The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Ex-Trump Russia Adviser Warns Against 'Fictional Narrative'

    Speaking to House impeachment investigators yesterday, President Donald Trump's former top Russia aide warned against the "fictional narrative" that Ukraine meddled in U.S. elections. In addressing that controversial claim, Fiona Hill, a widely respected analyst, also expressed alarm about the level of partisanship in U.S. politics and how "truth is questioned" — especially during a time when Russia is reportedly preparing to meddle again.

    How did Republicans react? They challenged her claim that only Moscow meddled in the 2016 vote, suggesting Ukrainians tried to undermine Trump too.

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    Netanyahu Hits Back Against Criminal Charges

    Following his indictment yesterday for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck out in defiance. "I will not let the lie win," he said, casting the allegations — that he took gifts from tycoons and doled out favors in exchange for positive media coverage — as an "attempted coup." Netanyahu is Israel's first sitting prime minister to be criminally charged.

    Why does it matter? While he isn't required to step down, Bibi's already fighting for political survival amid the months-long struggle to finally form a workable government.

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    Tesla Wows With New Electric Pickup

    Taking aim at traditional U.S. automakers, CEO Elon Musk yesterday unveiled the Cyber truck — which features an angular, stainless steel body with armored-glass windows that's sure to stand out on the street. Priced between $39,900 and $69,900, its performance specs are comparable to the popular Ford F-150. The high-end version, Musk said, could go from zero to 60 in 2.9 seconds.

    What challenges does Tesla face? Experts say it might be tough to break into a market defined largely by practical vehicles — to say nothing of the company's history of production hiccups.

    Read this OZY story about the evolution of an East German automaker.

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    With Turmoil in Mind, Hong Kong Prepares to Vote

    More than 4 million residents of China's troubled semi-autonomous territory will head to the polls Sunday to decide 452 seats across 18 district councils. While it's a low-level vote, the symbolism is big: It's the first election since the months-long protests began, making it a virtual referendum on the turmoil — and a chance for activists to test their political clout.

    What might happen? Numerous scenarios are possible in Hong Kong's only fully democratic vote, observers say, from protests intensifying to a public rebuke of the opposition over recent violence.

  5. Also Important...

    Chinese President Xi Jinping says he hopes to reach a trade deal with President Trump — but isn't afraid to "fight back." The Pacific island of Bougainville will vote tomorrow on whether to declare independence from Papua New Guinea. And a South Korean chef says he's suing the world-famous Michelin Guide for featuring his restaurant against his explicit wishes.

    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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    Most of the World's Teens Aren't Active Enough

    According to a new study by the World Health Organization, 81 percent failed to meet the organization's fitness standards of at least an hour per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. The report, which involved 1.6 million adolescents from 146 countries, noted a number of reasons for inactivity, from sedentary screen-based entertainment to increased focus on education to poverty and malnutrition.

    Are these findings surprising? While researchers weren't shocked, the lackluster effect of recent efforts to address the problem suggests the goal of reducing teen inactivity 15 percent by 2030 probably won't happen.

    Don't miss OZY's feature about the fitness industry cleaning the air.

  2. Candidates Are Microtargeting Their Way Through Primaries

    Made possible by social media platforms, the strategy can make or break a Democratic candidate's odds in the crowded primary field, OZY reports. Andrew Yang, for instance, is trying out Discord — a service more popular with gamers than would-be presidents — to "gamify" his campaign. Volunteers are awarded "units" after taking part in a donation drive or phone bank session and can track their progress. But President Trump isn’t far behind: He’s already outspent all of his Democratic rivals on Snapchat advertising.

    Where’s the next battleground for eyeballs? Strategists are predicting heavy spending on TV through streaming services.

  3. Could Journalists in Russia Become 'Foreign Agents'?

    Russia's lower house of Parliament, the Duma, voted yesterday to brand any journalist or blogger who receives income from abroad as a "foreign agent." The measure, which critics say is aimed at stifling free speech, resembles legislation that slapped foreign-funded NGOs with the same dubious label following massive anti-government protests in 2012. The bill's expected to sail through the Senate and be signed by President Vladimir Putin.

    Who in particular might suffer? Reporters working for critical U.S.-funded outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty are likely to feel the heat.

  4. Coldplay Won't Tour for Environmental Reasons

    Frontman Chris Martin announced Thursday that the band won't hit the road to promote their latest album, Everyday Life — but will spend at least a year brainstorming how to tour in an environmentally friendly way. Coldplay's last promotional effort in 2016-2017 spanned 122 countries on five continents, but Martin says the band's next jaunt will aim to be carbon neutral.

    How could they achieve that? Ideally, they'd rely on solar energy to power them through their travels and ditch single-use plastics at their shows.

    Don't miss this OZY story about the mental toll of climate change.

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    Godfather of Snowboarding Dies at 65

    Jake Burton Carpenter, a dynamic figure who popularized the sport as a surfing-like alternative to skiing, died late Wednesday from complications of testicular cancer. In an email to Burlington-based Burton Snowboarding, which Carpenter founded in 1977, company co-CEO John Lacy suggested employees celebrate his life by doing "what Jake would be doing tomorrow, and that’s riding."

    What's Carpenter's legacy? While he didn't invent the snowboard, he revolutionized its design, building on the concept of Sherman Poppen's "Snurfer" board.