The News You Need To Read This Morning

The prolonged speaker of the House vote, the romance writer who faked her own death, and the AI tool that identifies AI writing.

This is an excerpt from Incoming, BuzzFeed News’ morning newsletter dedicated to making sense of this chaotic world we live in. Join the club here.

Donald Trump and two Jan. 6 rioters have been sued in the death of a US Capitol Police officer

Sandra Garza (left) wipes tears from her eyes in court as US Capitol Police Sgt. Harry Dunn consoles her (right)

The estate of Brian Sicknick, the US Capitol Police officer who died after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, is suing Donald Trump and two of the men who were charged with assaulting him as the former president's supporters attacked the Capitol.

The lawsuit argued that Trump, Julian Khater, and George Tanios all "played a significant role in the medical condition that led" to Sicknick's death. Khater was captured on video spraying Sicknick and other officers with a chemical irritant that Tanios supplied to him. After collapsing at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Sicknick died the next day of natural causes, though the medical examiner also told the Washington Post that “all that transpired played a role in his condition.” Capitol Police have deemed it a line-of-duty death.

Additionally, the complaint accused Trump of "intentionally" riling up the crowd with lies about the 2020 election before encouraging them to attack the Capitol and those who stood in their way.

"Defendant Trump put out a clear call to action," attorneys for Sicknick's estate wrote, "and the crowd—including Defendants Khater and Tanios—responded."

What in tarnation is happening with the Speaker of the House?

  • Throughout this week, Rep. Kevin McCarthy has failed 11 separate times to get the 218 votes needed to be elected speaker of the House of Representatives. This is the most prolonged speaker vote that Congress has seen in the last 164 years, according to CNN.

  • How much longer can this go on? To get at least 16 of the 20 ultraconservative Republican votes he needs to reach 218, McCarthy has shown an increasing willingness to compromise with the remaining GOP holdouts. (Vox's Andrew Prokop explains McCarthy's new concessions wonderfully, I highly recommend checking out his rundown.) For now, this impasse in the House has no end in sight.

  • “If this takes a little longer, that’s OK,” McCarthy said on Thursday.

SNAPSHOTS

Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin is showing "remarkable improvement" in his recovery after a cardiac arrest during a game. "It appears that his neurological condition and function is intact," one of his physicians said Thursday. "He still has significant progress that he needs to make but this marks a really good turning point in his ongoing care."

A surviving roommate of the Idaho murders said she came face-to-face with the suspect the night of the killings. On Dec. 30, a suspect was arrested in northeast Pennsylvania and charged with four counts of murder as well as felony burglary for the killings.

A man fatally shot his five kids, mother-in-law, and wife weeks after she filed for divorce. The apparent murder-suicide has shaken the small Utah town, where the Haight family was very well known.

An indie author has mysteriously reappeared more than two years after news of her death. Meachen wrote online that her family “did what they thought was best” by telling her followers that she was dead. She concluded the post with a declaration: “Let the fun begin.”

A tool that can judge whether an AI wrote your essay is beloved by educators and loathed by students

a human hand writing on a notepad next to a robot hand typing on a laptop

GPT3, the latest version of the AI tool Chat GPT, has ushered in a new wave of plagiarism concerns. Released to the public in late November, the tool can produce lengthy, coherent prose based on fairly elementary writing prompts. But educators fear that high school or college students might use this technology to dodge writing their own essays.

According to Chalkbeat, New York City public schools blocked access to ChatGPT on school devices and internet networks. The anxiety is even coming from inside the house: A top AI conference has banned the submission of academic papers written entirely by AI (although it will allow some tools to “polish” writers’ work).

However, students hoping to use artificial intelligence to write their homework have a new enemy: Edward Tian, a 22-year-old Princeton University student who created a website that can detect if a piece of writing has been created with ChatGPT. His tool, GPTZero, determines if there is a high or low indication that a bot wrote a given text based on its “perplexity” and “burstiness.” Educators are praising the effort, and others, mostly teens, are calling Tian a “narc.”

“AI is here to stay,” Tian said. “AI-generated writing is going to just get better and better. I’m excited about this future, but we have to do it responsibly.”

IMAGE OF THE DAY

An Elvis impersonator in an open deep v stands in the shadows

M3GAN is a campy delight

A realistiic ish looking M3GAN doll stares ahead wearing a brown suit

M3GAN, which stands for “Model 3 Generative Android,” is the secret side project of roboticist Gemma (Allison Williams). When Gemma adopts her newly orphaned niece, Cady (Violet McGraw), she quickly realizes that she’s not cut out for parenting, and fast-tracks the M3GAN model in the hopes that the doll can be Cady’s friend and de facto mom. What could go wrong?

The film is a crisscrossed web of pop culture references designed to cement M3GAN’s cultural relevance amid a specific niche of highly online, campy young people, Izzy Ampil writes.

Stripped of this context, the movie is not bad, but not exceptional. Its plot points are skimpily justified: Cady’s parents die convenient horror-movie deaths; Gemma finalizes M3GAN within a week, despite having spent $100,000 and untold years tinkering on it unsuccessfully; various characters make pointed allusions to how the rushed timeline of M3GAN’s release means she can’t be properly safety-tested.

But M3GAN is not a movie you watch for the airtight quality of its storytelling or the subtlety of its technological cautionary tale. It’s a movie you watch because its titular character is “archly iconique,” unnecessarily couture in a satin pussy bow and matching double-breasted jacket. Because it is at once breezily familiar and very, very weird. Because it has a highly specific, out-of-pocket sense of humor, which is campy and offbeat and so clued into the pop cultural appetite for irony that it’s sometimes difficult to tell what’s supposed to be a joke.

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