The Presidential Daily Brief


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    US Airstrike Kills Top Iranian Commander

    Claiming Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the chief of Iran's elite Quds Force, was "actively developing plans" to attack American troops and diplomats, U.S. forces launched an airstrike on Baghdad's airport Friday to kill him. The Pentagon announced that President Donald Trump authorized the early morning drone attack, which targeted one of Iran's most powerful leaders during a time of deep regional turmoil. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has promised "a harsh retaliation."

    What's next? According to OZY columnist and former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, a "fine touch strategy" — the kind neither Washington nor Tehran has shown — will be required to prevent regional tensions from escalating to alarming new heights.

  2. Australia Faces Weekend of Fire Devastation

    "The dangers are real." That's how Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced a state of emergency yesterday, following a similar declaration by officials in the neighboring state of New South Wales. Hundreds of wildfires are whipping the region: They've destroyed some 1,400 homes, scorched more than 12 million acres and killed at least 19 people — and this weekend's forecast of strong winds and high temperatures could make things even worse.

    How are authorities responding? They're staging one of Australia's biggest-ever mass evacuations, though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has drawn harsh criticism of his leadership during the crisis.

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    US Bans Most Flavored E-Cigarettes

    Only tobacco and menthol flavors will be available following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's announcement Thursday of a ban on most flavored e-cigarette cartridges. But small businesses are still authorized to continue selling flavors in so-called tank vaping devices — a move anti-smoking advocates claim is a half-measure that could actually lead to higher levels of nicotine addiction among youngsters.

    Why does it matter? Facing an imminent federal review, e-cigarette makers like Juul will suffer a major blow to their estimated $6.4 billion in annual sales.

    Read OZY's Special Briefing about e-cigarettes living on borrowed time.

  4. Turkey Criticized for Libya Troop Plans

    The Turkish Parliament's approval yesterday of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's request to send soldiers to Libya has sparked unease from several corners. Greece, Israel and Cyprus all slammed the move in a joint statement, saying Ankara's increasing intervention "seriously undermines" global efforts to strike peace in the war-torn country. President Trump, meanwhile, told his Turkish counterpart that "foreign interference is complicating the situation" there.

    What's next? While the authorization doesn't mean Turkey will definitely deploy troops, it underscores Erdoğan's commitment to propping up the government in Tripoli — even if that means angering ally Russia.

  5. Also Important...

    The death toll from massive flooding in Jakarta and surrounding areas reached 43 Friday as Indonesian authorities planned to carry out cloud seeding to prevent more rainfall. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro has dropped out of the race for the U.S. presidency. And Tesla has cut the price of its Chinese-made Model 3 cars to around $46,400.

    Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB Quiz.

    How do we look? You may have noticed changes to your news briefing from OZY. The same great summary of headlines from around the globe, with a new, sleeker design. Let us know what you think by replying to this email.


  1. These Are the Other 2020 Elections to Watch

    While this year’s U.S. election will grab global headlines, many other high-stakes polls promise to shape the world for years to come, OZY reports. In March, Israelis will vote for the third time in a year as recently indicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fights for political survival. Ethiopia could see its first unpredictable election in decades. And Taiwan's presidential race could determine just how testy ties between Beijing and Taipei will get.

    Is there a pattern? These elections will reveal the state of global democracy as some of America’s closest allies and bitterest opponents — as well as important fledgling democracies — chart their futures.

  2. Israel Inks Gas Deal With Greece and Cyprus

    The three Mediterranean countries signed an agreement Thursday to build a massive pipeline that will transport natural gas from Israel to Europe. The pact comes just days after Turkey sparked outrage among its neighbors by signing a maritime contract with Libya. That deal enables Ankara to expand its control over territorial waters amid a scramble for energy riches recently discovered in the eastern Mediterranean.

    What's the bigger picture? Some observers believe Greece and Cyprus rushed into the alliance to counter Turkey's plans to halt the pipeline project.

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    US Drugmakers Hike Prices by 5 Percent

    As criticism swirls in Washington and beyond over the high cost of medication, major pharmaceutical firms raised drug prices by an average of 5.3 percent entering the new year. While that's lower than the increase in 2019 — and well under Big Pharma's promised 10 percent limit — it's still more than twice the current U.S. inflation rate of 2.1 percent.

    Will there be a backlash? Despite the modest increase, drugmakers could still catch flak for boosting the price of cancer and HIV drugs, as well as widely prescribed blood thinner.

    OZY asks whether the next recession could save generic drugs.

  4. Adam Sandler Latest Victim of Twitter Hack

    Days after Mariah Carey’s Twitter account was taken over, the comedian fell victim to a similar attack. As a result, Sandler's PR team was forced to remove several racist, sexist and anti-Semitic messages. Both incidents mentioned the Chuckling Squad, the group responsible for hacking Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's account in August.

    How did the culprits gain access? In Dorsey's case, they tricked his mobile provider into giving up his phone number for two-factor authentification, though it's unclear if Carey and Sandler were hacked the same way.

    Check out this OZY feature about the secret apps violating your privacy.

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    Ole Miss Hires Embattled Ex-Maryland Coach

    Maryland's former head football coach D.J. Durkin — fired in 2018 amid probes into the heatstroke death of a player and allegations of enabling a toxic culture — was hired as an assistant to new Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. The university said it carried out a "thorough background check" on Durkin, but critics point to his history of antics that allegedly included homophobic slurs, fat-shaming and showing videos about serial killers at team meals.

    How has the deceased player's family reacted? Jordan McNair's father wished Durkin well and said he hopes he's learned "a serious life lesson in dealing with other people's kids."