The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Jobs, Deficit Numbers Add to US Recession Fears 

    There are new indications that concerns about the U.S. economy may be justified. Yesterday, the Labor Department said job gains last year and in early 2019 were lower than initially reported — evidence that the boost from President Donald Trump’s tax cuts was weaker than expected — while the Congressional Budget Office said the annual deficit could approach $1 trillion this year. Meanwhile, Trump backpedaled from Tuesday’s suggestion of further tax cuts, saying “we don’t need it.”

    What’s to be done? Experts say there are few remaining options to stem a slowdown, noting that the Federal Reserve can’t cut interest rates much more and that political divisions could complicate stimulus efforts.

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    Embattled Boris Johnson Defends Brexit Plan Abroad

    Ahead of this week’s G-7 summit, global leaders are casting doubt over the British prime minister’s plan to ditch a key element of the withdrawal deal. On news that Johnson wants to do away with the mechanism designed to avoid a hard border between the U.K. and Ireland, German Chancellor Angela Merkel challenged him to find a solution to the so-called Irish backstop within 30 days. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron, who Johnson’s meeting today, said re-launching Brexit negotiations was “not an option.”

    Could he still sweet-talk these leaders? While Merkel appeared conciliatory, Macron is taking a harder line, saying Europe won’t be “held hostage” to Britain’s “internal democratic crisis.”

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    Bolsonaro Blames NGOs for Brazil’s Amazon Fires 

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has attracted global jeers for claiming environmental groups set fires that have ravaged the Amazon, supposedly in retaliation for him slashing their budgets. Without offering evidence, he said on Facebook Live yesterday that “everything indicates” eco-evangelists are to blame for the 84 percent spike in outbreaks since last year.

    What are environmentalists saying? A local Greenpeace activist attributed the blazes to illegal forest clearing encouraged by the far-right leader’s anti-environmental policies, while experts say NGOs actually teach local communities how to avoid fires.

    Check out OZY’s Special Briefing on the EU-Mercosur trade deal.

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    Sudan Begins Transition to Democratic Rule

    After months of tense negotiations, Abdalla Hamdok and General Abdel-Fattah Burhan were sworn in as prime minister and head of the 11-member Sovereign Council, respectively, as the predominantly Muslim African nation launched a complex transition away from decades of dictatorship. Hamdok will select a majority of the Cabinet, while Burhan will cede his position to a civilian leader after 21 months. Five military members, five civilians and a Coptic Christian judge were also all sworn in yesterday as council members.

    Will this system hold? Analysts say meeting popular expectations after 30 years of autocratic rule won’t be easy, especially since remnants of the old regime remain intact.

  5. Also Important…

    A top South Korean defense official says North Korea and the U.S. could resume their denuclearization dialogue soon. Indonesian authorities have sent more than 1,000 security troops to quell increasingly violent protests in the Papua and West Papua provinces. And the World Health Organization has found that microplastics in drinking water don’t pose a serious risk — but that “we urgently need to know more.”

    #OZYfact: There are more dollar stores in middle-income U.S. ZIP codes than in low- and high-income ZIP codes combined. Read more on OZY.

    OZY is hiring! We’re looking for an analytical and globally minded technology reporter to sniff out today’s most important stories in science, technology and health. Check out our jobs page and read the description here.


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    Appeals Court Affirms ‘Safe Zones’ for UK Abortion Clinics

    Following an appellate court ruling yesterday, anti-abortion activists can’t legally resume vigils near an east London abortion clinic — the country’s first to offer visitors a protest-free “safe zone.” The Good Counsel Network claims it’s dissuaded hundreds of women from getting an abortion since the Christian group began picketing the provider last year. But a three-judge panel upheld an earlier ban on protesting outside the clinic, relegating demonstrators to a 330-foot buffer zone.

    What’s next? The ruling has strengthened calls from advocates for national legislation to protect all British providers from what they consider harassment by foes of abortion.

  2. Data breach

    MoviePass Breach Exposes Credit Card Numbers

    The ticket subscription service says it has fixed a security lapse after a Dubai-based cybersecurity analyst reported finding an internal server that wasn’t protected by a password. SpiderSilk researcher Mossab Hussein claims that he reached out to MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe about his disturbing discovery of at least 58,000 unencrypted records, but received no response. 

    How bad was it? While the firm has refused to divulge details, the breach reportedly exposed a growing cache of millions of client records — including personal credit card and MoviePass debit card numbers, as well as enough information to steal from them.

    Don’t miss this OZY feature about how secret apps violate your privacy.

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    Europe’s Revived Night Trains Target Climate Change

    When low-cost air carriers crowded European skies, railways phased out their long-haul, overnight lines. But as travelers fret about passenger jets’ carbon emissions, they’re hitting the rails again, OZY reports — and sleeper lines are coming back. Austria’s national rail company is leading the charge, with 17 percent of 2018 sales from overnighters, while Swiss, Dutch and British carriers are looking to fluff up their pillows again.

    Does that mean it’s full speed ahead? Despite the convenience these trains offer, analysts say their revival is still a “mixed picture,” noting how key nations France, Germany and Spain have yet to wake up to the demand.

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    Eminem vs. Spotify Puts US Streaming Law in Crosshairs

    Claiming it pirated scores of the Detroit rapper’s songs, music publisher Eight Mile Style filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Swedish streaming service that could cost it billions of dollars in damages. Submitted to a federal court in Nashville, the suit contends that Spotify lacks the proper licensing for the popular song Lose Yourself, plus around 250 other tracks. The firm disbursed only “random payments” justified by the songs’ ownership being undetermined, the suit alleges.

    What are the implications? Eight Mile appears to be testing the Music Modernization Act, a 2018 law that aimed to streamline digital music distribution and help performers get paid.

    Read OZY’s Flashback about when Sega pioneered game streaming.

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    Twitter Addresses Racist Abuse of UK Soccer Star

    Representatives from the social media platform have agreed to meet Manchester United and anti-discrimination group Kick It Out to showcase how the company is fighting online racial abuse. After missing a penalty kick in a Monday match, midfielder Paul Pogba became the third Black player on an English team within a week to face that kind of treatment. Meanwhile, United teammates have rushed to the Frenchman’s defense, with one urging social media giants to “stop these pathetic trolls.”

    What’s Twitter doing? The platform says that since last year, it’s suspended three times as many accounts within 24 hours of complaints.