12.12.2019

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Need To Know
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Election Day in the UK
Voters head to the polls today in the United Kingdom in a national snap election that could determine the fate of the country's yearslong effort to leave the European Union. The election was called by current Prime Minister Boris Johnson six weeks ago after his Brexit package, newly renegotiated with EU leaders, stalled without final approval in Parliament. Johnson and his Conservative Party are banking on a big win - they lead opinion polls by 10 points - and a majority that will allow them to push Brexit across the finish line. Reports suggest if conservatives fail to win a majority, resulting in a hung parliament, Johnson may consider resigning. That result - or the third, unlikely scenario that the opposition Labour Party wins big - would further complicate Brexit approval and could open the door to a second national referendum on whether to leave the EU at all. Voters originally chose to leave in a 2016 referendum 52-48% and there is no consensus on what would happen in a revote.

Disinformation campaigns have appeared to run rampant in the days leading up to the election. 
Myanmar Denies Genocide Claims
Myanmar's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, testified before United Nations officials yesterday, denying an organized effort by the country's government and military to purge the country of its Muslim minority Rohingya population. Myanmar (formerly Burma) faces a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice brought by 57 predominantly Muslim countries over a 2016-17 crisis in which over 700,000 Rohingya fled the country. More than 10,000 people were killed amid reports of systematic rape, torture, and human rights violations. Without directly addressing the atrocities - captured in gruesome detail ($$, NYT) by a wide range of media outlets - Suu Kyi said while disproportionate force by the country's military couldn't be ruled out, foreigners simply lacked an understanding of the country's cultural dynamics.

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for promoting democracy, avoided using the term Rohingya; the government does not officially recognize the ethnic minority.
Thunberg Named Person of the Year
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg was named Time's 2019 Person of the Year, the magazine announced yesterday. The Swedish 16 year old beat out headliners like President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint sparked the current impeachment proceedings, and more. Thunberg rose to prominence after she began protesting alone outside the Swedish Parliament in August 2018, a cause quickly amplified on social media. By November 2018, 17,000 students across 24 countries joined the protest, a movement that ballooned to more than 4 million by September 2019. Thunberg has also become known for her direct and blistering speaking style, as seen in a three-minute speech in December 2018 in which she directly excoriated UN leaders went viral and helped accelerate her to prominence.

In related news, a US federal assessment found the Arctic experienced its second-warmest season since 1900 (see visual highlights).
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In The Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Harvey Weinstein and sexual misconduct accusers reach tentative $25M settlement  (More) | ...meanwhile, Weinstein's bail raised to $5M over alleged ankle monitor tampering (More)
> New York Yankees sign All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole to nine-year, $324M deal, a record for pitchers (More) | See a year-by-year video of the world's highest-paid athletes (More)
> 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations announced with "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," "The Irishman," and "Bombshell" leading the way with four film noms each (More)
Science & Technology
> World's first all-electric commercial aircraft takes inaugural test flight; supporters say electric aviation offers reduced emissions, better fuel efficiency (More)
> European Space Agency set to launch the first telescope that will study, not just search for, Earth-like planets outside the Solar System (More) | House passes defense authorization bill that includes creation of a Space Force, a new branch of the US military (More)
> Magnetic minerals from ancient rock samples suggest Earth's magnetic field is 3.7 billion years old, 200 million years older than previously thought; protective shield helps block particles from the Sun and is considered a key to life on Earth (More)
Business & Markets
> Federal Reserve holds its benchmark interest rate steady at current range of 1.5-1.75%, signals no additional cuts in the near term (More)
Saudi Aramco - Saudi Arabia's national oil company and world’s most valuable company - shares up 10% (the daily limit on the Saudi exchange) on first day of trading; premarket trading suggests shares could achieve $2B valuation today (More)
> Online education giant University of Phoenix to pay $50M settlement and cancel $141M in student loan debt to settle allegations of false advertising of partnerships with tech giants (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies before Senate Judiciary Committee, defending report that concluded no political bias into launch of FBI surveillance of 2016 Trump campaign (More)
> Police say at least one of the two suspects in Jersey City shooting had history of anti-Semitism, links to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement; pair killed three bystanders in a shootout at Jewish kosher supermarket (More)
> Israel to hold third straight national election in March after Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Benny Gantz fail to form governing coalition (More)
In-Depth
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Life Without Parole
The Advocate | Lea Skene. Louisiana has the highest rate of inmates serving life without parole sentences, at 15% of the total prison population. Many are seeking to change the rigid system, in particular a statute that treats getaway drivers the same as trigger pullers. (Read)
The Octopus from Outer Space
Seattle Met | James Ross Gardner. Humans have been understandably obsessed - cautious, fearful, and fascinated - with the octopus. Here's a look at how the history of human-octopus relations reflects our anxiety and wonder of the sea. (Read)
 
 
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Etcetera
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A look at what topped Google's Year in Search.
People's choices for the best wildlife photos of the year.
America may have passed peak craft beer
Waste your entire day with the best memes of 2019.

From our partners: Here's why you might be overpaying for renters or home insurance. #Ad
Ready to jump? Here are the best emerging jobs for 2020.
... and here are the 100 best places to work next year
This Polish snow labyrinth is straight out of a fairy tale.
More Americans are now choosing to die at home than in hospitals ($$, NYT).
Clickbait: The world's ugliest engagement ring
Historybook: US founding father John Jay born (1745); 1st transatlantic radio signal sent by Guglielmo Marconi (1901); Frank Sinatra born (1915); HBD Jennifer Connelly (1970); Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore certifies George W. Bush as President (2000).
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