The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Toronto Mayor Says: ”Yes, I Have Smoked Crack Cocaine”

    Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford has confessed to crack use, possibly during a “drunken stupor” about a year ago. This surprise confession made to a scrum of reporters outside his office comes after months of speculation following reports of a video that reportedly showed the mayor smoking drugs. In a press conference, the mayor apologized but did not resign, saying, ”I was elected to do a job and that’s exactly what I’m going to continue doing.” These latest developments will no doubt provide more fodder to the late night talk shows that have been skewering the embattled mayor. 

    Sources: The Globe and Mail, CBCToronto Star

  2. In Bangladesh, 152 Soldiers to Die, More than 150 Get Life in Prison

    One of the largest trials in Bangladesh’s history ended Tuesday with the sentencing at a court in Dhaka of more than 300 participants for their role in a 2009 uprising. Some 800 were allegedly involved in a mutiny over pay and other issues, and 74 died. Human rights groups slammed the court, saying prosecuting so many at once wasn’t justice (at least 50 died in custody) in a case that pitted the military against the government. Appeals are expected.

    Sources: CNN, BBC

  3. Science, Politics and Prayers for India’s Mission to Mars

    India has successfully launched the Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM, expected to reach the red planet’s orbit in 300 days. It will search for methane in the Martian atmosphere. But it’s not just a scientific mission. MOM’s launch is also a statement in Asia’s space race among India, China, Japan and South Korea. The India space program chair offered up prayers with a miniature replica of MOM. “We know we have done a great job,” said one scientist, “but let’s not complain if there is a little divine intervention.”

    Sources: BBC, The Times of India, CNN

  4. U.S. Voters Heading to the Polls in Key State Elections

    Off-year election days tend to be quiet with low turnout, but a few big votes have national import as U.S. voters (or at least some of them) head to the polls. Colorado wants $1 billion for education in what has been called one of the most “sweeping education overhauls in the country.” Disparate issues from the NRA to the Clintons’ return to the stump have turned Virginia’s governor’s race into a must-watch. And Republican Chris Christie is considered such a shoe-in for re-election as New Jersey’s governor, and Democrat Bill de Blasio for succeeding Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York City, that pundits are already looking at the big questions about what happens when, not if, those two are elected. 

    Sources: AP, CNN, NYT, Politico

  5. Johnson & Johnson Agrees to $2 Billion Fraud Settlement

    In a massive settlement, health care juggernaut Johnson & Johnson will pay $2.2 billion for marketing drugs for unapproved uses and providing doctors and pharmacies with kickbacks. Though doctors can prescribe medications for off-label uses, companies cannot promote drugs for use in ways not approved by the FDA. Whistleblowers will receive a record $168 million in the deal, with $28 million going to one former J&J employee who was crucial to the case. Maybe J&J needs a Band-Aid for its wallet. 

    Sources: CBS, CNN

  6. Bangladesh Proposes 77 Percent Wage Hike for Garment Workers

    Jobs may be getting incrementally less horrible for Bangladesh’s working class. As part of reforms in the wake of the April Savar garment factory collapse that killed 1,129, Bangladesh officials have proposed raising the minimum wage for garment workers from $38 to $66 a month. The increase has received significant pushback from factory owners and manufacturers, with one representative saying the government shouldn’t make a decision “out of emotion or political benefit.” Pay would still be just 24 percent of a living wage.

    Sources: ThinkProgress, Al Jazeera


  1. Christmas Comes (Very, Very) Early in Venezuela This Year

    Impatient for Navidad? Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has declared the holiday almost two months early. Critics claim the move aims to boost votes for the Dec. 8 election – workers will receive two-thirds of their bonuses and pensions this weekend. This comes on the heels of the nation using bonds to buy holiday imports, from toys to booze to wrapping paper, and establishing a cabinet-level Deputy Minister of Supreme Happiness. But in a nation with major shortages and soaring inflation, it’s doubtful any one (mortal) man can truly save Christmas. 

    Source: Fox News, Bloomberg

  2. The Tale of the Vengeful Wife and the International Chemical Weapons Convention

    Pennsylvania microbiologist Carol Bond was thrilled to learn that her best friend was pregnant — until she found out her husband was the father. Her revenge? Spreading highly toxic chemicals on her friend’s door and mailbox handles. She was arrested, then charged under the same Chemical Weapons Convention the U.S. government levied against Syria. The U.S. Supreme Court must now ask: can Congress use the Chemical Weapons Convention to punish domestic criminal conduct? States’ rights may hang in the balance.

    Sources: CS Monitor, SCOTUSblog

  3. New Book Depicts Bezos as a Mercenary with a Mission

    Jeff Bezos wants to build a space station and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, says a new book about the Amazon founder. “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone, which Bezos’s wife MacKenzie gave just one star in her Amazon review, suggests that Bezos stands out from other tech entrepreneurs by being coldly profit-driven. While many in Silicon Valley are missionaries for the Web’s social potential, Bezos undervalues staff, undercuts competitors and pressures partners. But he may be softening. Bezos recently asked his staff whether Amazon could ever be loved.

    Source: USA Today

  4. Are the World’s Poor Funding a Billionaire’s Gay Rights Campaign?

    The Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest gay rights organization, has $3 million to promote gay marriage and other initiatives in the developing world. But the money is largely provided by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, the “inventor” of the vulture funds that buy up developing countries’ debt and extract millions in interest and concessions, often at the expense of the poorest citizens. Many are now accusing the capitalist of prioritizing LGBT rights over basic human needs, and giving to the world’s poor with one hand while taking away with the other — with interest.

    Sources: Paper Bird, NYT

  5. Old Paintings Go ‘Sonic’ with Innovative Twist on Viewing Art

    Polish sound designer and composer Zbigniew Wolny has developed audio technology to accompany visual art in a medium he calls “sonic paintings.” Wolny’s concept, which involves wearing headphones that play the imagined sounds of a painting’s environment, recently won an EU-sponsored ideas competition for merging technology with culture. Wolny’s exhibits in the Netherlands have brought 17th and 18th century paintings to life with historically accurate soundscapes. So far he has avoided using the technology with modern art, thus begging the question: what might a Jackson Pollock sound like?

    Source: Wired

  6. NFL Locker Room Bullying Turns Ugly in Miami

    Veterans have always given rookies a hard time in the NFL, but bullying and harassment are another matter. Miami’s 6’5”, 312-pound left tackle, Jonathan Martin, an All-American at Stanford tasked with protecting No. 1 pick Andrew Luck’s blind side, left the Dolphins last week after allegedly suffering a number of indignities from lineman Richie Incognito. Incognito reportedly sent Martin threatening and racist text messages. The Dolphins indefinitely suspended Incognito, whose football resume includes fines for abusing officials and head-butting opponents, while the team and the league investigate.

    Sources: NYT, Bleacher Report