The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Polar Vortex Freezes US Midwest

    Record low temperatures left at least a dozen dead as swirling winds usually found over the North Pole traveled south over the Great Lakes. Wind chill temperatures dropped as low as minus 55 Wednesday and Chicago was 10 degrees colder than Antarctica. Classes were canceled across the region, the U.S. Postal Service suspended deliveries and more than a thousand flights were grounded.

    What about global warming? Despite a tweet by President Donald Trump suggesting that winter storms disprove it, scientists say rising average temperatures contribute to more extreme weather, including polar vortexes.

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    Venezuelan Crisis Continues as Opposition Meets Military

    Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-declared interim president, wrote in a New York Times op-ed yesterday that he’s held secret meetings with the military in a bid to turn the armed forces against President Nicolás Maduro. Meanwhile, protests continued across the country despite a crackdown by security forces.

    Will Europe turn against Maduro? Britain will reportedly ask EU nations for sanctions on Maduro’s inner circle, and European leaders have warned that if new elections aren’t announced by Sunday they’ll join the U.S. in backing Guaidó.

    Check out this OZY feature on how Venezuela and others get around sanctions.

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    Saudi Arabia Announces End to Corruption Crackdown

    A statement yesterday announced the end of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s anti-corruption campaign that reportedly netted over $100 billion in assets from princes, ministers and tycoons. The Saudi government said 381 people had been summoned to the royal court and 87 confessed to charges. The purge began in 2017 as many of the country’s elite were rounded up and held in Riyadh hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton, for interrogation.

    Will the move help investment? Some investors were unsettled by the aggressive measures MBS described as “shock therapy.” But the end to the campaign could calm the international businesses community.

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    Fed Changes Course, Signals Pause on Rate Hikes

    In a surprise move yesterday, the Federal Reserve indicated it would keep interest rates steady as Chairman Jerome Powell explained that it had the “luxury of patience.” Since 2015 the U.S. central bank has followed a policy of gradual rate increases, while last month — after raising its benchmark by a quarter point — it suggested more hikes were likely this year.

    What does this mean for the economy? Markets rallied at the news, and President Trump, who’s been a vocal critic of rate increases, tweeted the “tremendous news” that the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 25,000.

    Read OZY’s take on this year’s World Economic Forum.

  5. Also Important…

    Federal prosecutors said yesterday that stolen materials from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office are being used by Russians in a disinformation campaign. Bangkok has canceled schools amid toxic air quality. And Facebook posted record quarterly profits despite being embroiled in a number of privacy scandals in the last year.

    #OZYfact: Forty-six percent of Americans in a relationship would rather sleep alone at least some of the time while 15 percent of Brits said they would prefer sleeping in a different bed than their romantic partner. Read more on OZY.

    We’re hiring! OZY is looking for a dynamic and organized senior marketing media strategist 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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    Study: Vaping Most Effective for Getting Smokers to Quit

    Those who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking succeeded at nearly double the rate of those using methods like nicotine patches and gum, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Eighteen percent of vapers were still tobacco-free after a year, compared to 10 percent of those using traditional treatment and only 3 percent of those quitting cold turkey.

    And the bad news? Vapers were likely to become hooked on e-cigarettes, which are thought to be less harmful than tobacco but aren’t without risks.

    Read OZY’s story on how Libya’s civil war made it a cigarette-smuggling haven.

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    ACLU Sues Sheriff for Blocking Activists on Facebook

    The American Civil Liberties Union claims Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones violated the free speech rights of local Black Lives Matter leaders by blocking them on social media. The activists criticized Jones on Facebook after his office didn’t investigate the police shooting death of Mikel McIntyre — but the ACLU argues that citizens have a right to access his page because it’s a public forum.

    Do you have a right to follow? If it’s a government official’s page, it looks like it. A strong precedent was set last year when courts ruled President Trump violated the Constitution by blocking Twitter critics.

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    Should Courts Bail on the Bail?

    Nearly half a million people are behind bars in the U.S. without a conviction, OZY reports, because they can’t afford bail. California was the first state to end the cash bail system, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has asked his state’s courts to do the same for most minor crimes. Meanwhile, legislation has been introduced to end the practice in federal cases.

    What’s wrong with cash bail? Critics of the system argue it unfairly burdens the poor, and many organizations have begun stepping up to provide funds for those who can’t buy their own freedom.

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    ISIS Threatens Mariah Carey Concert in Saudi Arabia

    The singer is scheduled to perform tonight at the kingdom’s first international golf tournament in Jeddah, but fans are urging Carey to cancel after threats, allegedly from ISIS militants, were spread on social media. The terror group has previously targeted Western concerts with bloody attacks. Meanwhile, Carey is catching flak from women’s groups for performing in the repressive kingdom.

    Is it a new Saudi Arabia? The impressive line-up — including Dutch DJ Tiesto and Jamaican rapper Sean Paul — comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman oversees a relative liberalization of Saudi Arabia’s arts scene.

    Check out this OZY story on the country’s cinema revival.

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    Goodell Breaks Silence on Missed Call Controversy

    Yesterday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell finally addressed a blatant missed call during this month’s NFC championship that may have cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl. At an annual press conference — and after 11 days of silence from the league on the error — Goodell said he understands the “frustration” of fans and players but noted that referees are only human.

    Will there be league changes? Goodell warned about “unintended consequences” of rule changes — while observers said the missed call could fuel claims that the NFL is rigged.