The Presidential Daily Brief


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    200,000 Evacuated as Southern California Fires Multiply

    “We’re trying our best to get out ahead of it.” So said a Cal Fire official as gusting winds continue to spread dangerous wildfires throughout the Los Angeles area. Fires jumped freeways, destroyed hundreds of houses and killed dozens of horses in the region. Two new fires sprang up north of San Diego as about 5,700 firefighters struggle to contain the six major blazes. Schools were closed and residents in some areas were urged to evacuate, while others were instructed to stay inside and avoid smoky air through at least Sunday.

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    Franken Resigns After Party Pressure

    Some things can’t be laughed off. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said he’ll step down within weeks over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and increasing pressure from the Democratic Party. “There is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office,” Franken said, referring to President Donald Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Trent Franks announced he’ll resign amid an ethics investigation into his discussions of child surrogacy that made two female staffers “uncomfortable.”

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    UK, EU Strike Preliminary Brexit Deal

    Breaking up is hard to do … but potentially not impossible. After an early morning meeting, both sides have agreed to preliminary terms, including guarantees on the rights of EU citizens in the U.K. and British citizens in Europe, avoiding a “hard” border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and a pledge that Britain will honor its monetary commitments to the bloc. Prime Minister Theresa May conceded to the EU’s demands on most points rather than risk not moving on to the next phase of negotiations: A desperately needed post-Brexit trade deal.

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    Ex-Officer Sentenced to 20 Years for Killing Unarmed Black Man

    He was caught on tape. Michael Slager, a former South Carolina police officer whose killing of Walter Scott was caught on video by a bystander, will serve 20 years in prison for second-degree murder. The video showed Slager, who claimed he acted in self defense, shooting a fleeing Scott in the back multiple times and then planting his stun gun next to Scott’s body. The sentence is unusually severe: Even when officers are charged in such cases, they’re convicted less than 1 percent of the time.

  5. A Stabbing, a Spending Bill and the PDB Quiz

    Know This: Three people are dead at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo after the chief priestess was reportedly stabbed to death with a samurai sword by her brother and his wife. Congress has passed a stopgap spending bill to avert government shutdown until Dec. 22. And after hitting $16,000 in Asian trading, Bitcoin took a sudden tumble of more than 12 percent.

    Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB quiz.

    Talk to Us: Tell us how you really feel. Our electrifying TV show, Third Rail With OZY, is shelving the PC and whipping up debates. Each week we’re posting a provocative question, and we want you to weigh in. This week: Is World War III inevitable? Why or why not? Go deep. Email with your thoughts, and we might feature your answer next week.


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    France Faces Christmas Shortage of Foie Gras, Butter, Wine

    Quelle horreur. France’s battle with bird flu, which required the slaughter of thousands of birds, brought production of foie gras down 25 percent in 2016 and a further 22 percent in 2017 — which could lead to soaring prices during the holidays, according to some predictions. Meanwhile, butter production worldwide has fallen, leaving the French market strapped. And this year France suffered its worst grape harvest since World War II — a product of unseasonal weather this spring — meaning holiday tables may be bare of several traditional delicacies.

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    Highest-Paid YouTube Star Made $16.5 Million Last Year

    He plays the game well. British gamer Daniel Middleton, also known as DanTDM, hauled in an astonishing $16.5 million. The 26-year-old boasts nearly 17 million followers and over 11 billion views on his YouTube channel, where fans watch him play video games and offer pithy zingers. According to the annual Forbes report, the world’s 10 highest-paid streaming stars — a list dominated by gamers — earned a combined $127 million between June 2016 and June 2017. That’s an 80 percent increase from the previous year.

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    Scientists Have Created an Atlas of the Developing Human Brain

    Is this too cerebral? University of California neuroscientists have released a map that explains when and where certain genes express themselves as the brain develops. Five years of work allowed the team to get detailed in specific regions — the basal ganglia and the cerebral cortex — where they analyzed development at the cellular level, attempting “to understand how we make a human brain.” They’ve now shared the results online as an interactive database visualization, allowing other researchers to cross-reference their findings with existing brain maps.

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    Ultra Violet Named 2018 Color of the Year

    Purple reigns. The Pantone Color Institute, which has selected each year’s symbolic shade since 2000, says “provocative and thoughtful” ultra violet is so next year. 2017’s green was selected as a calm antidote to a tumultuous political moment, but Pantone says 2018’s vivid purple hue suggests originality and “visionary thinking.” Some noted that purple is also associated with bipartisanship in the U.S., but at the moment it means danger in Los Angeles, where raging wildfires have boosted the threat level to purple, the highest possible, for the first time.

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    Former US Olympic Team Doctor Sentenced to 60 Years

    He’s going away for life. Larry Nassar, former physician with USA Gymnastics, received the maximum sentence of 60 years on child pornography charges. He is also accused of abusing more than 140 women, including several Olympians, many of whom say he assaulted them as children under the guise of medical procedures. Nassar, 54, is still awaiting sentencing on 10 convictions for sexual misconduct. But some of his victims say justice feels “incomplete” and demand USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee be held accountable for not stopping Nassar’s abuse.