1.24.2020

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Need to Know
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The Year of the Rat
The Lunar New Year kicks off tomorrow, marking the start of the calendar in many East Asian countries and the beginning of the world's busiest travel season. Linked to the repeating 12-year Chinese zodiac, it also marks the beginning of the Year of the Rat; the sign is said to symbolize intelligence and wit. More than 400 million people are expected to travel during the holiday period, almost four times as many as during the US holiday season. The celebration will be dampened somewhat as China scrambles to contain an outbreak of a deadly coronavirus; by yesterday, officials had closed off the city of Wuhan (home to 11 million people) where the virus originated, along with the neighboring cities of Huanggang (7 million) and Ezhou (1 million). Public transportation has been shut down in at least seven other cities, affecting an additional 13 million people, and China's capital of Beijing had canceled new year festivities. The virus has been reported in four other countries including the US, with more than 830 confirmed illnesses and 26 deaths.

See maps of where the virus has spread here.
Middle East Peace Plan
President Trump invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz to the White House next week to preview the administration's draft Middle East peace plan. The proposal, which was completed late last year, was expected to be released sometime in the spring. Such plans are usually focused on resolving the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict (see 101) and whether to pursue a one-state or two-state solution, the latter of which would create an independent Palestine. Late reports yesterday circulating in Israeli press suggested the plan may recognize Israel's sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. Control of the city - Palestinians lay claim to the eastern half - is considered the most intractable issue in the dispute. 

Meanwhile, Netanyahu and Gantz remain locked in a political stalemate that has the country headed to its third election in one year. 
Goldman Targets Board Diversity
Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said yesterday the investment banking behemoth would require any company seeking to go public with the firm to have diverse board candidates, with a focus on women. At least one female or minority candidate will be required beginning July 1, increasing to two members by next year. As one of the world's most prestigious investment banks - Goldman took its first company, Sears, public in 1906 - the decision provides a boost to the effort to get more women and minorities in private-sector leadership positions. The firm says the policy results in more diverse perspectives in leadership, ultimately making companies more successful. The move follows efforts by other stakeholders to promote diversity in the boardroom, including a California law requiring at least one minority or female for companies headquartered in the state. Some progress has been made; as of 2019 each company listed on the S&P500 had at least one woman in on its board (though women held just 20% of all board seats). 
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Alicia Keys hosts 62nd Grammy Awards this Sunday (8pm ET, CBS); see nominees and predictions for major categories (More) | ...and ex-Grammy head claims awards are rigged (More)
> Jim Lehrer, longtime anchor and creator of PBS NewsHour, dies at 85 (More)
> Harvey Weinstein trial continues as former “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra testifies that Weinstein raped her in the mid-90s (More)
Science & Technology
> First-ever human remains with vitrified, or glassy, brain matter found at Mount Vesuvius; suggests flow from first-century eruption reached 1,000 degrees (More)
> Scientists reproduce voice of 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy after scanning body and 3D printing a recreation of mummy's voice box (More)
> EPA issues replacement for Obama-era clean water rule, loosening restrictions on farm and development runoff into ephemeral, or seasonal, streams (More)
Business & Markets
> Former Wells Fargo CEO barred from banking industry, ordered to pay $17.5M fine for role in fake account scandal (More)
> American confidence in the US economy at highest level since October 2000 in latest Gallup Index (More)
> Home DNA testing giant 23andMe to lay off 14% of staff (~100 employees) as consumer sales weaken for at-home tests (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Impeachment trial enters third and final day of House arguments alleging abuse of power by President Trump; abbreviated Saturday session expected as defense team takes over next (More)
> Officials identify three American firefighters killed while helping fight brushfires in Australia (More)
> President Trump to become first US president to attend in-person March for Life rally today in Washington, DC (More) | US State Department issues visa restrictions for foreigners traveling to the US to give birth; rule aimed at ending practice known as "birth tourism" (More)
Weekend Reads
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The Gates of Hell
The Guardian | Harriet Sherwood. Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. Survivor 90-year-old Renee Salt discusses why the camp's legacy must always be remembered. (Read)

Editor's note: See haunting drone footage of the grounds here.
"I Quit" 
NYT | Staff. Exciting, exhilarating, and terrifying; the phrase might be the most alluring in the English language. Here are 21 stories of people who walked away - from jobs, relationships, and beliefs - and didn't look back. (Read, $$)
Hard Words
APM Reports | Emily Hanford. Science has deciphered how children learn to read and how they should be taught, but many educators are unaware of, or actively resist, the results. Are millions of children being set up to fail? (Read)

Editor's note: The above item from 2018 was submitted by a reader in response to a piece ran earlier this week. Thanks, Christy L.!
 
 
Don't miss the Jan. 30 deadline.
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Enter the Rocket Mortgage® Super Bowl Squares Sweepstakes for a chance to win $50,000 every time points are scored.* Plus, two grand prizes of a half a million dollars that could be used toward your dream home.

Tune in Feb. 2 at 6:30pm ET on Fox. See the rules and enter for free here.

Please support our sponsors - they help us keep the lights on!
Etcetera
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Ahead of Sunday's Grammys, a timeline of the elite group of EGOT winners
The nearly extinct gray wolf may be coming back to Colorado.
The Doomsday Clock is now 100 seconds to midnight.
The next big booze trend may be hard coffee.
Neil Young is officially an American citizen.
Astronauts show off the first-ever cookies baked in space.
Family alleges Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty assaulted teen son.
The most adorable rendition of "Thunderstruck" ever recorded.
Clickbait: This 3-year-old boy became Mensa's youngest member.
Historybook: Actress Sharon Tate born (1943); RIP Winston Churchill (1965); Ted Bundy executed (1989); RIP Thurgood Marshall (1993); Department of Homeland Security opens (2003).
You made it. Have a great weekend.
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