1.16.2019

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Need to Know
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Putin Plots Power Play
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, along with his entire cabinet, resigned yesterday on the heels of a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin to amend the country's constitution. Under current term limits, Putin would have to leave office when his term ends in 2024. However, the proposed changes would allow parliament to appoint the prime minister and cabinet officials, a power currently held by the office of president. Critics believe Putin, who has effectively held power in Russia for two decades, is maneuvering to remain in power by setting himself up to transition into an expanded prime minister role after 2024. Medvedev was immediately named as deputy head of the powerful Security Council, a sign he likely resigned in coordination - rather than in protest - with Putin (the pair has plotted together before). The changes are expected to be put to a nationwide vote. 
US-China Trade Deal Signed
President Trump signed the first phase of what is expected to be a far-reaching trade deal with China, a significant milestone in what has been a tense economic relationship over the past few years. Among other concessions (more here), China pledged to purchase $200B in American agricultural and manufactured goods over two years, a sum which would cut into a trade deficit that hit nearly $420B in 2018. The country also says it will increase protections for intellectual property and will eliminate pressures for companies to share technologies as a precondition for doing business in China. In exchange, the US relaxed or eliminated tariffs on roughly $280B of Chinese imports but left in place a steep 25% tariff on $250B of goods - a point which analysts say will be a valuable bargaining chip in future negotiations. The US imported about $540B in goods and services from China in 2018 while exporting $120B; see a breakdown by sector here.

Explore a timeline of how trade tensions unfolded.
House Hits Send Button
The House voted yesterday to send articles of impeachment against President Trump across the Capitol, where the Senate will be tasked with formally trying the two charges. Seven impeachment managers were selected, led by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D, NY-10) and Adam Schiff (D, CA-28). There are many nuances to how the trial will unfold, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said the proceedings will broadly follow the 1999 Clinton impeachment. Senate rules require the articles be presented aloud today, after which Chief Justice John Roberts will take oaths "to do impartial justice" from all senators. The trial will include a motion to call additional witnesses - Democrats have their eye on former national security adviser John Bolton, but would need to secure four Republican votes to call for his testimony. Here's more detail on what will happen next; the trial starts in earnest Tuesday.

There was no actual send button. House managers literally walked the paperwork to the Senate (watch). 
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Whitney Houston, Notorious B.I.G., Nine Inch Nails headline 2020 inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (More)
> Rocky Johnson, WWE Hall of Famer and father to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, dies at 75 (More)
> Jay-Z files lawsuit against Mississippi Department of Corrections on behalf of 29 inmates who allege apathy toward violence that resulted in five recent inmate deaths (More)
Science & Technology
> National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reports 2019 was second-hottest year since 1880 when records began, slightly behind 2016; global temperatures were 1.7 degrees above 20th-century average (More)
> Researchers show the blood-brain barrier can be circumvented for immunotherapy drugs by going through the brain's drainage system (More) | What is the blood-brain barrier and why is it such a challenge? (More)
> Bioengineered bricks made out of a mixture of sand and bacteria show ability to self-heal and reproduce while retaining the structural properties of conventional mortar (More)
Business & Markets
> CEO Jeff Bezos announces Amazon will invest $1B to help bring small businesses in India online (More)
> Target shares skid 7% after missing holiday sales estimates - holiday same-store sales up 1.4% vs. 5.7% last year (More)
> Apple acquires Xnor.ai - provider of artificial intelligence tools - for reported $200M; analysts believe AI-enabled image recognition tools could be incorporated into iPhones and other products (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> US and Iraq begin joint military operations against Islamic State, one week after Iraqi lawmakers pass nonbinding resolution to oust American troops from the country (More)
> Sen. Tim Kaine (D, VA) says he has enough Republican votes to pass a joint resolution limiting the administration's military engagements with Iran without Congressional approval (More)
> Virginia becomes 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment five decades after Congress sent bill to states for ratification; status of potential 28th Amendment in legal limbo given ratification deadline of 1982 (More)
In-Depth
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The Quest to Live Forever
Medium | Joel Stein. The techno-optimists of Silicon Valley refuse to believe any problem is unsolvable, even the limits of human life. With tremendous advances at the intersection of technology, medicine, and health, will we one day be able to outrace death? (Read)
The Curse of the Psychic
GQ | Sylvia Varnham O'Regan. In the middle of a messy divorce, Ruth spent $5 on a psychic reading looking for a ray of hope. Instead, she spent $750,000 and three years fighting to lift a curse. Peek inside the world of predatory psychic scamming. (Read)
 
 
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Etcetera
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Breaking down how the US uses its land
...and visualizing 90 years of US economic growth in one chart.
Why brainstorming may be a waste of time. ($$, Quartz)
This smart city near Cancun will include 7 million trees.
Bruce Springsteen's son gets sworn in as a firefighter.
Critics are having a field day with Robert Downey Jr.'s "Dolittle." 
Explore a fan-created archive of 380,000 "Jeopardy!" clues
Spotify wants to make a playlist for your pet.
Clickbait: Rat hunting with the dogs of war
Historybook: RIP Hiram Revels, first African American to serve in Congress (1901); 18th Amendment ratified, banning alcohol in the US (1919); Pop and R&B singer Aaliyah born (1979); HBD Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda (1980); Gulf War begins (1991).
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