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November 19, 2019

“We have decided to release these three Taliban prisoners who were arrested outside of facilitate direct peace negotiations.” —Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, on a prisoner swap with the Taliban


1. The House Intelligence Committee kicked off a second week of public impeachment hearings this morning. Today is the busiest day of testimony, consisting of two joint hearings with testimony from four witnesses (three of whom listened to the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky now at the center of the inquiry). A total of nine witnesses are scheduled to testify across three days this week. Here’s the full schedule.

Extra: Watch the morning testimony here (started at 9am ET) and the afternoon testimony here (starts at 2:30pm ET).

More context: Testimony today includes Alexander Vindman (Ukraine advisor on the National Security Council), Jennifer Williams (Vice President Pence Aide), Kurt Volker (former US special envoy to Ukraine), and Tim Morrison (former National Security Council director for Europe and Russia).


2. The Taliban released two US and Australian hostages today in a swap with the Afghan government for three senior Taliban figures. The hostages were captured in 2016 outside of the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul (where they were both professors) and held by the militant group in Zabul, Afghanistan (map) for three years. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban expressed hope the exchange could assist in Afghan peace efforts after US-Taliban negotiations broke down in September.


3. The US said Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not necessarily illegal under international law, according to a statement by Secretary of State Pompeo yesterday (marking a reversal from prior Obama-era policy). Pompeo noted the conclusion was not meant to “prejudge” the ultimate status of the West Bank. The conclusion drew swift praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and criticism from Palestinian leadership.

More context: The decision marks a third major move by the Trump administration in support of the Israeli government, after recognizing the 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria (in March) and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital (in 2017).


4. Coty announced it will pay $600M for a 51% stake in Kylie Cosmetics (the make-up and skincare brand of Kylie Jenner). The deal values the 22-year-old reality-TV star’s business at $1.2B and aims to expand it into new beauty categories globally. Kylie Cosmetics was built on the reach of Kylie Jenner’s 270M social media followers.

More context: Coty is a multinational beauty company and owns brands like Covergirl and Sally Henson. Its stock jumped ~6% on the news.  


  • Amnesty International said at least 106 people have died in Iran amid ongoing protests (that sparked Saturday in response to an abrupt hike in government-controlled fuel prices). Iranian leadership has since cut internet and deployed anti-riot forces.
  • California will stop buying vehicles from GM, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and other automakers who supported the federal government amid an ongoing battle over whether California can set its own emission standards.
  • Sweden dropped its investigation into Wikileaks-founder Julian Assange (after 9 years) for an alleged rape. Assange is currently in British custody and still faces possible extradition to the US for spying-related charges. 


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