Happy Wednesday! The White House’s National Christmas Tree toppled over on the Ellipse yesterday, and the National Park Service is blaming strong winds—the same gusts responsible for lifting a 15-foot-tall George Santos balloon into both the air and our nightmares.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- In the fifth such exchange since a temporary ceasefire was instituted late last week, Hamas freed 12 more hostages on Tuesday—10 Israelis and two Thai nationals—and Israel released 30 Palestinian prisoners in return. Fighting between Hamas and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) briefly flared in northern Gaza on Tuesday afternoon, however, with the IDF saying Hamas fighters had targeted Israeli troops with explosives and gunfire and that Israeli forces responded but stayed within the bounds of the truce. A Hamas spokesperson claimed it was the IDF that first violated the ceasefire, but the skirmish has not yet threatened plans for an additional exchange today. The 48-hour extension to the ceasefire expires after today, though U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials met in Qatar yesterday to discuss plans for another potential extension. In a tweet posted Tuesday night, President Joe Biden seemed to waver in his support for Israel’s continued offensive into Gaza. “Hamas unleashed a terrorist attack because they fear nothing more than Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace,” the president said. “To continue down the path of terror, violence, killing, and war is to give Hamas what they seek. We can’t do that.”
- Armed attackers in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown assaulted a military base and two prisons on Sunday, releasing hundreds of inmates, in what government officials on Tuesday labeled an attempted coup. “The incident was a failed attempted coup,” Chernoh Bah, the country’s Information Minister, said yesterday. “The intention was to illegally subvert and overthrow a democratically elected government.” At least 19 people were killed in the fighting, and 13 military officers and one civilian have thus far been arrested in connection to the plot. Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio was re-elected this summer in a tight contest, but the results were disputed by the main opposition candidate and more than a dozen soldiers were arrested in August on charges of “subversion.”
- Rescuers on Tuesday freed all 41 construction workers trapped in a Himalayan tunnel in India after a landslide blocked the exit on November 12. Teams of rescue workers laid pipes through 200 feet of rubble and debris—much of it excavated by hand after drilling machines broke down—to create an escape passage for the trapped men. Experts investigating what happened reportedly discovered that the tunnel was constructed without an emergency exit, leading the Indian government to order a safety audit of all tunnels currently under construction.
- Hunter Biden’s lawyer Abbe Lowell said Tuesday in a letter shared with the House Oversight Committee that the president’s son is willing to testify publicly in a hearing before the committee. “We have seen you use closed-door sessions to manipulate, even distort the facts and misinform the public,” Lowell wrote. “We therefore propose opening the door.” The Oversight Committee subpoenaed Hunter earlier this month to appear for a closed-door deposition, and Tuesday quashed the Biden legal team’s request. “Hunter Biden is trying to play by his own rules instead of following the rules required of everyone else,” Committee Chair James Comer said in a statement rejecting Hunter’s request for an open hearing, though he noted the younger Biden may be given the “opportunity to testify in a public setting at a future date.”
- Charles Munger, the billionaire former Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman, died yesterday at age 99. Munger worked as a close partner to Warren Buffett as the pair built Berkshire into an investing giant—Buffett credited him with developing the company’s investing blueprint. “Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation,” Buffett said in a statement.
Altman is Out Altman is In
We’d be lying if we said we weren’t a little tired of comparing developments in artificial intelligence (AI) to movies. But the events of the last few weeks at OpenAI—an AI startup responsible for the now-ubiquitous generative AI, ChatGPT—have all the makings of a great Aaron Sorkin film, assuming AI doesn’t put him out of a job first.
The five-day showdown between OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman and the company’s board of directors was dramatic—Altman was abruptly terminated and then reinstated, and all but one of the members of the board who had engineered his firing were themselves let go. The saga is still shrouded in mystery, but at its core, the battle for OpenAI might illustrate how the divide over the speed with which the technology is developing is polarizing Silicon Valley.
Altman, along with nine others (including Elon Musk), founded the company at the heart of the recent AI boom in 2015. OpenAI’s structure is unusual: It was started as a nonprofit with the mission of ensuring “that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.” The nonprofit framework was meant to insulate that mission from profit-driven incentives as the group developed its own AI models—but with the amount of capital needed to develop AI-level computing power, the nonprofit structure quickly became unsustainable. OpenAI ultimately formed a new, for-profit subsidiary in 2019 to generate investment and ultimately revenue, though this for-profit branch would remain accountable to the nonprofit’s board and mission. The board remained the steward of the nonprofit’s mission, and for-profit investors (including Microsoft, which owned a 49 percent stake in the company) had no input in company decisions.