The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Hurricane Harvey Smashes Into Texas, Weakens

    It packed a punch. Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday near Corpus Christi with 130 mph winds — the first category 4 storm to hit Texas since since Hurricane Carla in 1961 and the strongest U.S. hurricane in 13 years. It reportedly blew roofs from houses while knocking out power for 300,000 customers, but by daybreak, with 80 mph winds, it was downgraded to a category 1 storm. Injury reports are filtering in, and weather officials warned that “catastrophic” flooding, “life-threatening” storm surges and even tornadoes could occur across the state.

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    Trump Pardons Latino-Targeting Sheriff

    Some are more equal than others. As a hurricane distracted Americans’ attention, President Donald Trump issued a pardon for former Phoenix-area Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The 85-year-old lawman is a lightning rod for America’s immigration debate, having been convicted last month for violating a court order to cease having deputies stop Latinos without probable cause — a tactic to round up illegal immigrants.  Phoenix’s mayor called it a “slap in the face” to those whose civil rights were violated, and some experts said the precedent could void courts’ ability to curb abuses of authority.

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    Women Go Into U.S. Open Without a Clear Favorite

    It’s as open as it gets. With superstar Serena Williams on a maternity break, there have been just as many winners as majors. That’s raising the possibility that a fourth could emerge after America’s premier tennis tournament begins Monday. Spanish-Venezuelan Wimbledon champ Garbiñe Muguruza is the oddsmakers’ favorite, but not by much. On the men’s side, Switzerland’s Roger Federer has the edge, but he’ll have to get past familiar foe Rafael Nadal, along with struggling world No. 1 Andy Murray, who’s winning hearts and minds on both sides with his feminist leanings.

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    The President Goes to War

    But who’s the enemy? They’ve been legion, including the usual media targets, which President Donald Trump rhetorically lynched at his Tuesday rally in Phoenix. A day earlier, he told the nation he was reluctantly continuing its longest war, in Afghanistan, where he can also list the Taliban and ISIS as antagonists. But that exposed another foe: ousted chief adviser Steve Bannon, who’s back at Breitbart, which blasted the new war footing. And all week, Trump’s been excoriating fellow Republicans for their disloyalty, while new divisions in his administration continue to emerge.

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    Qatar Buys Big to Outlast Saudi Embargo

    They’re not giving in. Qatar is finding that enduring a blockade is easy when you can afford new friends. Following initial assistance from Turkey and Iran, Qatar has so far survived a Saudi-led blockade that started in June. Now big-ticket purchases in the West — American fighter jets and Italian-made warships — have bought the tiny emirate extra diplomatic clout too. With the East providing financing, economists expect GDP growth to reach previously forecast rates in 2018, suggesting Doha won’t quietly acquiesce to its neighbor’s demands.

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    How Wall Street Won Trump’s Populist Soul

    He’d overcome but half his foe. When Stephen Bannon joined the administration, he’d already helped energize a fervent Republican voting bloc that clinched President Trump’s election. But the National Economic Council was filled with “Globalist Swampsters,” as Bannon called them, thwarting his “America first,” worker-oriented agenda of restricting trade and enacting substantive middle class tax cuts. Heavy with Wall Streeters allied with presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, council members likely cheered as Charlottesville fallout helped oust Bannon a week ago — and can now assure that GOP leaders cast out his populist credo.

  7. Trump’s Tax Plans, Gorka’s Downfall and Another Missile Test

    The Week Ahead: On Sunday, MTV will present its annual Video Music Awards, hosted by Katy Perry. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Monday will visit the capital of Kazakhstan to attend the “Future of Energy” exposition, where he might face questions about contradictions in his department’s recent energy efficiency report. And on Wednesday, President Trump plans to visit Missouri to launch his tax reform proposals.

    Know This: Controversial nationalist White House adviser Sebastian Gorka has resigned, but administration sources indicate he was forced out. North Korea has tested three short-range missiles as U.S. and South Korean forces conduct military drills. And soldiers in Brussels fatally shot a Belgian of Somali origin after he attacked them with a knife while shouting “God is great” in Arabic.

    Join us LIVE:  OZY and WGBH are bringing you a terrific new TV show, Third Rail With OZY— premiering Friday, Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m. on PBS — and we want YOU to be part of our live studio audience! Sign up here to attend a taping of this hot new primetime show. You won’t want to miss it.


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    How YouTube Empowered Alt-Right Extremists

    Their torches lit the screen. The online communications revolution promised to enlighten mankind, but its effects have spread darkness with brutal efficiency. Terrorists, white supremacists and their white nationalist kin found social media algorithms — especially those on YouTube — ideal for spreading hate, incubating echo chambers of bigots whose extremism generated revenue. This year, major advertisers threatened to withhold some $750 million in a boycott, spurring the platform to block some content while funding tolerance initiatives. But critics call these half-measures, saying that if the site wants absolution, it’ll need to be more discriminating.

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    Is the Smartphone Generation Beyond Salvation?

    At least they’re having less sex. Today’s teenagers gaze into electronic devices enough to damage their mental health. So writes psychology professor Jean Twenge in her new book, iGen, which describes a young cohort getting into less trouble outside, but whose screen addiction puts them at increased risk of depression. Those spending three hours a day online — just above average — are 35 percent more likely to contemplate suicide, while teen homicide rates have been dropping. Luckily, Twenge writes, the solution is intuitive, if not easy: Get the kids out, and off their phones.

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    The Company That ‘Invented’ Marijuana

    They were aiming high. While federal legalization of cannabis remains out of reach, it’s become a $40 billion industry, competing with corn to become America’s top crop. Enter BioTech Institute LLC, which is registering patents for the cannabis plant, possibly forcing even backyard growers to pay to license their recreational reefer. Big companies are already delving into the biz, but BioTech is poised to become Mary Jane’s Monsanto. With a legal fight heating up, some in the industry worry that artisanal cultivation and development may already be lost in the intellectual property haze.

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    South Africa’s Forgotten Grape Is Back

    It’s lightning in a bottle. South Africa’s cinsault, a wine made from red grapes, fell out of fashion during the second half of the 20th century, and by 2009, production of the varietal had plummeted by two-thirds. But in recent years, it’s made a spectacular comeback: Dozens of wines and blends including it are now being bottled, after wineries discovered that the plants thrive in inhospitable soil and resist heat in a way that could mitigate climate change’s vinicultural ravages. While many still consider cinsault fit only to round out blends, pinot’s looking in its rearview mirror.

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    The Champ Doesn’t Just Hit Men

    He’s thrown all kinds of punches. Easily today’s most celebrated boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr., who’s defending his title tonight against MMA star Conor McGregor, has enjoyed massive success despite multiple and well-known convictions for domestic abuse. That’s partly because boxing lacks a central governing body, and as Mayweather frequently points out, there’s no videos or photos, like those that have resulted in NFL players getting sanctioned. And there’s an expectation that boxers are rage-fueled and violent — with predominantly Black victims — which places judgment of Mayweather’s abuse into a disturbing racial context.