The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Congressional Leadership Elections Retain Suspense

    With Midterm elections behind most of the American public, leadership elections took place Wednesday with a surprise or two in line. While both Senate Majority Leader, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, and Minority Leader, Democrat Sen. Charles E. Schumer both kept their posts, House Republicans voted Kevin McCarthy as leader, beating out Jim Jordan. House Democrats will vote later this month and whether Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi can retain her position depends on whether she can shore up the votes, the party divided on whether she is best suited for the role.

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    British Prime Minister Wins Cabinet Approval For Draft Brexit Deal

    After “long, detailed and impassioned” talks, Theresa May says her cabinet is backing the draft withdrawal agreement between the E.U. and U.K., allowing the Prime Minister to move forward and finalize the deal. The draft agreement along with a political statement is expected to be published later by the E.U., in a statement May commented the documents were the result of ”thousands of hours of hard negotiation.” Conservative Brexiteers remain critical of what they think will be in them and May still has to get the final deal through Parliament.

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    Michael Avenatti Arrested for Suspected Domestic Abuse

    The frequent critic of President Donald Trump, potential 2020 presidential candidate and attorney for Stormy Daniels was arrested in Los Angeles today on suspicion of felony domestic abuse after police responded to a domestic violence incident. Avenatti, who is in the process of being booked, called allegations of abuse “completely bogus.” Meanwhile, his appearance scheduled this week at a Democratic Party event in Vermont was canceled. The Los Angeles Police Department, confirming the arrest, tweeted that the investigation against Avenatti was ongoing and that they would provide more details in time.

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    Death Toll Hits 50 in California Fires

    Despite firefighters partially containing blazes at both ends of the state, at least 50 people are now confirmed dead — 48 of them in Northern California’s Camp Fire. Some survivors blamed public officials for reacting slowly: “There is a reason all these people are dead,” said a woman whose mother remains missing. Several victims have sued the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for poor equipment maintenance, which they claim sparked the fire. Meanwhile, officials said yesterday the Camp Fire and Southern California’s Woolsey Fire were both at least 30 percent contained.

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    Melania Trump Wades Into White House Staff Shake-Up

    The first lady suggested Mira Ricardel, a deputy national security adviser, be fired after Ricardel reportedly clashed with members of Trump’s staff during a trip to Africa last month. In an extraordinary statement, spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said Tuesday the first lady believes Ricardel “no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.” As of Wednesday morning, it was unclear whether Ricardel had been fired. The news accompanied speculation that chief of staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may soon be fired.

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    Theresa May Seeks Cabinet Support for Brexit Deal

    After reaching an agreement with the European Union on the terms of Britain’s divorce from the bloc, the prime minister now faces the challenge of convincing critical members of her own Cabinet to back the plan. May’s deal reportedly avoids a separate customs border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — one of the thorniest points of negotiations — and the pound rose slightly against the dollar Wednesday on news of the agreement. If her Cabinet signs off, May will next need to secure backing from Parliament.

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    Experts Debate Impact of Amazon’s HQ2

    Following yesterday’s announcement that the online retail giant will split its $5 billion second headquarters between New York City and Arlington, Virginia, observers are wondering whether the move will pay off — for the company or the U.S. economy. Some believe the influx of high-paying jobs into already wealthy areas could worsen existing economic disparities. Others say Amazon should prepare for greater political scrutiny in Washington, where it will be “challenged as being the big Goliath.” The company said its decision was based on the talent of local workforces.

  8. Lion Air, Oil and Gun Violence

    Know This: Investigators are examining whether Boeing downplayed issues with a new emergency system suspected of malfunctioning during last month’s deadly crash of Lion Air Flight 610. Vice President Mike Pence pressured Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi for accountability over her country’s violence against Rohingya Muslims. And oil rose to nearly $67 a barrel today on expectations that OPEC and top producers would cut supplies to bolster the market.

    Listen to This: Despite the National Rifle Association telling doctors to “stay in their lane” — and out of the gun control debate — physicians are hoping to play an increasingly operative role in spotting risk factors for gun violence.

    We’re hiring: OZY is looking for a talented business reporter and editor to anchor our globally minded finance coverage, based in either Silicon Valley or New York. Could this be you? Check out the job description for more details … and find all our open jobs right here.


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    CIA Considered Using Truth Serum on Prisoners

    According to a previously classified agency report released yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union, the CIA mulled using the sedative midazolam to extract information from terror suspects after 9/11 — despite a ban on using mind-altering drugs for interrogations. Ultimately, the agency never sought Justice Department approval for “Project Medication.” But the 90-page document, obtained by the ACLU through a federal court order, describes how medical professionals were “complicit” in the agency’s torture program. The government is still fighting to keep parts of the report from being released.

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    E-cigarette Manufacturer Moves to Combat Underage Use

    Juul will stop supplying more than 90,000 vape shops and other retail locations with non-tobacco flavored pods after the Food and Drug Administration recently demanded that e-cigarette companies do more to prevent underage use. In an effort to stymie its appeal to young consumers, Juul also shuttered its Instagram and Facebook accounts. The company announced it will boost the number of undercover shoppers in stores and improve its age verification system online — the only place consumers can now purchase flavors like cucumber, creme and mango.

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    Astronomers Spot ‘Ghost’ Galaxy Orbiting Milky Way

    Using data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, a team of international researchers has discovered a dimly lit dwarf galaxy orbiting our own at a distance of about 130,000 light-years. Antlia 2 features an unusually low density for its size, and had been obscured by the Milky Way’s bright disk. Astronomers now wonder whether this “oddball” is one of “a large population of nearly invisible dwarfs” waiting to be discovered. The researchers continue to explore Gaia’s data, hoping to learn more about how dwarf galaxies form.

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    Paz de la Huerta Sues Harvey Weinstein for Sexual Assault

    The Boardwalk Empire actress has filed a lawsuit claiming the disgraced mogul raped her twice in 2010 and propositioned her in 2011. De la Huerta said she refused his advances, prompting Weinstein to have her fired from the HBO series, which cost her an estimated $55 million. According to Weinstein’s lawyer, who called the allegations “preposterous,” the Manhattan district attorney had declined to pursue de la Huerta’s claims. She first went public with her accusations in 2017, when she said the incidents left her “scarred” with “self-destructive” tendencies.

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    China Aims to Boost Winter Sports Industry

    They’re hitting the slopes. Four years ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing — the first city to host Summer and Winter Games — China is planning another massive achievement. It wants to develop 300 million new winter sports enthusiasts before 2020, pushing the market to $144.5 billion in just a few years. That means increasing China’s current crop of 12.1 million skiers and snowboarders to 120 million, which is just shy of the current global number of skiers. The challenge, though, will be keeping them on domestic slopes.