The Presidential Daily Brief


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    SpaceX Launches Massive New Rocket

    It’s flying high. SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center today, sending up the most powerful rocket currently in use. Equipped with three boosters and 27 engines, the Heavy carried a red Tesla sports car — with a mannequin strapped into the driver’s seat — over the Atlantic Ocean and into space from the launch site used for NASA missions. The 230-foot-tall, heavy-lift launch vehicle marks an important milestone in commercial spaceflight, and at $90 million per launch, it’s the cheapest option out there for potential clients.

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    Dow Surges After More Trading Drama

    “Volatility is back.” That’s what traders are saying after the Dow Jones, which recorded its biggest-ever point drop on Monday, closed up today more than 2 percent — but only after bouncing between gains and losses. Asian markets also tumbled, with Hong Kong and Tokyo indexes dropping more than 4 percent. Market analysts urged caution in the wake of yesterday’s stock slide, saying the loss wasn’t a “crash” because it only declined 4.6 percent. Either way, the past several days have signaled the market calm of recent years is over.

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    Deadly Earthquake Hits Taiwan

    It came and went. Four people are dead and more than 150 missing after a magnitude-6.4 earthquake hit Taiwan’s east coast today, toppling buildings and damaging a major highway. Rescue workers were busy freeing people from the collapsed 10-story Marshal Hotel in Hualien City, according to local reports, while photos from the scene depict scattered debris and leaning buildings. The earthquake struck 13 miles northeast of Hualien, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and it comes after several days of tremors in the region, which sits near the convergence of two tectonic plates.

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    Supreme Court Declines Pennsylvania Gerrymandering Case

    They’ve changed the rules. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Pennsylvania high court decision forcing the state to immediately redraw its congressional boundaries. The state Supreme Court ruled that 2011’s Republican-drawn districts were overly partisan and violated Pennsylvania’s Constitution. State officials must now redraw the districts by Feb. 15. Experts say redistricting will boost the hopes of Democrats, who currently hold just five of 18 Pennsylvania seats, to wrest control of the U.S. House. The decision may also bode ill for Republican chances in other redistricting cases.

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    Maldives in Crisis as President Orders Judges Arrested

    It’s hardly a vacation spot. The Indian Ocean archipelago of 1,192 islands, prized for its pristine beaches, is now being roiled by political conflict. Today President Abdulla Yameen had the country’s chief justice and another judge arrested after refusing to obey a Supreme Court order to release dissident prisoners. The ruling also invalidated the conviction of an exiled former president. Opposition leaders are asking India to intervene to stop the “purge,” while Yameen has declared a state of emergency and ordered the military to counter any effort to remove him.

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    House Committee Votes to Release Democrats’ Rebuttal Memo

    It’s in Trump’s court. The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Monday to release a classified Democrat-penned memo seen as a rebuttal to the Republican-written document published Friday. President Trump, who has five days to approve the release, maintains the GOP memo “exonerates” him by proving FBI investigators misled the court that approved surveilling one of his aides. But even Republican committee members say it doesn’t negate the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, who may seek to interview Trump — something his lawyers are reportedly advising against.


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    Several Eagles Players to Boycott Trump White House

    It’s the city of brotherly defiance. So far, three Philadelphia players — including Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins, a vocal leader during the NFL player protests — have said they won’t visit the White House if they’re invited after their Super Bowl win. Meanwhile, the city’s cleaning up after massive celebrations. Fans reportedly scaled the gates of City Hall, swung from light poles (greasing notwithstanding), burned Christmas trees, flipped cars and stole a police horse. And the mayhem isn’t over yet: The Eagles’ victory parade is scheduled for Thursday.

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    Canadian Universities Offer Marijuana Courses

    They’re promising budding careers. Responding to increasing demand for professional training in the marijuana industry, colleges and universities in the Great White North are offering classes in cannabis cultivation, marketing and other aspects of the burgeoning legal weed business. With Canada quickly approaching the July 1 legalization of recreational pot, institutions are filling what experts say is a void in the educational landscape. Marijuana companies, meanwhile, will be looking to hire employees from traditional disciplines, such as management and accounting, seeking workers who know their way around weed.

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    Morocco Sets Sights on Becoming New African Power

    They’ll always have Casablanca. Fresh off rejoining the African Union last year, Morocco is looking to become a leader among African Arab and Islamic states. King Mohammed VI has crisscrossed the continent on a charm offensive rooted in anti-colonialist rhetoric, while his country invests economically in the region and spreads its moderate Maliki version of Sunni Islam. With Morocco’s growing economy, thriving service sector and robust civil society, the Western Kingdom may just emerge from the shadows of African powerhouses like Egypt and South Africa.

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    Grab Is the Ride-Sharing App to Beat in Southeast Asia

    They’re driving the market. Six years after launching in Kuala Lumpur, Grab has become the go-to ride-hailing app in eight countries across Southeast Asia, totaling 2.3 million drivers in 168 cities. The brainchild of Harvard-educated Malaysians, the company’s kept Uber at bay in those markets using local savvy and flexibility for taking payments (cash is welcome) and finding new drivers. Now some reports indicate the world’s biggest ride-sharing service might even partner with Grab for its own slice of the Asian pie.

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    ‘Frasier’ Actor John Mahoney Dies at 77

    It was the twinkle in his eye. British-born Mahoney, best known for playing the cantankerous dad for 11 seasons, died Sunday in hospice care in Chicago. His role as Martin Crane, father of Kelsey Grammer’s title character, earned him Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and a SAG Award win. Mahoney launched his acting career late in life in Chicago, encouraged by actor John Malkovich, beginning a 35-year run that included a 1986 Tony Award for his House of Blue Leaves stage performance and roles in many films, including Moonstruck.