The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Disclosures Spotlight Trump Family Conflicts

    Can these figures be reconciled? White House staff financial disclosures released this weekend surprised few by showing officials close to President Donald Trump are fabulously wealthy. But they do increase legal pressure on his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner. Both are official advisers to the president, making them subject to conflict-of-interest laws that forbid them from involvement in policy that could enrich them. Although their ethics adviser calls the issues “narrow and manageable,” experts say that with the couple’s properties and often foreign-entangled investments totaling as much as $740 million, conflict is inevitable. 

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    Senate Set For Showdown on Neil Gorsuch

    What happens next is anyone’s guess. The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a 11-to-9 vote sent Judge Neil M. Gorsuch’s nomination for the Supreme Court to the full Senate for consideration. Democrats are rallying for a filibuster, with enough votes to put up the procedural roadblock on Friday when the matter is received by the full Senate. But commentators believe Republicans are likely to charge through with the “nuclear option” and change the rules so that Gorsuch can be approved with a simple majority, rather than the 60 Senate votes currently required.


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    After Triggering Brexit, the UK Girds for Battle

    This might not end well. British Prime Minister Theresa May launched the breakup on Wednesday, then promptly suggested that security cooperation might hinge on terms of the split. British officials have since called that interpretation a “misunderstanding,” but the damage is done. While May’s indicated a trade deal should come first, negotiating guidelines and statements issued by the EU on Friday insist terms of separation — including potentially billions of euros to compensate the remaining 27 nations — must precede trade talks, stoking fears of a hostile divorce.

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    Major League Baseball Season Opens Today

    The pitchman’s out. But give Donald Trump a break; many presidents have declined to throw the traditional first pitch while busy running the country. Meanwhile, San Francisco star hurler Madison Bumgarner promises memorable moves as he battles Arizona ace Zack Greinke. Two other matchups are set for Opening Day, featuring the unlikely world champion Chicago Cubs and the Cardinals in St. Louis, while the hapless Yankees host the Tampa Bay Rays. Now is fans’ winter of discontent made glorious by these Boys of Summer, as they pitch and hit their way to October.

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    Are ‘Lone Wolves’ a Pack of Lies?

    They’re leading us astray. The evolution of the term “lone wolf” shows how words can compromise security policy, argues journalist Jason Burke. Fomented by American white supremacists decades ago, the single actor concept lost traction after 9/11, which focused attention on hierarchical groups like Al Qaeda — even though many terrorists operated independently. Now the paradigm has shifted again, with officials quick to cry “wolf” even in cases where investigators collect convincing evidence of links to established groups like ISIS — militating for a level-headed approach to labeling attackers.

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    In Germany, Brown Is Not the New Black

    Déjà vu is nothing new. Germans perpetually ruminate on their murderous history, and that’s why they’re different, posits historian Samuel Huneke. Right-wing populism, which minimizes a nation’s past sins, has swept up Britain, India, the U.S. and large swaths of the French electorate. But German voters have given far-right Alternative für Deutschland only token representation in local elections, while boosting center-left Social Democrats against conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel in September’s national elections, either way preserving the nation’s status as the world’s moral watchdog.

  7. Colombia Landslide Kills More Than 200, Flynn Failed to Report Russian Payments and Rural America’s Crutch

    Know This: A mudslide in Colombia’s southwestern Putumayo province has killed at least 234 people.  Ex-Trump adviser Michael Flynn did not include paid speeches he’d made to Russian entities on federal financial disclosures — until Friday. And Venezuela’s highest court on Saturday reversed its Wednesday ruling — following protests and President Nicolas Maduro’s request for a review of the decision — that stripped the national legislature of its power.

    Count This: “The rise in disability has emerged as yet another indicator of a widening political, cultural and economic chasm between urban and rural America.” — Examination of the disproportionately rural phenomenon of people receiving federal disability payments, who numbered 13 million in 2015, up from 7.7 million in 1996 for working-age adults, which at $192 billion annually eclipses the cost of food stamps, welfare, housing and unemployment subsidies combined.

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    North Carolina, Gonzaga Advance to NCAA Final

    It’s old South vs. new West. After North Carolina’s Tar Heels ripped a 77-76 victory — with Kennedy Meeks’ rebound (he also scored 25 points) in the last four seconds of their semifinal against Oregon — from the jaws of defeat last night, the five-time champions will face upstart Gonzaga in Monday night’s NCAA tournament final in Phoenix. UNC may be two-point favorites, but the No. 1-seeded Zags, which dispatched South Carolina 77-73 in their first Final Four appearance behind Nigel Williams-Goss’ 23 points, aren’t expected to be pushovers. 

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    Fine Dining With the Dead in Italy’s Underworld

    Daylight is overrated. In Italy, eating in subterranean catacombs surrounded by the bones of the long since deceased is the latest luxury dining experience. The Mediterranean country brings in $74 billion annually from its historic sites, and now 2 million people a year are flocking to enjoy underground hospitality. There are about 200 such subterranean venues in Italy, including bed and breakfasts, spa-equipped resorts and wine cellars — all steeped in rich, unusual and often bloody history, where tourists can get their Freudian kicks in a hidden world of darkness.

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    Scientists Are Listening to the Hard of Hearing

    They’re bringing the noise. Hearing loss is one of the world’s most common disabilities, affecting 37 million Americans. Unlike other parts of the body, the inner ear’s components don’t regenerate, so any serious damage is often permanent. However, biotech companies and scientists are now looking to change that. Some are simply increasing the quality and mitigating the stigma of hearing aids, while others have gained ground by inducing regrowth of the microscopic hairs called stereocilia that convert sound to electrical signals processed by the brain — both music to impaired ears.

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    Uber for Private Jets’ Future Is Up in the Air

    Can they stay aloft? JetSmarter, a 4-year-old sharing service allowing its wealthy members to book private jet shuttle flights from an app, has had a turbulent time of late. Insiders are divided on whether that’s because the clients are demanding and boorish, the company’s unable to face up to its problems, or logistically it’s just too difficult to offer cut-rate luxury flights. As with many startups, JetSmarter’s struggling to make a profit, while balancing Learjet luxury with the expectations of a haughty — but penny-pinching — clientele.

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    Life Imitates Art for ‘Groundhog Day’ Creator

    Campers, it’s cold out there. Danny Rubin created Groundhog Day, the classic film about reliving a single experience until something snaps. He can relate. Since writing the movie nearly 25 years ago, he’s repeatedly bashed his head against Hollywood’s expectations of repeating his success in carbon-copy fashion. But as his cinematic hopes dimmed, Groundhog Day became a cultural phenomenon, its existential significance analyzed by monks, economists and substance abusers alike. And it’s happening again: A musical adaptation of the movie has landed on Broadway — where it’s playing day after day after day.