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Need to Know
Ukraine Flight Likely Downed by Iran
Officials believe a Ukrainian Airlines flight that crashed in Tehran was likely shot down by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles, according to reports yesterday. Sources say the strike may have been a mistake; the plane took off just hours after Iran fired a series of missiles at US forces housed in Iraq, a time when the country's anti-aircraft defense systems were likely on high alert. Fragments from a rocket fired by a surface-to-air missile system were found and experts speculate defenses may have unintentionally targeted the commercial aircraft (see video). The news comes one day after the US and Iran appeared to pull back from escalating tensions following a US strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. All 176 people aboard the plane were killed, including 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians, among others. 

The House approved a measure requiring the White House to seek congressional approval before any further military action against Iran. The Senate is unlikely to pass the bill.
Elections in Taiwan
Taiwan will hold presidential and parliamentary elections tomorrow in what is being viewed by many as a referendum on Chinese interference on the island. The vote comes as pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong - whose relationship with the mainland shares many similarities - enter their eighth month. Previously unpopular incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen has made a comeback riding anti-China sentiment and enjoyed a 20-point lead in recent polls. While Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous part of China, Taiwan is independently governed despite claims of Chinese sovereignty and an ambiguous legal status due to a lack of widespread international recognition (see 101). The island has a de facto "one China, two systems" relationship with Beijing, though the vast majority of citizens believe in self-government and have reacted strongly to attempts by China to influence its affairs. 
Facebook Won't Limit Political Ads
Social media giant Facebook said yesterday it would not tighten its fact-checking procedures for political ads or limit campaigns' abilities to microtarget users ahead of the 2020 US election. Company officials said they would instead opt to focus on the user side, increasing transparency and providing users greater leeway in opting out of ads. Critics say the policy allows politicians to deliver incendiary and even outright false claims directly to those most likely to believe them. The decision puts the company at odds with its competitors. Twitter banned political ads altogether last fall (see our write-up here) and Google will limit the ability to microtarget users to age, gender, and ZIP code. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously said political ads will account for just 0.5% of revenue in 2020.
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In the Know
Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> NFL playoffs continue this weekend with divisional round matchups; see schedule and previews for each game (More) | No. 6 Baylor women's basketball ends No. 1 Connecticut's 98-game home winning streak (More)
> Edd Byrnes, “Grease” and “77 Sunset Strip” star, dies at 87 (More) | Legendary golf course designer Pete Dye dies at 94 (More)
> On-demand music streams in the US reached 1 trillion for first time; streaming accounts for a record 84.6% of total album consumption (More)
Science & Technology
> White House proposes overhaul to National Environmental Policy Act; proposal would remove requirement to consider cumulative effects of projects, including climate change impacts (More)
> Study finds multiple cellular mechanisms that act together to extend the average life span of nematodes by 500%; animals are popular for aging research due to shared genes with humans (More)
> Department of Energy picks New York's Brookhaven National Lab as site for multibillion-dollar particle accelerator; project will take 10 years to complete and will allow scientists to probe inner workings of the atomic nucleus (More)
Business & Markets
> China’s Vice Premier Liu He to visit Washington, D.C. next week to sign phase one trade deal (More) | US stock markets up (S&P 500 +0.7%, Dow +0.7%, Nasdaq +0.8%) to fresh record highs on the news (More)
> Computer systems at currency exchange company Travelex remain down as hackers demand $6M ransom for customer data (More)
> JD Vance, author of bestselling book "Hillbilly Elegy," launches $93M venture capital firm to invest in companies in underserved cities (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Head of Army Special Forces denies request from soldier pardoned by President Trump to have his Special Forces Tab restored; Maj. Matthew Golsteyn was accused of premeditated murder of a civilian in Afghanistan (More)
> Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says impeachment trial will start next week (More) | Senate still waiting for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA-12) to send articles of impeachment (More)
> Estimated 450,000 people demonstrate across France as strike over pension reform proposal enters 36th day (More)
Weekend Reads
The End of Tom Brady
The Atlantic | Scott Stossel. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has racked up an unprecedented six Super Bowl titles in the span of 17 years. Whether or not he carries out his wish of playing until age 45, the end of Tom Brady is every sports fan's loss. (Read, $$)
The Incredibly Happy Life of Larry David
GQ | Brett Martin. The celebrated creator of "Seinfeld" has managed to cultivate a lifestyle that most would describe as being neurotic; others might call it supreme happiness. (Read)
Why We Should Be Optimistic About the Future
a16z | Marc Andreessen, Kevin Kelly. The editor of the tech magazine Wired and the head of one of the country's leading venture capital firms on the evolution of technology and why we should look beyond short-term challenges. (Listen)
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The 52 best places to go in 2020. ($$, NYT)
The number of Americans who telecommute is surging.
California may start selling its own prescription medicines.

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Leonardo DiCaprio plays a real-life hero while on vacation.
This Japanese billionaire is giving away millions on Twitter.
Michigan town buys odor detection devices to combat pot smell
Olympic athletes in 2020 will be sleeping on cardboard boxes.
That feeling when you catch a spider stealing your goldfish.
Clickbait: Army veteran has prosthetic legs repossessed.
Historybook: UN General Assembly gathers for first time (1945); HBD George Foreman (1949); RIP fashion designer Coco Chanel (1971); US and Holy See reestablish diplomatic relations for first time in 117 years (1984); RIP David Bowie (2016).
You made it. Have a great weekend.
"Heroes always have their scars. Some you can see, some you read about later on."
- George Foreman
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