The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Trump Tweet Threatens California Wildfire Aid Cutoff

    Was it just a flame? Shortly after Democrat Gavin Newsom became California governor and Fox & Friends ridiculed the state’s policies, the president tweeted, “I have ordered FEMA to send no more money” to the Golden State. Unless, he wrote, Sacramento adopts “proper Forest Management,” under which wildfires “would never happen.” While the White House hasn’t clarified the tweet, the state’s top Democrats blasted it, while Republican Rep. Doug La Malfa, who lost 86 constituents in November’s Camp Fire, said such threats were “not helpful” and won’t resolve forest management issues.

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    Trump Storms Out of Shutdown Talks

    It was a “total waste of time.” That’s how President Donald Trump characterized today’s meeting to negotiate an end to 19 days of partial government shutdown. According to Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s ranking Democrat, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made it clear her party would not agree to fund the president’s promised Mexican border wall, Trump said “We have nothing to discuss” and abruptly left the room. What happens next? Trump vowed earlier today that in lieu of a deal, he’d declare a national emergency to fund the barrier without Congress’ consent.

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    Trump Appeals for Border Wall Funding on TV

    On the 18th day of the partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump used his first prime-time address from the Oval Office to make a case for $5.7 billion to fund his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. “This is a choice between right and wrong,” he said, blaming illegal immigration for violent crimes and the influx of dangerous drugs. Democratic leaders were prepared with a blistering televised response: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump “must stop manufacturing a crisis” fueled by “misinformation and even malice.”

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    Australia Considers Taking Saudi Runaway

    Following a referral by the United Nations, Australian officials will consider granting asylum to 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who fled her family earlier this week, fearing for her life. Her chances appear good: Health Minister Greg Hunt said his country would give “very, very, very serious consideration” to providing Alqunun — who claimed her family would kill her for renouncing Islam — a humanitarian visa if the UN recognized her as a refugee. Other officials said she won’t receive “special treatment.” The Saudi Embassy in Bangkok has described her case as a “family affair.”

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    Hopes Mount for US-China Trade Deal

    The two sides appear closer to ending their trade war after two days of reportedly intense negotiations. Although there’s still no deal, the extension of the talks — whose details are yet to be released — into an unscheduled third day signaled both teams were “very serious,” according to China’s foreign ministry. Progress this week could lead to a Cabinet-level round of negotiations this month. President Trump has said he’ll raise tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 to 25 percent if there’s no deal by early March.

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    Manafort Filing Suggests He Gave Russians Polling Data

    Now that’s reading between the lines. Thanks to a poorly redacted court filing by his defense team, journalists discovered yesterday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chief, appears to have shared polling data from the 2016 presidential campaign with a suspected Russian intelligence operative. Manafort’s lawyers claim their client, suffering from “severe gout” as well as depression while imprisoned in Virginia, was impaired in his ability to recollect details to federal investigators. They’d like to speed up his sentencings for lying to FBI agents and fraud, now scheduled for February and March.

  7. Brexit, Spies and Powerful Passports 

    Know This: British lawmakers began a week of debate today on Prime Minister Theresa May’s controversial Brexit deal with the European Union. The Kremlin has said it won’t use the American recently detained for espionage as a pawn in a diplomatic tit-for-tat. And Japan has topped the Henley Passport Index for the second year in a row as the world’s most powerful passport.

    #OZYfact: Yalitza Aparicio, star of the new film Roma, had never acted on screen before appearing in the Alfonso Cuarón picture. Read more on OZY.

    We’re hiring: OZY is looking for a dynamic and organized Branded Content Editor to join our growing team. Could this be you? Check out the job description for more details … and find all our open jobs right here.


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    Thanks to US Sanctions, Nations Are Bartering Again

    The bucks stop here. President Trump’s eagerness to flex America’s economic might by slapping trade sanctions against Iran, Russia and Venezuela have encouraged other countries to do business the old-fashioned way. Indonesia’s trading palm oil for Russian weapons, India’s exploring an exchange of rice for oil with Venezuela, and there are even proposals to exchange European goods for Iranian crude through Russian territory — all just to skirt the almighty dollar. For the first time in decades, the world’s beginning to imagine a global economy not undergirded by American currency.

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    Google’s Digital Assistant Now Translates Conversations

    It’s speaking your language. The search engine’s answer to Amazon’s popular Alexa digital assistant was touted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as a face-to-face voice translator capable of supporting 27 languages. While one reviewer said its second or two of delay made the conversation ungainly, the Interpreter Mode is being greeted as a promising technological leap for both international travelers and concierges around the world. It’s now available on Google smart displays and speakers as part of a small pilot program at several hotels, including Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

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    Microbe Mutations on Space Station Aren’t Dangerous

    Bacteria stowed away aboard the International Space Station hasn’t started a terrifying plague — yet. Some scientists have theorized the weightless environment could cause such organisms to mutate into antibiotic-resistant superbugs, so when the station’s crew discovered Staphylococcus aureus, which causes staph infections, and the harmless Bacillus cereus onboard, they studied the microbes. As it turns out, they evolved differently from their terrestrial relatives — with mutations apparently aimed at surviving space — but didn’t become more dangerous. That’s good news for long-haul missions, which could be devastated by such contagion.

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    Prosecutors Target R Kelly After Abuse Claims Aired

    “We cannot seek justice without you.” So said the chief prosecutor in Chicago, State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx, while asking victims and witnesses of alleged misconduct by the performer to come forward. Authorities in Georgia and Illinois say they’re investigating him after a six-part Lifetime series, Surviving R. Kelly, featured interviews with women who claimed he abused them. Despite press reports detailing alleged sexual misconduct by R. Kelly — who has denied all accusations — no recent charges have been filed against him.

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    USA Taekwondo Coach Accused of Abuse Is Reinstated

    Banned from the sport last April after a “decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct,” according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, Jean Lopez was effectively reinstated yesterday after an arbitrator overturned the ban. The reason was not immediately clear, but a ban against Lopez’s Olympic medal-winning brother Steven — also accused of abuse — was overturned last month after a woman declined to testify. “We’ve been guinea pigs through this whole process,” said one of Jean’s accusers. The brothers, as well as USA Taekwondo, face a civil lawsuit brought by five women.