The Presidential Daily Brief

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    Judge Acquits Officer in Freddie Gray Case

    Police officer Edward Nero has been found not guilty of four misdemeanor charges in connection with the April 2015 in-custody death of Freddie Gray, Judge Barry Williams announced today following a bench trial. Several officers face charges linked to the case; the first ended in a hung jury, and four others have yet to stand trial. Community leaders are appealing for calm, with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake noting that “police officers must be afforded the same justice system as every other citizen in the city, state and country.”

     

     

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    Far-Right Candidate Narrowly Loses Austrian Election

    Voters decided to go Green. Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party says he’s “sad” to have lost Austria’s presidential election to independent, Green Party-backed candidate Alexander Van der Bellen. The 45-year-old populist, beaten by about 30,000 votes, told supporters not to lose hope — that his attempt to secure the largely ceremonial post was “an investment for the future.” Hofer would’ve been the first democratically elected far-right president in postwar Europe, and his narrow loss signals just how divided Europe remains on issues like globalization and immigration.

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    Scores Die in ISIS-Linked Attacks on Assad Strongholds

    At least 78 people were killed in the Syrian port cities of Tartous and Jableh when five ISIS suicide bombers and two car bombs exploded. The attacks targeted a hospital and two bus stations, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported as many as 120 casualties. Some are linking the attacks to the presence of Russian air and naval bases in the area, as Russia has been conducting air strikes against the militant group. But an ISIS-linked news agency said the bombings targeted the Islamic sect known as Alawites.

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    US Lifting Arms Embargo on Vietnam

    Has the Cold War finally thawed? The U.S. hasn’t sold lethal weapons to Vietnam for 50 years — but today, more than 20 years after the two nations re-established diplomatic ties, President Obama announced the end of that ban. In the past, the U.S. had suggested that such a move would be tied to Vietnam’s acceptance of human rights norms, and while that’s still a factor, this change is largely seen as an American olive branch to bolster its influence in a region dominated by China’s power.

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    Iraq Begins Operation to Recapture Fallujah

    “The Iraqi flag will soon be flying in the sky of Fallujah,” proclaimed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as his country launches an offensive against the ISIS stronghold. While the U.S. military had prioritized liberating Mosul, a victory at Fallujah, just 40 miles west of Baghdad, could alleviate political pressure on Abadi’s government following a series of deadly ISIS bombings in the capital. Fallujah’s approximately 75,000 remaining civilians are being urged to flee — or raise white flags above their homes if they can’t — as troops surround the city.

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    Despite Polls, Trump Faces Campaign Infrastructure Deficit

    Behind closed doors, he’s falling behind. National polls show Donald Trump roughly even with Hillary Clinton as Republicans embrace him, but he trails in building a “yuge” enough general campaign. In crucial Ohio the former secretary of state has a team of full-time aides, while the billionaire has none. Through April, Trump’s largely self-financed operation had one-tenth of Clinton’s staff. It’s the nitty-gritty Trump has avoided so far, as he tests whether his reality TV style will survive the bright lights of the general election.

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    Bayer Advances All-Cash $62 Billion Monsanto Bid

    They’re hoping this merger takes root. Last week, the German pharmaceutical and chemical behemoth confirmed that it’s pursuing the American seed company, part of a global consolidation of agribusiness that’s included two massive merger deals. Monsanto tried multiple times to team up with Syngenta, but after three failed attempts the Swiss company made a deal with Asian giant ChemChina instead. Bayer says it’s confident it can finance the deal — which values Monsanto shares at a 37 percent markup — but some worry it’ll wilt with regulators.

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    San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus Livid Over MLB Anthem Flap

    Oh say, can you hear? When the Padres invited 100 members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of San Diego to sing ”The Star-Spangled Banner” before Saturday’s game, the audio was replaced with that of a female singer — apparently the previous night’s recording. The men were pelted with catcalls such as “You sing like a girl!” The Padres’ apology was insufficient, the chorus said in a statement. They’re asking Major League Baseball and local authorities to investigate whether Petco Park staffers engaged in a hate crime.

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    South Korea: Africa’s New BFF

    They’re being bullish in China’s shop. Though the People’s Republic has been trumpeted as sub-Saharan Africa’s best investment partner, Korea’s catching up, with bilateral trade increasing fourfold to $22.2 billion between 2000 and 2011. And Korea has an advantage: It, too, was once considered an underdog developing country, receiving aid until just twenty years ago, and now it’s soaring with the high-income elite. While some believe its willingness to work with quasi-authoritarian regimes could cause trouble down the line, South Korea’s betting on Africa’s future prosperity — and loyalty.

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    Study Showing Benefits of Sodium in Diet Under Fire

    Take this with a grain of salt. Renowned medical journal The Lancet published a study indicating that ingesting too little salt can damage your heart — contrary to accepted medical wisdom about the dangers of a high-sodium diet. A McMaster University survey of 130,000 subjects in 49 countries found that a low-sodium diet only benefited subjects who already suffered from hypertension. But the medical establishment won’t convert without a fight: WHO officials have denounced the study and are already casting doubt on its mathematical methods.

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    Britney Spears, Kesha Performances Wow Billboard Awards

    She did it again. Spears rocked the room at Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards, delivering a medley of old hits while collecting the Millennium Award. The pop idol has been teasing a new album, but didn’t debut any new music. Meanwhile, Kesha, who’d been temporarily yanked from the bill when producers heard she planned to use images of her allegedly abusive producer Dr. Luke in her performance, delivered an emotional cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” Adele won artist of the year, while The Weeknd took home eight trophies.

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    Oklahoma City Dominates Warriors to Seize Series Lead

    The champs have some defending to do. With a well-rounded attack, the Thunder demolished Golden State 133-105 Sunday to take control of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals. To top it off, the Warriors’ do-everything forward Draymond Green may face a suspension for kicking the Thunder’s Steven Adams in the groin. Green, who said the play was an accident, also caught Adams where it hurts in Game 2. With Oklahoma City up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, the teams meet again Tuesday.