12.17.2019

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Need to Know
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Healthcare Taxes Set for Repeal
Congressional leaders appear set to repeal three major healthcare tax revisions as part of a much larger fiscal deal that would avoid a shutdown and fund the government through fiscal year 2020. Up for permanent repeal are a tax on high-end employer-provided insurance plans (the "Cadillac" tax), a 2.3% tax on medical devices, and an annual fee on health insurers. The provisions were meant to help fund the Affordable Care Act - they combined for an estimated $24B annually in federal revenue - but facets of which were fought vigorously, from the healthcare industry to organized labor.  Also in the bill is a provision raising the legal age for tobacco purchases to 21 and a 3% pay raise for the military. The $1.4T deal is likely to be signed into law by the end of the week.

On the impeachment front, the House Judiciary Committee released a 658-page report accompanying the formal articles of impeachment (full text here) with a floor vote as early as tomorrow.
Boeing Halts 737 MAX Production
Amid lingering safety concerns, Boeing said yesterday it would temporarily halt production of its flagship 737 MAX airliner. The company faced a global grounding of the aircraft following two fatal crashes that killed 346 people, the first in Indonesia in October 2018 and the second in Ethiopia in March 2019. Data from the flight recorders pointed safety inspectors toward faulty sensors on the aircraft's tail - part of a sophisticated automated safety system - which caused the planes to nosedive (see explanation). Since March, the company has raced to implement fixes but has no clear timeframe on when regulators will recertify the craft. The model is the fastest-selling plane in Boeing's history, with the company having booked 5,000 orders; less than 400 had been delivered before the crashes. The halt is expected to ripple through the economy - Boeing stock fell 4% and its suppliers also slumped on the news. 
Protests Grow in India
Demonstrations that began in northeast India over the passage of a controversial religious citizenship bill last week have spread to regions across the country, leaving at least six people dead and dozens arrested. Protests at Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia University grew violent, with vehicles set on fire and police cracking down on students. At issue is the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which allows undocumented non-Muslims from neighboring countries a path to legal citizenship. The government has tried to frame the bill as protecting persecuted minorities in the region - Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are predominantly Muslim - but critics say it is an extension of surging Hindu nationalism that has marginalized the country's 200 million Muslims. The government has shut down large portions of the internet in an attempt to quell the protests.

This footage of five women trying to protect a protester went viral. 
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You," originally released in 1994, hits No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 chart; is first holiday song to reach No. 1 since 1958's "The Chipmunk Song" (More)
Drew Brees (541) passes Peyton Manning (539) to break all-time career passing TD record (More) | Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon suspended indefinitely by NFL for substance abuse (More)
2020 Academy Awards shortlists announced in nine categories including Documentary and Original Score (More) | ...and the 2019 Black List released of best available screenplays that have not yet been made into films (More)

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Science & Technology
> Scientists demonstrate ability to halt epileptic seizures in animal tests and pinpoint neural circuitry that controls brain activity during a wide variety of seizures (More)
> Preeminent science journal Nature ranks the 10 biggest research papers of the year (More) | ...and check out the best science photos of 2019 (More)
> Japan to build the world's largest neutrino detector; $600M facility will be five times larger than the current record holder (More) | What is a neutrino? (More)
Business & Markets
> Audit released in court documents shows Sackler family - owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma - withdrew $10B from the business from 2008-2018, with amounts increasing as opioid epidemic accusations came to light (More)
> US stock markets up (S&P 500 +0.7%, Dow +0.4%, Nasdaq +0.9%) to fresh record highs as China releases strong output and retail sales data, and as trade war tensions continue to cool (More)
> Chemical giant DuPont to merge food and nutrition business unit with International Flavors & Fragrances to create $45B consumer goods giant (More) | Tech giant Intel to acquire Israeli artificial intelligence business Habana Labs for ~$2B (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Whistleblower alleges The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon church) has amassed $100B in tax-exempt funds; complaint to IRS says church leaders misrepresented the money as having been spent on charitable works (More)
> Amid protests, French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform chief steps down over conflict of interest charges; news deals a blow to Macron's goal of overhauling pension system (More)
> Lebanese President Michel Aoun delays nominating prime minister amid protests; Aoun reportedly considering former PM Saad Hariri, who stepped down in October due to same protests, after no other candidates emerge (More)
In-Depth
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Showdown in Wisconn Valley
The Verge | Josh Dzieza. Once upon a time, the prospect of a $10B factory site in Wisconsin built by Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn was widely celebrated. As it becomes apparent that reality is falling far short of the promises, Wisconsin officials have been left in the dark and taxpayers left footing the bill. (Read)
The Big One
LA Times | Rong-Gong Lin II. Geologists say there is a 50% chance California will be hit with a magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquake in the next three decades. What would that look like? Christchurch, New Zealand, sits on top of a remarkably similar fault line and offers a stark example. (Read)
 
 
Etcetera
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Reviewing the year's most powerful local investigative journalism.
Homeless people gain the right to lawfully sleep on the sidewalk
Children with helicopter parents are more likely to burn out.

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Kansas City is experimenting with free public transit.
Eleven-year-old becomes the NYC Ballet's first black "Nutcracker" lead.
A belated happy anniversary to the world's oldest couple.
Harvey Weinstein wants you to know he's good for women.
Businesses are cracking down on toilet time.
Clickbait: Man accidentally blows up car with too much air freshener.
Historybook: Wright brothers make first successful airplane flight (1903); HBD Pope Francis (1936); The Simpsons made television debut (1989); RIP American actress Jennifer Jones (2009); North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il dies (2011).
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