12.28.2018

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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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Saudi Shake-Up.
Saudi Arabian leader King Salman approved a number of changes to the Kingdom's top cabinet posts yesterday in the biggest internal shake-up since the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The sweeping move included the naming of new officials to lead the National Guard, the Public Security Directorate, and the Information Ministry. Despite the moves, the King promoted a number of allies of his son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, further consolidating the Crown Prince's power. After cultivating an early reputation as a reformer, bin Salman had come under increasing scrutiny for his role in Khashoggi's death as well as the ongoing war in Yemen (see 101), in which 50,000 civilians have died from a famine caused by the conflict. 
College Football Playoffs.
The quest to crown a champion in the 2018-2019 college football season begins tomorrow, with the top 4 teams meeting in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The early game features #2 Clemson taking on undefeated #3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl (4pm ET, ESPN). Oddsmakers had Clemson as 12.5-point-favorites before news broke yesterday that star defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence and two others will be suspended for failing drug tests. In the second game, #1 Alabama meets #4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl (8pm ET, ESPN). Oklahoma is led by two-sport star quarterback Kyler Murray, who won the 2018 Heisman award for the nation's best player, edging out Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama is favored by 14 points and is favored to win the championship game (Jan. 7th, 8pm ET, ESPN).  
New Horizons.
While many across the globe will be celebrating the start of 2019, NASA's New Horizons interplanetary space probe will zoom by the most distant object ever to be observed up close by humanity. The probe, launched in 2006, is the first deep space probe since 1977 and is meant to study the farther reaches of the solar system. Just after midnight on New Year's Eve, the probe will visit an object called 2014 MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule). The roughly 20-mile-wide object sits about 4.1 billion miles away from Earth in the Kuiper Belt on the outermost edge of the solar system (see 101), and was first observed by the Hubble Telescope in 2014. After learning about it, the New Horizons team planned a radical course correction for the probe following its planned examination of Pluto. Because objects that far away from the Sun are so cold (MU69 is almost -400 degrees F), their frozen surfaces act as time capsules, providing information on the early formation of the solar system. 

After visiting MU69, the probe will travel onward into interstellar space.
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In The Know.
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Sports, Entertainment & Culture.
> Serena Williams named AP's Female Athlete of the Year for 5th time (More) | LeBron James voted Male Athlete of the Year for 3rd time (More)
> Frank Adonis, actor best known for roles in Goodfellas and Raging Bull, dies at 83 (More)
> Authorities say video evidence exists of 2016 sexual assault by actor Kevin Spacey on teenager in Nantucket restaurant (More)
Science & Technology.
> Tiny implant placed directly into rhino horns allows real-time tracking and monitoring to help fight poaching (More)
> EPA to keep Obama-era restrictions on industrial mercury emissions; regulations heavily impact coal power plants (More)
> Simple sugars like fructose and sucrose threaten beneficial bacteria in the gut by slowing production of proteins that bacteria use as food supply (More)
Business & Markets.
> US stock markets continue roller coaster ride, fall 2% intra-day before finishing up ~1% (More)
> US consumer confidence plummets in December to lowest level since July, as Americans worry economic growth will slow next year (More)
> Epic Games - creator of gaming phenomenon Fortnite - reportedly nets $3B profit in 2018 (More)
Politics & World Affairs.
> Trump, congressional leaders signal partial government shutdown to last into January; Democrats assume control of House starting January 3rd (More)
> Gun Owners of America to file suit against Trump administration over recent banning of bump stock accessories (More) | What are bump stocks? (More)
> Democratic Republic of Congo sees violent protests after government delays vote by three months for national offices in areas favoring the opposition party (More)
What time is it?
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Weekend Reads.
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How to Recognize Fake AI-Generated Images.
Medium | Kyle McDonald. In 2014, when generative adversarial networks, or GANs, began producing fake images using artificial intelligence, they were relatively easy to differentiate from real photos. In 2018, the tech has improved so much that fake photos are indistinguishable from the real ones...almost. (Read)
The Serial Killer and the "Less Dead".
The Cut  | Jillian Lauren. When serial killer Samuel Little was convicted in 2014, he had been charged with three counts of murder. Find out how he may actually have killed over 90 by preying on the "less dead" - those victims who lived on the fringe of society and whose cases are rarely investigated fully. (Read)
 
Fortnite Isn't a Game, It's a Place.
Charged | Owen Williams. As more and more friends team up online to play Fortnite, it is becoming less of a game and more of a destination to socialize, with a burgeoning online community outside of social media. (Read)
 
Oh, Yikes.
The Ringer | Miles Surrey. The reaction you get when you interview a marine biologist about the hit movie Aquaman. (Read)
Etcetera.
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Enjoy this section? Be sure to check out our 101 Best Etcetera links of 2018 (and share with friends!).  
 
Meta: 85 lists covering the best and worst of everything in 2018.

The history of American New Year's Eve traditions
Colin O'Brady becomes the first person to complete a solo journey across Antarctica
Reviewing all the times the flag was lowered this year (paywall, WashPo).
This dad booked six flights to be with his flight attendant daughter on Christmas
Michelle Obama ends Hillary Clinton's 16-year-run as Most Admired Woman in Gallup's annual survey
 
Netflix releases feature-length special of cult hit Black Mirror today - see trailer here
 
Clickbait: Ten-hour SWAT standoff ends after officers sing "White Christmas"
Historybook: HBD Woodrow Wilson (1856); HBD Stan Lee (1922); HBD British actress Maggie Smith (1934); HBD Denzel Washington (1954); Indonesia AirAsia flight crashes, killing 162 (2014).
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- Denzel Washington
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