1.3.2020

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Need to Know
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US Strike Kills Senior Iranian Leader
Major General Qassam Soleimani, leader of Iran's elite Quds Force, was killed in a US-led drone strike at the Baghdad airport yesterday, in a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries. The strike also killed the second-in-command of Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces, a loosely organized group of Iraqi militias, many backed by Iran. One of the most powerful people in the country, Soleimani led shadowy extraterritorial missions and intelligence operations for Iran for more than two decades (profile here, $$, New Yorker); in terms of influence, he was roughly equivalent to a presidential cabinet member in the US. The attack follows the breach of the US embassy in Baghdad by Iran-backed militias early this week; the Pentagon said Soleimani was actively planning attacks on other US diplomatic sites in the Middle East. Iran declared three days of mourning, but vowed harsh retaliation

Read about Iran's Quds force, and its place in The Revolutionary Guard, here.
NFL Playoffs Begin
The NFL's wild-card playoff round kicks off tomorrow with the Buffalo Bills (10-6) at the Houston Texans (10-6) (4:35pm ET, ABC/ESPN), followed by the Tennessee Titans (9-7) visiting the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (12-4) (8:15pm ET, CBS). Sunday features the Minnesota Vikings (10-6) at the New Orleans Saints (13-3) (1:05pm ET, Fox) and the Seattle Seahawks (11-5) at the Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) (4:40pm ET, NBC). Depending on the winner's seed (playoff format explained here), Saturday's winners will either face the AFC's top-seeded Baltimore Ravens (14-2) or the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4). Sunday's winners will either face the NFC's top-seeded San Francisco 49ers (13-3) or the Green Bay Packers (13-3) the following weekend. The Ravens and 49ers are the Vegas favorites to win Super Bowl LIV.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys will reportedly fire head coach Jason Garrett.  
Interpol Notice for Ex-Nissan Chief
The worldwide policing body Interpol issued a red notice for the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, the latest twist in a stunning fall from grace for the former Nissan CEO. The issuance came just days after Ghosn fled Japan, where he faced charges of tax evasion and misusing company funds, for Lebanon, calling the Japanese justice system "rigged." The midnight escape on New Year's Eve reportedly included a private extraction team and an unregistered stop in Turkey, a layover that led Turkish officials to detain seven people for questioning. A red notice is a request from one country to another to make a provisional arrest; it isn't an arrest warrant and (despite popular portrayal) Interpol doesn't have the authority to make arrests. Lebanese officials said they were reviewing the request.

Read the full account of how Ghosn slipped away from tight surveillance here.
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott, and Frank Ocean to headline 2020 Coachella festival; see full lineup of musical acts (More) | "Surviving R. Kelly Part II," a look at the sexual assault allegations against the singer, debuts (More)
> Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announces that a movie currently in production will feature a transgender character, a first for the comic book film studio (More)
> The 77th Golden Globe Awards airs this Sunday (8pm ET, NBC); see predictions and previews for all film and TV categories (More) | Female directors made up 10.6% of top 2019 box office films, highest number in 13 years (More)
Science & Technology
> Stanford researchers demonstrate a particle accelerator on a chip, which pumps infrared light into an electron-filled silicon channel to generate x-rays; ultimate goal is a portable tool for medical and research applications (More)
> Google AI program performs slightly better at detecting anomalies in mammograms than single doctor review, with 1.2% decline in false positives (cancer diagnosis where it doesn't exist) and 2.7% reduction in false negatives (missing signs of cancer) (More)
> Archaeologists in Russia uncover 2,500-year-old tomb of warrior women who were part of the nomadic group known as the Scythians (More)
Business & Markets
> US stock markets up (S&P 500 +0.8%, Dow +1.2%, Nasdaq +1.3%) to fresh record highs on China trade deal optimism to kick off 2020 trading (More)
> Big Pharma increases hundreds of drug prices by average of 5.8% in 2020 according to analysis, smaller increase than 2019 as pricing scrutiny grows (More)
> Duke Energy agrees to move 80 million tons of coal ash to lined landfills in North Carolina, cleanup expected to cost up to $9B and take up to 15 years to complete (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> FDA bans flavored electronic cigarette cartridges in attempt to curb widespread youth vaping; tobacco and menthol-flavored products still allowed (More)
> Election 2020: Former Obama housing chief Julián Castro ends Democratic presidential bid (More) | Bernie Sanders ($34.5M), Pete Buttigieg ($24.7M), Joe Biden ($22.5M), and Andrew Yang ($16.5M) turn in strong Q4 fundraising numbers with Warren yet to report; President Trump reports $46M in same period (More)
> Turkey to send troops to Libya to back current government, countering opposition forces backed by Russia and Egypt in country's deepening civil war (More)
Weekend Reads
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There Were Nine
BBC | Staff. A look at the enduring puzzle of Dyatlov Pass, where nine hikers died under mysterious circumstances 60 years ago, and the countless conspiracy theories the incident spawned. (Read)
You've Been Canceled
Vox | Aja Romano. Some think it's the worst manifestation of mob mentality, while others say it speaks truth to power. Either way, here's why we can't stop talking about cancel culture. (Read)
I Quit My Job at 50
Narratively | Ivy Eisenberg. Chasing dreams of freedom and an escape from the corporate grind, Eisenberg has one major takeaway: most people shouldn't do this. (Read)
Underwater Gems
Atlantic | Wil Hylton. The world's largest mining operation is about to begin, set in the deepest depths of the world's oceans. The payload could be massive, but the consequences are completely unknown. (Read, $$)
 
 
Etcetera
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See photos capturing the extent of Australia's raging fires.
A decade of urban sprawl captured in satellite photos ($$, NYT)
Teen climber survives a 500-foot fall on Mount Hood.
Colorado residents are getting nervous over mysterious midnight drones
Your state's highest-paid employee is probably a coach.
Vinyl records outsell CDs for the first time since 1986.
The science is clear, tapping a shaken beer does nothing
The terrifying result of a pug getting an MRI
Clickbait: Dr. Phil's mansion is... not what you'd expect
Historybook: Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien born (1892); US cuts diplomatic ties with Cuba (1961); Apple is incorporated (1977); Author Joy Adamson murdered (1980); Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega surrenders to US (1990).
You made it. Have a great weekend.
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