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Gun Protesters Rally at White House | Trump Endorses Romney Campaign

| The Presidential Daily Brief |
IMPORTANT
February 20, 2018
Ice dancers Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue took home the gold medal for Canada yesterday. Source: Getty
Students Rally Against Guns as Bots Play Divisive Game

“This could be a breaking point.” So said one teenager protesting outside the White House yesterday, joined by hundreds of students and adults calling for gun control in the wake of last week’s school shooting. In response, the White House announced that President Donald Trump, normally a vocal backer of the NRA, would support strengthened background check legislation. Meanwhile, swarms of Russia-linked automated Twitter bots have been tweeting about gun control and conspiracy theories about the Florida shooting, in what’s seen as an attempt to divide Americans further.

Sources: Washington Post, The Guardian, NYT
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Trump Endorses Former Foe Romney for Senate

He needs a win. President Trump and former rival Mitt Romney have a troubled past: The former Massachusetts governor called Trump a “fraud” during the 2016 primary campaign, while Trump said Romney “choked like a dog” in his loss to Barack Obama in 2012. But yesterday Trump tweeted an endorsement of the businessman’s campaign to replace retiring Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. Romney, who’s expected to win the seat easily, is likely to continue challenging Trump’s agenda. He promised to “call ’em like I see ’em” when he disagrees with the president in the future.

Sources: Reuters, Politico, CNN
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Anti-Brexit Campaign Begins, UK Officials Try to Allay Fears

Is it too little, too late? Anti-Brexit campaigners are launching a six-week publicity blitz aimed at the country’s Leave-voting regions ahead of a parliamentary vote on whether Britain wants to remain in the EU’s customs union, which could soften Brexit’s predicted economic blow. Some evidence suggests pro-European forces are gaining more grassroots acceptance. Meanwhile, Brexit minister David Davis promised Britain won’t become a lawless “Mad Max-style world,” though it’s unclear how he’ll negotiate EU acceptance of U.K. regulations outside the customs union.

Sources: FT (sub), BBC
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Albertsons Makes Play to Buy Part of Rite Aid

They’re dividing to conquer. Part of the drugstore chain is already being sold to Walgreens, but Albertsons may pick up the rest of the company, which would create a corporation worth around $24 billion, with revenue of $83 billion. The government previously blocked Rite Aid’s attempt to sell itself entirely to Walgreens. Executives at Rite Aid and Albertsons said they’re joining forces to compete with Amazon and Walmart, both massive players in the online space who have been scaling up and muscling out medium-sized competitors.

Sources: WSJ (sub)
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Briefly

Know This: More than 100 civilians have been killed by Syrian government bombardment in a rebel-held suburb east of Damascus, prompting the U.N. to call for an end to “this senseless human suffering.” In a new poll, 77 percent of Americans think better screening and treatment for mental health issues could have prevented last week’s school shooting, and 58 percent think stricter gun laws could have. And an incarcerated murderer in the U.S. whose collection of short stories earned him a $150,000 advance is now being hounded by the prison system, which wants the money to pay for his time in lock-up rather than going to his children.

Watch This: Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won a gold medal yesterday with this routine, making them the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history with five career medals.

Grab the Microphone: Our electric TV show, Third Rail With OZY is abandoning the PC and posing provocative questions each week to spark debate among our diverse audience on real issues. What questions would you like to see us ask? Let us know at thirdrail@ozy.com.

INTRIGUING
Secretary of State Races Are Heating Up

They’re getting in the game. Unglamorous and typically overshadowed by flashier races, these state contests could tip America’s balance of power. Secretaries of state have sway in setting election rules, allowing them to purge voter rolls, investigate fraud, allocate resources to polling places and redraw district lines after a census. Republicans have long been paying attention: They control the post in 30 states, leaving Democrats playing catch-up. Now secretary of state candidates are attracting millions in fundraising, and with razor-thin margins in some states, the winners could change history.

Sources: OZY
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Boring Company Wins Permit to Tunnel Under Washington DC

He’ll grin and bore it. Last year Elon Musk tweeted that he’d gotten verbal permission to dig a tunnel for the Hyperloop, his planned high-speed transit system. Officials quickly denied the report, but the capital city has now granted a preliminary permit for a location that could eventually become a station on an imagined New York City-to-D.C. line, with pods whisking passengers along at 800 mph. While the permit is only for initial excavation, D.C. officials say they’re “open to the concept” of the Hyperloop.

Sources: The Verge, Engadget
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Scientists Create '90 Percent Accurate' Test for Autism

Blood will tell. British researchers say they’ve discovered a link between autism spectrum disorder and damage to certain proteins in blood plasma, allowing them to develop a diagnostic test that’s far more accurate than current predictors. At least one in 68 children in the U.S. has ASD, which can cause a range of behavioral issues. While the original study tested only 69 children, the researchers — who hope their work can help identify the causes of autism — are aiming to expand to bigger studies and younger participants.

Sources: Newsweek, Gizmodo
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New York Philharmonic to Feature Pingpong Rhythms

It’s the music of the little plastic spheres. To celebrate today’s Lunar New Year, New York City’s famous orchestra, led by Chinese conductor Long Yu, will debut an unusual instrument: pingpong balls, played by U.S. singles table tennis champions Ariel Hsing and Michael Landers. They’ll feature in “Ricochet,” a concerto by Andy Akiho, written for “pingpong, violin, percussion and orchestra.” The Lincoln Center performance will also include traditional Chinese dances and a chorus of Chinese farmers — who have never appeared outside of China — taking part in Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy.”

Sources: Xinhua
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Olympic Halfpipe Skier Doesn't Do Any Tricks

She had a Games plan. American Elizabeth Swaney, competing for Hungary in the women’s halfpipe, left spectators confused when she performed no tricks during her run in Pyeongchang. The Harvard grad reportedly got to the Olympics by self-funding her way to 13 qualifying competitions and staying upright, though generally placing last. While some are calling her system-gaming a scam, others see perseverance — and the sport’s governing body is considering rule changes so this doesn’t happen again. Meanwhile, Norway leads the medal count with 28, 11 of them gold.

Sources: SB Nation, Denver Post, Deadspin
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