The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Trump Vows ‘Safe Forests’ as Wildfire Toll Hits 76

    He has an answer. Visiting a Northern California firefighting command center near where searchers discovered five more bodies Saturday, President Donald Trump said he hadn’t changed his mind about global warming. But he wants a “great climate” and promised “safe forests — and that’s happening as we speak.” He pledged funding for forest management, which he’s controversially insisted could have prevented the deadly blazes. After touring devastated Paradise, where nearly all the deaths occurred, he also visited scorched areas near Los Angeles accompanied by the state’s current and incoming Democratic governors.

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    With Little Florida Recount Help, Gillum Concedes

    Republican Ron DeSantis is the undisputed governor-elect of Florida after Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum conceded 11 days after midterm elections. Saying an unprecedented statewide recount satisfied him that he trailed by 34,000 votes out of more than 8 million, the Democrat ended his bid to become Florida’s first Black governor. On Friday, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams admitted defeat to Republican Brian Kemp, whom Abrams accused of voter suppression. Florida’s continuing manual recount is also expected to narrowly unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in favor of GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

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    After the Midterms, Bipartisanship on Crime

    Next week, congressional leaders may work on something the country hasn’t done in decades: reforming federal sentencing laws. That requires something rarely seen in Washington: Republican and Democratic lawmakers cooperating, and this time with President Trump. The First Step Act will get “very much tougher on the truly bad criminals,” Trump said in announcing his support, while relaxing 1980s and 1990s get-tough policies that disproportionately incarcerated Black defendants. There’s a major hitch, however: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says there are bigger immediate priorities, so GOP backers are chiding him for blocking Trump’s agenda.

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    Why Russia Sanctions Have Failed

    After Crimea’s annexation, U.S. election meddling and ex-spy Sergei Skripal’s poisoning in the U.K., a slew of sanctions aimed to put Moscow in a diplomatic timeout. Yet Russia has sold S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey, India and China. Germany and France are still involved with Russian energy projects. Even Boeing set up shop in the country. Russia may be just too big — and lucrative — to be punished. And as countries determine their independent Russia polices, it’s the U.S. that’s increasingly on the outside, looking in.

  5. Targaryen Book, Brexit Blues and Khashoggi Denials

    The Week Ahead: On Tuesday, the author who created the Game of Thrones universe, George R.R. Martin, will publish his first book in seven years, Fire and Blood, a history of the Targaryen family. Americans will reportedly pay less than they have in eight years for Thursday’s Thanksgiving feast. And France will host Croatia for the Davis Cup tennis final, starting Friday.

    Know This: British Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to exit the European Union may not survive a parliamentary vote. U.S. officials are dismissing reports that the CIA concluded that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey last month. And a year after it disappeared with 44 crew members, Argentina reports that its San Juan submarine has been found 2,620 feet under water off the country’s Atlantic Coast. 

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    The Sexual Revolution Has Forgotten Its Young

    A variety of recent research shows that despite hookup apps, free contraception and a greater acceptance of intimacy outside of marriage, younger people seem to be having far less sex than earlier generations. The reasons are endless, including women’s wariness of men increasingly influenced by unpleasant, sometimes painful porn-inspired practices, the awkwardness of asking someone out and anxieties about in-person interaction of any kind. Whatever the reason, the phenomenon is stunting both birthrates and intimacy while fostering an acceptance of lonely, celibate lives.

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    Chillin’ With Your Time-Traveling Brain

    Let your mind wander. Two key 1990s studies showed that the brain is more active at rest, and that such activity, involving the body’s most complex machinery, is envisioning the future, relating it to our past and linking causes and effects. It’s during such random episodic silent thought, or REST, that inventions and other great ideas are often born. But today adults have smartphones to concentrate thoughts during what could be free-form musings. And so do kids — whose neurons, if constantly focused, may not develop that crucial ability to simply daydream.

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    Big Tech’s Ethics Waver Across the U.S. Border

    They’re beacons of free speech, taking stands on a range of issues. But outside of the U.S., those views are filtered by business considerations — something that’s been magnified following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Tech firms, Uber in particular, haven’t turned down $11 billion in Saudi investment, while Google, Twitter and Facebook have acquiesced to government censorship and data access in Turkey. Google’s CEO says the company’s presence in China, even with government compliance, helps ordinary people with things like medical information, but human rights groups say it helps oppress those same users.

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    Stan Lee Was the Fantastic Foe

    Hagiography has long surrounded the Marvel genius, who died on Monday, obscuring the cracks in his origin myth. Lee’s longtime creative partner, Jack Kirby, was not unlike a comic book nemesis in human form, replete with motivations rooted in shared history. As Lee’s fame evolved from the magazine rack to a blockbuster cinematic machine, artists like Kirby, who died in 1994, came to feel abandoned as Lee basked in the spotlight. But fans argue that Lee injected nuance and emotion into Marvel’s stable of characters, allowing them to fly off the page into immortality.

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    Is It Patrick Mahomes, or Just His Arm That Wins Games?

    The 23-year-old Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is crushing his first pro season. For those who know him — and his arm — his success is not surprising. Ever since T-ball, the son of MLB pitcher Pat Mahomes has thrown with pinpoint accuracy. He connected for 50 touchdowns as an East Texas high school senior and became a legend at Texas Tech. As of Week 9 Mahomes was leading the NFL in touchdowns and yards. His talent seems innate, but will he evolve — and does he need to?