The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Report: White House Counsel Gave Mueller Probe Key Insights

    Lawyer Donald McGahn sat for interviews totaling 30 hours with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian election meddling. His help — unusual for a lawyer, but encouraged by the president — has reportedly provided investigators with exclusive descriptions of moments crucial to understanding obstruction-of-justice allegations. The New York Times reports sources saying the lawyer is worried he might be blamed for presidential misdeeds, but Trump tweeted that it’s part of unprecedented transparency in cooperating with the “witch hunt.”

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    Trump Said to Target Justice Official’s Security Clearance

    Few people have heard of Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, except for allies of President Donald Trump who’ve linked him, through his wife’s political research work, to British ex-spy Christopher Steele. Trump, having controversially revoked the security clearance of Obama-era CIA director John Brennan last week, now reportedly wants to revoke Ohr’s. It would be a first, as Ohr’s current job presumably requires the clearance. Meanwhile, Trump ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort’s financial crimes trial recessed Friday after two days of jury deliberations, as a presidential tweet called the proceedings “very sad.” 

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    Turkey Seeks New Friends Amid Row With US

    Even after the Turkish lira shriveled following a pledge by U.S. President Donald Trump to impose sanctions, Ankara isn’t backing down. Courts have so far refused to allow American pastor Andrew Brunson, held on terror charges, to leave the country. That prompted Trump to vow Thursday to double down on punitive tariffs. And as fears of damaging global economic repercussions grow, oil-rich Qatar has pledged $15 billion to support Turkey, which is now appealing to estranged European leaders — who are themselves alienated by American confrontation.

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    Former UN Head Kofi Annan Dies at 80

    As Secretary General from 1997 to 2006, Annan led the world body through some of its worst scandals and won the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize for revitalizing it. He died Saturday “after a short illness” in Geneva, his foundation announced.  The Ghanaian son of a provincial governor under British rule, he studied in Switzerland and the U.S. before joining the U.N.’s World Health Organization in his 20s. Later, as head of U.N. peacekeepers, Annan drew criticism for not reinforcing troops struggling to stop Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, leaving him with “bitter regret and abiding sorrow.”

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    Is the Greek Debt Crisis Finally Ending?

    On Monday, Greece’s third big bailout package will end, bringing the total amount of cash it received from the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund to nearly $312 billion. Now, a profoundly changed Athens will be able to borrow money normally from capital markets, but with a shrinking economic base, there are considerable doubts about its ability — once again — to satisfy its creditors. One of the European Union’s most serious dramas in recent memory may be drawing to a close, but officials will need to ensure it’s not repeated.

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    Can America Learn From Italy’s Bridge Tragedy?

    The cause of Tuesday’s failure in Genoa, Italy, where a portion of the Morandi Bridge collapsed over railway tracks, killing 39 people, remains unclear. But no matter what investigators find, the disaster should alert the public and policymakers to aging infrastructure elsewhere. That’s especially critical in the U.S., where more than 9 percent of bridges are deemed structurally deficient and 40 percent are as old Genoa’s doomed cable-stayed bridge. While these impressive structures are vital links in any country, maintaining them is a long-term challenge that requires both foresight and funding.

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    How the CIA’s China Miscalculation Cost 30 Lives

    They thought they were invincible. Starting in 2010 and lasting for two years, Chinese authorities dismantled the CIA’s network of assets in their country. Some sources fled, while others were given large sums of cash and left behind. But no one detained by Chinese intelligence survived. Now it’s thought that China was able to crack into the CIA’s online communication system. Agents in China have reportedly reverted to older methods of spycraft like meeting in person, with some intelligence experts wondering if internet-based systems can ever be counted on again.

  8. The Hajj, Another Quake and Venezuelan Flight

    The Week Ahead:  About 1.6 million Muslims will begin the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca today. On Wednesday, President Trump will present the Congressional Medal of Honor to the family of Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman, left for dead in 2002 on an Afghan mountain, where he died fighting off Taliban attackers. And China and the U.S. plan to impose new round of retaliatory tariffs on each other’s goods on Thursday, but negotiators are attempting to reach a trade deal to end the dispute.

    Know This: Another earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.3, rocked Indonesia’s Lombok island today, two weeks after a devastating temblor killed 460 people. Ecuador has stopped admitting Venezuelans fleeing their nation’s economic and political turmoil without a passport. And President Trump has said he “won’t let” social media companies, which recently banned conspiracy theorist and presidential ally Alex Jones, silence conservative voices.    

    We’re hiringOZY is looking for a strong writer-reporter to run down unique stories as an Editorial Fellow in South or Southeast Asia. Could this be you? Check out the job description for more details.


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    Are Bees in a Death Spiral With Almonds?

    Each February, just after the actual game, beekeepers gather in California’s Central Valley for their “Super Bowl.” That’s when they come from across the country with boxes of bees to pollinate blossoming, high-value almond trees. But the pollination business, which has supplanted honey-making as beekeepers’ mainstay, is struggling. Almonds need water, which the state lacks, and now tariffs threaten to throttle international markets. Meanwhile, the bee population continues to plummet from parasites and other issues, prompting bee-dependent growers to go so far as to consider deploying robot bees for pollination. 

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    Auto-Complete Isn’t Just Predicting, It’s Changing Us

    When you go “hi,” they go “hey.” That greeting choice might seem trivial, but Google’s predictive text function can change how we communicate, even our behavior, as we subconsciously anticipate our AI masters’ demands. Digital epigenetics — how experience triggers existing, inheritable DNA traits — is actually being researched by Google in connection with apps that nudge people’s behavior. That could offer benefits, with users and their offspring making healthier or more ecologically sound choices, but as Big Tech gains “species-level understanding,” how else might it alter humankind?

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    The Nigerian ‘Witch’ Who Talks to Boko Haram

    She must have supernatural powers. That’s the only way, some Nigerians say, Hamsatu Allamin could survive meeting with Boko Haram leaders. But she’s done it, multiple times, in an effort to bring peace to her violence-ravaged corner of Nigeria. The more down-to-earth explanation is that Allamin is from the same tribe the insurgents sprung from, and she knows their parents. And while she hates the way they treat women and girls, she also doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to rights abuses by the government.

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    They’re Blending Health and Immigration Amid the Ferment

    A group of Oregon winemakers have found their own way forward with two of America’s intractable issues: They’re providing single-payer health care and dealing with their immigration problem. As the federal government and many Americans grow more hostile toward the undocumented, those workers are becoming more reluctant to seek health care. That’s where Salud, a mobile health clinic financed by the vintners, comes in. It travels the state offering care to winery employees, trying to maintain their well-being even as today’s anxieties churn stomachs and raise blood pressures.

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    These Puerto Rican Little Leaguers Bring Their Own Storm

    They’re making landfall. The players from Radames Lopez Little League have suffered through hurricanes Irma and Maria, which claimed some 1,400 island inhabitants. The kids dealt with scarce drinking water and electricity and winds that destroyed their main supermarket. Just showing up for practice in the heat of the day was hard enough. But baseball gave them a routine — one they loved. And they survived, going undefeated in the Caribbean regional tournament, which earned them a spot in the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania, playing out this weekend.