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5 things to know for January 29: Middle East, impeachment, coronavirus, troops, Tibet

Doesn’t it sometimes feel like everything carries political weight? Researchers have found that people even perceive fonts as having a liberal or conservative slant. (So, what do italics mean?)

Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door.

(You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Middle East plan 

The Trump administration unveiled its much-anticipated Middle East plan, which it’s touting as a “realistic two-state solution.” But Palestinians definitely don’t see it that way. The plan caters to nearly every major Israeli demand, including the annexation of its settlements in the contested West Bank region. A future Palestinian state, meanwhile, would get a capital in eastern Jerusalem, physically separated from the rest of the city. The plan doesn’t lay out what would happen to Palestinian refugees displaced by ongoing conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved of the plan and said Israel will begin annexing the settlements almost immediately. Palestinians, however, have roundly rejected the plan. Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who helped craft the plan, admonished Palestinians for rejecting it and urged them not to blow their “big opportunity.”

2. Impeachment

Opening arguments in the impeachment trial of President Trump are (finally) over. Now, the big battle shifts to whether the Senate will subpoena witnesses. That debate should take place on or around Friday, and if the vote fails, the Senate could swiftly decide to acquit the President, and this would all be over. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he doesn’t yet have the votes to completely block witnesses in the trial, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is somewhat confident that some Republicans may vote in favor of calling witnesses. However, it’s all up in the air for now. Meanwhile, the GOP is shifting its defense strategy a little: A growing number of GOP senators now acknowledge that Trump may have denied military aide to Ukraine to solicit political favors, but they claim the conduct doesn’t warrant removal from office or any additional investigation in the court.

3. Coronavirus

Countries continue to ship their citizens out of China in droves in order to quell the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. A flight with 210 American evacuees landed this morning at a California air base. Turkey and South Korea also sent flights to evacuated citizens yesterday. In fact, South Korea is already preparing for the possibility that the virus could spread within its borders (the country has seen four cases of the virus so far). Meanwhile, research teams in Hong Kong and Australia are rushing to learn more about the virus. There’s no vaccine yet, but the teams have successfully grown a copy of the virus, which could help provide crucial information about its nature and how it spreads. At least 132 people are dead and 6,000 cases have been confirmed in mainland China, which overtakes the scope of the SARS pandemic there in 2003.

4. US military

The Pentagon has released a report with the findings of an ethics review ordered last August in response to several high-profile disciplinary issues involving members of elite special operations units. The report concludes that leadership failures within the US special operations community helped foster “conditions for unacceptable conduct,” including allegations of sexual assault and cocaine use among Navy SEAL team members. In another incident late last year, a Navy SEAL was convicted of taking a photo with a dead ISIS prisoner but later allowed to retire honorably after President Trump personally intervened. The report suggests that these elite squads are too focused on deploying and conducting missions, which is obviously important but can leave big gaps when it comes to leadership and overall discipline.

5. Tibet

The US House passed an update to human rights policies that strengthens the sovereignty of the autonomous region of Tibet. The Tibet Policy and Support Act assures that the succession of Tibetan Buddhist leaders be left solely to the Tibetan Buddhist community, without interference from the Chinese government. Tibet is an internationally recognized autonomous region within the People’s Republic of China, and the update to US policies on the region sends a message about American efforts to address human rights and national security concerns in China. The House has recently passed legislation holding China accountable for the well-being of citizens in Hong Kong and the country’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims.


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Article Topic Follows: US & World

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