The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer Chuck Berry Dies at Age 90

    He could play the guitar just like ringin’ a bell. Chuck Berry, found dead of undetermined causes in his home near St. Louis Saturday afternoon, defined rock ‘n’ roll with his raucous, twangy electric guitar on 1950s hits he authored like “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” inspiring perhaps every rock great who followed him. John Lennon once said rock ‘n’ roll could have been named after the duck-walking performer, and Mick Jagger, in one of countless tributes, said, “Chuck … your music is engraved inside us forever.”

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    As Tillerson Woos China, North Korea Tests Patience

    They have a common protblem. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson caused diplomatic tremors Friday, saying a military solution to North Korea’s nuclear threat was “on the table.” While one might expect approbation from the Hermit Kingdom’s only “ally,” especially after President Trump tweeted “China has done little to help” the situation, Tillerson was warmly received in Beijing Saturday, with President Xi Jinping saying China shares more interests than disagreements with the U.S. But Pyongyang upstaged the visit, boasting a new missile engine test and adding urgency to a possible Florida Xi-Trump summit next month.

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    Wiretapping Charge Puts ‘Special Relationship’ to the Test 

    Is that what friends are for? After President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, declared that British spies helped Barack Obama wiretap Trump Tower before the 2016 election, London’s reaction was unrestrained, swift and unequivocal: “utterly ridiculous.” So on Friday, Spicer reportedly apologized and promised never to repeat the charge. But Trump, who failed to elicit empathy Friday from visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel — a confirmed target of Obama-era U.S. surveillance — did not apologize to Britain, raising the question: What will the president risk to prove a point?

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    Trump’s Supreme Court Pick to Face Senators

    He’ll be on trial first. In a crucial test of Donald Trump’s new administration, senators will begin grilling Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Monday. Members of the Judiciary Committee will spend days probing his views on key issues like abortion, gun control, LGBT rights and campaign funding. But one legal principle could shed light on many of his possible decisions: He’s been critical of a decades-old deference to federal agencies’ interpretation of congressional directives, something that might put him at odds with his president, who’d like more, not less, enforcement latitude. 

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    Fear and Learning in South Korea

    They all had it coming. The recently deposed South Korean president could be forgiven for wondering why she was impeached. For one, the legality of her sentencing remains unclear, and when compared to her five democratically elected predecessors — all allegedly involved with corruption to some extent — she didn’t stand out. Yet it’s clear that her constituents will no longer settle for the status quo. So one might want to ask the next president: Will you reform the institutions and relationships of entrenched elites and conglomerates, or risk becoming the next leader-in-effigy?

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    From Revolution to Despair on Egypt’s Streets

    They were called “Generation Protest.” Six years later, the demonstrators who brought down a 30-year military dictatorship are silent. By one estimate, 60,000 political prisoners now occupy the jails in Egypt — tripling their capacity — as a new military leader wields an iron fist to rival the deposed Hosni Mubarak’s. General Abdel Fattah el Sisi, spurred by a national yearning for stability, has eclipsed that mandate — and then some. Facing fears of Islamist retribution, an overhauled legislature and a pliant judiciary, a new generation seems destined for a fresh autocratic epoch.

  7. Driver Claims Bomb at White House, Meals on Steroids and the World’s Healthiest Hearts

    Know This: Secret Service agents detained a driver who claimed to have a bomb near the White House Saturday night, hours after another man was detained after hopping over a bike-rack barrier just outside the White House fence. Donations to the nonprofit Meals on Wheels program have increased 50-fold after news that a Trump administration-proposed budget would cut its funding. And finance chiefs from 20 of the world’s richest nations have dropped their longstanding pledge to fight protectionism, yielding to U.S. objections.

    Chew on This: “Their way of life has similarities to human civilization thousands of years ago.” — Description of the isolated, highly active Tsimane people of Bolivia, found by a medical study to enjoy the world’s healthiest hearts. Their diet is low-fat and high-carb, and includes wild pig, the world’s largest rodents and piranhas.

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    Pulitzer-Winning Columnist Jimmy Breslin Dies

    Nothing was too small. Cigar and a notebook in hand, he found poetry in New Yorkers’ workaday existence. Breslin, who died today of complications from pneumonia at age 88, wrote for several New York newspapers for 40 years. He earned the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for revealing police torture and an AIDS patients’ suffering, and journalism instructors often cite his choice of featuring the man who dug John F. Kennedy’s grave over covering official memorials. A Queens native, he said he was his own favorite reader, so “if it made me smile, I put it in.”

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    What Became of the Underground Resistance?

    It’s hard to be invisible. From Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground to Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground, the places beyond society’s purview have sheltered subversives, notes historian Terence Renaud. In different eras, these dark spaces could conceal a criminal scourge or heroic resistance, as represented by characters like Nazi-fighting Victor Laszlo in Casablanca. But contemporary lives are increasingly transparent, leaving a small cadre of shadowy hactivists to keep the subterranean ethos alive, Renaud argues, while hobbling the idea of a renewed resistance to totalitarianism and raising questions about the wisdom of evangelizing digital transparency.

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    Pokémon May Reveal the Future of Warfare

    Gotta shoot ’em all. The guy running the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office is seeking inspiration from Silicon Valley for integrating technology into warfare. Working with drones and other killing machines, Director Will Roper envisions a future in which soldiers access strategic mapping, looking to video games like Pokémon Go for tips on how to intuitively deploy augmented-reality tech. So special forces might target ISIS strongholds the way gamers use PokéStops — but if they don’t pick up their game, the enemy might harness the same combat power first.

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    In Estonia, Many Russians Remain Stateless

    They live in an area that’s gray — like their passports. That’s because most lifelong ethnic Russian residents of Estonia find citizenship prohibitive. Often hailing from Russian-speaking areas, they’re required to pass a tough Estonian-language naturalization test or be excluded from government and even some private-sector employment. They also can’t travel as freely as full citizens, so now Moscow is coming to their rescue, promising unrestricted border crossings and possibly Russian passports. The Tallinn government, not wanting disenfranchised Russians to become a pretext for invasion, is mulling easier citizenship requirements.

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    The Music That’s Challenging Salvadoran Gangs

    They’re drumming something up. The youths of El Salvador now have a choice: Join gangs in one of the world’s most violent nations or play rhythmic batucada music, an energetic offshoot of the samba. Teenagers are paid to play their drums at events, helping curb pervasive gang recruitment in the Central American country suffering 14 homicides a day. Batucada is becoming a political force, with foreign donors helping upgrade musicians’ makeshift drums and teaching them about human rights in hopes they’ll march their nation in a new direction.

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    Who Needs Soccer or Cricket When You’ve Got March Madness?

    It’s a slam dunk! Basketball’s annual three-week NCAA tournament has what it takes to inspire an international fan base. The tournament allows audiences to play, with or without wagering, using as many brackets as they want. And victories by underdogs? Bet on it. Hoopsters from around the world are involved, especially from Australia, along with places like Nigeria and England. March Madness is also uniquely organized to provide a glimpse of future star athletes — before they’ve made their first dollar or, if they’re lucky, a college degree.