The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Green Book Wins Best Picture

    The segregation-era road trip movie took home the top honor at Sunday night’s ceremony in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Alfonso Cuaron won best director, best foreign language film and best cinematography for Roma. Olivia Colman and Rami Malek nabbed awards for best lead roles. And Spike Lee gave a fiery political speech after his BlacKkKlansman won for best adapted screenplay — the director’s first Oscar.

    What did the viewers think? The Academy desperately tried to raise viewership and critic’s approval in its controversial run-up to the ceremony. Only tomorrow’s reviews will determine how far they succeeded.

    Don’t miss OZY’s explainer for this year’s Academy Awards.

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    Maduro Cuts Colombia Ties Amid Aid Battles

    Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro sent Colombian diplomats packing Saturday, accusing their neighboring “fascist government” of facilitating cross-border “attacks” by the United States. The conflict over aid shipments coming from Colombia, Brazil, and even Puerto Rico — which Maduro has vowed to stop despite severe shortages — reportedly caused five more deaths Saturday as pro-government forces clashed with protesters.

    Is this a turning point? Juan Guaidó, recognized as interim leader by the U.S. and some 50 other nations, hasn’t succeeded in fomenting widespread Venezuelan troop defections, and U.S. involvement cuts both ways, so Maduro isn’t going anywhere yet.

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    Prosecutors Deride Manafort as Mueller Report Looms

    Two-plus years into Donald Trump’s presidency, special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly polishing the report that might support Trump’s impeachment. Meanwhile, the drip of revelations from Mueller’s probe into the presidential campaign’s connections to 2016 Russian election meddling continues. A prosecutorial filing released Saturday said Paul Manafort, who led Trump’s drive for the GOP nomination, “repeatedly and brazenly” broke laws from money laundering to concealing his work for foreign governments — including during the campaign.

    Will Mueller’s report be public? His report to the Justice Department will be confidential, so Attorney General William Barr controls what’s released — even to Congress.

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    China-US Trade Talks Looking Up, Boosting Markets

    Friday’s the day. By then, U.S. and Chinese negotiators need to conclude an agreement to satisfy President Trump’s tariff fairness and technology transfer demands to avoid 25-percent levies on $200 billion in Chinese exports. Markets dipped yesterday with the president’s “who knows?” talks assessment, but rebounded later when he and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, meeting in the Oval Office, said a deal was likely. Meanwhile, Trump’s reportedly planning to host Chinese President Xi Jinping in late March.

    Is the deadline flexible? Trump said Friday, “If we’re doing well, I could see extending that.”

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    They Were Balkan Refugees, Now They’re Hosts

    In the space of a year, the number of migrants arriving in Bosnia-Herzegovina has increased some 22,000 as new asylum seekers enter Europe via Greece. Bihac — a current way station — is now seeing new ethnic and local tensions mounting amid winter conditions.

    Is there a silver lining? While many neighboring countries won’t help, the situation has proved the country needs the EU, its biggest donor in humanitarian support, and most Bosnians support the country’s admission to the bloc regardless of ethnic divisions.

    Read this OZY story about Bosnians running to combat obesity.

  6. Also Important…

    Three crew members are dead after a Boeing 767 Amazon cargo jet crashed Saturday into a bay on its approach to land in Houston. Support for delaying Brexit is growing in the British Parliament. President Trump on Friday nominated U.S. ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft, a Kentucky Republican donor, to be United Nations ambassador. And Nigerian election officials are counting ballots from Saturday’s election, in which President Muhammadu Buhari faced 72 challengers.

    In the week ahead: Cubans will vote on a new constitution today in a poll seen as a referendum on socialism. And U.S. President Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un will meet Wednesday and Thursday in Vietnam’s capital to negotiate the peninsula’s possible nuclear disarmament. And on Friday, Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival celebration begins.

    #OZYfact: Only 11,942 applicants passed the entrance exam for the Indian Institutes of Technology last year — out of 1.2 million candidates. Read more on OZY.


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    Can an Unhosted Oscars Avoid a Razzie?

    After a record ratings flop in 2018, efforts to reinvigorate Hollywood’s biggest-name ceremony started almost immediately, only to be thwarted by missteps. A lighthearted host choice in Kevin Hart proved a PR disaster, while one idea for shortening the show nearly forfeited Lady Gaga’s blockbuster vocal stylings.

    Can the show go on? The ceremony is going hostless, which didn’t help in 1989, but Disney’s ABC, which is stuck with Oscar through 2028, is hoping the headlines will attract more viewers on Sunday — perhaps ones expecting an epic train wreck.

    Read OZY’s Special Briefing on the Academy Awards’ renewal efforts.

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    Are Smartphones Killing Our Children?

    With an increase in teen depression coinciding with the rise in digital technology, the idea that screen time is altering minds for the worse has become a widespread assumption. But scientific proof of this relationship is still inconclusive. For example, although studies show an association between social media and depressive symptoms, the results don’t prove causality and come with important caveats.

    How do we get to the bottom of it? Scientists need to conduct extensive studies that involve passive information collection. And for that, they need companies like Apple and Google, which already keep such data, to cough it up.

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    Getting Off When You’ve Gone In Down Under

    This is going to hurt. There’s a booming BDSM scene behind the walls of Australia’s prisons. Severely injured inmates often report self-harm to avoid admitting to consensual rough sex. Researchers from the University of New South Wales also found that of inmates’ sexual encounters, only 2.5 percent were nonconsensual. Plus, Australian men enjoy a more active sex life behind bars, the study found, than their counterparts on the outside.

    What’s the takeaway? Such research could alter long-standing grim assumptions of prison sexual violence — if the results can be replicated.

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    Citizen Recruits Aid Overwhelmed Climate Researchers

    Volunteer divers recently verified reports that an endangered fish survives off of Tasmania. Similar data provided by citizen scientists are helping researchers from Oceania to Maine keep up with impacts of a rapidly changing climate. “There is only so much a lab researcher can do,” says one marine ecologist, especially with funding and political constraints. Divers for Florida’s Reef Environmental Education Foundation, for example, have done 235,000 surveys and documented northward shifts of tropical fish species.

    Is the data shoddy? A Harvard study says it’s surprisingly reliable, and can save millions of dollars in labor costs.

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    Yes, Pro Ballers Can Take Orders From a Woman

    “Well, it’s taken long enough.” So said Evelyn Magley upon hearing she was the first woman to own a professional men’s sports league in the U.S. Magley started The Basketball League in January across 10 American cities with her husband. Now it has 20 major sponsors and a growing roster of lower-tier players eager to show their skills over livestream broadcasts.

    Are women finally getting passed the ball? From Indiana Pacers assistant general manager Kelly Krauskopf to NBA players’ union executive director Michele Roberts, a growing number are joining the game.