The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Trump Floats New Gun Control Measures

    “We want to pass something great.” That’s what President Donald Trump said yesterday in a live televised meeting with lawmakers about gun control. He shocked observers by proposing tougher background checks, restrictions on sales to young adults and greater powers to seize weapons from the mentally ill. Those measures put him at odds with longstanding Republican principles and the National Rifle Association. After a later meeting with the president an NRA lobbyist suggested Trump had reconsidered his position on gun control and supported “strong due process.” 

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    Trump Announces High Tariffs on Steel, Aluminum

    Steel yourself for the backlash. Canada and China are expected to be hard hit by new import charges announced by President Donald Trump today, including a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum from next week. The U.S. currently imports steel from 110 countries, and while the president has railed against Chinese trade policies since taking office, China’s not the biggest exporter to the U.S. — it’s the 11th. Stocks in U.S. steel manufacturers rose at the news, but industrial stocks fell, as some anticipated higher prices.

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    Hope Hicks Resigns as White House Communications Director

    One of President Trump’s longest-serving aides said yesterday she’s leaving the White House to explore opportunities outside of government. The 29-year-old former model’s departure is the latest in a year-long string of resignations and firings within the president’s inner circle, and it comes a day after she testified before a closed congressional hearing on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The White House said her decision was unrelated to the session — during which, lawmakers claim, Hicks said she occasionally told “white lies” for Trump.

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    Putin Promises Higher Living Standards in Pre-Election Speech

    But will he deliver? That’s the question on everyone’s mind after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his annual state-of-the-nation address today, in which he pledged to cut poverty in half, improve infrastructure, and strengthen an array of social services from health care to education. While he’s all but certain to sweep the March 18 presidential election — his approval rating hovers above 80 percent — Russia’s been hobbled by a recent economic downturn, and many of its far-flung regions suffer from a low standard of living.

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    Major Retailers Take Aim at Gun Sales

    Yesterday, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart responded to the renewed gun control debate sparked by last month’s Parkland school shooting by raising the age to buy firearms at their stores to 21. Dick’s went even further, announcing a total end to sales of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. “We have heard you,” Dick’s CEO Edward Stack said, addressing Parkland students and families. Both moves reveal how major retailers are taking new positions in these highly politicized times — though that also means risking their reputations and customer bases.

  6. Mueller Probe, Acid Attacks and Italian History

    Know This: Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating the motives behind President Trump’s public criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Officials in the U.K. have designated acid a “highly dangerous weapon,” levying stiffer punishments for attacks using corrosive substances. And legendary rocker Keith Richards apologized to Rolling Stones bandmate Mick Jagger for publicly suggesting the famous frontman get a vasectomy.

    Read This: As Italy nears its March 4 general election — which appears to promise even more instability for the European Union — it’s worth having a look at the country’s rich history to understand why it seems perennially troubled.

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    Spotify Files to Go Public

    The Swedish music streaming service has sent notice to regulators and potential investors of its debut on the New York Stock Exchange. The company says its value, estimated at more than $23 billion in private trading, lies in data analytics: More than 200 petabytes of listener behavior data powers tailored predictions for Spotify’s 159 million active monthly users. Although billed as an IPO, the company’s public appearance is really a direct listing, which could lead to more volatile prices. Meanwhile, Spotify said it plans to expand into podcasts and video.

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    NGOs Fight Afghan Heroin Trade With Grapes

    There are worse raisins. While Afghanistan produces about 70 percent of the world’s opium, USAID and other development agencies have long hoped to convince farmers that other crops would be more lucrative. And they are: Crops like grapes, walnuts and almonds pay more than double what opium does per hectare. In the past, NGOs had focused on encouraging staple crops like wheat, but it turns out that high-end fare may do the trick — as long as the United States can maintain Afghan trust despite the horrors of accidental drone strikes.

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    Astronomers Detect Earliest Starlight in Universe

    A team of scientists has reportedly discovered signals from stars that formed just 180 million years after the Big Bang, which happened 13.8 billion years ago. Capping a 12-year effort in a remote Australian desert, researchers detected radiation from hydrogen atoms created in the universe’s earliest days. But the signal was much stronger than expected and astronomers think dark matter may be the cause — which would be the first evidence of dark matter being tangible. The scientists will now try to replicate the results with bigger radio telescopes in South Africa.

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    Barbra Streisand Reveals She Cloned Her Dog Twice

    It was as easy as one-two-three. The Oscar-winner told Variety she had her beloved dog Samantha, who died last year, cloned to produce two of her three current coton de tulear dogs, Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet. Her third pup, Miss Fanny, is Samantha’s distant cousin. Canine cloning costs about $50,000 and the animals produced are not exact replicas: Streisand said her cloned pups have different personalities. Meanwhile, PETA released a statement imploring people to adopt animals from shelters rather than cloning cherished pets.

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    US Olympic Committee CEO Resigns Amid Nassar Backlash

    Citing health issues, Scott Blackmun announced he’ll be stepping down from his post. But his resignation comes amid sharp criticism — and three congressional inquiries — about how his organization handled revelations that former gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused more than 260 young girls. During Nassar’s trial, many of his victims called for action against the USOC, and two senators had specifically implored Blackmun to step down. Susanne Lyons will serve as interim CEO as the organization faces what chairman Larry Probst called “a critical point in its history.”