The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Graffiti Threatened EgyptAir Airbus’ Demise

    It’s a disturbing coincidence. Two years ago, the A320 that crashed into the Mediterranean Thursday was painted with the words, “We will bring this plane down” by Cairo ground crew protesting Egypt’s President. Investigators nonetheless haven’t narrowed possible causes of the tragedy, ranging from terrorism to technical failure. Data from Paris-to-Cairo Flight MS804 reportedly indicate a loss of flight control and smoke alarms. Some remains of the 66 onboard have been recovered, and now an Egyptian submarine has been deployed to find the plane and its flight recorders between Crete and Egypt.

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    Austria’s Would-Be Far-Right Leader Statistically Tied

    It’s too close to call. Widely expected to win today’s presidential election, gun-loving Norbert Hofer’s projected vote tally is statistically even with former Greens leader Alexander van der Bellen. The Freedom Party’s Hofer, 45, would be Europe’s first elected far-right leader since Austrian-born Adolf Hitler. Identifying his nation’s threats as Islam, refugees, the EU and globalization, Hofer promises to put “Austria first.” If he wins after mail-in votes are counted tomorrow, he will certainly be first in the minds of those warning of Europe’s descent into xenophobic populism.

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    Drone Strike Kills Taliban Leader Mullah Mansour

    It was not exaggerated. A senior Taliban commander has confirmed the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who took over the Taliban after the death of Mullah Omar — concealed for two years — became known last summer. He was reportedly killed by an armed U.S. drone as he traveled in a vehicle in Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province near the Afghan  border. Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abudullah said it’s good news for ordinary Afghans, as Mansour stepped up violent attacks, and for stalled peace negotiations, as he was “the main figure” preventing the Taliban from joining the process.

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    Carrots and Sticks to Battle at G-7 Summit

    Spare the rod, spoil the economy? That’s not what American and Japanese leaders believe as they prepare to meet with the Group of Seven industrialized economies on Thursday and Friday. Advocates of stimulating growth — even to the point of printing currency — they’re expected to engage in a “frank exchange of views” with their British and German counterparts, who believe austerity is the remedy for global economic sluggishness. The answer, it seems, is a “go your own way” strategy, which is likely to yield vastly different approaches — and results.

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    Venezuela’s Embattled Leader Has Few Friends Left

    He’s on a slippery slope. Once propped up by some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, Venezuela is facing the realities of cheap oil and a government-controlled economy, with President Nicolas Maduro clinging to power amid growing calls for his ouster. Rampant crime has sparked vigilante justice — including the immolation of a man who reportedly stole $5. Now Maduro’s trying to laugh off being called “mad as a goat” by an old socialist peer, and he’s mobilizing troops to fend off “foreign” threats as his government lurches toward disaster.

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    The Long and Messy History of Public Bathrooms

    They’re flush with victory. With the federal government challenging bills that restrict the transgender community’s access to restrooms, it’s easy to forget that having gender-segregated public bathrooms wasn’t always “normal.” For more than a century, women have had to fight for bathrooms they could use in public spaces — congresswomen didn’t get their own WC until 2011 — and deep-seated cultural anxieties about restrooms have been codified into laws promoting gender and racial segregation. Now some architects are calling for multi-stall bathrooms that welcome all those in need of a pee.


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    Maryland Let a Bunch of Murderers Go … and Nothing Happened

    It’s liberating. A 2012 state appeals court ruling on outdated jury instructions helped 142 felons go free, decades after they were put behind bars for committing murder and other violent crimes. The ex-convicts’ adjustment to an unfamiliar world has been jarring. But “the Unger family” — named for the still-incarcerated man whose case set the other inmates free — formed a tight bond. None has violated parole or been sent back to prison, raising questions that challenge our preconceptions about justice and the American way.

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    The Gaming Industry Grows Up

    The rules have changed. Gone are the days of video-game makers headquartered in expensive offices with production centered on seven-year life cycles of popular consoles. Now Xboxes and PlayStations get upgraded mid-cycle, and independent, far-flung networks of game developers rule from virtual studios. Like so many other industries, gaming promotion and sales have been disrupted by the broadband era that allowed product to be distributed digitally. And while the new age is less stable, it has opened the door to wide-ranging innovation — that gamers can purchase from their sofas.

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    Why Don’t We Collect Data on Women?

    Short answer: sexism. Human rights campaigners and researchers complain that traditional data collection is leaving a patchy picture of women’s lives. Employment surveys, for example, often ignore housewives who also have part-time jobs, and many official stats fail to break down results by gender. It’s difficult to tackle problems like domestic violence and maternal mortality without proper measurements. So the U.N. is enlisting 10 countries to test a new framework for enumerating unpaid work, like cooking and cleaning, to begin filling the female data gap.

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    Meet Hollywood’s King of Tiny Budgets

    Bye, big spender. While Hollywood doubles down — often spending $100 million on dubious projects — Eric Fleischman, 26, is slashing zeros with the zeal of a management consultant, writes OZY’s Libby Coleman. This young producer, who offers first-time directors their big break while aiming to give “microbudget” films a good name, has premiered two flicks at Sundance, including sci-fi thriller Sleight, and sold several others. He’s no Jerry Bruckheimer — yet — but after selling five features to major distributors, Fleischman may be worth the gamble.

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    South Korea Imports Foreign Talent for Hockey Glory

    They’re skating around the problem. As it prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, Seoul has beefed up its hockey team by softening its opposition to embracing foreign athletes. With five Canadians and one American on the ice — all of whom played on the fringes of professional hockey back home — the team is starting to slide away from its dismal history and toward international success. And besides having two North American coaches on the payroll, a sixth Canadian ringer is set to glide in soon.