Democrats will hold their seventh presidential primary debate tonight live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa (9pm ET, CNN). It will be the last debate before the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3 - the first official primary vote - and will feature the smallest group yet in a contest that began with more than 20 candidates. Making the cut were (in podium order) billionaire activist Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA), former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN). The narrowed field is expected to benefit Steyer, who, along with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, have pumped nearly $320M in ad spending into their campaigns. Unlike the rest of the field, Bloomberg is self-funding his campaign, thereby automatically disqualifying himself from the primary debates by failing to meet donor thresholds. The lineup will feature no people of color after entrepreneur Andrew Yang failed to meet polling thresholds; the lack of diversity was amplified by news that Sen. Cory Booker (NJ) would end his campaign.
LSU Caps Magical Season
The Louisiana State Tigers finished out one of the best seasons in recent memory, beating the Clemson Tigers 42-25 in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Heisman winner Joe Burrow passed for 463 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for one score without throwing an interception. The eye-popping stats came against the country's top-rated defense and helped Burrow set the single-season record for touchdown passes (60) and touchdowns accounted for (65). Burrow is also projected to be the first player taken in the NFL draft and appears headed to the Cincinnati Bengals. It was Clemson's first loss in 29 games, having won two of the past four national championships, and the first college loss for sophomore phenom quarterback Trevor Lawrence. With Lawrence returning, Vegas gives Clemson 2-1 odds to win next year's championship, followed by Alabama (4-1), LSU (9-2), and Ohio State (7-1).
The rotating championship game was held in New Orleans, making it an effective home game for LSU. See celebration photos here.
Oscar Nominations Announced
Nominations for the 92nd annual Academy Awards were announced yesterday, led by Joaquin Phoenix's brooding "Joker" with 11 nods, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director (Todd Phillips). Close on its heels were three other films each with 10 nominations apiece: "1917," "Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood," and "The Irishman." The surprise on the list was "Parasite," which received six nominations en route to becoming the first South Korean film to compete for Best Picture. Among notable snubs was Greta Gerwig's omission from Best Director for her acclaimed adaptation of "Little Women." Only five women have ever been nominated in the category and only one, Kathryn Bigelow ("Hurt Locker"), has ever won the award. The ceremony will once again go without a host. Last year's show, which went hostless after a dustup over old tweets forced Kevin Hart to bow out, received positive reviews. The awards will air live from Hollywood's Dolby Theatre (Feb. 9, 8pm ET, ABC).
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In the Know
Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Queen Elizabeth II announces support for Prince Harry and wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, as they transition away from royal life (More)
> Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch fired; MLB announced their suspension for 2020 season after cheating scandal (More)
> Abby Huntsman to leave “The View,” will work on dad’s campaign for Utah governor (More) | Showtime's hit series “Shameless” picked up for 11th and final season (More)
Science & Technology
> Scientists build and demonstrate world's first living robot; tiny "xenobots" are made out of repurposed cells extracted from frog embryos (w/video, More)
> Study pinpoints how trees like the Ginkgo biloba are capable of living 3,000 years or longer; molecular mechanism helps tree cells avoid senescence, or when cells lose power to divide and grow (More)
> Genetic testing company 23andMe sells the rights to a drug developed in-house based on user data to Spanish pharmaceutical company (More)
Business & Markets
> US Treasury drops designation of China as a currency manipulator ahead of preliminary phase one trade agreement scheduled to be signed this week (More)
> Visa to acquire Plaid, maker of software that connects bank accounts for apps like Venmo, for $5.3B (More)
> Online luggage retailer Away cofounder returns as CEO after being removed following social media backlash (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Officials say nearly 1 million people outside Manila may need to be evacuated due to risk of eruption from Philippines Taal volcano; volcano began spewing ash and lava streams early yesterday (More)
> Iranian police accused of using live rounds to disperse crowds during second day of protests over downing of Ukrainian Airlines flight that killed 176 people (More)
> Russian military accused of hacking Ukrainian gas company Burisma in November (More) | Attorney General William Barr formally labels December shooting at Pensacola, Fla. naval base that killed three an act of terrorism; shooter was a Saudi military member on training visit (More)
How Digital Sleuths Unraveled the Mystery of Iran's Plane Crash
Wired UK | Chris Stokel-Walker. As government agencies around the world raced to determine what caused Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 to crash outside Tehran last week, open-source intelligence techniques allowed a community of private analysts to piece together what happened - blowing Iran's denials out of the water in the process. (Read)
Satan, the FBI, and the Mob
Politico | David Gambacorta. New documents quietly released by the FBI last June reveal a story that was stranger than fiction. Senator Ted Kennedy, already anxious over the assassination of his brothers, was the target of an assassination plot. The twist? The ringleader was said to be Anton LaVey, the leader of the Church of Satan. (Read)
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Historybook: RIP astronomer Edmond Halley (1742); RIP author Lewis Carroll (1898); HBD actress Faye Dunaway (1941); Franklin D. Roosevelt is first president to travel by airplane in office (1943); NBC’s “Today” debuts (1952).
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