The Presidential Daily Brief


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    With Health Plan, President Becomes a Politician

    Has the dealmaker emerged? After the introduction of a House Republican plan to replace Obamacare, Donald Trump said he supported the legislation. But there are many who question his commitment, while others, like the conservative Heritage Foundation, are urging the president to drop the bill. The proposed replacement faces considerable opposition — from doctors, nurses, hospitals and insurers, who warn their market could collapse. Embracing “Trumpcare” could mean he takes the blame if the scheme flops, while not backing it fully could doom the bill to failure, allowing Barack Obama’s legacy project to survive.

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    Will New Entry Ban Hit the Ground Running?

    It’ll have “the same basic policy outcome.” President Trump’s new immigration exclusion of six majority-Muslim nations’ citizens takes effect Thursday, but those words from White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller have already been cited in its legal challenge. While Miller said the revised executive order solves “technical issues” that doomed the first one, Hawaii, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon and Minnesota are arguing that despite allowing Iraqis, the ban remains unconstitutional. Opponents additionally argue that rather than blocking terrorists, the exclusionary fervor has caused a “Trump slump” in U.S. tourism.

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    Europe’s Next Far-Right Test

    He’s the crest of a wave. Populist Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party has a chance to win Wednesday’s Dutch elections. But campaigning isn’t easy with round-the-clock police surveillance instituted two years after fellow Dutch anti-Islam politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated in 2002. Still, the Freedom Party’s polling even to secure the most parliamentary seats, and many see the potential win as a harbinger for populist upsets in this year’s French and German elections — even if other parties are united in refusing to join a Wilders-led governing coalition.

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    Are Warlords Replacing Assad’s Police State?

    They’re so powerful the Russians are giving them medals. German journalists report that to prop up his embattled Syrian regime, Bashar Assad has allowed warlords to smuggle, kidnap and murder their way to power in key government-held areas. In particular, the Tiger Forces and the Desert Hawks, paying fighters better than the army, compete to dominate a fearful population in urban centers like Homs and Latakia, while Assad’s regular troops and allies reclaim contested areas. But one Tiger commander reputedly smuggles supplies to ISIS, and such groups’ sway may persist even if Assad prevails.

  5. One U.S. Attorney Does Not Go Quietly, Intruder Arrested on White House Grounds and Praising ‘Phony’ Job Growth

    Know This: Prominent Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says he was fired by the Justice Department after refusing to resign, as 46 federal prosecutors were asked to do. Secret Service agents arrested an intruder who scaled the White House fence Friday night while the president was inside. And three people have died in demonstrations in Seoul following the corruption-related ouster of South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye.

    Reconcile This: “Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment. That number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35.” — presidential candidate Donald Trump a year ago, referring to the same government reporting system that showed 4.7 percent unemployment for last month, called “Great news for American workers” by the White House.

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    The Rise of the Anti-Science Internet

    For some, “peer-reviewed” means it’s been shared on Facebook. That’s helped spur the rise of sites like Natural News, an all-purpose conspiracy theory website that aims to convince readers that governments, media and big pharma are lying to them about everything from vaccines to climate change. Though social media is fighting back against fake news stories in the wake of the election, the misleading claims seduce people all along the political continuum, with such tales bolstering distrust of institutions and research — the kind checked by actual scientists.

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    Green Energy Might Survive the New Political Climate

    Can this be sustained? With climate change skeptic Rick Perry confirmed as energy secretary, proponents of renewables are bracing themselves. And the Obama administration’s infamous Solyndra solar investment failure casts an additional pall over the future of clean power. But wait — even some Republicans see value in renewables. Consider that Perry, as Texas governor, approved a $7 billion project to distribute wind power across his gusty state, and that electric cars aren’t made in China. That’s a bit of sunlight that just might filter through the curtains of the Oval Office.

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    Education Firm Faces Troubling Abuse Charges

    It’s really simply not a most congenial spot — this Camelot. For-profit company Camelot Education may get schooled by its students: 13 who’ve attended the “alternative” academies, designed for kids with histories of emotional or behavioral trouble, say they’ve been “disciplined” with physical assaults — sometimes just for talking back — drawing comparisons to for-profit prisons. With incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos a big booster of such schools, critics hope Camelot’s story will stand as a warning sign of the potentially damaging consequences of entrusting student welfare to the lowest bidder.

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    Making Zelda Great Again

    Link, Gannon and Zelda. If you’ve played this series of games, you’ll know the names of its lead characters populating a bucolic fantasy world considered a classic of the role-playing genre. Yet amid a new breed of open-world games, the franchise has struggled. Now it’s striking back withThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Hailed as a success of carte blanche reinvention, the game takes open-world to a new level by providing rewarding narrative arcs, whether meandering through the rich landscape of Hyrule or making a beeline for the nearest enemy behemoth.

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    Reinventing NASCAR at the Daytona 500

    Now it’s a race. To many, NASCAR is tedious: Everyone keeps turning left while the crowd waits for a big crash. That’s a routine the bosses at NASCAR are hoping to shake up. Talk of using real-time data remains just that, but this year’s Daytona 500 saw the introduction of “stages” — three races instead of one, keeping driving competitive as each first place earns points toward a seasonal championship. In the face of long-declining viewership, the mostly positive response to the new segmented format suggests this could be a winning formula.