The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Donald Trump Defends Waterboarding, Says Torture ‘Works’

    They’re doing worse. That’s how the American president justified his embrace of waterboarding, which was outlawed by his predecessor. Trump told ABC News he’d asked intelligence officials if the technique, which simulates drowning, was effective: “The answer was, ‘Yes, absolutely.’” The president is reportedly mulling the revival of “black site” interrogation centers, and said he’d rely on his security team to evaluate specific interrogation methods. “We have to fight fire with fire,” he insisted, since groups like ISIS are “chopping off the heads of people because they happen to be Christian.”

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    North Korean Defector Describes Crumbling Regime

    Will it go out with a bang? “I’ve known there was no future for North Korea for a long time,” says former diplomat Thae Yong Ho, who defected to South Korea last year. He predicted that his people would rise up against the brutal, nuclear-armed regime of Kim Jong Un, but said he was heartbroken over his relatives, who “are either sent to remote, closed areas or prison camps.” Thae said he’s not alone, and that North Korean officials feel little loyalty and will eventually turn on their leader.

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    Dow Cracks 20,000 Barrier, Doesn’t Snap Back

    It’s a postelection victory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged above 20,000 points for the first time in history Wednesday, helped by a Trump bump and booming manufacturing sector investment. And while the new president may have throttled a Pacific Rim trade deal, Asian markets didn’t hesitate to follow suit, with Japan’s Nikkei and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumping 1.8 and 1.4 points, respectively. In 42 days, the Dow has made its second-fastest 1,000-point climb ever, but anticipated capital gains tax cuts may eventually spoil the party.

  4. Diplomats Abandon Ship of State, Italians Call Off Avalanche Search and Russians Ease Up on Domestic Abuse

    Know This: Top U.S. diplomats resign as Trump’s administration takes shape. Rescuers have stopped searching for survivors at an Italian hotel where an avalanche killed 29 people. Actor Shia LaBeouf was arrested today after a fight at his anti-Trump art installation. And Venus Williams will play in the Australian Open final — against her sister, Serena.

    Tolerate This: “The authorities see only benefits behind domestic violence: 1. Many won’t live until retirement age; 2. People will be busy with self-destruction and will not criticize the authorities.” So says a women’s rights activist after the Russian parliamentary vote to decriminalize domestic violence.

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    Study: Video Games More Popular Stress Reliever Than Sex

    Game on. Among 251 men surveyed by University College London researchers, video games were one of the most popular decompression methods, outranking watching porn and having sex. Gamers also exhibited more effective stress recovery and experienced less “negative work/home interference.” That tracks with a previous Texas A&M study finding that people who play violent video games aren’t as troubled by stress or depression. The London study’s 240 female participants were less likely to chill via gaming or sex — opting instead to de-stress with crafts or books.

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    ‘Lifestyle’ DNA Tests Emerge as Entertainment

    We were born for this. Genetic testing is taking science marketing to surprising — and absurd — extremes. DNA sequencing has become cheap enough that one startup, Helix, has created an app store for genetic tests. In addition to discovering your ancestry and potential health risks, unregulated (and scientifically questionable) “lifestyle” apps can create personalized workout plans or sell wines tailored to your genetic predispositions. The next generation of apps is likely to go further (Which superhero are your genes most like?) until interpreting DNA becomes like taking online quizzes.

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    Dystopian Literature Gets the Trump Bump

    Is it stranger than fiction? Sales of novels like 1984, with visions of authoritarian regimes, have spiked since the inauguration. George Orwell’s 1949 classic, containing themes eerily similar to “alternative facts,” is currently Amazon’s bestselling book, while Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here has sold out for some retailers. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World of drug-numbed masses and Ray Bradbury’s anti-censorship Fahrenheit 451 have similarly surged. Totalitarian fiction probably won’t move the president, who doesn’t read much, but it’s inspiring a new generation of readers — and countless social media posts.

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    Young Blood Breathes New Life Into NHL

    It’s a kinder, gentler battle. This season is seeing the rise of a new NHL, with more skilled young stars beefing up team rosters. Brutish defensemen and enforcers are being replaced by leaner, faster players who might never have made the league of old. Thanks to rule changes and the rise of hockey analytics, a speedier, cleaner pro game is replacing old-school brawling. As the first generation of young talent to grow up under this system comes of age, perennially hurting teams like Toronto are finding the shift agreeable.