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US Takes Small Steps on Guns | Hundreds Dead in Damascus Suburb

| The Presidential Daily Brief |
IMPORTANT
February 21, 2018
A student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in a school shooting last week, advocates for gun control. Source: Getty
Trump Floats Modest Gun Control Measures

“We have to do more to protect our children.” So said President Donald Trump yesterday after meeting with survivors of the recent Florida school shooting. He’s now requested strengthening background checks and a ban on “bump stock” devices — measures the NRA also supports. Trump is reportedly also considering raising the age for gun ownership to 21. Meanwhile, Florida legislators voted not to discuss a bill that would have banned assault rifles statewide, leading students who lived through last week’s shooting to organize a protest at the Statehouse in Tallahassee today.

Sources: Washington Post, Reuters, NYT
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Hundreds Die Under Heavy Bombardment in Damascus Suburb

It’s an all-out war. As Syrian forces attempt to cement their dominion over the areas around the capital, the rebel-held eastern Ghouta enclave has suffered a nonstop hail of mortars and missiles, with the death toll reaching 250 in just 48 hours. Monitors say at least 50 children are among the dead and 1,200 people have been injured. It’s the worst violence in the area in five years, and comes after months of food shortages have weakened the population. The U.N.’s now calling for a ceasefire to evacuate the wounded.

Sources: BBC, Al Jazeera
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Manafort-Linked Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI

He made at least one false move. Alex van der Zwaan, son-in-law of a Russia-based mogul, admitted he lied to investigators about meeting with former Trump aide Rick Gates, who’s been charged in the Mueller probe along with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Van der Zwaan says he also deleted email records about his work with Gates and Manafort in Ukraine. That could put pressure on Manafort and Gates, who both pleaded not guilty, though it’s not clear if there’s any connection to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sources: The Guardian, NYT
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Venezuela Begins Presale of National Cryptocurrency

Is it change the world can believe in? Economists are skeptical that the petro, Venezuela’s new cryptocurrency that began presale yesterday, can help the country out of its economic hole, which has seen hyperinflation cause shortages of food and medical supplies. Venezuela hopes the sale of the petro will not only raise billions of dollars, but lure cryptocurrency enthusiasts and allow investors to dodge international sanctions. Russia’s considered similar measures, but experts say Venezuela’s credibility problem may be insurmountable. An initial coin offering of the petro is expected next month.

Sources: WSJ (sub)
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Briefly

Know This: Some partisan right-wing media figures are disseminating conspiracy theories about the Parkland school shooting, theorizing — without evidence — that teenagers speaking out against gun violence are actors or being manipulated. A team of scientists is racing toward a massive Antarctic iceberg, hoping to study its newly revealed ecosystem before it disappears. And two teenage Russian figure skaters soared above the rest at Pyeongchang, with 18-year-old Evgenia Medvedeva setting a world record with her short program only to have 15-year-old Alina Zagitova surpass it minutes later. 

Read This: As #MeToo continues, some are looking back at the sexual harassment charges against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and wondering if he should keep his job.

Grab the Mic! OZY has partnered with DoSomething.org to help you see more, be more, and do more. Read about an issue of national importance on OZY.com, and take an action via DoSomething. This month we’re calling out racism in media and government. Click here to DoSomething about it!

INTRIGUING
Construction Begins on 10,000-Year Clock

There’s no time like the present. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is one of the backers behind the Long Now Foundation, which has raised $42 million for the clock currently being installed inside a remote Texas mountain. Bezos called the 500-foot thermal-powered timepiece a “symbol for long-term thinking.” Its hands will move for years and centuries rather than seconds and minutes, and each millennium a cuckoo will emerge. The project, conceived by computer theorist and inventor Danny Hillis, will be open to the public once it has been completed.

Sources: Gizmodo, Fortune
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Farms Are Sprouting in New York City Skyscrapers

They’re planting the seeds. Rolling fields aren’t the only settings for farms anymore — just ask the companies growing a wide array of herbs and vegetables in the Big Apple, where indoor agriculture is taking root. Hydroponic farming requires far less water and physical room, allowing urban farmers to maximize their space and provide food for the fine dining scene as well as low-income communities. And since the market’s nowhere near saturated yet, New Yorkers can expect more such farms to spring up in the near future.

Sources: OZY
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World's Largest Flooded Cave Yields Ancient Remains, Artifacts

So that’s what lies beneath. Researchers are calling the 215-mile-long Sac Actun cave system in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, discovered last month, the world’s “most important submerged archaeological site.” It contains 15,000-year-old ice age animals including giant sloths and proto-elephants, 9,000-year-old human remains, wall etchings, ceramics and an elaborate Mayan shrine. Archaeologists think early humans and animals relied on the cave for fresh water during droughts. But they warn the area, near a popular resort, is now threatened by pollution and human development.

Sources: VOA, Telegraph, National Geographic
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Survey: 94 Percent of Hollywood Women Harassed

Only 6 percent were spared. Nearly all of the 843 women working in the entertainment industry who were surveyed by USA Today said they experienced some form of sexual misconduct or assault. Twenty-one percent were forced to do something sexual, 69 percent were touched inappropriately and 29 percent witnessed someone exposing themselves. Only 1 in 4 reported their experiences for fear of professional backlash, and most who did said that it didn’t help. However, early-career women were more likely to report incidents — which suggests times could be changing.

Sources: USA Today
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Louisville Stripped of 2013 NCAA Basketball Title

Take-backs allowed. The Cardinals have become the first Division 1 men’s basketball team to vacate a national title in the Final Four era. Yesterday an NCAA appeals committee upheld a ruling stripping the team of 123 wins during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 seasons — the result of an investigation into allegations that a staffer paid women to have sex with players and recruits on campus. As part of its punishment, Louisville must also repay NCAA tournament revenues for those seasons. The school called the penalties “draconian.”

Sources: Louisville Courier Journal, ESPN
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