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✨ Good morning! Today is Wednesday, January 16, 2019 and this is certainly a relief.
BULLETIN: NO BREXIT IN SIGHT
• The Background
Prime Minister Theresa May endured a rejection yesterday that was two years in the making, and set a historic record in government. (Not even our worst Tinder experiences could compare to this level of rejection.) After putting forth a deal setting out the terms for Britain’s exit from the E.U., members of parliament (including this inspiring trooper) voted 432 to 202 to reject May’s deal. If that wasn’t bad enough, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is asking for a vote of no confidence (yep, again) to be held later today. BBC News
• What Else You Need to Know
May’s deal was aimed at creating a seamless departure from the E.U., scheduled for March 29. May had outlined a 21-month transition period, with hopes of negotiating a free trade deal, as well as a financial settlement with the E.U. Where MPs seem to be digging in their heels is May’s plan for the U.K.’s border with Ireland, which, post-Brexit, will also act as the U.K.’s border to the E.U. To avoid a hard border with customs checks (that would inevitably hinder the easy flow of goods the U.K. has enjoyed), a backstop had been proposed to buy time until a proper trade pact could be agreed upon. Many MPs viewed the backstop as a way to keep the U.K. under the E.U.’s thumb, forcing them to adhere to an E.U. trade union and regulations.
• What’s Next?
If Corbyn has his way, May’s days could be numbered. With a vote of no confidence scheduled for this afternoon, the House of Commons will have the chance to give its verdict on what Corbyn calls the “sheer incompetence” of the government. Despite having insult added to injury, May insists she’ll be ready to return to the Commons next week, and will be open to “any ideas from cross-party talks” to secure an alternate Brexit deal. (That’s if she survives the vote…this is one story that’s nowhere near over. For a deeper dive on what happens next, check your inbox on Sunday for a full Brexit briefing in our Long Shot.)
• Alien Life
Humans are one step closer to making a moon colony a reality. The crew of Chinese astronauts currently hanging out on the dark side of the moon have managed to sprout a tiny cotton plant from a seed brought for their experimental farming mission. Scientists from Chongqing University shared a photo of the seedling yesterday. The historic news comes almost three years to the day after a team of astronauts grew the first flower in space aboard the International Space Station in 2016. (And we can barely keep our houseplants alive here on Earth). The cotton seed is planted in soil housed inside a sealed metal tank also containing seeds of potato, rapeseed, and Arabidopsis (a relative of cabbage and mustard) plants, as well as yeast and fruit fly eggs. The crew is testing whether a self-contained ecosystem can be set up on the moon with plants generating oxygen and food for human consumption. Global News
• Canada: Municipal Shakedown
The first victim was Toronto’s city council; next on Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s hit-list are 82 of the province’s municipalities. (Is that all?) Yesterday, his government announced its new “efficiencies”-focused plan to conduct an investigation into whether two-tier governing structures are appropriate for all regional municipalities or not. The Ontario NDP party has voiced concerns that the last time a municipal shakedown happened, it came with “massive” service costs and cuts that fell on the people’s shoulders. But some municipal leaders, such as Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, are supportive of a possible new model of regional government, since it hasn’t changed in roughly 50 years. (You could say it’s a bit old-fashioned.) Also under review will be the regional election process and a search for “cost-saving opportunities,” which everyone’s a fan of. HuffPost
• U.S.: Conscientious Con(c)ensus
Well, this is awkward — While Trump continues to stoke fear about the dangers of immigrants, a U.S. federal judge went ahead and ruled that his administration can’t ask about citizenship in the upcoming 2020 census. In his 277-page decision, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross broke the law on several counts when he decided to include it as part of the U.S. census. It’s a relief for many who saw the question as opening the doors to racial discrimination. The Trump administration plans to appeal the ruling on the grounds that such data protects the right and freedom to vote. (Uh, we thought that was just “democracy”?) ABC News
• World: Adding Fuel to the Fire
A day after Zimbabwe’s government invoked a major spike in fuel prices, police and military continue to take on protestors on the streets of Harare and Bulawayo. Demonstrations on Monday were met with violent force; Amnesty International reports at least eight civilians killed by authorities (although the government claims the number was only three, including one police officer). The price increase makes the cost of gasoline in the country the most expensive in the world at $3.33 per litre, justified as an effort to counter fuel shortages. Social media networks were blocked within Zimbabwe’s borders yesterday in order to silence protesters and prevent them from organizing, while Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa dismissed the protests as “terrorism” orchestrated by the country’s opposition party. Meanwhile, President Emmerson Mnangagwa travelled to Russia to meet with Putin (birds of a feather and all) to request loans and investment in his country’s struggling economy. CTV News
QUOTE OF THE DAY
The solution is a negotiation between the one person who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues.
– Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejects the possibilty of overriding a presidential veto on a bill to reopen the U.S. federal government. HuffPost
Social News Network
Still trying to get back in the media’s good books, Facebook announced a three-year commitment to invest $300 million in news programs, partnerships and content yesterday. (Um, they realize we haven’t forgotten the role they played in the rise of “fake news” to begin with, right?) The investment includes grants for nonprofit organizations like the Pulitzer Center and Report for America, and funding to extend Facebook’s effort to help news websites convert readers into paying subscribers. The company says it aims to fulfill an “opportunity and a responsibility, to help local news organizations grow and thrive.” It has also planned a two-day summit to be held in March, inviting publishers to “look at additional ways we can make investments.” (At this rate, the sequel to The Social Network should practically write itself.) CNN
• Music to Our Ears
Pandora is bringing out the big guns in the battle for music streaming subscribers — and it says its new secret weapon is one-of-a-kind. Yesterday, it launched Voice Mode, a feature that combines now-standard voice assistant capabilities with Pandora’s proprietary “recommendation science.” As Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips explains, the feature is able to deliver a personalized response no matter what it’s asked, creating a customized playlist based on the music and artists it already knows you like. So if, for example, you ask it for some running tunes and it knows you’re more likely to listen to Beastie Boys than Bieber, you won’t get an earful of “Sorry” mid-stride. Engadget
• Goodbye, Dolly
Three-time Tony Award-winning Broadway legend Carol Channing has sadly passed away at the age of 97. She was best known for her magnetic portrayal of Dolly Levi in over 5,000 performances across America of Hello, Dolly!, a career-making role she landed despite almost being passed over due to her wide smile. (Harsh.) Her critics were proven wrong, however, and Channing went on to win a Tony Award for best actress for the gig, and later received a Lifetime Achievement in 1995 for her work on stage. Channing also dabbled in film, earning a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for her part in Thoroughly Modern Millie. All theatres on Broadway will pause to dim their lights tonight in celebration of her impressive career. Vogue
• Contraband Critters
Coast Guard officials at the China-Taiwan border recently became suspicious of a Taiwanese woman attempting to return across the border — only to discover she had 24 gerbils hidden under her skirt in an attempt to smuggle them back home with her. Officers noted the woman was moving awkwardly and wore an unusually puffy skirt before finding the furry freeloaders, who were each individually wrapped in pantyhose and strapped to her legs (and yep, there are photos). The woman claimed her rodent cargo were gifts for friends, but the Taiwanese Coast Guard believes she may be part of a larger smuggling ring testing out border procedure. (What’s next — chinchillas?) The innocent rodents were confiscated and sadly euthanized in accordance with animal disease control regulations. Taiwan News
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
• Protecting Mother Nature is expensive business: Parks Canada is set to raise admission prices to Canada’s national parks as of next year.
• Following in Canada’s footsteps, the governors of New York and New Jersey are calling to “legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all.”
• The White House just served the national college football champions (a.k.a. a team of elite athletes) a stack of fast food burgers and pizza to “celebrate” their win.
• Selena Gomez has ended her social media hiatus with a heartfelt note thanking her fans for their support after her breakdown last fall.
• Is gender equality finally coming to the Grammy’s stage? Here’s a sign it could be: Songtress Alicia Keys has signed on to host next month’s awards show.
• Giving the Planet a Voice
BBC’s landmark nature series Life on Earth presented by David Attenborough was first telecast on BBC One on Jan. 15, 1979. The program won the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Documentary Series and turned Attenborough into an international treasure.
• Cutting Remarks
This very apt ad would feel so much more sincere if the company didn’t price its women’s products 50% higher than its men’s.