The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Woman Accused of Spying For Russia Pleads Guilty

    Maria Butina, accused by the U.S. of being a Russian secret agent, admitted the conspiracy charge in a federal court in Washington Thursday. After making a deal with prosecutors, the 30-year-old said she tried to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and retrieve intelligence on American politicians while conspiring with a Russian official. Butina remains in custody while awaiting her sentence, she is the first Russian to be convicted of seeking to influence U.S. policy leading up to and during the 2016 election.

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    Senate Votes to Limit U.S. Support For Saudi Arabia in Yemen

    In a rare move Thursday, a bipartisan result of 56-41 was reached by the upper chamber to limit presidential war powers regarding American military assistance to Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Though largely symbolic as the House has already blocked such a measure from being voted on this year, the vote signifies frustration at President Donald Trump’s failure to rebuke the Saudi Crown Prince, Muhammad bin Salman, after a C.I.A. investigation implicated him in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

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    Theresa May Survives No-Confidence Vote

    The embattled British prime minister won a leadership challenge — triggered by members of her Conservative Party disappointed at her Brexit deal — by a vote of 200 to 117. She’s now immune from another confidence vote for a year. Although May promised before the poll to step aside after the split from the EU, she acknowledged that she’d heard those in her party that voted against her and said she’d deliver “the Brexit that people voted for.” May doesn’t yet have enough votes to pass her plan, while the March withdrawal date looms.

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    Michael Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

    President Donald Trump’s former lawyer was sentenced yesterday for crimes including campaign finance violations linked to payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, as well as lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow. Before a packed Manhattan courtroom, Cohen described covering up “dirty deeds” for the president, saying he’d chosen a “path of darkness over light.” After sentencing, prosecutors revealed the National Enquirer’s parent company admitted it coordinated with the Trump campaign to pay off McDougal in order to cover up the affair.

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    Nancy Pelosi Secures Speakership, Agrees to Term Limits

    No more than four. That’s the agreement Pelosi reached yesterday with Democratic detractors to secure enough votes for a return as House speaker next year. The California representative, who said she would act as a “bridge to the next generation of leaders,” will back a retroactive three-term limit for the top four House Democratic leadership positions. A fourth term would be possible if supported by a two-thirds majority in a party caucus. Whether or not the term limit is formally approved in February, Pelosi promised to abide by it.

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    Canadian Businessman, Diplomat Detained in China

    After former diplomat Michael Kovrig was detained in Beijing, Michael Spavor, known for escorting foreign tourists into North Korea, has become the second Canadian this week to be investigated by Chinese authorities as the two countries head toward a diplomatic clash. Experts think the cases are a response to Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Vancouver over charges linked to U.S. sanctions against Iran. Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland warned the U.S. not to politicize Meng’s case after President Trump said he’d intervene to help advance his trade deal with China.

  7. Tragic Collision, Text Tax and Muppet Problems

    Know This: A high-speed train crash in Ankara killed nine people while injuring dozens today. California’s Public Utilities Commission proposed a tax on SMS text messages yesterday to help fund services for lower-income residents. And Sesame Street has introduced its first homeless muppet, Lily, in an effort to lessen the stigma around poverty and homelessness.

    Remember this number: 39,773. That’s how many people were killed by guns last year in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — raising the rate of gun deaths to its highest level in more than 20 years amid an increase in suicides.

    We’re hiring: OZY is looking for an audio fellow to join its editorial team for a 6 month fellowship based in Mountain View, CA. Could this be you? Check out the job description for more details … and find all our open jobs right here.


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    ‘High-Tech’ Robot Actually Just Man in Costume

    Boris the Robot seemed too good to be true for some viewers watching Russian state news coverage of the Proektoriya youth tech forum. Doubters noticed Boris made “unnecessary movements” while dancing — moves that looked a little too human. Also, there was skin visible through a gap in his neck. After damning photo evidence, Boris was revealed to be a human wearing a $3,700 robot costume. While organizers reportedly never claimed the robot was real, the TV network was fooled by Boris’ great acting into reporting the fake news.

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    Fentanyl Is Now America’s Deadliest Drug

    The powerful pain medication causes more overdoses than heroin, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths involving the synthetic opioid, which can be 100 times stronger than morphine, doubled each year between 2013 and 2016. Fentanyl was connected to 1,600 deaths in 2012, but that number had jumped to 18,000 by 2016. Last year it was involved in nearly 30,000 of the estimated 70,000 U.S. overdoses. Another report earlier this year suggested opioid-related deaths have been underreported by as much as 35 percent.

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    Women Are Taking the Wheel in Asian Ride-Sharing

    They’re driving the market. From Saudi Arabia to Indonesia, Pakistan to Bangladesh, ride-hailing services that provide female drivers to female clientele are taking off. Passengers like the safety of a sister in the driver’s seat. And business owners are realizing the potential of an untapped market. Some even see it as an act of resistance coinciding with the #MeToo era. Now giants in the industry, like Uber and Asia-based Grab, are scrambling to better provide for their passengers’ safety before their ride is canceled.

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    Indian Tycoon’s Lavish Wedding Puts Hollywood to Shame

    It’s a lifelong investment. India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, has reportedly shelled out as much as $100 million for his daughter Isha’s weeklong wedding in Mumbai, which began Wednesday. Festivities kicked off weeks ago, with Beyoncé performing over the weekend at a pre-wedding party attended by major Bollywood stars as well as Hillary Clinton (the Ambanis are reportedly major donors to the Clinton Foundation). The nuptials between Ambani and Anand Piramal, son of billionare industrialist Ajay Piramal, took place in her family’s 27-story modern palace named Antilia.

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    Houston, Steph Curry Has No Problem

    The Golden State Warriors superstar clarified Wednesday that he was “one thousand percent” joking when he said, during a podcast interview, that the moon landing was faked. Curry also said he plans to take NASA up on its invitation to visit the Johnson Space Center’s lunar lab in Houston. The point guard kept quiet as his remarks from The Ringer’s Winging It took orbit, but later said the experience offers an important lesson in education. “You should not believe something just because somebody says it,” Curry told fans. “You should do your homework.”