The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Dies

    The first Italian-American on the bench of the country’s highest court — and a strident conservative — has died. Known for his commitment to originalism and a wicked sense of humor, the 79-year-old New Jersey native died in his sleep while visiting Texas. With nine months until the presidential election, experts predict it will be tough for President Obama to get an appointee past a Republican-dominated Senate; in OZY, constitutional scholar Larry Kramer argues that the fallout should make us question whether the death of a single judge should have so many consequences for democracy. 

  2. Members of the US Supreme Court pose for a group photograph at the Supreme Court building on September 29, 2009

    Vacancy May Set Stage for Obama’s Final Battle

    They didn’t wait for the funeral. News of the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia shook Washington to its core, providing a chance for a Democratic president to tip a long right-leaning court to a 5-4 liberal majority. With nearly a year before a new, possibly Republican chief executive takes office, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already advocating giving American voters “a voice” by not naming a successor. But Obama says he’ll fulfill his Constitutional duty to replace Scalia, and that the Senate should give his nominee “a fair hearing.”  

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    Republicans Bash Each Other in South Carolina Debate

    After memorializing Justice Antonin Scalia last night, the gloves came off. Donald Trump and Marco Rubio accused Ted Cruz of lying, and the two Cuban-American candidates added a bilingual flavor to the fray, with Rubio charging that Cruz “doesn’t speak Spanish,” and Cruz responding en español. Jeb Bush, countering Trump’s assault on George W. Bush’s national security record, said his brother built a “security apparatus” while Trump “was building a reality TV show.” But the last word belongs to South Carolina voters, who vote next Saturday in their GOP primary while Democrats face off in Nevada.

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    The Powers Agree, But Will Fighting Stop in Syria?

    Peace may not stand a chance. The U.S., Russia and other powers reached a cease-fire and humanitarian aid agreement, but it’s unclear how it can be implemented, given differences over which opposition groups are included, doubts that Moscow will halt airstrikes and rebels’ vows to keep fighting. Complicating things further are Turkey and Saudi Arabia, mulling sending in ground troops. Former CIA deputy director and OZY contributor John McLaughlin says the accord has “only a slight chance of holding,” but he’s hopeful that U.N. humanitarian aid will soon reach those suffering in Syria.

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    Will Kim Jong Un’s Saber Rattling Come Back to Bite Him?

    The Hermit Kingdom’s chubby leader applauded the launch of a long-range rocket last Sunday, raising eyebrows — and anger — in Beijing, Washington and Seoul, where leaders fear North Korea aims to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. The U.N. condemned the move, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to impose tougher sanctions, and additional Patriot missiles to defend the South are on their way. Kim’s also ruffling feathers by expelling southerners from the joint Kaesong industrial zone and executing some of his military leaders, which is raising questions about his stability.

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    Migrant Crisis Emboldens German Hate Preachers

    They’ve crossed a line. The head of the Alternative for Germany party recently said border guards should use guns to stop refugees — even women and children, added one of her colleagues. The comments signal an extreme right turn for the purportedly Euroskeptic group, enough to earn the disavowal of fellow party leaders. But AfD is the Federal Republic’s most popular political faction outside the governing coalition, and its appeal threatens to harden the way some Germans — long restrained by their brutal history — talk about immigration and ethnicity.

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    How American Women Feel About Guns

    This isn’t their target market. While new research has found that 12 percent of American women own guns, 33 percent of American men have at least one firearm, and men are also more likely to carry it in public. In addition, most women who own a gun say it makes them feel safer — whereas they believe men have developed a different mindset. These findings could translate into political change: 62 percent of women want stricter gun sale laws, and that’s a big number for politicians hoping to garner votes in November.

  8. Pope Warns Mexicans Against ‘Devil’s’ Lust for Money, Eastern U.S. Bundles up for Record Cold

    Pope warns 300,000 in Mexico against drug trade’s  ‘dealers of death.’ (NYT)

    Snowy 60-vehicle pileup kills motorists on eve of Eastern deep-freeze. (CNN)

    Earthquake collapses cliffs in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Reuters)

    Afghan war deaths, injuries hit record 11,000 in 2015. (Al Jazeera)

    British indie band Viola Beach killed in auto accident in Sweden. (BBC)


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    U.S. Math Whizzes Are Multiplying

    America’s turning into a math lab. National test scores are declining, but the country is seeing more and more teens in math camps and competitions that supplement sometimes meager instruction in high schools. Some of these adolescents are forging the country’s newfound global dominance in the subject, helping net the U.S. its first number-one finish at the International Mathematical Olympiad in 21 years. Parents are the common denominator, calculating that kids can succeed in a future that’s expected to be dominated by jobs requiring numbers know-how.

  2. Small pools of water stand on a dry section of Folsom Lake on March 20, 2014 in Granite Bay, California. Now in its third straight year of drought conditions, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and reservoirs thro

    Can Capitalism Wet the West’s Whistle?

    This might hold water. The priceless commodity in America’s drought-plagued West should cost more than a tenth of a cent per gallon, according to New York hedge fund boss Disque Deane Jr. He’s trying to convince farmers to sell their precious water rights — often dating back to the 1800s — so he can hydrate municipalities that can afford to pay more to allay their thirst. The supply-and-demand scheme is supported by conservationists, but others warn it could choke the food supply while hanging the poor out to dry.

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    The UK May Be Stuck With Europe

    As Britain prepares for a vote on whether it wants to remain part of the European Union, many are asking why anyone would want to leave such a powerful bloc. Some argue that Britain’s different from most member nations — countries that joined to erase their national memory of dictatorships, or those hoping European membership would be a ticket out of poverty. While the U.K. doesn’t share these historical sentiments, its economy is now more integrated with the EU than its former colonies — ties that would be tough to undo.

  4. People crowd into an internet cafe in China.

    Global Gaming Takes on New Frontier: China

    It’s a new Silk Road. Asian products have long headed west, but U.S.-based app and console game makers have only recently started adapting their products to sell overseas. China’s 366 million mobile gamers — more than the entire U.S. population — are in particularly high demand. Localization is a costly process that sometimes backfires, but when it succeeds, it offers a bonanza for developers. It’s giving rise to firms like Boston-based Oniix Mobile, which helps with translation, distribution patterns and more, so that in the digital arena, at least, East and West can meet.

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    The Science and Culture of Why Men Fight

    Can sense really be knocked into us? Thomas Page McBee, the first transgender man to box at Madison Square Garden, takes a swing at the allure of violence for men. Through a “mosaic of horrors” in preparing for a match, he discovered that a “framework of violence” can offer men a kind of intimacy not found outside the gym. OZY’s own fighting champ, Eugene Robinson, says the sport also takes “our relationship to our fists” a step closer “to being able to use them a little bit less than maybe we do now.”