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Trump's 'Pitbull' Turned Foe To Take Stand

Your unbiased daily news brief

Good morning and happy Monday. The strongest solar storm in over 20 years made the Northern Lights visible in many parts of the world over the weekend. Here are some incredible photos capturing the rare sightings. Have a great start to your week!

In Today’s Brief

  • VA: Executive bonus snafu

  • Russia: Top military leader dismissed

  • Biden: Big fundraiser in Tinseltown

  • Credit cards: Late fees rule on hold

  • NBA Draft Lottery: Surprising winner

... and more

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Top Tips

1) The main event

The Manhattan District Attorney is about to call its star witness in former President Trump's hush money trial.

  • On the stand: Michael Cohen, who was Trump's longtime attorney and fixer, is expected to be sworn in today. Cohen was considered Trump's "pitbull," but he has since become one of the former president's fiercest critics after serving prison time for violating federal campaign finance laws and other crimes.

  • The importance: Cohen made the $130K payment to porn star Stormy Daniels for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump -- the event the trial largely revolves around. He is also expected to directly tie Trump to falsified records. But Cohen brings plenty of baggage, and Trump's attorneys will likely work to paint him as an unreliable witness and a liar.

  • Big picture: The verdict could hinge on how credible the jury finds Cohen -- and how effective Trump's legal team is at creating doubt about his testimony. There is also the question of whether Cohen's social media antics -- which Judge Juan Merchan has told him to tone down -- will goad Trump into potentially gag order-violating territory.

2) Diplomatic maneuvering

The White House has a new idea to dissuade Israel from invading Rafah.

  • The news: U.S. officials have reportedly offered to give the Israelis critical intelligence if they agree to hold off on their long-standing plans to launch a full offensive in Gaza's southernmost city. The Biden Administration would provide the Israelis with information on the location of top Hamas leaders and the location of the terror group's hidden tunnels.

  • Catch up: President Joe Biden has warned he will stop sending offensive weapons to Israel if it launches a full-scale invasion in Rafah (it is already running more limited operations). Biden and other world leaders are concerned about a humanitarian catastrophe with about 1M Palestinians believed to be sheltering in the city. Israel says it must enter Rafah to eliminate Hamas and will go on its own if needed.

  • Big picture: The U.S. is also reportedly offering to help Israel build tent encampments for Palestinians evacuated from Rafah and to build infrastructure for humanitarian aid. Those proposals mesh with Biden's past comments suggesting he would support a Rafah offensive if Israel had a sufficient plan to protect civilians.

3) Some sacred cows

You can bet on many things these days, but a government agency wants to draw the line somewhere.

  • The news: The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is moving to ban listed derivatives on real-world events. A proposal passed the panel on a 3-2 vote; the dissenting votes expressed concern the plan infringes on states' rights to regulate gaming.

  • What it means: The CFTC is trying to draw a line between gambling and financial markets. While most states will not permit or limit futures bets on events like presidential elections and major award shows, event contracts that allow investors to bet on outcomes have become a fast-growing industry. The contracts can also touch on sporting events and predicting calamities like terrorist attacks.

  • Big picture: Democrats argue political events contracts could jeopardize election integrity. The CFTC has also been sued by online marketplaces that handle such contracts, most notably KalshiEx -- an exchange that allows investors to bet on events with a simple "yes" or "no" selection.

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Quick Tips

U.S. News

  • Department of Veteran Affairs officials improperly approved $11M in senior executive bonuses. The money was supposed to go toward recruiting workers; some executives are resisting an order to return the payments (More)

  • Three Atlanta police officers were shot on Saturday night after responding to a call. All three officers are expected to survive, but two required surgery; a suspect was killed in the incident (More)

  • A 62-year-old man died two months after becoming the world's first pig kidney transplant recipient. Massachusetts General Hospital, where the procedure was performed, said there was no sign the transplant caused his death (More)

World News

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin sacked Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Andrey Belousov, a civilian economist, will replace him amid new offensives in northern Ukraine; Shoigu was named the secretary of Russia’s Security Council (More)

  • Over 300 people died after flash floods and heavy rains hit villages in northern Afghanistan. About 1.6K people were injured; thousands of homes and livestock were destroyed (More)

  • Military leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno has been declared the provisional winner of Chad's presidential election. Itno has controlled the country since 2019; Prime Minister Succes Masra is alleging vote manipulation (More)

Campaign News

  • President Biden's re-election campaign will hold a major fundraiser next month in Los Angeles. Former President Barack Obama and Hollywood stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts will participate (More)

  • Vermont Gov. Phil Scott will run for re-election. The Republican has won four two-year terms in the largely Democratic state; he supported President Biden in the 2020 election (More)

  • Steve Bannon's contempt of Congress conviction was upheld by a federal appeals court panel. The former Trump Administration official can still appeal to the full court; he would face a four-month prison sentence (More)

Business & Markets

  • Markets closed mixed on Friday. The Dow Jones surged over 100 points for its eighth straight winning day (Dow +0.32%, Nasdaq -0.03%, S&P 500 +0.16%).

  • A new rule capping credit card late fees at $8 is on hold. A federal judge granted a preliminary injunction against the CFPB measure taking effect this week after legal action by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups (More)

  • President Biden will announce new tariffs on Chinese goods in strategic sectors like electric vehicles and semiconductors. Tariffs established under former President Trump will remain in place (More)

Entertainment & Sports

  • The Atlanta Hawks won the NBA Draft Lottery despite having only 3% odds to claim the No. 1 pick. The Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets won the Nos. 2 and 3 selections (More)

  • NBC will commemorate Saturday Night Live's 50th season with a live primetime special next February. The show will be on a Sunday night, capping a weekend of programming (More)

  • Switzerland won the Eurovision Song Contest and will host next year's event. Nemo's The Code was the winning song; it was Switzerland's first contest win since Celine Dion in 1988 (More)

Quick Hitters

  • Chow Down: Quinoa is delicious and popular. But is the grain good for you? The answer is yes, for several reasons.

  • Humble Beginning: Marriott is a $68B hospitality behemoth these days. The company started as a hole-in-the-wall soda shop.

  • Cleaning Up: Littering climbers have coated Mount Everest in trash. But sustainable solutions to reverse the mess are within reach.

  • Go Deep: Beef production generates the most greenhouse gas emissions from the food system. Could meat taxes cut down on overconsumption?

  • Life Hack: Want to boost your health? These holistic tips will make an impact in two weeks.

  • OPTIMIZE ME: Researchers “found convincing evidence that higher intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death, a 48% to 53% higher risk of anxiety and common mental disorders, and a 12% greater risk of type 2 diabetes”

Want more health and wellness news? Subscribe to our brand new newsletter, Optimize Me, and start living a healthier life through diet, exercise, sleep, and mindfulness:

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It is really hard to predict the weather. But why?

Looking Ahead …

The NFL is expected to release its 2024 regular season schedule later this week. The big reveal could come with some major news in the media world: Netflix is reportedly in talks to acquire the broadcast rights to the league's Christmas Day games.

Question of the Day

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