The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Janet Yellen is Obama’s Pick for the Next Fed Chair

    After months of speculation, name calling, and second-guessing that even saw the often unflappable Larry Summers withdraw his name under fire, President Obama announced today that he will nominate Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve. Yellen, the current vice chair of the Fed, would be the first woman to head the body and the most powerful woman to fill an economic position in U.S. history, not to mention one of the few female central bankers in the world. The BBC examines just who she is. Yellen, who would likely continue current chair Ben Bernanke’s program of low interest rates and asset purchases, would also be the first Democrat to hold the position since Paul Volcker left in 1987 — a prospect, along with her support of the Fed’s stimulus package, that should lead many congressional Republicans to oppose her nomination.

    Sources: NYTBBCPoliticoWSJ

  2. Forecasts for the Global Economy Don’t Include Sunny Skies

    An economic winter is coming. The International Monetary Fund has lowered its global growth forecast for the sixth time in a row, from 3.2 to 2.9 percent for this year and from 3.8 to 3.6 percent for next year. If that seems negligible, remember this is the entire globe we’re talking about. This latest World Economic Outlook cautioned that the U.S. Federal Reserve might cut its easy money policy and that Chinese growth might slow from dragon to dragging while emerging markets cool down. The analysis also assumes that U.S. lawmakers will act in a reasonable fashion and avert default — an assumption growing less safe by the day. If that hurricane hits, then all forecasts are moot.

    Sources: USA Today, WSJ (sub)  

  3. Obama Wags a Finger at Republicans As Shutdown Drags On

    We’ll talk about getting you that puppy when you put down the lighter. That was more or less President Obama’s message to the GOP-controlled House yesterday in a hastily arranged press conference held as the U.S. federal government ended yet another day of the shutdown. “Think about it this way,” the president said. “The American people do not get to demand a ransom for doing their jobs.” But Obama remains reluctant to help bridge the impasse himself, conceding only that he would consider a short-term increase in the debt ceiling to give lawmakers more time to negotiate. Meanwhile the mounting fears of the Chinese and Japanese governments, America’s largest debt holders, provide a vivid index of how real the threat of default is becoming.

    Sources: NYT, WSJ

  4. Pioneering Computer Research Trio Win Chemistry Nobel

    Three scientists who set the groundwork for creating computer models to understand, and in some cases predict, chemical processes snagged the big prize in chemistry this morning. Martin Karplus holds U.S. and Austrian passports, Arieh Warshel holds U.S. and Israel passports, and Michael Levitt is a citizen of the U.S., Britain and Israel. Maybe with all those travel documents they can help find Peter Higgs, who along with Francois Englert was awarded the Nobel in physics yesterday for theories about the elusive Higgs boson particle. Although the Boson has been found, Higgs himself has not. The camera-shy physicist is holidaying in an undisclosed location without a cellphone.

    Sources: The Guardian, New York Times, AP


  1. Taliban Talk About Talking, But Malala’s Classmates Remain Fearful

    A Pakistani Taliban leader tells the Western press that he’s open to talking with the government, but that it’s up to the government to approach his group. Hakimullah Mehsud’s comments aren’t idle demands, as the newly-elected Nawaz Sharif said back in May that he would open talks with the Taliban. But peace may seem like a distant dream to the teachers and students at Malala Yousafzai’s school. She may be the front-runner for the Nobel Peace Prize awarded on Friday, but back home threats against the school staff and pupils have grown in direct response to her fame, and her relatives still live in fear of the man who shot her — he remains at large. 

    Sources: BBC, AP

  2. Turkey Lifts Decades-Long Ban on Head Scarves in Civil Service

    The ban against head scarves in government offices has been in place almost as long as the Turkey Republic itself, which was founded as a secular state in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party swept into power in 2002 thanks in large part to fellow Turkish Muslims, claims that the controversial decision to lift the ban is part of a larger attempt to bolster democracy in the country, including improving the voting rights of minority Kurds. But secular critics remain skeptical of Erdogan’s motives, pointing out that the government’s recent jailing of journalists and violent quashing of protests undermine claims that Erdogan wants to improve Turkey’s democracy.

    Sources: NYT, Al Jazeera

  3. Government Shutdown Halts Food Safety Agencies in Their Tracks

    President Obama extended a potential olive branch to the congressional factions today in the form of an invitation to the White House, starting with the House Democrats as early as this afternoon. But that doesn’t help poultry fans in at least 18 U.S. states who might want to think about going cold turkey due to a growing Salmonella outbreak. Normally government officials would be conducting multi-state investigations into the spread and containment of the food-borne illness. Thanks to the shutdown, most researchers are not even able to address the situation as volunteers since they are locked out of their offices, labs and emails. While the Centers for Disease Control confirms that it is bringing back 30 furloughed employees to help address the situation, this scenario is precisely the sort of shutdown nightmare feared by many, lending a whole new meaning to the game of chicken being played in Washington. 

    Sources: Wired, Politico, Washington Post

  4. Banksy’s Big Apple Exhibition Gets Some Finishing Touches

    Fans of Banksy, the mysterious British artist creating a work per day in New York City this month, have tracked his work throughout the city by world-of-mouth and social media. But just as Banksy augmented graffiti already in place on some walls, his fans are angry that local graffiti artists have painted over some of his handiwork. Caleb Neelon, a graffiti historian, suspects that this was Banksy’s intention all along. “Almost all the works I have seen are right there on street level,” Neelon said. “It’s almost like he’s daring everyone to go right over it.”

    Sources: NBC News, WSJ

  5. What the Big Studio Model Could Learn from Big Auto

    In a fascinating breakdown of the major costs associated with making a movie, Vulture’s Gavin Polone concludes that unless Hollywood starts behaving more like Detroit and intentionally slashing its excesses, the movie city will barely ride out a series of big-budget flops until Tinseltown crashes entirely. But much like Detroit had a model in Japan (and now Korea), Hollywood has a model in the runaway successes of many low-budget indie flicks. Hollywood and austerity are not generally thought of in the same sentence, but for the sake of the industry’s future, maybe they should be.

    Source: Vulture

  6. The NFL and Traumatic Head Injuries: It’s Worse Than You Thought

    The only way former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster could go to sleep was if someone stunned him with a Taser. After years of jarring hits on the field, he routinely forgot simple things like how to get home from the store. Though the NFL privately admitted that the Hall of Fame center was permanently disabled from his playing days, they denied any link between football and long-term neurological disease after his 2002 suicide. Airing last night, the PBS Frontline documentary on the league’s concussion crisis is the most sobering look at the sport yet, but will football fans really care about what a public television investigation has to tell them?

    Sources: PBS