The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Storm-Battered Britain Faces Outages and Fatalities

    At least four people died due to falling trees when a storm packing winds close to 100 mph swept through the U.K. on Monday. Scores of trees across rail lines lead to “worse than expected” train travel damage. Some 600,000 homes lost power, and flights were canceled at Heathrow. The concern now turns toward potential flooding from swollen waterways, and to Denmark and Sweden, the storm’s next targets. 

    Sources: BBC, CNN, Reuters

  2. NSA Says Obama Not Briefed on Merkel Spying Until This Summer

    In an unusual move, the NSA directly addressed reports that President Obama had signed off on surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone in 2010. Agency officials say the White House didn’t learn about surveillance of Merkel or some 34 other world leaders until it began an internal review of NSA monitoring this summer, after which Obama immediately stopped part of the program. As German intelligence officials visit Washington this week, has Europe now officially fallen out of love with the American president they embraced so enthusiastically five years ago?

    Sources: WSJ (sub), BBC, The Guardian, NYT


  3. Report Underscores Economic Fragility of American Cities

    Even as recovery creeps into other sectors of the economy, many U.S. cities remain in a near-crisis state, a new Wall Street Journal report found. While city fiscal managers hasten to differentiate themselves from Detroit in an effort to calm investors, recent figures paint a stark picture: local governments are threatened by “long-term fundamental credit challenges” (read: rising pension costs), drastic cuts in state aid, and falling revenue. In delaying their own day of reckoning by not paying into their pension funds, other American cities could be setting themselves up for Detroit-esque collapses in years to come.

    Source: WSJ (sub), HuffPo

  4. News of the World Phone Hacking Trial Starts Today

    Some of Britain’s top news executives and politicos, including Rebekah Brooks and Andrew Coulson, go to trial today over the phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. The eight defendants have pleaded not guilty to an array of charges, including conspiracy to hack phones, pervert the course of justice and commit misconduct in public office. The trial is scheduled to last until Easter and will involve more than 100 witnesses and 25 barristers, and is expected to reveal some juicy details about relations between media and political elites.

    Sources: NPR, The Guardian

  5. Coordinated Attacks Kill Scores in Iraq as Death Toll Mounts

    A series of car bombs and suicide attacks left at least 66 people in Baghdad and Mosul dead on Sunday, bringing October’s death toll to 555. Since April, when Al Qaeda affiliate Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began a more concerted effort to undermine the Iraqi state alongside its efforts to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, monthly death tolls have been reaching levels unseen since 2008. ISIS is blurring the line between the two conflicts, and its operations, as well as those of other Iraqi sectarian militias, have systematically undone gains made by American and Iraqi forces.

    Sources: Washington Post, Al Jazeera


  1. The Pentagon’s Mysterious Yoda, This Man Is

    Andrew W. Marshall is not a household name. But his futurist office, tasked with predicting strategies the military will need, is legendary among the Armed Forces. Marshall’s Office of Net Assessment has successfully predicted the Soviet collapse, China’s rise, and robotic warfare. Marshall is 92, and some wonder if he has become too entrenched, and too aged, for the job. In these budget-cutting days, his office could be on the chopping block. 

    Source: The Washington Post

  2. Secular Versus Conservative Muslims Battle Over the Bars of Indonesia

    A conservative party in the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, has proposed banning alcohol, a move that has sent shudders through the tourism industry, especially on the majority-Hindu vacation island of Bali. After public uproar, the party backed off and said it will seek regulations on alcohol sales instead, although no bill has been introduced yet. The issue underscores lingering national tensions and has rekindled fears that, even in a nation long defined by moderate Islam and secular governance, the alcohol ban could remain on the table as legislators attempt to court conservative Islamic voters in the run-up to next year’s election.

    Source: NYT

  3. Hint: It’s Not Your Workload

    A major Danish study has revealed that a heavy workload is not the main cause of occupational stress and depression: it’s a horrible boss. The survey of 4,500 professional workers illustrated that work piling up on one’s desk has little to no effect on personal well-being, whereas the sense of being treated unfairly by a superior can have detrimental effects. The study’s recommendations are clear: a management style that fosters a sense of justice among employees is the best way to ensure that deadlines are met. Bullying is — shockingly — ineffective.

    Source: Science Nordic

  4. ’Reverse Microwave’ Chills Drinks in 45 Seconds

    In the future, Americans who complain about the warm beer in Europe will have to wait just a minute… literally. The U.K.-based researchers at V-Tex have developed a “reverse microwave” that chills drinks in 45 seconds. The unit works by creating a cooling vortex, rotating objects in water around twin axes in order to produce a cooling effect that doesn’t alter the state of drinks. And it uses 80 percent less energy than similar technology. Still wanted: a device for making American light beer more attractive to European palates.

    Source: The Telegraph

  5. Rock Legend Lou Reed Dies at 71

    Velvet Underground singer, songwriter, and guitarist Lou Reed has died from liver disease at home on Long Island. The man who reinvented himself and his music inspired successive generations of musicians and never failed to invite controversy or to walk on the wild side. He will be remembered by the millions of fans he reminded to appreciate every perfect day. Reed’s ethereal, ironic, and often dark style separated him as an electric bard and as one of the twentieth century’s greatest rock and roll revolutionaries.

    Source: NYT

  6. Boston Evens World Series as Another First Ends Game 4

    After the St. Louis Cardinals prevailed in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night thanks to the Series’ first ever “walk-off obstruction call,” the Red Sox walked off with a victory last night thanks to another postseason first. Boston completed a 4-2 victory when St. Louis pinch-runner Kolten Wong was picked off first base in the ninth inning by closer Koji Uehara, leaving the tying run standing at home plate. Veteran slugger Jonny Gomes’s three-run homer put Boston up for good in the sixth inning, and the Red Sox victory evens the Series at two games apiece as aces Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright square off in Game 5 in St. Louis tonight.

    Sources: USA Today, Washington Post