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Need To Know.
Democrats Debate.
The third round of Democrat primary debates was held last night in Houston, the first time the leading candidates shared the stage together in a single night. Former Vice President Joe Biden, entering the night with a significant lead, spent the night fending off attacks on his legacy from the Obama administration, particularly from Obama Housing Secretary Julian Castro. Health care dominated the conversation - progressive candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) advocated for universal coverage while others called the plan unrealistic, promoting instead a plan to let people opt-in to Medicare. Recent polls have shown the issue is the biggest concern of voters by a wide margin. Gun control was also a hot topic in the wake of four high-profile mass shootings since the last debate, with a lagging Beto O'Rouke - a resident of El Paso, where 22 people were killed in an August rampage - scoring the biggest moment of his campaign to date. See more highlights here

Back in Washington, the House Judiciary committee clarified its position on potential impeachment proceedings.
California Boat Fire. 
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded yesterday the entire crew of a scuba charter was asleep when the boat caught fire and sank, violating a requirement to have at least one person on watch overnight. All 33 passengers and one crew member were killed in the incident off the coast off Southern California, one of the worst maritime disasters in state history. Initial reports witnessed the crew abandoning ship before passengers - the NTSB concluded that the fire, which broke out near the engine room, blocked access to the passengers' sleeping quarters. The specific cause of the fire is still being investigated - though the NTSB also released a warning about unsupervised cell phone charging, raising questions about whether the fire was fueled by faulty lithium-ion batteries. Read the two-page preliminary report here

Hear the haunting distress call here.  
Clean Water Act.
The Environmental Protection Agency formally moved to modify the Clean Water Act, reversing an Obama-era rule that significantly broadened the agency's oversight of the country's waterways. At the core of the debate is what qualifies as "waters of the United States" - the 1972 bill regulates pollution discharge into the nation's surface waters (deep dive here), but does not precisely define which waterways fall within its scope. In 2015 the definition was expanded to include most tributaries, wetlands, and seasonal surface waters that feed into already protected primary waterways. The rule has been battled in court since its inception and is currently blocked in 28 states while legal challenges proceed. The new move essentially reinstates the previous standards from 1986 and is also expected to face legal challenges from opponents. 
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In The Know.
Sports, Entertainment & Culture.
> Saturday Night Live adds Bowen Yang, its first cast member of East Asian descent (More) | Video surfaces of Shane Gillis, another new SNL cast member, using racist, homophobic slurs (More)
> Meghan Markle launches Smart Set, a fashion line with British charity Smart Works; for each item sold, one will be donated to the charity (More)
> Filmmaker JJ Abrams and his production company Bad Robot sign 5-year, $250M partnership with WarnerMedia to create original content (More)
Science & Technology.
> Innovative heart-healing hydrogel proven safe for use in humans in phase 1 tests; injectable gel helps restore heart function in patients with cardiac arrest (More)
> Second-ever interstellar comet observed, believed to have been ejected from a neighboring star system; will pass within 180 million miles of Earth on December 29th (More)
> In scientific first, researchers create rudimentary embryo-like structures using stem cells; structures can be used to study the early stages of embryonic development (More)
Business & Markets.
> European Central Bank (the Fed equivalent of the EU) cuts interest rates from -0.4% to all-time low -0.5% (More)
> 145 CEOs sign letter demanding US government action on gun violence, group includes many media, technology and startup companies (More)
> Online dentistry provider Smile Direct Club shares slide 28% on first day as public company, valuation slips to $6.4B (More)

This jaw-dropping card is offering 0% APR for 14 months and 5% back in rotating categories. Pay no interest until nearly 2021 and double your cash back (More) #Ad
Politics & World Affairs.
> Reports accuse Israel of planting cell phone spying devices near White House, other sensitive locations around Washington, DC (More)
> US government set to reveal name of suspected link between 9/11 attacks and Saudi Arabian government; comes as part of lawsuit between families of 9/11 and Saudi Arabia (More)
> Grand jury indicts suspect in mass shooting at El Paso Walmart on one count of capital murder, prosecutors weighing hate crime charges; August shooting killed 22, injured 24 (More)
Weekend Reads.
The Falling Man.
Esquire | Tom Junod. (From 2003) A moving exploration of one of the most iconic photos capturing the horror of 9/11, and where it rests in the public consciousness. (Read)
Alex Honnold's Next Summit.
ESPN | Seth Wickersham. After his nearly unbelievable ropeless climb up Yosemite's El Capitan, Alex Honnold's next feat may be his most daring yet - trying to lead a normal life. (Read)
Warning Signs.
NYT | Shannon Hall. Despite a string of deadly eruptions across the globe since 2010, red tape and regulations are preventing the US from adequately listening to its most active volcanoes. (Read)
I Was Caroline Calloway.
The Cut | Natalie Beach. The viral, can't-look-away story of an Instagram influencer collapsing under the weight of fake followers and embellished stories as recounted by the account's ghostwriter. (Read)
Feeling (un)lucky? Today is a rare Friday the 13th with a full moon

Ranking the happiest states in the US

Six maps that show America's expanding diversity
It's been ten years to the day since Taylor Swift got Kanye'd
This new London restaurant features a cheese conveyor belt
Can't make it to Oktoberfest? Here's the best beer gardens in the US
When your high school lets students dress like pop culture characters for their school photos
Cashier uses photographic memory to steal credit card info of 1,300 people.
Clickbait: Opportunistic deer notches the year's second-best photobomb.  
Historybook: Francis Scott Key writes America’s national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner (1814); Author Roald Dahl born (1916); Israel and Palestine sign peace accord (1993); RIP rapper Tupac Shakur (1996); RIP Ann Richards, educator and former governor of Texas (2006).
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"A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men."
- Roald Dahl
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