Tax Cuts.
The Senate passed a budget blueprint by an almost party line 51-49 margin last night, setting the stage for a $1.5T tax cut package that would be protected from a Democratic filibuster - meaning Democrats won't be able to prevent a vote on it. Despite its name, the budget bill is not a spending bill - that is left to appropriations (see 101) - it merely provides guidelines for federal spending in the 2018 fiscal year, while unlocking special procedures that may make tax reform easier to pass. Yesterday's 92-page resolution (it's not a bill that needs to be signed by the President) contained two critical sentences (NYT paywall) allowing Congress to increase the deficit by $1.5T. Because the clause was included in the budget, tax cuts up to that amount can be passed without being stopped by a filibuster - meaning Senate Republicans could pass a tax package with no Democratic support. The next step will be for the House to concur with the Senate budget resolution before moving on to actual tax reform. 

A new study released yesterday tallied the global cost of pollution - dirty air and unclean water - finding it responsible for more premature deaths than all wars and violence in the world combined. The study was published in The Lancet (abstract here), one of the top general medical journals, and estimated that one out of every six - or 9 million - premature deaths were caused by some form of pollution, from exposure to toxic chemicals to bacteria-ridden drinking water. Low and middle income countries, where industry is developing but regulation is lax, dominate the count - the report estimates that 2.5 million deaths in India, and 1.8 million deaths in China, were caused by pollution in 2015. The study also pegged the global economic cost at $4.6T - or 6% of the world's GDP. 

The Spanish central government moved to suspend the autonomy of its Catalonia region, following signs from regional leaders that they will continue to push for independence. National officials said they would invoke Article 155 of its constitution, allowing it to take over the region, which held an independence vote in early October. 90% of voters supported independence from Spain, but only 43% of people voted - meaning regional leaders have a weak mandate for a clean break. The move would strip Catalonia - which includes Barcelona and accounts for 20% of the country's GDP - of its current autonomy. The region has seen a 15% slump in tourism since the political turmoil began. 

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Sports, Entertainment & Culture.

> Dodgers crush Cubs 11-1, head to World Series for 1st time since '88 (More)
> Playboy to feature first transgender Playmate (More)
> Duke, Michigan State, Kansas top preseason college basketball coaches poll (More)

Science & Technology.

> Juno space probe finds stormy winds persist thousands of miles down into Jupiter's atmosphere (More)
> Backyard chicken trend driving 400% surge in salmonella since 2015 (More)
> Dogs make more facial expressions when they know people are looking at them (More)

Business & Markets.

> Alphabet's (Google) venture capital arm invests $1B in ridesharing biz Lyft at $11B valuation (More)
> Database provider MongoDB prices IPO, shares surge ~30% on first day of trading (More) | Clothing subscription biz Stitch Fix files for IPO (More)  
> Meet the Future 50 - Fortune's list of companies best positioned for breakout growth (More)

Politics & World Affairs.

> Sens. Klobuchar (D-MN), McCain (R-AZ), Warner (D-VA) push bill to regulate foreign-influenced ads on social media (More)
> George W. Bush assails trade protectionism, rising bigotry in NYC Speech (More)
> Rep. Pat Tiberi (R, OH-12), senior member on House Ways and Means Committee, to retire in 2018 (More) | What is Ways and Means and why is it important? (More)

The Problem is the Prices. 

Vox | Sarah Kliff. Vox returns to the under-discussed problem of health care pricing - opaque and inexplicable pricing that keeps consumers from having any clue of what they're really paying for. (Read)

The Rock Test. 

Medium | Anne Victoria Clark. It's funny because it's true; it's not funny because it actually needs to be said. The author has some solid advice for men nervous about working with women in light of the wave of sexual harassment allegations. (Read)

Guiding Light. 

The Verge | William Joel. There is a billion dollar widget behind the nascent self driving car industry. This is the story of LIDAR - or Light Detection and Ranging - a technology that uses laser beams to look in all directions at all times. (Read)

The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan. 

Al Jazeera | Annette Ekin. With an aging and increasingly fragmented society, the elderly in Japan are often left to pass away alone, only to be found weeks or months later. These "lonely deaths", or kodokushi, are often taken care of by people like Miyu Kojima, who call themselves 'memento organizers'. (Read)

Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded. 

New York Times | Barry Meier. And finally, one of the most widely-read NYT pieces this week, some disturbing investigative reporting on a group called Nxivm (pronounced Nex-e-um) - a self-empowerment cult that, among other things, brands the flesh of its female members with its logo. (Read
Doggos: LuLu the puppy flunks out of CIA bomb sniffing school

Check out the 10 best sculpture parks around the world.

Oceans 11: Paris man hides in suitcase to steal from other people's luggage.  

CA restaurant admits it's been serving Popeyes chicken for months.

The Future is Now: Google's AI can make its own AI.

Vulture reviews the new Mathematics-produced Wu-Tang ensemble album The Saga Continues

A new French law will fine men on-the-spot for harassing women in public.  
Funny: Photoshop troll fixes people's pictures by taking requests way too literally. 

Big Cocoa: Dark chocolate is now a health food.

The best cities for trick-or-treating as ranked by Instacart.

Public Relations: University takes $4M donation from frugal librarian, spends it on scoreboard for football stadium. 

Clickbait: Ted Cruz admits to being the Zodiac Killer on Twitter.

Historybook: HBD Mickey Mantle (1931); Congress investigates "Reds" in Hollywood (1947); HBD Tom Petty (1950); HBD Kamala Harris (1964); RIP Herbert Hoover (1964); Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy remarries (1968); HBD Snoop Dogg (1971); RIP Burt Lancaster (1994); Muammar Gaddafi killed (2011).
-Herbert Hoover
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