The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Ukraine Envoy's Testimony Offers Impeachment Preview

    Yesterday House investigators released testimony from William Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who told them last month that Rudy Giuliani led the quid pro quo to withhold military aid until Ukraine probed President Donald Trump's political rivals. Taylor will return to Capitol Hill next week, where he'll be the first to testify during the public portion of impeachment proceedings.

    What's the White House doing? It's reportedly recruiting new officials to help draft a response to the inquiry, while Republicans are considering shaking up their membership on the House Intelligence Committee.

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    US Says Twitter Workers Spied for Saudi Arabia

    A Justice Department complaint unsealed yesterday accuses two former Twitter employees of gathering private user data on Saudi dissidents at Riyadh's behest. Saudi national Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, a U.S. citizen, were allegedly directed by Ahmed Almutairi, a go-between employed by Saudi Arabia's royal family who paid the duo hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work.

    Why does it matter? The charges will reinforce claims by many U.S. officials that Saudi Arabia is increasingly authoritarian — as well as boost scrutiny of tech companies' promises to protect user data.

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    Beijing, Washington Inch Closer to Trade Deal

    China’s Commerce Ministry says it's agreed with the U.S. to simultaneously phase out some trade tariffs, sending U.S. stock futures up early Thursday. To further demonstrate its commitment to playing nice with the White House, a Chinese court today sentenced nine fentanyl traffickers to prison — the first fruits of a joint U.S.-Chinese drug crackdown that's closely tied to trade negotiations.

    What's next? It's still unclear when a sit-down between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will take place, with some reports suggesting it's been delayed until next month.

    Don't miss OZY's investigation of Mexico's opioid crisis.

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    Iran Powers Up Uranium Centrifuges

    Fulfilling its pledge from earlier this week — and stepping further away from the 2015 nuclear deal — the Islamic Republic has begun injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at its Fordo nuclear plant. Tehran also blocked an International Atomic Energy Agency inspector from visiting another facility. Together, these broadsides are aimed at pressuring Europe to help Iran work around U.S. sanctions to sell oil.

    How defiant could Iran get? New research details how Tehran's been able to boost its strategic influence throughout the Middle East using local proxy militias, even under sanctions.

  5. Also Important...

    Hundreds of people are expected to attend the first funerals in Mexico for the American Mormons who were killed in an ambush by gunmen this week. New Zealand's Parliament has passed a landmark zero-carbon emissions bill. And German airline Lufthansa has canceled hundreds of flights amid a 48-hour strike by employees over compensation.

    #OZYfact: Seven of the top 10 U.S. presidential candidates have a woman of color as their national political director. Read more on OZY.

    OZY is hiring! We’re looking for an analytical and globally minded 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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    China Bans Kids From Late-Night Gaming

    Starting this week, the Chinese government is capping screen time for minors at 90 minutes per day, in addition to totally prohibiting online gaming between 10 pm and 8 am. It's part of an official campaign to fight video game addiction, eye problems and lackluster academic performance. The amount of money minors spend on in-game microtransactions will also be limited.

    How will China enforce the new measures? Authorities will require all gamers, regardless of age, to create accounts using their real names and phone numbers to track playing time.

    Don't miss OZY's original series, The Future of Gaming.

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    Airbnb: We'll Verify All 7 Million Listings

    Following an investigation by Vice last week that exposed a massive scam, the company vowed Wednesday to regain users' trust by reviewing all its listings by next December. CEO Brian Chesky says Airbnb will refund or rebook clients into a place of equal or higher value if their initial rental doesn't meet the company's accuracy standards. An all-hours hotline will also be established.

    Is Airbnb in trouble? The startup needs all the backing it can get ahead of its highly anticipated initial public offering next year.

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    Students Are Driving Lebanon's Street Protests

    School's apparently out for thousands of Lebanese students who skipped class Wednesday to join the anti-government demonstrations that have rattled the country's ruling class over the last three weeks. Across Lebanon, students blocked traffic and targeted public institutions, such as Electricite du Liban, which has been criticized for failing to provide 24-hour electricity since the nation's civil war ended in 1990.

    What's next? The students have vowed to stay in the streets — with many arguing there's no point in studying if they can't secure a job after graduation.

    Check out this OZY op-ed on the refugees caught in Lebanon's uprising.

  4. Latin America's Native Activists Seek Holy Help

    In their campaign against environmentally harmful policies, Latin America’s indigenous communities have found an unlikely supporter, OZY reports. Last year, Pope Francis met with Amazon rainforest activists, leading to October's climate change synod, a high-level meeting of church leaders. In an unusual step, non-Catholic indigenous peoples were also invited to attend. 

    What can the pope accomplish? While campaigners say it's up to individual countries to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples to their land, Francis could help amplify their voices for a global audience.

  5. South African Rugby Star Tendai Mtawarira Retires

    Days after the Springboks' Rugby World Cup victory over England, the 34-year-old front rower announced he's finished playing international competitions. The 253-pound standout appeared in 117 matches, the most of any South African player in his position. Mtawarira, whose nickname is "Beast," said last week's win was "the perfect ending and cherry on top."

    What will his legacy be? South Africa's rugby chief described Mtawarira as a hard-working, "unassuming" player who "simply got on with his job."