The Presidential Daily Brief

important

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    Public Impeachment Hearings Kick Off With New Details

    "It was crazy." That's how William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, described President Donald Trump's alleged effort to suspend military aid to Kyiv until Ukrainian officials probed his Democratic rivals. In the first public impeachment session, Taylor told House investigators yesterday about a previously undisclosed phone call between Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. After the call, Taylor said Sondland told an aide that the president cared more about nailing Joe Biden than about helping Ukraine.

    What's next? House Democrats have too much momentum now to stop short of impeaching the president, some suggest — even if it risks further polarizing the country.

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    Rockets Disrupt Uneasy Gaza Cease-fire

    Following two days of heavy fighting with Israel that left at least 34 Palestinians dead, the militant Islamic Jihad group announced a temporary truce early today. Both sides claimed victory, but amid unclear circumstances: While Islamic Jihad claimed Israel would stop targeting its leaders, Israeli officials made no mention of that. But just hours after the Egypt-brokered deal went into effect, Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel, leaving the fate of the cease-fire uncertain.

    What's it like on the ground? Despite the “uneasy calm” reported by journalists, the daily rhythm of life in Gaza appeared to be returning.

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    Hong Kong's Students Hunker Down for Fight

    The focus of the Chinese territory's months-long protest movement is increasingly shifting to students, who are fortifying their makeshift outposts at several university campuses as clashes with police intensify. Demonstrators are stockpiling food and makeshift weaponry, such as catapults and Molotov cocktails. Meanwhile, Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times warned protesters they're "on the edge of doom."

    Could Beijing really move in? Experts believe that by refusing to draw a so-called red line, the central government is avoiding the prospect of losing face if it chooses not to act.

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    Germany Dodges a Recession — But Just Barely

    Despite defying expectations by posting third-quarter growth of 0.1 percent, Germany’s economy — which shrank by 0.2 percent last quarter — is still fragile, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier warned. Experts agreed, noting that there’s little practical difference between the third quarter’s meager growth and the negative 0.1 percent that had been forecast.

    How will markets react? Some analysts say today's news is the "worst of both worlds," since the economy has stalled, but not alarmingly enough to prompt a robust response from the government.

    Don't miss OZY's original series, The Next Recession.

  5. Also Important...

    More than 85 percent of Venice is submerged after heavy, climate change-induced flooding this week. President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared to fall short of making meaningful progress during their meeting in Washington yesterday. And China has successfully tested a Mars lander, which it plans to launch next year.

    #OZYfact: On average, more than 47,000 youths were incarcerated every night across the U.S. in 2015 — three-quarters of them for nonviolent offenses. Read more on OZY.

    OZY is changing! And we'd love to hear your feedback as we evolve and improve: Click here to fill out our 2019 User Survey. It should take no longer than 10 minutes, and you could win one of three $100 Amazon gift cards — or even an all-expenses-paid trip to meet the OZY team in California!

intriguing

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    Facebook: Authorities Want User Data More Than Ever

    Government demands for user data jumped 16 percent in the first six months of the year compared to the last half of 2018, according to Facebook's biannual transparency report. The U.S. topped the list with 50,741 requests, followed by India, the U.K. and Germany. Facebook said it complied in 88 percent of the U.S. cases — two-thirds of which were accompanied by gag orders to ensure users weren't notified of authorities' requests.

    What else is Facebook responding to? This quarter, the company said it removed 11.6 million posts for child exploitation, 2.5 million for encouraging self-harm and 7 million for hate speech.

  2. Black Americans Struggle More to Repay Student Loans

    Students from Black-majority areas are more likely to take out loans for higher education — and almost twice as likely to default on them — than their counterparts in White-majority zip codes, according to a report by the New York Federal Reserve. The debt-to-income ratio in those areas is also staggering, researchers said, noting an average loan balance of more than $37,000 compared to an average annual income of $38,000.

    Why the troubling trend? Experts say it's a reflection of the broader economic and racial disparities that continue to plague minority communities.

    Read OZY's feature about the hidden race gap in the classroom.

  3. India Is Drying Out — and the Solution Is in the Ground

    Thanks to climate change and human activity, 25 percent of India's land is undergoing desertification — and it's happening at 35 times the historical rate, OZY reports. But this new problem may require an old solution: Chaukas, rectangular blocks of land designed to store monsoon downpours for the dry season, could help communities conserve rainwater, which experts say is key to adapting to climate change.

    How pressing is India's desertification problem? One recent estimate found that land degradation alone cost the country more than 2 percent of its GDP.

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    Polanski Film Premiere Roiled by Assault Allegation

    Hours after Tuesday's French premiere of director Roman Polanski's new film, An Officer and a Spy, was shut down by dozens of people blocking the entrance, controversy continued. Yesterday French TV director Nadine Trintignant defended the disgraced 86-year-old, who's facing fresh accusations of sexual assault, claiming he couldn't be a rapist because "he has a beautiful wife."

    Why the protests? They were in support of French photographer Valentine Monnier, who said last week Polanski raped her at his Swiss chalet in 1975. Polanski's planning legal action against newspaper Le Parisien for publishing the accusation.

  5. Legendary US Tennis Twins Call It Quits

    "One more season — and we're excited for it." So said the most successful tennis doubles team of all time, Mike and Bob Bryan, announcing yesterday that they'll retire after next year's U.S. Open. During their Hall of Fame careers, the 41-year-old identical twins from California won the competition five times between 2005 and 2014.

    What else is on their resume? In addition to spending a record 438 weeks atop the world doubles rankings, they boast 118 career titles — including a record 16 Grand Slam titles — and an Olympic gold.

    Don't miss OZY's Newsmaker profile of tennis star Coco Gauff.