Dec. 19, 2017: What to Know 

  • Bingo Barnes
  • A major piece of the Republican-backed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is awaiting final votes in the House and Senate, has been the effort to sell the massively unpopular bill to voters. A report from the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit tax analysis group that has been critical of the proposed plan, shows most Americans would see their taxes cut in 2018, with just 5 percent of Americans seeing their taxes increase next year. By 2025, however, 9 percent of Americans would have higher taxes than under the current law, and two years later, in 2027, 53 percent of Americans would pay more to the government, following a sunset of many deductions in 2025. Writing for National Public Radio, Danielle Kurtzleben wrote, "Extremes make averages, and the benefits would be much larger for richer households."

    click to enlarge - Scientists say they are closer to understanding Oumuamua, a mysterious space object traveling through the solar system. -  - BY ESO/M. KORNMESSER [CC BY 4.0], VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
    • By ESO/M. Kornmesser [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
    • Scientists say they are closer to understanding Oumuamua, a mysterious space object traveling through the solar system.
  • Oumuamua, the mysterious space object that captivated the imaginations of professional and amateur astronomers worldwide when it was discovered in October, is such a bizarre sojourner that some have posited it may be a spacecraft or interstellar probe. After all, it doesn't have an ice trail like a comet, nor is it spherical—rather, it's oblong like a pencil or a submarine. Scientists, however, have debunked those theories and come closer to understanding Oumuamua. In a report from NBC News, Queen's University researchers have used new data to group Oumuamua into a collection of objects known as "planetesimals"—ancient jumbles of iron and rock shielding icy cores protected from cosmic rays.

  • Are UFOs real? Maybe they are, according to an investigation by The New York Times into a secretive program studying unexplained aerial phenomena at the Pentagon. The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program began in 2007 and studied encounters between military aircraft and unidentified objects. It ended in 2012. Skeptics of UFO phenomena say the encounters described in released documents about the program could be accounted for by human perceptual traits or people operating aircraft. Still others, some of whom were attached to the program, say the phenomena may indeed be flying objects that defy explanation—but aren't necessarily from outer space.

  • Reporters Without Borders has come out with its list of journalists who have been killed, tossed into prison, held hostage or otherwise gone missing in 2017. In all, 65 journalists have been killed worldwide this year according to the report, with another 326 detained, 54 held hostage and two gone missing. Of those killed, 39 were murdered or deliberately targeted for being journalists, and another 26 were killed while reporting. In the last 15 years, 1,035 professional journalists have been killed.

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