Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
Dec 27, 2021
The world mourns South African human rights hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Giants Google, Apple and Amazon are now seeking to dominate your vehicle. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of dire action should the West ignore his push for security guarantees over NATO’s expansion to Ukraine. And a heads-up for families who may not know they’re eligible for up to $9,000 in funeral reimbursements for COVID-related deaths. All this and more in today’s Presidential Daily Brief.
1 - Global Human Rights Icon Mourned
South African Justice Warrior Desmond Tutu Dies at 90
The world mourns another hero as 2021 draws to a close. Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu won global acclaim for his fight to end apartheid in his homeland of South Africa and his help in rebuilding the nation as leader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A beloved international figure, Tutu is remembered for his inspiring words, unshakeable good humor, limitless compassion and tireless pursuit of justice for the oppressed. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to Tutu's family and friends on Sunday, acknowledging Tutu's relentless fight for “downtrodden people around the world.” (Source: CNN, NYT)
2 - Big Tech Wants ... Your Car
Big Tech and Amazon vie for control of the car of the future
A possible new monopoly is shaping up as Google, Apple and Amazon seek exclusive access to your vehicle. Americans spend more time in their cars than anywhere outside the home or workplace, making automobiles the next big frontier for Big Tech and automakers. The two industries envision lucrative partnerships to blend work, play and chores, so consumers can do everything from grocery shopping to watching TV from the comfort of their cars. Policymakers and regulators, who arrived late to smartphone regulation, believe the battle over connected cars could offer a chance to block potential monopolies before they form. (Source: Politico)
3 - Russia Talks Tough
Putin says he’ll consider options if West refuses guarantees on Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin turned the tables Sunday, warning of repercussions should the West ignore his push for security guarantees over NATO’s expansion to Ukraine. The Kremlin had already demanded that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and roll back military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe amid tensions over a recent Russian troop buildup near Ukraine, fueling fears of a possible invasion. Russia has accused Ukraine of plans to reclaim control of the territories held by Moscow-backed rebels by force. U.S. President Joe Biden warned Putin in a video call that Russia will face “severe consequences” if it attacks Ukraine. (Source: AP)
4 - Cutting the Cost of COVID
Federal program offering cash to cover funeral costs still under the radar
Many families eligible for up to $9,000 in funeral cost reimbursement offered by FEMA for COVID-19-related deaths have yet to take advantage of the benefit. As of Dec. 6, only 226,000 people had applied for the $1.5 billion that FEMA has spent on funeral costs for deaths after Jan. 20, 2020, the date of the first confirmed U.S. case. With more than 800,000 U.S. deaths from the virus, it’s clear that many eligible families remain unaware of the reimbursement, which is easy to apply for and goes directly to individuals. Funeral directors are trying to get the word out. (Sources: NBC, NPR)
5 - Briefly
Here are some things you should know about today:
Three members of K-pop sensation BTS test positive for COVID-19. Members of the pop sensation were diagnosed after returning from performing abroad.(Source: NPR); Dams burst in northeastern Brazil as the region is hit by floods. Though no casualties have been reported, residents were evacuated as their towns were inundated. (Reuters); Sixth grader saves the lives of two people on the same day. It was quite a day for Davyon Johnson, 11, who performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking classmate and helped an elderly woman from a house fire — all on Dec. 9. (Source: NPR)
Watch Gov. Gretchen Gretchen Whitmer
COVID Protests and Kidnapping Attempts Can’t Stop Her!
1 - Sister Stoners
Feminist nuns want to heal the world in the most delightful way
The Sisters of the Valley may wear habits and live by their vows but this is no traditional order. The 11 nuns residing in a peaceful enclave in California's Central Valley sell healing cannabidiol products made from weed cultivated in their abbey gardens as a way to spread spirituality. “We are very spiritual beings walking a physical path, and so for that reason we will find ways to connect,” said Sister Kate, the founder of the sect. And connect they have: with tens of thousands of TikTok and Instagram followers. The sisters also hope to provide leadership opportunities for women and local jobs. (Source: Rolling Stone)
2 - Secrets of Smell Unlocked
Scientists discover the secret behind humans’ strong link to sense of smell
Why does cinnamon transport you back to Christmases of old or lavender your childhood home? Scientists have long known that the association between smell and memory is critical to how we process information, but have only just discovered why. In a study using rats, scientists were able to decode what neurons become active during smell and found that cells in the olfactory system were active even when no odors were present, meaning they were also key in navigating the environment. “All these different neurons are mixed together, and are probably interconnected,” confirmed Cindy Poo, a first author on the study. (Source: Study Finds)
3 - Step Up Guys
Men across America encouraged to get vasectomies ‘as an act of love’
With Roe v. Wade in danger, reproductive rights advocates and lawmakers say it’s high time for men to step up in both family planning and the battle for reproductive rights, as more people acknowledge the undue burden placed on women and entrenched double standards when it comes to those rights. Rep. Chris Rabb, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is leading the fight, introducing legislation that would require men to get a vasectomy after the birth of their third child or on their 40th birthday. As long as women's rights are restricted by state legislatures, he said, “there should be laws that address the responsibility of men who impregnate them.” (Source: MSN)
4 - Fans Go All Out for Spider Man
'Spider-Man: No Way Home’ becomes first pandemic-era film to top $1B
Setting a pandemic-era record, the latest installment of the Spider-Man franchise, Spider-Man: No Way Home, has topped $1 billion at the global box office, beating out the Chinese-made Korean War epic The Battle of Lake Changjin, which has grossed more than $900 million worldwide. No other Hollywood production has even approached that record since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago. The last movie to exceed $1 billion at the box office was 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Tom Holland plays Peter Parker for the third time, with Zendaya as MJ and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange. (Source: BBC)
5 - COVID Scores Again
Dearth of college players forces cancellation of bowl games for a second year
More schools announced on Sunday they would be pulling out of college bowl games again this year as COVID thins the rosters. The University of Virginia Cavaliers were among the latest, dropping out of Wednesday’s Wasabi Fenway Bowl due to a high number of cases among the players and concerns over the safety of playing. Team members, set to meet the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in Boston on Christmas Day, showed symptoms days before the game and tested positive on Christmas morning. The bowl was the last chance for Virginia Cavaliers' outgoing coach Bronco Mendenhall to score a win. (Source: NPR)
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