The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Impending India Cyclone Inspires Mass Exodus

    More than a quarter of a million people have fled the Andhra Pradesh coast in advance of the expected Saturday landfall of Cyclone Phailin. The storm measures half the size of the country itself, and locals fear the hit could be the worst in 14 years, when 10,000 died from a storm — or on par with Hurricane Katrina, one of the six largest storms every recorded. Winds could hit above 300 mph.

    Sources: Reuters, BBC

  2. Productive White House Talks Held as Clocks Run Down

    Finally, a lifeline: 10 days into the government shutdown and a week from the U.S. defaulting on its debt, both parties in Washington acknowledged that yesterday’s discussions, which ran late into the evening, had been constructive. Obama cautiously welcomed a proposal by Speaker John Boehner to extend the debt limit for another six weeks, and the markets rejoiced with their biggest one-day gain since January. Perhaps President Obama and House Republicans have realized that both sides may find themselves in check soon in this game of political chess. Still, the government horologists have been sent home and the famous Senate clock has stopped. The message is clear: time is just about up.

    Sources:  CNN, WSJ, The Guardian

  3. Livestock Devastation in South Dakota After Record-Breaking Early Blizzard 

    State officials estimate that tens of thousands of cattle were killed when ranchers were caught off guard by an early storm this week. Cattle were still grazing in summer fields and had yet to grow winter coats; now locals are struggling to find stray survivors and dispose of snow-buried carcasses properly. With ranchers losing 20 to 50 percent of their herds, the region will see a multi-million dollar economic impact. And without a farm bill in place during the government shutdown, there is no federal financial help on the way.

    Sources: Rapid City JournalCNN (images), Fox News

  4. Malawi’s President Sacks Entire Cabinet to Stanch Corruption

    When some of your top ministers stand accused of stashing cash under their beds, and the EU threatens to withhold aid, verbal reprimands don’t cut it. Malawi President Joyce Banda dissolved her entire cabinet. Banda, who came to power last April, last has been lauded by the international community for her economic growth strategies and her austerity measures, including selling the presidency’s $15 million private jet and fleet of five dozen luxury cars. The clean-slate move sends a strong signal to those trying to embezzle government funds, and to the foreign donors who provide 40 percent of the nation’s budget.

    Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC, Nyasa Times

  5. Chemical Weapons Inspectors Win Nobel Peace Prize

    For the second straight year, the Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to an organization. After giving last year’s award to the European Union, the committee handed this year’s prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the body recently tasked by the U.N. with destroying Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. As with the controversial selection of Barack Obama in 2009, the Nobel Committee appears to want to throw the prize’s weight, and the $1.25 million award, behind a good cause rather than a prior good deed. Having entered Syria on Oct. 1, OPCW’s team has just begun its work there. Given the difficult and life-threatening job ahead, the group should have no difficulty justifying the award if it can complete the task.

    Sources: NYT, CNN


  6. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Sentenced to 28 Years

    Maybe now the Motor City can move on. Former Democratic mayor Kwame Kilpatrick drew a historic 28-year prison sentence for racketeering, extortion and fraud involving more than a $100 million of taxpayer funds. The hometown boy turned felon will not be eligible for parole. Kilpatrick apologized profusely at his sentencing, but his remorse over people “finding out” about an affair and for not doing a good job rang hollow to some ears, as he did not apologize for the crimes for which he faced prison time. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds had the final say when she handed down her decision: ”That way of business is over.” 

    Sources: NYT, Detroit Free Press

  7. Musharraf Arrested Again, Snowden’s Supervisor Warned of Suspicious Activity

    Pakistan re-arrests ex-president Musharraf a day after he was granted bail. (Al Jazeera).

    Battles still rage around Syrian chemical weapons sites. (WSJ).

    Bike shop owner learns he’s Jeff Bezos’s biological father. (USA Today).

    C.I.A.’s 2009 warning on Snowden’s conduct went unheeded. (NYT).

    Scientists make breakthrough in treating Alzheimer’s in mice. (Time).


  1. Jailed Former Peruvian President Dodges Ban with Twitter

    Former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, jailed for corruption and for approving government death squads, is banned from giving interviews or making public statements. But he’s found a loophole: social media. He has no access to computers, but that hasn’t stopped him from using third-party messengers to deliver his online message to the world. He delivers his thoughts via pay phone to supporters, and he’s not shy about criticizing the nation’s current leadership to more than 10,000 followers (and counting). And there appears to be little the government can do to intervene.  

    Source: AP

  2. New Report Slams Obama for Restricting Free Press

    The Obama administration has been the most restrictive and aggressive toward journalists since the Nixon era, the Committee to Protect Journalists says. The CPJ’s report, the first in the non-profit’s 32-year history to address press freedom in the U.S., argues that Obama’s efforts at open government have failed miserably. The report cites hostile spokesmen, criminal action against leakers, and telephone records seized from news outlets. The White House criticized the report, noting that the president has given more interviews than his predecessors, but it’s hard to imagine Obama restating his sentiments from the 2008 campaign trail in which he repeatedly pledged “no more secrecy.”

    Sources: Al Jazeera, Wired, CPJ

  3. Starbucks Weighs into the Political Fray

    Could Starbucks nation become a political power? The coffee purveyor has published advertisements in leading U.S. newspapers calling for the nation to “come together,” and is encouraging customers to tear them out, sign them, and bring them into stores this weekend so company representatives can forward a “mega petition” to Washington. CEO Howard Schultz wants to see customers demand that officials reopen the government, pay national debts on time, and pass a long-term budget by year’s end. With its ethically sourced coffee, green stores, and now public activism, Starbucks’s petition is more than a slick marketing campaign. But, as OZY asks, what does it say about the state of corporations or citizenship in America when Starbucks is becoming the model corporate citizen?

    Source: USA Today, WSJ (sub)

  4. Big-Spending Bishop Draws Ire of Church Officials

    Something in the German town of Limburg reeks, but it’s not the cheese. It’s the opulence of Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the bishop of Limburg, and the extravagant modernist palace he constructed with almost $23 million in Catholic church funds. Church officials called for the bishop’s resignation after details came to light about his expenditures, including a $11,000 stand-alone bath and $60,000 spent on cutting a hole in the recently-completed chapel roof. The profligate bishop’s days seem numbered. The spartanly-inclined Pope Francis will deliberate on the matter next week, and the Limburg diocese president told reporters she saw no future for the bishop in the Catholic church.

    Source: The Guardian

  5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Sir David Jason

    The zany mess-up reads like a novel plot. Some early copies of the upcoming installment of the Bridget Jones series featured about forty pages of an English actor’s autobiography. Sir David Jason’s memoir is due for publication on the same day as Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, and it seems the printing house couldn’t keep from intermingling the two worlds. Vintage Publications is recalling the editions — sure to be a collector’s item one day — but it’s likely both titles will benefit from the press about the error.

    Source: BBC

  6. The Rise of Erotic Hockey Fan Fiction

    With a winless start precipitating the firing of their long-time coach, the woeful Philadelphia Flyers are not doing very well by conventional metrics. But they’re top of the league in one category: NHL erotic fan fiction. And hockey is by far the most popular sport for athletic erotica. Some of the jersey-ripping stories, overwhelmingly penned by young female fans, are Joycean in length (the longest clocks more than 175,000 words) if not quite literary in merit. Hockey may play third, or even fourth, fiddle in the American sports hierarchy, but in Philadelphia at least, the sport fires a far greater passion in the hearts and loins of its fans.

    Source: Philadelphia’s City Paper