The Presidential Daily Brief


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    President Orders Sweeping Changes to Obamacare

    If you can’t kill it, break it. In what many see as leverage to force Congress to replace Obamacare, despite multiple failed attempts, President Trump yesterday decided to halt $7 billion in federal subsidies for insurers that help millions of low-income consumers afford health care. Earlier he ordered expanded access to less comprehensive health plans. While Trump called the subsidies illegal, he reportedly also said they could continue if a deal is struck. Democrats described the moves as “sabotage,” while insurance markets are expected to be thrown into chaos.

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    US Announces Withdrawal From UNESCO

    It’s history. Accusing the organization of anti-Israel bias, the U.S. said it will leave the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known primarily for its World Heritage program but also involved in a host of other pursuits. Israel is withdrawing too, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the Trump administration’s decision “brave and moral.” The U.S. stopped funding the organization in 2011 — the country owes more than $500 million in unpaid dues — over UNESCO’s recognition of Palestine. It’s expected to become a nonmember observer state without voting rights.

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    Black Man Beaten at White Supremacist Rally Charged With Assault

    The whole world saw what happened. In a widely shared video of a Charlottesville white supremacist rally in August, DeAndre Harris, 20, was shown being beaten and kicked by a group of white attackers. Now police have charged Harris with “unlawful wounding” on the word of Harold Ray Crews, chairman of a neo-Confederate hate group. Harris, now out on bail, has no criminal record and could face five years in prison and a $2,500 fine. Activists are questioning the charges, blaming Charlottesville police for unfairly targeting minorities.

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    UK’s EU Withdrawal Bill Postponed Over Infighting

    Brexit means chaos. Prime Minister Theresa May had hoped to introduce her EU withdrawal bill next week, but MPs, including those in her own party, have introduced hundreds of amendments, forcing a delay while the bill is rewritten. Meanwhile, Brexit secretary David Davis reportedly suppressed 50 secret studies on the potential impact of Brexit. He says publishing the information would damage Britain’s negotiating position, but the Good Law Project has launched a crowdfunding campaign to legally challenge him, and 120 MPs have signed a letter pressing him to release the findings.

  5. Wildfires, Sonic Warfare and Puerto Rico’s Plight

    Know This: The death toll in California’s ongoing wildfires has now risen to 31. President Trump is expected to disavow, but not completely pull out of, the nuclear deal with Iran. And the AP has released a recording of the sound suspected to be behind Cuba’s alleged sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats.

    Read This: As President Trump threatens to withdraw aid from Puerto Rico and citizens desperate for water are reportedly drinking toxic water from Superfund sites, read this interview with outspoken San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. 

    Tune In: OZY and WGBH have teamed up to create a fabulous new show for PBS, Third Rail With OZY. The show tapes every Friday in NYC in front of a live studio audience. Want to get in on the action? Sign up here.


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    Supervolcanoes Defy Attempts to Predict Eruptions

    When they’ll blow, nobody knows. Phlegrean Fields, a collection of volcanic craters forming a supervolcano in southern Italy, may have wiped out Neanderthals when it erupted 40,000 years ago. Another eruption could darken skies around the world in a catastrophic volcanic winter. While scientists don’t know when it’ll blow again, they warn it could be soon. Until then, it’s a prime research opportunity thanks to geothermal holes drilled in the 1980s. Meanwhile, new research on Yellowstone’s supervolcano indicates we may have only decades of warning before an eruption, rather than centuries.

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    Russia Makes Moves Toward Latin American Oil

    The Russians are coming. This past week a slew of South American leaders were welcomed in Moscow and St. Petersburg to discuss cooperation between the Eastern power and Latin America. Russian oil companies have been making major investments in the region — paying billions to the state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela, exploring wells in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and cozying up to Argentina’s government — and cultivating a reserve of friends in the Western Hemisphere. While Venezuela suffers under U.S. sanctions, Russia may prove an invaluable ally.

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    Study: Academic Acumen Less Important Than Social Skills

    It’s okay to not make the grade. A new British study reveals that 97 percent of teachers and 94 percent of employers value “soft skills” — like creativity, flexibility and teamwork — as much as academic success. More than half the teachers surveyed even said academic prowess is less important. That conflicts with trends toward more standardized education and testing in the U.S. and U.K, which critics say leaves little room for cultivating other forms of intelligence. Meanwhile, schools in China and Uganda are placing a focus on teaching “character.”

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    Rose McGowan Goes Public With Weinstein Rape Allegation

    Stream this. After her Twitter account was briefly locked for “violating terms of service,” McGowan, who’s been vocal about condemning Harvey Weinstein, directly accused him of rape in tweets to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. She also implicated Amazon’s “studio head,” likely to mean Roy Price, who was suspended yesterday on separate sexual misconduct allegations. McGowan had previously been vague about her experience with Weinstein, possibly due to a nondisclosure agreement in their $100,000 settlement from 1997. So far 28 women have accused the mogul of harassment, assault or rape.

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    Goodell’s Wife Tweeted Anonymously in His Defense

    Penalty on the field. An anonymous Twitter account used exclusively to defend NFL commissioner Roger Goodell against media criticism was revealed to belong to his wife. Jane Skinner Goodell, a former Fox News anchor, tweeted to chide journalists for not doing “better reporting” on his response to anthem protests. Her husband issued a statement this week saying players “should” stand during the anthem — later mischaracterized by President Trump as a “demand” — and that he had a plan to “move past” the issue. The league’s decision on the protests is expected next week.