The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Whistleblower: White House Tried to Cover Up Ukraine Call

    “We are at a different level of lawlessness.” That’s how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described alleged White House efforts — documented in a whistleblower complaint released yesterday — to conceal evidence of President Donald Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In the unidentified CIA officer’s complaint, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is described as a “central figure” in an episode that left administration staffers “deeply disturbed.”

    Are Trump allies worried? While some Republicans fear what this week’s revelations might mean for his reelection, White House officials seem confident that the GOP-controlled Senate won’t turn against him.

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    Captured British Tanker Leaves Iranian Port

    Two months after it was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards amid an international maritime spat, the Stena Impero has left the Bandar Abbas port. Tehran had captured the vessel in retaliation for the seizure by British Royal Marines of an Iranian tanker that London accused of shipping oil to Syria in violation of sanctions. That ship was released last month.

    Have tensions been dialed down? Not quite: The EU is said to have warned Iran that the bloc will back away from the imperiled nuclear agreement if Tehran keeps flouting its terms.

    Read this OZY feature about Iran’s stockpile — of potatoes.

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    Trump Slashes Refugee Cap to Historic Low

    In the 2020 fiscal year, the Trump administration plans to allow just 18,000 refugees to resettle in the U.S. out of an expected 368,000 applications. Down from a previous record low of 30,000 this year, it would be the lowest number since the program launched four decades ago. Of those slots, 4,000 would be reserved for Iraqis, 5,000 for refugees fleeing religious persecution and 1,500 for those from violence-ridden Central America.

    Who’s concerned? Besides human rights advocates and evangelical leaders, Pentagon officials are reportedly worried it could erode confidence among U.S. allies and hamper efforts to promote stability in volatile regions.

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    Hong Kong’s Lam Faces Anger in First Town Hall

    Ahead of another weekend of planned protests, Chief Executive Carrie Lam attended her first public dialogue session yesterday since Hong Kong’s protests began four months ago. She conceded that “a lot of people have lost confidence in me,” and the reception was less than friendly. Analysts doubt public attitudes toward the embattled leader — criticized for failing to meet protesters’ demands in time — will improve.

    What’s next? All eyes are on this weekend’s demonstrations, which will take place just days before China celebrates its all-important National Day, though few expect Beijing to crack down now.

  5. Also Important…

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Syrian government yesterday of carrying out a chlorine attack in Idlib in May. Public school teachers in Chicago have approved a strike next month against the country’s third-largest school district. And Japan Airlines has unveiled an online booking feature that allows prospective travelers to see where babies and toddlers will be seated on their flight.

    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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    McDonald’s Goes to Canada for Meatless Patty Test

    Stocks for Beyond Meat Inc. soared 11 percent Thursday following news that the company’s fake beef patty will be available at 28 McDonald’s locations in Ontario. Starting Monday, the P.L.T.  — which stands for Plant, Lettuce and Tomato — will offer diners an alternative to meat, though a spokesperson for the fast food giant notes it “will be cooked on the same grill as other burgers, meat-based products and eggs.”

    Why does it matter? The trial shows a growing consumer demand for plant-based products and takes aim at rival Burger King’s Impossible Whopper.

    Don’t miss this OZY story about the waste food industry for the wealthy.

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    Is Japan More Worried About China Than North Korea?

    While Pyongyang might have nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, Tokyo has indicated that China’s growing power has supplanted North Korea’s belligerence as its top security concern. In its annual defense review, which identified Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative as a potential cover for military movement, Tokyo placed China above North Korea and Russia.

    Is security in the region shifting? It might be: Japan has also downgraded South Korea — a seemingly crucial ally against North Korea — as a strategic partner amid their evolving diplomatic and trade spat.

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    Green Walls May Replace Your Gym’s Climbing Wall

    New health clubs and fitness studios are emerging with promises of eco-friendly environments and cleaner air, OZY reports. From “living walls” covered with greenery to cardio machines that generate power, such innovations are targeting millennials and Gen Zers who are worried about both wellness and climate change. These features might offer a more pleasant environment for getting healthy, especially in polluted areas, but skeptics argue they don’t do much to fight global warming.

    Are green gyms the future? It remains to be seen whether this novelty takes off, with experts — noting the slow pace of technological integration in the $94 billion industry — suggesting it could go either way.

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    LAPD to Boost Vigilance During ‘Joker’ Premiere

    While it hasn’t received any “credible threats,” the Los Angeles Police Department said it will “maintain high visibility” during next weekend’s opening of the highly anticipated supervillain flick. Critics have called out its realistic, Taxi Driver-esque depiction of violence — and while some say those fears are overblown, others point to the Aurora, Colorado shooting spree that left 12 people dead during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight in 2012.

    How are theaters handling it? They’re keeping mum about their security protocols, while some sources say boosting vigilance during big box office weekends isn’t unusual.

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    US Olympic Judo Hopeful Dies at 24

    The surprise death of Jack Hatton, who’d been preparing to qualify in the 179-pound class for the 2020 Tokyo Games, has left the U.S. national team shaken. While no cause was reported, a dojo where Hatton trained released a statement urging anyone struggling with depression to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The New York City native, who attended his first martial arts class at 4 years old, competed in the World Judo Championships for the past three years.

    How is the judo community responding? His friends and associates hope this will be “a wake-up call” about the emotional and financial pressure that can take a toll on amateur athletes, especially in lower-revenue sports.