The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Pope Francis Codifies Opposition to Death Penalty

    Thou shalt not kill. Applying that commandment to condemned criminals has divided a Roman Catholic Church that historically has done its share of executions. But the Vatican announced today that, at Pope Francis’ direction, it had added language to the Catechism, which spells out Catholic beliefs, declaring capital punishment as an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.” Francis has said that execution “fosters vengeance” rather than provides justice, and “society can only benefit” from criminals’ rehabilitation. The new language also commits the 1.2-billion member church to work toward abolishing executions worldwide.

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    Apple Is First U.S. Corporation to Crack $1 Trillion Value

    With its stock price rising 3 percent on a strong quarterly earnings report, Apple shares rose above $207 each, so that all 4.8 billion of them combined for a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. That makes the company the market cap king, as no other publicly traded firm has ever been worth so much, although Amazon may soon join this exclusive club. Analysts credited the smartphone pioneer’s software and services components, like iTunes, the App Store and Apple Pay, which posted a record $9.55 billion in quarterly revenue.

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    Incumbent President Narrowly Wins Election in Zimbabwe

    The current president and member of the ruling Zanu-PF party, Emmerson Mnangagwa, narrowly won Zimbabwe’s first presidential election since the ousting of Robert Mugabe last year. Mnangagwa received 50.8 percent of the vote according to the electoral commission. Meanwhile, opposition candidate Nelson Chamisa with the Movement for Democratic Change party won 44.3 percent — less than the 50 percent required to trigger a run-off. His party’s chairman called the results “fraudulent” in a televised address and said they would be challenged in court before he was removed on-air by police.

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    Trump, Mueller Inch Closer to Interview

    The same day he tweeted that his attorney general should shut down Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, President Donald Trump seemed open to cooperating with it. Against his lawyers’ advice, Trump has indicated he’d sit for an interview, while Mueller has reportedly offered to ask fewer questions about obstruction of justice in the face-to-face meeting. Instead, Mueller’s team, which is looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, will accept some responses in writing. “We’re in the process of responding to their proposal,” said lead Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

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    Korean War Remains Arrive in US

    The U.S. military will begin identifying the remains of what are believed to be 55 American soldiers handed over by North Korea last week and repatriated late Wednesday. In an address in Honolulu, where the remains arrived from South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence said the handover — negotiated during President Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — marks “a new season of hope for the families of our missing fallen.” Forensic researchers will study bones, teeth and DNA samples in an identification process that could take years.

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    US Pressures China on Multiple Fronts

    They’re going all out. Yesterday the White House announced President Trump’s intent to more than double proposed tariffs on a further $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. That move — which would raise tariffs to 25 percent from an earlier proposal of 10 percent to force trade concessions from Beijing — coincided with the Senate’s approval of a defense bill tightening national security reviews of Chinese deals, revamping export controls on U.S. technology, as well as scrutinizing Chinese efforts to influence U.S. media, businesses, cultural institutions and academia.

  7. Just Opinions, Censor Engines and Pig Feet

    Know This: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said President Trump’s tweet urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Russia probe was “not an order,” but rather “the president’s opinion.” Google is reportedly developing a search engine tailored to China’s censorship laws. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the second world leader to give birth while in office, has returned to work after her six-week maternity leave. And today OZY’s Around the World campaign takes you to Iraq, where cooking local carp is a spectacle to behold.

    Read This: As the trade war between Washington and Beijing escalates, pig feet — a beloved Chinese snack — are becoming an unlikely victim. 

    Talk to Us: This year, OZY is going Around the World on a year-long tour to visit every single country, and we’d love for you to get involved. Where in the world are you when you read OZY? Send us pictures — they might make it onto — and tell us what rising stars, new trends, music and food we should be writing about. Or even pitch us a story! Get in touch at


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    Danish ‘Burqa Ban’ Takes Effect Amid Protests

    Call the fashion police. Starting yesterday, anyone in the Scandinavian nation caught wearing a full-face covering in public will be fined nearly $160. While supporters of the measure believe it’ll help Muslim immigrants better integrate into Danish society, activists — who staged demonstrations against the new law — say it violates personal freedoms. “I’ve realized that democracy doesn’t work,” said one young woman of Turkish descent. The European Court of Human Rights has backed Belgium’s ban on full-face veils, while a similar law has been on the books in France since 2011.

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    Facebook Security Chief Quits Amid New Meddling Crisis

    Alex Stamos announced yesterday he’ll be leaving the company for a position at Stanford University teaching and conducting research. The chief security officer’s departure, reportedly planned since last year, comes a day after Facebook revealed it’s still being used to manipulate political discussion ahead of November’s midterm elections. The company has been dogged by rumors that Stamos disagreed with how the network responded to Russia’s 2016 disinformation campaign. Rather than replacing Stamos, Facebook’s embedding security engineers across its divisions and will, it stated, “continue to evaluate what kind of structure works best.”

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    Trump Taps Meteorologist as Science Adviser

    Yesterday the White House said extreme weather scientist Kelvin Droegemeier would be nominated to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The position has been empty for an unprecedented 19 months, but members of the scientific community have praised the selection of Droegemeier — a widely respected researcher from the University of Oklahoma — as an unusually sound choice for President Trump, who’s been openly hostile to climate science. “I am delighted and amazed,” tweeted Canadian researcher Katharine Hayhoe. The Senate must still confirm Droegemeier’s nomination.

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    Iraq’s Stolen Treasures Are Finally Returning Home

    Once freely looted amid the chaos of war, the country’s stolen antiquities are making their way home after international outrage sparked global action. Renowned museums have refused questionable collections, police and collectors are sharing information on clandestine smuggling networks and international organizations are training local communities to prevent theft. Authorities are still looking for 8,000 of the 15,000 artifacts stolen when U.S. forces captured Baghdad in 2003, but as ISIS retreats and stability returns, Iraqi museums are once again striving to be safe spaces for some of civilization’s earliest artifacts.

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    Buckeye Coach Benched During Assistant’s Abuse Probe

    Celebrated Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer was put on paid administrative leave yesterday while his university investigates allegations he was aware of domestic abuse involving former assistant coach Zach Smith. Fired last month, Smith is accused of assaulting his ex-wife, who claimed all the coaches’ wives knew about the violence. Meyer denied knowing about the most recent incident, which happened in 2015, but said he was aware of a 2009 allegation — which he doubted — when Smith interned with him in Florida. Offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as interim head coach.