The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Reports: Barr's Counter-Mueller Review Now a Criminal Probe

    A review by Attorney General William Barr of President Donald Trump’s complaints that he was unfairly targeted by the government’s Russia probe has reportedly morphed into a criminal investigation. The prosecutor in charge, John Durham, can fire off subpoenas, convene a grand jury and file criminal charges. Democratic House chairmen conducting impeachment hearings said the shift raises "profound new concerns" that the Justice Department has become "a vehicle for President Trump’s political revenge.”

    Does this mean investigators have found something? While a hunch isn't enough to launch a criminal inquiry, a “reasonable indication” of lawbreaking is all it takes.

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    EU Leaders Meet to Mull Brexit Extension

    On the heels of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's admission that delivering Brexit by the Oct. 31 deadline is impossible, EU officials in Brussels today are debating the length of the extension they'll offer. So far, speculation has centered on a three-month "flextension," whereby the U.K. could withdraw before Jan. 31 if Parliament signs off.

    Will British voters weigh in? Johnson has demanded a Dec. 12 parliamentary election — and that the opposition Labour Party, which also wants a vote, help approve his Brexit deal by Nov. 6.

    Check out OZY's Special Briefing asking why Johnson wants an election so badly.

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    Wildfires Are Tearing Through California

    Wind-whipped fires are sweeping across the Golden State's arid terrain, from northern vineyards to Southern California suburbs. In Santa Clarita, near Los Angeles, some 50,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes. “Everything in the house is gone,” said one resident as she watched her home burn.

    How long will the fires last? Forecasters predict the threat will continue into the weekend, thanks to the extreme weather conditions, while locals will likely face more blackouts as utility companies cut power to avoid sparking new fires.

    Read this OZY story about Eastern Europe's fire fatality problem.

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    Amazon's Profit Suffers From Faster Shipping

    The online retail giant posted a third-quarter profit slump of nearly 28 percent — its first such decline since 2017 — sending shares down 8 percent in after-hours trading. That's because it's spending big on one-day shipping for Prime members, an investment CEO Jeff Bezos says will pay off. Shipping costs this quarter rose to nearly $10 billion, up 46 percent from last year, while Amazon hired 100,000 new employees during the same period.

    What should investors expect? Analysts say they should be prepared for longer-term payoffs instead of the short-term bumps they may have gotten used to.

  5. Also Important...

    Indonesian investigators have blamed both Boeing and ground staff and crew for last year's deadly Lion Air crash. Popular social media platform TikTok has denied claims that it kowtows to Chinese censors. And UFC fighter Conor McGregor has announced that he'll stage his comeback in January.

    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.


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    What Happens When Women Publicly Shame Weinstein

    Comedian Kelly Bachman was heckled and two other female attendees tossed out of Actor's Hour — a monthly event dedicated to young artists — when they protested the presence of disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein at a New York bar Wednesday night. During her scathing act, Bachman referred to Weinstein, who's faced a flood of sexual assault accusations, as "the elephant in the room."

    How did the organizers respond? Initially, producer Alexandra Laliberte said she thought the audience could hold Weinstein accountable. But later, Actor’s Hour posted on Facebook that "we apologize wholeheartedly for the way the situation was handled.”

  2. EU Risks China's Wrath by Honoring Uighur Activist

    The European Parliament awarded jailed Uighur academic and activist Ilham Tohti the Sakharov Prize for human rights yesterday. Chinese authorities sentenced the trained economist to life in prison in 2014 on charges that included separatism, provoking an international outcry. He's widely respected for speaking out against Beijing's internment camps, which are believed to hold more than one million ethnic Uighurs from the northwestern Xinjiang region.

    How will China react? Some say relations between Brussels and Beijing might take a serious hit — especially after EP President David Sassoli called for Tohti's release.

    Read this OZY feature about China's crackdown on religion.

  3. Romance Tours Are Rehabbing Their Rep

    They were once exclusively a post-Soviet thing, matching Russian and Ukrainian women with lonely Western men looking for love. But the $2 billion online dating market is expanding rapidly, with tour companies popping up across the world to attract the lovelorn to China, Southeast Asia and Latin America. And it's getting an update, OZY reports: In an industry often shrouded in allegations of mistreatment and even trafficking, transparency has become a priority.

    Can companies conquer negative perceptions? That'll be a significant challenge, not least because many of these companies advertise tours by emphasizing sexual and racial stereotypes.

  4. Extinction Rebellion Challenges London's Protest Ban

    The anti-climate change movement launched legal proceedings yesterday against the "unprecedented and disproportionate" citywide ban by London police against their demonstrations. Those taking part in the suit include lawmakers from the Green Party and activist writer George Monbiot, who was arrested after the ban took effect. They argue the measure violates their rights to free speech and assembly. It's unclear when the court might rule on the case.

    How much have these protests cost? Authorities say they've spent more than $25 million policing XR demonstrations, most of it "incurred entirely unnecessarily."

  5. Astros Dump Exec for Swipe at Female Reporters

    The Houston Astros said they've fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, whose behavior “does not reflect the values” of the organization. The executive reportedly taunted female reporters about hiring pitcher Roberto Osuna, suspended last season for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow also walked back the team's accusation that Sports Illustrated journalist Stephanie Apstein fabricated Taubman's remarks.

    How's Houston doing on the field? After losing Games 1 and 2 at home, they're limping into Washington, where the Nationals will host their first World Series game in 86 years tonight.