The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Senate Passes Bill, Tags House in Countdown to Budget Showdown

    One step forward could still be one step back for the U.S. budget showdown. As expected, the Senate passed a stopgap measure to keep the government – and Obamacare – funded. But that differs from the House version, which took money away from the health plan set to start Oct. 1. Now the two houses, one with a Democratic majority, and one with a Republican majority, will have to figure out a compromise – which conservative Republicans don’t seem inclined to do. Here we go again.

    Sources: NYT; Washington Post; BBC

  2. Humans Are Changing the World, in a Bad Way

    It’s official, or at least as official as science gets (95 percent confidence): The globe is heating up, and it’s all humanity’s fault. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its every-five-years report using words like “unequivocal” and “unprecedented.” OZY had a take earlier this week. How drastic has the change been in our lifetimes? The Guardian has a nifty interactive chart. Two more reports, on impacts and mitigating change, are due out this spring, with a final over-arching report due out next fall. The question remains how much the world is willing to change, if at all, to respond the findings. 

    Source: NPR, Al Jazeera

  3. U.N. Security Council Strikes Deal on Syrian Disarmament

    Say farewell to Syria’s sarin. The U.N. Security Council could vote as early as today on a binding resolution to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. The agreement requires Damascus to comply with the destruction of its chemical arsenal by the middle of next year, a task that seems more feasible in light of new revelations that most of its chemical stockpiles are not yet weaponized. The agreement doesn’t sanction the use of force should Syria fail to comply with the resolution, nor does it outright blame Assad’s regime for the biggest chemical attacks since Iraq, 1988. The measure may be a critical step towards destroying Syria’s chemical weapons, but it will do little to reassure splintering Syrian rebel forces of Western support.

    Sources: Washington Post, WSJ (sub), BBC 

  4. Kenya Suffers New Attacks as Somalis Fear Reprisals

    Two attacks in Kenya along the Somali border leave three police officers dead, dozens of patrol vehicles in flames, and questions over whether the nation should expect growing terrorism in the wake of the Westgate mall shooting. Kenyan authorities immediately blamed al-Shabaab, the same group that claimed responsibility for the mall attack. But some Somali immigrants are having none of it: they believe that internal Kenyan politics lay behind the various attacks and fear that police, as they have in the past, will fail to respond to reprisal attacks in Nairobi’s largely Muslim neighborhood of Eastleigh. Even as dozens of Western investigators fly to Kenya to examine the wreckage of the Westgate shopping mall, Africa wonders: is this just the “new normal” for Kenya and elsewhere when it comes to global terrorism?

    Sources: NYT, The Guardian

  5. Google Reveals Hummingbird, a Major Search Overhaul

    Gathering reporters in the garage that Larry and Sergey first rented to launch Google, the search engine giant revealed that it had quietly made changes to its main search algorithm that affect about 90 percent of its queries. Known internally as Hummingbird, the changes are designed to help Google better handle complex questions and better respond to voice-based searches. Because so many companies rely on Google searches to supply traffic to their own sites — and try to game the system as much as possible to put their sites front and center — changes in the algorithm have potentially far-reaching ripple effects.

    Source: USA Today

  6. Wendy Davis Eyes Run for Texas Governor

    Don’t underestimate the petite blond. Austin’s well-heeled filibuster sensation Wendy Davis is expected to officially announce a run for governor next week. She’s got a marathon in front of her. Her likely opponent is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and his $20 million, hard-to-beat war chest. But Davis has proved her toughness in spades. And national Democratic leaders are salivating over the prospect of a re-invigorated Texas base — Republicans have been ensconced since 1995, when a certain George W. Bush occupied the governor’s mansion. At the very least, Davis’ race could help divert Republican funds away from other states’ races.


    Sources: NYT, Politico

  7. Gay Marriage Green Light, Iran Nuke Talks Begin, Militants Rented Mall Shop

    Judge rules New Jersey must allow same-sex marriage. (Huffington Post).

    Militants rented out a shop in Kenyan mall shop weeks before seige. (BBC).

    Iran, U.S. launch talks on nuclear weapons. (WSJ).

    Interpol issues a warrant for “white widow” suspected in Kenyan attack. (BBC).

    Mariano Rivera pitches an emotional final home game in New York. (NYT).



  1. A Dutch Firm Asks: Can Modern Plastics Stand With Historic Canals? 

    Novel 3-D printers have produced weaponry, biology (a new face) and robots. Can roofs over our heads be next? An architecture firm in Amsterdam has been experimenting with printing the pieces needed to assemble a house that matches the style, if not the material, of 400-year-old homes lining the famed canals. After so many experiments with plastic 3-D printing, could metal printing be next? 

    Source: GlobalPost (video), Tom’s Guide

  2. Score One for Nostalgia with a Goat’s Head and Whips

    Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-largest nation, may be rapidly modernizing, sinking millions of dollars into massive urban overhauls. And it may be under scrutiny for human rights abuses by the self-described “ultimate oligarch” President Nursultan Nazarbayev, often coming to Western attention when he pays big bucks for private performances by Western stars. But it’s the resurgence of an ancient version of polo — sans clubs and balls, with a cauldron and the remains of livestock — that is rocking the nation. 

    Source: IBT,, NYT

  3. Gates Regrets Famous “Control-Alt-Delete” Login

    Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has stated that using “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” as a task manager and login shortcut was a “mistake.” In a recent Q&A at Harvard, Gates attributed the shortcut to keyboard manufacturer IBM, adding that he would have preferred a single button. David Bradley, the IBM engineer who designed the keyboard, said that he initially intended to make the shortcut “Ctrl-Alt-Esc” but decided in favor of a sequence that required both hands. Gates’ admission has provoked an outpouring of moral and technical support for the “three-fingered salute,” which now ranks up there with the QWERTY keyboard itself as one of our favorite, if not always cherished, path dependent technologies.

    Source: Washington Post

  4. Major Fish Fossil Discovery Made in China

    “Baby fish mouth” is not exactly sweeping the nation as proclaimed in the famous When Harry Met Sally Pictionary game, but scientists think they have uncovered what is likely the earliest creature with a recognizable jaw, a 419-million year-old armored fish fossil. Hailed as one of the most important paleontological discoveries in decades, the fossil provides a direct link between modern fish and ancient “placoderms” that once filled the world’s rivers and oceans. Scientists explain that this discovery fills a “major gap” in evolutionary theory and helps connect the dots between ancient aquatic-based life forms and animals that eventually evolved into vertebrates, including humans.

    Source: Nature

  5. Can Cute Animal Pics Bolster Support for Obamacare?

    In just a few days health care exchanges will open and President Obama’s signature initiative will roll out. And with his legacy at stake, the time has come to unleash the digital age’s single most powerful resource — pictures of irresistibly cute animals. The “Adorable Care Act” Tumblr and Twitter account pairs classic meme-worthy imagery with informative and funny captions because, really, what makes end-of-lifetime caps on health coverage more immediately relevant than a pudgy mouse on a swing? The White House can use all the help it can get from its furry friends: just a third of U.S. adults claim to understand the Affordable Care Act. And surely even President Obama and Sen. Ted Cruz can agree that the nation needs more cute piglets.

    Source: The Atlantic

  6. Michael J. Fox Returns to TV with a New Sitcom

    It’s been almost a quarter of a century since the star of Back to the Future and Family Ties received a diagnosis of early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Since then he’s kept acting in guest spots while raising more $350 million for research into the neurodegenerative disorder that afflicts as many as 10 million worldwide. This fall he returns to the small screen in an art-imitating-life starring role — he’s a news anchor with Parkinson’s who goes back to work after driving his family crazy at home. New York Times reviewer Mike Hale praises Fox for his past turns as a “smart aleck with a heart of gold” but argues that though The Michael J. Fox Show has the “heart of gold” piece down, if the show doesn’t “get smarter fast,” it risks becoming “a long and expensive public service announcement.”

    Sources: NYT, Forbes

  7. How a Pro-Bowl Footballer Overcame His Fear of…Horses

    Hard-hitting Pro-Bowl safety Eric Berry strikes fear into his opponents. What scares Eric Berry? After being bitten at a petting zoo as a child, he has equinophobia, a serious and irrational fear of horses. The problem is that Berry plays for the Kansas City Chiefs and their mascot, a horse named Warpaint, trots around after each touchdown. In a video from NFL Films the athlete bravely exposes himself to horseplay with puppets and paintings in preparation for a climactic petting session and personal apology to Warpaint (‘I’m sorry I talked about you like that’). Amusing as it is, this is also a good reminder that even the manliest of men need a special kind of courage to face their own fears. Buck up and ride into the sunset, Eric Berry!

    Source:  NFL Films