The Presidential Daily Brief

Important

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    Iraqi Protesters End Siege of US Embassy

    "You have won a victory." With those words from the leader of the Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah militia, thousands of the group's supporters finally ended their assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad yesterday. Pledging to park themselves in camps along the opposite bank of the Tigris River, the protesters said they'd instead pressure outgoing Prime Minister Adel Abdul Madhi to pass a law forcing U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq.

    Is this crisis over? While the end of the siege means a more dangerous standoff between the U.S. and Iran has been avoided, Tehran has also shown how much power it wields within Iraq.

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    Netanyahu Seeks Immunity From Prosecution

    Facing a general election in March — and corruption charges that could end his career — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Parliament yesterday to shield him from prosecution. Indicted in November for bribery and fraud, Netanyahu called the charges "a field court-martial by misleading the public" and promised to lead Israel "for many years to come."

    Will he get immunity? Thanks to Israel's political deadlock, there's no functional committee to consider Bibi's request, meaning he can't be granted immunity or stand trial until after the March 2 vote.

    Don't miss OZY's Special Briefing on Israel's unlikely influencers.

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    Mystery Swirls Over Carlos Ghosn's Escape

    Days after the former Nissan chairman fled Tokyo and his impending trial for financial misconduct, questions remain over exactly how Ghosn made it out. One report suggests his associates spent months planning his escape to Lebanon, where officials are expected to be more lenient. Another says Japanese authorities allowed the once-celebrated auto exec to hold onto a spare French passport after his three other passports were confiscated.

    When will the mystery end? Ghosn is expected to address the media next week, though his wife has already dismissed speculation that he was spirited out of his Tokyo home in an instrument case.

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    Taiwan Helicopter Crash Claims Military Chief

    Gen. Shen Yi-ming, chief of staff of the self-ruled state's armed forces, was among the eight people killed when a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter crashed Thursday morning. Five others survived the accident, which occurred during a routine flight between the capital Taipei and the northeastern Yilan county. The 62-year-old air force general had been serving in the post since last year.

    What's happening in Taiwan? Shen's tragic death coincides with a period of increased tensions between Taipei and Beijing: China claims the island as its own and hasn't ruled out using military means to keep it in check.

  5. Also Important...

    The Australian state of New South Wales has declared a state of emergency starting tomorrow morning as wildfires continue ravaging the area. Pope Francis has apologized for slapping the arm of a woman who grabbed him during a New Year's Eve celebration in Vatican City. And legendary baseball pitcher Don Larsen, who threw the only perfect World Series game, died yesterday at 90.

    #OZYfact: Stand-up paddleboarding was the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. between 2013 and 2016 — topping 3 million participants. Read more on OZY.

    How do we look? We've changed your daily news briefing from OZY: It's the same great summary of headlines from around the globe — with a new, sleeker design. Let us know what you think in an email to inquiries@ozy.com.

Intriguing

  1. Fire Kills Apes, Monkeys in German Zoo

    A fire erupted inside an ape sanctuary in the German city of Krefeld Wednesday, leaving more than 30 creatures dead, including gorillas, orangutans, marmosets, fruit bats and chimpanzees. Floating New Year's Eve sky lanterns — banned since 2009 — are believed to have ignited the roof. Many of the primates killed were endangered species, including 48-year-old Massa, the oldest living silverback gorilla in Europe's breeding program.

    Did any animals survive? Only two chimpanzees, Bally and Limbo, who have been treated for minor injuries.

  2. Is Argentina's Economy Turning Locals Vegan?

    As recently as 2016, Argentines ate the second-highest amount of beef per capita in the world. But thanks in part to soaring meat prices — and a broader 50 percent inflation rate — they're increasingly dabbling in plant-based diets. These days, OZY reports, 6 out of every 10 Argentines are considering giving up beef and even going vegan, and environmental and health concerns have also taken root.

    Is this the new normal? Prices will eventually stabilize, but some believe many Argentines have been converted for good, especially if discrimination against vegans dies down.

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    India Clocks Most New Year's Day Births

    With an estimated 67,385 babies born there yesterday, according to UNICEF, India leads the world in New Year's Day births. China took second place, with about 46,300 births, followed by Nigeria with 26,039. The U.S. likely welcomed more than 10,400 infants into the world. India's new babies account for around 17 percent of the total 392,078 children born on Jan. 1, UNICEF said.

    How many are healthy? That remains to be seen — though experts say newborn deaths remain a serious problem, with month-old babies accounting for 47 percent of global child deaths.

  4. Banned Palestinian Academic Sues Quora

    Rima Najjar Merriman filed a lawsuit against the question-and-answer website Wednesday for permanently banning her from posting. The retired Indiana-based professor of Palestinian origin was a prolific contributor to questions related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Quora claims Najjar's hostile comments about other writers and use of the term "Zionism" amounted to hate speech, but she denies that accusation.

    Why does it matter? Tensions have risen in the U.S about how to accommodate pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli voices, especially after President Donald Trump's order to crack down on anti-Semitism on college campuses.

    Read OZY's feature about the tech startups firing up the Palestinian economy.

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    Ex-NBA Chief David Stern Dies at 77

    The former NBA commissioner, who led the league during its golden era of the 1980s, died yesterday following a brain hemorrhage he suffered last month. Stern became the NBA's fourth commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984, and is credited with adding seven franchises, overseeing the creation of the WNBA and the NBA Development League, and increasing annual TV revenue from $10 million to $900 million.

    How has the basketball world reacted? LeBron James credited the "great visionary" with taking basketball global, while Michael Jordan said: "Without Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today."