The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Former US Air Officer Charged with Spying for Iran

    Monica Witt, who remains at large, has been accused of involvement in a cyber-spying operation where Iranian hackers targeted counter-intelligence agents she used to work with – four of the hackers have also been charged. After a career as an intelligence officer in the air force, the 39-year-old went to work for private contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in 2008 before defecting to Iran in 2013.

    Why did Witts allegedly defect? The indictment suggests ideological motives, referencing emails where she said she’ll be putting her training with the Department of Defence “to good use instead of evil.”

    Read this OZY profile on Mark Dubowitz, waging financial war on Iran.

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    Trump Signals He’s Open to Border Deal

    “I can’t say I’m happy.” That’s how President Donald Trump reacted to a bipartisan spending deal aimed at averting a new federal shutdown. But his measured comments fueled hope that he’ll approve the agreement, which provides $1.38 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border — including 55 miles of new fencing — that some Republicans called a “big down payment” on a wall. It also does not satisfy Democrats’ demands for a new cap on immigrant detentions.

    When will Congress consider the deal? The Democrat-controlled House could vote as early as today before it moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he believes Trump “got a pretty good deal.”

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    Drug Kingpin ‘El Chapo’ Is Convicted

    After a New York federal court found Joaquin Guzman guilty yesterday on all 10 criminal charges against him, the notorious Sinaloa cartel chief faces life behind bars. For more than two months, jurors had heard tales of El Chapo’s murderous exploits, debauchery and corruption — yet still, his defense attorney claimed his client is “not done yet by far.” He’ll be sentenced in June.

    Where’s El Chapo headed? Considering he’s escaped jail twice before, experts say the 61-year-old is likely bound for Colorado’s “Supermax” prison, known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

    Don’t miss OZY’s look at why business is booming for the Sinaloa cartel.

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    Juan Guaido Vows Aid Will Come to Venezuela

    Speaking to supporters at a rally yesterday, the Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared president promised badly needed humanitarian aid would arrive in his crisis-stricken country by Feb. 23. Defying beleaguered President Nicolás Maduro — who’s blocked aid shipments, calling them a pretext for U.S. intervention — Guaidó’s apparently relying on an army of volunteers to help ferry supplies from neighboring Colombia and Brazil.

    What’s his leverage? That’s unclear: While he’s called on military personnel to let the aid through, their crucial support is still largely behind Maduro.

    Read OZY’s profile of the man considering cryptocurrency to help Venezuela.

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    Hopes High for US-China Trade Talks

    Are they just east of a deal? U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in Beijing today he’s poised for “productive” talks this week with his Chinese counterparts aimed at ending the trade dispute between the two countries. If they fail to reach a deal by March 1, U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports will jump to 25 percent — though President Trump indicated yesterday he’s willing to leave some wiggle room.

    How are markets reacting? Global stocks rallied at optimism over the talks, with major indexes in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Japan up at least 1 percent after a nearly 400-point Dow Jones surge yesterday.

  6. Also Important…

    The U.S. national debt has surpassed $22 trillion for the first time ever. The chief defense attorney for embattled ex-Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn has resigned. And NASA is making a final attempt to communicate with its long-silent Mars rover Opportunity before ditching the mission.

    #OZYfact: In Wales, wooden spoons have been presented as romantic gifts since at least 1667. 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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    Twitter Founder Fields Questions — Over Twitter

    In an exchange yesterday with Recode co-founder Kara Swisher, Jack Dorsey named Elon Musk as one of his favorite Twitter users, said the microblogging site would likely never ban President Trump, and gave himself a C grade for tech responsibility. He also admitted that he’s upset when exasperated users ditch his platform, wishing instead the “general vibe” was one of empowerment.

    What challenges does Twitter face? A radical feminist’s recent lawsuit over the platform deleting her tweets about transgender people suggests that Twitter’s free speech policy is a work in progress.

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    This Priest Is Exposing His Church’s Sins

    Can he keep the faith? As head of the Catholic Whistleblowers network, Ronald Lemmert has worked from inside the Catholic Church for years to bring sexual abusers to justice, OZY reports. Even before the sexual misconduct scandals became widely known, Lemmert faced ridicule and bans in response to his crusade. But he’s since been vindicated, especially amid Pope Francis’ public acknowledgment of the crimes committed by clergymen.

    How are the scandals impacting Catholics’ faith? The number of self-identified U.S. Catholics fell from 59.1 million in 2010 to 58.6 million in 2016, suggesting activists like Lemmert face an uphill battle.

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    Can This Ketamine-Related Drug Treat Depression?

    A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has endorsed esketamine, a cousin to the euphoric party drug, to treat the disorder. Produced by Johnson & Johnson, the nasal spray would be the first major depression treatment approved in decades — and a potential “game-changer,” one committee member said. Around a third of patients who suffer from the affliction do not respond to current drugs. Final approval is expected next month.

    But could people become hooked? While doctors have worried about the drug’s potential abuse by patients, the panel noted that its benefits outweigh the risks.

    Check out OZY’s story about the podcast giving you the straight dope about drugs.

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    Rapper 21 Savage Will Be Released on Bail

    The performer, real name She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was granted a $100,000 bond yesterday and is expected to be freed today, following his arrest earlier this month by U.S. immigration officials for allegedly overstaying his visa. Abraham-Joseph’s lawyer said the British citizen will apply for a federal work permit as he awaits a decision in his deportation trial, which could take years.

    Is 21 Savage’s story familiar? As OZY reports, his saga harks back to British-born rapper Slick Rick, who faced deportation after serving time for serious crimes but was eventually pardoned and granted citizenship.

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    King the Wire Fox Terrier Is Best in Show

    Let the reign of terrier begin. After a royal showdown at yesterday’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the 7-year-old wire fox terrier pranced away with top honors. King faced only five other finalists — narrowed from a field of 2,800 — after a schipperke was disqualified due to a conflict of interest between his owners and a judge. The victorious pooch will enjoy a steak lunch today after a tour of morning talk shows.

    Are terriers particularly good performers? Maybe: King is the 15th wire fox terrier to triumph at Westminster.

    Don’t miss this OZY Flashback on the Cold War’s cutest diplomats.