The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. The Real Meaning Behind the D.C. Budget Drama

    In less than 24 hours, the House approved drastically scaling back food stamps and defunding Obamacare. But will it really change anything? The measures still have to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. Meanwhile, there’s an Oct. 1 government shutdown looming, thanks to the expiration date on stop-gap measures, as well as a potential mid-October battle over the debt ceiling. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has already threatened a filibuster in his chamber. Which is to say that this week’s budget battles could be as much about helping the parties entrench themselves for an anticipated blame-game as any great overhauls of American spending.

    Source: NYT, Fox

  2. Syrian Regime Ready for Ceasefire in Civil War

    In an interview with The Guardian, Syria’s deputy prime minister declared the country’s conflict a “stalemate” and said the regime would seek a ceasefire at long-delayed peace talks set to begin in Geneva next week. Should negotiations stop the fighting, Russian President Vladimir Putin will certainly give himself a pat on the back for stalling Security Council action long enough to prevent any U.N. condemnation of his Syrian allies. But as John McLaughlin, a former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, explains on OZY today, Putin might be left holding the bag on Syria if it fails to disarm, and the road ahead is far more complicated than you may have been led to believe.

    Source: The Guardian

  3. Iranian Leader Urges Dialogue in Washington Post Op-Ed

    Ahead of a visit to the U.N. General Assembly next week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani decided to take a page out of Vladimir Putin’s playbook — and not the one dedicated to manly photo-ops with tigers and deep-sea submersibles. In an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, the moderate cleric urges world leaders to engage with Iran in constructive dialogue and to pursue “win-win outcomes” rather than “brute force” tactics to combat terrorism and other global problems. The article is but the latest effort by Rouhani to reset relations between Iran and the West. No word yet on whether John McCain plans to respond in the Tehran Times.

    Sources:  Washington Post, CNN

  4. Outcome Uncertain as Germans Prepare for Sunday’s Election

    Voters in the financial bedrock of the European Union will head to the voting booth on Sunday, and with just two days to go the election looks too close to call. The surprisingly weak performance of the Free Democrats (FDP), German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU)’s coalition partner, has thrown parliamentary calculations out of whack, and right now it looks very possible that neither a center-right nor a center-left coalition would be able to form a government. That would likely force the CDU-led coalition into a “grand coalition” with its rival coalition headed by the Social Democrats (SDP) — a result that could take time to solidify, leaving the rest of the continent in limbo awaiting Berlin’s leadership on key reforms to help the malaise-ridden Eurozone.

    Sources: The Economist, NYT

  5. House Slashes $40 Billion From Food Stamp Programs

    Just days after the U.S. Congressional Budget Office warned of rising deficits as baby boomers begin drawing from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, deficit-conscious House Republicans took aim at curtailing a program they felt had grown too big: food stamps. The proposed $40 billion in cuts may take only a small bite out of the federal deficit, but Democrats were quick to point out that the bill would mean removing nearly four million people from the food stamp rolls at a time when poverty numbers are close to their highest levels in decades. Though the Senate has promised that the bill will be dead on arrival, it is not without consequences: it could preclude the passage of a new five-year farm bill, usually a fairly routine Congressional legislative move.

    Sources: Politico, WSJ (sub), NYT

  6. How Do You Dismantle a Chemical Weapons Arsenal? Very Carefully

    Burn ’em or drown ’em. That’s the mostly likely route for safely disposing of Syria’s chemical weapons cache, with the specifics depending on the chemicals involved, according to the BBC. The broadcaster illustrates the likely processes with easy-to-understand, step-by-step graphics. Using typical means of disarmament, even exploding the ordnance well underground, could lead to dangerous results. It remains to be seen where this will take place. How long it will take depends on how cooperative the Syrians feel like being. 

    Source: BBC

  7. Snowden and Aaron Alexis Vetted by Same Firm, Hurricane Hits Mexico, First Amendment Facebook win

    The same firm performed background checks on Edward Snowden and the Navy Yard shooter. (New York Times).

    Hurricane Manuel hits Mexico. (CNN).

    Facebook ”Likes” protected by First Amendment. (The Atlantic).

    The EPA will move to limit emissions on future coal– and gas-fired power plants. (Washington Post).

    J.D. Salinger’s life will be made into a movie. (Variety).


  1. New Versions of Paris and Venice Aim for China’s Surburbanites

    The Champs-Elysees is eerily empty in a copycat version of the famous avenue that was built in a Hangzhou suburb. It’s one of the most striking examples of Chinese developers’ penchant for recreating Europe in the Orient, so the rising middle and upper class can buy a piece of the continent. Paris has yet to take off, due to a promised subway extension that never arrived, while a revamped Venice booms. Some hope the mimicry will soon give way to more original ideas, combining the best of East and West. 

    Source: NPR

  2. Bermuda Tries to Reclaim Its Magic Among Moguls

    Yesteryear’s haven of privacy and propriety among the world’s mega-rich has lost its sheen with the younger jet-setters, and is struggling to reinvent itself. The island famous for a lack of paparazzi and cars also lacks the high-end gyms and trainers, posh rids, and other amenities the richest of the rich take for granted now. Strident rules on who can occupy the island, and for how long, as well as stunningly high fees didn’t help. Bermudan leaders are struggling to revamp their image in time to keep the mega-million beach-front mansions from sliding into a sea of second-rate. 

    Source: WSJ

  3. European Clubs Back Winter 2022 World Cup in Qatar

    Due to the somehow unexpected revelation that summers in the desert nation of Qatar are really, really hot — think 122 degrees Fahrenheit, 50 degrees Celsius hot —Europe’s top soccer body approved an unprecedented plan to reschedule the world’s most popular sports tournament. The good news is that players will not wilt, but the bad news is that the tightly packed and highly lucrative sporting calendar may be thrown off for three years. Fox, which has the U.S. broadcast rights focused on a summer tourney, is threatening to sue, and the Aussies want reimbursement for the $43 million they spent on a failed bid pegged to a Northern Hemisphere summer schedule. As Lina Khatib explores on OZY today, the 2022 World Cup is just one of many assets that the globally ascendant, but controversial, Qatar has added to its growing portfolio in recent years.

    Source: BBC, The Mirror

  4. Commission Says Police Lied About Shootings That Shocked South Africa

    Police appear to have lied about the shooting deaths of 34 striking South African miners last year, as new evidence suggests some of the men were shot in the back in the deadliest police action since apartheid almost 20 years ago. The police had claimed they opened fire on the miners in self-defense. Police computers and confidential documents turned over to the Marikana Commission in South Africa include files that the authorities had denied existed, failed to disclose, or in some cases appear to have falsified or deleted. With Nelson Mandela’s frail health , celebrated sprinter Oscar Pistorius indicted for murder, and now a high-profile case of police corruption, this year is shaping up to be a difficult one for the nation and its ruling African National Congress party, which will have a lot to answer for when it goes before voters in next year’s elections.  

    Sources: BBC , Mail & GuardianWashington Post

  5. Chinese Elderly Hurt By Double Blow of Communism and Capitalism

    Half a century of radical economic projects have profoundly affected family ties in rural Chinese communities, to the detriment of a generation of senior citizens. Efforts to curtail centuries-old patriarchal networks coupled with massive industrialization schemes have led to an exodus of younger generations into cities. The elderly, often left behind to till modest plots in the countryside, now find themselves in dire conditions, struggling to survive. Perhaps the greatest irony is that the state’s modernization programs have added more than 30 million people to the welfare rolls who would have otherwise received support from their families.

    Source: Washington Post

  6. France Moves to Ban Young Girls’ Beauty Pageants

    While many Americans enjoyed the return of TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras this week, the French senate voted to ban beauty pageants for children under the age of 16. If the bill is approved by France’s lower house, anyone who “helps, encourages, or tolerates” such underage contests could face up to two years in prison and a $40,000 fine. Beauty contests in France may be nowhere near as widespread as in the U.S., but competitions are popular enough for the state to fear the sexualization of children. The proposed French ban is already sparking a debate in the land of Honey Boo Boo, with defenders of such contests acknowledging concerns over “hypersexual” young girls, but fretting that a blanket ban would toss the pageant with the bathwater since the contests can help young girls bolster their confidence and self-esteem.

    Sources: The Local, NYT

    Not-So-Little Miss Sunshines

  7. The (Modest) Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous Tom Brady

    If karma exists, what unimaginable, horrible things must poor New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady’s eternal soul have suffered in past lives to counterbalance this one? The handsome football star is married to the world’s most successful supermodel and makes millions of dollars dominating NFL defenses. He also makes Uggs look good, and he even has a moat. Despite engaging in a high-society lifestyle at times, Brady actually lives rather modestly for a superstar, driving an Audi and eschewing entourages. One of the few people unimpressed with Brady’s haul? His wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, whose $45 million in earnings last year exceeded her husband’s meager $38 million.

    Source: Business Insider