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Inside Daily Brief (Nov 16th, 2017)

House Republicans are set to pass a tax reform bill today. "It’s more than just a tax bill. It will show that Republicans can get things done," said Representative Dennis Ross. President Trump was due to meet Republican lawmakers on Thursday morning to rally support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, but GOP leaders said they have secured the 217 votes needed to pass the bill. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are working on their own version of tax reform, which would scrap Obamacare’s individual insurance mandate and eliminate state and local tax (SALT) benefits. At least two Republican senators have criticized some of the bill’s provisions, raising speculation that political infighting may delay its approval. If both houses pass their own versions of the bill, the two would have to be reconciled. – HILL

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Political turmoil continued in Zimbabwe on Thursday, a day after the army put President Robert Mugabe under house arrest. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who was receiving cancer treatment abroad, has returned to the country. A source within Tsvangirai’s party said the military is holding talks to form a transition government that would include the opposition. "There is a transition of power underway and it has tacit agreement from regional powers," the source said. It’s unclear whether Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president who fled the country after being fired by Mugabe last week, would play a role in the transition. Mnangagwa’s power derives from the strong support he has in the military. Mugabe, 93, is the world’s oldest head of state. – CNN

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Six Democratic Representatives have signed a motion calling for impeachment hearings against President Trump. The sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Steve Cohen, has vowed to hold briefings with experts to discuss offenses that he believes could lead to impeachment. The motion argues that Trump obstructed justice when he fired former FBI’s director James Comey, that he is still profiting from his businesses, and that he has undermined media freedom. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee called the accusations "baseless." The Democratic party is divided regarding the issue of impeachment. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said that "the facts aren't there to pursue that," but Cohen indicated that at least twelve other representatives might support his motion. – POLITICO

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A Leonardo Da Vinci painting sold for $450 million on Wednesday, the highest price ever paid for a work of art. The seller was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought the painting for $127.5 million in 2013. Christie’s has not identified the buyer. Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) was the only painting by the Italian master in private hands. It features Jesus holding a crystal orb, and was painted between 1506 and 1513 for King Louis XII of France. Experts expected the painting to sell for around $100 million. Until now, the most expensive piece of art ever sold was Willem de Kooning’s painting "Interchange," which sold for $300 million in 2015. – FORBES

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A U.S. polygamist arrested in Mexico has been released because the child molestation charges that he faced were dropped in May. Mexican officials handed Orson William Black Jr. over to U.S. officials in El Paso, Texas, last week, because there was an arrest warrant against him on child molestation charges. The allegations concerned two teenagers who later became Black's wives, and refused to cooperate with an investigation. Prosecutors dropped the charges in May due to lack of evidence, which led to Black’s release from custody. "We needed the girls to testify or in some way help us with the evidence … That’s really the only evidence," said a spokeswoman for El Paso County sheriff’s office. Black was arrested in Mexico in connection with the deaths of three Americans aged 15, 19 and 23. Mexican prosecutors did not say why they did not end up filing charges against Black or why he was considered a suspect. – AP

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Astronomers have identified a new planet that could potentially harbor life and is just 11 light-years from Earth. The planet, which has been named Ross 128 b, is 1.35 times bigger than Earth and orbits a red dwarf, a type of star that is smaller and cooler than the Sun. However, the distance between Ross 128 b and its star is much shorter than the distance that separates the Earth from the Sun. Scientists believe that the temperature there could be around 73 F (23C). The slow speed at which it rotates indicates that Ross 128 could potentially have an atmosphere. – TIME

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who unexpectedly resigned on Nov. 4, triggering a political crisis in the Middle East, has accepted an invitation to visit France. Hariri announced his resignation while in Saudi Arabia, prompting speculation that the Kingdom might have pressed him to step down. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun refused to accept Hariri’s resignation and accused Saudi Arabia of holding him against his will – an accusation that Riyadh rejected. "We hope the crisis is over and the door of solution is opened by PM Hariri’s acceptance of the invitation to visit France," Aoun said. Hariri said on Twitter that he was "perfectly fine" and that he will return to Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and Iran support different political groups in Lebanon. In his resignation speech, Hariri accused Iran of sowing "discord, devastation and destruction" in the region. Meanwhile, Riyadh accused Lebanon of declaring war on Saudi Arabia last week. – BBC

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Walmart’s online sales increased 50 percent in the third quarter. The company posted a revenue of $123.18 billion in the period, beating a projected estimate of $121 billion. The company’s e-commerce unit has been growing strongly since Walmart bought jet.com in August 2016 in a bid to compete with Amazon. "We have momentum, and it's encouraging to see customers responding to our store and eCommerce initiatives," CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. Walmart benefited from a 2.7 percent increase in same-stores sales in the U.S., thanks in part to stronger demand for food products, and hurricane-related purchases. Following the release of the results, Target shares rose 5 percent on Thursday morning. – CNBC

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The London theater where Kevin Spacey worked for more than a decade has uncovered 20 counts of alleged sexual misconduct against the actor. After "Star Trek: Discovery" actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of sexually harassing him in 1986, when Rapp was underage, the Old Vic theater hired a law firm to carry out an investigation into Spacey’s tenure as Artistic Director between 2004 and 2015. Investigators have gathered information about 20 alleged incidents of sexual misconduct in which Spacey was involved. None of the alleged victims was underage when the abuses occurred. "The investigation found that his stardom and status at The Old Vic may have prevented people, and in particular junior staff or young actors, from feeling that they could speak up or raise a hand for help," the theater said in a statement. – USAT

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The intelligence expert who wrote a controversial dossier linking Russian interests to President Trump’s campaign said his investigation is 70 percent to 90 percent accurate. According to a new book, Christopher Steele, a former British spy, relied on sources he had cultivated for three decades to produce a report in which he argued that Trump’s associates colluded with the Kremlin to help him win the election. The book, "Collusion: How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win," claims that, last year, Steele presented his dossier on Trump to FBI officials who responded "with shock and horror." But as the day of the election got closer, the FBI allegedly asked Steele not to go public with the dossier. According to the book, Steele described the report to a friend as a "radioactive hot potato." – GUARDIAN

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THROWBACK THURSDAY

Every Thursday, we’re going to back-track to see what happened around this time in history. Hop in the time machine and let’s go!

Date: November 16, 1945     

On this date in 1945, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded to “contribute to peace and security.” The founders of the group believed that the “rule of law, respect for human rights, and freedom of expression” could be strengthened by banding together around the globe.

The foundation of UNESCO came together in 1942 during World War II. A group of European government leaders were initially meeting in the United Kingdom for the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education when the idea for a larger conference came about. They decided to host a future conference in London to look into the development of an educational and cultural group between November 1-16.

A total of 44 participating countries’ delegates agreed on establishing a group to “prevent another world war,” founded on the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind.” On November 16, 1945, the Constitution of UNESCO was officially drafted with help from 37 of the participating countries.

The United States initially joined UNESCO, but withdrew in 1984 due to differences between U.S. foreign policy and the group’s goals. It officially rejoined UNESCO in October 2003.

“This organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning,” then-President George W. Bush stated, following the decision to rejoin.

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