The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Iran Extends an Olive Branch, But Has Its Doubters

    Iran’s new president told the U.N. General Assembly that the world’s nuclear armaments should be eradicated, taking to Twitter to reinforce his point. Meanwhile, his foreign minister, speaking on state TV, called for comprises between Iran and world powers, comments seen as seeking some relief from Western sanctions in exchange for a scaled-back Iranian nuclear program. But is all the Western love just a stalling tactic? Experts wonder. The Iranian delegation met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry today. 

    Sources: USA Today, Washington TimesNBC News

  2. Iranian Leader Acknowledges Holocaust and Ignites Storm

    In a week replete with goodwill gestures, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani made yet another remarkable statement in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Unlike his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had called the Holocaust a “myth,” Rouhani described it as a “crime that the Nazis committed towards the Jews” and “reprehensible and condemnable.” But no sooner had Rouhani made the comment than an Iranian news agency claimed that the cleric’s remarks had been mistranslated, emphasizing his statement that he was “not a historian” and claiming the president hadn’t actually said “reprehensible.” With hard-liners in Iran enraged and Jewish leaders unimpressed, it appears that Rouhani’s latest attempt to communicate Iran’s new approach to other nations will remain lost in translation.

    Sources: NYT, CNN

  3. Convicted War Criminal Charles Taylor to Spend Life in Prison

    The former Liberian president lost an appeal and will have to serve 50 years behind bars, essentially a life sentence. An international tribunal refused to budge for the man who aided, abetted, and even planned terror campaigns in Sierra Leone that involved beheadings, rapes, child soldiers, and another atrocities, in exchange for “blood diamonds.” He was the first former head of state to be tried for war crimes since a post-World War II Nuremberg, and the case is hoped to mark a new age of accountability for despots.

    Sources: AP, The Guardian

  4. NRA Lobbyist Slays a Mighty Beast on Network TV

    You have to wonder what the executives were thinking. The NBC Sports Network is coming under fire for it’s “Under Wild Skies” episode depicting, as one paper puts it, “the cruel and bungled slaughter of an elephant” in Botswana. A government ban on all such hunting doesn’t take effect until next year.  It’s a sad note for a species already suffering from poachers poisons — 90 elephants have died from cyanide-laced water in Zimbabwe, with more deaths feared. 

    Sources: The Australian, CNN

  5. Rare Bipartisan Group of U.S. Senators Introduces Surveillance Reform

    Shortly after his compatriot Ted Cruz finished a 21-hour not-a-filibuster, Rand Paul demonstrated that Tea Party leaders can do more than just talk. He appeared with Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and two other Democrats to reveal a bill that would significantly curb the NSA’s data collection, banning the bulk collection of American phone records and creating a “constitutional advocate” to represent the public in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to offer a less dramatic set of reforms, but the odd-couple alliance of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans might just carry the day.

    Sources: NPR, NBC

  6. Is Qatar Abusing Migrant Workers in Preparation for 2022 World Cup?

    This summer, Nepalese migrant laborers working on infrastructure projects Lusail City — an entire city being built from scratch in the Qatari desert that will host the 2022 World Cup final — have died at a rate of about one per day. More than half of these deaths are due to cardiac arrests or workplace accidents on sites where workers are being pushed to complete 12-hour shifts in 120-degree heat with little or no access to water. Workers told investigators from The Guardian that they had been denied food, wages, passports, and Qatari identity cards, effectively turning them into penniless illegal aliens bound to their worksites by debt and fear. While responsibility lies with Qatari labor officials to enforce their country’s laws, Fifa will likely need to take action itself if the league wants to reassure the world that the sporting event is not being built on the backs of slaves.

    Source:  The Guardian

  7. Detroit Doled Out Billions in Bonuses as City Finances Collapsed

    Detroit’s municipal pension fund made extra payments so often they were “like dandelions,” costing the city $2 billion over the last 23 years and helping push the troubled city into financial ruin. These so-called “13th checks” grew like weeds — nearly everyone got one, but it appears few outside the pension fund realized what was going on. And they weren’t disclosed when the city turned to the bond market for funds in 2005. Now German buyers of Detroit’s debt and city officials alike are crying foul, since it appears the pension fund may have misled the city about the source of the distributions. It’s a nasty new twist that will further complicate the already painful negotiations over the city’s bankruptcy.

    Source: NYT

  8. U.S. Default, Syria Resolution, and Iran Nukes — Sooner Than Expected?

    Some major political events may be happening sooner rather than later: diplomats expect a U.N. resolution on Syria in two days; the U.S. Treasury has announced that the U.S. will run out of money in three weeks (on October 21), and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has announced that he would like to negotiate a nuclear settlement with the U.S. and its allies in the next three to six months. Unfortunately, the weekend is still set to begin on Saturday.

    Sources: NYT, USA Today, Washington Post


  1. The Incredible Shrinking Computer Chip May Have Just Shrunk Again

    Cedric the Entertainer may be off to a good start hosting “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” but he’s got nothing on Cedric the Carbon Computer. Scientists at Stanford have successfully created a computer named “Cedric” out of carbon nanotubes. Just as vacuum tubes used to limit how small computers could be, our present limitations revolve around the limits of silicon. The decades-long effort to produce a carbon computer doesn’t sound like a big deal on the stats alone: it’s bigger than the smallest silicon equivalent, and it can’t count higher than 32.  But if the Stanford team is correct, future versions will require far less energy than our current chips, and shrink to unimaginable sizes — and Silicon Valley may have to come up with a new name.

    Source: BBC

  2. SAT Company Launches New Program to Help Poor Students Enter College

    College-bound teens might just start thanking their SAT overlords. After years of having college entrance exams criticized as favoring wealthier applicants, the non-profit standardized testing juggernaut College Board (administer of both the SATs and AP exams) wants to increase college admission for low-income students. College Board’s program is aimed at high-achieving, low-income students who might not otherwise apply to selective schools. Targeted students will receive application fee waivers and information about relevant schools, both of which have been shown to have strong positive effects on enrollment. The program looks to be a boon to these talented students, and may lead wealthy colleges like Harvard, where more than half of the undergraduates come from families with incomes over $125,000 per year, to put their money where their mouth is regarding need-blind admissions.

    Source: NYT

  3. Science Replicates Nature as Patient Controls Prosthetic Leg with Brain Signals

    A 32-year-old man fitted with a next-generation prosthetic leg is seeing “night and day” differences as his new leg responds to his brain. This may not seem huge by Mother Nature’s standards — it’s what most of us do everyday, without thinking about it. But it’s a huge leap forward in helping patients with prosthetic limbs regain as much of their pre-injury abilities as possible. This kind of technological development could have a big impact on war veterans. Better medical technology in the field coupled with enemy weaponry more likely to maim, and more soldiers are returning alive but with serious damage to one or more limbs. The ability to control their fake legs just like their real ones could go far in their long journey back to normalcy.

    Source: WSJ

  4. Singapore’s Boom Goes Subterranean

    What do you do when you are one of the most crowded and fastest growing cities in the world and you have started to exhaust your already limited amount of usable land? Sometimes there’s nowhere to go but down. Having already reclaimed land from the ocean and built into the skies, Singapore is looking to construct an elaborate and interconnected network of transport, industrial, shopping, and public spaces beneath the surface for its 5.4 million (and growing) residents. The city has several such projects in place or on the drawing board, including a 50-acre underground science center. The transformation will take decades to accomplish, and that’s assuming that the city can come up with the money required to make sure that it all goes down.

    Source: NYT

  5. The U.S. Sails into History With Regatta Victory

    Just a week ago, things looked pretty bleak for Oracle Team USA and its bid to defend the America’s Cup sailing title against New Zealand. Down eight races to one in a first-to-nine contest marred by controversy, lackluster attendance, and unprecedented penalties, the Oracle team (and its largely antipodean crew) retooled their space-age catamaran and left the shell-shocked Kiwi vessel in their wake to complete a run of eight straight victories and the largest comeback in the 162-year history of the storied event. The victory may have felt priceless, but it was in no small part the product of the ocean of cash (more than $500 million) that U.S. software billionaire Larry Ellison has poured into the Oracle USA effort over the past 11 years. As the partly government-funded Kiwis lick their wounds and figure out how they will fund their next regatta effort, Ellison and company will now get to set the rules and venue for the next competition — and you can bet that the waters have not seen the last of space-age hydrofoils.

    Sources:  ESPN, New Zealand Herald, USA Today