The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Wall Street Plunge Greets New Fed Chair

    Are they changing horses mid-correction? Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell, appointed by President Donald Trump to replace Janet Yellen, takes office today, but his timing could be better: The Dow Jones average dropped 4.1 percent last week, then closed down nearly 1,200 points today amid “panic-type selling” — its largest single-day point drop ever. The sell-off was fueled by concerns that Powell could stunt economic growth by hiking interest rates. Still, observers say the U.S. economy boasts strong fundamentals, such as a solid job market and stable consumer confidence.

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    NTSB: Switch Put Amtrak on Collision Course

    Was it preventable? National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said a misrouted switch put Amtrak 91 on the same track as an empty CSX freight train near Columbia, South Carolina, early Sunday, killing an engineer and conductor while injuring 116 passengers. The New York-to-Miami train’s collision was the third fatal Amtrak accident since December. Sumwalt said implementation of the GPS-based “positive train control” system, which has been delayed by Congress, “could have avoided this accident.” A House transportation subcommittee will discuss rail safety Feb. 15.

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    North Korean ‘Head of State’ to Visit South

    He’s in the neighborhood. North Korea is sending top officials, including the leader of its Parliament, Kim Yong Nam, to Seoul ahead of the Winter Olympics this week. Kim, 90, holds a largely ceremonial position as speaker of Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp legislature, and would be the highest-level official to visit the South since the Korean War. It would also put a senior North Korean official and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in close proximity, fueling speculation of direct communication between their two governments as the two Koreas’ athletes compete together.


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    Uma Thurman Finally Tells Her #MeToo Story

    They were a power trio: Thurman, Harvey Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino. Their symbiosis kindled Hollywood gold with blockbusters Pulp Fiction and two Kill Bill movies. But what Weinstein calls a “flirtatious and fun” collaboration got ugly in a London hotel room over a decade ago, Thurman has told The New York Times. Weinstein pushed her down, she alleges, and “tried to shove himself” on her, but she squirmed away “like a lizard.” Weinstein’s representative said the “awkward pass” was no assault, and Thurman’s accusations left the disgraced mogul “saddened and puzzled.”

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    Early Silicon Valley Employees Want You to Beware

    Look on their works and despair. Former tech insiders from Facebook, Google and Mozilla have launched a new nonprofit to raise awareness about technology addiction and the societal ills caused by the “digital attention crisis.” One co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, a former Google design ethicist, says humanity should understand it’s facing a “civilization-scale mind-control machine.” The group hopes Congress will fund research on the impact of manipulative design and constant scrolling on children’s health, as well as educating the public on social media’s risks.

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    Archaeologists Open 4,400-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb

    It’s a window on eternity. Archaeologists in Egypt announced the discovery of a well-preserved burial chamber from the Fifth Dynasty, a prosperous era when pharaohs were still building pyramids. The lavish tomb belonged to Hetpet, a priestess of Hathor — the goddess of fertility, music and dance — and was decorated with colorful painted scenes including unusual images of monkeys dancing in front of an orchestra. Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities hopes this and other recent discoveries will boost tourism, which has suffered since the country’s Arab Spring uprisings.

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    Japan Launches Smallest-Ever Satellite-Carrying Rocket

    It’s what you do with it that matters. This weekend the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the world’s most compact satellite-carrying rocket, a 33-foot-long SS-520 that delivered a 13.6-inch surface-imaging microsatellite into low orbit. A technical fault prompted JAXA to abort the rocket’s last attempted launch in January 2017, but now it’s leading the spaceflight industry in sending smaller payloads aloft. Others, such as New Zealand’s Rocket Lab, are doing similar projects, with an eye toward reducing the cost of launching useful devices into orbit.

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    These Hotels Want to Make You Gasp

    They’re a sight to see. With free breakfast and Wi-Fi as standard fixtures, some luxury hotels are elevating their game a notch, offering features and amenities that make them destinations unto themselves. Industry experts say the shift is necessary to drive larger returns for investors by attracting new crowds — including non-guest tourists and even locals. From rooftop bars with 360-degree views to guest rooms located within an art museum, executives say these new destination hotels give guests “an experience they can talk about for years to come.”