The White House released a transcript of a discussion between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday, taken from a phone call that was the subject of a whistleblower complaint in August. The release followed reports the White House paused nearly $400M in aid to Ukraine before the call, during which President Trump asked Zelensky to investigate corruption accusations against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (see background). The full memo can be read here, in which the Biden issue was raised - among other topics, including calling for more European support - with the President urging Zelensky to work with advisor Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr. Democrats have criticized the request as leveraging presidential power to discredit a political opponent, spurring the launch of an impeachment probe yesterday. Countering the announcement, the White House is expected to make the whistleblower complaint available to Congress today.
The "transcript" may not be a verbatim record of the call, but compiled from listeners' notes - no White House has recorded calls as standard practice since President Nixon.
Netanyahu Gets Lifeline
Israeli President Reuvan Rivlin tapped current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition government yesterday, one week after national elections left no clear majority party in Parliament. The decision elevated Netanyahu over his chief rival Benny Gantz, despite Gantz's Blue and White Party winning one more seat than Netanyahu's conservative Likud Party. Given an opening to claim his 5th term in office, Netanyahu faces a steep climb to assembling a 61-seat majority in the country's Knesset (see 101) - his supporting parties hold 55 seats, with no clear path to bringing in any opposition parties. He also has just 28 days to cobble together a partnership, after which Rivlin is likely to move on to Gantz. In the background, Netanyahu still faces potential indictments on corruption charges for allegedly trading political favors for positive press.
Juul Buckles Under Pressure
Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs announced CEO Kevin Burns would step down amid a rash of mysterious illnesses and deaths linked to the company's products and criticism the company targets underage users. The company also said it would suspend all forms of advertising in the near-term, and cigarette giants Phillip Morris and Altria - the latter owns 35% of Juul - called off a potential merger amid the fallout. Since reports began surfacing in late summer, there have been 9 deaths and 530 illnesses linked to vaping, usually from severe lung inflammation. Many cases involve off-market cartridges containing THC, which rely on volatile chemicals to deliver the psychoactive marijuana compound into the lungs (like Vitamin E acetate). States have increasingly sought to regulate the products, with Massachusetts announcing a 4-month complete ban yesterday.
One-in-five high schoolers reported vaping at least once last year ($$, NYT).
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In The Know
Sports, Entertainment & Culture
> 26 fellows awarded 2019 MacArthur "genius" grants which include $625K stipend with no strings attached; winners are chosen for their creativity and potential (More)
> Vox Media merges with New York magazine's media company; Vox Media's CEO will run the combined company which includes digital brands, podcasts, and film production (More)
> Toymaker Mattel announces gender-neutral line of dolls; the Creatable World line allows children to customize hair, clothing, and other accessories (More)
Science & Technology
> World's largest single-dish radio telescope opens for research use; 500-meter Chinese facility will look for signs of gravitational waves, pulsars, fast radio bursts, and more (More)
> Amazon holds device day, unveiling a range of new products; includes experimental offerings like a smart ring, Alexa-connected glasses, and more (More)
> New report projects historic, once-per-century sea-level events like extreme storm surges and coastal flooding likely to increase in frequency to once per year globally by 2050 (More)
Business & Markets
> Connected-exercise giant Peloton prices IPO at $29/share – top of initial $26-29 range – valuing the company at $8B+; to start trading today on the Nasdaq (More)
> Inspire Brands (Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic) to acquire sandwich chain Jimmy John’s for undisclosed amount, will become 4th largest US restaurant business (More)
> Best Buy releases new financial plan which includes $1B in cost cuts over next five years (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Australia's capital of Canberra votes to legalize recreational marijuana, despite federal law banning use (More)
> Senate votes to end national emergency declaration over immigration crisis, setting up veto showdown with White House; declaration was used to repurpose funds for border wall (More)
> Tropical Storm Karen drenches Puerto Rico, knocks out power to 29,000; may take loopy track and veer back towards Florida coast (More) | Hurricane Lorenzo projected to become Category 3 storm in middle of Atlantic; too early to predict trajectory (More)
Our Skulls Are Out-Evolving Us
OneZero | Katherine Reynolds Lewis. Spurred by lifestyle changes during the Industrial Revolution, some scientists believe our skulls began to morph around 250 years ago. The resulting changes - crooked teeth, obstructed airways, poor sleep - may be wreaking havoc on our physical and mental health. (Read)
Conviction of Grief
NBC | Brandy Zadrozny, Aliza Nadi. When her healthy 6-month-old died shortly after a doctor's visit, Cateline Clobbs rose to fame in anti-vaccine circles - despite an autopsy that blamed the death on co-sleeping. Read how the movement targets parents in moments of intense grief to reappropriate their stories. (Read)
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Historybook: Thomas Jefferson is appointed the first US Secretary of State (1789); Albert Einstein publishes paper on the special theory of relativity (1905); Last recorded album by The Beatles, Abbey Road, is released (1969); HBD Serena Williams (1981); RIP Paul Newman (2008).
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