Happy Friday! You’ve probably heard it Here, There, and Everywhere by now—but Yesterday, nearly 44 years after it was first recorded, The Beatles released a brand new song titled “Now and Then.” Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr Came Together to finish the track—originally a John Lennon demo, buttressed with recordings of George Harrison from the 1990s—With a Little Help from AI.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Wagner group, the Russian mercenary organization, plans to send an air-defense system to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist organization based in Lebanon. The report, based on intelligence cited by U.S. officials, comes ahead of a major speech Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will deliver this morning—which experts believe could shed light on Hezbollah’s intentions for its future involvement in the Hamas-Israel war.
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel today, reportedly to press the Israeli government to agree to regular “humanitarian pauses” in hostilities in Gaza to allow hostages to be released and aid to be distributed in the Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously ordered a pause in bombing Gaza to allow two American hostages to be released, President Joe Biden revealed on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted 226-196 on Thursday—with 12 Democrats voting with all but two Republicans—to approve $14.3 billion in aid to Israel tied to domestic spending cuts—and without funds for Ukraine. The package is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where many lawmakers favor linking the Israel aid to funding for Ukraine’s war effort—without spending cuts on domestic priorities.
- Pakistan began deporting undocumented Afghan refugees on Wednesday, sending them back to Taliban-run Afghanistan, in accordance with the November 1 deadline to leave the country set earlier last month. Some of the 1.7 million Afghans in Pakistan without papers have lived there many years—or were even born there. Others fled to the neighboring country after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021. Around 200,000 undocumented Afghans have already voluntarily returned to Afghanistan.
- The Senate confirmed several high-ranking military officials on Thursday, including Adm. Lisa Franchetti as chief of naval operations, making her the first female member of the Joint Chiefs. The confirmations came in spite of a months-long blockade by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, who prevented the Senate from confirming hundreds of military promotions in large batches—as is typically done for non-controversial nominations through a process known as unanimous consent—over concerns about the Pentagon’s abortion policy. The move to confirm the military leaders came in response to pressure from senators of Tuberville’s own party, who argued that his actions undercut military readiness.
- A jury on Thursday found Sam Bankman-Fried, who founded the FTX cryptocurrency exchange, guilty on seven charges related to wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. The month-long trial revealed evidence that Bankman-Fried stole $10 billion from customers to fund political contributions, risky investments, and real estate ventures, among other expenses. Sentencing is currently scheduled for March, but Bankman-Fried is expected to appeal the verdict.
- Desmond Mills Jr., one of the five former Memphis police officers accused of fatally beating Tyre Nichols in January, changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” on Thursday in two of the four federal charges against him: using excessive force and failing to intervene in the unlawful assault, and conspiring to cover up his use of unlawful force. According to prosecutors, Mills has also reportedly agreed to plead guilty to related state charges against him as part of the plea deal, and will be called to testify against the other four defendants. State and federal prosecutors said they would recommend Mills serve 15 years in prison, though the sentencing decision will be up to the judge.
- The FBI on Thursday searched the home of Brianna Suggs—a key ally of and fundraiser for New York City Mayor Eric Adams—as part of a broad investigation into the mayor’s 2021 campaign involving a potential straw-donor scheme to funnel foreign money into campaign accounts. The search reportedly prompted Adams to cancel several meetings in D.C. on Thursday morning and return to the city to deal with the fallout.
- Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida endorsed former President Donald Trump in the 2024 GOP presidential primary Thursday, snubbing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “I am optimistic that we can return America to its rightful position of economic and military strength and the undisputed moral leader of the free world, but only with strong leadership in the White House,” Scott, who is also the former governor of Florida, wrote for Newsweek. “That is why I support my friend President Donald J. Trump to be the 47th president of the United States and encourage every Republican to unite behind his efforts to win back the White House.”
President Joe Biden signed a sweeping executive order (EO) on artificial intelligence (AI) this week, and it was—at least partly—inspired by Tom Cruise. White House deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed revealed that the movie star’s latest installment of the Mission: Impossible series, which features sentient AI as the film’s villain, added to Biden’s worries about the futuristic technology. “If he hadn’t already been concerned about what could go wrong with AI before that movie, he saw plenty more to worry about,” Reed said after watching the film with the president.
They’d better not show him Godzilla.
On Monday, the president signed what is likely the longest EO in history: The “Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence.” At more than 100 pages in length, the order lays out a framework of guardrails for AI research and development, and it comes as governments across the globe race to keep up with a technology that’s progressing at a near-exponential pace. But length is not a guarantor of efficacy, and it’s far from clear whether state actors will be able to effectively mitigate the risks posed by such an advanced technology.