The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Will Assad’s Weapons Deal Prolong His Power? 

    The U.N. confirmed that Syria’s chemical weapons attack was the worst the world has seen in 25 years, but negotiations over the fate of his arsenal may end up keeping President Bashar Assad in office longer than the U.S. had originally hoped. Obama has long called for Assad to step down over the bloody civil war, but the rhetoric has ratcheted down significantly as international leaders work out a deal to take over the nasty weaponry. How long can the U.S. contradiction continue? 

    Source: NPR

  2. Suspect, Victims ID’d in Shooting Rampage That Killed 12

    The dozen victims of Monday’s shooting rampage in D.C. include a woman on the verge of finally retiring with her husband of almost 40 years, and a contractor and grandfather of nine. The FBI identified Aaron Alexis, 34, a defense contractor and former Navy reservist from Fort Worth, Texas, as the alleged gunman in the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Alexis was shot dead after killing 12 and wounding 14 others. Despite having prior gun arrests and being honorably discharged in 2011 for a “pattern of misconduct,” he held a valid security pass for entry into the Navy Yard as a civilian contractor. 

    Sources: Washington Post, CNN

  3. Leadership Questions Overshadow Fed Meeting

    Normally interest rates and quantitative easing would be the big topic at the Federal Reserve meetings today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C. Should the Fed begin to taper off its monthly bond purchases, as current chairman Ben Bernanke floated last spring? But that was all upended on Sunday when front-runner and Obama-favorite Larry Summers decided to withdraw as a candidate to replace Bernanke, who steps down in January. The markets seemed to like Summers’s exit, as it means the Fed will likely taper more slowly, but if the uncertainly over the identity of the next Fed chair persists, it could affect its ability to conduct monetary policy in the coming weeks. Current Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen may be the current favorite for the job, but OZY’s own Carlos Watson has a few good reasons why President Obama should think outside of the box on this one. 

    Sources:  Bloomberg, CBS News, Reuters

  4. Iranian “Glitch” Leads to Rare Facebook and Twitter Freedom

    Internet users in Iran woke up on Monday to discover that, after four years of blocked access, they could suddenly use their Facebook and Twitter accounts. The Iranian government established the firewall back in 2009 during election protests, but the new administration led by President Hassan Rouhani, elected in June, had vowed to liberalize the nation’s Internet access. The social media rebirth seemed almost too good to be true, especially after Rouhani himself tweeted: “Gone are the days when a wall could be built around the country. Today there are no more walls.”  Sure enough, Iranian authorities resolved the “technical glitch” this morning and restored the blockage. Guess Rouhani was not referring to firewalls.

    Sources: Washington PostNYT, Reuters

  5. CDC Says Drug-Resistant Superbugs Multiplying

    The numbers are sobering. In the first federal study quantifying the impact of antibiotic-resistant infections, more than two million Americans fell ill from bacteria that antibiotics couldn’t battle. More than 23,000 people died from such infections, and the failing medicine cost $20 billion in additional health-care spending, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control. The most dangerous bacteria strains — those that are resistant to nearly all antibiotics on the market — have been found in 44 states, and three strains are set to become “urgent threats” to public health.  

    Sources: NYT, Wired, NPR


  1. The Last Will of a Wealthy Recluse Heads to Court

    Did the daughter and heiress of a Gilded Age copper king mean to leave her $300 million fortune to charities, healthcare providers, a lawyer, and an accountant with a sketchy past? Or should her relatives, who never visited the mysterious recluse who lived with her TV and her dolls, claim the fortune? The case of the will of Huguette Clark, who died in 2011 at age 104, finally starts jury selection this week, unless efforts at a last-ditch settlement succeed.

    Sources: MSNBC, Business Insider

  2. The High Cost of NFL Fan-dom

    Want to go to this year’s Super Bowl in New Jersey? Prepare to mortgage the house. One report says the NFL may approve a pricing plan that doubles the cost of some tickets. It’s part of a trend among football stadiums these days, as the cost for two people to attend a Sunday clash averages more than $200. Meanwhile fantasy sports, including football, have become a $1 billion business, thanks in part to smartphone access. With prices like these, will the fake game one day outpace the real thing? 

    Source: NPR

  3. Forbes 400 Wealthiest Americans List: Where the Rich Get Richer

    The past year witnessed a reshuffle among the ranks of America’s wealthiest citizens, although the pack’s leaders maintained their positions. The face of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, finally cracked the top 20, while Warren Buffet kept his silver medal by adding $12.5 billion to his epic accounts. Bill Gates has an even more impressive record, rounding off two decades as America’s richest man by topping Mexico’s Carlos Slim for the world title. Most on the list have regained the wealth they lost since the 2008 financial crisis, and many are growing their fortunes at such a pace that more pedestrian billionaires can’t keep up: 61 Americans worth at least 10 figures did not even make the cut. Making less than $1 billion a month is so 1990s.

    Source: Forbes

  4. Illegal Silicone Injections Prompt Venezuelan Health Scare

    Starting at a mere $8 a pop, silicone buttocks injections have become widespread in appearance-obsessed Venezuela, home of more international beauty queens than any other country. An estimated 30 percent of Venezuelan women have gotten such injections, despite the fact that they are illegal and known to lead to severe health complications and even death. The recent death of an outspoken mother who used her worsening condition from injections as an object lesson for other women has drawn attention to the need for further education efforts, especially among young girls, in a nation where parents often offer the shots as 15th birthday presents to their daughters.

    Source: The Atlantic

  5. Controversial Grand Theft Auto V Roars Out of the Gates

    With an estimated budget of $265 million, GTA V is one of the most expensive video games ever created. Early reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and the open world game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is expected to be a billion-dollar earner for developer Rockstar North. Critics claim the title glorifies violence and excludes female gamers, and GTA V suffered a few pre-launch hiccups, including a leaked soundtrack and unauthorized early deliveries. But there is no doubt that GTA V will be a massive hit and could mark the beginning of video games exceeding the budgets and revenues of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters.

    Sources: NYT, Metacritic