President Trump made a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday, visiting with troops and announcing that peace talks with the Taliban would be restarted. The talks stalled out in September after a series of Taliban attacks aiming to destabilize the Afghan government were carried out, including one that killed a US service member. The attacks led to historically low turnout among voters in the country's Sept. 30th national elections, which observers fear undercut the legitimacy of outcome; the results of the vote have still not been officially released ($$, NYT). Despite the chaos, the US had appeared to advance peace talks with the Taliban for over a year before the militant group ultimately balked at direct negotiations with the Afghan government. President Trump repeated his desire to reduce US troop levels in the country from around 13,000 to under 9,000.
A New Apple in Town
Apple lovers will have an exciting new option come Monday as the much-anticipated Cosmic Crisp lands in grocery stores across the United States. A rare disruption in the multi-billion dollar apple industry, the varietal is the first to be primarily developed in Washington state, despite producing 40% of the nation's 30 billion apples per year. The offspring of Honeycrisp and Enterprise apples, Cosmic Crisp combines the large cells and thin skin of the former (resulting in juicier fruit) with the disease resistance and shelf life of the latter. One easily noticed result is the apple doesn't brown after being bitten into, a unique trait among non-GMO apples. Industry experts expect the new contender to crunch competition, becoming the second-most popular variety within two years.
It's unlikely however to peel away the top spot from the mild and inoffensive Gala.
Show of Force
In what was described by onlookers as an absolute slobbering of the competition, Thor the Bulldog was named Best in Show in the 2019 National Dog Show. Under the brightest of lights, he emerged from a field of more than 2,000 pooches to replace last year's winner, Whiskey the Whippet. Thor began by thundering through the Non-Sporting dog group where he joined six other finalists that included Nick the Husky, Sophia the Sheepdog, and Blaine the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. Stunned spectators watched in awe as Thor bested Bono, a Havenese currently ranked No. 1 in the world. His trainer, Eduardo Paris, fell to the floor as the winner was announced; "I love this dog... he moves like a dream," Paris said.
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> Celebs and the Time's Up movement support Gabrielle Union in wake of her dismissal as judge on America's Got Talent; Union alleges there was a toxic work culture on the program (More)
> British celebrity chef Gary Rhodes dies at 59 from head injury (More) | Brad Gobright, famed rock climber, dies at 31 after from fall in Mexico (More) | Alelia Murphy, America's oldest person, dies at 114 (More)
Science & Technology
> Researchers engineer a new strain of E. coli that consumes carbon dioxide instead of sugars; may be used in future to convert CO2 to simple hydrocarbons (More)
> Apple Maps bend to Russian government demands, labels Crimean Peninsula as Russian territory; only occurs when area is viewed from a device used in Russia (More)
> New approach to detect infrasound, or noise at frequencies lower than the human ear can detect, aims to reduce the 50% false alarm rate in tornado forecasting (More)
Business & Markets
> Global stocks close lower after US passes legislation requiring annual assessments of Hong Kong’s autonomy and threatening sanctions for human rights violations; China warns of “firm counter measures” signaling potential trade war retaliation (More)
> National Retail Federation projects 165M Americans will shop over Thanksgiving weekend through Cyber Monday, estimates 2019 US holiday retail sales of $730B up 4.2% (More)
> Owner of English Premier League Club Manchester City receives $500M investment from US private equity giant Silver Lake valuing the club at near $5B, the richest soccer valuation to date (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Explosions at Texas chemical plant injure three, cause evacuation of tens of thousands as fires burn through Wednesday and into Thanksgiving (More)
> Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani reportedly pursued business deals with Ukraine while pushing officials to investigate Joe Biden (More)
> At least 40 killed in Iraq as anti-government protesters burn down the Iranian consulate in the southern city of Najaf; demonstrators protesting economic crisis and corruption in government which they see as beholden to Iran (More)
Home for the Holidays
Boston Phoenix | Chris Radant. (Nov. 1990) When basking in the nostalgia of heading home during the holiday season may require a heavy dose of pharmaceuticals. (Read)
Why Child Care is So Ridiculously Expensive
Atlantic | Derek Thompson. There are three broad reasons why health care in the US is now as expensive as buying a new car each year. (Read, $$)
Give Thanks... For Your Big Brain
The Conversation | Suzana Herculano-Houzel. Its densely packed neurons are what give you the ability to give thanks. And yes, we use more than 10% of it. (Read)
Best of Etcetera - November '19
Editor's note: 500,000+ clicks don't lie. Here are the most popular stories from the month!
Historybook: "Chronicles of Narnia" author CS Lewis born (1898); UN General Assembly approves plan to partition Palestine (1947); Warren Commission is established to investigate President Kennedy assassination (1963); RIP social activist Dorothy Day (1980); RIP Beatles guitarist George Harrison (2001).
You made it. Have a great weekend.
"All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much." - George Harrison
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