The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Amazon Drops New York as Prospective Headquarters

    The online retailer said Thursday it would not be pursuing plans for its Long Island City campus. The project had faced criticism from city officials and the financial incentives adding up to more than $2 billion from New York, for one of the most valuable companies in the world, have been a source of contention. Amazon has said the deal would have created 25,000 jobs.

    Where will they go instead? Amazon made clear in a statement they won’t be looking for a second headquarters at this time but plans to open in Nashville and Northern Virginia will continue.

    Don’t miss OZY’s story on what these cities learned by pitching Amazon.

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    William P. Barr Confirmed as Attorney General by Senate

    The lawyer who previously served as attorney general under George H.W. Bush will do so again, it was confirmed Thursday. Senators reportedly anticipated Barr would return some stability to the Justice Department after Jeff Sessions departure as President Donald Trump’s first attorney general while his deputy Matthew G. Whittaker was installed as temporary cover.

    What’s the significance of Barr’s appointment? It comes at a politically sensitive time, nearing the end of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump worked with Russia to meddle in the 2016 elections. 

    Read OZY’s story on why one of Georgia’s most powerful politicians has never run for office.


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    Trump to Declare National Emergency for Border Wall

    Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that President Donald Trump planned to declare a national emergency in order to bypass Congress and build a wall on the southwestern border, a key promise during his election campaign. At the same time, McConnell said Trump will likely support a budget and border compromise to avoid a government shutdown. Trump has reportedly had doubts over the bill after a Conservative backlash.

    How will this play out? It’s likely to mean a clash with lawmakers over who controls the federal purse.

    Check out OZY’s take on a modest proposal for building Trump’s wall.


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    Court Says Paul Manafort Violated Plea Deal

    A federal judge ruled yesterday that President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair lied to prosecutors about his contact with an aide tied to Russian intelligence. While that broke Manafort’s deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the judge said prosecutors didn’t show enough evidence that Manafort was also untruthful about his contacts with the White House.

    What happens now? The special counsel is no longer obliged to recommend a lighter sentence for Manafort at his March 13 sentencing. He faces a maximum of 10 years for conspiracy.

    Read this OZY story on the shady world of D.C. power brokers.

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    Former US Air Force Officer Is Accused of Spying for Iran

    Monica Witt was charged yesterday with delivering military information to a foreign government, with U.S. officials claiming she helped Iranian hackers target her former colleagues in intelligence. The 39-year-old defected to Iran in 2013 after leaving the military and working with private defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. The FBI described her motives as “ideological.”

    What about Iran-U.S. relations? They could get even worse: Four Iranian hackers were also charged and sanctions placed on two Iranian companies — adding to the White House’s economic sanctions enacted last year.

    Don’t miss this OZY story on how countries get around economic sanctions.

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    Journalist and Duterte Critic Is Arrested for Libel

    Maria Ressa, executive editor of Philippine news site Rappler, was arrested yesterday on charges that stem from a 2012 article — published four months before the law she was charged under was enacted — accusing a businessman of corrupt connections to a judge. Rappler has reported critically on President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly drug war, earning Ressa Time’s Person of the Year honors. She was released on bail today.

    Is this a growing crackdown? Human Rights Watch called her arrest part of a broader campaign by Duterte to silence critics, including members of the Catholic Church and government.

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    Airbus Ends Superjumbo Jet Production

    Today the European plane maker said it’ll stop its A380 program after Dubai’s Emirates Airline cut orders for the world’s largest jet. The 555-seat, double-decker plane was meant to compete with Boeing’s 747 when it was unveiled 14 years ago, but sales never took off. Only 234 were sold, less than a quarter of what Airbus projected. The decision could impact as many as 3,500 jobs.

    What’s the future of air travel? Forecasts predict a 6 percent increase in passengers this year while Emirates bought 70 smaller jets from Airbus in lieu of superjumbo orders.

  8. Also Important…

    After over 15 years of exploration, NASA announced its Opportunity rover had ended its mission on Mars after losing contact with Earth. The U.S. House passed a bill yesterday to end American military support for the war in Yemen. And a suicide bomb in Iran claimed by a Sunni militant group killed at least 27 members of the country’s Revolutionary Guard.

    #OZYfact: The average cost of divorce in the U.S. is $18,000 — but some legal experts are using technology to reduce that to as little as $1,500. Read more on OZY.

    We’re hiring! OZY is looking for an ambitious journalist to cover business and finance. Could this be you? Check out the job description for more details … and find all our open jobs right here.


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    Former US Colony Finds Its Type of Leader With Trump

    More people in the Philippines trust the decisions of America’s president — at a staggering 78 percent — than any other country, OZY reports. The sentiment might have something to do with President Trump’s similarity to Rodrigo Duterte, the popular and boisterous Philippine president. Or it could be the decades of military cooperation and American cultural imports.

    Is it true love or just a fling? Despite a long romance with the West, Manila’s opinion of Beijing is improving. Duterte has unusually kind words for Chinese President Xi Jinping as promises of Chinese investment flow into the archipelago.

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    Great Whites Killed Off Megalodon, Study Says

    The 60-foot-long prehistoric shark likely disappeared through competition with its smaller cousin around 3.6 million years ago, according to new research in the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences. Paleontologists suggest the predator’s extinction could have come a million years earlier than previously thought. It had been theorized that megalodons died off in a mass extinction event caused by radiation from a supernova bombarding Earth.

    What about other extinctions? Scientists are growing more skeptical of the radiation explanation due to gaps in fossil data.

    Check out this OZY profile on the scientist saving the Middle East’s sharks.

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    Indonesia Says Instagram Agreed to Pull Gay Muslim Comic

    The country’s Ministry of Communications claimed Wednesday that the company agreed to delete an account under the username Alpatuni that published comics depicting LGBT life in the Muslim-majority country. Indonesia reportedly warned that it would block the social media company for distributing pornographic content if it didn’t delete Alpatuni. Instagram, meanwhile, denied removing the account.

    Is Indonesia becoming more conservative? Gay citizens have cited increased discrimination and harassment — and a growth in conversion centers — amid rising religious traditionalism.

    Check out this OZY feature on Indonesia’s secular backlash to Islamism.

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    Ryan Adams Accused of Manipulating Female Musicians

    Seven women have accused the Grammy-nominated singer of exploitation and emotional abuse, including his former wife Mandy Moore, according to a New York Times report. Adams allegedly scouted and championed female artists, then pursued them romantically — sometimes turning vengeful when rebuked. He’s also accused of having a sexual online relationship with an underage aspiring musician. Adams apologized “deeply and unreservedly” for hurting anyone, but called the article “upsettingly inaccurate.”

    Is the music business in tune with #MeToo? Actually, experts say musicians’ treatment of women has been relatively ignored compared to other industries.

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    IAAF on Defensive Ahead of Gender Ruling

    The International Association of Athletics Federations has denied a report saying it plans to argue that female South African track star Caster Semenya is biologically male. The middle-distance runner was forced to take a gender test — the results of which were not made public — after winning two 2016 Olympic women’s events. Semenya’s challenging a proposed IAAF rule that would regulate acceptable testosterone levels for female athletes.

    What’s at stake? Next week’s arbitration court hearing will have repercussions for athletes with “differences of sexual development” as well as transgender competitors.