The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Obama Defends Commutation of Chelsea Manning’s Sentence

    The U.S. president today defended his decision to set in motion the early release of the former Army intel analyst, who is serving a 35-year sentence for leaking classified material. Manning will be released on May 17, rather than in 2045 as scheduled — a decision that some Republicans have labeled as a dangerous precedent. Obama is not pardoning Manning but noted — in his final press conference as president — that ”Justice has been served.” Manning’s release could lead to Julian Assange facing a U.S. court: The WikiLeaks founder recently said he’d agree to extradition if Obama commuted Manning’s sentence.

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    Underwater Search for MH370 Suspended Without Answers

    They’ve given up — for now. Malaysian, Australian and Chinese authorities working together on the search for the plane that mysteriously vanished in March 2014 say that after scouring more than 46,300 square miles of ocean, they’re suspending the operation indefinitely. Some family members of the 239 people aboard have appealed to authorities to resume the search, saying it’s “irresponsible” to stop now. Only a few pieces of debris confirmed to be from the plane have been found, but officials expressed hope that new evidence might yet come to light.

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    Trump Meets With MLK’s Son After Lewis Spat

    It won’t be that easy. On the holiday honoring his father’s legacy, Martin Luther King III met with the president-elect — even as Donald Trump’s sparring with civil rights hero John Lewis further strained relations with the Black community. King said they discussed a plan for a free national ID that could ease the wedge issue of voter ID laws, and that Trump emphasized unity. But Black leaders say policies will matter more than photo ops. Meanwhile, more than 30 members of Congress have joined Lewis’ boycott of Friday’s inauguration.

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    Tobacco Giants Agree to $49.4 Billion Takeover Deal

    Got a match? Twelve years ago, British American Tobacco acquired 42.3 percent of Reynolds American, which manufactures Camel cigarettes and is the leader in the U.S. e-cigarette market. Now, after a decade of agreed-upon standstill, BAT wants the rest of Reynolds — and it’s negotiated a $49.4 billion price tag for the remaining shares in a deal that’ll create the world’s biggest publicly traded tobacco company. Shares in BAT rose 1 percent as the deal, which still needs to be approved by shareholders, was announced today.

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    UK Prime Minister: Britain Won’t Stay in Single Market

    Cue the scramble. Theresa May had long signaled that staying in the EU’s single market wouldn’t be a goal of Brexit, despite the potential devastation for British industries that depend on the tariff-free trade with EU countries that the single market promises. Now she’s made it official in a highly anticipated speech, and financial markets, automakers and other businesses are swiftly drawing up contingency plans. This comes as the UK Supreme Court announces it’ll release a decision about the government’s appeal to trigger Article 50 next week, determining the timeline for Brexit.

  6. Nigerians Mistakenly Bomb Refugee Camp, Snowy Dangers, Car Prices and Shark Science

    Know This: Nigerian air strike error kills scores. Staff of an Antarctic research station will be brought home due to safety concerns about a crack in the ice shelf. Donald Trump warned BMW and Volkswagen Monday that he’ll levy a 35 percent tariff on any car not made on U.S. soil. And a German court has blocked a ban on the ultranationalist far-right NPD party.

    Single Mom: A female leopard shark at an Australian aquarium, separated from male sharks, has become the first of her kind known to switch from traditional mating to asexual reproduction. She hatched three eggs this year, and all the pups only carry cells from their mother.

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    Last Man to Walk on Moon, Gene Cernan, Dies at 82

    He was out of this world. The large, gregarious astronaut flew in space three times, and was one of only three men to visit the moon twice. The former naval aviator’s first launch in 1966 was nearly a disaster: He became exhausted during a spacewalk and almost didn’t make it back to the hatch. His December 1972 Apollo 17 mission — Cernan’s commentary as he exited the lunar module: “Oh my golly! Unbelievable!” — was the last time NASA sent a human to the moon.

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    Mass Incarceration Has Changed How Black Children Learn

    Prison changes lives on the outside too. Kids are directly impacted by disproportionately high rates of incarceration for people of color, a new study shows. One in 7 Black adolescents has had a parent in jail, which has a huge impact on developmental psychology and family life. But new research shows that mass incarceration directly affects educational achievement, too: When a parent goes to jail, children’s GPAs fall and mental health risks skyrocket, leading some to conclude that fixing America’s education system will also require tackling criminal justice policy.

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    Private Company Raises Funds for Lunar Mission

    They’re going solo. Moon Express, Inc., the first private company to get permission to land on the moon, has announced that it has reached its $45 million funding goal to take part in Google’s Lunar XPRIZE competition, which challenges private companies to put a robot on the moon. But the Florida-based startup has bigger plans: It’s looking into mining lunar resources like Helium-3, a potential clean energy source, and the possibility of a future moon colony. Moon Express aims to launch its MX-1E spacecraft later this year.

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    ‘Dreamgirls’ Star Pulls Out of Inauguration; Threats Reported

    The star power is dwindling. Jennifer Holliday was set to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration, but dropped out, saying in a letter to LGBT fans that she didn’t realize performing would “be taken as a political act.” But TMZ also reported that the Broadway star had received death threats. In addition, The B-Street Band, a Bruce Springsteen cover band, canceled an inaugural ball show after taking heat. With many big names passing, Toby Keith, 3 Doors Down and Lee Greenwood will headline the Lincoln Memorial concert on Friday.

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    Connecticut: America’s Overlooked Basketball Hotbed

    The Nutmeg State can ball. Hidden between prep hoop meccas Boston and New York, Connecticut punches above its weight in churning out NBA talent. Witness Kris Dunn’s fearless style with the Minnesota Timberwolves, or recent college stars Will Solomon and Ryan Gomes. Local up-and-comers often play with a chip on their shoulder because they’re overlooked — even by UConn, the flagship college program in the state. Next to carry the torch is dynamic New Haven point guard Tremont Waters, who’s heading south to Georgetown next year.