The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Is Turkey's Cease-fire Unraveling Already?

    Although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed yesterday to pause his offensive in northeastern Syria, reports from the ground suggest that's easier said than done. Journalists and monitors spotted shelling and intermittent skirmishes Friday morning in towns on both sides of Turkey's border with its war-torn neighbor. In Ankara yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence convinced the Turkish leader to allow formerly U.S.-backed Kurdish forces to vacate a "safe zone" along the border.

    Is this a good deal for Erdoğan? Controlling the 20-mile strip of Syria without Kurdish militias in the way is exactly what he wanted when he launched the offensive last week.

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    Mulvaney Suggests, Then Denies, Quid Pro Quo Over Ukraine

    In a routine briefing yesterday, the acting White House chief of staff made the press room "a confession chamber," commentators say: Mick Mulvaney openly said that President Donald Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine until it investigated claims that Kyiv interfered with the 2016 U.S. election. Mulvaney later retracted his remarks in a written statement, but that did little to calm the bipartisan frenzy sparked by his apparent acknowledgement of the quid pro quo at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

    Why does it matter? Congressional investigators will probably use Mulvaney's comments to corroborate witness testimony in the probe.

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    Massive Mexican Gunfight Erupts Over El Chapo's Son

    Footage from the northern Mexican city of Culiacán showed heavily armed men firing on police yesterday after officers attempted to detain Ovidio Guzmán López, son of infamous drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán. Streets in the regional capital of Sinaloa, where El Chapo's cartel is based, were closed off as both sides exchanged gunfire for hours. A lawyer for El Chapo's family said, “Ovidio is alive and free,” though that hasn't been officially confirmed.

    Why is Ovidio wanted? He was indicted on U.S. federal drug charges in February for alleged distribution of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.

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    China's Economic Slowdown Is Getting Worse

    Despite posting a 6 percent year-on-year bump during the third quarter, the world's second-largest economy reported its slowest quarterly boost since early 1992. A deterioration in business activity has dragged it down over the past several years, while Beijing's trade war with Washington isn't making things any easier. “There is no doubt that the downturn is serious,” said one analyst.

    How long will this trend continue? With global demand for Chinese exports still slowing, economists expect sluggish growth for at least another two quarters.

    Read this OZY Acumen on U.S. public perceptions of China.

  5. Also Important...

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has returned to London in a bid to convince lawmakers to back his Brexit plan in Parliament tomorrow. Hundreds of thousands of pro-independence demonstrators are expected to hit the streets of Catalonia today for a fifth straight day of protests. And an Australian man charged with trying to sell weapons technology to North Korea has been denied bail.

    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. Blue Light May Be Rotting Your Brain

    A new study in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease suggests exposure to light emitted by digital devices and screens could have a damaging effect on brain cells. Oregon State University researchers exposed fruit flies to 12 hours of blue light and discovered it dramatically reduced their lifespan. The glow also impacted the brains of blind flies, suggesting there's no need to actually see the light to be negatively affected by it.

    Should we be worried? Although brain cells in flies and humans function in a similar way, LED technology hasn't been widely used for long enough to know its health effects yet.

    This OZY story explains how your brain is affected by price bubbles.

  2. WhatsApp Fee Sparks Widespread Anger in Lebanon

    A proposal by the Lebanese government to charge 20 cents per day for internet calls on apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp has sparked outrage. Along with potential new taxes on gas and tobacco, the measure is aimed at shrinking an overblown budget — but it would also make Lebanon the first to impose a fee for using messaging apps. That's partly why protesters have poured onto the streets, with many burning flags and chanting about revolution.

    Who loses most from the tax? Syrian refugees, who use the apps to keep in touch with their families, would be hit particularly hard.

  3. Looking for Love? There's an Algorithm for That

    Kevin Teman was searching for a soul mate. He tried the apps and matchmaking services, but nothing worked — so he built an algorithm. These days, OZY reports, his “artificially intelligent matchmaker,” AIMM, helps users find love by first asking a series of questions through the course of a week to understand the individual. From there, it picks out matches and facilitates those awkward first encounters in-app before connecting folks IRL if digital sparks fly. 

    Can tech solve the mystery of love? Critics note that Teman’s brainchild seems less about convenience and more about eliminating the emotional work required to understand oneself and others.

  4. Iconic Cuban Ballerina Alicia Alonso Dies at 98

    The prima ballerina who co-founded the National Ballet of Cuba and is credited with bringing classical dance to her homeland died Thursday. Her career included performances with the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre as a teen. Alonso, who started losing her vision at 19, continued performing into her 70s despite being nearly blind. Yet she remains a controversial figure for an authoritarian attitude that pushed many young Cuban dancers to defect.

    Will that tarnish her legacy? One prominent artistic director, who hailed Alonso as a "genius of dance," said she'll be remembered as one of the world's best ballerinas "regardless of politics."

  5. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes Suffers Dislocated Kneecap

    The star Kansas City quarterback was helped off the field in the second quarter of his team's 30-6 victory over the Denver Broncos last night. Reports suggest the 2018 NFL MVP dislocated his right patella during a fourth-down quarterback sneak and will undergo an MRI to look for potential ligament damage. In the best-case scenario, sources say the 24-year-old could be out for three weeks, though he's also been nursing a sore left ankle.

    What's next? If Mahomes' injury is as bad as it seems, some observers are already counting the Chiefs out of Super Bowl contention.