12.18.2019

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Need to Know
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Impeachment Hits House Floor
The House will formally consider two articles of impeachment against President Trump today, the final step in a monthslong process in which Democrats allege he leveraged the power of his office to push a foreign country to investigate domestic political opponents. The House Rules Committee voted yesterday evening to allow for six hours of debate per article with time split evenly between the majority and minority, and no amendments allowed. The chamber is widely expected to pass the articles - one for abuse of power and one for obstruction of Congress - today (or tomorrow at the latest), setting in motion a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate. Anticipating the showdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will begin negotiating the outline of a trial with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) this week. In advance of the vote, the president sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA-13) a six-page letter decrying the process (read here).

Separately, Congress sent a defense policy bill to the White House that establishes a Space Force and provides federal workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave, among other items. 
Exoplanet Telescope Set to Launch
Scientists will soon have a powerful new tool in the hunt for Earth-like planets that may one day be habitable for human life as the European Space Agency prepares to launch the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite. Known as Cheops, the orbiting telescope will be the first to search not just for planets outside the Solar System, but study whether their properties may be suitable to sustain life. More than 4,000 exoplanets have been found, but many orbit their stars outside what is known as the habitable zone, or the distance at which the planet's temperature is such that liquid water can exist. The craft will measure minuscule changes in brightness as the planets traverse across their home star, allowing scientists to infer their size, density, and composition. A launch is expected today after a software glitch caused a delay yesterday.

Planet-hopping is still in humankind's distant future - the closest known exoplanet, Proxima Centauri b, is more than four light-years away.
Musharraf Convicted of Treason
A special court convicted Pervez Musharraf of high treason yesterday, sentencing the former military dictator to death for violating the constitution. The ex-president was found guilty of declaring a state of emergency in 2007 to thwart political opposition, ultimately leaving office in 2008; he was also implicated in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The decision is mostly symbolic - Musharraf fled to Dubai in 2013 - but represents the first time in the country's history a military leader has been held accountable for abuse of power while in office. The case intertwines personal politics with the ongoing struggle between civilian leaders and military officials, with the latter having exerted direct or indirect control over the country for decades (see background, $$, FP). The treason case was initiated in 2013 by the government of Nawaz Sharif, a civilian leader who was deposed in a bloodless coup by Musharraf in 1999 before returning to power. 
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Major League Soccer selects Charlotte, NC as its latest franchise, deal worth $325M (More) | US officials show support for Arsenal star Mesut Özil after his criticism of China's treatment of Uighur Muslims (More)
> Oscar longlist for Best Picture released, includes 344 films (More) | "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" poised to deliver $450M in opening weekend (More)
2020 Pro Bowl roster released; Baltimore Ravens notch record-tying 12 selections (More) | Hayden Fry, ex-Iowa coach and College Football Hall of Fame member, dies at 90 (More)
Science & Technology
> Researchers sequence a full genome from 5,700-year-old chewing gum, reconstructing attributes of 6-year-old girl who chewed it (More)
> Study finds gut bacteria suppresses signaling from gut cells following high-fat meals, effectively cutting off communication between the gut and the rest of the body; effect can last up to hours after meal (More)
> Provision in FY2020 spending bill will provide federal funding for gun violence research in the US for the first time in two decades (More) | White House proposes rule changes to increase the number of organs available for donation (More)
Business & Markets
> Permits for new US home construction surge more than expected to 12-year high (More)
> FedEx shares slide 7% as company sees 40% drop in profits and cuts profit expectations for 2020 (More)
> Private equity consortium led by Carlyle Group to acquire stake in corporate travel business of American Express, valuing the unit at $5B (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Surveillance court rebukes FBI for mistakes in warrant application for Trump campaign aide Carter Page, orders Bureau to propose fixes to process by Jan. 10 (More) | Ex-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates receives 45-day sentence after cooperating in Mueller probe (More)
> Preliminary evidence suggests the presence of mass graves in Tulsa, Okla. from 1921 race riots; historical reports say deaths of up to 300 black residents were covered up (More)
> Pope Francis abolishes use of pontifical secrecy in abuse-related cases; Church will still shield documents from in-house legal proceedings (More)
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Etcetera
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The states where college costs are rising the fastest.
One-third of the US economy is produced by 1% of counties.
The best photos from Amsterdam's annual light festival.
Science pinpoints precisely when life has the most meaning.

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Maverick is back in the cockpit in the new "Top Gun" sequel (full-length trailer).
Female darts phenom Fallon Sherrock makes history
Tasting the 20 best new dishes of 2019
Only 100 years until we close the global gender gap.
Clickbait: When it's so hot you can roast a pork loin in your car.
Historybook: Mayflower arrives at Plymouth Harbor (1620); 13th Amendment formally adopted in Constitution, abolishing slavery (1865); HBD Steven Spielberg (1946); HBD Brad Pitt (1963); RIP actress Zsa Zsa Gabor (2016).
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