The Presidential Daily Brief


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    First Black Box Found in Deadly Russian Plane Crash

    The aircraft was “technically fit” and its pilot “well prepared.” That’s what a Russian Air Force general says of the Tu-154 that crashed into the Black Sea Christmas morning, killing all 92 aboard. So why did the antiquated jet suddenly disappear from radar after refueling in Sochi, en route from Moscow to Syria? Officials are downplaying the possibility of terrorism, but they may get answers from a flight data recorder recovered today. It will be analyzed in Moscow as investigators try to locate the second black box.

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    Japanese PM Offers ‘Everlasting Condolences’ at Pearl Harbor

    Reconciliation was in the air. Shinzo Abe joined Barack Obama at the site of the 1941 Japanese attack on Hawaii that launched U.S. involvement in World War II, offering remorse but not an apology. While Japanese leaders have toured Honolulu before, Abe’s visit is the first at the memorial above the sunken USS Arizona, and comes six months after Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, where the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb in 1945. It was Obama’s final meeting with a foreign leader, with less than a month left in his presidency.

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    Obama Says He’d Have Won Third Term; Trump Disagrees

    Let’s play a hypothetical. In a friendly podcast interview with his former political strategist, Barack Obama said Hillary Clinton played it too safe because she thought she was winning. The outgoing president told David Axelrod he would’ve won had he run again, and he said Democrats’ failings with the white working class aren’t an issue of bad policy but of not “communicating … that we’re bleeding for these communities.” Donald Trump retorted on Twitter: “NO WAY!” citing Obamacare and ISIS as reasons he would have beaten Obama.

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    Brawling Teens Disrupt Multiple US Shopping Malls

    They took Boxing Day too literally. At least 15 shopping malls in states from Arizona to Connecticut suffered disturbances the day after Christmas. Teenagers brawled in food courts, shoppers panicked at false reports of gunshots, and in one instance fireworks were set off indoors. Some shopping centers were evacuated because of the incidents, apparently organized on social media, including malls in both Aurora, Colorado, and Aurora, Illinois. Authorities in Texas described the fights as “staged,” and many were caught on video — a holiday gift for police as they investigate.

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    Cost of Failing Italian Bank Bailout Balloons

    The hole is getting bigger. Italy’s third largest lender, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, is on the verge of collapse — but yesterday the European Central Bank cautioned that its “rapid deterioration” in liquidity means that the planned government bailout will cost $9.2 billion instead of the expected $5.2 billion. Last Friday, the government approved a $20.9 billion fund to prop up its banks, but some experts worry that if more banks wind up in trouble, the Italian public could be on the hook for even more bailout cash.

  6. Argentine Charges, Israel’s Defiance, Abe Pays His Respects and the Fate of Carnegie Deli

    Know This: Former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner faces corruption charges. Israel’s planning to move forward with new settlements, despite a U.N. Security Council vote condemning just that. The rebel-held Syrian city of Idlib is being overwhelmed by wounded from nearby Aleppo. And today Shinzo Abe becomes the first Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbor.

    2016’s Last Victim? New York’s famous Carnegie Deli is shutting down this week after 79 years in business.

    Talk to Us: We want your feedback on the PDB — what you think we’re doing right and what we should be doing differently. Send us an email at


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    Writer, Actress, Rebel Leader Carrie Fisher Dies at Age 60

    May the Force always be with her. The iconic Princess Leia actress went into cardiac arrest on a flight from London to Los Angeles last Friday and died yesterday. In recent months, the indomitable performer had been promoting her memoir, The Princess Diarist, and completing her scenes for the next installment of Star Wars. Fans worldwide are grieving, remembering her not only for the epic space drama, but also for her biting humor, her activism and her brave observations about her struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction.

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    Mobile Home Communities Are Prime for Exploitation

    They just want to live the American dream. But those who turn to trailers as an affordable way to become a homeowner often find themselves operating within feudal-esque power structures, with unelected, unaccountable park owners controlling water, sewage, and the land beneath everyone else’s feet. The residents of America’s estimated 8 million trailers often have nowhere to turn for financial and legal help — and with the value of mobile homes plummeting, it’s more and more difficult for people to pull up stakes and seek out new lives elsewhere.

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    Police Union Targets Amazon’s Black Lives Matter Apparel

    Retail sales matter. The Fraternal Order of Police wrote an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging the removal of a third-party vendor’s T-shirt that reads “Bulletproof: Black Lives Matter.” Wal-Mart recently yanked the same shirt after the FOP complained it could encourage attacks on police, while the movement’s defenders say it’s built on nonviolent protests against unjust police killings of Black men. As of today, the shirt was listed as “currently unavailable” on Amazon, but other Black Lives Matter gear is still for sale.

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    Robot Marriages Might Not Just Be Science Fiction

    It’s one way to say “I do.” The solution to bad marriages might be wedding robots instead, according to Adrian Cheok, director of Singapore’s Mixed Reality Lab. He thinks it’s possible that such unions will be legal within 35 years. Sex with robots is certain to roll out sooner, futurists say, but with artificial intelligence on the rise, some think robots will become sophisticated enough for deeper emotional interaction. That could lead to the possibility of fulfilling human-robot relationships — though ethical concerns already abound.

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    Britney Spears, Still Alive, Hit With Twitter Death Hoax

    Brit can survive even 2016. A day after George Michael’s shocking death, hackers hit the verified Twitter accounts for Sony Music Global and Bob Dylan to prematurely bury another iconic pop star. Though the first fake-news tweet was amateurish — “britney spears is dead by accident! we will tell you more soon” — it spread quickly and forced Spears’ representatives to declare the 35-year-old “alive and well.” It’s unclear who launched the hoax, and Spears herself responded later with goofy selfies.

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    Lions’ Flop Leaves NFC Unsettled, AFC Playoffs Set

    Motor City cooled its engines. With a chance to clinch an NFL postseason bid, Detroit collapsed in the second half last night as Dallas dispatched the visitors 42-21 to remain the class of the NFC. The Lions’ Sunday night matchup with Green Bay will settle the division — and could be an elimination game if Washington secures a playoff berth in the afternoon. In the AFC, New England, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Kansas City and Miami have all clinched, with only the seeding yet to be settled.