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The 10-Point: My Guide to the Day's Top News

The Wall Street Journal
Gerard Baker is away. Today’s 10-Point is by Deputy Editor in Chief Matt Murray. Follow him on Twitter @MurrayMatt.
Good morning,
You’re Mired
Donald Trump is confronting the roughest patch of his presidential campaign so far, with even some of his strongest supporters urging him to shift gears and focus more on policy than personality. Republican defections began to multiply Tuesday, while Mr. Trump added to the internal party strife by refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan in his re-election contest next week. Many polls conducted after last week’s DNC show Mr. Trump losing ground, and in another setback, the federal judge who came under fire from the New York businessman refused to throw out a civil case alleging fraud at Trump University. Also Tuesday, President Obama urged GOP leaders to revoke their endorsements of Mr. Trump, and former President George W. Bush delivered an incisive critique of his policies, though he did not name the candidate directly. Meanwhile, the Democrats continue dealing with their own challenges as three more DNC officials were ousted as fallout from an email-hacking scandal further shakes the party’s leadership ranks.

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Cash on the Barrelhead
The Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran, according to U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation afterward. Wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were flown on an unmarked cargo plane because any transaction with Iran in U.S. dollars is illegal under U.S. law. The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The settlement also coincided with the formal implementation that same weekend of the Iran nuclear deal. Senior U.S. officials denied any link between the payment and the prisoner exchange.
Prescription: Growth
Biotechnology giant Biogen has drawn takeover interest from drug companies including Merck and Allergan, raising the potential of another huge deal in the health-care industry. Both companies have sounded out Biogen on the possibility of a takeover, but the communications were informal and preliminary. Whether there is a deal or not, the interest shows the hunger big pharmaceutical companies have for new sources of growth. Biogen, which had a market value of $68 billion on Tuesday afternoon, dominates the lucrative market for multiple-sclerosis drugs. Any deal for the biotechnology giant would provide a jolt for a mergers-and-acquisitions market that has been more subdued this year following a record surge in 2015. Meanwhile, we report that America’s biggest companies logged a fourth straight quarter of shrinking profits and tepid sales, as weakness from energy companies and lower business investment more than offset U.S. consumer strength.
Discounted Discounts
Retailers engaged in a cutthroat game of discounting this summer are playing an old card in a new way: the “final sale.” The phrase used to mean a last-ditch promotion, with steep price reductions on end-of-season castoffs and no chance of returns. But lately some brands are using a different sort of “final sale,” strategically discounting slow-moving merchandise in midseason, even though future discounts may still be possible. Meanwhile, shoppers’ demands for discounts have led brands to inflate regular prices, so they can take markdowns without hurting profits. The new tactic still means no returns or exchanges, a sign of how desperate retailers are in the era of online shopping to get merchandise off their hands permanently. Fickle shoppers, hungry for deals but accustomed to changing their minds, aren’t pleased.
TODAY'S VIDEO
Falling Short of Mandela’s Dream
That Was Painless
Orlando West High School in Soweto, down the street from Nelson Mandela’s former house, was once a symbol of hope for a South Africa struggling against apartheid. Now, the school is failing and so are its students.
TOP STORIES
U.S.

Obama, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Vow to Push for Trade Pact

U.S. Aims to Clamp Down on Tactic to Avoid Estate Tax
WORLD

Libya, U.S. Face Entrenched Islamic State

Thousands Attend Funeral for Slain Priest in France
BUSINESS

July Auto Sales Stoke Fears of Market Plateau

Viacom Executives Held Settlement Talks With Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements
MARKETS

Top Executives at Riverstone Holdings Face Prospect of Returning More Than $300 Million

Regulators Ask Big Banks to Give More Details About Trading Activity
NUMBER OF THE DAY
$300 million
Aetna’s approximate expected loss for the year on its Affordable Care Act plans, amid mounting medical costs among enrollees. Aetna became the last of the five major national health insurers to project a loss on ACA plans for 2016.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
What happens to a city when houses go vacant? Everybody suffers.
Lawyer Joel Liberson on leading the charge in Miami’s lawsuit against Bank of America and Wells Fargo, blaming the big banks for the city’s economic troubles and accusing them of targeting minority borrowers with unfair loans that fed a housing crisis.
TODAY'S QUESTION
Going back to our story above, what are your thoughts on the U.S. government’s payment to Iran? Send your comments, which we may edit before publication, to 10point@wsj.com. Please include your name and location.
—Compiled by Margaret Rawson
READER RESPONSE
Responding to yesterday’s question on the U.S. conducting airstrikes against Islamic State’s primary stronghold in Libya, Robert Stengel of Pennsylvania wrote: “About time this type of action was taken. Halting the ISIS terror train in North Africa is essential as the group cannot be allowed to build another bridge into the southern part of Europe.” Jerome Schmid of South Carolina commented: “It has taken eight years for our Nobel Peace Prize winning president to begin to realize there is no peace without military might, and the will to use it against peace breakers. How many years and lives will it take to undo his enormous and ill-conceived experiment of leading from weakness?” And Richard Bowler of New Mexico weighed in: “I think conducting airstrikes against Islamic State’s primary stronghold in Libya will only promote a war which shouldn’t have been started in the first place.”
This daily briefing is named "The 10-Point" after the nickname conferred by the editors of The Wall Street Journal on the lead column of the legendary "What's News" digest of top stories. Technically, "10-point" referred to the size of the typeface. The type is smaller now but the name lives on.
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