The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. student gun protest at capitol square shutterstock 1046088280

    Hundreds of Thousands March Across Nation for Gun Control

    “Fight for your lives.” So urged student Emma Gonzalez, who listed the names of 17 people slain at her Parkland, Florida, high school Feb. 14 by an AR-15-firing ex-student. Hundreds of thousands gathered to hear her and others in Washington, D.C., and rallies in Parkland, Chicago and cities from L.A. to Paris Saturday, joined by Paul McCartney, who paid tribute to his handgun-slain bandmate John Lennon in New York. Parkland attack-injured Sam Fuentes threw up onstage in Washington before saying demonstrators were “not asking for a ban,” but compromise.

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    Dozens Die in Russian Shopping Center Fire

    A fire in a shopping mall in Siberia has killed at least 37 people, Russian media report. Videos posted on social media showed people jumping from windows of the Winter Cherry building in the city of Kemerovo, about 600 miles northwest of western Mongolia, to escape the blaze. Media reports indicated that the fire started in an entertainment complex and the mall also contains a zoo, which may explain why 40 children are reportedly among dozens missing. The cause of the fire hasn’t been reported, but authorities are investigating.

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    Stormy Daniels Says She Was Threatened by Trump Associate

    The adult film star told CBS’ 60 Minutes she was approached seven years ago in a parking garage while with her daughter and threatened to not sell a story of her affair with Donald Trump. ”That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom,” she claims the man told her daughter. Touch Magazine was set to buy the story for $15,000. Daniels is fighting an agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election — which came with $130,000 — to not disclose the alleged affair with Trump.

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    Trump Signs Budget, Orders Military Transgender Ban

    After threatening to veto the $1.3 trillion spending package over border wall outlays and immigration — just as funding was set to expire at midnight Friday — President Trump signed the 2,232-page bill. Bankrolling the government through September, the bipartisan legislation passed both houses of Congress the night before with both military and domestic spending increases. Friday night the president also signed an order backing the Pentagon’s cancellation of an Obama-era policy allowing transgender troops. Less restrictive than Trump’s earlier ban, the new plan primarily disqualifies personnel who have had reassignment surgery.

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    Hero Officer Dies After French Hostage Crisis

    He traded his life. Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame offered a hostage-taker in the southern French town of Trèbes himself in place of a female hostage Friday in a tragic terror drama. The gunman, who declared allegiance to ISIS, had earlier killed one person while hijacking a car, shot at jogging police, then killed two more people when he barricaded himself inside a supermarket. Four hours later, Beltrame was shot as he attempted to make the hostage exchange, prompting police to storm in, killing the 25-year-old hostage taker. The hospitalized officer died this morning.

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    The ‘Non-Terror’ Bombings of Austin

    For nearly three weeks, the citizens of Texas’ capital lived in growing fear as a string of six explosions killed two people and injured five. Before the bomber killed himself in his car in Wednesday’s final blast, he made a video confessing to the attacks that used pipe bombs and smokeless powder. While it reassured the public that the ordeal was over, Mark Anthony Conditt didn’t explain his murderous campaign. So by federal definition, his crimes aren’t considered “terrorism” — defined as politically motivated — even if a terrorized populace was the result.

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    Egyptians Can Vote, But They Can’t Run

    It’s all in the choice. Observers expect Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi will cruise into a second term during the three-day election that begins Monday. Credible contenders say they’ve been intimidated out of running, leaving only little-known Moussa Mustafa Moussa — seen as a friend of the regime — as an apparent token opposition candidate. It will be the third election since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak after three decades in power, the first of which elected an Islamist government that el-Sissi’s military forced out.

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    Did Facebook Break Along With Society?

    They’re losing friends. Cambridge Analytica reportedly exploited 50 million Facebook users’ ill-gotten profiles for Donald Trump’s campaign, with an ex-CA employee claiming the firm aimed to “break” society to more effectively target ads. After an awkward silence and a sudden loss of billions in stock value, the social media giant’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, satisfied few critics with his response, which included a nod to regulation. But many observers say they weren’t surprised — such manipulation, even by Cambridge Analytica, had been reported — while others warn that in the digital marketplace, user beware.

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    When Self-Driving Cars Kill, Whom Do You Sue?

    The human safety monitor in a self-driving Uber appeared in a video to be distracted when the vehicle fatally struck a woman in Arizona, and so, apparently, were the vehicle’s sensors. Experts say that in last weekend’s fatality, humans — either the “driver” or pedestrian, must shoulder legal responsibility. But once such transportation is common, that may change. It could also mean, as governments bow to the vehicles’ necessity, that some roadways will be cordoned off, just as jaywalking was outlawed to accommodate cars in the first place.

  10. Stormy Sunday, Deadly Mexican Gas and Syrian Withdrawal

    The Week Ahead: Tonight, CBS’ 60 Minutes will air its interview with porn star Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 to hush up an alleged affair with President Trump. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday in a Republican effort to overturn Maryland’s congressional district map, arguing that boundaries unfairly benefit Democrats. And on Thursday, the Major League Baseball season begins.

    Know This: Autopsies indicate that an Iowa family found dead in a condominium on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula asphyxiated from toxic gas. More rebels have been bused out of the Damascus suburbs of Eastern Ghouta under an agreement with Syria’s government, which now controls 70 percent of the area.  And officials say President Trump is planning to expel at least 20 Russian diplomats over the nerve agent poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in Britain.

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    Could Fracking Solve the Nuclear Waste Problem?

    Storing nuclear waste well into the future is one of America’s most vexing energy problems. But the father-daughter team of Richard and Elizabeth Muller have an answer: reverse fracking. Their startup, Deep Isolation, would use hydraulic fracturing to bury radioactive waste in horizontal tunnels through shale a mile underground. Now they have to convince communities to allow deep dumps in their backyards, persuade investors to cough up an initial $10 million and get the government to permit the technique. Meanwhile, 2,000 more tons of hot U.S. waste pile up each year.

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    What We’re Not Getting About the Opioid Crisis

    There’s much missing from the simplistic narrative explaining the American opioid epidemic. That includes those with intractable pain. Doctors and hard-selling pharma firms are blamed for the addiction scourge that’s made overdoses the leading cause of death for those under age 50. But a crackdown on prescriptions has left those in chronic pain desperate and begging policymakers to differentiate between physical dependence and abusers’ addiction. And a major survey found that 63 percent of opioid misuse isn’t among patients, but illegal pill-poppers, so legitimate sufferers have a convincing argument to make.

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    Crypto-Pets Are Blowing Up the Internet

    Whozagood crypto-boy? Blockchain’s already shifted economic paradigms and rattled bitcoin investors’ nerves. Now it’s taking the world of cutesy cartoon critters by storm. Gamified apps such as CryptoDogs and CryptoKitties, which allow users to collect, breed and trade virtual pets, are becoming hugely popular in Asian markets. They’re also helping probe the technical possibilities of blockchain and introducing droves of new users to the revolutionary tech. Developers are competing for serious cash, with some pets trading for $110,000 worth of Ether, a cryptocurrency — even if the volatile blockchain beast refuses to behave.

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    Artists Are Organizing a Jumpsuit Revolt Against Fashion

    They’re looking to cramp your style. Billed as a “counter-fashion” movement, the Rational Dress Society is spearheaded by two artists who’ve worn identical jumpsuits for the past three years, while encouraging others to reject consumer choice. The garments come in 248 sizes and cost $150 — though anyone can download the pattern for free, and the society holds sewing workshops that double as Soviet-inspired performance art. But the artists plan to shut down production after the proceeds allow them to buy a full-page ad in Vogue.

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    Why Lesser NCAA Teams Deserve a Chance

    In a year when virtually unknown schools like UMBC can eliminate powerhouses like Virginia, it’s time to rethink the NCAA basketball tournament’s selection process, argues sportswriter Bill Connelly. About half of its 68 teams are conference champions, but 36 are subjective at-large choices that favor power conferences such as Virginia’s ACC and this year left only five places for mid-major conferences. By earning points for recent years’ tournament performance, Connelly writes, lesser conferences could improve their odds, replacing, for instance, UCLA with Boise State — and lending March a bit more madness.