The Presidential Daily Brief


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    In the Conspiracy War, Protesters Are Fighting Back 

    In recent decades, people power spawned the “color revolutions” in places like Georgia and Ukraine, while the Arab Spring unseated autocrats, if only temporarily. But regimes from China to Saudi Arabia are employing a powerful weapon to counter such movements: viral conspiracy theories that can undermine support by clouding activists’ motivations, often casting them as a tool of nefarious outsiders, posits author Peter Pomerantsev. 

    How are protesters fighting back? They’re trying to “be water,” as protesters in Hong Kong say, organizing organically around otherwise obscure issues like that territory’s proposed extradition law — remaining hard to identify while eroding the foundations of the institutions they oppose.

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    Epstein Death Inspires Conspiracy Theories

    “Way too convenient.” That’s how Democratic presidential hopeful and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio framed Saturday’s hanging death of Jeffrey Epstein, called an apparent suicide by his federal jailers in Manhattan. The 66-year old financier, whose sex trafficking and abuse case brought down a cabinet member and seemingly implicated princes and politicians, was indicted last month despite a 2008 plea deal.

    Is the concern justified? Questions have arisen about authorities ending Epstein’s suicide watch — placed after his July 23 neck injury. U.S. Attorney General William Barr yesterday vowed to investigate, while President Donald Trump cast unfounded suspicion on 2016 rival Hillary Clinton and former president Bill Clinton.

  3. Kashmir

    India’s Alarming Kashmir Pivot 

    First the Indian government deployed over 35,000 troops and confined politicians in the disputed region. A Hindu pilgrimage was stopped; tourists were told to leave; communications were blocked. Then came a move that shocked the world and infuriated neighboring Pakistan, which also claims the majority-Muslim territory: On Monday, New Delhi revoked Article 370, removing the autonomy promised Jammu and Kashmir since 1947.

    Now what? Kashmir has remained silent this week amid scattered reports of protests, stone-throwing and arrests, while the rest of the world waits to see the next move by angry Kashmiris — and nuclear-armed Pakistan.

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    Will This Week’s Trump Appear at His Next Rally?

    President Donald Trump plans another Keep America Great rally next Thursday in New Hampshire, but many wonder if he’ll remain the consoler-in-chief. After last weekend’s two mass shootings, he condemned racism and entertained gun control measures. Americans’ horror at the attacks was revived Thursday with the arrest of a body armor-clad 20-year-old who, claiming he was testing his Second Amendment rights, entered a Missouri Walmart carrying a loaded tactical rifle.

    What’s the latest on the shootings? Patrick Crusius, the suspect in the Aug. 3 Texas Walmart rampage that claimed 22 lives, has reportedly told detectives he was targeting Mexicans.

    Read OZY’s analysis of Trump’s rally strategy.

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    Russian Rocket Test Toll Hits Five Amid Radiation Reports

    Five people are now dead in the wake of a Thursday explosion at a Russian naval proving ground. It reportedly sent nearby residents scurrying for iodine as ambient radiation levels became unusually high. Official reports initially said two people were killed while working on an “isotope power source” for a liquid-fueled rocket engine, but the state nuclear company Rosatom reported the new fatality figure.

    Is it still dangerous? Authorities in Sverodvinsk, 29 miles away, reported a brief low-level radiation spike, but said it had subsided. Even so, the report was deleted, apparently at the behest of the Russian defense ministry. 

    OZY explores Russia’s fatal fire epidemic.

  6. Also Important…

    Some 50,000 people demonstrated in Moscow Saturday against the exclusion of opposition candidates in the city’s election. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are trying to restore order in the Yemeni city of Aden, which UAE-backed separatists have seized — raising fears of a “civil war within a civil war.” And a car bomb has killed three UN workers in Benghazi, Libya. 

    In the week ahead: Guatemala, the biggest source of migrants to the U.S., holds a runoff election for president today. Wednesday is the last day of Islam’s Hajj pilgrimage. And Thursday is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the iconic 1960s music festival.

    OZY is hiring! We’re looking for an ambitious journalist to cover business and finance through unique, analytical and globally minded write-ups. Check out our jobs page and read the description here.


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    Are Silicon Valley’s ‘Warm Introductions’ Killing Diversity? 

    Cold callers needn’t bother. In the parlance of tech investing, “warm” introductions involve a third party’s recommendation, and to tech writer Del Johnson, that’s a recipe for exclusion. Venture capitalists swear by this practice to determine whose innovation gets their money, but Johnson maintains that the VC community is elite to the extent that 40 percent of its members attended either Harvard or Stanford.

    How does it affect the industry? By limiting their networks, the drivers of technology aren’t seeing much beyond the ideas that their like-minded competitors see. Answering a few outside appeals for funding might, Johnson argues, provide the edge they’re looking for.

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    The Cold Void of Space Provides a Mirror for Humanity

    What if we are alone? Two centuries ago, many great thinkers believed other planets were inhabited. But that changed as we learned more about the cosmos; and in 1950 Enrico Fermi famously explained the probable reason we haven’t encountered aliens: There aren’t any. That logically leads to the theory that alien intelligence never got the chance to explore space before meeting with planetary catastrophe.

    Is there an upside? Yes, in that humankind has to face the possibility of its own destruction — via climate change or an all-powerful artificial intelligence — and do something to prevent it.

    Check out OZY’s series on climate change’s new frontiers.

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    Why Is America Resisting a Lifesaving OD Prevention Method?

    Even with more than 60,000 fatal overdoses last year, U.S. officials are rejecting what may be the most effective lifesaver: safe consumption spaces. First legalized in Switzerland in 1986, more than 120 facilities worldwide offer addicts a place where doses can be controlled. They’re credited with nearly eliminating drug-related fatalities in Portugal.

    Why the reluctance? In the U.S., where the strategy isn’t legal, federal authorities are suing to prevent opening a consumption space in Philadelphia. A Justice Department official called the proposed facility “very dangerous and would only make the opioid crisis worse.”

    Read this OZY Special Briefing on an opioid-enriched family trying to buy goodwill.

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    She’s Defending the Hopeless, Along With Kim Kardashian

    Brittany Barnett studied law in Texas — the state with the highest incarceration rates in the U.S. It was a fitting training ground for her life’s work: fighting to end life-without-parole sentences. Barnett is already welcoming success, OZY reports, after 17 prisoners were released this spring following her work, which included convincing Kim Kardashian West to back the project. They’re not finished, though, as 1,600 people continue to serve life sentences for drug offenses.

    Is the justice system receptive? The First Step Act was hailed by some for freeing nonviolent offenders, but others want to see new rules retroactively applied.

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    The MLB Star Who Likes to Get on Base

    It’s refreshing, in the era of home runs: a heavy hitter who simply gets singles and doubles and advances runners. Six-foot-4, 215-pound DJ LeMahieu was greeted as a “savage” with a bat, but the Yankees leadoff hitter hasn’t augmented recent years’ long ball epidemic. He does have an American League–leading .336 batting average this season and three Golden Gloves for minding the infield.

    Isn’t that enough? Apparently not. Playing for Colorado, LeMahieu had the National League’s best batting average in 2016, and yet was overlooked as a free agent last year and began in New York batting ninth.

    OZY’s sports staff writes in praise of juiced baseballs.