11.14.2019

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Need To Know
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Public Hearings Begin
Two top US diplomats - the top US diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent - answered questions from lawmakers yesterday in the first of a series of public impeachment hearings. The most notable new testimony during the contentious marathon session came from Taylor, who relayed that his aides overheard President Trump directly ask the US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, for an update on the investigations (key takeaways here). The testimony, which Republicans criticized as second hand and speculative, would contradict White House efforts to distance the president from actively pushing for the probe, though it would not demonstrate whether US military aid was delayed. If the House ultimately votes to approve articles of impeachment, the case will move to the Republican-controlled Senate; Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said yesterday the Senate does not have the 51 votes needed to immediately dismiss the charges. 

Need a refresher on how we got here? This is the best overview we've seen.
Clashes at Gaza Border
Fighting between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip continued for a second day yesterday, with Israel intensifying airstrikes after more than 200 rockets were fired from Gaza in a 36-hour stretch. The violence broke out following the targeted killing by Israeli forces of a senior leader of the militant organization known as Islamic Jihad early Tuesday. The group is separate from the governing Hamas - also viewed by Israel as a militant group - and while both share similar goals, the latter has stayed out of the current conflict to this point. Home to about 2 million Palestinians, Israel surrounds the vast majority of the 25-mile-long Gaza Strip and an international economic blockade has been in place for over a decade (see 101). At least 34 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 70 injured in the fighting, with an estimated 20 Israelis injured. 
Venice Underwater
Near-record flooding in Venice receded slightly yesterday, allowing the water-logged Italian city to take stock of the widespread damage caused by the city's second-worst flood on record. Waters peaked near 74 inches late Tuesday putting 85% of the city - much of which is 9 feet or less above sea level - partially underwater (see photos). That mark falls just 2 inches short of the high recorded during devastating floods in 1966. The high waters weren't driven by heavy rain (just 1.3 inches have fallen this month), but what is known as the "acqua alta," a seasonal phenomenon where high tides combine with strong northerly winds to force water into the city. The effect has been exacerbated by a sea level rise of about an inch per decade and the fact that Venice is sinking into its lagoon. The city's famous St. Mark's Basilica flooded for just the sixth time in 900 years.

A massive infrastructure project to protect the city, begun in 2003 but beset by corruption and delays, remains unfinished.
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In The Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Garth Brooks takes home Entertainer of the Year at 53rd Annual Country Music Association Awards; see complete list of winners (More)
> Houston Astros' Justin Verlander, New York Mets' Jacob deGrom win Cy Young Awards for MLB's best pitchers; both have won twice and deGrom becomes seventh in National League history to win back to back (More)
> Rapper Kodak Black, who had a #1 Billboard album in 2018, is sentenced to 46 months in federal prison on weapons charges (More)
Science & Technology
> European regulators approve the first Ebola vaccine; the drug, used in emergency trials during a recent Congolese outbreak, can now be widely distributed (More) | Two people in rural China diagnosed with the plague (More)
> Google to begin offering consumer checking accounts early next year; code-named "Cache," project represents the tech giant's first step into financial services (More)
> Doctors perform first double lung transplant on patient whose lungs were irreversibly damaged from heavy use of electronic cigarettes (More)
Business & Markets
> Fed Chairman Jerome Powell delivers testimony to Congress, states the Fed is unlikely to change interest rates assuming economic outlook of moderate growth holds (More)
> Facebook releases content moderation report, removed more than 3 billion fake accounts and millions of child abuse images (More)
> Disney shares surge 7% as Disney+ streaming service captures 10M subscribers in first day of launch (More) | WeWork reports third quarter results (to bondholders, the company is still privately held); annual revenue run rate is $4.2B, lost $651M EBITDA in quarter and 264K members in 625 locations in 127 cities (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Supporters of former President Evo Morales clash with police in Bolivia as Senator Jeanine Añez steps in as interim president; Morales in Mexico after stepping down amid protests (More)
> US appeals court upholds decision granting House lawmakers access to eight years of Trump tax returns; issue likely to head to the Supreme Court (More)
> Protesters in Hong Kong snarl traffic for fourth straight day as universities cancel classes; police deny curfew, warn protesters about escalating violence (More)
In-Depth
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How Russia Meddles Abroad
NYT | Michael Schwirtz, Gaelle Borgia. Russia's aggressive meddling in the US and UK is more than just one-off attempts to rattle the West. Election interference - online and in person, through soft influence and direct cyberattacks - has become a full-blown foreign policy tool for Russia. (Read, $$)
The Happiness Ruse
Aeon | Cody Delistraty. If you feel like happiness has become a sort of competition, you're not alone. The ubiquity of social media and the burgeoning self-care industry have made being happy - or seeming to be - a matter of nonstop work. (Read)
 
 
Etcetera
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Five facts you need to know about the US student loan crisis.
McKinsey releases 2019 report on Women in the Workplace.
America's best new restaurants for 2019 (via Esquire). 

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John Legend was named Sexiest Man Alive, but wife Chrissy Teigen is the real winner.
An astronaut explains which movies get space right (and wrong). 
Disney+ to unveil a racism disclaimer on older movies
Hunter snaps a photo of a rare three-antlered buck
Sunken US submarine from World War II discovered off Japanese coast.
Clickbait: When you leave your car window open and six cats jump inside
Historybook: French painter Claude Monet born (1840); "Moby Dick" is first published (1851); Albert Einstein first presents quantum theory of light (1908); RIP Booker T. Washington (1915); HBD Condoleezza Rice (1954).
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- Booker T. Washington
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