11.25.2019

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Need To Know
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Navy Chief Forced Out
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer will step down over reports that he pitched a secret deal with the White House to help a Navy SEAL avoid potential punishment in advance of a military review board. The issue centers on the case of Eddie Gallagher, a member of the elite unit who was faced a court-martial over charges that included premeditated murder (background here). He was acquitted on all counts except a lesser charge of posing with the corpse of an ISIS militant; a naval review board was set to determine whether Gallagher should be stripped of his SEAL status. Late last week President Trump appeared to intervene, tweeting he would halt the proceedings. While Spencer initially threatened to resign if the military disciplinary process was disrupted, Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly asked for Spencer's resignation after finding out he told White House aides if they backed off, he would ensure Gallagher retained his status. The US Ambassador to Norway, Kenneth Braithwaite, will be nominated to replace Spencer.
Chinese Defector
Australian officials received a plea for asylum from a man claiming to be a disillusioned Chinese intelligence officer, according to reports over the weekend. The defector, Wang Liqiang, revealed details of alleged schemes by the Chinese government to interfere in Taiwanese and Hong Kong politics, including infiltrating universities, buying media coverage, and directly funneling money to favored candidates. Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous part of China (with a democratic legacy), while Taiwan is independently governed despite claims of Chinese sovereignty and an ambiguous legal status due to a lack of widespread international recognition (see 101). Both are wary of Chinese infiltration and the news comes at a time of heightened tensions, with monthslong pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and upcoming presidential elections in Taiwan. 

In Hong Kong, voters turned out in record numbers for local elections expected to be a stinging rebuke to pro-China supporters. 
Bloomberg Goes Big
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg formally launched his bid for the White House yesterday, ending weeks of speculation with a two-minute video on Twitter. Though polls have shown tepid support for new candidates amid a historically large field of Democrats, the 77-year-old billionaire media mogul is expected to disrupt the race through prolific spending. Bloomberg has said he will spend up to $500M of his own money and has already bought over $35M in commercial airtime promoting his candidacy. His first challenge will be reaching 4% support in polls that is needed to qualify for the next debate by the deadline of Dec. 12. Despite being generally regarded as popular, he has faced criticism from minority rights groups for the stop and frisk policy that ballooned during his term as mayor. Bloomberg will reportedly skip early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire and focus on Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states hold their primaries. 
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In The Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> "Frozen 2" pulls in $127M at US and $350M at global box office; highest-grossing global opening weekend ever for animated film (More)
> Harvard-Yale football game interrupted for nearly an hour as student activists from both schools protest climate change (More)
> Taylor Swift cleans up at 2019 American Music Awards with six awards including Artist of the Year and Artist of the Decade; breaks all-time AMA record with 29 awards (More)
Science & Technology
> Last Sumatran rhino in Malaysia dies; less than 100 of the smallest rhino species estimated to be alive globally (More)
> Bio-engineered mosquitoes implanted with disease-suppressing bacteria drop Dengue fever rates by 75% in field trials (More)
> Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules Fifth Amendment prohibits forced disclosure of suspect's computer password (More)
Business & Markets
> Big Pharma giant Novartis to acquire cholesterol drugmaker The Medicines Co. for $9.7B (More) | Luxury goods giant LVMH, which includes brands like Louis Vuitton and Hennessy, completes purchase of Tiffany & Co. for $16.2B (More)
> Tesla shares dropped 6% Friday after Thursday night’s electric truck unveil; CEO Elon Musk reports 187,000 customers have paid a $100 preorder fee in first three days (More)
> Uber loses license to operate in London as regulators say more than 14,000 trips were taken with uninsured drivers (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized, released after possible experiencing fever and chills (More)
> Second trove of documents detailing Chinese prison camps holding members of the country's Uighur minority leaked; China calls documents "fake news" (More)
> Senate and House appropriators agree on top-line funding levels for FY2020, allowing committees to push forward individual spending bills ahead of Dec. 20 deadline (More) | Demystifying the federal budget process (More)
Etcetera
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The nation is facing a Christmas tree shortage.
New exhibit displays 20 years of work from renowned artist Ai Weiwei.
The 31 funniest results of the "draw a duck" challenge.
The New York Times selects their 10 best books of 2019 ($$). 
Screen time is replacing physical activity in adolescents
The top touring musical acts of the past decade
Missing cat travels 1,200 miles before reuniting with owner
Abandoned dog befriends baby giraffe (w/photos). 
Clickbait: You should probably stay indoors on Black Friday
Historybook: Businessman Andrew Carnegie born (1835); Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” opens, is longest-running play in history (1952); President John F. Kennedy and his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald both buried (1963); RIP author Upton Sinclair (1968); Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies (2016).
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