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Your Presidential Daily Brief: Charges Expected in Russia Investigation | Catalonia Crisis Continues

The Presidential Daily Brief
 
IMPORTANT
October 30, 2017
 
Demonstrators rallied to support Spanish unity in Barcelona this weekend, even as secessionist fervor continued to grip the region. Source: Getty
First Charges Expected in Mueller Russia Investigation

In the works: arrests and developments. It’s not clear who will be charged, but on Friday a federal jury reportedly approved a sealed indictment in Robert Mueller’s special investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian connections. It could be unsealed as early as today. President Donald Trump turned to Twitter yesterday to rant that former rival Hillary Clinton was the one conspiring with Russia, though a White House spokesman later said those tweets were unrelated to Mueller’s activities. Meanwhile, some Democrats worry that Trump will simply pardon anyone implicated in the investigation.

Sources: WSJ (sub), Reuters, DW
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Catalonia Tensions Roil as Spain Takes Control

And you thought your Monday was tough. Today, the Catalan government opened for the first time since Spain rescinded the region’s autonomy Saturday. Some Catalan officials have promised to fight back against the new regime, while independence activists took to the streets and were met by thousands of pro-unity counterprotesters. Meanwhile, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont was removed from office by Spain over the weekend. Officials say he can run in Dec. 21 elections to regain power — unless he’s been jailed on charges currently being prepared by federal prosecutors.

Sources: The Guardian, FT (sub), BBC
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Kurdish Leader Quits as Independence Vote Sours

There’s no easy way out. Massoud Barzani, who’s been Kurdistan’s regional leader since 2005, said yesterday that he’ll resign. But he didn’t apologize for the Sept. 25 independence vote that touched off a national crisis as Baghdad moved to quash secessionist ambitions and reclaim valuable oil fields in Kurdish-claimed territory. Barzani said he isn’t out of politics altogether and will continue to campaign for statehood, promising to “do whatever is needed.” After his speech, several opposition political parties said their offices were attacked, though no casualties were reported.

Sources: Reuters, NYT
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$300 Million Puerto Rican Electricity Contract Canceled

It was a power play. Puerto Rican authorities have canceled the controversial $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy, a tiny Montana company, to help rebuild the island’s electrical grid. Critics observed that Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke know each other — though ZInke’s denied wrongdoing. Nearly six weeks after Hurricane Maria, more than 70 percent of Puerto Ricans still have no electricity. Gov. Ricardo Rossello is requesting emergency utility assistance from Florida and New York as Congress calls for an investigation into how Whitefish landed the contract.

Sources: Washington Post, The Hill, NYT
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Briefly

Know This: The Houston Astros lead the World Series 3-2 after a thrilling 13-12 win over the Dodgers that lasted more than five hours. The U.S. Navy is investigating whether two SEAL Team Six members murdered a Green Beret in Mali last summer. And Saudi Arabia says starting next year women will be allowed into a few of the country’s major sports stadiums.

Remember This Number: 36. That’s the number of Conservative members of U.K. Parliament accused of sexual harassment in a dossier compiled by party staff. One cabinet minister insists that while he did refer to his assistant as “sugar tits,” that doesn’t constitute sexual harassment. Prime Minister Theresa May has reportedly promised to crack down on such behavior.

Talk to Us: What would you like to know? Here at OZY, we’ve been compiling dossiers on every week’s biggest news issue. Tell us what you’d like to find out all about this week by sending an email to pdbrief@ozy.com.

 
INTRIGUING
 
Kevin Spacey Apologizes, Comes Out After Sexual Allegations

“I honestly do not remember the encounter.” So the House of Cards actor wrote in an apology to actor Anthony Rapp, who claims Spacey made a sexual advance on him in 1986 when Spacey was 26 and Rapp was 14. In his statement, Spacey also explained he’s long been protective of his privacy but will now live openly as a gay man. Speculation has long been rife about his sexuality — as have rumors of assaults. Rapp says he was emboldened to come forward by women making public allegations about Harvey Weinstein.

Sources: Deadline, Buzzfeed
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Black Market Erotic Products Boom in Straightlaced Vietnam

It’s still a guilty pleasure. The sale of sex toys — which occupy at best a legal gray area in Vietnam — is growing, reflecting the country’s changing views on sexuality and the ballooning value of online advertising. Tips on Facebook pages point people to sex toy distributors working out of fried chicken shops and other fronts for the lucrative business, which struggled just a few years ago without advertising. Meanwhile, experts say delayed marriages and a burgeoning dating scene are also helping to fuel the buzzing industry.

Sources: OZY
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Suicide Rates Climb Among US Wildland Firefighters

Fire’s not the only danger. Records of suicides and attempted suicides aren’t easy to track in professions that maintain secrecy around mental health struggles. But researchers watching the men and women who fight vegetation wildfires say there have been 16 suicides already this year and psychological support is inadequate. Firefighters can see friends injured or killed on the job, and the seasonal, adrenaline-heavy work makes readjusting to civilian life challenging. Now one of the first studies of wildland firefighter mental health aims to better equip these individuals and their employers.

Sources: The Atlantic
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Computer-Simulated Singer Is Huge in Japan

She’s real to her fans. Hatsune Miku’s released over 100,000 songs in multiple languages, boasts 2.5 million Facebook followers and has opened for Lady Gaga — despite being virtual. Her creator, Hiroyuki Ito, describes her concerts as collaborations: Fans can use Vocaloid software to write songs for Miku to perform and compete for her to play them “live” with human musicians. Other software lets fans design her anime-style outfits. Next Ito hopes to develop her voice synthesizer, taking the pop star beyond mimicking to create “a new kind of music.”

Sources: Bloomberg
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Most Houston Texans Kneel After Owner's 'Inmate' Comment

He was outnumbered. Only about 10 members of Houston’s NFL team remained standing during the national anthem Sunday, while more than 40 knelt after owner Bob McNair’s comment that he didn’t want “the inmates running the prison.” McNair, who made the remark in an owners’ meeting about the business impact of NFL protests, said he wants players to be forced to stand during the anthem. He’s since apologized for his “figure of speech,” but this could stall the league’s progress as owners and players seek resolution on the controversial demonstrations.

Sources: SI, SB Nation, ESPN
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