Up First briefing: Supreme Court to hear abortion pill case; Putin’s news conference

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Today’s top stories

The U.S. Supreme Court says it will review a lower court decision that would make the abortion pill mifepristone less accessible.The hearing is set for next year and will be the court’s first abortion case hearing since it overturned Roe v. Wade. If the Justices uphold the lower court ruling, patients would no longer be able to access mifepristone by mail, even in states where abortion is legal. Physicians could still prescribe misoprostol, a drug usually used with mifepristone but is safe to take on its own.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin began his year-end conference today. It’s the first time he’s fielding questions from Russian citizens since the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

  • Putin canceled last year’s event when Russia’s invasion was not going well, NPR’s Charles Maynes reports on Up First from Moscow. Russian forces kept getting pushed back following its initial invasion. The fact that he’s on stage now is proof Putin is feeling more confident about Russia’s prospects, Maynes says.

The House voted along party lines yesterday to formalize the Republican-led impeachment inquiry into President Biden. All GOP representatives supported the vote, which was intended, in part, to give committees more authority to issue subpoenas. House Republicans allege that Biden and his family took payments from foreign adversaries but have not yet presented direct evidence.

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged yesterday. Forecasts by Fed policymakers show that, on average, they think they’ll be able to lower interest rates by nearly one point next year and another full point by 2025. Though another rate hike is not expected, policymakers did not rule it out.

Deep dive

Israel’s military says its AI system, named “the Gospel,” helps it rapidly identify enemy combatants and equipment while reducing civilian casualties. But critics warn the system is unproven and could provide technological justification for killing thousands of Palestinian civilians. Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, Israel has struck more than 22,000 targets in Gaza. Since the temporary truce ended on Dec. 1, Israel’s Air Force has hit more than 3,500 sites.

  • The Gospel crunches data from a wide variety of sources to rapidly recommend targets to a human analyst, who then relays them to the military. It can do so at least 50 times faster than human intelligence officers.
  • But AI systems are only as good as their training data. Critics question whether the available data is good enough to put human lives on the line. Without proper training, some say it’s close to “indiscriminate targeting.”
  • Israel’s use of AI is likely a taste of things to come. Modern militaries collect more data than they can effectively analyze and are looking to AI to give them an edge. Some experts say fully autonomous AI weapons are only a matter of time.

Picture show

Leonor Fini, an overlooked Surrealist artist, is finally getting her due nearly 30 years after her death. Her captivating, often gender-bending images were featured at the Art Basel fair in Miami last week. She was artistically involved with renowned Surrealists like Ernst and Dali. But the movement’s founder, French writer André Breton, didn’t accept her as one of them. See some of her works and read more about her career.

3 things to know before you go

  1. A mystery that’s eluded X-Files fans for more than two decades is finally solved. One of the writers of a country-western love song playing in the background of a season 6 episode has come forward to identify the music.
  2. A new study suggests some songbirds sing so much because they don’t have a choice. They may need to exercise their vocal muscles regularly to produce top-quality songs.
  3. Many Americans lit their Christmas trees and menorahs this month. Some in the U.S. are indulging in unconventional traditions, like lighting lobster trap trees and watching Santa surf.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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