Over and Out

The U.S. is pulling its troops out of Syria, Shoppers is getting into the injection business and the world gets its first look at the new live-action 'Aladdin.'

Over and Out

The U.S. is pulling its troops out of Syria, Shoppers is getting into the injection business and the world gets its first look at the new live-action 'Aladdin.'

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✨  Good morning! Today is Thursday, December 20, 2018 and this video is making us feel like a kid again. 


• The Background

The U.S. is done in Syria. Yesterday, POTUS announced that he had ordered all 2,000 U.S. ground troops to leave the Middle Eastern country within 30 days. The move comes amidst what officials are calling a “largely won” American-led war against ISIS. Since his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised that he would get the U.S. out of Syria, and he’s been looking for an out ever since. Earlier this year, he reluctantly agreed to extend the mission in order to give the Defense Department adequate time to stifle ISIS’s power and reach in the area. While experts have refused to call the mission accomplished, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey recently announced an offensive in Syria against Kurdish troops, which could very well put American lives in danger. Globe and Mail

• What Else You Need to Know

Though the ground troops are coming home, it sounds like there’s a second part of the mission, with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying that they had “started returning United States troops home” as they “transition to the next phase of the campaign.” The secondary phase has to be good news for Pentagon officials, who apparently urged Trump to reconsider his decision, arguing that the withdrawal would betray their Kurdish allies, and that leaving too soon (a la Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq in 2011) could have dire consequences. (It’s believed the 2011 withdrawal actually allowed ISIS to strengthen and spread as rapidly as it has.)

• What’s Next?

Though nobody’s given any specifics as to what the next phase of the mission includes, some predict that the U.S. will continue to orchestrate and execute air strikes against the Islamic State, while relying on Kurdish and Arab troops for the ground offensive.


• Strike Three

Another Canadian has been arrested in China. This time, it’s not a diplomat or businessman dealing in international matters, it’s an Alberta woman who’s been teaching in the communist country for months. (But, the children!) According to a parliamentary official, she was detained early yesterday morning over “visa issues” but nobody was able to confirm whether or not she was still in Chinese police custody yesterday evening. Officials also said they have no reason to believe this detainment is linked to the other two detainments. (Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were taken into custody on Dec. 10.) National Post


• Canada: Safe Passage

Killer whales have found an ally in the Canadian government. Yesterday, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced that the Liberals have designated two new areas off Vancouver Island as protected for critical habitat for northern and southern resident killer whales. The area of protected habitat for the endangered mammals will increase from 6,400 square kilometres to approximately 10,700 square kilometres, and will ensure key foraging areas are protected from destruction. As it stands, the area’s southern resident killer whales population has shrunk to 74 due to a lack of chinook salmon, contaminants in the water and physical strikes by large ships passing through. The initiative is in addition to a $167 million conservation fund that will go towards helping the whales. Global News

• U.S.: Raising Rates

Despite a stern warning against doing so from Trump, the U.S. Federal Reserve opted to raise its key interest rate yesterday, bringing it to a range of between 2.25% and 2.5%. It was the central bank’s fourth raise this year, and will have an impact on the cost of mortgages, borrowing on credit (both lines of credit and credit cards) as well as other forms of loans. Chairman Jerome Powell hinted that hikes will likely slow next year, noting that despite the current situation (a “robust economic backdrop” and the country’s “expectation for healthy growth”), the bank’s seen some indications of a “softening.” Because of this, Powell said most officials have “modestly” lowered their growth forecasts for 2019, and that the country will likely only see two rate hikes (versus the four it saw in 2018). CNN


It’s about time.

Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who called out Facebook’s and Cambridge Analytica’s bullsh*t to the world, comments on the news that D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit yesterday suing Facebook for its privacy transgressions. Washington Post


• Pretty, Please

If Shoppers Drug Mart’s New Year’s resolution is to try new things, it’s already two steps ahead. Hot on the heels of getting its license to sell marijuana online, the drugstore-cum-beauty haven made an announcement catering to the opposite spectrum of its business. It’s opening two new standalone pilot stores called “Beauty Clinic by Shoppers Drug Mart,” offering cosmetic dermatology services and treatments. According to SVP Rachel Huckle, the move combines the company’s “expertise in both the health and beauty business.” The treatments will be administered by nurse practitioners, and will include cosmetic injections ($10 per unit), volume restoration or lip enhancement fillers ($550 per syringe), medical grade peels ($150 per treatment), microdermabrasion ($100 per treatment), and laser skin renewal ($675 per treatment). (And yes, you’ll earn PC Optimum points on your appointments!) The first location opens this Friday in Oakville, Ont. and the second is set to open next year at the Shops at Don Mills in Toronto. CTV News


• In Deep

In these days of 24/7 streaming, a movie’s gotta be really big in order to actually draw crowds to the box office. Theatres are looking for new ways to make the movie-going experience bigger and more immersive than ever — and by golly we think they’ve done it. Today, the first 270° panoramic movie theatre in Canada opens in Toronto at Cineplex Cinemas Queensway and VIP. Dubbed ‘ScreenX,’ the massive, multi-projection wraparound screen extends around the sides of the auditorium, surrounding the audience with video on three sides. Constructed by CJ 4DPLEX and piloted in Canada by Cineplex, the revolutionary setup uses a proprietary system to expand the centre screen image to the side walls. The catch: Toronto’s new ScreenX auditorium makes its debut with Aquaman, which might be clever planning on Cineplex’s part, since there’d be no reason to go see Aquaman otherwise. Narcity


• Baseball: International Play

Cubans will soon be able to play baseball in the U.S. — legally. Yesterday, Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association and the Cuban Baseball Federation reached a deal that will allow Cuban players to play for American teams without having to defect. (They’ll now get a standard work visa, and the MLB will pay the CBF a release fee.) Because of the two countries’ historically frosty relationship (and the U.S. embargo), players from Cuba used to have to leave the country illegally to play baseball professionally, often being “smuggled out by human trafficking organizations that are often tied to other criminal organizations” and losing “a big chunk of their bonus to pay for their passage out of Cuba.” Those same traffickers would then harass the player and his family for more money. CBS Sports


• Genie’s Out of the Bottle

The wait is over: Disney fans finally got their first look at the live-action film version of Aladdin yesterday and it did not disappoint. While a lot of the responses centred around Will Smith’s resemblance to Sinbad (Smith plays the Genie) and Jafar’s glow-up (Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari is pretty easy on the eyes), the general population was pretty damn excited about Guy Ritchie’s version of the classic film. The first photos give viewers a glimpse into what to expect from beloved animated characters like Aladdin, Jasmine (and new bestie Nalia, played by SNL alum Nasim Pedrad), Genie (who executives say is apparently part Fresh Prince!), Jafar, Abu and even the fictional Middle Eastern city of Agrabah. Entertainment Weekly


• A Fresh Coat

Ah, winter. Crisp air, shimmering icicles, and a blanket of pure, sparkling white dirty, polluted grey snow over everything. Authorities in one Russian town apparently didn’t like the look of the grungy stamp that modern (well, modern-ish) industry had put on this idyllic scene — the town is located in a Serbian coal-mining region where airborne soot and ash pollution had stained the snow — but the solution they came up with ain’t exactly all-natural. Wanting to whitewash the stains on a snow bank outside a municipal recreation center, they simple painted over them — with white paint. (So their solution to pollution is…more pollution?) A resident of the town exposed the baffling “fix” in video footage published by local media, leading the town’s head to issue an apology “to the townspeople whose New Year’s mood was spoiled by this” and ordered the removal of the paint from the snow bank. Moscow Times


• Thanks to Kim Kardashian West (really), the American government just passed a criminal justice reform bill.

• Toronto police have laid new charges in the St. Michael’s College School assault investigation, charging four of the already charged teens for a second sexual assault with a weapon.

• It’s a match made in drug heaven! GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer are merging their consumer healthcare businesses to create a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical company.

• Since it seems to be losing the Stories battle to Instagram, Snapchat is going after another TikTok. It’s now launching Lens Challenges, where users can opt to create a snap with a themed Lens (to a particular song, dance, holiday, event and more).

• Who’s the richest celebrity in the world? The answer is out of this world.


• It’s Not a Party Without Punch

Who ever said sangria was a summer drink? Celebrate national sangria day (today, duh) with one of these wine-filled, winter-ready concoctions.


• Gender War

2018: When even cookies aren’t safe from politics.

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