The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Fiery Texas Balloon Crash Likely Worst in U.S. History

    Was it preventable? A hot air balloon carrying 16 passengers caught fire and crashed south of Austin Saturday morning. With no survivors, it’s likely the deadliest such U.S. crash.  It occurred near high-voltage transmission lines and a witness reported hearing popping sounds when the balloon, reportedly operated by Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloon Rides, went down. It’s the world’s worst balloon crash since 19 were killed in Luxor, Egypt in 2013. A year later, the National Transportation Safety Board urged that balloon operators be subject to federal licensing and inspection.

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    Trump’s Jab at Fallen Soldier’s Parents Sparks Firestorm

    Add it to the outrage pile. Donald Trump scrambled to divert an avalanche of criticism Sunday, in the wake of his response to a Democratic National Convention appearance by Muslim immigrant Gold Star parents. Trump implied that Islam precluded mother Ghazala Khan from speaking — which she shot down by speaking publicly — and Khizr Khan had “no right” to criticize him. As prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, disagreed with their nominee, running mate Mike Pence put out a conciliatory statement to try to clean up the growing campaign crisis.

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    Is Brazil Ready for the Games?

    The hosts rarely are. Opening ceremonies in Rio are set for Friday, but many wonder how the Olympics can begin in light of the Zika threat and lodgings so riddled with problems Australians refuse to move in. But U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps will be there for his fifth and final time, along with Jamaican running phenom Usain Bolt and Uzbekistani Oksana Chusovitina — the Games’ oldest gymnast at 41. With three Brazilian presidents saying they’ll skip the festivities to protest the acting government, a look at past Olympics suggests chaos is often the first event.

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    Conventions End and the Battle Is Joined

    Like Will Rogers, they don’t belong to an organized party. Last week the Democrats began their convention by removing the party’s chairwoman after likely Russian-hacked emails showed staffers opposed runner-up Bernie Sanders. Then came the love, with Sanders lauding Hillary Clinton’s nomination, and prospective first hubby Bill Clinton waxing poetic about his famously rocky marriage. President Obama gave his former chief diplomat a hug for the history books, and Friday she enjoyed a post-convention bump, with a lead of 1 to 16 points over Donald Trump as the November countdown commences.

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    Federal Judges Overturn Voting Restrictions in Two Swing States

    Their votes count. Two federal court decisions could affect the outcome of the Nov. 8 elections by relaxing voting restrictions in North Carolina and Wisconsin — two closely contested states. The ruling by the Court of Appeals in Richmond invalidated North Carolina’s driver’s license requirement and election-day registration prohibition, which the court found would suppress Black voting “with almost surgical precision.” In Wisconsin, a District Court lifted selected restrictions that it said aimed to suppress Black voting in Milwaukee, but the state could appeal before the general election.

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    Can Trump Hack His Relationship With Vladimir Putin?

    It’s a curious bromance. Last week, the Republican presidential nominee horrified old-school conservatives by suggesting Russia “find” and release Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. Then came news Friday that Russia probably hacked a Clinton campaign database. Trump also recently suggested he’d put preconditions on defending NATO countries against a Russian invasion, and he’s praised Putin’s hard-edged leadership. Some wonder if and when this special relationship will sour. If Russia can hack the Democrats’ servers, we might end up seeing the Donald’s tax returns — after the election.

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    Maybe 2016 Is More Than We Can Handle

    We’re “tired of living in interesting times.” That sentiment was retweeted more than 1,000 times, and few would question it. In just a few weeks, Europe has been rocked by violence usually limited to the Middle East. Racial strife is dividing Americans, European far-right parties are going mainstream, and Turkey — once a pivotal bastion of democratic stability — seems on the brink of civil war. Swiss writer Mathieu von Rohr posits that social media, while overwhelming us with such crises, can also help us play a part in solving them.

  8. Trump Tells Muslim Soldier’s Dad ‘I’ve Made a Lot of Sacrifices,’ ‘Safe Corridors’ Said to Allow Aleppo Families to Escape Fighting

    Trump, in spat with fallen Muslim GI’s dad: “I’ve made a lot of sacrifices.” (CNN)

    Dozens of families leave Aleppo via humanitarian corridors, regime says. (BBC)

    More than 75 injured as Armenians clash with police in Yerevan. (AP)

    New Hampshire Powerball vendor sells winning $487 million ticket. (NBC)

    Belgian police arrest two in raids aimed at stopping new terror plot. (CNN)

    Gunman kills three at suburban Seattle house party. (NYDN)


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    Inside Syria’s Secret Underground Library

    Where there’s a word, there’s a way. The rebel-held Damascus suburb of Darayya is besieged and bombed, and students have been forced to stop going to school. So a team of local volunteers has collected 14,000 books — many from destroyed buildings — and cares for them in a hidden underground library. Its volumes teach amateur medics how to treat wounds and give the community the inspiration to keep going. But with many expecting that Darayya will soon fall to government troops, nobody knows what the next chapter will bring.

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    Facebook’s New Frontier: VR Hardware

    He’s building a new reality. With endless news feeds, videos, posts and commentary of every description, Mark Zuckerberg knows virtual. But now Facebook wants to put something on your actual face — to explore new environments. The social media giant bought VR headset maker Oculus for $2 billion in 2014 and sees it as the next horizon for connecting the world: Imagine a full sensory experience of a riot, live. It’s a departure for a company that’s never delved into hardware, but its mission is no less than developing VR the way Apple redefined the smartphone.

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    He Wants to Infuse Your Blood With Killer Robots

    Say “hello” to his little friends. Spanish chemist Samuel Sánchez is a leader in the emerging field of nanorobots, which can be designed to enter your bloodstream, carrying medicine or sensors, and then disintegrate. They now take a year to biodegrade — a time line he’s working to shorten — but he insists these self-propelled bots will attack cancer cells or deliver targeted drugs. The 36-year-old even imagines nanorobots doing their jobs autonomously without outside direction, but it may be 15 years before they get their license to kill.

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    Meet the Architect Who Became a Diamond — Literally

    It’s a new spin on “body of work.” One conceptual artist is out to reclaim a renowned Mexican architect’s legacy. After Luis Barragán’s 1988 death, a Swiss businessman bought his archive — including rights to his name and designs — as an engagement present for his fiancée, Federica Zanco. Now, Barragán’s family has allowed artist Jill Magid to make an extraordinary statement about ownership and corporate power. She’s compressed Barragán’s ashes into an engagement diamond, included in her multimedia piece called The Proposal, and offered it to Zanco in exchange for reopening the archive.

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    Is Pro Wrestling Growing Up?

    Change or get smacked down. The basic formula of heroes and villains, of rigged fights and intrigue, remains in place. But look closely and you’ll see a shift in the World Wrestling Entertainment format. Local, no-shot underdogs are getting a chance. Female wrestlers have new prominence. The production is starting to resemble mainstream sports. Winners and matchups are less predictable. But the future depends on bankable stars after wrestler John Cena ends his current reign, and the charismatic Enzo Amore is proving he can work the mic as well as the ring.