The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. A Female Bomber from the Caucasus Heightens Sochi Concerns

    A suicide bombing on a public bus that killed six and injured many more in Russia earlier this week has been tied to a Dagestan woman. The dashboard cams ubiquitous among Russian highway drivers caught the explosion. As tragic as the bombing may be, for terrorism experts and Russia watchers, the incident heightens terror concerns in advance of the Winter Olympics.

    Sources: CBS, CSM


  2. Super Smog Brings Northeast China to Crippling Standstill

    Schools, roads, and even the airport closed on Monday as “super smog” made normal day-to-day life impossible in the city of Harbin, China. The pollution made day look like night and forced the 11 million people in the surrounding area to wear facemasks if they dared to brave the streets. An air pollutant rating above 300 is considered hazardous, and Harbin’s air topped 1,000 on Monday, 50 times the WHO’s recommended maximum. The smog triggered widespread anger, as expensive air purifiers and organic, safe food are almost exclusively enjoyed by government elites in the area.

    Sources: Al Jazeera, SCMP

  3. Belated Jobs Report Offers Last Pre-Shutdown Glimpse of U.S. Economy

    Today’s September jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor comes two and a half weeks late thanks to the government shutdown. The economy added about 148,000 jobs in September, less than expected. Meanwhile the unemployment rate dropped a tiny bit, down from 7.3 to 7.2 percent. Almost as importantly, the numbers represent the last “clean” jobs report this year as economists expect the next few reports to be compromised by the effects of the shutdown.

    Sources: NYT, WSJ

  4. Middle Schooler Used Parents’ Handgun to Kill Teacher, Himself

    The student who wounded two 12-year-old classmates before killing a teacher and himself on Monday used his parents’ semi-automatic handgun, authorities said. No motive for the shooting is known, though one classmate indicated to CNN that she had seen the suspect being bullied on previous occasions. Michael Landsberry, a 45-year-old math teacher at Sparks Middle School, died trying to talk the suspect out of shooting anyone else. “He could have ducked and hid, but he didn’t. That’s not who he is,” said Landsberry’s sister-in-law, of the former Marine. “He was trained to help.”

    Sources: CNN, Reno Gazette-Journal

  5. Iran Mass Producing Copies of Captured U.S. Spy Craft

    A new report from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch questions the legality of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and it appears that America will be getting more company in the skies above the region. In a strange act of gift giving, Iran reportedly presented Russia with a reverse-engineered copy of an American spy drone. The ScanEagle drone “is a symbol of the technical capabilities of the Islamic Iran,” said the air defense commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. But questions remain about Iran’s aerial abilities as the republic still relies on an increasingly lukewarm Kremlin for supplies. No word yet on whether Russia plans to regift the aircraft to Syria in time for the holidays.

    Source: The Guardian

  6. Verizon to the Rescue, Netflix Passes HBO, Teach for America’s New Clout

    Verizon brought in to help fix (USA Today).

    Netflix now has more subscribers than HBO. (Quartz).

    Renamo rebels declare end of peace deal with government in Mozambique. (Mail & Guardian).

    Why Africa should be a refuge for low-risk investors in the global economy. (Businessweek).

    Teach for America is becoming a major political player, while the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention is preaching no more politics (Politico, WSJ sub).


  1. Orthodox Wives Angle for a Seat at the Community Table

    Israelis go to the polls for local leaders today, and one tiny town could have a big impact on national societal norms. Five ultra-Orthodox Jewish women are seeking local council seats. They want a library and a swimming pool — not exactly earth-shattering. But the mere fact that women in such a strict, male-dominated society are trying to have their say is a potential game changer.

    Source: NPR

  2. Gay Marriages Move Forward in New Jersey as Christie Goes Quiet

    Gov. Chris Christie raised the white flag at the stroke of midnight, stopping his fight against New Jersey’s high court ruling allowing same-sex marriage. And so the Garden State became the 14th in the U.S. to recognize such unions. Gay and lesbian couples around the state exchanged vows immediately. Christie’s office stated that while he was personally opposed to same-sex marriage, a continued fight would be a “fool’s errand.”  The governor’s decision to end the fight but keep his party vows should also help him preserve not only his own principles and standing among moderates, but also his chances of winning the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

    Source: NYT

  3. Researchers Inch Closer to a Cure for Baldness

    A new approach to curing baldness holds promise for the follically-challenged, but don’t toss the Rogaine or the toupee yet. The new method focuses on growing new follicles. People are born with a follicle pattern that doesn’t change through adulthood. So when follicles stop growing hair, baldness results. At the moment, those afflicted can take drugs to keep the hair they have, or have transplants. The new approach has tricked adult skin into providing new follicles — and thus new hair growth. The downside? There isn’t a lot of the new hair, and it’s funny looking.

    Sources: NYT, NPR

  4. Artwork Changes Before (and Because of) Your Eyes

    Evan Boehm’s clever new artwork of a horse takes shape the more people look at it. The piece has sensors to indicate how many people are viewing it, and as the number increases, the horse gets layer upon layer of complexity added.  As people leave, the piece reverts to its barest form. Boehm’s fascinating work uses advanced technologies to question interactions between art and viewers — an approach in vogue at the moment, given major exhibits like James Turrell’s works at the Guggenheim and LACMA, and MoMA’s “Rain Room.”

    Source: Wired

  5. Drones to Deliver Books in Australia

    Not all drones are weapons of war or surveillance. The world’s first unmanned flying library will soon launch in Australia. A collaboration between a book rental company, Zookal, and a Sydney tech startup, Flirtey, will allow students to order books online and have them delivered by drone in less than five minutes. The drones can be tracked on Google maps and, once they arrive, hover at a height of three meters and lower books on a cord. Civilian drone usage is surging worldwide in a range of sectors, including emergency services, news reporting and fast food delivery. 

    Sources: CSM, The Age

  6. Will Anti-Doping Authorities Pursue Any Riders Besides Armstrong?

    The incrimination of Lance Armstrong and the condemnation of his bullying and intimidation of other cyclists a year ago was a big step for the world of competitive cycling. Yet none of those identified as being involved in the Armstrong case have been officially investigated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and riders who speak out on drugs in cycling are frequently criticized and stigmatized for “ratting out” their colleagues. Meanwhile, those known to be involved in doping continue to profit from their earlier transgressions, leaving many cycling fans disillusioned with the sport. The wheels may be turning, but so far cycling is not changing gears in its bid to regain credibility.

    Source: NYT