The Presidential Daily Brief

important

  1. Holiday Shopping Season Kicks Off a Day Early in U.S.

    Black Friday began on Thursday this year – in some cases before Thanksgiving dinner – in a move that big retailers suggest was a success. A record number of stores opened on Black Friday Eve, including Macy’s where 15,000 anxiously waited for the doors to open. The shopping marathon continued overnight into Friday morning with frenzied shoppers snapping up deals on big-ticket electronics and children’s toys. Several incidents of violence have been reported. Shop safely, friends.

    Sources: CNN, Wall Street Journal, Financial Post, BBC

    Thursday is the New Black

    important
  2. Afghan President Threatens to Reject U.S. Deal

    It seems Hamid Karzai has reached a breaking point. The Afghan President has announced that he will not sign a long-term security deal with the U.S. if it conducts any further raids that kill civilians. His statement followed a drone strike in southern Afghanistan that killed a two-year-old child. Other Afghan leaders appear uneasy with Karzai’s attitude and the military agreement was decisively approved by the Afghan Grand Council last week. The U.S. has indicated that unless Karzai signs the deal, it will be forced to completely withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in 2014. 

    Source: NYT, Washington Post

  3. China Scrambles Fighter Jets into Disputed Airspace

    A high-speed, high-stakes game of chess is taking place over the disputed East China Sea. On Thursday, Japan and South Korea ordered military flights through the airspace, ownership of which is one of the primary sources of Sino-Japanese tensions. China retaliated by sending several fighter jets and an early warning patrol into the area, which it claims is standard defensive procedure. Since new president Xi Jinping took office a year ago, China has more aggressively defined its borders, testing the limits of America’s pivot to Asia and its support of allies like Japan in the region.

    Source: Al Jazeera, FT (reg.)

  4. Obamacare Plan for Small Businesses Goes on the Back Burner

    Few Americans will have given thanks for the Affordable Care Act, as problems with the system continue to pile up. Healthcare.gov was supposed to be a source for small business insurance plans by the end of this month, but the Obama Administration has pushed the plan back by a year following the site’s disastrous launch. Businesses are advised to sign up for plans via insurers, agents or brokers instead. Meanwhile, millions more people will qualify for Medicaid in 2014 due to the Act. Unfortunately, relatively few doctors are willing to accept Medicaid work, which remains poorly paid and a bureaucratic nightmare. 

    Sources: WSJNYT

  5. Hollywood Accused of Animal Cruelty in Major Films

    According to a recent report, during the production of Life of Pi, the lead tiger nearly drowned in a water tank. What’s more, dozens of dead fish and squid reportedly washed up dead on shore for days during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean, and 27 animals may have died during the making of The Hobbit.  Yet all these movies earned their “no animals were harmed” credit by the American Humane Association. We wonder how. A court hearing scheduled for March 2014 will investigate.

    Sources:  The Guardian, Mother Jones

intriguing

  1. Chinese Investors Pumping Billions into East African Railways

    Construction of a new railway network linking Kenya, Uganda, the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and the South Sudan has begun. Funded mostly by China and to be built by a Chinese state-owned company, the $13.8 billion project is the first major rail development project in the region since the colonial period. With hundreds of miles of new tracks being laid, the expansion into the world’s least tapped continent could mean big returns for those seeking access to its vast mineral wealth. China’s investment in African infrastructure is only further proof of its unquenchable thirst for the raw materials needed to fuel the engine of its own growing economy.

    Sources: BBC, Al Jazeera, FT (reg.)

  2. Solar System Like Ours Discovered

    Astronomers using the Kepler Space Telescope have discovered the first solar system “analogous to our own.” Although the system is more compact than ours, it is made up of seven planets orbiting a sun, with small rocky planets closer to the star and larger gaseous planets further away from it. While none of these planets could support life, studying a system so similar to our own could yield new knowledge about how solar systems – including ours – first formed.

    Source: Universe Today

  3. How the Brain Mind-Maps Memories to Locations

    Scientists have discovered that our brains, much like digital cameras, engage in “geotagging” to associate memories of events with the places where they occurred. By recalling special cells that “fuse” to memories, the brain’s hippocampus creates a mental map that links events with specific locations. While this major discovery explains why we can almost always remember where a significant event took place, researchers are still on the hunt for “time stamps” or cells that connect memories with particular chronological periods. The puzzle of how the human mind creates context has another piece, but there’s still a long way to go before it is complete.

    Source: NPR

  4. Olympic Flame Sets its Bearer on Fire

    The torch for the upcoming Sochi Games has already enjoyed several firsts: first to be in outer space, first to visit the world’s deepest lake, and first to get to the North Pole. And now it has also become the first to ever set its bearer ablaze. In a scene worthy of the “Hunger Games” saga, a Russian Olympic torchbearer was accidentally set on fire yesterday. The bobsledder, Pyotr Makarchuk, was parading the Olympic flame trough crowds of spectators in Siberia when a gas leak set alight his jacket. Fortunately, the flames were quickly put out and he was unharmed.

    Sources: Al Jazeera, The Guardian

  5. Alabama-Auburn Match-up Heads Big College Football Weekend

    With just a couple weeks left in the season, college football rivalries are heating up. The biggest match-up of the weekend will be the “Iron Bowl” between longtime rivals Alabama and Auburn. The stakes are high: the winner will earn a spot in the SEC Championship game and have the inside track to the National Championship game. The No. 1 Crimson Tide, winner of the last two national championships, takes on a No. 5 Tigers squad that has made a remarkable turnaround under new coach Gus Malzahn and still has a chance at the national title game as well.

    Source: USA Today