The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Walmart to Stop Selling E-Cigarettes

    America’s largest retailer announced Friday that it will no longer sell e-cigarettes after its current inventory is gone. Walmart cited the “regulatory complexity” and “uncertainty” surrounding the vaping industry, which brands its products as a safer alternative to cigarettes. So far, however, there have been 530 cases of vaping-related lung illnesses, which eight people have died from. 

    Will the move hurt Walmart? The news has erased the company’s gains, but Walmart seems more interested in taking an ethical stance behind big issues. Already this year, the company has urged Congress to hike the minimum wage and vowed to stop selling ammunition for assault-style weapons. 




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    US to Send Troops to Protect Saudi Oil Facilities

    The Pentagon plans to deploy several hundred “defensive” troops to Saudi Arabia in the wake of last week’s damaging attacks on oil facilities blamed on Iran. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said new antimissile batteries and possibly aircraft would also be sent amid increasingly threatening language from Iran, which denies launching the reported cruise missile and drone strikes claimed by Houthi militants it supports in Yemen.

    What does this signal? By sending a modest contingent, Washington is both showing support for its ally while ramping down expectations of a military confrontation with Iran, which has vowed “all-out war” in response to a Saudi or U.S. assault.

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    Whistleblower Spotlights Trump’s Foreign Discussions

    Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said the White House is blocking congressional Democrats by denying access to a complaint filed last month by a whistleblowing intelligence official. That note to the inspector general of the intelligence community — described by the watchdog as “urgent” — reportedly centers on a “promise” President Donald Trump made during discussions with a foreign leader. Schiff said the inspector general refused to discuss the complaint with the committee during testimony yesterday.

    What’s the mystery country? Sources suggest the complaint involves Ukraine, where Trump and his allies allegedly pressured officials to investigate the local dealings of ex-Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

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    Global Climate Strike Kicks Off in Australia

    Ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit next week, another worldwide strike kicked off in Australia today, where more than 300,000 demonstrators are said to have taken part. Some 800 events are expected today in the U.S., where 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is preparing to attend the global summit, and thousands more are planned in 139 countries.

    How are officials reacting? In various ways: While Australia’s acting prime minister called the rallies “just a disruption,” more than 1 million students in New York City will be allowed to ditch class to support the strike.

    Read OZY’s original series about how climate change affects mental health.

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    Trudeau Struggles to Weather Blackface Controversy

    “I am wary of being definitive about this.” That’s how Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to a reporter yesterday when asked if there were more images of him wearing blackface makeup. Facing a tight election race Oct. 21, the progressive darling has publicly apologized twice for wearing racist makeup and costumes — now documented on three separate occasions — but he’s still struggling to move beyond the scandal.

    Can he pull through? While his political opponents and some commentators have criticized Trudeau’s insensitivity, many Canadian voters appear unfazed and relatively forgiving.

  6. Also Important…

    Democracy watchdog Amnesty International has accused police in Hong Kong of abuse and torture while attempting to suppress the territory’s months-long protests. Google has said it’ll invest more than $3 billion in Europe over the next two years to build out its data centers there. And South Korean police say they’ve identified a suspect in a decades-old string of killings — but can’t charge him because the statute of limitations has expired.

    Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB Quiz.

    OZY is hiring! We’re looking for an analytical and globally minded tech 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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    North America’s Birds Are Disappearing by the Billions

    The overall population of birds fell from 10 billion to 7 billion over the past five decades, according to a study published in Science yesterday. Twelve families of birds — including larks, blackbirds, sparrows, warblers, finches and swallows — were the hardest hit, losing about 53 percent of their populations. Scientists attribute much of the “staggering, devastating” decline to habitat loss and a drop in insect numbers.

    What can be done? Experts say that in addition to restoring native plants, humans can also reduce the use of toxic pesticides and take steps to prevent collisions with windows and predation from pet cats.

  2. Airbnb

    Airbnb Plans to Go Public Next Year

    Confirming long-awaited plans, but offering few specifics, travel behemoth Airbnb has said that it will pursue an initial public offering sometime in 2020. Analysts value the company — which began renting air mattresses in a San Francisco apartment in 2007, but now boasts more than 7 million rentals in 100,000 cities worldwide — at $35 billion. That figure tops any hotel chain.

    Is going public a guaranteed success? Tech unicorns have posted mixed results from their much-vaunted IPOs this year, suggesting investors may be more careful going forward.

    Don’t miss OZY’s Special Briefing on this year’s tech IPOs.

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    Is Your Dinner Part of a Brewing Labor War?

    The rise of online ordering has been credited with reinvigorating traditional cuisines and creating niche delivery-only food services — but for conventional restaurants, the losses outweigh the benefits, OZY reports. Huge discounts to entice customers to use platforms like DoorDash and ChowNow cut into already razor-thin hospitality profits, while couriers across the planet are complaining about poor conditions and low pay.

    Is anyone listening? Their complaints are finding open ears: As the gig economy continues to expand, worker protests are becoming a magnet for mainstream progressive lawmakers.

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    Study: Art by Women Accounts for 11% of Museum Acquisitions

    An investigation has revealed that women’s work is vastly underrepresented in the art world: While 260,470 pieces have entered U.S. museum collections since 2008, women produced just 29,247 of them. Even within the ranks of female artists, compensation is unevenly distributed, with five artists comprising 41 percent of the total and contemporary sculptor Yayoi Kusama alone accounting for 14 percent. Overall, art by women makes up only 2 percent of global acquisitions.

    How was the study conducted? It looked at 26 major art museums and institutions in the U.S., as well as analyzed the global art market between 2008 and 2018.

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    Sheffield United Owner Would Partner With bin Laden Family

    Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the new owner of British soccer squad Sheffield United, says he’s open to doing business with relatives of Osama bin Laden. The family, who disowned the al-Qaida terrorist long before the Sept. 11 attacks, has expressed interest in buying shares in the Premier League team. After raising eyebrows, Abdullah vouched for the family, claiming the bin Laden surname shouldn’t be tarnished by “one black sheep.”

    What’s Abdullah’s plan? He has promised to bring in more Saudi sponsors instead of selling the team to make a quick buck.