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January 8, 2016
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There's an outside chance the next Democratic debate could just be a face-off between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. NBC, the host of the next Democratic debate slated for Jan. 17, announced its criteria for candidates to make the stage Friday and, as it stands, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley just barely makes the cut.

NBC's criteria requires that candidates have a polling average of 5 percent nationally or in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, where the debate is being hosted. Right now, O'Malley is polling right at 5 percent in Iowa, but he nowhere near makes the mark in the other states or nationally. If his poll numbers in Iowa were to drop, he likely would not qualify.

An NBC executive has since told CNN that it would round up from "a 4.5 percent if necessary" and that the network expects all three candidates will be onstage, a sentiment shared by Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Sanders' campaign also expressed support for O'Malley's inclusion. "Bernie thinks Gov. O'Malley should be in the debate," a Sanders spokesperson said. "Fair is fair."

The debate marks the Democratic Party's fourth of the election season and its last before 2016 voting begins Feb. 1 with the Iowa caucuses. Both Clinton and Sanders easily made the cut. Becca Stanek

7:32 a.m. ET
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The CIA has concluded with "high confidence" that Russia interfered in the American presidential election not only to promote public distrust of U.S. institutions, as was originally suspected this fall, but to sway the outcome in favor of President-elect Donald Trump, a senior intelligence official said in a Washington Post report published late Friday evening.

"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," the official said, referring to a secret CIA assessment shared with congressional leaders in a closed-door briefing last week. The CIA also believes Moscow hacked the Republican Party, much as it did the Democratic Party, but did not leak the information it obtained from the GOP. However, the agency did not say it believes Russian efforts successfully altered electoral outcomes.

Earlier on Friday, President Obama ordered a "full review" of reports of hacking during the presidential election to be completed before Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. The White House did not specify whether the results of that review would be made public. Bonnie Kristian

December 9, 2016
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About 75 percent of companies plan to give their workers year-end bonuses this year, up from 67 percent last year, according to a survey of 500 HR executives at firms of various sizes. The average bonus is expected to be 25 percent larger than last year's offerings — about $1,081, up from $858 in 2015. The quarter of firms who said they aren't giving out holiday bonuses "had financial performance issues or were concerned about the U.S. economic outlook," The Wall Street Journal reports, but about half of that group still said they hope to give out other morale-boosting gifts like extra paid time off. The Week Staff

December 9, 2016

After two years without a new Taylor Swift single, the drought is finally over. The pop star surprised fans late Thursday night by releasing a single with former One Direction member Zayn Malik. Swift shared the news with her fans in this cryptic post:

The collaboration marked Swift's first new release since her Grammy-winning album 1989 dropped in the fall of 2014. Swift and Malik's song, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever," will be featured in the movie Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. The film is due out early next year.

BBC described the song as a "yearning, sultry ballad" that "finds the couple pulling at the unraveling threads of a relationship." After it popped up on the U.S. iTunes store shortly before 12 a.m. ET Friday, the tune soared to the top of the charts within an hour. It is available on iTunes and Apple Music. Becca Stanek

December 9, 2016
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This year, Amazon is adding 120,000 temporary workers at its U.S. warehouses for the holiday season, expanding its workforce by about 40 percent. The e-tail giant is also dramatically speeding up its orientation process, The Wall Street Journal reports. While conventional warehouse jobs usually require up to six weeks of training, the company has been using technology such as touchscreens, robots, and scanners to get new hires up to speed in as little as two days. While Amazon's newest warehouses are extremely automated and filled to the brim with robots that do much of the heavy lifting, "the greater efficiency allows them to process even more orders, a task that still requires humans."

A shorter training period saves Amazon a lot of money and could potentially allow the company to pay employees more during these hectic winter months — a crucial lure Amazon needs as it competes with rivals like Walmart and package delivery services like UPS who are also looking for seasonal help. Amazon's holiday temps typically make more than minimum wage. Kelly Gonsalves

December 9, 2016
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An Illinois high school is removing books from reading lists to shield students from "sexual" content. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy was the first book to be removed from the classroom after teachers expressed concern over some "questionable passages," reports the local Patch. After the school sent out a notice about the book's removal, parents called for the banning of any work that contains "literal, metaphorical, figurative, or allegorical" allusions to sex. They specifically urged the school board to remove Maya Angelou's classic autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and some parents openly referred to Roy's book as "smut" and "porn."

"We can't have 18-year-olds reading about masturbation or sexual issues," one parent said. "I don't care if it's from Dickens or who else." The Week Staff

December 9, 2016
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President-elect Donald Trump's transition team apparently wants the Department of Energy to send over a list of every employee and contractor involved in brokering international climate meetings in the last five years, The Washington Post reported Friday. The request is part of a 74-question questionnaire the transition team has asked Energy Department officials to fill out.

Other inquiries in the questionnaire — which The Washington Post noted one department official called "unusually 'intrusive" — are about "which programs within the DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama's Climate Action Plan" and about the social cost of carbon, a metric the Obama administration has used to determine "the benefits of regulations and initiatives that lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions."

Coupled with Trump's environmental policy proposals and his past remarks about climate change, The Washington Post said the questionnaire "provides the clearest indication yet of how Trump’s administration would begin to dismantle specific aspects of President Obama’s ambitious climate policies." "My guess is that they're trying to undermine the credibility of the science that DOE has produced, particularly in the field of climate science," said Stanford climate and energy researcher Rob Jackson.

Department officials reportedly have not yet decided how to address the questions specifically relating to its climate activities.

For more on the story, head over to The Washington Post. Becca Stanek

December 9, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump on Friday selected Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn to be the director of the National Economic Council, CNBC reported. Cohn, also the bank's COO, will be the third person in Trump's White House to have ties to Goldman Sachs, following Trump's choice of former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary and his appointment of Stephen Bannon, who worked for the bank in the 1980s, as chief strategist.

In the post, Cohn will help Trump dictate global economic policy. Critics on the left, however, were quick to point out that Trump's tripling-down on alums from the nation's most powerful bank for his administration did not align with his campaign rhetoric decrying the Wall Street ties of his rivals:

Also Friday, Trump tapped Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) to be his secretary of the interior, where she will be charged with advancing Trump's pro-fossil fuel agenda. McMorris Rodgers was elected to Congress in 2004, where she represents a largely rural district located in eastern Washington. In her time on Capitol Hill, The Wall Street Journal notes she has supported legislation to allow oil- and natural gas-drilling in the Atlantic Ocean; called for limiting the ability of the Interior Department to regulate fracking; and advocated for hydropower, a renewable source of energy popular in Washington state. She also serves on the House's Energy and Commerce Committee.

Trump has expressed a desire to undo much of President Obama's environmental policy. Obama has protected more public land than any other president. Kimberly Alters

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