The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Netanyahu Defiant Amid Indictment Recommendations

    He’s standing his ground. After Israeli police recommended he be indicted in two separate corruption cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday evening defiantly proclaimed his innocence in a televised address. Still, the embattled leader is likely to face growing calls to step down after the conclusion of lengthy probes into allegations that he traded political favors for positive coverage in a leading Israeli daily, as well as accepted pricey gifts from a Hollywood tycoon. The country’s attorney general has final say over whether Netanyahu will face charges.

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    South African President Ordered to Step Down

    It’s time to go. President Jacob Zuma was told to resign within 48 hours by his ruling African National Congress party yesterday. His nine years in power saw economic decline and hundreds of charges of corruption leveled against him. Zuma — already replaced as party leader by reformist Cyril Ramaphosa — is nevertheless refusing to step down, and his spokesperson called reports that he’d resigned “fake news.” A formal request to step down will be issued today, and if Zuma ignores it he’ll face a no-confidence vote in Parliament Feb. 22.

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    Trump Budget Abandons Deficit Reduction Goals

    They’re in the money. The White House unveiled its budget yesterday, a $4.4 trillion plan that would entail a sharp increase in the federal deficit: $984 billion next year and $7 trillion over the next 10 years. The plan, titled “An American Budget,” cuts funding for programs like Medicare and food stamps — contradicting the two-year bipartisan budget President Donald Trump signed last week — but includes large military spending increases. Experts expect neither Democrats nor Republicans will support the proposal, which bucks the longtime GOP priority of balancing the federal budget.

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    Pyongyang Cozies Up to Seoul, US May Be Ready to Negotiate

    The games continue. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un praised South Korea for welcoming his delegation to the Winter Olympics, even after his nuclear grandstanding has escalated tensions with President Trump and set the world on edge in recent months. Kim, who some felt used the Games as propaganda for his regime, called for further warming of relations with Seoul. Meanwhile, U.S. officials said tactics toward North Korea are shifting, with American leaders potentially ready for “talks about talks” with Pyongyang, even if it hasn’t agreed to denuclearize.

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    Massive ‘Invisible’ Oil Spill Contaminates Asian Seas

    They’re in uncharted waters. Experts say that when an Iranian tanker collided with a cargo ship on Jan. 6, 122,000 tons of noxious condensate were released into some of China and Japan’s most important fishing areas. Unlike crude oil, condensate is nearly invisible and can’t be pumped out of the water, instead needing to dissolve or evaporate. Until then, fish from those waters may be toxic. It’s a major test of Beijing’s ability to respond to a huge environmental disaster, and authorities have ordered a fishing ban and further investigation.


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    Smithsonian Unveils Obama Portraits

    Voila! Yesterday the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., debuted its portraits of former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, part of its permanent installation of U.S. leaders. The paintings were created by artists Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, and depict the couple in colorful, vibrant styles. The former president joked, “I tried to negotiate smaller ears,” while his wife spoke about young women of color who can now see “someone who looks like them” on the walls of the Smithsonian. The paintings are now on display to the public.

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    Iceland’s Bitcoin Mining to Use More Energy Than Residents

    What’s the balance of power? The tiny island nation is powered almost completely by renewable energy. But later this year it’s expected to use more of that power on energy-hungry data centers to “mine” bitcoin than on its 340,000 residents. Lawmaker Smári McCarthy complained that bitcoin has “no tangible existence and no real use for humans outside the realm of financial speculation,” and says Iceland should do more to regulate cryptocurrencies — which have been seeking new hubs amidst rumors that China will crack down on bitcoin mining.

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    Suspected Poacher Mauled to Death by Lions

    Was it self-defense? Authorities at Ingwelala Private Nature Reserve in northeastern South Africa say they found the body of an apparent poacher who’d been mauled and partially eaten by a pride of lions. While the remains were badly mangled, park officials say the trespassing man’s hunting rifle and ammunition gave his intention away. They couldn’t be sure if he was targeting the cats, especially since the region’s seen a spike in rhino poaching in recent years, but lions have been found in the area missing tails, paws, skin and teeth.

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    Fashion Has an Emerging New Capital: Dubai

    It’s so haute there. The Emirati city — home to Vogue Arabia, a newly finished 21.5-million-square-foot Design District, and the world’s largest shopping mall — is aiming to rival design capitals like Paris and New York. Long a place to buy high-end Western styles, Dubai is now the second-fastest growing fashion market, increasingly developing its own local talent while attracting foreign stars. Although clothing restrictions apply — don’t expect a Victoria’s Secret show — Dubai’s designers hope to win over the large market for “modest fashion.”

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    LaVar Ball: Lonzo to Leave Lakers if Brothers Aren’t Signed

    Take ’em or leave ’em. Yesterday in a Lithuanian press interview the outspoken basketball dad revealed he wants his three sons to play for the same NBA team. While Lonzo is a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers, younger brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo play for Prienu Vytautas in Lithuania. LaVar also implied Lonzo would leave the Lakers in two years if his brothers aren’t signed to the team. But Lonzo, whose career in LA has been marked by injuries and absences, likely doesn’t have leverage over the roster.