The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. U.S. Raids Terror Targets, Back-Pay Bill For Federal Workers, Impasse with Afghans

    U.S. commandos raid terrorist hideouts in Libya and Somalia (NBC)

    House passes bill to back-pay 800,000 federal employees (Washington Post)

    Unknown man who set fire to himself on D.C. National Mall dies of injuries (NPR)

    Impasse with Afghans raises prospect of full U.S. pullout (NYT)

    Obama open to name change for Washington Redskins. (Washington Post)

  2. NASA Faces Backlash, Boycott Over Space Conference Decision

    Next month, NASA is holding its hot ticket event in California for international scientists working on the Kepler space telescope program — but scientists from one county are not welcome. U.S. researchers are angry after learning that Chinese nationals have been banned from attending. Why? For reasons of national security. A law passed by the space agency in March prohibits anyone from China from stepping inside a NASA building. Some scientists are boycotting the conference, calling it “unethical” to exclude nations from a pure science meeting “about planets located trillions of miles away.” After this year’s shakeup, the international space community might be looking for another nation to host the important meet-up.

    Source: The Guardian

  3. Brace Yourself for the U.S. Supreme Court’s Fall Term

    Abortion. Race. Religion. Gun rights. You know, just a few small things on the docket for the highest court in America, whose new term starts with arguments on Monday. Pundits expect the conservative-led court will veer right. Among the expected highlights are battles over town clergy benedictions, abortion clinic buffer zones, public housing projects and race, “Raging Bull” copyrights, and campaign finance. There’s even a chance the court will take another stab at the Affordable Care Act. Buckle up.

    Sources: USA Today, Washington Post, LA Times

  4. Will Washington’s Leaders Ever Learn to Just Get Along? 

    With no end to the dickering in sight, Oct. 17 seems like a possible deadline for détente in the battle over America’s federal budget. That’s the day the U.S. hits a debt ceiling, which House Speaker Boehner says he won’t let happen. But he’s looking at a deal with his version of the devil – Democrats and moderate Republicans, shutting out the conservatives. So far, it’s just been “conversations about conversations” and no real negotiations. Experts suggest Obama may have the constitutional power to fix this, but that move could prove wildly unpopular. But perhaps no more so than Republicans already are, as they fear the political fallout in the next election if they don’t resolve this crisis, stat. 

    Sources: NYT, NPR, Washington Post; BBC

  5. China’s New Free Trade Zones: Passing Fad or Sign of the Future? 

    China quietly opened an 11-mile free-trade zone near Shanghai, but questions remain as to exactly how freedom will be defined. The plan, first announced in July then slowly rolled out this week, tests the waters on bringing part of China more in line with Hong Kong when it comes to some aspects of trade and Internet access. Among the possibilities: partnerships with foreign banks and the sale of foreign video games. But social media has proven trickier, and The New Yorker describes the fits and starts on what’s allowed and what isn’t. With Qianhai officials planning a reform district as well, the idea appears to be catching. The question remains as to whether these islands of experimentation hearken a new age for Chinese communication and trade, or whether old-line conservatives will get nervous and pull the plug. 

    Sources: The New Yorker, South China Morning Post, Reuters

  6. Why Canada Should Merge With the U.S. Or Not.

    Author Diane Francis is making waves north of the border with a new book: Merger of the Century: Why Canada and America Should Become One Country. Among various potential wins of a mega-merger, the book highlights the economic benefits of joining forces  - i.e. kick some China and Russia butt. Francis, who has dual citizenship, says it’s time for the two countries to get on with creating a powerhouse capable of dominating the global economy. Despite hitting shelves at an interesting time — when ”America can’t even pass a budget and Canada can’t even reform the Senate” — Francis’ “thought experiment” has people talking about the potential, and perhaps inevitability, of the two countries teaming up to create a super-nation for the ages. But does anyone really think it could work?

    Source: National Post; Huffington Post Canada

  7. A Professor Asks: Whither the Women Math and Science Colleagues? 

    Female foreign students landing on American shores don’t hesitate to enroll in high-level math and science courses, but are shocked to find that their male colleagues, and professors, might not expect their ease in the disciplines. It’s just one small example in an explosive story that explores the frustrations, and the brain drain, plaguing the highest echelons of the STEM world. Some 40 years after the feminist revolution began, it’s still a boy’s club — a slowly changing boys’ club, but one nonetheless. A handful of young women making waves in national science fairs are trying, but will they be enough to really enact a sea change? 

    Sources: Fast Co., NYT


  1. Video Games Show Timothy Leary Was a Man Ahead of His Time

    Put down the LSD and prepare to really have your mind blown. The New York Public Library recently released a trove of Timothy Leary’s work to the public: more than 300 old-school floppy disks. Among the gems are some priceless kernels of video games. Electronic Arts released his Mind Mirror in 1985. It sold 65,000 copies and is now on Facebook. Even more mind-blowing is what could have been — namely, his Neuromancer project, a “bizarre take” on the William S. Gibson book. According to one report, artist Keith Haring, designer Helmut Lang and rock band Devo were set to contribute. We’re especially fond of the pixelated take on a very young David Byrne. 

    Sources: Wired, Verge 

  2. Why Sports Stars Really Use Drugs to Amp Up Their Game

    A-Rod and Armstrong: What made them feel that it was OK to use performance-enhancing drugs? Some suggest that it’s because of a blurred line between cheating and not, or that some athletes see the art — and, of course, science — of competition itself as the most exciting part. Well that’s bull, say two writers with the NYU Sports & Society Program, writing in Forbes. Athletes decide to get their dope on simply because it “feels good to get away with it.” A new study shows that given the chance, most people will dabble in deception even when there’s little to gain — and feel even better about the dishonesty when nobody gets hurt. (Regardless of A-Rod’s reasons, he’s still suing the MLB over the investigation). So before heaping shame onto athletes for trying to beat the system, maybe we should ask ourselves if we’d do the same, given the chance. After all, we may be wired for it.

    Source: Forbes

  3. Online Craft Marketplace Changes the Meaning of Handmade

    It appears that the word “handmade” is now open to interpretation as far as Etsy is concerned. The online craft marketplace, known for selling hand-created items, made a radical move this week leaving designers more than a little unraveled. New guidelines loosen the restrictions on how sellers manufacture their products — so much so that it’s now OK to sell items produced by cheap, foreign factory labor. Which, ahem, pretty much negates the “handmade” part. Etsy claims that manufacturers still require approval, but some members — and purchasers — remain skeptical. If you take away the handcrafted aspect of a handcrafted marketplace, what’s the compelling reason to shop there?

    Source: The Daily Dot

  4. There’s a Good Reason Why We Break Down When Traveling

    Have you ever started crying while flying or driving down the road alone? Whether or not you’re willing to admit that tears have streamed down your cheeks as you watched an in-flight movie, many people confess (anonymously, of course) in an airline survey to have quietly sobbed in their seats. Studies on crying show that there is a reason for these curious bouts of bawling: isolation, which brings on ”heightened emotion.” When separated from loved ones, distractions of work, and our ever-present devices, we are suddenly forced to sit with just ourselves — which can be a lonely, lonely place. But this can actually be a good thing. Just ask Louis C.K. So the next time you’re cruising at 40,000 feet, miles from familiarity and loved ones, put on “Toy Story” and go ahead and have a good old cry. You’re just being human. 

    Source: The Atlantic


  5. Westerners Try to Cash In on an Indian Holiday

    Bright, colorful powders and paints thrown into crowds that are said to mask humanities’ differences mark the spring Hindu celebration of Holi in India, usually held in March. But commercial attempts to bring Holi to Europe and the U.S. in the fall  — Miami takes part this November – are covered in controversy. Behind the scenes, there’s fallout and dickering over staging, powder sources and money. Organizers say the events celebrate color and fun, and are not religious. But some wonder if this is a growing culture embrace, or perhaps just exploitation.

    Sources: Miami New Times, WSJ

  6. Dizzying Trip Over Some of the Wildest Walkways in the World 

    People have climbing up mountains and scaling their faces for a very long time. But the extreme walkways in this collection are enough to give even seasoned hikers a bad case of vertigo. Spectacular photos and personal (we like to call them “survivor”) videos take us on a terrifying trip along places like a wicked-high 12-inch-wide “road” in China and along a treacherous cliff-side path in Spain with sections simply crumbled away (and no handrails!). Another place where the sensible refuse to stroll is a “walkway” in Utah with a teeth-clenching 2,000-foot drop on both sides. You have to see that one to believe it.

    Source: io9