The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Loved and Feared, Castro Couldn’t be Ignored

    For half a century, he was the enemy at America’s doorstep. Fidel Castro, who died Friday, was remembered as a “singular figure” by President Obama, a “brutal dictator” by President-Elect Donald Trump and lionized by 22-year-old Elian Gonzalez, rescued in 1999 at age 5 from the Caribbean off of Florida and whose federally forced repatriation probably tilted the 2000 presidential election against Democrat Al Gore. Now Miami’s Cuban diaspora hopes their homeland will tilt democratic, while those in Cuba fear Trump will reverse Obama’s easing of diplomatic, travel and trade restrictions.

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    Trump Blasts Recount Effort as a ‘Scam’

    Is it necessary? On Friday, third-party candidates initiated a recount in Wisconsin, and on Saturday popular vote leader Hillary Clinton’s campain agreed to participate. Green Party nominee Jill Stein and an obscure counterpart mounted the challenge, and Stein’s planning to file for recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan by their respective Monday and Wednesday deadlines. The impetus is to rule out efforts by a foreign government to skew tallies — particularly in electronic voting — but the Obama administration urged acceptance of the results and electoral college winner Donald Trump called the challenges a “scam” 

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    Cuban Leader Fidel Castro Dies at Age 90

    He outlived them all. Fidel Castro ruled the Caribbean nation for 49 years, surviving American assassination attempts and a nuclear missile standoff, establishing himself as America’s most persistent Cold War adversary. Cheered as he liberated the island from dictatorship in 1959, the communist icon brutally silenced dissent, driving millions of Cubans into exile. He became ill and went into seclusion in 2008, ceding power to his brother Raúl. His death late Friday inspired both tributes and celebrations, including shouts of “Cuba libre!” in Miami’s Little Havana, where anti-Castro sentiment has long nurtured Cuban-American conservatism.

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    Will Italy’s Referendum Be Another Populist Upset?

    Si o no. On Dec. 4, Italian voters will vote Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s governmental reorganization up or down — with Renzi arguing that a “yes” victory will bring stability to an economically troubled nation. Many European analysts agree, saying a now-favored “no” vote would be the next populist domino to fall after Brexit and Donald Trump’s triumphs. But others caution that the changes, which neuter Italy’s senate and guarantee a majority to the leading party, could backfire by empowering the euroskeptic Five Star Movement, already polling closely behind Renzi’s Democratic party.

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    The Terrorist Assigned to Abort ISIS

    Could he have stopped them? In 2006, an al-Qaida operative named Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi was reportedly on his way to stem the tide that became ISIS. The group didn’t announce itself until 2014, but it became official a day after Abd al-Hadi was captured by Turkish authorities eight years earlier. Had he finished his mission to heal the jihadist rift, it’s thought he’d have done something — either through persuasion or revolt — to throttle ISIS in its crib. Instead, he’s locked up in Guantanamo, a living footnote to history.

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    ‘Sanctuary’ Campus Movement Tries to Define Itself

    Safe spaces are elusive. Since Donald Trump cruised to victory while pledging to deport illegal immigrants en masse, student activists have been urging administrators to protect vulnerable students. Wesleyan University was the first to declare itself a “sanctuary campus,” but the pledge, like the movement itself, is vague. Other colleges are saying they won’t voluntarily turn over immigration status information to the feds and will offer undocumented students legal assistance. But that could risk loss of federal funding, not to mention legal action, considering Trump has threatened to withhold money from cities protecting immigrants.

  7. Shootings in New Orleans Kill One, Injure Nine, Truly Cold Criminals and Confining America’s Foreign Footprint

    Know This: Mysterious shootings in New Orleans early today killed one person and wounded nine others, police said. Former French prime minister Francois Fillion has won the presidential nomination for his center-right Republicans party.  And Syrian government troops have driven rebels out of a key district of Aleppo.

    Thaw This: You can’t get much more noir than a never-ending Finnish winter night. Authors Kati Hiekkapelto and Antti Tuomainen talk about solving crime in the frozen north in the latest Guardian Books podcast.

    Consider This: Could the disgruntled U.S. electorate be right about foreign policy? Should America not try to fix so many of the world’s problems? “The record, after all, is not very impressive. So far this century, America has failed to achieve most of the key national-security objectives it has set for itself.”


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    Can Three Days of Health Care Change Appalachia?

    It’s not a first-world problem. More than 2,000 people gather for three days in July at a pop-up clinic in Southwest Virginia provided by 31-year-old Remote Area Medical. The charity offers a range of care to a few of the 33 million Americans who lack health insurance. For impoverished visitors to the dental clinic, sometimes sleeping in cars for days to be seen, it’s a chance to expose festering decay — not just in their teeth, but in a health care system desperate for a remedy.

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    Should There Be a PETA for Robots?

    We’ve long argued over animal rights — RIP Harambe — but what about robots? Our developing relationship with artificial intelligence is forcing us to reconsider notions of ethics and empathy, even if robots don’t suffer. With cases like hitchBOT, a hitchhiking robot that someone decapitated in Philadelphia, and a mine-clearing machine spared “inhumane” mutilation, people are expressing empathy toward these technically inanimate objects. While it may seem ridiculous to many, treating “things” humanely may be less about seeing ourselves in them than it is about proving we haven’t lost our own humanity.

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    In the Developing World, Copyright Law Is Academic

    Photocopiers have become the Napster of academia. In India, it’s common practice for students to learn from photocopies of expensive, Western-published textbooks. Oxford and Cambridge University Presses recently sued Delhi University for allowing distribution of photocopied course packs. But an Indian court threw their case out, saying strict academic copyright laws disproportionately affect India’s access to higher education. Having lost similar cases in Costa Rica and even the U.S. state of Georgia, publishers — and authors — may find their textbooks aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

    Photocopy Revolution

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    How a Posh Gallery Hustled Street Artists

    Exposure works both ways. Justin Giarla, founder of the hugely successful street-art gallery White Walls in San Francisco, developed a rep for selling art on consignment and keeping the proceeds. Fearing his clout in the community, many artists stayed silent. But some — from the world-famous to local phenoms — fought Giarla in court and won hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements. This summer, as angry creators closed in, he sold the gallery for more than $3 million and left town, leaving numerous painters and sculptors wondering if they’ll ever collect.

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    From NFL Pick to Serial Killer

    He knew how to run routes. As a star receiver in college, Randall Woodfield got a shot at a Green Bay Packers career in the 1970s by shaking off defenders. But something wasn’t right, and the team dropped him. Soon afterward, he took another route: He’s now called the I-5 Killer, imprisoned for one Pacific Northwest murder, implicated in as many as 44 others and featured in an Ann Rule true-crime novel. A fresh look at the handsome athlete’s history finds that football may have delayed, rather than helped incite, his homicidal drive.