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Lula Leads In Brazil

Voters in Brazil went to the polls yesterday, casting ballots in a hotly contested runoff election between incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Results show da Silva holding a roughly 1.8% lead over Bolsonaro, who has yet to concede as of this writing.

Brazil is the world’s fourth largest democracy by population and the race has been framed as the most pivotal in Latin America in decades. Bolsonaro, a conservative populist, won 55% of the popular vote in 2018 but received heavy criticism for his handling of the pandemic. Da Silva, known popularly as “Lula,” held office from 2003 to 2010, championing left-wing populist priorities, but was jailed for almost 20 months in 2018 on corruption charges. Lula led Bolsonaro in the first round of voting, 48.4% to 43.2%, but failed to capture a majority, triggering the runoff. 

The highly polarized race became contentious in the final days, including accusations of cannibalism and satanism.

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GDP Rises

The US economy grew for the first time this year in the third quarter, according to data released yesterday. The country’s gross domestic product (see 101) grew at an annual rate of 2.6%, rebounding from 0.6% and 1.6% decreases in the first two quarters and signaling the end of a technical recession, or two quarters of consecutive decline.

The growth was primarily driven by a narrowing trade deficit and increases in consumer and government spending. However, declines in the housing market partially offset some of the growth. Despite the news, experts expect growth to slow again in the fourth quarter and predict a recession could be likely by early next year.

In related news, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage broke 7% yesterday for the first time since April 2002. The rising measure has been a primary driver of the slowing US housing market over the past year. 

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Musk’s Twitter Takeover

Elon Musk last night closed his $44B deal to buy Twitter at $54.20 per share, averting a trial in November and capping off monthslong speculation of whether the billionaire entrepreneur would abandon the acquisition. Musk, 51, also reportedly fired the company’s top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal, and general counsel Vijaya Gadde. 

The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, who previously criticized Twitter for restricting free speech, outlined his motivations for buying the company in a message (see here) addressed to advertisers and posted to the social platform earlier yesterday. On Wednesday, Musk visited Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco, carrying a white basin and later tweeting, “Entering Twitter HQ—let that sink in!” He also changed his Twitter profile description to “Chief Twit.” 

Musk has said he plans to introduce new features to Twitter. See his proposed changes here.

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PGA Tour Probe Widens

A US Justice Department probe into the PGA Tour’s alleged anticompetitive behavior has expanded to several major institutions in the sport. Reports claim the inquiry now involves the organizers of the prestigious US Open and Masters tournaments, among others.

The investigations come amid the debut of the Saudi Arabian-funded LIV Golf league, a rival series signing lucrative deals with dozens of high-profile players, including stars Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson (see league 101). In its related California lawsuit, LIV alleges the PGA Tour broke antitrust law by threatening players not to join the new series or risk losing a spot even at non-Tour high-stakes events.

The California case is scheduled to go to trial in 2024. In the meantime, the next major tournament is the Masters in April, and its organizer, Augusta National, has not yet indicated whether it would ban LIV-affiliated players from participating. 

Read about the Saudi league’s aggressive inaugural summer here.

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Russian Runs Nuke Drills

Russian forces carried out nuclear drills yesterday, launching ballistic and cruise missiles from land and sea across the country to the Kura test site in Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka province. The tests were reportedly part of scheduled drills but come as Moscow has increasingly referenced the potential use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. 

On the ground, both sides continue to prepare for a battle over the southern city of Kherson. The fighting is anticipated to be some of the heaviest since the start of the war—Russia has reportedly evacuated civilians and withdrawn high-ranking officers, but is said to have defensive positions for remaining troops. See updates here (along with a map of the front).

Separately, officials recovered the remains of Joshua Jones, an American killed fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. His body is expected to be returned to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. 

In related news, thousands of documents recovered amid a Russian retreat last month revealed an inside look at the Kremlin’s war effort.

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