The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Fed Signals End to Interest Rate Hikes

    In a statement Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said it will be keeping rates the same and “will be patient” as it determines an appropriate target range for the federal funds rate. This marks a change of course for the central banking system’s recent approach, previously indicating “gradual increases” in interest rates.

    What does this mean for the economy? The Fed has described the U.S. economy as solid, a downgrade from last year when it said it was “strong.” Still, Fed leaders see sustained growth and low unemployment in the economy’s trajectory.

    Read about economies of the future on OZY.

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    US Intel Chiefs Contradict White House Policy

    Presenting their annual Worldwide Threat Assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, leaders of the U.S. intelligence community said that ISIS remains a threat, North Korea probably won’t give up its nuclear ambitions and Iran isn’t building a bomb of its own. Those assertions broadly contradict President Donald Trump’s foreign policy, which has included declaring victory over ISIS, pushing Pyongyang to denuclearize and pressuring Tehran with increased sanctions.

    But what’s the most pressing threat? A Cold War-style world: China and Russia are reportedly more aligned than they’ve been in decades as they seek to outmaneuver the U.S. in military and technological prowess.

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    Nicolas Maduro Offers to Negotiate With Opposition

    The embattled Venezuelan president says he’s willing to sit down with opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó, who has called for more protests today aimed at pressuring Maduro to resign. But authorities have frozen Guaidó’s assets and slapped him with a travel ban amid a criminal investigation, while Maduro’s made clear he won’t allow new elections.

    What’s the tipping point in this crisis? Analysts say Guaidó needs to secure military backing before claiming any real power — though the recent formation of pro-government civilian defense squads numbering some 50,000 may complicate that effort.

    Check out OZY’s Flashback on the secret pact that launched Venezuela’s democracy.

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    Apple Reports Drop in iPhone Sales

    How will they sell this? Holiday-quarter sales of the popular smartphone fell 15 percent, while total company revenue fell 4.5 percent for the first time in more than a decade. It’s partly a result of plummeting sales in China, a major market where homegrown competitors are outperforming Apple with cheaper smartphones amid the country’s broader economic slowdown.

    What’s Apple’s rescue plan? While it’s lowering some iPhone prices for the second time ever, CEO Tim Cook believes a line-up of innovative new products will boost the company’s performance.

    Don’t miss OZY’s Special Briefing on the Huawei affair.

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    Theresa May Will Seek Brexit Concessions From EU

    After Parliament supported a proposal to renegotiate the British prime minister’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union, she’ll have to return to Brussels and try to haggle for new terms concerning the Irish border. But the prospects don’t look great: A spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk immediately said the agreement “is not open for renegotiation.” May has two weeks to hammer out a new version of her deal.

    Why the fuss about the Irish border? Critics claim the “Irish backstop,” an insurance policy designed to prevent a hard border between EU-member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland, effectively keeps the U.K. shackled to the EU customs union.

  6. Also Important…

    Another round of high-level trade talks between the U.S. and China is set to begin in Washington today. The defense team for Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman rested its case yesterday after just 30 minutes. And a deadly deep freeze has gripped the U.S. Midwest.

    #OZYfact: Since 2001, the New England Patriots are 11-0 in the postseason when a player rushes for at least 100 yards. Read more on OZY.

    We’re hiring! OZY is looking for a prolific sports reporter and 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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    Facebook Pays Teens for Complete Access to Personal Data

    The social media company pays users aged 13 to 35 around $20 per month for full access to their phone activity — including encrypted browsing, private messages and location data — through an app called Facebook Research. The program, in place since 2016, requires minors to ask parental permission. Facebook said it doesn’t share the data and users can stop participating at any time.

    What about privacy? Facebook Research is similar to an app Apple banned last summer for exactly those concerns. While Facebook says the current incarnation doesn’t violate Apple’s terms, one expert calls the scale of its data collection “appalling.”

    Read this OZY feature about what life after Facebook might look like.

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    Women Are Crashing Male-Dominated Magic

    They’re learning the tricks of the trade. A growing number of female illusionists are wowing crowds as they leave behind the traditional role of perky assistant. Over the past three years, OZY reports, the International Magicians Society has seen a 35 percent increase in global female membership, while the Academy of Magical Arts witnessed a jump in female students from 15 percent to 50 percent.

    How will this change the world of magic? Observers believe the influx of women is helping diversify the profession by introducing a range of new individual skills and approaches.

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    Are These Israeli Scientists Close to Curing Cancer?

    Researchers claim they’re merely a year away from a “complete cure for cancer” after developing a peptide-based treatment that uses multiple simultaneous attacks on cancer cells to prevent them from surviving by mutating. The company, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies, claims the cure would be quick, comparatively cheap and with minimal side effects. Exploratory trials of MuTaTo, short for “multi-target toxin,” have only involved mice so far: Human trials will reportedly begin soon.

    What are other scientists saying? One cancer expert, who’s skeptical about the claim’s simplicity, said it could be “another in a long line of spurious, irresponsible and ultimately cruel false promises.”

    OZY asks: Do air pollution and racism secretly cause breast cancer?

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    ‘Empire’ Actor Attacked in Suspected Hate Crime

    Jussie Smollett was hospitalized in Chicago early Tuesday after being attacked by two men who reportedly yelled racial and homophobic slurs before battering him, dousing the openly gay TV star with an unknown chemical and putting a rope around his neck. Police are hunting for the perpetrators, while many celebrities and LGBT advocates are expressing outrage over the assault. Smollett is currently in good condition.

    Are hate crimes on the rise? It’s unclear: The FBI saw hate crime cases jump 17 percent in 2017, though increased reporting or classification of such crimes could also be a factor.

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    US Sends Top Soccer Talent Overseas in Major Trade

    Nice pass. Major League Soccer squad Atlanta United will reportedly send 24-year-old striker Miguel Almirón to the Premier League’s Newcastle United for $27 million — an MLS record. The Paraguayan two-time All-Star scored 21 goals and 28 assists in two seasons with Atlanta and helped the team win last year’s league championship.

    Isn’t MLS losing a great player? Yes — but the trade also proves the U.S. is a valuable destination for top players, particularly from Latin America, to develop and boost their exposure before moving on to European acclaim.

    Don’t miss OZY’s profile of the best teen goal scorer of all time.