The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Bernie Sanders Announces 2020 White House Bid

    This time, it’s personal. Calling President Donald Trump “the most dangerous president in modern American history,” Bernie Sanders launched his second candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination Saturday. Losing to Hillary Clinton in 2016, the self-described “democratic socialist” is the godfather of the party’s surging left wing, championing single-payer health care and free university educations. But unlike in 2016, several rivals share those positions.

    What’s new? Famously resistant to addressing his personal history, Sanders, 77, announced in the Brooklyn of his upbringing, remembering, “my allowance was 25 cents a week” rather than Trump’s reported $200,000 annual childhood outlays.

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    Trump Blasts Mueller, Green Energy in CPAC Address

    The “collusion delusion” is “bullsh*t.” That’s what President Donald Trump told the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual confab in Maryland Saturday. In one of his longest speeches, exceeding two hours, Trump also ridiculed alternative energy, saying Democrats shouldn’t fly — or watch TV when the wind’s not blowing.

    Did he propose anything specific? He promised to order universities to support “free speech,” inviting conservative activist Hayden Williams, punched in the face last month at the University of California, Berkeley, onstage. “If they want our dollars,” Trump said, “they’ve got to allow people like Hayden … to speak.”

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    Fresh Shelling After Pakistan Returns Indian Pilot

    The Friday “peace gesture” repatriation of Abhinandan Varthaman, captured during a dramatic escalation between Indian and Pakistani warplanes this week, let the world breathe easier. Concerns about the nuclear-armed neighbors were stoked earlier by a video showing the downed wing commander being beaten near his crash site. But then, images emerged of him calling his captors “thorough gentleman” and drinking chai.

    Is it over? Unlikely. Two-way artillery barrages were reported today in Kashmir, and with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi facing April elections, backing down isn’t a good look.

    Don’t miss OZY’s Special Briefing on the India-Pakistan skirmish.

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    Manafort Seeks Leniency While Caveats Cloud Impeachment

    Read between the lines. Former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort faces a federal guideline of 20-24 years’ imprisonment at his Virginia tax and bank fraud sentencing Thursday. His lawyers argued Friday that he’s not the irredeemable felon described by special counsel Robert Mueller, whom defense filings accused of “spreading misinformation.” That’s led some to interpret the leniency argument as finding common cause with a president who can pardon.

    What’s next? Empowered Democrats, anxious to act, could try impeachment. But as OZY’s Daniel Malloy notes, that scarlet letter didn’t hurt Bill Clinton’s popularity, and that’s “a blinking red light.” 

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    The Trump-Kim Summit’s Qualified Success

    While this week’s second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un failed spectacularly, it relieved many observers by not yielding a much-feared bad deal. The summit’s Vietnamese hosts, who had three weeks to prepare, were also relieved: They’d proven they could put on a world-class event at the drop of a hat. That included, of course, keeping activists under wraps.  

    Who was the biggest winner? Hanoi, of course, with a photo op of U.S. and Vietnamese leaders waving each other’s flags, perhaps incentivizing Kim’s next talks.

    Read OZY’s Special Briefing on the summit.

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    Jeremy Corbyn’s Big Brexit Moment

    He’s as unlikely as Brexit. His 2015 election as Labour Party leader was also surprising. Now European Union supporters are hoping Corbyn shelves his historic euroskepticism and fights for a new referendum. He’s agreed, but only reluctantly, writes journalist Samuel Earle, and faces the daunting task of reuniting remainers and an electorally powerful party minority of Brexiteers. 

    Will he survive this battle? In Earle’s view, Corbyn’s focus on bread-and-butter issues is just what deeply damaged Britain needs, but bringing Labour out of the minority will mean winning over both sides of the Brexit divide.

  7. Also Important…

    The United States and South Korea have announced an end to joint military exercises in a gesture aimed at encouraging North Korea, which saw the war games as preparing for an invasion, to denuclearize. SpaceX’s unmanned Crew Dragon capsule has successfully docked with the International Space Station in a test of its ability to transport seven astronauts into orbit. And 52 dog sled teams set out Saturday from Achorage, Alaska, on the 1,000-mile Iditarod race.

    In the week ahead: On Tuesday, some 3,000 delegates to China’s National People’s Congress will convene in Beijing, expected to ease foreign investment rules and ban forced technology transfer — key U.S. demands in ongoing trade negotiations. On Wednesday, telecom giant Huawei’s chief financial officer will appear in a Canadian court after the country’s Justice Department allowed a U.S. extradition case to proceed. And the nine-day South by Southwest conference and arts festival will begin Friday in Austin, Texas.

    #OZYfact: Britain estimates that efforts to fight tax avoidance in developing nations could return $53 for every $1.33 spent. Read more on OZY.


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    Policing Facebook May Be the Worst Job Online

    They’re shock troops of psychological warfare. Facebook directly and indirectly employs 15,000 content reviewers globally. At one contracting site in Arizona, a journalist reports low wages, which the social network argues always exceed local minimums, and dehumanizing conditions — for repeatedly viewing drone strike victims, stabbing deaths and other disturbing content. Bathroom and prayer breaks are limited, and there’s no counseling after reviewers emotionally wash out.

    Are there long-lasting effects? Facebook moderators interviewed report colleagues taking Holocaust denial and flat Earth videos to heart, joking about suicide and suffering traumatic stress symptoms after quitting.

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    Climate Catastrophe May Hinge on Clouds’ Survival

    New research indicates that additional carbon dioxide could break down the planet’s clouds, tripling the century’s already disastrous warming predictions. Without those collections of water droplets reflecting sunlight, the planet warms a cataclysmic additional 8 degrees Celsius. Recent simulations at the California Institute of Technology suggest such cloud loss helped bake the Earth 56 million years ago.

    Is it all over? Clouds are as hard to predict as they are insubstantial, and the economic collapse expected with initial warming could help curb emissions before the CO2 tipping point comes.

    Read OZY’s coverage of advances in the climate battle.

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    Can the Arab World Forget Assad’s Crimes?

    Despite years of support to armed opposition of President Bashar Assad’s regime, regional rivals are quickly adapting to the reality of defeat, OZY writer Umar Lateef Misgar observes. As Assad consolidates power, Middle Eastern neighbors are moving to re-establish ties — overlooking wartime atrocities. Embassies and border crossings are reopening, while Egypt is calling for Damascus’ Arab League reinstatement. Meanwhile, Gulf states want in on lucrative reconstruction projects.

    Could this tilt Middle Eastern power? With Syria and its Iranian ally having grown closer during the war, renewed economic ties with Arab states might reclaim some of Tehran’s influence.

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    How ‘Bones’ Creators Beat ‘Hollywood Accounting’

    Forensic bookkeeping strikes again. An arbitrator recently ruled that 21st Century Fox must pay the long-running forensic anthropology series’ creatives $179 million in the industry’s second-largest such award. Despite its obvious success, the show was licensed to partly Fox-owned Hulu at a giveaway price, the arbitrator determined, then reported no profits for sharing with actors such as David Boreanaz, its executive producer or the author whose work inspired Bones.

    Could it change the game? The decision could discourage other production companies from hiding profits with “Hollywood accounting” — and undercut studios’ streaming initiatives.

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    Rick Pitino’s Greek Basketball Drama 

    In 2017, the Hall of Fame Louisville coach departed college basketball in the shadow of the NCAA’s bribery scandal. Pitino then went to Greece and started coaching one of the country’s most popular teams, Panathinaikos. But his new life isn’t without controversy, even without altercations with his team’s rival Olympiacos. His boss is known for smoking in his hospital bed — and threatening referees’ lives.

    Is this his swan song? Despite missing U.S. ball, Pitino’s new life is an adventure, so he’s not ready to hang up his whistle.

    Don’t miss OZY’s story about breaking a pro sports glass ceiling.