The Presidential Daily Brief

important

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    Republicans Reveal Obamacare Replacement

    They hope it’s a healthy development. But many are skeptical of the House GOP’s just-unveiled Affordable Care Act replacement. The new bill, dubbed the American Health Care Act, eliminates tax penalties on anyone foregoing insurance, instead penalizing those who let their coverage lapse. While the new plan would maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions, it would roll back Medicaid’s expansion and stop requiring employers to cover full-time staff. With many lawmakers expressing reservations and Obamacare’s popularity at an all-time high, the GOP may have trouble garnering the majority needed to repeal.

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    Trump Removes Iraq From Revised US Travel Ban

    And then there were six. President Donald Trump’s new executive order on travel prevents citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from obtaining new U.S. visas for 90 days, but removes Iraq from the list of banned countries. Current visa-holders will be allowed to travel. The Pentagon and State Department reportedly urged Trump to exclude Iraq from the ban, given the country’s key role in fighting ISIS and its commitment to vetting travelers. It’s too soon to say if this revised ban, which takes effect March 16, will survive judicial scrutiny.

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    Comey Reportedly Refutes Trump’s Wiretapping Claim

    It didn’t happen. That’s what FBI Director James Comey reportedly said of President Donald Trump’s Twitter outburst alleging that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” before the election. Sources say Comey’s asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s claim, which echoes a Breitbart story published Friday. James Clapper, intelligence chief during the election, emphatically denied it, and former President Obama’s spokesman called the accusation “simply false.” The dispute may now go to Congress, which Trump has asked to probe the purported bugging while investigating Russian interference in November’s election.

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    North Korea Fires Rockets Into Japanese Waters

    The Hermit Kingdom is lashing out. North Korea’s unofficial policy of provocation and military brinkmanship once again tested regional resolve this morning when the rogue nation fired four ballistic missiles off its east coast into the Sea of Japan. According to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who issued a “stern protest” against the action, three of the missiles landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Some suggested the rockets were a statement against South Korean-U.S. military drills, and South Korea says it’ll deploy American anti-missile technology despite China’s objections.

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    Iraqi Forces Capture Vital Bridge in Mosul Offensive

    They’re making progress. Having already reclaimed the eastern side of the militants’ last urban stronghold in Iraq, government forces began a push into western Mosul two weeks ago, battling ISIS car bombs to capture the key al-Hurriya bridge this morning. More than 45,000 civilians have fled the city in the past week as fighting accelerated. Now nearby refugee camps are close to capacity — which may swiftly become a much bigger problem as the 650,000 people estimated to still be sheltering in Mosul make a break for it.

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    Peugeot to Buy Opel as GM Withdraws From Europe

    It wasn’t taking them anywhere. After a decade of losing money, General Motors has agreed to sell European subsidiaries Opel and Vauxhall to Peugeot SA for $2.3 billion. The world’s biggest carmaker hasn’t made money from its European business in close to two decades: It’s racked up $8 billion in losses in just the last seven years. But Peugeot, edging back from the brink of collapse in recent years, is hoping the deal will help it recover — even as unions fear a restructuring will mean job cuts.

  7. Beirut’s Last Park, Juppe’s Declaration and a Massive Gemstone

    Know This: Protesters in Beirut are rallying to save the city’s single remaining piece of parkland from development. If she’s impeached, South Korea’s disgraced president could also face bribery charges. And French conservative runner-up Alain Juppé says he won’t step in and run for president, even though former rival François Fillon’s campaign is in deep, scandal-ridden trouble.

    Remember This: At least 14 different entities have claimed the 752-pound Bahia emerald as their own — including the nation of Brazil. But it’s not exactly a lucky stone.

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intriguing

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    America’s Black Farmers on the Rise

    They’re planting seeds of change. From New York to Mississippi, minority-led farms are sprouting up across America. After decades of Jim Crow–era laws, regulations favoring big business over small-scale farms, and discriminatory lending practices, a 1982 commission predicted there would be no Black farmers by the year 2000. Today there are 44,000, a 15 percent increase since 2002. With incremental changes, legal victories and leadership from unions like the National Black Farmers Association, today’s growers are changing historic narratives of Black farm labor into something more positive — and fruitful.

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    Facebook Launches Fake News Reporting Feature

    Now you can like it, dislike it … or expose it. Facebook’s latest trick for battling faux stories quietly rolled out over the weekend: A tool that lets users flag articles they suspect to be fake. Third-party fact-checking organizations like Snopes and PolitiFact will scrutinize flagged stories — and, if necessary, mark them “disputed.” Facebook’s strategy against fake news — in its original meaning of false information, as opposed to President Trump’s term for news he disagrees with — is much-anticipated, though some believe it’s too little, too late.

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    Biologists Offer Theory of Panda Pattern’s Purpose

    It doesn’t matter if you’re black and white. Unless you’re a panda, in which case your look may be a matter of survival. Scientists puzzled by the bears’ distinctive color blocking are now theorizing that since pandas don’t hibernate, their monochromatic fur provides camouflage in both snowy landscapes and dark forests. Their distinctive eye circles and black ears may also identify them to other bears, communicating aggression to competitors or compatibility to mates. The survival strategy appears to be working: Pandas were taken off the endangered species list last year.

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    Russians, Evangelicals Call for Disney Boycott Over Gay Role

    Pretty sure there’s a moral here. After the director of Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast described a minor character as having an unscripted “gay moment” onscreen, some Russian politicians are considering banning the movie for containing “propaganda of homosexuality” and disobeying a 2013 law against pro-LGBT content in children’s films. Stateside, at least one movie theater in Alabama has said it won’t show the film, and evangelical preacher Franklin Graham is calling for “Christians everywhere” to boycott the March 17 release.

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    Russian MP Wants to Make Hooliganism a Sport

    He forgot the first rule of Fight Club. A Russian politician has floated the idea of legalizing controlled fights among soccer fans, using their aggression to create a whole new sport. Igor Lebedev, who’s also on the board of the Russian Football Union, has even drafted prospective rules for the fights: Two teams of 20 unarmed fans brawling in an enclosed venue. Following bloody clashes between Russian and English fans at Euro 2016, hooliganism remains a hot topic as Russia prepares to host the World Cup in summer 2018.