The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Virginia Attorney General Confesses ’Blackface’ Costume at College

    In a statement Wednesday Mark Herring admitted he and friends dressed up as rappers, putting on wigs and brown makeup when he was 19, explaining they did not have an appreciation for others’ experiences and perspectives. It makes him the third top Democrat in the state to be embroiled in scandal, following Gov. Ralph Northam’s own “blackface” revelation and allegations of sexual assault against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

    What are the repercussions? It could spell a constitutional crisis – with calls for Northam’s resignation, if he steps down, Fairfax would replace him and Herring would be next in line.

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    Trump Pushes Both Unity and Border Wall

    “I’ll get it built.” That’s what President Donald Trump said of his promised border wall in last night’s 82-minute State of the Union address, in which he urged cross-party compromise while also slamming “ridiculous partisan investigations.” Citing the purported danger of illegal immigration, Trump warned that the situation along the U.S. border with Mexico amounts to “an urgent national crisis.”

    Who’s his audience? With Democrats unlikely to approve a border wall, experts say Trump must win over Republicans still reeling from the political damage wrought by his shutdown. But as OZY reports, his denunciation of abortion may help.

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    Pope Francis Admits Priests Are Abusing Nuns

    The pontiff promised that reform “is a path that we have already begun,” though he did not offer an explicit strategy besides claiming the Vatican has already suspended clergymen and dissolved some orders of nuns. After years of reports of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, Francis’ Tuesday comments were his first public acknowledgment that nuns have also been abused.

    How widespread is the problem? Reports from Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia suggest it’s institutional, with nuns complaining of forced abortions or giving birth after being raped by priests and bishops.

    Don’t miss OZY’s original series on the #MeToo movement going global.

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    The US-North Korea Summit Is On

    In his State of the Union address yesterday, President Trump announced that he’ll meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a two-day summit in Vietnam Feb. 27-28. The second meeting between the two heads of state follows months of vague promises by Kim to denuclearize — as well as reports that Pyongyang is still committed to its weapons program.

    Why Vietnam? Experts believe the socialist country presents a secure and convenient stage, one that’s ideologically friendly to North Korea and also a potent symbol of rapprochement with the United States.

    Read OZY’s profile of the diplomats playing the long game with North Korea.

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    Afghan Opposition Leaders, Taliban Talk in Moscow

    A week after the U.S. agreed to a framework for a peace deal with the Islamist group, dozens of Afghan political and social leaders — including ex-President Hamid Karzai — met with Taliban representatives yesterday in the Russian capital. But current U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani refused to attend, claiming the meeting lacked legitimacy. He also insisted that no peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban was possible without his government’s approval.

    Does that mean peace is finally coming? While the Taliban have agreed to prevent terrorists from using Afghanistan as a staging ground, critics believe their possible return to power could fuel political repression and more violence.

  6. Also Important…

    Former staff members for the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook have disagreed over whether a racist photograph purportedly depicting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was the result of a mix-up. Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts has stepped down after five years. And a red carpet opening in New York of Liam Neeson’s new film has been canceled following a recent revelation by the actor that he once wanted to kill a random Black man for revenge.

    #OZYfact: Known as soccer on ice, “bandy” is massive in Scandinavia and Russia but largely unknown in North America. Read more on OZY.

    We’re hiring! OZY is looking for a creative and ambitious Senior Graphic Designer to join our marketing 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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    Chinese Researchers Are Sourcing Organs From Inmates

    According to an Australian-led study published Wednesday, 445 Chinese academic papers may have relied on research involving transplanted hearts, livers and lungs that came from executed prisoners. It also found that 92.5 percent of the studies violated international ethical standards by not revealing the origin of the organs, much less the donors’ consent. Experts are calling for a mass retraction of the research papers.

    How long has this been happening? After years of denial, China acknowledged the practice in 2006 and vowed to shift to voluntary donations, though there’s little evidence that’s happened.

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    Scottish Mall Sells for Less Than a London Apartment

    Everything must go. The Postings Shopping Centre in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, sold at auction yesterday for around $400,000 — about one-quarter less than an average apartment in the British capital. Listed with a reserve of just $1.30, the shopping mall was built for around $5.4 million in 1981, but its dubious fate reflects the reversal of fortune for brick-and-mortar businesses struggling with the boom in online retail.

    Are London real estate prices still sky-high? Tainted by the uncertainty of Brexit, they’re actually falling, and experts suggest now’s a great time to buy.

    Check out OZY’s take on getting an apartment in Hong Kong.

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    Pakistan Is Protecting Its Pangolins

    A new crop of conservationists, vets and ordinary citizens are fighting to save the world’s most trafficked animal in their own backyard. While other species of the scaly anteaters are under threat, the Indian pangolin, also native to Pakistan, has faced the fastest decline, OZY reports: Its population has dropped 80 percent in the past five years. But environmental groups and animal lovers are now establishing pangolin protection zones and educational programs to save the endangered mammal.

    How do pangolins affect the environment? By munching on termites, they help preserve forests — which is why Pakistan’s green lands are currently facing serious danger.

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    Ivanka Trump Hits Back at Art Exhibit

    Everyone’s a critic. President Trump’s daughter offered a caustic reaction yesterday to a performance piece in Washington, D.C., called Ivanka Vacuuming, featuring a lookalike cleaning crumbs thrown by onlookers. “Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter,” she tweeted. Her supporters slammed the exhibit for being sexist, with brother Eric criticizing “leftists” for degrading Ivanka.

    What’s the artist’s interpretation? Jennifer Rubell called her work an exploration of the “relationship between the viewer and the character’s femininity,” not a judgment of the first daughter.

    Don’t miss OZY’s look back at the most powerful first daughter ever.

  5. Anthony Davis

    Lakers Seek Counteroffer in All-Star Trade Deal

    It’s a different kind of trade war. Magic Johnson, Los Angeles’ president of basketball operations, has requested a counterproposal after the New Orleans Pelicans rejected an offer of five players and two first-round picks for star forward Anthony Davis. If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline passes without a deal, then Davis — who has declined offers to stay in New Orleans — will be on the market this summer.

    Is a championship team in the making? Analysts predict the Lakers have a solid shot at the national title if Davis joins LeBron James in Los Angeles.