The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Promising Talk: Obama and Iran President Speak by Phone

    It’s one for the history books. For the first time in more than three decades, the Presidents of the United States and Iran have spoken on the telephone. After days of promising gestures toward resolving the dispute over Iran’s controversial nuclear program, the two sides came to this pivotal point: a 15-minute chat. After the call, Obama appeared hopeful, saying that despite inevitable obstacles, he ”believes we can reach a comprehensive solution.” President Rouhani returned to Tehran to a “chaotic” scene of both cheering supporters and shoe-throwing opponents chanting “Death to America.” Talks between Iran and the negotiating group P5+1 are just weeks away. Could this mean a possible end to economic sanctions on Iran and the beginnings of peace? 

    Sources: Washington Post; BBC, NYT; Guardian

  2. Budget Brawl: All Eyes On the Weekend’s Big Fight

    Tensions are running high and investors are biting their nails as U.S. politicians prepare to duke it out this weekend to determine whether or not the government will shut down on Tuesday. The two key issues facing the world’s largest economy: the national tab – now about $16.7 trillion* – is poised to hit the debt ceiling by Oct. 17, and Monday is the end of the fiscal year. On Friday, the senate passed a stopgap measure to keep the government – and Obamacare – funded. But there’s no breathing a collective sigh of relief yet. The two houses will have to figure out a way to play nicely in the sandbox this weekend. (Conservative Republicans like Ted Cruz certainly aren’t so keen.) So what would a partial shutdown mean? For Americans, a lot: loss of work for hundreds of thousands of federal employees, national park closures, no passport services and more. And if the U.S. defaults on its payments, economists warn of significant worldwide financial implications. For the nation, it could mean a severe recession and more. As one chief economist put it, ”It’ll be bedlam. It’ll be a mess.” 

    *An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of the national debt.

    Sources: NYTBBC, CBC

  3. A Powerful Iranian Playmaker Is Helping Run Assad’s Civil War

    A former American spook calls Qassem Suleimani “the most powerful operative in the Middle East today.” Writer Dexter Filkins describes him as “mostly invisible,” small of stature, and quiet. Yet he is accused of assassinations, directing militants in Iraq to kill Americans, and now, abetting Syria’s President Assad. At least one U.S. general believes Syria would have failed already without Suleimani’s support, but with a new moderate in Iran, his reign of sectarian violence might slowly ebb.

    Source: New Yorker

  4. Country Embraces Democracy Again, But Not Without Obstacles

    It was remarkable scene that could hardly be imagined six months ago: the citizens of Mali showing up in record numbers to vote in presidential elections. And the election of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, made possible by the intervention of French military, clearly shows a majority of the poor country’s desire to revisit – or relaunch – democracy into a nation once known as a model democratic state, but rattled to its core over the years by ethnic conflict. It’s possible to reboot, as Senegal has demonstrated. But it’s not going to be an easy road for Mali or for Keita. His inital tasks include negotiating with rebel forces, building a foundation for good governance, and “restoring Mali’s honor” – one of his election promises. Time will tell if the troubled nation finds its way back to democracy, but it’s going take money, time and commitment from all levels of Malian society.

    Source: Foreign Policy


  5. Take Me Out to the Baseball Playoffs

    The Pirates’ embrace their first trip to the post-season in 20 years. The Yankee’s mourn only their second time missing out in two years – and the bittersweet retirement of modern great Mariano Rivera, whose departure made even Yankee-haters go soft. Pundits wonder whether anyone would show up if the Rays end up hosting a game. Place your bets now and break out the Cracker Jacks, as the first wild card contest kicks off Tuesday night. 

    Sources: LA Times, Sporting News, 

  6. Obamacare Kicks In Oct. 1: What You Need to Know

    The national healthcare exchange is scheduled to kick in this Wednesday. The GOP predicts confusion, higher taxpayer costs, and little relief, and there’s already a lot of the first going around when it comes to cost and coverage. Essentially, no one can be denied for a pre-existing condition; people who already have coverage can still buy in if they want; there are several combinations of higher-premiums versus lower-payments, and vice versa; and there’s a national hotline and Web site. Still, many expect a lot of hiccups, and even more questions, during the rollout. The biggest question of all might not be answered for months, even years — is it worth it? 

    Sources: NPR, USA Today, CSM


  1. Retreating Floodwaters Offer a Rare Chance to Not Just Rebuild, But Redo

    An inundated Colorado slowly picks up the piece from record flooding from a 100-year storm, with aerial photos only hinting at the breadth of the devastation. But experts say the cleanup could offer a blessing in disguise. The state needs to fix or replace at least 200 miles of highway, about 50 bridges, and more than 2,000 destroyed homes before winter hits — the governor’s self-imposed deadline is Dec. 1, barely two months away. But perhaps this could be a change to rebuild, say Vermont officials, who were there and did that post-Hurricane Irene. The flooding might present a rare chance to thoughtfully upgrade infrastructure and urban planning, and maybe better prep for the next storm.

    Sources: CSM, Wired


  2. Will 2016 Be Another 2008 for the Hillary Machine? 

    HRC in 2016? With the mega-meeting of her husband’s Clinton Global Initiative wrapped up, pundits turn to Hillary Clinton chances for a second go at the White House. Questions abound, especially when it comes to the family business of million-dollar charitable institutions. Fundraising figures show her well on the path to running. But her unique resume notwithstanding (first lady, senator, secretary of state), has her time passed?

    Sources: NYMag, New Yorker, New Republic

  3. Sicily’s President Is Talking About a Revolution

    Rosario Crocetta, Sicily’s current President, is an enigmatic figure. He’s gay, Catholic and left-learning – a significant departure from some of his predecessors with links to organized crime and served prison time. A constant target for death threats and political protests, Crocetta works to rid the region of corruption, excessive spending and dizzying waste – often with a big infectious laugh, by smoking packs of cigarettes, and indulging in poetry on his iPhone. And he’s getting ready for something big to happen. A revolution of sorts. “I want to give the Sicilians a dream — a dream that change is possible.” Can this romantic lefty be the leader that helps Sicily to rise above its troubled past?

    Source: NYT

  4. BlackBerry Is Dead, Long Live BlackBerry

    In 2010, the writing was on the wall for the troubled smartphone firm, as its stock prices started to stumble. This week, the company declared intentions to go private. Pundits blame corporate dysfunction as well as BlackBerry’s inability to innovate under the twin blows of Apple and Google. A Canadian hedge fund magnate offers a small glimmer of hope – but if Prem Watsa succeeds, will BlackBerry as the world knows it disappear? 

    Sources: USAToday, Wired, The Guardian; Globe and Mail

  5. Big Data Suggests War, Not Farming, Built the First Complex Human Societies

    Peter Turchin and his research team have come to believe that sewing strife, not seeds, led our ancestors to morph from tiny packs of hunter-gatherers into larger, more permanent social units. Turchin’s work, which applies big data to historical research, could do nothing less than completely up-end our beliefs about our ancestors: that farming set humans on the road to complex social forms that would one day lead us to LOLcat pirates. Turchin admits the models aren’t perfect, but they demonstrate that our new ways of crunching numbers may reshape our view of civilation’s oldest challenges

    Source: Wired

  6. Two Wickedly Funny Jimmy Fallon Videos Battle It Out

    We’ve been laughing at these all week. Two Late Night vids have snagged millions of YouTube hits. The first pits Jimmy Fallon against his old ”pal” Justin Timberlake in a #hilarious hashtag-off. The worth-it moment: when Questlove makes his #bigentrance. The other vid, dubbed a ”Lip Sync Battle for the Ages,” sees returning champ Stephen Merchant take on newcomers Fallon and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a faux singing contest that turns into a wild-eyed, gyrating, microphone-stand-twirling spectacle. Highlights: Merchant’s “Boom! Shake the Room” and Levitt’s “Superbase.” But don’t let us spoil the show.

    Source: #HashtagsLip Sync Battle