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Inside Daily Brief (Jan 12th, 2018)

President Trump on Friday denied describing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as "sh*thole countries." According to several media outlets, he asked lawmakers during a meeting at the Oval Office on Thursday: "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" The comments were first reported by The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, and then confirmed by other media outlets. But, on Friday, Trump tweeted: "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used." According to the media, Trump also said that he would like if more people "from places like Norway" emigrated to the U.S. The comments were reportedly made as Trump discussed a proposal to extend some of the protections granted to immigrants by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. – GUARDIAN

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Ecuador has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The move could be part of efforts to allow Assange to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London after more than five years there. "We believe Julian Assange's situation, from a human perspective, is not sustainable … And we are very respectively looking with the United Kingdom to find mechanisms that lead to a solution," said Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa. In December, Ecuador requested diplomatic status for Assange. "The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter," the UK Foreign Office said in a statement. Ecuador gave Assange asylum in 2012, as he sought to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning over a sexual molestation case. – REUTERS

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The conservative alliance led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reached a preliminary agreement to form a government coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD). The plan will have to be approved by SDP members before formal coalition talks can start. Merkel’s conservative alliance and the SDP have agreed not to raise taxes if they form a government. They have also agreed to work toward boosting renewable energy production and strengthening the Eurozone. The plan calls for an immigration cap on the number of refugees who are allowed to join their families in Germany. Merkel has formed government with the SDP twice before. She turned to the SDP after failing to build a three-party coalition with the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) in November. – CNBC

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Scientists have found a partial skeleton in Australia that belonged to a previously unknown two-legged dinosaur. Diluvicursor pickeringi, as the dinosaur has been named, lived about 113 million years ago, when Australia and Antarctica were part of the same land mass. The fossils found include most of the tail and parts of the right leg and the right foot. They show that Diluvicursor was about 7-1/2-feet (2.3 meters) long. It was "comparable to a large domesticated turkey in weight, but of course much longer than a turkey because of its tail," said University of Queensland paleontologist Matthew Herne, the study’s lead author. The research was published in the journal PeerJ. – REUTERS

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Facebook is introducing changes to boost the number of meaningful social interactions on the platform. As a result, users will soon be getting more status updates from their contacts in their news feeds. On Thursday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that feedback from users indicates that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out their feeds. "I'm changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions," he added. The move comes as Facebook faces criticism over the effect that toxic content – which includes fake news, violent videos and divisive messages posted by interest groups – has on its two billion users. – USATODAY

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New research indicates that ice deposits on Mars are at least 100 meters thick in some areas. According to a paper published in the journal Science, the ice sheets are layered, which suggests that ice was deposited over a period of time. Colin Dundas, a planetary geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, and the paper's lead author, said the ice might have been laid down through a process similar to snowfall and then compacted. He said that although there is dust and debris, the ice seems to be quite pure: "at these locations, it's quite a thick ice sheet of rather clean ice." Dundas and his colleagues used high-resolution images taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to study the ice sheets. – NPR

For more news like this, check out Inside Space, our twice-weekly digest of news about the cosmos.

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President Trump is due to undergo his first medical evaluation since taking office almost a year ago. The check up will take place on Friday at the Walter Reed National Medical Center outside Washington, D.C., and will be overseen by the head of the White House medical unit, Dr. Ronny Jackson. He will tell reporters about the results of the exam on Tuesday. The AP reported that during the test, which will last several hours, doctors will check Trump’s blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, heart rate and weight. Physicians will not carry out a psychiatric evaluation. Following speculation that the President might be unfit for office, last week Trump said he is a "very stable genius." NPR

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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill to extend a controversial internet surveillance program for six years. The legislation was approved in a 256-164 vote along party lines. It was first introduced after 9/11 to allow the National Security Agency to monitor data held by telecommunication companies. President Trump sent mixed messages about the legislation on Thursday. First he tweeted that it might have allowed others to spy on his campaign, and later wrote: "today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!" Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers tried to introduce an amendment to protect people’s privacy. The White House issued a statement urging lawmakers to reject the amendment, which was ultimately voted down. – VERGE

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At least two people have died in protests over the murder of a seven-year old girl in Pakistan. According to CNN, 12 children have been killed in the Punjab province in recent months, and people there are demanding that the government does more to protect minors. An autopsy confirmed that Zainab Amin was raped and tortured before being killed. She was abducted from her home while her parents were away from the country on a religious pilgrimage. In 2015, police in Punjab arrested several people accused of being part of a criminal ring that forced children to appear in pornographic videos and blackmailed them. – CNN

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Fiat Chrysler will invest $1 billion to expand an auto plant in Michigan. Once upgraded, the plant will manufacture pickup trucks that are currently being produced in Mexico. The move comes amid fears that the U.S. will pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. If that’s the case, automakers will have to pay a 25 percent import duty to bring pickup trucks into the U.S. President Trump applauded the move: "Chrysler is moving a massive plant from Mexico to Michigan, reversing a years long opposite trend. Thank you Chrysler, a very wise decision." Chrysler also said it will give $2,000 bonuses to about 60,000 U.S. employees. "It is only proper that our employees share in the savings generated by tax reform," CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. – BLOOMBERG

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ON LIFE AND LIVING: NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS

It’s admirable to have New Year resolutions, but it can be difficult to stick to these goals, especially if they’re long-term. Whether you want to shed a few pounds or kick a few bad habits, there are a couple of ways you can stay on the bandwagon for longer.

Be Honest With Yourself

You might have a goal to exercise more in the New Year, for instance, but do you have time to work out every day like you planned in your resolution? Your resolutions should be reasonable and fit within your existing lifestyle to give yourself the best shot at achieving them.

Don’t Overdo It

Rather than making a laundry list of items you would like to accomplish in the New Year, keep your list short. This will prevent it from feeling overwhelming, which is a key reason why many people fall off the bandwagon early.

Keep Tabs on Your Progress

There is no better way to keep yourself motivated than to keep tabs on your progress. Think about starting a journal where you can log your activities on a routine basis. Regardless of how small or large your progress is right off the bat, a little can go a long way in terms of motivation.

Seek Support

Share your New Year resolutions with friends and family – let people in your life know what you are striving to achieve in the coming months. These people can hold you accountable and keep you motivated along the way. You can even take it a step further and set up a buddy system – see if any of your loved ones are willing to go in on a New Year resolution with you. Together, you can make progress and share happiness in your success.

– @kavermes

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CLICK ROULETTE

ROLLING

TGIF

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