The Presidential Daily Brief


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    North Korean Missile Makers Hit With Sanctions

    They’re taking names. The U.S. has identified two North Korean officials, believed to be behind the country’s missile program, as targets of individual sanctions. The move blocks Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol from any financial dealings that fall within U.S. purview or transactions with Americans. That adds to U.N. sanctions, announced Friday, that include a cap on fuel imports and expulsion of North Koreans working abroad — a move Pyongyang called an “act of war.” Meanwhile, Russia offered to mediate future talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

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    Aid Groups Evacuate Critically Ill From Damascus Suburb

    There’s no other option. An operation is underway to get at least 29 people, most of them children, out of Eastern Ghouta, where about 400,000 have been besieged by Syrian government forces since 2013. Food and medical supplies have recently run low in the area near Damascus, one of the last rebel strongholds in Syria’s civil war and one of the “de-escalation zones” negotiated a year ago. The U.N. says hundreds need urgent care, and that Syria’s government only allows in enough supplies for 10 percent of the area’s population.

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    Texas Massacre Prompts Cities to Sue Pentagon

    The system failed them. Devin Kelly easily bought the gun he used to massacre 26 people in a Texas church this fall. But the law should have stopped him: The Air Force admitted it failed to report his assault conviction to the FBI, so he passed a federal gun purchase background check. Army officials estimate 10 to 20 percent of its soldiers’ disqualifying records go similarly unreported. Now Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco are suing the Pentagon to meet reporting requirements, while some victims’ families have begun their own legal proceedings.

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    Lawsuits Plague Apple as iPhone Sales Picture Droops

    The courts will make the call. Apple disclosed last week that it’d been slowing its older devices to compensate for faulty batteries, and since then eight lawsuits have been filed in the U.S., along with one in Israel, seeking compensation on behalf of potentially millions of users. Meanwhile, forecasts for iPhoneX sales flagged, bringing Apple stock down 2.5 percent yesterday — a move that dragged the whole S&P 500 down 0.1 percent due to Apple’s size. But general retail sales climbed 4.9 percent over the holidays, an unusually strong season.

  5. Richer Rich, NYC Murders and Flight Mysteries

    Know This: The world’s richest 500 people added $1 trillion to their collective net worth in 2017, more than four times the previous year’s estimate. After barring opposition leader Alexei Navalny from the March presidential election, the Kremlin’s also threatened legal action if he organizes a ballot boycott. And New York City’s murder rate has dropped sharply this year. 

    Remember This: “So basically the boarding pass scanner is just a beedoop machine that makes beedoop noises that register to nowhere.” So tweeted model Chrissy Teigen, whose LA-to-Tokyo flight turned back after four hours when it became apparent that an unauthorized passenger with a ticket for a different airline had somehow boarded the plane. 

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  1. white house jackson magnolia tree shutterstock 529161451

    Trump’s Favorite President’s Tree Is Doomed

    It’s a many-branched metaphor. Andrew Jackson, perhaps America’s first populist president, planted a magnolia on the White House South Lawn in memory of his deceased wife in 1835. That was 182 years before President Donald Trump mounted Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office, praising his “tremendous success,” even as others pointed out his legacy of displacing the Cherokee people. Now experts say the seventh president’s tree is so hollow cables can’t prevent helicopter gusts from knocking it down, so First Lady Melania Trump has reportedly ordered most of it removed, preserving seedlings for a potential replanting.

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    Vietnam Deploys Cyberarmy to Fight Internet Dissent

    They want to protect the homepage. Vietnam says it’s raised a 10,000-strong cyberarmy — called Force 47 — to combat “wrongful views” on the internet. The People’s Army effort is part of a growing crackdown in the social media-loving country. Per the state’s request, Facebook has pulled 159 accounts and YouTube has removed 90 percent of flagged videos, the Vietnamese government says. The two social media platforms haven’t commented. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese National Assembly is debating an internet “security” bill to force tech companies to place some servers locally.

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    Could Brexit Help Expand EU Influence?

    Maybe they’ll learn. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, in the throes of difficult negotiations over the EU’s new relationship with Britain, thinks the breakup could help solve other vexing issues. Turkey and Ukraine want to join the bloc, despite policy and stability problems that stand in the way. But a “smart” Brexit deal could actually devise a new breed of cooperative partnership — short of EU membership, but similar to a possible U.K. agreement, Gabriel says. Turkey would need to stop jailing journalists and rounding up dissenters, he added, before even that could happen.

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    Police Report: Trump’s Ex-Campaign Chief Slapped Singer’s Rear

    #MAGAtoo. Singer Joy Villa — who wore a “Make America Great Again” dress to the Grammys this year — filed a Christmas Eve police report against President Trump’s fired campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, accusing him of slapping her derrière Nov. 28 at a Washington, D.C. party. She told police she threatened to report him, and Lewandowski said, “I work in the private sector,” and allegedly repeated the offense. Villa said in October she might run for Congress, prompting Trump to congratulate her for entering “the wonderful world of politics.” 

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    Women’s Chess Champion Boycotts Saudi Tournament

    It’s a game she won’t play. This week’s King Salman Rapid and Blitz chess tournament, held in Saudi Arabia, offers a $2 million prize pot — but that wasn’t enough to stave off controversy, with Israeli players denied visas and doubt that Qatari and Iranian players will show up. And Ukrainian Anna Muzychuk, the defending world champion in the two featured forms of speed chess, says she and her sister will be skipping the contest to protest Saudi Arabia’s record on gender equality, restricting women’s unescorted movement and requiring them to wear form-concealing abayas.