The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Fighters and Civilians to Leave Syrian Town After Four-Year Siege

    The aid convoys are already rolling in. Darayya has been under siege by government forces since 2012, meaning entrenched rebel groups Ajnad al-Sham and the Martyrs of Islam didn’t have much choice about signing a deal. Now 8,000 civilians and 800 rebels will be given passage out of the city as the Syrian government takes control. The civilian residents of the Damascus suburb will be relocated to government shelters and the rebels will move on to Idlib, a city held by a rebel coalition.

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    French Top Court Suspends Burkini Ban

    They’re making a splash. France’s highest administrative court today suspended one coastal town’s ban on full-body “burkini” swimsuits. The court said Villeneuve-Loubet’s ban “seriously and clearly illegally breached fundamental freedoms to come and go, freedom of beliefs and individual freedom.” A final decision on the legality of the bans is pending, but many believe this move will lead to rollbacks in 30 other towns. Polls show that most French people supported the bans as a means of protecting public order and secularism, but opponents say they do nothing but “promote public humiliation.”

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    Clinton Ties Trump to Hate Groups; He Calls Her a ‘Bigot’

    The hoods are off. Hillary Clinton launched a blistering attack yesterday, tying Donald Trump to “alt-right” racists who’ve supported his candidacy and accusing the Republican of “taking hate groups mainstream.” Trump countered that Clinton’s the “bigot” who only sees people of color as votes, while her policies have failed them. As he reaches out to minorities, Trump’s contorted himself into a pretzel on his signature nationalist issue — opening the door for limited illegal immigrant amnesty, then shutting it, confounding anyone trying to predict the next twist.

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    Italy Questions Safety Standards After Deadly Quake

    It’s too little, too late. Though Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has pledged $56 million to earthquake relief efforts following this week’s 6.2-magnitude temblor, which killed 267 people, many wonder why the region was so unprepared. Central Italy’s known to be highly seismically active, but less than 20 percent of its buildings comply with earthquake safety standards, according to one expert. Renzi says he’ll make emergency preparedness a priority — and that earthquake-proofing medieval towns isn’t easy — but that’s cold comfort for villages that may never recover.

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    Car Bomb Kills 11 at Turkish Police HQ

    Fingers are pointing already. A dozen ambulances rushed to the rubble of what had been a three-story building in Cizre, a town in southeastern Turkey, where a huge explosion killed nearly a dozen police officers and wounded scores. The car tried to pass a checkpoint outside police headquarters, but exploded when police refused passage. State media’s blaming Kurdish PKK separatists, who’ve been on the offensive since a ceasefire collapsed last year — and the Turkish government says it won’t negotiate with them until they disarm completely.

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    Land Rush in Texas Indicates Oil May Rebound

    Just follow the money. Though oil prices are in a two-year slump — October crude hit $47.33 per barrel yesterday — and minor price rallies have come to nothing, hope springs eternal. Blackstone Group LP is investing $1.5 billion in deals to drill in the Texas-New Mexico Permian Basin, and several other firms are snapping up properties, with half the $25.5 billion spent on stateside drilling land in 2016 going to the area. But some feel the Permian craze is a bubble that’ll bankrupt investors if oil prices remain subterranean.

  7. Crossbows in Canada, Rate Hike Pondering and the PDB Quiz

    Know This: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen believes the case for a rate hike has strengthened in recent months. Three people in Canada have died in what appears to be a crossbow attack. Oscar Pistorius tried to challenge his six-year jail sentence — and failed. And striking Bolivian mine workers have reportedly beaten the country’s deputy interior minister to death after he tried to mediate labor talks. 

    Word of the Day: Papahānaumokuākea. That’s the existing marine monument near Hawaii that Obama’s expected to quadruple the size of today, creating the world’s largest protected natural area. Oh, and here’s how you pronounce it.

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


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    Researchers Discover Nearby ‘Ghost Galaxy’

    There’s something strange in the cosmic ’hood. Dark matter, the theoretical stuff that must mathematically make up 27 percent of the universe, has never been seen because it doesn’t reflect light. But a galaxy newly discovered by researchers at Keck Observatory in Hawaii, dubbed Dragonfly 44, is thought to be 99.9 percent dark matter. Though it’s only 330 million light years away, the galaxy’s so dark that sky scanners missed it — and scientists believe there must be many more, sparking hope of detecting an elusive dark matter particle they can study.

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    Orlando Shooting Victims’ Hospital Charges Waived

    It was the least they could do. While two hospitals that treated victims of the June Pulse nightclub shooting say they’ll bill insurance, they won’t charge those who were injured or killed for anything insurance doesn’t cover. Fifty people died and dozens were wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in American history, and the hospitals’ gesture is expected to cost about $5.5 million. As uninsured people increasingly turn to crowdfunding for healthcare, this decision — prompted by charitable outreach — has also been held up as an indictment of a broken U.S. medical system.

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    WhatsApp to Share User Data With Facebook

    What don’t they know? Though it’s prized for protecting privacy with end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp is now set to turn over users’ phone numbers to Facebook, which bought the messaging service in 2014. Facebook and partners such as Instagram will be able to use the info for ad targeting, unless WhatsApp users tick the opt-out box. WhatsApp dropped its $1 subscription fee in January and has to earn its keep somehow — but data sharing could prompt FTC sanctions if the opt-out procedure elicits too many confused emojis.

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    Atheist Indian Street Artist Aims for the Divine

    It’s high art in low places. That’s what Harshvardhan Kadam produces in Pune, Goa and Varanasi, mixing commissioned works with passion projects for all to see. Kadam, 33, is part of an Indian street art boom that takes advantage of the country’s colorful thoroughfares — and lack of legal repercussions. Kadam, with his studio Inkbrushnme, is developing a style based on religious and mythological imagery — through the self-described atheist considers Hindu gods more like “superheroes” — that serves to interpret ancient stories in the public square