Pirates of the Caribbean —  Political and economic crises in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Haiti appear to be contributing to a  surge of piracy in the Caribbean Sea, according to recent reports. In some cases, corrupt officials onshore, particularly in Venezuela, may be complicit.

A disaster-proof city  — Is it possible to build a city that can withstand earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and other natural disasters? Developers in the Philippines are planning a project they call New Clark City about 60 miles north of Manila. They say it will be larger than Manhattan, able to house 1.2 million people, and pollution-free. Buildings will be constructed with a mixture of concrete and material from volcanic mudflows. “Good trick if you can do it,” as your Friday author’s grandfather used to say.


Aretha – We live in a world of special effects, where a machine can make anything look and sound real. We rarely see genuine take-your-breath-away miracles anymore. But that shocking, original, and beautiful voice was real, and it will live on. R-E-S-P-E-C-T


Pastafarians — The Dutch government has ruled that Pastafarianism is not a religion, denying a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the right to wear a colander on her head for passport and driver's license photos. She can still apply for asylum in New Zealand, which recognizes the church. Pastafarianism was founded in 2005 by an American man to protest the teaching of biblical creationism in science classes in US public schools.

AirBnB’s Great Wall sleepover contest — Airbnb recently announced an exciting new essay competition: Write 500 words on “overcoming cultural boundaries” and you can win the chance the  sleep on a watchtower on the Great Wall of China. The prize includes a short hike, a gourmet meal, and “traditional Chinese entertainment.” Chinese social media users said “What??” Then, Chinese authorities said no. Some cultural boundaries last longer than others.

Verdi lady — A woman in Slovakia was arrested last week for playing a four-minute aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata” in her house with speakers on full blast. From morning until night.  For 16 years.  “I love Placido Domingo,” a neighbor told a reporter. “But not like this.”

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 200 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least eight Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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More Brexit shenanigans: Britons this week saw Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in upcoming elections. As a special bonus, they got to see Corbyn return the favo(u)r with a formal endorsement of Johnson. Most viewers in the UK will have understood immediately that these are the latest example of "deep fakes," digitally manipulated video images. The more important Brexit story this week is a pledge by Nigel Farage that his Brexit Party will not run candidates in areas held by the Conservatives in upcoming national elections. That's a boost for Johnson, because it frees his party from having to compete for support from pro-Brexit voters in those constituencies.

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80: More than 80 percent of the electronic voting systems currently used in the US are made by just three companies, according to a new report which warns that they are regulated less effectively than "colored pencils."

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Are we going to learn anything new from public impeachment hearings?

No, but like with Mueller, you know, people weren't reading the transcript, but they did actually listen to Mueller when he gave his speech. Now, the question is: Are they going to take anything different away from the public impeachment hearings? And the answer is, yes. They'll take very different things away, if they're watching on Fox or if they're watching on MSNBC. Still deeply divided and still can't imagine senators on the GOP impeaching, slash, convicting President Trump.

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