The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Right Taunts Trump for Reopening Government

    President Donald Trump and Congressional leaders agreed Friday to restart government operations for three weeks after the nation’s longest shutdown. Democrats didn’t concede any of the $5.7 billion Trump demanded for a U.S.-Mexico wall, prompting a conservative backlash. Commentator Ann Coulter tweeted that the presidential mantle of “biggest wimp” was now Trump’s, while liberals celebrated ending the 35-day shutdown that snarled air travel monitored by unpaid controllers.

    What happens after Feb. 15? Trump insisted he hadn’t conceded, and threatened a new shutdown or invocation of emergency powers to fund his wall if further budget negotiations fail.

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    Dual Blasts Hit Philippines Church, Killing 20

    The first bomb hit Sunday mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Jolo Island. As authorities rushed to help, a second device detonated at the church’s entrance. The blasts — not Mount Carmel’s first — killed 20 people, and police suspect Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf is responsible.

    What’s the context of this violence? In the country’s southernmost reaches, Jolo-area voters recently rejected a referendum that created a semi-autonomous, Muslim majority region in Mindinao, where years of sectarian violence have killed 120,000. Philippines defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana called for calm and cooperation to “deny terrorism any victory.”

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    Death Toll in Brazil Dam Collapse Reaches 40

    Digging through toxic sludge following Friday’s dam collapse in Brazil, rescuers have found 40 bodies. Among 300 missing are 260 iron ore mineworkers for Vale, the country’s largest mining firm, which said recent inspections found nothing wrong with the dam.

    What could come of this? Mining waste is commonly stored behind earthen dams, another of which collapsed at an operation co-owned by Vale in the same southern Brazilian state. That deadly “worst-ever” national environmental disaster headlined a 2017 U.N. call to action on mining pollution, and multibillion-dollar federal settlement talks may turn on the new tragedy.

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    Venezuela’s New Uprising

    Juan Guaidó says “nobody will give in.” Venezuela’s self-declared interim leader urged followers and soldiers to help oust President Nicolás Maduro. But while revolutionaries yelled “Yes, we can!” the socialist leader blamed the U.S. “imperial enemy” for plotting a coup, taunted President Donald Trump — who’s recognized Guaidó’s claim — and vowed, “We will not surrender.” The United Nations, meanwhile, is urging negotiation over confrontation.

    Will America intervene? While “all options” are said to be available, the Pentagon reportedly has no new orders — and while some embassy staff are being evacuated, others are staying behind to face an uncertain fate.

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    Trump Fixer Roger Stone Defiant After Arrest

    FBI agents arrested President Trump’s longtime confidant at his Florida home early Friday. He’s charged with obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian election meddling probe, but vowed not to testify against Trump. The indictment alleges that a senior Trump campaign official “was directed to contact” Stone to determined how Hillary Clinton might be damaged by Wikileaks’ hacked Democratic National Committee emails.

    What does this mean? The first special counsel indictment in months suggests that Mueller has evidence that more closely links the president with Russia’s election meddling, alleged to involve Wikileaks.

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    Tuesday’s New Brexit Vote Looks Like Déjà Vu

    The kingdom isn’t united. Lawmakers will return to Parliament Jan. 29 to vote on how to leave the European Union after the crushing defeat Jan. 15 of Prime Minister Theresa May’s departure plan. Her challenge is wringing concessions from Brussels on the customs “backstop” that will ensure there’s no hard border with Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, lawmakers are proposing amendments to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

    What’s changed? Little, if anything. With the EU, May and the plan’s opponents standing firm, another rejection — possibly enabling a new referendum — seems likely.

    Read this OZY story on British businesses’ Brexit anxieties.

  7. Also Important…

    Authorities are searching for a 21-year-old man in the slayings of his parents and three others in two Saturday shooting attacks in Louisiana. A train hit a school bus in East Texas Friday, killing one middle school student and injuring another. And Japanese-American Naomi Osaka has become the top woman in tennis after beating Czech Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open Saturday.

    In the week ahead: Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, during which the director of Germany’s Buchenwald concentration camp memorial has banned leaders of the country’s far-right partyAlternative für Deutschland. And Friday begins the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution.

    #OZYfact: China, the world’s fastest-growing car market in 2017, sold a fifth fewer cars in December than it did a year earlier. Read more on OZY.


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    Why the Influenza War Never Ends

    A century after the “Spanish flu” pandemic killed some 50 million, influenza vaccines remain only about 50 percent effective. It takes six months to counter new strains of the illness at collaborating labs from Atlanta to Beijing, meaning a constant arms race between humans and microbes.

    What determines which side will prevail? Researchers collect apparently symptomatic patients’ samples from 110 World Health Organization centers, which experts use to formulate a vaccine. If a mutation emerges after the WHO’s spring meeting, it can even infect the inoculated.

    Read this OZY story on Mongolia’s unhealthy antibiotics obsession.

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    The Military May Be Conquering America’s Space Budget

    NASA has officially been allocated 59 percent of the money earmarked by Congress for extraterrestrial enterprises. But the exact amounts awarded the Pentagon are secret to conceal cosmic defense work. What do we know? Nonclassified outlays are growing — the Pentagon has requested $12.5 billion for 2019 space programs, a $1.1 billion annual increase.

    Does this mean there are space weapons pointed at Earth? While space has been militarized by surveillance satellites, experts say it’s only a matter of time before ideas like President Trump’s Space Force will weaponize it too.

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    Surviving Afghan Terror, and a Chance for Peace

    After security forces evacuated Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel during its fiery January 2018 Taliban siege, Vasileios Vasileiou’s family learned he hadn’t emerged. But the Greek pilot survived by cutting his way into a mattress and breathing through a milk-soaked T-shirt as the battle raged around him.

    What’s going on with the Taliban today? They say they’ve named co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar to head their peace delegation in Qatar, which one observer says is making “unprecedented” progress, even as violence continues across Afghanistan.

    Read this OZY Special Briefing on global terror’s persistence.

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    Millennials’ Secret Childhood Transmogrification

    Animorphs: The premise of this 1990s 54-book children’s series “sounds so stupid,” writes fiction grad student Frankie Thomas. But after the embarrassment, she insists, many among her generation will confess an abiding respect for the stories of five kids changing into jaguars, giant squids and butterflies to fight aliens inhabiting the bodies of classmates and family members — a conceit mirroring pubescent perspectives of life’s torments.

    What’s happened to kids’ pulp fiction? Assembly lines like Animorphs’ husband-wife “K.A. Applegate” writing team and numerous ghostwriters have been supplanted by individual authors like J.K. Rowling releasing showpiece hardcovers once a year.

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    His Hoop Dreams May End in Jail

    Sidney Gilstrap-Portley grew up with basketball ambitions that ended in tears after he was booted from his high school team. Six years later, he was back, dominating 17-year-old players at another school, where he registered as a homeless hurricane victim. Now he’s facing charges of fondling an underage student.

    What are the implications? Gilstrap-Portley’s attempt to reset his youth reflects widespread concern among Black youth that sports or entertainment stardom is the only antidote to racial success barriers.

    Don’t miss OZY’s article on the Caribbean nation with NBA prospects and a World Cup dream.