The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Suspected Spy, Former CIA Agent, Arrested in New York

    Did they break the mole? The collapse of America’s spying operation in China, which saw around 20 informants imprisoned or killed beginning in 2010, was one of its most disastrous recent intelligence operations. U.S. agencies weren’t even sure if a hack or a counteragent was responsible. Now former CIA officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee has been arrested at New York’s Kennedy Airport, capping an extensive FBI investigation into the mystery. Lee, who quit the CIA in 2007 and had been living in Hong Kong, has been charged in federal court.

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    Steve Bannon Subpoenaed by Mueller, House Committee

    Mr. Bannon goes back to Washington. President Donald Trump’s disgraced former chief strategist has been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury on links between the Trump campaign and Russia. It’s the first time Mueller’s gone after a close associate of Trump with a grand jury subpoena. On Tuesday Bannon testified before the House Intelligence Committee, but refused to answer questions “under instructions from the White House.” That spurred the committee to issue a subpoena, but Bannon, apparently invoking executive privilege, says he’ll stay mum.

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    Two Koreas to March Together During Olympics

    It’s a sporting miracle. For the first time in more than a decade, North and South Korea will parade together under a single flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. The fruit of ongoing talks between the two fierce rivals — which included the decision to field a joint women’s ice hockey team — it marks a significant step toward rapprochement after months of heightened tensions over Pyongyang’s repeated missile tests. It’s still unclear how many athletes the North will send, but the country’s already confirmed the attendance of a 230-member cheerleading squad.

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    Catalan Parliament Reopens With No President

    Second time’s the charm. Catalonia’s Parliament reopens today and must nominate a president — likely independence referendum leader Carles Puigdemont, who’s currently in exile in Belgium. Puigdemont believes it’s possible to maintain the office via Skype and social media, though Spain’s prime minister has warned that he’ll keep Catalonia under emergency rule rather than see Puigdemont, who faces possible prison time if he returns to Spain, back in power. Meanwhile, a fictional region called Tabarnia has gone viral, claiming to want independence from Catalonia in a satire of the independence movement.

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    GE Considers Dividing Itself to Cope With Financial Woes

    Breaking up is hard to do. But 125-year-old GE, one of the oldest American conglomerates, has seen shares fall 40 percent over the past year and 2.9 percent just yesterday. Now CEO John Flannery says the company may spin off its divisions focused on health care, aviation and power equipment. Yesterday GE disclosed that it’ll have to pay $15 billion over the next seven years to make good on liabilities from an insurance business it sold more than 10 years ago, something Flannery called “deeply disappointing.”

  6. Nassar’s Sentencing, NPS Resistance and Trump’s Physical

    Know This: Almost 100 women who say they were abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar plan to speak at his sentencing hearing. Three-quarters of a National Park Service advisory board quit en masse Monday night, citing frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke refused to meet with them. And Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong has been sentenced to another prison term connected to his part in 2014 pro-democracy protests.

    Read This: President Trump has had his first physical and his doctor declared him “in excellent health.” You can look over the full report here.

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    States Sue Over Net Neutrality; Dems Aim to Reverse Changes

    Every vote counts. Senate net neutrality advocates announced yesterday that they’ve got 50 votes pledged to prevent its repeal — 49 Democrats plus Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — and are hoping one more Republican will join them, though passage through the House or past the president is unlikely. The repeal, critics say, will increase inequality on the web and allow companies to abuse control of the market, and it’s widely unpopular with voters. Meanwhile, 22 states filed suit against the FCC to stop the repeal taking effect.

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    Activists Announce Bid to Split California in Two

    Divided they stand. Calling the current elected legislature a “tyrannical form of government,” conservatives Robert Paul Preston and Tom Reed have released a declaration of independence on their website calling for the establishment of New California, which would split the state’s inland rural areas from its major cities. Another recent initiative proposing six Californias failed to make it onto the 2016 ballot, and any such proposal is generally seen as a political non-starter. Critics say the bid, which differs from secessionist Calexit campaigns, amounts to political gerrymandering.

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    Neurotics More in Tune With Affection

    All you need is love. A new study suggests neurotic people get a bad rap: Despite tense behavior and sometimes erratic emotions, it seems they’ve got a better sense of what makes a person feel loved. Penn State researchers found anger and anxiety don’t get in the way of knowing when someone needs a hug — likely because a constant focus on life’s negative aspects makes them more attentive to moments of affection. And while some neurotic people find sustaining relationships difficult, research suggests partnering up makes them more emotionally stable.

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    Matt Damon Apologizes for Initial Remarks on #MeToo

    “I should get in the back seat and close my mouth.” That’s what Damon said of the #MeToo and #Time’sUp campaigns, adding that he wished to be “along for the ride” in a movement that includes his “dear friends.” Damon felt a backlash from a December interview when he criticized the “culture of outrage” in Hollywood and warned against treating harassment with the same severity as rape and assault. Meanwhile, PBS announced a five-part miniseries airing next month about changing attitudes toward sexual harassment called #MeToo, Now What?

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    Jamaican Women’s Bobsled Team Makes First Olympics

    Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme! Thirty years after Jamaica’s men’s bobsled team first made it to the Winter Olympics — as portrayed in the classic comedy Cool Runnings — its women’s team will be making history when it heads to South Korea next month. American-born Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian will lead a crew of former track athletes, now brakewomen, against competitors including the first African sled — a women’s team from Nigeria. Meanwhile, Jamaica’s men’s bobsled team is just one spot below qualifying for its own trip to Pyeongchang.