Morning Brew - ☕️ Second rodeo

Japan blocks the view of Mount Fuji...
May 22, 2024 View Online | Sign Up | Shop

Morning Brew

ZitSticka

Good morning. For a show built around a stopwatch, time seems to stand still for 60 Minutes. The CBS program closed out its latest season on Sunday night as the No. 1 TV news program across cable and broadcast, a title it has now held for 50 consecutive seasons, according to Nielsen.

NFL lead-in + iconic ticking intro + Sunday Scaries + the occasional Nic Cage interview = TV gold.

—Matty Merritt, Cassandra Cassidy, Sam Klebanov, Adam Epstein, Neal Freyman

MARKETS

Nasdaq

16,832.63

S&P

5,321.41

Dow

39,872.99

10-Year

4.414%

Bitcoin

$69,535.33

Trump Media

$44.19

Data is provided by

*Stock data as of market close, cryptocurrency data as of 10:00pm ET. Here's what these numbers mean.

  • Markets: The Nasdaq and S&P 500 both notched record highs yesterday ahead of today’s momentous earnings report from Nvidia, which is basically the Super Bowl for people who watch CNBC. Elsewhere, shares of Trump Media kerplunked after the former president’s company reported a loss of $327.6 million last quarter, with just $770k in revenue.
 

AI

Scarlett Johansson is not happy with OpenAI

Scarlett Johansson Taylor Hill/Getty Images

No one loves the sound of their own voice, but Scarlett Johansson was so upset that she called her lawyers.

Johansson and her team of attorneys sent two letters to OpenAI demanding the company reveal how it created a voice assistant that sounded eerily similar to the A-list actress’s voice.

What happened? Last week, OpenAI unveiled a demo of its new ChatGPT-4o model with “Voice Mode,” an AI assistant who can answer your questions. The model included five voice options, and one sounded so similar to Johansson that it prompted a statement from the star.

Here’s where it gets juicy. Johansson revealed that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman had reached out to her nine months ago to ask her to be the voice of the model, but she declined. Days before the release of the feature, Altman reached out again to ask the same question. But before Johansson could respond, she claimed, Voice Mode came out and her phone was flooded with “this you?”

Then, in the wee hours of Monday morning, OpenAI said it would suspend the voice for now.

  • The company also said it worked with casting directors to comb through about 400 submissions from voice actors.
  • OpenAI denies using Johansson’s voice, despite Altman posting “her” on X to mark its release in a reference to the 2013 film in which Johansson voices an AI that the main character falls in love with.

This isn’t ScarJo’s first rodeo

The Black Widow star sued Disney in 2021 over the dual streaming and theatrical release of her Avengers origin movie, alleging the entertainment giant broke her contract and cost her a lot of cash from less-than-stellar box-office numbers. The two settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Lawsuits galore. Johansson isn’t the only party with a lawyer on call over AI borrowing work and likenesses. OpenAI and other AI companies have been sued by many authors, actors, and newspapers for using creative work without creators’ consent.—MM

   

PRESENTED BY ZITSTICKA

Skincare crisis averted

ZitSticka

When a pimple pops up, you need a plan. Squeezing it risks leaving a scar. There’s always the bag-over-your-head look, but it probably won’t match your outfit.

Here’s an idea: Zitsticka, the dermatologist-backed pimple patches. These invisible wonders are the thinnest hydrocolloid patches, making them perfect for daytime wear. They blend right into the skin so you can cover and treat blemishes at the same time.

Zitsticka patches flatten zits, soothe redness, and fast-track skin renewal—aka everything you need in a pimple plan.

Use code ZITBREW15 on Amazon or zitsticka.com for 15% off. Or grab these patches at Target, where you’ll get a $5 gift card when you spend $25.

WORLD

Tour de headlines

Entrance to the Pixar campus in California Frankie Taggart/Getty Images

Pixar made the biggest staff cut in its history. The Disney-owned animation studio laid off 14% of its workforce, or 175 employees, as part of an effort to cut costs and refocus on quality over quantity, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The mandate comes from Disney CEO Bob Iger, who hopes to shepherd the Mouse House to its former glory after a period of churning out several underwhelming direct-to-streaming series and movies. Following the layoffs, Pixar plans to prioritize upcoming feature films like Inside Out 2 and Toy Story 5 over streaming.

Zelensky issued a plea for more help from the West. In a series of interviews with Western outlets Tuesday, a frustrated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the US and other NATO countries to shoot down Russian missiles in Ukrainian airspace and allow Ukraine to use Western weapons against targets inside Russia. The requests come as Ukraine’s forces are stretched thin, struggling to defend against mounting Russian incursions. The new package of US weapons is just now starting to arrive in Ukraine after months of delays.

Trump will not testify in his criminal hush money trial. The defense was brought to rest with the former president deciding not to take the witness stand, despite suggesting he would do so earlier in the trial. That clears the way for the jury to begin deliberations next week on whether to convict Trump for allegedly falsifying business records to cover up an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Legal experts had warned that it would have been risky for Trump to testify.

SPORTS

NCAA football player sues coach over failed NIL deal

Stack of money with a football-shaped gavel coming down on it Alex Castro

The NCAA just felt the first drop of rain before what could be an Earth-shattering storm. Georgia quarterback Jaden Rashada filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit yesterday over a failed NIL agreement that could set off a tsunami of similar lawsuits by student-athletes who feel that the college athletic system has taken advantage of them.

Inside the lawsuit: Rashada is suing University of Florida Head Football Coach Billy Napier, wealthy booster Hugh Hathcock, and a former administrative official, alleging that they conspired to lure him to Florida with the promise of a $13.85 million NIL deal but had no intention of ever fulfilling it. Rashada initially committed to a $9.5 million NIL offer from Miami, but turned it down for the more lucrative offer from Florida.

Rashada claims he never received any of the money he was promised, including a $500k signing bonus. He split with Florida in January 2023 and will play for its rival, the University of Georgia, this fall.

Big picture: While the NCAA prohibits donors from using potential NIL deals to aid recruiting, that rule goes largely unenforced. This lawsuit could reignite the conversation around allowing schools to pay athletes directly to avoid the shady unchecked network of booster money. None of the three individuals Rashada named in the lawsuit, nor the University of Florida, responded to requests for comment.—CC

   

TOGETHER WITH BABBEL

Babbel

This year’s must-have travel accessory. Luggage? Packed. Sunscreen? Stocked up. Language skills? Could use a boost. Enter Babbel. As one of the best language apps out there, Babbel can help you learn a whole new language before summer—and just in time for your jet-setting adventure. Take 67% off a Babbel subscription for Memorial Day.

TRAVEL

Japan doesn’t want you staring at Mount Fuji

Tourists posing near Mt. Fuji Philip Fong/Getty Images

An Instagram-famous view of Mount Fuji, the tallest peak in Japan, is now obscured by a black mesh barrier that measures 8 feet by 65 feet.

The town of Fujikawaguchiko erected the visual barrier yesterday across the street from a convenience store that happens to have the iconic landmark in the background. Eliminating the photogenic vantage point is meant to stop the hordes of traffic-disrupting tourists that have been pilgrimaging there to pose with the snow-capped tip.

Local authorities are also trying to prevent overcrowding on the mountain itself by charging people to ascend it and capping daily climbers on a popular trail, as Japan deals with an onslaught of weeaboo throngs welcomes a record number of international visitors.

Land of rising tourism

The country’s weak currency—the yen lost almost 12% of its value against the dollar over the past year—has turned it into a magnet for wanderlust travelers.

  • Japan expects 32 million foreigners to vacation there this year, compared with 25 million in 2023, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).
  • The agency says vacation visits have gotten longer and Bloomberg reports there’s more splurging due to the relative cheapness.

Economic boon: Travelers from abroad spent $11.2 billion in Japan during Q1, up 52% from 2019, per the JNTO.—SK

   

GRAB BAG

Key performance indicators

Serena Williams Getty Images

Quote: “I’m ready to hit some balls again.”

Using a sentence that is only acceptable in this exact context, Serena Williams hinted at a return to tennis in a cryptic post on X yesterday, sending fans into a frenzy. Since playing her last tournament in 2022, the GOAT has been careful not to refer to her time away from the game as “retirement,” instead calling it an “evolution” toward focusing more on her family and business ventures. Vocab aside, it now appears Williams is contemplating a return to the hardcourt. We assume she got the itch after watching Challengers.

Stat: If you rounded up your late-night double order of Cinna Stix by a few cents to the nearest dollar at checkout, pat yourself on the back, because you are now part of a $174 million donation to charity. Domino’s pledged the hulking sum to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, using the funds from its roundup campaign, the Associated Press reported. It’s the latest instance of “checkout charity” having a positive effect: The fundraising method generated $749 million in 2022, up 24% from two years earlier, per the social impact company Engage for Good. Psychologists say rounding up purchases feels less financially painful for customers than contributing a specific amount.

Read: Millennials are “quiet vacationing” instead of asking for time off. (CNBC)

NEWS

What else is brewing

  • Nestle is launching a new frozen-food brand marketed toward Ozempic and Wegovy users.
  • Amazon reportedly halted orders of Nvidia’s “superchip” as it waits for an even more advanced model to power its cloud computing operation.
  • A British passenger was killed and several others were seriously injured yesterday when a flight from London to Singapore hit severe turbulence.
  • Donald Trump is threatening to sue over “blatantly false assertions” in the biopic The Apprentice, which debuted at Cannes this week.
  • Matthew Perry’s death is being investigated by Los Angeles police over how the beloved Friends actor received the ketamine that was found in his system.

RECS

Wednesday to-do list

Explore: A 3D interactive map of more than 100,000 nearby stars.

Win Halloween: Someone made a working Dune stillsuit that converts bodily fluids into drinkable water.

Be like Bill: Five things Bill Gates wants you to read and watch this summer.

Pipe down: Students at Johns Hopkins invented a quiet leaf blower, which Stanley Black & Decker plans to sell within two years.

Last chance for free Excel workshop: Reserve your spot now for tomorrow’s live workshop on lookups and shortcuts.

Now hiring: From AI to candidate qualifications, hiring has evolved a lot. Join Indeed’s Nate Wigert on May 30 for a chat about the hiring process’ growth—and growing pains. RSVP here.*

*A message from our sponsor.

GAMES

The puzzle section

Word Search: Let’s go back to a time before many of you were born—2022—to resurface a puzzle on the Word Search Greatest Hits album. Play the baseball-themed game here.

Standing O trivia

At the Cannes Film Festival, one must stand and clap for long periods of time. Just yesterday, the Donald Trump biopic The Apprentice got an eight-minute standing ovation.

But which movies have gotten the longest standing Os at Cannes?

Here’s a list of five movies that premiered at the festival; your job is to rank them by the length of the standing ovations they received, from longest to shortest.

  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. Pan’s Labyrinth
  3. Moonrise Kingdom
  4. Killers of the Flower Moon
  5. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

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ANSWER

  1. Pan’s Labyrinth (22 minutes)
  2. Inglourious Basterds (11 minutes)
  3. Killers of the Flower Moon (nine minutes)
  4. Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (six minutes)
  5. Moonrise Kingdom (five minutes)

Word of the Day

Today’s Word of the Day is: kerplunked, meaning “to fall with a loud, dull sound or thud.” Thanks to Kieran from Boston and others for dropping us the suggestion. Submit another Word of the Day here.

         
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