! Because of course, the best things in life usually are.
🔓 Free At Last… Richard DeLisi, America’s longest-serving inmate for nonviolent marijuana crimes, was released from a Palm Beach county prison on Tuesday after serving 31 years of a 90-year sentence.
👩 The Powers That Be… Forbes released its annual list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The full list.
⏰ Time is of the Essence… a team of Chinese researchers claim to have achieved “quantum advantage,” performing a computation (called boson sampling) in mere minutes that would have taken conventional computers ~2.5B years.
🔋 Easy Way Out… a team of California researchers created a flexible, rechargeable, silver oxide-zinc battery providing five to ten times more power than current state-of-the-art technology – and it’s even easier to manufacture.
🤓 Glass(es) Half Full
About how many U.S. adults wear eyeglasses?
(keep scrolling for the answer)
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