It was another head-turning day. In a meeting with The New York Times, Donald Trump said he has an “open mind” about climate change and walked back his previous stance on waterboarding and other forms of torture. Trump also continued to back off vows to investigate Hillary Clinton, despite grumblings from his base, and named former critic Nikki Haley ambassador to the UN. But he’s still refusing to cut ties with his business interests when he takes office, long-established presidential norms notwithstanding.
The Presidential Daily Brief
This time the public won’t have a say. After the last hard-won peace agreement with FARC rebels was narrowly defeated in a referendum, President Juan Manuel Santos, whose efforts at stemming five decades of bloody conflict earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, negotiated dozens of changes to the deal. Former President Alvaro Uribe, who led the charge against the initial agreement, says it’s still too lenient on FARC: He’s pushing for another public vote. Instead, after tomorrow’s signing, the deal will go before Congress, where swift approval is expected.
The future’s not on lockdown. Barack Obama’s on track to be the first president since Lyndon Johnson to reduce the U.S. prison population during his tenure, having granted clemency to over 1,000 inmates — mostly non-violent drug offenders. Another 13,000 were released early by the court system under his administration. But with a Trump presidency on the horizon — and a potential attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who favors harsh sentencing for drug crimes — advocates for prison reform are fearful that Obama’s work will be largely undone by 2020.
Decisions are made by those who show up. As Donald Trump vows to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal aimed at curbing China’s trade dominance, the People’s Republic is wasting no time. It’s taking advantage with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a 16-nation trade agreement currently in talks. While many American leaders worry that RCEP will exclude the U.S. from opportunities in Asia, some still hope for a revised form of the TPP. But with Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore shifting focus to RCEP, that hope is dimming.
Know This: Nazi sympathizer Thomas Mair has been found guilty of murdering British MP Jo Cox in the days before the Brexit vote. While some computer scientists are urging Hillary Clinton to demand a recount in close states, statistics whiz Nate Silver says there’s probably no reason to. Facebook’s reportedly developed a censorship tool to make its re-entry into the Chinese market more palatable. And the world’s tallest water slide will be dismantled after a 10-year-old boy was decapitated on it last summer.
Read This: As winter encroaches, marketers are cozying up to the hygge trend — but is it just a scam?
Eight Legs Is Enough: Despite rules barring most animals from the U.K.’s House of Commons, Chief Whip Gavin Williamson is fighting to keep his pet spider on his desk. “I’ve had Cronus since he was a spiderling, so I have a very paternal sort of approach,” he says. “It’s very much the same sort of love and care that I give to my spider as I give to all MPs.”
Don’t forget this is the continent where spiders occasionally rain from the sky. Four people died and thousands called emergency services this week with breathing problems after a massive thunderstorm in Melbourne whipped up high levels of rye grass pollen. The rain reportedly broke the pollen down into smaller particles, making it easier to inhale and triggering what officials called an “unprecedented” weather event. Even people who don’t have asthma reported respiratory problems — and now the government’s launched a probe into the phenomenon in case of future “similar incidents.”
They’ll be deadly long after the caliphate’s gone. While their military power may not survive the test of time, ISIS militants have taken the use of improvised explosive devices into the future. While armies and rebel forces have become adept at cheap, easy-to-assemble IEDs during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS fighters have become experts at disguising and booby-trapping their IEDs. As the militants retreat from occupied territories in Iraq and Syria, those taking over are likely to find minefields of IEDs that need to be disabled.
She could be the queen in the north. Ruth Davidson, 38, has made once-irrelevant conservativism a force in Scottish politics. But now the rugby-loving Tory has an even bigger challenge: navigating Brexit. The immigrant-friendly Davidson campaigned hard for Remain, and talk in Scotland turned quickly to independence after Britain’s stunning vote. But staying in the United Kingdom has long been a staple of Scottish Conservative politics, and Davidson’s position could put her out of step with her party’s powerful mainstream — while making her attractive to Europhiles.
Rogue One is just the beginning. Disney’s planning a Han Solo and Chewbacca prequel, along with other standalone movies set in the Star Wars universe, buoyed by box office behemoth The Force Awakens. Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy promises they’ll feature more diverse casts and crews, and director J.J. Abrams says they’ll experiment with tone, including grittier and more comedic iterations. Expectations are high for Rogue One, the tale of rebels trying to steal Death Star plans, which is expected to see a $130 million mid-December opening weekend.
Touchdown Jesus wept. According to an NCAA investigation, a student trainer helped several football players cheat on their academic work over two seasons. In addition to a year of probation, the Fighting Irish will have all the wins from 2012’s 12-1 national runner-up campaign and 2013’s 9-4 season erased from the record books. Notre Dame had already dismissed four players after an internal investigation, but says it will appeal the NCAA’s ruling. Coach Brian Kelly described the decision as “excessive” since no administrators were implicated.