Matt Lauer Fired Over Harassment Allegations.
NBC fired Matt Lauer on Wednesday, its long-time host of the The Today Show, amid sexual harassment allegations (see here). As co-host Savannah Guthrie explained in a tearful intro, NBC News chairman Andy Lack fired Lauer just before yesterday's show, saying while they had not had a complaint reported about Lauer during his twenty-year tenure, he had reason to believe it was not "an isolated incident (see statement)". Lauer had become one of the most recognizable faces on morning television since he began in 1997, and was set to pull in $20M. His exit leaves a key piece of NBC's lineup, which grosses $500M annually, in a lurch. In separate news, Garrison Keillor, the ex-host of Prairie Home Companion, was fired from Minnesota's National Public Radio over allegations of improper behavior, though Keillor downplayed the incident

Big Step Forward For Quantum Computing.
Researchers at MIT and Harvard Universities announced yesterday the development of a 51-qubit quantum "simulator", one of the largest ever (quantum computing 101). The group used more than 100 lasers to trap and cool individual rubidium atoms down to near absolute zero (or -273 degrees Celsius). A simulator is like a quantum computer but it only performs a very specific calculation - like a calculator that can only multiply by five. Still, a simulator requires the same basic setup as a computer, pointing the way to a 51-qubit computer. The number is significant, as theorists have set the threshold of so-called quantum supremacy - the point at which quantum computers become more powerful than any classical computer could reach - at 49 qubits. On the same day, scientists from the University of Maryland announced a 53-qubit quantum simulator using cooled ytterbium atoms. 

US Challenges China at WTO.

US officials announced that they filed a brief disputing China's application to the World Trade Organization to be designated as a 'market economy'. Details of the brief will be made public today. China - whose centralized government, run by the ruling Communist party, often exerts a strong hand into private sector activities - is currently designated as a nonmarket economy. This designation gives the US and other countries greater ability to bring trade disputes - like dumping of steel and aluminum -  against China. A change to market status would give China greater leverage in trade disputes that come before the body. See a brief history of China's economic rise here
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Sports, Entertainment & Culture.

> Full 2018 Sundance Film Festival lineup revealed (More)
> 150 employees to be let go by ESPN in its second round of layoffs this year (More)
> Christopher Plummer has already replaced Kevin Spacey in latest All the Money in the World trailer (More)

Science & Technology.

> Scientists add two new letters to the genetic code, get bacteria to incorporate and use synthetic base pairs (More)
> Injectable gel helps heart muscle regenerate after heart attack (More)
> GM to demonstrate its self-driving car fleet to investors in San Francisco today (More)

Business & Markets.

> Chipotle Founder to step down as CEO, will hand over reins when a new CEO is found; shares rise 5% (More)
> Uber's losses widen, but biz grows 11% in Q3 to $9.7B in bookings (More)
> Goldman Sachs warns clients market valuations are at highest level since 1900 (More)


Politics & World Affairs.

> Led by Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10), House mandates sexual harassment training for staff, members (More)
> US 3rd quarter GDP growth revised upward from 3.0% to 3.3%, fastest pace in three years (More)
> Croat general accused of war crimes declares innocence, downs vial of poison in courtroom (More)

Drowning in Garbage. 

Washington Post | Kadir van Lohuizen. Along with stunning visuals (check it out on desktop), van Lohuizen recounts his travels to six major cities around the globe, investigating how they manage, or mismanage, not just their trash. With 3.5 million tons of waste produced around the globe each day, the world must rapidly figure out how to deal with its massive garbage problem

The Coast Guard’s ‘Floating Guantánamos'.

New York Times | Seth Freed Wessler. About 20 years ago, the United States only detained around 200 people per year in maritime detentions. Today, that figure has grown immensely - the US Coast Guard now detains around 700 people per year due to the expanded war on drugs. These low-level smugglers are held prisoner for weeks, and sometimes months, aboard US ships. Anxiously awaiting their fate, prisoners tell the grim tale of ‘Floating Guantánamos.’
All the world's money in one chart (fascinating).

NYC has genetically distinct rats by neighborhood

15,000 American Airlines flights in December have no pilots, union says

The languages that take the most and least time to learn (per the US Foreign Service). 

Beyoncé & Selena Gomez Rule Instagram’s 2017 Year in Review.

Rolling Stone's 50 best songs of 2017.

Robots: By 2030, up to 30% of the hours worked globally could be automated (new McKinsey report).

Hong Kong passes London to become most expensive city to rent office space

The 20 most beautiful beaches in the world (from Thrillist).

Two wingsuit flyers BASE jump into a plane in mid-air

Historybook: HBD Mark Twain (1835); HBD Winston Churchill (1874); RIP Oscar Wilde (1900); HBD Shirley Chisholm (1924); Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” released (1982); Paul Walker dies in car crash (2013).
-Mark Twain
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