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July 18, 2018

Is Canada ready to move on from America?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday added a single word to the position of "minister of international trade," renaming it the "minister of international trade diversification." Adding "diversification" might seem like a small change — but it could signal a massive blow to the U.S.-Canada relationship, The Toronto Star suggests.

America is easily Canada's biggest trading partner, accounting for $207 billion of the country's $389 billion in imports each year. That relationship has become complicated, however, after President Trump began announcing a series of tariffs on America's northern neighbor in March. Canada, along with the EU, China, and other tariff targets, has retaliated with its own tariffs on the U.S. Trudeau went so far as to blast Trump's "totally unacceptable" charges in a particularly harsh press conference on May 31.

And Wednesday's change wasn't just a hint. Trudeau adviser Gerald Butts tweeted exactly what "diversification" really meant: "We need to get Canadian resources to markets other than the United States."

Talk about stating the obvious. Kathryn Krawczyk

7:46 p.m.

Six Democratic House committee chairs sent Attorney General William Barr a letter on Monday, asking him to send over Special Counsel Robert Mueller's full report no later than April 2.

The three-page letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.), and House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).

Barr submitted to Congress his four-page summary of the report on Sunday, but the lawmakers said this is "not sufficient." In addition to the report, they requested "underlying evidence and documents." In his summary, Barr said the Mueller investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated" with Russia. Regarding obstruction of justice, Barr declared that while the report "does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it does not exonerate him." Catherine Garcia

6:55 p.m.

Television producers received an email on Monday from President Trump's campaign director of communications, questioning the credibility of certain guests — nearly all of them Democratic lawmakers.

Tim Murtaugh's memo came on the heels of Attorney General William Barr releasing his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report about collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians ahead of the 2016 election. Barr wrote that Mueller didn't find evidence that Trump or his associates coordinated with Russians, and Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice; immediately after the summary's release, Trump falsely claimed he had been "completely exonerated."

In his memo, Murtaugh calls out Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), former CIA Director John Brennan, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, accusing them of "vigorously and repeatedly" making up stories about connections between the Trump campaign and Russians. Murtaugh continued to scold the producers, saying that there "must be introspection from the media who facilitated the reckless statements and a serious evaluation of how such guests are considered and handled in the future."

Swalwell responded on Twitter, declaring that the "only person who has been caught lying about Russia is Donald Trump. If he thinks I've made a false statement, he can sue me. And I'll beat him in court." Catherine Garcia

5:36 p.m.

The alphabet just isn't cutting it anymore.

Sesame Street, known for its puppet-filled preschool lessons, revealed Monday that it's rolling out a new collaboration with Apple TV+. Yet just as Apple's new service cuts cable for streaming, the Sesame-produced Helpsters will swap the ABC's for CSS, TechCrunch explains.

Sesame Workshop was just one of the many big entertainment industry names joining forces with Apple's streaming service in the past year. Apple revealed a lot more about the service and its stars at a Cupertino, California event on Monday, where Big Bird appeared to introduce Sesame's newest Muppet star. Cody, a fuzzy, yellow, and undefinable creature, will lead the Helpsters — a team of puppets determined to help kids code.

Cody, who, as TechCrunch aptly puts it, "has learned to speak in PR soundbites," said that "coding fosters collaboration, critical thinking skills and is an essential language that every child can learn." It's not likely that kids are going to sit down and start writing C++ after an episode, but rather will learn broader concepts that eventually help them follow the patterns all coding languages rely on.

Beyond unveiling Cody and seemingly — and disappointingly — hinting that Big Bird won't be on the show, the Monday Apple event didn't reveal much about Helpsters. Cody did, however, make sure to let us know Helpsters will be chock full of "fun music" and "cool dance moves." Kathryn Krawczyk

5:33 p.m.

When glaciers are in the news, things are usually looking worse for the wear. But a new NASA study published on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience brought some surprisingly good tidings.

The report shows that the Jakobshvan Isbrae glacier in Greenland, which was previously one of the Earth's fastest-shrinking glaciers, is actually growing thanks to cooling ocean waters off the western coast of Greenland.

Jason Box, a Greenland ice and climate scientists who was not part of the study, told The Associated Press that the discovery "was kind of a surprise" given that most glaciologists had gotten used to a "runaway system."

Box added that Jakobshvan Isbrae is one of the most important glaciers in Greenland because it discharges the most ice in the northern hemisphere.

Unfortunately, there is one caveat — the authors of the study said that the growth is most likely temporary. In fact, per The Hill, the discovery may ultimately be bad news because it means that the ocean temperatures play an even greater role in glacial retreats and advances than scientists previously thought. Read the full study at Nature Geoscience. Tim O'Donnell

4:48 p.m.

The 2019 NFL regular season schedule won't be revealed until April, but the league did announce that longtime rivals the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears will open the season at Solider Field in Chicago.

The news is noteworthy on two fronts: Green Bay and Chicago are two of the NFL's oldest franchises. The Bears, then the Decatur Staleys, were one of the league's charter members in 1920, while the Packers joined a year later. The 2019-2020 season will mark the league's 100th year of existence, so the NFL selecting such storied franchises makes quite a bit of sense.

It also means the league is shirking tradition. The defending Super Bowl champion has opened the season since 2013, but this year the New England Patriots will have to wait until the season's first Sunday night game to take the field. Admittedly, the franchise has had quite a few opportunities to open the season — much to the chagrin of non-Patriots fans everywhere — thanks to their nearly two decade run of unparalleled success.

But New England has also been embroiled in a bit of off-the-field controversy this offseason following owner Robert Kraft's charge for soliciting a prostitute. The NFL will instead be able to delay discussing the incident on opening night with a likely celebratory emphasis on the game's history. Tim O'Donnell

4:36 p.m.

When prosecutors thought they had enough evidence to arrest Michael Avenatti for allegedly extorting Nike, well, they just did it.

On Monday, the Southern District of New York unveiled extortion charges against the former lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, saying Avenatti claimed he'd release damaging information about Nike unless the company paid him $20 million. As this handy presentation prosecutors cooked up shows, Avenatti allegedly committed one of those offenses as recently as last Thursday.

Take a look at Avenatti's current Twitter feed, and the drama escalates. Avenatti tweeted Monday morning that he would soon hold a press conference about "a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike" — something he allegedly told Nike he would do if he didn't get paid. In fact, court documents reveal Avenatti was told he would have a meeting with Nike lawyers on Monday morning. FBI and SDNY officers were actually there waiting to arrest him.

Avenatti's alleged co-conspirator in the case is fellow celebrity lawyer Michael Geragos, who is representing Jussie Smollett. Avenatti alone was also charged in a separate case in Los Angeles on Monday. Those prosecutors say Avenatti committed wire and bank fraud, embezzling clients' money to pay off his business debts and falsifying tax documents to get loans, per CNN. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:03 p.m.

The Michael Avenatti Nike extortion saga just got even stranger.

Prosecutors on Monday indicted Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' former lawyer, for allegedly trying to extort $20 million from Nike, saying he and a co-conspirator threatened to release damaging information about the company unless they were paid millions of dollars. While prosecutors didn't name the co-conspirator, The Wall Street Journal reports that it is celebrity attorney Mark Geragos.

Geragos was hired as a member of the legal defense team of Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor who has been charged over allegedly staging a fake hate crime against himself, in February, per CBS Chicago. He's also currently a lawyer for Colin Kaepernick, per The Daily Beast. Geragos' previous clients have included Michael Jackson and Chris Brown.

Geragos and Avenatti allegedly met with Nike lawyers on March 19 to make their demands, and the Journal reports Boies Schiller subsequently recorded another conversation with Avenatti at the request of prosecutors. Avenatti tweeted that he would soon be "holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike" shortly before the charges against him were announced.

Geragos has also been a CNN legal analyst, but CNN said on Monday that he is no longer a contributor for the network, per reporter Justin Baragona. CNN itself on Monday backed up the Journal's reporting, noting Geragos had not responded to a request for comment. Brendan Morrow

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