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A Bolivian Town Protected 1.1 Million Acres of Amazon Rainforest, Adding to a Massive “Conservation Mosaic” Growing Since the 1990s


Friday, February 23rd, 2024


Today’s newsletter is: 949 words; 4 min.


Israel agreed to send negotiators to discuss a new hostage deal. The decision comes after the Biden administration and members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet pressured Netanyahu to engage in the talks.

Tax evasion by wealthy Americans tops $150 billion per year. IRS commissioner Danny Werfel said a lack of funding at the agency made it difficult to go after the top evaders, but several recently launched programs aim at closing what he calls the “tax gap.”

A trove of documents detailing China’s large-scale international hacking operations were leaked on GitHub. The documents offer an unprecedented look at Beijing’s widespread cyber operations against foreign governments, companies, and infrastructure.   

Intuitive Machines became the first private company to successfully land on the Moon. The company’s Odysseus lander is also the first fully robotic lander developed in the U.S. to touch down on the Moon since NASA’s Surveyor 7 spacecraft in 1968.


A new report found a quarter of Americans are breathing dirty air


A Quarter of Americans Are Breathing Dirty Air

A new report by First Street Foundation shows more than 83 million Americans (over 25% of the U.S. population) are exposed annually to air quality categorized as “unhealthy” by the Environmental Protection Agency, including 10 million people exposed to “very unhealthy” levels of air quality.

Where it’s worst: 

  • The report found areas in the West are most impacted by poor air quality, experiencing nearly twice as many poor air quality days today than at the beginning of the century.

  • Places like California’s Central Valley and San Francisco metro area, along with much of Southern California, could experience up to three months worth of bad air quality days in a year.



A new survey shows Americans still view global conflicts as important to national interests


Most Americans Understand Current Global Conflicts Are Important to U.S. Interests

A new survey by the Pew Research Center found 74% of U.S. adults believe what happens in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is important to American interests, similar to the shares who believe the conflicts between Israel and Hamas (75%) and China and Taiwan (75%) are important to national interests.

Some differences: 

  • While similar shares of Democrats and Republicans believe the war in Israel (76% of Democrats vs. 77% of Republicans) and conflict in China (76% vs. 78%) are important to American interests, there’s a wide partisan gap when it comes to Russia’s invasion (81% vs. 69%).

  • Americans 65 and older are also far more likely to view what happens in the three conflicts as important to U.S. interests (all three measuring 86% or higher) than Americans ages 18-29 (all measuring 67% or lower).



A new study found our brains are “programmed” to learn from people we like


Our Brains Are “Programmed” to Learn From People We Like

A new study by researchers at Lund University in Sweden used a series of experiments to gauge memory integration, i.e., the ability to remember information and connect it across events, finding how well we integrate information is greatly influenced by who presented it. 

What to know: 

  • The study found participants had an easier time connecting information when it came from someone they reported liking compared to when it was presented by someone they disliked.

  • The researchers believe the findings can be translated to politics, where people are likely to attribute positive things to politicians and policies they like, even if there’s a completely different cause or explanation.


A Bolivian Town Protected 1.1 Million Acres of Amazon Rainforest, Adding to a Massive “Conservation Mosaic” Growing Since the 1990s

The small municipality of Sena (population 2,500) in Pando, Bolivia recently passed a law protecting 1.1 million acres of Amazon rainforest, representing almost 8% of Pando’s forests and increasing the region’s conservation coverage to a whopping 26%.

  • The region of rainforest in Pando is home to the country’s largest proportion of well-preserved Amazonian rainforest and is known for its rich biodiversity.

  • The total protected forest is also estimated to hold 9.2 million tons of irrecoverable carbon.

Decades long effort: 

The newly protected region is the most recent piece of a massive, interconnected “conservation mosaic” created largely by local municipalities and Indigenous communities who’ve taken conservation into their own hands over the past 25 years.

  • Since the 1990s, Bolivian towns like Sena have protected around 25 million contiguous acres of the country’s Amazon – an area nearly the size of Iceland – helping secure locals’ livelihoods and preserving wildlife.

“Piece by piece, we are knitting together the fabric of conservation in the Amazon,” said Conservation International-Bolivia vice president Eduardo Forno. “This is a huge achievement; a testament to the power of a consistent approach. Local communities have kept their eyes on the prize. They are having a big impact on the Amazon — for the benefit of us all.”


  • $13,000 - The amount of unpaid taxes the IRS finds each hour it spends auditing wealthy households making $10 million or more per year, according to new data from the Government Accountability Office. The figure suggests the agency could hire the most expensive tax accountants in the country to do the audits and still come out positive.

  • 146 - The number of wildfires still burning in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, according to data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

  • 275 million - The number of previously unreported gene variants, including nearly 4 million that are in areas potentially tied to disease risk, uncovered in the U.S. population, according to a new study that’s part of the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program.


Long Video. Get a feel for just how big the universe actually is. (11 min) 

Short Video. Here’s what would happen if we pointed the Hubble Telescope at Earth. (3 min)

Fun Video. Take a look at how LEGO makes its iconic bricks. (9 min)

Good Read. A weekend read on how Tiffany & Co. cashed in on the trans-Atlantic telegraph craze on its road to becoming a household name. (1,875 words; 8 min)

Neat List. Check out nine of the greatest structures ever blown up or destroyed.


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Written by Ryan Wittler