The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Republican Congress Convenes to Target Obamacare

    They’re hitting the ground running. The 115th Congress gavels in today at noon, and repealing the Affordable Care Act is its first priority. With the incoming president on their side, Republicans have an ambitious tax- and regulation-slashing agenda. The House has reversed course on plans to gut an independent ethics watchdog committee, drawing criticism from Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the Democrats have vowed to make things difficult, though budget initiatives and Cabinet confirmations are filibuster-proof. President Obama, erecting as many roadblocks to Donald Trump as he can, meets with Democrats tomorrow to strategize about saving Obamacare.

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    Syrian Rebels Freeze Peace Negotiations

    It’s only been five days. A coalition of rebel groups including the Free Syrian Army has suspended preparation for peace talks in Kazakhstan later this month, saying government forces have repeatedly violated terms of the cease-fire and assaulted the rebel-held area of Wadi Barada. The region holds a key water supply for rebels, but isn’t included in the truce because a jihadist group operating there, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, isn’t part of the deal. Now Turkey and Russia, who organized the peace talks, must try to salvage their work.

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    Turkey Prepares for Another Hard Year in Wake of Massacre

    There’s no fresh start to be had. Turkish police have arrested 12 people allegedly connected with the gunman who killed 39 New Year’s revelers in an Istanbul nightclub. While authorities have his fingerprints and have released descriptions and photos, the perpetrator himself still hasn’t been apprehended. Meanwhile, families of the victims are offering heartfelt tributes as Turkey, which suffered several major terrorist attacks in 2016, prepares for a 2017 in which, analysts say, ISIS will likely be more open and violent in its war on Turkish citizens.

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    Early 401(k) Champions Not So Sure Anymore

    Maybe you can’t take this to the bank. Many analysts and executives who initially sold the idea of the 401(k) to the private sector now say they regret it, with some arguing it was never meant to replace company pension plans, but simply supplement them. Instead, market volatility, longer lifespans and the opportunity for employers to save pension expenses have left many Americans with deeply inadequate savings: 45 percent of households have no savings for retirement at all. Some 401(k) backers are now pushing for stronger regulations on retirement plans.

  5. Dylann Roof’s Defense, Trump’s Inflammatory Tweets and the Iowa Town Reinventing Itself

    Know This: Charleston gunman Dylann Roof will represent himself in the penalty phase of his trial, which begins today. At least four people were killed when what’s thought to have been a tornado touched down in Alabama. And President-elect Donald Trump taunted North Korea and China on Twitter.

    Read This: A tiny Iowa town is hoping to become a destination vacation for Chinese tourists, despite barely being a destination for Midwesterners.  

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    Rebecca Ferguson’s Trump Inauguration Protest

    Your move, Donald. The former British X Factor contestant revealed that she was asked to perform at Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration — but she’ll only appear if she can sing the Black protest song “Strange Fruit.” First recorded by Billie Holiday in 1937 and famously covered by Nina Simone, it describes America’s history of lynchings. While Ferguson hasn’t received an official response, several big names have reportedly declined offers to headline the event, but the Rockettes, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and former America’s Got Talent contestant Jackie Evancho are signed on.

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    Finnish Government Starts Free Money Experiment

    You can’t eat idle speculation. Universal basic income, or UBI, has become an increasingly popular idea. While some argue that it encourages laziness, there’s little actual data available. Enter Finland, where a pilot program will give 2,000 currently unemployed people about $590 per month for two years, continuing even if they find jobs. It’ll offer the least-populated EU country insight into its own future — and serve, alongside a 12-year study in Kenya and a pilot project in Oakland, as a valuable test case for others considering UBI’s benefits.

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    New York Subway Line Opens After Nearly a Century

    Expect delays, they said. New York’s Second Avenue subway line, first envisioned in 1919, has finally opened after decades of planning and setbacks. It was postponed in 1929 and again in the 1970s, becoming something of a never-gonna-happen urban legend even as construction finally began in 2004. Now partial service is running on the four-station line, with 24-hour trains scheduled to begin Jan. 9 — and hopes that the money will keep rolling in long enough to build the line’s planned extension into Harlem.

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    Industrial Internet of Things Expanding — For Better or Worse

    The revolution’s coming. With connected locomotives, tractor trailers, wind farms and more, some companies are betting that the Internet of Things could generate $11 trillion in value annually by 2025. But improvements in efficiency don’t benefit everyone: Much of that money’s expected to come from automation, causing a “major disruption” for workers in some industries. But the actual ramifications are nearly impossible to predict, as everything from hospitals to power grids gets programmed to work together and tech giants like Google and Amazon begin to hop on board.

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    Lane Kiffin Departs Alabama on Eve of CFP Title Game

    They called it a mutual decision. But head coach Nick Saban clearly wanted to be rid of the brash offensive coordinator who complained about his job to Sports Illustrated, and the Crimson Tide mustered little offense in Saturday’s playoff win against Washington. Instead of striding the sidelines in the championship game, Kiffin, who has a history of early departures, will begin sooner than expected as head coach of Florida Atlantic. Former USC coach Steve Sarkisian takes over Alabama’s play-calling for the Jan. 9 matchup against Clemson.