12.20.2019

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Need to Know
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Buttigieg Under the Gun
Seven Democratic presidential candidates met in Los Angeles last night in the sixth and final primary debate of the year, coming against the backdrop of the House vote to impeach the president just 24 hours earlier. Much of the focus was on South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg; despite surging in polls in recent weeks, Buttigieg had largely avoided direct attacks. That changed last night, taking heat from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Amy Klobuchar (MN) in particular for policies viewed as insufficiently progressive, while Buttigieg returned fire, arguing that many of Warren's economic proposals are unrealistic. Buttigieg was also knocked for his high-dollar donor fundraisers - he vowed to make the attendee lists public - with an event held in a Napa Valley wine cave drawing special criticism and lighting up Twitter. Former Vice President Joe Biden had what many said was his best performance of the year, defending his record in light of a bombshell report that officials misled the public over the war in Afghanistan for years. See more highlights here

A flurry of debates will kick off in 2020, with appearances scheduled Jan. 14, Feb. 7, Feb. 19, and Feb. 25. 
Spending Bill Passes
The Senate approved two massive spending bills totaling $1.4T yesterday which included a grab bag of provisions appeasing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle while funding the federal government through next September. Unlike recent spending bills, the fiscal year 2020 package received little resistance as leaders from the House, Senate, and White House - consumed in an acrimonious impeachment battle - all sought to avoid another crippling government shutdown. The longest shutdown in US history occurred at the beginning of 2019, running 35 days. On top of repealing three unpopular healthcare tax provisions, the package raises the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21, shores up the national coal miners’ pension fund, and more (see highlights). The bill adds $500B to the federal debt over 10 years, which now stands at $22.7T.

Separately, the House passed the administration's US-Mexico-Canada free trade deal, sending it to the Senate.
Lebanon Rolls the Dice
Lebanese President Michel Aoun nominated university law professor Hassan Diab as prime minister, challenging the former education minister to construct a governing coalition in the country's fractured parliament. The move comes amid nationwide protests over corruption among the country's elite, fueled by a crippling economic crisis, which forced former Prime Minister Saad Hariri from office in October. Diab's ability to form a government is far from certain; under Lebanon's complex power-sharing agreement, the officeholder must have the backing of Sunni Muslims in the country. While Diab is from Lebanon's Sunni community, he won the backing of Christian parties as well as the Shia Islamist political group Hezbollah - but not from the Sunni bloc of lawmakers. Still, Aoun was required to put forth the candidate with the most backing and Diab appears to have approval from a majority of non-Sunni lawmakers. Protesters took to the streets again upon the news.

Diab has been implicated - but not convicted - in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue.
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan lead nominations for 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class (More) | Potential 2020 No. 1 draft pick James Wiseman opts to leave Memphis midway through season to prep for NBA Draft (More)
> Eddie Murphy to return this weekend as host of "Saturday Night Live" for first time in 35 years (More) | See Murphy's promo for Saturday's show (More)
> "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling criticized after tweeting support for British researcher who was fired for anti-transgender comments (More)
Science & Technology
> Boeing to test launch its first Starliner spacecraft today, meant to eventually be an astronaut taxi; uncrewed craft will dock at the International Space Station (More)
> Computer scientist and Arizona State University Executive Vice President Sethuraman Panchanathan tapped to lead National Science Foundation; federal agency provides nearly $8B in annual nonmedical basic research funding (More)
> Study links early childhood relationship with dogs to lower chance of developing schizophrenia in adulthood; scientists think changes to the body's immune system may play a role (More)
Business & Markets
> Pharmaceutical giant Merck receives FDA approval for Ebola vaccine, the first approved for the deadly infectious disease (More)
> Nike tops earnings expectations, Jordan brand sees first-ever billion-dollar revenue quarter (More) | Food and agricultural giant Conagra shares up 16% after beating sales expectations with on-trend foods (More)
> Facebook to acquire Spanish cloud gaming firm PlayGiga as it continues push into gaming market (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Veteran Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Meadows (R, NC-11) won’t seek reelection, signals he will work with Trump administration in undisclosed capacity (More)
> UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveils sweeping legislative package following landslide election victory; will aim to pass Brexit deal by end of January (More)
> Federal prosecutors say surveillance footage from Jeffrey Epstein's first failed suicide attempt can't be located; Epstein's former cellmate requested tape, says he saved Epstein's life (More)
Weekend Reads
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One Nation, Tracked
NYT | Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel. Twelve million phones, one dataset, zero privacy. An anxiety-inducing look at the power of companies to track cellphones in real time, and how much privacy we've ceded to technology. (Read, $$)
My Dad Was a Spy, Maybe
Gizmodo | Victoria Song. Suspicions from childhood become concrete reality after the FBI comes calling about the author's father. (Read)
The Case of the Angry Daughter
NYT Magazine | Rivka Galchen. The author's 5-year-old daughter was widely known as a happy and carefree child - until, that is, she made the transition into kindergarten. Was it a common experience, or something more? (Read, $$)
 
 
Excellent historical returns, without the jargon.
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Etcetera
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Tomorrow will be the shortest, darkest day of the year.
Instagram users rank their favorite New Yorker cartoons.
Christmas lights bring lifelong nonverbal teen to song
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A grandmother's lonely plea highlights an epidemic of elder loneliness. ($$, NYT) 
The world is running low on beach sand.
How to survive a 25-hour "Star Wars" marathon.
Guy tweets after a decade announcing marriage to last women he tweeted about.
USDA removes the fictional land of Wakanda from list of free trade partners.
Clickbait: Turn your tiny dog into a stegosaurus
Historybook: Louisiana Purchase finalized (1803); RIP Sacagawea (1812); "It’s a Wonderful Life" released (1946); RIP author John Steinbeck (1968); RIP astronomer Carl Sagan (1996).
You made it. Have a great weekend.
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"We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever."
- Carl Sagan
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