Five Americans imprisoned in Iran left the country today after the United States negotiated their release, President Biden said. The deal included unfreezing $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues and dropping federal charges against five Iranians. The deal is the result of two years of high-stakes negotiations and is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to ease tensions with Iran.
The Americans — Siamak Namazi, Emad Sharghi and Morad Tahbaz, along with two others who were not named at the request of their families — traveled to Doha, the capital of Qatar, for a prisoner exchange worthy of the cold war with two of the five Iranians. The Americans are returning to the United States, but three of the Iranians have refused to return to Iran, according to U.S. officials.
The American prisoners had been imprisoned in Iran on unfounded accusations of espionage, and some had been held for years in Evin Prison, one of the country’s most notorious detention centers. (Here’s what we know about them.)
News of the deal sparked sharp criticism from Republicans, who say releasing billions in oil revenue is tantamount to paying a ransom and could lead to more hostages being taken. Biden administration officials have said the Iran deal is the only way to secure the release of the five Americans, and have denied that the agreement signals a major shift in the long-standing hostile relationship between the United States and Iran.
Options to avoid a shutdown are dwindling
Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month by passing a temporary funding bill is facing strong Republican opposition. About a dozen members of McCarthy’s own party made clear today that they opposed his proposal – which combines a stopgap spending measure with deep funding cuts and new border controls – leaving him with dwindling options and little time to break the spending impasse.
McCarthy could still try to avoid a government shutdown by passing a stopgap bill with the support of some Democrats. But some right-wing Republicans said such a move would lead to a challenge to his position.
Justin Trudeau accused India of murder on Canadian soil
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that “agents of the Indian government” carried out the assassination of a Sikh community leader in British Columbia last June. This explosive allegation was based, according to Trudeau, on information collected by the Canadian government.
Trudeau said he raised India’s involvement in the Hardeep Singh Nijjar shooting directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of 20 summit earlier this month. This allegation risks further deteriorating the already tense relations between the two countries.
US News released its revamped college rankings
U.S. News & World Report has released the results of what it considers the most substantial overhaul of its college rankings empire. There was little change at the top of the list, with Princeton, MIT, Harvard and Stanford leading the nation’s top-ranked universities. But several smaller public institutions, like Fresno State and Florida Atlantic, have made significant progress.
The new ranking formula, which was revamped after criticism that the previous formula unfairly skewed educational priorities, places greater emphasis on retention, graduation rates of students who received Pell Grants based on their needs and incomes of recent graduates compared to those who have completed their studies. only in high school.
In other higher education news, Vassar, one of the nation’s first women’s colleges, was accused of paying male professors more in a lawsuit.
It’s a tough time for talk shows
During the writers’ strike in 1988, Johnny Carson returned to the air and was not seen as a hypocrite contradicting his on-air principles. Conan O’Brien, who returned during the 2007-2008 writers’ strike, is treated as a folk hero for staging original stunts and drawing attention to the need for his writers during the strike. But the talk show landscape has changed.
Animators who had announced their returns during the ongoing writers’ and actors’ strikes — including Bill Maher and Drew Barrymore — canceled their plans after receiving relentless backlash from guild members and their supporters. The controversy, our TV critic James Poniewozik wrote, reminds us that hosts aren’t just your friends on TV, they’re also people’s bosses.
How to know if your AI is conscious
The idea that a robot or computer could be considered conscious has recently come under greater scrutiny, as artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT have exploded in popularity. In a new report, a group of philosophers, neuroscientists and computer scientists have compiled a list of qualities that might suggest consciousness in a machine.
The list includes the ability to be aware of one’s own consciousness, create virtual models of the world, predict future experiences, and locate one’s body in space. If we are able to discern these characteristics in a machine, the report argues, then we may be able to consider the machine conscious.
To save the rhinos, they bought them
A herd of 2,000 South Africa’s southern white rhinos, believed to be the largest population of its species, was put up for auction in April for a starting price of $10 million. No bidders came forward and the future of the rhinos, which almost became extinct a century ago, seemed precarious.
But this month, a conservation group announced it had purchased the animals and planned to release them into the wild. The group will need to release about 300 rhinos each year for the next ten years to stay ahead of new births on the farm where they live, since the population increases about 10 percent per year.
Have a nice evening.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. – Matthew
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