The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Angela Merkel Says U.S. Should Phone Her, Not Wiretap Her

    The German government said that it had received intelligence that the U.S. was wiretapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. She personally rang President Obama to explain that given the close relationship between the two countries, wiretapping was neither necessary nor acceptable, characterizing it as a “grave breach of trust.”  The U.S. insisted that it was not tapping Merkel’s communications, nor would it, but made no representation as to past conduct. The accusation comes on the heels of concerns from Brazil, France and Mexico regarding the surveillance of their officials and citizens. American spying will likely dominate the EU summit kicking off in Brussels today.

    Sources: Der Spiegel, NYT, WSJ

  2. Bank of America Found Liable for Selling Faulty Mortgages

    A jury yesterday found Bank of America liable for intentionally selling defective mortgages. Countrywide, the mortgage company purchased by BofA, offloaded the mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, causing them more than $1 billion in losses. Jurors also found Rebecca Mairone, the executive overseeing this work, personally liable. The case marks another big victory for Preet Bharara, the U.S. District Attorney for Manhattan who has become something of a Wall Street giant slayer. Penalties could also reach $1 billion, with class-action lawsuits likely to follow. Countrywide employees called the program “the Hustle,” which is probably now feeling a bit too close for comfort.

    Sources: Bloomberg, WSJ (sub)

  3. Sebelius Enlists ‘Rock Star’ Fixer Amid Calls for Her Resignation

    Embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is under fire for the launch failures of Obamacare, but it doesn’t look like she’s going anywhere soon. Instead, she has appointed Jeffery Zients, a fixer who brought Cash for Clunkers back from the near-dead, to sort out the problems with the website. Zients has a long record of managerial success, and many Hill insiders welcome his appointment. The other big fix appears to be shielding Sebelius from the media after a disastrous performance on The Daily Show with John Stewart. She may be grateful for the practice, though, as she’s due to testify before a Congressional committee next Wednesday about the bungled rollout.

    Sources: NYT, NPR

  4. Drug-Resistant TB Becoming a Global Public Health Crisis

    Rapid molecular tests are helping doctors diagnose drug-resistant tuberculosis faster, but cases are increasing more rapidly than countries have the medication and medical staff to treat them. Four-fifths of the cases are still going unreported. The problem isn’t helped by the fact that patent law in places like South Africa prevents access to generic medications that the public health system could afford. Patented medications are roughly ten times as expensive in South Africa, and the cost makes treatment prohibitive for many. “This disease should be a disease of the past,” says one U.N. official, but absent proper treatment, it is expected that the rate of infection will continue to rise.

    Sources: WSJ (sub), allAfrica

  5. Pakistan Presses U.S. to End Drone Strikes, Pope Suspends ‘Bishop of Bling’

    Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif meets with Obama, urges him to end drone strikes. (BBC).

    Pope Francis suspends ‘Bishop of Bling’ over spending scandal. (Der Spiegel).

    Former Calvin Klein model chosen as new Christian Grey in ‘Fifty Shades.’ (USA Today).

    Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial (again) for bribing senator. (Al Jazeera).

    New evidence suggests Mississippi baby born with HIV has been cured. (USA Today).


  1. Note to Federal Employees: Don’t Tweet the Boss’s Business

    A snarky, not-always-nice Twitter account that occasionally leaked internal information from the Obama administration has been tied to a national security official who worked in the White House, most recently on Iran negotiations. Jofi Joseph was apparently the mind behind @natsecwonk, responsible for bon mots like, “Was Huma Abedin wearing beer goggles the night she met Anthony Wiener?” Needless to say, he’s currently unemployed.

    Sources: Daily Beast, Atlantic Wire

  2. New Yorker Publisher Drops Internship Scheme After Pay Lawsuit

    Condé Nast is discontinuing its internship program following lawsuits filed by two former interns. The company is alleged to have paid interns at The New Yorker and W Magazine less than $1 an hour. The interns involved are expected to request that their case be treated as a class action so that other interns will also benefit. In many industries, internships are the only means of gaining a foothold, forcing many young professionals to start their careers without salaries. But the collapse of the high-profile Condé Nast scheme suggests that the tide may be turning on unpaid internships.  

    Sources: WSJ, The Guardian

  3. Listening to Pop Ballads May Soothe Physical Pain

    You may have listened to Adele’s “Someone Like You” fifty times after getting dumped last year, but bittersweet ballads may be good for more than broken hearts. A major U.K. pharmacy chain reports that 40 percent of people suffering from recurring physical pain had symptoms relieved by listening to music. The key seems to be soft, emotional pop arrangements: “Bridge over Troubled Water” and “Candle in the Wind” both charted highly among the injured. So next time you throw your back out, perhaps you should see if your healthcare provider covers iTunes before heading to the chiropractor.

    Source: The Guardian

  4. Former Poet Laureate Pinsky Talks Shop on New Blog

    What’s there to do after writing fifteen books, becoming poet laureate, teaching at Boston University, and being poetry editor at Slate? For Robert Pinsky, the answer is to sign up for a free account and give expert dissections of famous poems. In the first of his monthly updates, Pinsky provides gems about the time he disparaged Edgar Allan Poe and was reprimanded by Elizabeth Bishop. He uses that story to show, in detail, how Bishop carried Poe into her own work. “Robert Pinsky Poetry Forum” is necessary reading from one of the greats.

    Source: Robert Pinsky Poetry Forum

  5. Boston Routs St. Louis in World Series Opener

    The much-anticipated first game of the World Series between two storied franchises turned out to be more of a dud than a classic. The St. Louis Cardinals were error-prone and ineffective from the start, falling behind 3-0 after the first inning. It only got worse for the Cards when star outfielder Carlos Beltran left the game after injuring his ribs while robbing slugger David Ortiz of a grand slam. The Red Sox prevailed 8-1 behind Jon Lester’s 7 2/3 scoreless innings, and hope that recent World Series history holds: every home team that has won the opener since 1993 has gone on to win the Series.  

    Sources: Hardball Talk, USA Today