The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. A Pint-Sized Blue-Eyed Enigma in a Roma Camp

    The little blond girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, stood out among the Roma community in Greece. DNA tests proved her biological parents were not the couple caring for her, and they have been charged with kidnapping. Their lawyer says the couple adopted “Maria” legally. An international hunt is on for the girl’s biological parents, while other Roma, who some still call Gypsies, fear international backlash against their community. 

    Sources: CNN, USA Today

  2. Officials Promise ‘Tech Surge’ to Address Obamacare Website Problems

    Obama administration officials acknowledged yesterday the rampant problems afflicting the new federal health exchange website and promised that help was on the way. Those familiar with the situation have warned that the login problems experienced by many users are masking even larger technical difficulties, and that fixing all of them could take weeks and involve rewriting as many as five million lines of software code. While supporters of the Affordable Care Act are taking the line that the law must be measured by more than its website, critics of the act warn that website difficulties are a sign of much bigger problems on the horizon. President Obama addressed the issue from the White House on Monday.

    Sources: WSJ (sub), NYT, USA Today, CNN

  3. Apple, Microsoft and Nokia Unveil New Tablets This Week

    The tablet market has exploded since Apple first introduced the iPad in 2010, and some analysts predict that by 2015 tablets will outsell PCs. Manufacturers are looking to strengthen their grip on market share, and on Tuesday the latest offerings from Apple, Microsoft and Nokia will be unveiled. The new iPads are expected to include a mini iPad with a higher retina display and a lighter full-sized iPad, while Microsoft’s Surface 2.0 tablet — which the company hopes will appeal to the relatively untapped corporate market — will function much like a PC and include Outlook and Office.

    Sources: NYT, WSJ (sub)

  4. Syria Talks Scheduled for Late November

    International talks aimed at negotiating an end to Syria’s deadly civil war are set to begin on Nov. 23 in Geneva. But the talks may be doomed to fail before they even begin: the Syrian National Council, one of the most prominent opposition groups, has announced that it will not participate, and many rebel groups have stated that they will refuse to negotiate with Bashar al-Assad’s government. Meanwhile a new health crisis may be emerging in the war-torn country. The WHO announced the appearance of two polio cases, a disease not seen in Syria in 14 years.

    Sources: The Guardian, Al Jazeera

  5. Ad Campaign Uses Popular Google Searches to Demonstrate Online Sexism

    For many of us, the predictive search terms on Google and other search engines have become like an extension of our own brains. Now U.N. Women, the arm of the U.N. dedicated to women’s issues, wants to show us just how many people still search (and think) in outdated, sexist ways. The new ad campaign superimposes Google search queries like “women cannot” and “women should” and the popular searches predicted by the query, like “women should be slaves” or “women should not vote,” over pictures of real women. A similar autocomplete query for men suggests the widespread, but far less destructive, belief that “men should not” do things like eat soy or wear sandals.

    Sources: Time, BuzzFeed

  6. Nevada School Shooting, Australian Bushfires Rage, Manning Loses Homecoming

    Two people died, including the shooter, and two are in the hospital after a middle school shooting in Nevada. (Reno Gazette-Journal).

    Fresh leaks reveal scope of NSA spying on Mexican leaders. (Der Spiegel).

    India’s Mars launch fuels space race in Asia. (BBC).

    Boko Haram militants forced out of base in Nigeria. (NYT).

    Wildfires lead Australia to declare state of emergency in New South Wales. (The Guardian).

    Peyton Manning loses NFL return to Indianapolis. (NYT).



  1. For Some Families, Iraq is Now Safer Than Syria

    Not that long ago Iraqi refugees sought haven in Syria. Now that tide of humanity is turning, as Syrian refugees flee their deadly civil war by heading to Iraqi Kurdistan. There, they hope for a better future for themselves, and their children, after losing almost everything. The seemingly unlikely reversal is just the latest demonstration of millions of lives upended by the fighting. 

    Source: GlobalPost

  2. Walmart Online Takes Aim at Amazon

    Setting up a potential Godzilla vs. Mothra showdown of 21st century commerce, Walmart is doing its darndest to build an online force to compete with To compete with the razor thin margins of Jeff Bezos’s digital superstore, Walmart has been poaching talent from places like Yahoo and eBay and absorbing tech start-ups as part of creating @Walmartlabs, a Google-mimicking office space in Silicon Valley that serves morel mushroom macaroons rather than the ham sandwiches of the Arkansas main office. You know the days of traditional brick and mortar are numbered when the nation’s biggest retailer decides that they can’t really beat, and must therefore join, their biggest online rival.

    Source: NYT

  3. The Amazing Story Behind the Rotterdam Museum Theft

    Hearing of millions in priceless artworks snatched from a renowned gallery in a daring nighttime raid, you might think of the laser-dodging hijinks of Thomas Crown. The real story is less glamorous but more interesting: a few poor immigrants with a modest resume of domestic burglaries and no knowledge of painting broke into the Rotterdam Kunsthal — protected by alarms but not a single security guard. After 1,550 miles non-stop in the trunk of a Ford Mondeo, the seven stolen works worth about 18 million euros ($25.6 million) wound up buried in a remote Romanian graveyard. The story ends when a nervous mother — desperate to destroy any evidence linking her son to the bungled heist — unearths the masterpieces and lights a small bathroom stove in which the works by Picasso, Gauguin, Matisse, and Monet go up like tindersticks.


  4. Young Japanese Lose Interest in Sex, Relationships

    Already home to one of the world’s lowest birthrates, Japan is facing a crisis that local media decry as “celibacy syndrome.” It seems that the next generation isn’t interested in making the generation after them — or even in dating. A cocktail of societal and economic pressures has made marriage and long-term relationships less attractive for millions: 90 percent of young women believe that staying single is preferable to marriage, 61 percent of unmarried men aren’t in any relationship, and 45 percent of young women are “not interested in or despised sexual contact.” Are these numbers reflective of a unique Japanese dynamic, or do they predict the fate of other industrialized societies?

    Source: The Guardian

  5. Hungarian Resistance to Far Right Takes the Stage

    With a right-drifting government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a parliament in which 20 percent of the seats are filled by members of the even more anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic Jobbik party, Hungarian moderates and minorities have plenty of reason for concern. So Budapest Festival Orchestra conductor Ivan Fischer has composed a new opera called “The Red Heifer” to shine a spotlight on the country’s growing anti-Semitism by recalling a divisive incident of 19th century scapegoating that divided the country. In a nation where it is not uncommon for Jews to be blamed for the country’s widespread economic problems, Fischer hopes that drawing parallels between today’s politics and the anti-Semitism and hyper-nationalism of two centuries ago will force Orban and other leaders to listen up before they decide to court far-right voters in next spring’s election.

    Source: NYT

  6. Soccer Serves as Culture and Life for World Cup Host

    As the saying goes: you can pick any 11 Brazilians at random and have a world-class soccer team. A bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but the dream of escaping poverty or finding happiness through soccer is as alive as ever there. A pick-up game, or a pelada, is more than just a pastime: it’s a social ritual and an opportunity to imagine what life might have in store. With Brazil set to host next year’s World Cup, the allure of the game will only grow larger as millions of children play in the streets and fields, dreaming of donning the yellow jersey as the next Ronaldo or Marta.

    Source: NYT