The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. aeroflot sukhoi superjet 100 shutterstock 528195487

    Reports: Russian Jetliner Fire Kills 41

    The deaths occurred when an Aeroflot passenger jet caught fire and made an emergency return to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport today, Russian media reported. The Murmansk-bound Sukhoi Superjet-100 carrying 78 people sent emergency signals, circled the airport and landed with its rear section already burning. Video on a Russian news site shows passengers exiting via slide from the front as flames consumed the back.

    What caused the fire? It’s unclear, but an investigation has begun. Rescue workers were said to be searching the burned-out rear of the plane, looking for passengers who remained unaccounted for.

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    Rockets From Gaza Restart Conflict With Israel

    Shrapnel killed an Israeli man today as a result of more than 400 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, barrages that started Saturday and have prompted Israeli airstrikes. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the retaliation had killed six Gazans, including a pregnant woman and her 14-month-old niece, although Israeli suggests that an errant Palestinian rocket may be to blame.

    How significant is it? It’s the first such exchange since 2014, when rockets and mortars killed six Israeli civilians, and Israel sent troops into Gaza, where the U.N. reported 1,462 Palestinian civilian deaths.

    Read OZY’s look at West Bank unrest.

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    Result-Altering Derby Foul Clouds Racing’s Future

    Maximum Security was first. The 3-year-old bay finished Saturday’s 145th Kentucky Derby before 19 competitors. He was also the first ever disqualified on an objection: Race stewards agreed that the horse drifted into the path of a passing horse, causing its jockey to “check hard,” disrupting other horses. Twenty-two minutes after the race, officials bumped Maximum Security to 17th place, elevating 2nd-Place Country House to winner.

    Does it end there? Maximum Security’s co-owner says he might appeal, while others worry that after a spate of California racehorse deaths, the disqualification could further undermine racing.

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    Putin, Trump Chat About Election ‘Hoax,’ Venezuela 

    Campaign collusion didn’t happen, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a Friday call. As for meddling in the 2020 election that the FBI recently warned about, “We didn’t discuss that,” the president told reporters. Trump was also reassured that Russia was “not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than to see something positive happen.”

    What do others think? Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded that he lacked a case for collusion, while this week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia of assisting embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whom the U.S. wants unseated. 

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    Best Jobs Report Since 1969 Eases Slowdown Fears

    The U.S. Labor Department reported Friday that unemployment had fallen to 3.6 percent — its lowest mark in 50 years. It’s the icing on 100 months of job growth — the longest such modern-day streak. Adding to the economic parade was an annual average hourly wage increase of 3.2 percent, allowing some wealth to trickle down to workers.

    Is President Trump responsible? He quickly tweeted, “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!” and experts agreed that it’s a powerful 2020 campaign message, but noted that most of the growth trend occurred before his election.

    Read OZY’s feature on organized labor’s young blood.

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    North Korea Said to Fire Short-Range ‘Projectiles’

    No harm, no foul? South Korea’s military reported that its longtime enemy on Saturday launched short-range “missiles” — the first such firing since halting intercontinental ballistic missile testing in November 2017 — but relabeled them “projectiles.” That wouldn’t violate the moratorium and threaten the fragile détente arranged between Pyongyang’s mercurial leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Trump.

    What’s been the reaction? White House press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “we are aware” of the incident and will monitor the situation, while Japan, whose leader wants a summit with Kim, said the firing posed no threat.

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    Democrats Confront Barr on Probe Handling

    Attorney General William Barr’s shepherding of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian meddling report prompted calls for his resignation this week. Last month Barr lied to Congress, charged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, by professing ignorance of Mueller’s objections to Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s 448-page report. This week, Barr balked at testifying before a Democrat-run House committee.

    What’s the latest? Rep. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the Judiciary Committee that Barr shunned, says he’ll hold the AG in contempt if he refuses the panel’s subpoena for a less-redacted Mueller Report.

    Read OZY’s look at clashing federal branches.

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    Canadian Court to Begin Meng Wanzhou Extradition Case

    Is she a pawn in an international chess game? A judge in Vancouver may consider that while deciding the fate of Huawei’s chief financial officer after Wedesday’s initial hearing on Washington’s extradition request. Meng’s December arrest apparently sparked retaliation, with Beijing arresting two Canadians on espionage charges and sentencing two others, convicted of drug trafficking, to death.

    Can Canada defy the U.S.? Lawyers could cite President Donald Trump’s tweet saying Meng — accused of fraud — might factor into ongoing trade talks — like a U.S. prosecutor’s prejudicial statement that derailed a 2001 extradition.

    Catch OZY’s Special Briefing on Huawei.

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    Germany’s Far Right Rules Facebook

    As May 23 European Union parliamentary elections loom, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is all over the social network. American researcher Trevor Davis finds the growing far-right party originating 85 percent of Germany’s political party shares while polling at 11 to 15 percent and purportedly employing three social media staffers. Maybe, he says, it’s the emotionally triggering content, like migration and crime.

    Could it be that simple? Davis also notes that the posts often use Russian stock photo images, suggesting external help, denied by AfD. But it’s known to be cozy with a Kremlin bent on destabilizing Western democracies through encouraging extremism.

  10. Also Important…

    Cyclone Fani has killed six, injured 63 and destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Bangladesh. A chartered Boeing 737 arriving in Jacksonville, Florida, from Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba slid off a runway into shallow water, but only minor injuries were reported. And Davenport, Iowa, has been inundated as the Mississippi River reached a 157-year high mark.

    In the week ahead: Contingent upon local lunar observations, Monday is the expected start of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan. And on Wednesday, South Africans will vote in parliamentary elections.

    We’re listening! OZY has launched a series about love stories — and we want to hear yours. If you’ve found yourself in an unconventional or intriguing romantic situation, send an email to and tell us all about it!


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    How Census Counts Begat Computers … and Genocide

    Are they just statistics? As America contemplates census takers asking about citizenship, journalist Yasha Levine examines human counting’s dark history. Czarist efforts gave rise to one of the world’s first computers, and with it, IBM. But the company’s tech advances took a dark turn as it helped Nazis collect data on fertile Aryan brides and observant Jews.

    What can be learned from this? As America prepares to conduct its 2020 count, Levine warns, it’s a good time to consider how dividing neighbors among spreadsheets “carries the seeds of our own dehumanization.” 

    Read OZY’s tally of what Americans care about.

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    Campus Culture Wars Have Come for Camille Paglia

    She’s been compared to Hitler. The feminist, trans-identifying academic has long provoked anger, most recently by deriding long-delayed rape accusations. Tenured at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, she’s facing a student-led movement to deny her public forums and mandate “alternatives” to her classes.  

    Is the debate over? One faculty member called the dispute “pure tribalism,” and conservative pundits and websites have praised the university for backing Paglia, whose case has renewed the clash between the ideals of confronting shocking opinions and demanding protection from hearing them.

    Read OZY’s look at a campus newspaper ban.

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    ’El Chicano’ Brings Superpowers to the Barrio

    The time is right. As Black fans savor Black Panther’s triumph and a new Afro-Latino Spider-Man debuts, Ben Hernandez Bray is premiering his unique barrio-based superhero, El Chicano. Brother of an ex-con who overdosed at age 29, Bray wants to give young Latinos hope that they too are empowered to thwart evil in their lives.

    Could he fight another day? If Latinos show the kind of love for his film that Black audiences did for Black Panther, Bray envisions sequels and comic books while “never forgetting where you come from.” 

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    Stop Global Warming With Your A/C

    The logistics are tricky, but a new paper in Nature Communications suggests that air conditioning units, from massive office tower systems to home HVACs, could be converted to capture carbon. What’s more, says the paper co-authored by University of Toronto materials chemist Geoffrey Ozin, the unit would dribble out synthetic fuel as well.

    How does this help the climate? The researchers envision skyscrapers covered with solar panels to power the A/C units, to compensate for the fuel they create, which could power ships and other vehicles not easily sustainably propelled.

    Read OZY’s examination of four nations struggling with hydropower.

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    The Guy Who Made Darts Exciting

    It’s England’s NASCAR. Darts has rocketed from pub to prime time, thanks to promoter Barry Hearn. He bought Britain’s Professional Darts Corp. in 2001 and teamed up with Sky Sports to broadcast the games across the U.K. and the rest of Europe. But in field of play measuring 8 feet, camera operators must anticipate throws and find audaciously kitted fans to maximize entertainment value. 

    How’s the audience growing? Some 1.4 million British viewers and 2.7 million Germans watched the World Darts Championship last year, and even Yanks are warming to televised darts, with 1 million weekly viewers on BBC America.