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✨ Good morning! Today is Thursday, April 18, 2019 and this is our last newsletter of the week — we’re taking tomorrow off for some extra sleep before we eat (and to pore over the Mueller report, of course). Happy Good Friday/Passover to all who celebrate! (Just don’t OD on matzoh and mini eggs.)
BULLETIN: BAD BREAKUP
• The Background
Looks like the relationship between the United States and Cuba has hit another rough patch. Yesterday, the Trump administration announced new restrictions on travel to Cuba, in order to “steer American dollars away from the Cuban regime.” National Security Advisor John Bolton revealed the decision at a speech in Miami. (Coincidentally, it was the 58th anniversary of the failed CIA-orchestrated invasion of the island in 1961.) In addition to the travel restrictions, Cuban Americans are no longer allowed to send any more than $1,000 (per person) to relatives in Cuba. The Hill
• What Else You Need to Know
The travel and financial restrictions on American citizens was the second Cuba-related announcement the White House made yesterday. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shared that as of May 2, U.S. citizens would once again be allowed to sue foreign businesses that are linked to property that was seized from American firms during the 1959 Cuban revolution. The decision reverses years of foreign policy (the Title III of the Helms-Burton Act hasn’t been enforced since 1996) and puts Canadian and European companies operating in Cuba (think rum, cigars, tourism and financial services) at risk in American courts. Pompeo essentially warned the world, saying “any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement.”
• What’s Next?
The U.S. has already certified approximately 6,000 claims that are worth a whopping $8 billion, and Kimberly Breier, the head of the State Department’s Americas branch, said there could be as many as 200,000. However, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the policy change would just result in “an unnecessary spiral of legal actions” since laws in both the EU and Canada allow “any U.S. claims to be followed by counter-claims in European and Canadian courts.” With the changes, the U.S. government is hoping to put pressure on the Cuban government, which has continued to support Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela, which “directly threatens United States national security interests.”
• Long Time Coming
Christina Koch is set to make history. The 40-year-old astronaut has been on the International Space Station since March 14 of this year, and NASA just extended her mission through February 2020. The change means the Michigan native will establish a new record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman; her 328-day stint will pass the previous record set in 2017 by retired astronaut Peggy Whitson, who was aboard the ISS for 288 days. With the extended mission, Koch will come incredibly close to breaking the all-time record of 340 days, set in 2016 by former astronaut Scott Kelly. NBC News
• Canada: Driving Change
If you’re in the market for a new car, the federal government is giving you a really good reason to go green: Beginning May 1, purchases of zero-emission vehicles will be rewarded with a thank you gift of up to $5,000 on behalf of Mother Nature. The full incentive will apply to the “purchase or lease of eligible electric battery, hydrogen fuel cell, or longer-range plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles” meeting specific pricing and seat-count criteria, and a $2,500 discount will be offered on short-range plug-in hybrid vehicles. Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the new incentives yesterday, promising that a report outlining exactly how the money will be reimbursed will be released by April 30. (Buy now, save later?) Residents of B.C. and Quebec will get extra lucky, since the federal incentives can be stacked with provincial ones offered in those provinces. Vehicles that meet the requirements include the Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt, Hyundai Ioniq, and Kia Soul; however, Canada’s most popular EV, the Tesla Model 3, is apparently priced too high for its five-seat sizing to meet the purchasing incentive’s requirements. iPolitics
• World: Tragedy in Peru
Alan Garcia, Peruvian president from 1985 to 1990 and 2006 to 2011, took his own life yesterday just as police arrived at his home to arrest him over bribery allegations. Immediately after shooting himself, Garcia was rushed to the hospital in Lima to undergo unsuccessful emergency surgery. Garcia, the youngest elected president, is remembered as “Latin America’s Kennedy” as he was a phenomenal public speaker. The former president’s corruption accusations surrounded a bribe he allegedly took while in office from major Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. The company has admitted to being involved in several other corrupt deals in half of the countries in Latin America, as well as in Mozambique. Garcia was not the only Peruvian president who has been questioned for corruption charges; four out of the country’s past five presidents are all currently being investigated and/or are in jail for such crimes. BBC News
📣 QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Everyone and everything needs to change, so why waste precious time arguing about what and who needs to change first?”
– Sixteen-year-old climate change activist and Nobel peace prize nominee Greta Thunberg, takes world leaders to task for their inaction on climate change (and becomes the youngest person ever to address European Parliament while she’s at it). Watch her emotional speech in its entirety here.
• Boldface Names
What do actress Sandra Oh, reporter Gayle King, Egyptian soccer player Mohamed Salah, and President Donald Trump all have in common? They, along with 96 others, have been named Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the year. As in other years, each individual on the list is written about by a peer, showing us that even influential people fangirl/boy over each other. Warren Buffett praised LeBron James, while Hillary Clinton lauded Nancy Pelosi for being elected the first female speaker of the House, and Justin Timberlake celebrated Tiger Woods. The list is full of exciting and noteworthy pieces of information, with each recipient divided into a distinct category, which is how we learned Taylor Swift should now be referred to as an icon. CNN
• Cool Co-Pilot
Google’s Assistant is ready to ride. The tech giant’s first standalone auto accessory (in partnership with Anker) went on sale yesterday, giving drivers without Android Auto or the Android Auto app a new (hands-free!) way to rely on Google on the road. Using the once-beloved cigarette lighter socket for power, the US $50 Anker Roav Bolt will answer all your “Hey Google” questions, provided you have an Android device (iOS compatibility is still in the works) and an AUX connection (according to reviews, the Bluetooth connection is finicky). It’ll play your favourite songs, give you step-by-step directions, find the closest coffee shop or gas station, read incoming messages, make phone calls and even add events to your calendar. The Roav Bolt is currently available at Best Buy US and will apparently be making its way to Walmart soon. (No word on how long it’ll take to cross the border.) Engadget
• Playoffs update 🇨🇦
↳ The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Boston Bruins in game four of their series, 6–4. Game five is tomorrow night at 7pm ET.
↳ Despite leading most of the game, the Calgary Flames lost in overtime (3–2) to the Colorado Avalanche in game four of their series. Game five is tomorrow night at 10pm ET.
• Party On
After a well-earned hiatus Mike Myers is staging a comeback. The Canadian comedian has been mostly laying low since the last Shrek sequel (aside from a disguised hosting gig on The Gong Show reboot) but he’s finally shimmying back into the limelight, thanks to a deal with Netflix. Myers will executive produce and star in a new six-episode half-hour comedy series, in which he’ll portray multiple characters and… well, those are the details shared so far. What we do know: It’s sure to be hella funny. In a statement, Myers said, “I love creating characters, and Netflix has given me a fantastic playground to play in.” (In other words? This sort of thing is his bag, baby.) Variety
📖👀🎧 THE WEEKEND PLAYLIST
Speaking of things that get us all hot and bothered, Beyoncé’s highly anticipated Netflix special, Homecoming, documenting her historic 2018 Beychella Coachella performance, premiered yesterday — and in true Queen B style, she dropped a surprise album to go with it.
Ageless diva Madonna isn’t slowing down, either, reinventing herself yet again with a new album, Madame X, planned for June 14. The just-released first single, “Medellín,” features Colombian reggaeton singer Maluma in a genre-mixing Latin pop-ASMR jam.
• The Kids Are All Right
Cue up your party playlist because nine-year-old Bella from Kentucky is making us want to celebrate. After learning that some of her classmates didn’t have the means to celebrate their birthdays at home, this very special third-grader created “Bella’s Boxes,” filled with cake mix, balloons, frosting, and sprinkles, so that all of her classmates could celebrate with pride. Bella’s school falls under the Title 1 category, meaning that at least 80% of her classmates fall below the poverty line. (The boxes are distributed through Wyan-Pine Elementary’s Resource Center for every family who wants one.) As if this story couldn’t get more wholesome than it already is, Bella’s birthday is coming up and all she’s asked for are donations to fill more boxes. (Bella inside and out.) Good Morning America
• Hairy Situation
If you have a beard, go give it a good scrub with some soap. Now. It’s for your own good, we promise. A new study conducted by a team of Swiss scientists found that men’s facial hair harbours more bacteria than a dog’s fur — like, significantly more. The researchers initially set out to see if bearded men could pick up germs from dogs through their facial hair. After collecting hair samples from 18 men and fur samples from 30 dogs of different breeds, they instead discovered that the men were dirtier than the beasts — with some dudes carrying microbes that usually threaten human health. (On second thought, maybe just shave.) Science Times
• Slow News Day
Clearly, yesterday was much more eventful than April 18, 1930. On that date, the BBC forwent its usual evening news broadcast, announcing that “there is no news” to report. Piano music was played for the remainder of the 15-minute radio segment.
⚡️ STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
• Could being braindead be a thing of the past? Scientists at Yale University just successfully restored or preserved some cellular function in the brains of dead pigs.
• Thanks to Americans continuously refusing to vaccinate their kids, an Israeli flight attendant is in a coma after contracting measles.
• Forty-eight hours after the Notre Dame fire, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a worldwide competition to find the architects that will rebuild (and likely redesign) the fallen spire.
• Soon you’ll be able to pay for your Uber Eats order with Apple Pay (using TouchID or FaceID in the app).
• Ellen DeGeneres is coming back to Netflix — this time as producer, with a star-studded Green Eggs and Ham animated series.
• Doctor Says
Sorry, is this 2019 or 1960?