The Presidential Daily Brief


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    US, Russia Lock Horns Over Syria

    “We do not participate in Twitter diplomacy.” That’s what a Kremlin spokesman said yesterday after President Donald Trump tweeted that Russia should “get ready” for a U.S. missile strike on Syria in response to last week’s chemical attack in Douma. Though Trump later struck a conciliatory tone, suggesting there’s “no reason” for confrontation, the White House said a strike was still under consideration. Syrian forces were reportedly preparing for such an attack, while a senior Russian lawmaker said his country was boosting its air defenses.

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    Ryan’s Exit Highlights GOP’s Rightward Shift

    With midterm elections looming, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement yesterday that he won’t run for re-election casts doubt over the GOP’s ability to retain control of the House. But it also reveals how President Trump’s combative, populist style is reshaping a party that’s seen several dozen members retire since he took office. Traditional Republican conservatism is increasingly being supplanted by exclusive nativism. “We can all read between the lines,” said moderate Republican Charlie Dent, who’s also retiring. “This is not an easy administration to be dealing with.”

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    China Remains Defiant in Trade Spat With US

    Don’t get them wrong. Earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to further open his country’s economy and lower import tariffs on certain goods, including cars. But today, a spokesman for China’s commerce ministry said the U.S. shouldn’t “misjudge the situation,” suggesting the nascent trade war between Beijing and Washington is still on. He warned that his country would hit back against any escalation, and while some believe open dialogue between the two powers could help resolve the dispute, China says the U.S. is “not showing sincerity at all.”

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    Questions of Regulation Loom Over Facebook

    For two straight days, CEO Mark Zuckerberg fielded questions from displeased lawmakers probing his company’s practices. While the hearings passed with little controversy — and even added $17 billion to Facebook’s market value on Tuesday — the question now facing the social network is whether it’ll see increased government oversight. In his testimony, Zuckerberg conceded that the prospect was “inevitable,” but he also warned against overdoing privacy regulations, which could impact the company’s profitability. House Commerce Chair Greg Walden called Facebook’s string of scandals “a wake-up call for Silicon Valley.”

  5. The National Guard, Papal Fallibility and Europe’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ Problem

    Know This: California Gov. Jerry Brown, a frequent critic of President Trump, has agreed to deploy his state’s National Guard to the border with Mexico. Pope Francis has admitted making “grave errors” in his judgment of a sex abuse scandal that’s plagued Chile’s Catholic Church. And thanks to in vitro fertilization, a baby whose parents died four years ago has been born in China.

    Read This: In the European Union, allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced at the European Institute for Gender Equality — the very agency dedicated to fighting misconduct.

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    ‘Chicago Tribune’ Newsroom to Unionize

    For the first time in its 170-year history, the newspaper’s editorial staff is organizing to push for higher pay, better health insurance and greater job security. Calling themselves the Chicago Tribune Guild, a committee of 46 employees announced their intent yesterday, a move that’s likely to upset the paper’s controversial corporate owner, Tronc. “There are a lot of forces working against us,” said a Tribune columnist. The newspaper, which has endured two rounds of layoffs in the past six months, has traditionally held a hard-line anti-union stance.

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    Tesla Blames Driver for Deadly Crash

    The electric car company says 38-year-old Walter Huang, who was killed in a crash near San Francisco last month while the autopilot on his Model X was engaged, was responsible for his own death. Citing clear visibility and Huang’s own admission to his family that the autopilot feature was unreliable in the location of the crash, Tesla suggested he simply wasn’t paying attention to the road. It’s the company’s third public statement about the March 23 crash, which is also being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

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    Ocean Heat Waves More Frequent, Last Longer

    Going with the flow is getting hotter. According to a new study, the number of annual marine heat waves — when the water’s surface temperature stays warmer than usual for at least five days — has increased by 54 percent since the 1920s. They also last 17 percent longer. A result of human-caused climate change, rising ocean temperatures spell bad news for delicate marine ecosystems like coral reefs. And there’s no end in sight: Since ocean warming is expected to continue, it could mean even more heat waves in the future.

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    Prosecutors Review Kevin Spacey Assault Accusation

    The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office says it’s looking into alleged sexual abuse by the actor, which reportedly occurred in 1992 and involved an adult male. Though Spacey couldn’t be prosecuted for the incident, since California’s statute of limitations has expired, the results of the four-month investigation have been passed to the Entertainment Industry Sex Crimes Task Force for review. The Hollywood and stage actor is also the subject of ongoing police investigations in Massachusetts and England, and has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 15 men.

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    Pitchers Use New Technology to Stay Competitive

    They’re throwing a curve. MLB pitchers are turning to high-tech gadgets to improve their game, part of an athletic arms race against sluggers who are using video and data analytics to get more hits. Portable tracking systems boast high-speed cameras and multifrequency 3D radar to clock factors like spin rate, pitch type, true spin, ball path and velocity, allowing pitchers to change their throws in real time as they step off the mound. While technology’s nothing new for baseball, pitch-tracking is quickly becoming integral to training.