The Presidential Daily Brief

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    At Memorial Service, Two Presidents Honor McCain

    “John called on us to be better.” Better than “phony controversies and manufactured outrage,” said Barack Obama of his 2008 presidential rival, Sen. John McCain during his memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. George W. Bush, nominated over McCain and elected in 2000, also honored him: “He could not abide bigots and swaggering despots,” he said, and would stand up for “forgotten people in forgotten places.” Many saw in today’s eulogies jabs at McCain’s latest rival — the current, but uninvited president. What better way, Obama said, “to get the last laugh.”

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    Far Right Protests Continue in Eastern German City

    After two Middle Eastern immigrants were detained in the killing of a German citizen last weekend, the eastern city of Chemnitz saw a rare display of forbidden expression: stiff-armed Nazi salutes as some 6,000 far-right demonstrators hit the streets. Some chased down and beat non-White passersby. Chancellor Angela Merkel decried the “mob-like behavior,” while some officials suggested “fake news” about the fatal incident incited rioters. On Saturday, thousands of far-right protesters staged a tense silent march, which police stopped early after leftist counterprotesters attempted confrontations by breaking through cordons.

  3. President Trump, shown here meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year, hopes to use high tariffs as leverage in renegotiating NAFTA. Source: Getty

    Canada Weathers Ultimatum on NAFTA

    Next Wednesday, Canadian officials are to resume negotiating a renewed North American Free Trade Act, but the outlook is grim. In leaked off-the-record comments, President Donald Trump boasted that any replacement would be “totally on our terms,” and then vowed at a North Carolina rally not to tolerate “these countries taking advantage of the United States.” Perhaps dismissing it as fodder for supporters, Canadian officials appear willing to continue in spite of Trump’s threat to cut Canada out of a U.S.-Mexico pact if it can’t agree to American terms within 90 days.

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    As Mueller Probe Deepens, Trump’s Ratings Tank

    Legal troubles are one thing. A new poll this week showed President Trump’s approval ratings at the lowest of his presidency as special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russiagate probe gains steam. In a Washington Post-ABC News poll, only 36 percent said they approved of how Trump is handling his job — eclipsed by 49 percent who supported congressional impeachment proceedings. That was before Friday, when lobbyist Sam Patten, who admitted helping a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch illegally purchase tickets to Trump’s inauguration, accepted a plea deal in which he’ll cooperate with Mueller’s investigators.

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    Listening to Andrew Gillum’s ‘Unlikely Voters’

    Another progressive, Bernie Sanders-backed Democrat has upset an establishment liberal when few expected it. After Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum won his party’s nomination for Florida governor, some see a compelling reason to pour resources into efforts to get “unlikely voters” to the polls. In the Sunshine State, that means the electorate of color, whom Gillum didn’t neglect. Now he’s facing off against Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis — who’s already dealing with accusations of racism — and hoping to reshape the demographics of a “likely” midterm turnout.

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    Kavanaugh SCOTUS Confirmation Hearings Set for Tuesday

    Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, 53, will face tough questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee as it begins several days of confirmation hearings Tuesday. But his outnumbered Democratic questioners have few options when it comes to thwarting President Trump’s choice. Key issues include abortion, which the conservative federal circuit judge has reportedly called “settled law,” as well as Kavanaugh’s equivocation on whether a sitting president can be prosecuted. Meanwhile, the panel’s Democrats have requested an unlikely postponement, arguing that Kavanaugh’s nomination lacks validity in the face of Trump’s legal entanglements.

  7. Big Tech Grilling, Secret History and Bipartisan Sweets

    The Week Ahead: The summer vacation season comes to a close Monday as Americans mark Labor Day. On Wednesday, top executives from Twitter, Facebook and possibly Google are to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about foreign influence operations using their platforms. And next week, the left-of-center party that’s governed Sweden for a century will struggle to convince voters not to hand surging right-wing candidates an election victory next weekend. 

    Know This: The Trump administration is withholding more than 100,000 pages of documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s work in the Bush administration on the grounds of constitutional privilege. The Pentagon is cutting off $300 million in military aid to Pakistan, citing a lack of action against terror groups. And social media has embraced a moment from Sen. John McCain’s Saturday memorial: George W. Bush sharing candy with Michelle Obama.

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    Fighting the Caribbean’s Turtle-Killing Scourge

    This isn’t fun in the sun. Sargassum algae is drowning baby sea turtles, dolphins and fish in its leafy, brown thatch. It’s especially bad in the Caribbean, with its rotting masses choking off beaches and rendering fishermen idle. Experts believe nitrogen fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi and Amazon rivers — or even the far-off Congo — is mostly to blame. For those managing the region’s response, there’s no hope of stopping Sargassum, so they’re responding as they do to hurricanes: by improving forecasting and preparedness before the next onslaught.

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    Has #MeToo Reached the US Forest Service?

    Despite decades of complaints, court orders and settlements, female employees of the U.S. Forest Service remain a minority and continue to endure sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying. Rangers and other staff members report instances of groping and exclusion — like requiring a physical endurance test of a pregnant firefighter — while the agency’s grievance system emphasizes clearing cases over punishing offenders. Now, eight female agents are taking on the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture in a new class action complaint aimed at dismantling the inequity.

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    SAT-Free Colleges Flunk Diversity Test

    Did they select the one best answer? A movement to make aptitude tests optional in college admissions hasn’t lived up to its promise of promoting diversity, according to a University of Georgia study. Even though the 1980s-launched effort has grown to include more than 1,000 institutions, admissions data from between 1992 and 2010 found schools had become more selective while seeing no growth in underrepresented students. Test-optional advocacy group FairTest blames “crappy” data and cites other research showing diversity gains — something experts agree requires more than just testing reform.

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    When ‘Fatal Error’ Is as Serious as It Sounds

    This week, government representatives are in Geneva pondering battlefield use of autonomous weapons systems. That danger’s easy enough to grasp, but experts say the kind of algorithms that make robots work have lethal potential in more mundane hardware, such as autonomous vehicles. “Software is released into a code universe which no one can fully understand,” warns one of the world’s foremost experts. Some believe new programming techniques could detect faulty code that leads to potentially deadly miscalculations — but getting tech companies to allow public oversight of intellectual property is more difficult.

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    The One Heckler the NFL Can’t Ignore

    The collision of politics and football under President Trump shouldn’t have been a surprise. Between his repeated attempts to buy an NFL team and his relationships with several owners, Trump’s history with the league runs deep. After a politicized Super Bowl — in which he backed the New England Patriots — and player protests against police brutality, presidential tweets slamming the league are the norm as fans prepare for Thursday’s season opener. But a key question stands: Has the once-unifying sport become polarizing, or is it all Trump’s doing?