12.20.2018

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All your news in a single email. We scour 100+ sources so you don't have to. Culture, science, sports, politics, business, and more - all packaged in a 5-minute read below.
Need To Know.
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US Pulls Out of Syria.
The Trump administration is preparing to pull all US troops out of Syria, according to reports yesterday. Roughly 2,000 US forces remain in the war-torn country, which is at the end of a nearly 8-year-long civil war. The brutal war began as a civil uprising during the 2011 Arab Spring protests (deep dive here), but quickly spiraled into a multi-sided conflict as Islamic State forces opportunistically moved into the eastern part of the country. Despite ongoing conflicts with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, particularly over the use of chemical weapons against civilians, the US mission in the country officially focused on the removal of ISIS. President Trump emphasized the near-eradication of the group in Syria as the reason for the withdrawal. 

Need a quick refresh on the whole conflict? Check out this one-minute animated map of the war. 
Fed Raises Rates (Again).
The Federal Reserve increased its benchmark interest rate yesterday by 0.25% to a range of 2.25-2.5%. The markets fell (S&P 500 -1.51%, Dow -1.49%, NASDAQ -2.17%) on the news, furthering an ongoing decline that began in September. Markets have slid almost continuously throughout the fourth quarter after achieving gains throughout most of the year. with the S&P 500 dropping 14.4% since its all-time high on September 20th as of yesterday. Despite the declines, the decision to raise rates reflects chairman Jerome Powell's confidence in the durability of the US economy -  higher interest rates mean consumers and businesses spend more on things like buying a car or starting a new plant, and the decision reflects the Fed's confidence that the economy can weather higher costs without slowing down. Powell also pared back the number of project rate hikes for 2019 from three to two. 

Sort of understand what the Fed is - but sort of don't? Here is a solid primer on its history and how it works. 
Illinois Church Accused of Abuse.
The Catholic Church in Illinois shielded at least 500 priests accused of sexually abusing minors, according to a report released by the state's attorney general yesterday. The report, which noted that the Illinois dioceses had 690 claims against priests and only made 185 of them public, criticized the church for often failing to find claims "credible" if only a single victim came forward. The preliminary findings concluded that the Illinois Church was incapable of policing itself - but stopped short of recommending specific actions (full report here). The news follows a bombshell grand jury report earlier in the year report detailing sexual abuse by over 300 clergy working in Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania. 
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In The Know.
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Sports, Entertainment & Culture.
> Missy Franklin, 5-time Olympic gold medalist, retires from swimming at age 23 (More)
> 20 advertisers cut ties with Tucker Carlson Tonight following host Carlson's remarks on immigration (More)
> Major League Baseball and Cuba agree to deal allowing Cuban players to sign with MLB teams without defecting (More)
Science & Technology.
> NASA discloses breach of internal server that contained current and former employee data; extent of hack still unknown (More)
> New research suggests cannabis use alters genetic profile of user's sperm, primarily via DNA methylation (More)
> World's oldest known wild bird becomes mother again; 68-year-old albatross lays 37th egg (More)
Business & Markets.
Brought to you by  
> Facebook stock tanks 7% after US Attorney General files data privacy suit - shares down 38% since July all-time-high (More)
3rd Canadian detained in China in ongoing dispute following Canada's arrest of Huawei executive earlier this month (More)
> Altria - owner of Phillip Morris brands including Marlboro - reportedly nearing agreement to acquire more than a third of e-cigarette giant Juul Labs at $38B valuation (More)

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Politics & World Affairs.
> Senate GOP approves bill that would push partial federal government shutdown until Feb. 8th; deadline is midnight on Friday (More) | Trump set to sign sweeping farm bill, minus revisions to food aid policy (More)
> With 100 days to go, European Union leaders begin process to cushion blow of United Kingdom exiting member bloc without a formal Brexit deal in place (More) | Brexit 101 (More)
> North Korea says it won't denuclearize until US removes weapons from South Korea; official statement encourages US to "study geography" (More)
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In Depth.
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The Zodiac Case, 50 Years Later.
San Francisco Chronicle | Kevin Fagan. 50 years ago, the legend of the Zodiac Killer - who claimed to have killed 37 victims - began with the murder of two California teens. Since the only suspect ever identified died before receiving charges, some believe the case ended with him - but that is only one of the many mysterious theories of the Zodiac.(Read)
Inside the Country Where You Can Buy a Black Man for $400.
Buzzfeed | Monica Mark. As a part of the $150 billion forced labor market around the globe, slavery in Lybia is rampant. See how thousands of black Africans trying to reach Europe end up in the slave trade. (Read)
Etcetera.
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The best of the worst restaurant reviews for 2018.
...And ranking the most 2018 photos of 2018
...And one more, the worst of the worst passwords of 2018
...No wait, one more - 2018's best in food and drink
Missouri woman's stolen tiny house found 30 miles away.
A mysterious light befuddles Bay Area residents (it was likely a meteor).
Popeye's restaurant begins limited time offering of emotional support fried chicken
NASA engineer designs glitter bomb to foil package thieves
Clickbait: When your Instagram tribute to your sugar daddy goes hugely wrong and hugely viral (warning for language). 
Historybook: Louisiana Purchase finalized (1803); RIP Sacagawea (1812); It’s a Wonderful Life released (1946); RIP author John Steinbeck (1968); RIP Carl Sagan (1996).
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