The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Mueller Probe Turns to Press Release on Russian Meeting

    Is it illegal to mislead the public? That’s what some are wondering after yesterday’s report that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating a White House press release from July that claimed a Trump Tower meeting between Russians and the president’s team was about adoption policies. That statement followed reports that the Russians had been peddling political dirt on Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, the FBI is questioning the accuracy of a classified GOP-penned memo, which Republicans voted to release, alleging the FBI abused its surveillance powers by targeting the Trump campaign.

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    AP: Mass Graves Confirmed in Rohingya Village

    The soldiers came with shovels. So says an Associated Press report detailing the slaughter of Rohingya in the Myanmar village of Gu Dar Pyin last summer. Sources including interviews, witness videos and satellite imagery reportedly confirm the presence of five mass graves. Survivors described seeing bloated bodies and bones after monsoon rains, and reported soldiers using acid to dissolve victims’ remains. Myanmar’s government has only recognized one grave containing 10 “terrorists,” but a U.N. official today said the military campaign has “the hallmarks of a genocide,” as international condemnation mounts.

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    Train Carrying GOP Lawmakers Hits Garbage Truck

    There was no time to stop. One truck passenger was killed and several other people were injured when an Amtrak train ferrying House and Senate Republicans through rural Virginia crashed into a garbage truck Wednesday morning. None of the dozens of lawmakers on board were seriously hurt. The train was speeding from Washington, D.C., to a resort in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, where Republicans are discussing party issues ahead of this year’s midterm elections. One of the injured remains in critical condition, and the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

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    Facebook Usage Declines While Profits Soar

    Less is more. The social network’s quarterly earnings report revealed that users spent 50 million fewer hours per day on the site in the last quarter of 2017 — its first ever drop. But the company’s profits still rose 47 percent compared to the same period in 2016, and founder Mark Zuckerberg said the slipping usage ultimately won’t matter after the company revamps its news feed to focus on “meaningful connections.” The mixed news sent Facebook’s stock on a roller coaster ride, tumbling 5 percent before recovering for a 1.4 percent gain.


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    Nutella Riots Prompt French Discount Crackdown

    They’re taking action before it spreads. Viral videos showed Intermarché supermarket shoppers shoving and even fighting to grab armloads of 2-pound Nutella jars selling for 70 percent off. Last Thursday’s promotion of the addictive chocolate-hazelnut spread prompted the French government to step in Wednesday, admonishing retailers to stop dangerous discounting. It also spurred President Emmanuel Macron’s Cabinet to approve legislation to establish minimum prices for farmers — a third of whom make less than $430 per month — aiming to “revolutionize and reverse” the power retailers have over producers.

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    Asia’s Energy Revolution Threatens Trump’s Coal Dreams

    China and India are the canaries. One of President Trump’s major campaign promises was to revive America’s coal industry, which would require major energy-guzzling economies in Asia to purchase the coal that U.S. utilities no longer crave. But coal-fired power plants — especially with expensive and still unproven “clean” coal technology — have become less competitive than solar and wind power. The continent’s biggest energy users, India and China, are quickly shifting toward renewables, and if Southeast Asia follows, coal might just run out of steam.

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    Study: Friends’ Brains Mirror Each Other’s Responses

    These cliques really click. According to new research conducted on 279 grad students, besties’ brains have striking similarities. The Dartmouth College-UCLA researchers scanned participants’ brains while they viewed the same sets of video clips and observed that very close friends’ neurons fired in “exceptionally similar” ways. Scientists were then able to predict the intensity of a friendship by matching brain reactions. Future research will gauge whether we’re attracted to our brain doubles or if neural response patterns are influenced over time by the company we keep.

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    New Stars Added to Revived ‘House of Cards’

    The show must go on. The signature Netflix series resumed production on its sixth and final season Wednesday, several months after leading man Kevin Spacey was kicked off the show amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Now Oscar nominees Diane Lane and Greg Kinnear have joined the cast, and although details are scant, they’ll reportedly play siblings in a storyline that’s refocused on Robin Wright’s character, Claire Underwood. Observers say the additions could lend star power to a show that was flagging even before Spacey’s downfall.

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    USA Gymnastics Board Resigns as Nassar’s Accusers Top 250

    “There is power in numbers.” That’s what motivated Annie LaBrie, one of 256 women and girls accusing the former Olympic gymnastics doctor of sexual assault, to speak up. While LaBrie testified Wednesday during Larry Nassar’s sentencing in Eaton County, Michigan, nearby Meridian Township police faced reports that Nassar had talked his way out of another abuse complaint in 2004. Meanwhile, the entire board of directors at his former employer, USA Gymnastics, has resigned in the wake of Nassar’s federal and state convictions, for which he’s been sentenced to decades in prison.