The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. War of Words Rages Over Syria’s Chemical Weapons

    Talks continue, but its still too soon to call victory in the Middle East. During the first day of talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Secretary of State John Kerry called on Syria to release data on the arsenal it had denied possessing for years. And while President Bashar al-Assad announced that his country had formally applied to join an international chemical weapons treaty, his opponents were claiming that the regime was moving its stockpile out of the country, even as the rebels have reportedly started to receive CIA-funded weapons.  But the real hot topic on Twitter and elsewhere: did Putin or Obama prevail in the latest round of wrangling? Putin certainly made the biggest splash with his NYT Op-Ed, but many observe how much his latest missive contrasts with a previous 1999 submission to the NYT regarding Chechnya.

    Sources: NYT, CNN

  2. Death Sentences Handed Down in Notorious India Rape Case

    A judge needed only 90 seconds to proclaim the harshest sentence possible for four men convicted in a New Delhi rape case that shook the world. Spectators cheered the proclamation. But some women’s rights activists opposed the death penalty, saying it’s not a deterrent and there are larger issues for a nation where a women is raped every 21 minutes. Others say the ruling party doesn’t do enough to deter attacks against women, and note promises made in the wake of the attack, like installing more security cameras, that haven’t come to fruition. 

    Source: NPR


  3. Record Flooding Overwhelms Colorado Towns

    Stunning video and photos have emerged of water raging through Colorado towns ains, mudslides, and evacuations continue for a second day. Officials near Boulder and some isolated mountain towns are struggling to reach those who might be stranded as water pours into the streets of the laid-back college burg. In nearby Lyons, residents say they are trapped with no way in or out. Google began a crisis response map that has generated more than 200,000 connections, and the forecast looks dire with a 100 percent chance of rain today and more expected throughout the weekend.

    Sources: CBS News, The Weather Channel



  4. Alabama al Qaeda Jihadist Reportedly Dead in Somalia

    Not long after al Qaeda issued its latest 9/11 anniversary threat, Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki or just “the American,” was reportedly killed in a feud among Somali al-Qaeda affiliated terror cells. The FBI had promised a $5 million reward for information leading to the apprehension of the Alabama-born, YouTube-rapping, prolific tweeting jihadist. Reports indicate that Al-Amriki ran afoul of the region’s radical Islamic leadership after accusing key members of leading extravagant lifestyles. The incident exemplifies the bizarre anarchism that defines Somalia and, more importantly, marks a blow for al-Qaeda as the terror group loses one of its most notorious pin-up boys.

    Source: The Guardian

  5. PC Company Founder Reclaims the Reins

    After seven months of fighting to take his eponymous company private, founder Michael Dell teamed up with a private equity firm and took a 75 percent ownership stake in Dell Inc. in $25 billion deal. In an open letter to shareholders, the company’s other suitor, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, quipped that the only difference between Dell and a dictatorship was that “most functioning dictatorships only need to postpone the vote once to win.” Staying on as CEO, Dell promises to build on the struggling firm’s origins as a personal computer and server developer and extend into software design. But fierce competition and ever-decreasing personal computer sales mean Dell will have to make some major changes if he hopes to retain his 110,000-strong workforce.

    Source: USA Today, The Week


  1. Fashion Weeks Span The Pond and Palette

    That’s a wrap for New York runways, where Calvin Klein’s chic sophistication and Michael Kors’s conservatism were among the highlights. A must-see: theTime’s fascinating show-by-show interactive showing both macro and micro views of every look that walked. The big takeaways? Straps, whites, and boxy tops. This weekend London takes over the limelight, with Burberry and Manolo Blahnik expected to lead the pack.

    Sources: The Guardian , Vogue

  2. Voyager 1 Has Left the Building

    When Voyager 1 launched in 1977 around the same time as the first Star Wars film, it was state of the art.  But though we may mock its retro-fittings, and scramble to find an audio deck that can handle its 8-track recordings, the probe has now officially gone where no man-made thing has gone before: beyond our solar system and the outer borders of the Milky Way. During its journey, the probe visited Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and transmitted detailed dispatches of its 11.7 billion-mile trip. It remains to be seen whether Voyager’s run will outlast the Star Wars saga’s own.

    Sources: NYT, NPR

  3. How Wal-Mart’s Heirs Keep Their Billions

    The Waltons, heirs to Sam Walton, Wal-Mart founder and billionaire, are worth more than $100 billion. Put another way, their stake in Wal-Mart is enough to fill a large swimming pool in solid gold, Scrooge McDuck style. With inheritance taxes designed to prevent dynastic wealth cases like this, how do they keep the family act together?  Answer: very clever accountants, carefully-designed trusts, and a widely acclaimed American art museum tucked way back in the Ozarks, next to their childhood home. “Save money. Live better,” indeed.

    Source: Bloomberg

  4. Honoring Beer Goggles, Dung Beetles, and a One-Armed Man Clapping

    This year’s Ig Nobel prizes, awarded to researchers whose achievements “first make people laugh, then make them think,” were presented before a packed house at Harvard. Winners included studies that confirmed the “beer google effect” also works on oneself, that dung beetles roll their balls of dung in straight lines using the moon as a guide, that mice who listened Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” lived longer, and that cows are more likely to stand up the longer they’ve been lying down. The spoof awards’ Peace Prize went to Belarus for making public applause illegal and arresting a one-armed man for the offence.

    Source: Guardian

  5. Expose Details Rampant Abuses by College Football Champs

    With college football fans gearing up for tomorrow’s showdown between No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 1 Alabama (3:30 p.m. EST CBS), the NCAA and yet another university are gearing up to defend their reputations. The latest blow? A sprawling expose in Sports Illustrated detailing the football program at Oklahoma State University and its scandalous journey from a 4-11 season in 2001 to winning records in 10 of the last 11 seasons. Among the allegations: a star player made $25k a year, tutors completed the assignments of a star receiver and academic All American(!), and several players aced classes they never attended. And that’s only the first two installments of a five-part series. Still to come: reporting documenting sex, drugs, and other scandals within OSU’s squad.

    Source: Sports Illustrated