The Presidential Daily Brief


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    GOP Discord Derails Health Care Bill

    The prognosis wasn’t good. Unable to convince their right flank to support a Republican-authored alternative to Barack Obama’s signature law, House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shelved the legislation Friday, with Ryan declaring, “Obamacare is the law of the land” and would remain so “for the foreseeable future.” In calls to journalists, Trump blamed unsupportive Democrats and said they’d cooperate after existing health coverage broke down. He’d also wanted to embarrass conservative GOP representatives with a floor vote, but Ryan argued it would actually hurt loyal moderate Republicans in next year’s elections.

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    Gorsuch Showdown Could Make Senate History

    Senator Smith, you’re out of order. The real-life rule allowing bleary-eyed obstructionism in Frank Capra’s 1939 classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, might be endangered. After Republican Senate leaders sat on Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for most of last year, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is ready to filibuster, thus blocking a floor vote to confirm President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the high court, expected to clear its committee on Monday. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems poised to exempt such votes from filibusters — profoundly changing the august chamber’s character.

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    Authorities Puzzle Over Motivation in London Terror

    He didn’t fit the profile. Adrian Russell Ajao was a 52-year-old Briton who on Wednesday slammed a rented SUV into pedestrians, fatally injuring three, and then killed a policeman with a knife before other officers shot him dead — all in the shadow of London’s most recognizable landmark, the Houses of Parliament. While ISIS claimed responsibility for the carnage, authorities have detained nine people as they investigate whether the assailant, a reported former English teacher who’d converted to Islam and changed his name to Khalid Masood, was recruited or acted alone.

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    Ambitions in China, Foreboding in Hong Kong

    It’s the wrong kind of devolution. In the 20 years since Britain relinquished its colonial grasp of Hong Kong, China has tightened its political grip in the wake of harsh economic realities and harsher authoritarian attitude adjustments. No longer reliant on Hong Kong as a two-way conduit for Western investment, Beijing has slowly encroached on the concept of “one country, two systems.” After three years of pro-democracy demonstrations and crackdowns on their defiance, Hong Kong residents find themselves torn between apathy and radicalism as they head to the polls tomorrow.

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    Does This Recluse Own the President?

    It’s been called “the trade of the century.” Long Island hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer invested untold millions in Donald Trump’s candidacy, $10 million in Breitbart News and $5 million in Cambridge Analytica, which uses data mining and “psychographic profiling” to influence voters. He’s credited with enabling a seismic shift in U.S. government, and yet he’s never revealed his political views and, says an acquaintance, “can barely look you in the eye.” One senior staffer at Mercer’s Renaissance Technologies worries his CEO “owns a sizable share” of the presidency — but only he knows what he’ll do with it.

  6. Mosul Airstrike Death Toll Probed, Flynn’s Alleged Midnight Express and Trump Phones ‘Fake’ Media 

    Know This: The coalition fighting to oust ISIS from Mosul, Iraq, is investigating reports that one of its recent airstrikes may have killed 200 civilians. Former CIA director James Woolsey says now-former Trump adviser Mike Flynn discussed with Ankara officials the idea of forcibly removing Turkish dissident Fethullah Gulen from the U.S. “in the dead of night.” And the leaders of 27 EU countries — without British leader Theresa May — are meeting in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the treaty that led to the union’s creation.

    Print This: “While he rails against the mainstream media, he appears to care deeply about its coverage.” — Analysis of President Donald Trump’s surprising calls to the New York Times and Washington Post — which he’s dismissed as reporting “fake news” — to explain the shelving of the Republican health care bill. 

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    Flogging the Digital Nomad Myth

    Don’t quit your day job just yet. A new trend in working remotely to facilitate travel and a laid-back lifestyle might not be as dreamy it appears on Instagram. In Chiang Mai, Thailand, self-proclaimed digital nomads are selling workshops, retreats, and other coaching products and services so they can kick back in their own hammocks. They convince rookies to pitch their wares in what’s been criticized as a “pyramid scheme” that’s “predatory and harmful.” Far from liberating the workforce, these rainmakers are enticing young hopefuls with sunny futures that are soon lost in the cloud.

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    Stopping the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

    He’s still out there. Evgeniy Bogachev may be the most disruptive hacker of the past decade. He’s created and fine-tuned malware tools said to be as common as Microsoft Office, while his online banking ingenuity has netted his criminal networks so much from bank heists and data lockout “ransomware” that officials can only estimate the tally to the nearest $100 million. Investigators have since neutralized those operations, but they’re looking for signs of new Bogachev schemes, while battling even more troubling threats like a network of infected devices lurking on the Internet of Things.

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    We May Never Know What We Did Last Summer

    Face it: We’ll always argue about 2016. It seems that when polarizing politics, the internet and rampant misinformation get thrown into the crucible of the human mind, our sense of reality becomes fractured. Psychologist Henry Roediger’s research shows how inherent biases, language and the power of suggestion create false memories. In the past, news came from only a few sources, but now, with the web’s deluge of stimuli, it’s unlikely we’ll agree on what happened in the past, as our perception of the facts is becoming increasingly susceptible to alternative narratives.

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    Why Brexit May Not Sweeten Britain’s Rhubarb Harvest

    It’s a high-stalks business. In parts of Yorkshire’s “rhubarb triangle,” 66 percent of the electorate voted to leave the European Union. But that exit might not go down well: It could affect more than 3,000 laws on agriculture, while choking off $3 billion in EU subsidies for British farmers. But rhubarb growers say they aren’t worried — they’re confident the British government will replace the subsidies, even if they’re only budgeted until 2020. They’re more concerned about climate change, which could end the frost that’s critical to root development.

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    The 69-Cent Sandwich Craved by Millionaire Athletes

    What’s on that tray by the parquet? A decade ago, a pregame epiphany brought PB&J to the NBA, and since then, it’s arguably become the indispensable food item — with its potential removal prompting mutinies. Despite all their riches and nutritional analytics, these highly tuned athletes swear by a sandwich that costs less than a dollar and consists of white bread, jam and peanut butter. Some attribute this to collective superstition. Others believe it triggers the release of performance-enhancing dopamine and serotonin, raising the question: Does this comfort food warrant further investigation?