The Daily Valet. - 6/25/24, Tuesday

Tuesday, June 25th Edition
Cory Ohlendorf  
By Cory Ohlendorf, Valet. Editor
Did you know that moon soil smells like burnt gunpowder?

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Today’s Big Story

Julian Assange Cuts a Deal


The WikiLeaks founder stops in Bangkok on his way to a U.S. court and later freedom


Julian Assange’s long and bitter standoff with the United States has come to an end. The 52-year-old WikiLeaks founder has been released from prison in the U.K. and will be allowed to return to his home country of Australia after he pleads guilty to illegally disseminating national security material in the U.S., according to a surprising new report from the New York Times.

He’s expected to be sentenced to about five years, the equivalent of the time he has already served in Britain, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the terms of the agreement. Court documents filed Monday by the U.S. federal government in the Northern Mariana Islands (a United States commonwealth in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) suggest the plea deal is imminent, though the Associated Press notes everything still needs to be approved by a judge. Assange previously faced 170 years in prison.

“Julian Assange is free,” the WikiLeaks X account posted on Monday around 8:00 p.m. ET. You might recall that Assange has been held in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison for the past five years—a period that follows a years-long saga that saw Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy while first claiming asylum in 2012. Assange was physically dragged out of the embassy by British authorities in April 2019.

The legal drama began around 2010, when WikiLeaks released a huge trove of classified documents that presented a bleak view of America’s actions in two wars. The website collaborated with top media organizations, and for years, Assange reveled in his status as a proponent of radical government transparency. The public perception of him soured after the 2016 election, when WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of documents the U.S. says were stolen from Democrats by Russian government hackers. Former President Donald Trump’s first CIA director, Mike Pompeo, called the website a “nonstate hostile intelligence service.”

The deal brought an abrupt end to a legal saga that has raised novel issues of national security, press freedoms, politics and diplomacy.

Chinese Lunar Probe Returns to Earth With Historic Samples


It’s the world’s first samples from the far side of the moon

China’s Chang’e-6 lunar module returned to Earth Tuesday, successfully completing its historic mission to collect the first ever samples from the far side of the moon in a major step forward for the country’s ambitious space program.

NBC News reports that Chinese scientists anticipate the returned samples will include 2.5-million-year-old volcanic rock and other material that scientists hope will answer questions about differences between the moon’s two sides. The near side is what is seen from Earth, and the far side faces outer space. The far side is also known to have mountains and impact craters, contrasting with the relatively flat expanses visible on the near side.

The successful mission is a key milestone in China’s “eternal dream”—as articulated by Chinese leader Xi Jinping—to establish the country as a dominant space power and comes as a number of countries, including the United States, also ramp up their own lunar exploration programs. In a congratulatory message Tuesday, Xi hailed the mission as “another landmark achievement in building a strong country in space, and science and technology.”

The journey lasted 53 days. The probe has drilled into the core and scooped rocks from the surface.


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House Prices Are Surging Once Again


In America (and elsewhere) property markets have shrugged off higher interest rates

Anyone with half an eye on the housing market over the last two decades will know that in many countries, not least the United States, it’s become much more difficult to buy a home. The Economist asks, “is a fresh housing boom underway?”

In April a house-price index for the world, excluding China, rose by more than 3% year on year. American home prices are now more than 6.5% higher than a year ago, Australian ones have increased by 5% and Portuguese ones are soaring. Housing costs remain stubbornly high—and the Consumer Price Index shows shelter costs are still rising at a rapid rate, helping keep overall inflation elevated.

According to Axios, the U.S. housing shortage has been worsened by the "lock-in" effect. That is, existing homeowners staying put to hold onto low mortgage rates. As of last week, the average 30-year mortgage rate was 6.9%—more than double the rate four years ago. And many homebuilders are hesitant to break ground on new homes, as they face higher interest rates for construction loans, labor shortages and less home sites to build on, the National Association of Home Builders said last week.

These cities are now so expensive they’re considered ‘impossibly unaffordable’.

BMW Has Impressive Entry-Level EVs Coming


But it will be a few years before we see the new models

While some automakers are slowing their speed towards a fully electric destination, there are still plenty of ambitious EVs in the pipeline, ready to roll up to a charging station near you in the coming years. And while that includes a number of high-end electric vehicles, other automakers—Jeep included—are looking to get a foothold in the entry-level EV space. And it sure sounds like the next company to explore this space will be BMW.

According to Autocar, BMW has plans to follow up its discontinued but fondly remembered i3 with two new EVs: the i1 and i2. The latter will be a crossover, with “insiders” cited in the article calling it “a spiritual successor” to the i3. They describe the i1 as “a hatchback or a saloon,” and report that it will go on sale in 2027, with the i2 following a year later.

Meanwhile, Top Gear recently spoke with BMW M chief executive Frank van Meel and asked him about the Ioniq 5 N’s emulated gear shifts and fake engine sounds. He praised Hyundai’s high-powered creation, and it appears that buyers of future EVs from BMW will have similar toys to play with. “I like the way they think—that’s the way we think as well,” he said. You need to have feedback [in the car]. If you’re on the track you don’t have time to look at your speedometer or tachometer. If you’re racing, if you take the time to look at your display, two cars will overtake you. So what you want to have is a way to know what gear you’re in, a way to ‘feel’ the revs.”


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What We’re Buying


A multi-tool


Huckberry is kicking off summer by adding a slew of new product to their sale section. It's now packed with everything from shorts and breezy shirts to a range of seasonal footwear. Of course, they're is also marked down gear for your outdoor adventures and interior life, too. But at these prices, the deals won't last long so be sure to pick something up before they're all gone.

Our Pick:
13-in-1 multi-tool, $40 / $32 by Atech

Morning Motto

Dream big, but act now.


Dream in years. Plan in months. Act in days.




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