The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Turkish Push Into Syria Leaves Trail of Casualties

    On the third day of its cross-border offensive against Kurdish fighters, the Turkish military pushed farther into northeastern Syria Friday. More than a dozen civilians have been reported killed in the widely condemned assault, while Turkey's Defense Ministry claimed its forces have killed 277 Kurdish fighters and have lost only one of their own. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Syrians are said to have fled their homes.

    What's happening in Washington? President Donald Trump is facing growing calls to respond to the mounting violence, with some sources suggesting that sanctioning Ankara is his most likely option.

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    Giuliani Associates Busted for Campaign Finance Violations

    Yesterday federal prosecutors charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two foreign-born businessmen who helped President Trump's personal lawyer collect information in Ukraine about political rival Joe Biden. The two were arrested Wednesday at Washington Dulles International Airport with one-way tickets out of the country. Parnas and Fruman, who stand accused of funneling foreign cash to a pro-Trump political group, are being represented by the legal team of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

    Why does it matter? While it doesn't implicate Trump directly, the scandal sheds light on the shadowy cash and politics at the center of the impeachment inquiry against him.

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    Reports: Iranian Tanker Struck by Missiles

    State media in Iran is reporting that an oil tanker traveling off the Saudi coast through the Red Sea was hit with two missiles Friday, sparking a leak that was later repaired. No injures were reported. Riyadh hasn't said a word, but the mysterious incident seems likely to further boost already volatile relations in the region.

    How are markets responding? Oil prices jumped 2 percent on the news, with Brent crude reaching just over $60 per barrel.

    Don't miss OZY's Special Briefing on how foreign crises hit the oil market.

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    Hopes for Deal Emerge From US-China Trade Talks

    "I think it’s going really well." That's how President Trump described the renewed negotiations between senior officials from the two countries yesterday. He'll sit down with Vice Premier Liu He, China's top trade official, at the White House today amid rising hopes that Beijing might be ready for a compromise that would stave off two new rounds of U.S. tariffs, set to take effect next week and in December.

    What broke the stalemate? It may well have been the Trump administration's recent approval for some U.S. firms to do business with embattled Chinese tech giant Huawei.

  5. Also Important

    Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. U.K. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay is in Brussels today after "detailed and constructive talks" between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar. And an aide to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is reportedly stepping down amid the impeachment probe into President Trump's foreign dealings.

    Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB Quiz.

    OZY is hiring! We’re looking for an analytical and globally minded tech reporter to sniff out today’s most important stories in science, technology and health. Check out our jobs page and read the description here.


  1. Google Scraps Hong Kong Protest Game

    The tech giant announced Thursday that it has pulled the video game The Revolution of Our Times, which allowed users to virtually role-play as Hong Kong protesters, from its Play store. Google said that the game violated its rule against cashing in on "sensitive events" — and that pressure from Chinese authorities wasn't a factor. But critics are skeptical, since the decision comes a day after Apple was compelled to remove an app that enabled Hong Kong protesters to track police movements.

    Is there any way to play the game now? A cached version is still available on the Play Store, but it’s unclear if that too will be removed. 

  2. The UN Is Facing a Budget Crunch

    Thanks to some member states not paying their dues in full, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned this week that the international organization is facing "the deepest deficit of the decade." Currently, 64 countries owe a collective $1.3 billion, including $674 million from the U.S. for 2019 alone.

    Why does it matter? The cash crunch means the U.N. won't be able to pay employees or suppliers — in addition to watching its global operations potentially grind to a halt.

    Check out OZY's Immodest Proposal for a U.N. in space.

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    Could Artificial Intelligence Respond to Bigots?

    Sophisticated algorithms have already been widely deployed against online abuse, but now the next-generation technology could learn to talk back. Data scientist Anna Bethke and her colleagues have developed a tool that studied 17,000 human interactions to generate its own responses to counter hate speech. One example: "I don't think using words that are sexist in nature contribute to a productive conversation."

    How smooth is the system? It still occasionally emits nonsensical responses, but Bethke says the overarching goal is, simply, to start talking.

  4. The Burkini Has a Conservative Egyptian Sister

    The Islamic swimwear craze has inspired local designers, giving beach-going Egyptian women even more modest options, OZY reports. The new abaya swimsuit goes beyond the original burkini — which covers a woman’s body but leaves her hands, feet and face exposed — by offering the addition of a longer over-garment and even a veil. But while some women feel less exposed with the abaya, experts warn it hinders movement and could be unsafe for swimming.

    Is this a good compromise? Designers say it’s the best possible middle ground between Egypt's conservative dress code and women just hoping for a dip.

  5. NBA Media Officer Blocks Reporter's Question About China

    At a press conference in Tokyo yesterday, CNN reporter Christina Macfarlane asked Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook if the NBA's ongoing conflict with China changes how they feel about speaking out on political or social issues. But a media officer for the Rockets, whose GM triggered the controversy by tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters, stopped them from answering, telling Macfarlane that players would only take basketball questions.

    Is that official policy now? Not for the NBA: After apologizing to Macfarlane, it released a statement criticizing the move.