The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Sebelius Defends Health Site Before Bipartisan Pressure

    On the hot seat before the Senate, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said contractors needed to fix “a couple of hundred” problems on the site. Senators from both sides urged extending open enrollment or delaying financial penalties for those who don’t have insurance due to the troubled site, but Sebelius rejected that idea. Meanwhile, the chief information officer whose office oversaw the site’s creation has retired. And Congress is still waiting for the official numbers on exactly how many people have signed up via the new marketplace. 

    Sources: WSJ, NYT

  2. Christie and de Blasio Victorious in N.J. and N.Y., McAuliffe Squeaks By in Virginia

    Bill de Blasio, New York City’s public advocate, will be the first Democratic mayor in 20 years thanks to a 49-point landslide. N.J. Gov. Chris Christie easily won re-election, further solidifying himself as a 2016 presidential contender. Democratic Party insider Terry McAuliffe narrowly beat Republican Ken Cuccinelli to become Virginia’s next governor in a state that will be a key battleground in the 2014 and 2016 elections. And Colorado voters voted down a $950 million tax increase to overhaul state’s education system.

    Sources: NYT, CBS News, Washington Post, Denver Post

  3. Researchers Close in on a Cure for Hepatitis C

    A promising new drug may finally mean a cure for Hepatitis C. The findings, published in The Lancet, involve the experimental drugs sofosbuvir and ledipasvir. In a 12-week trial, 97 percent of patients had the virus stop replicating. Hepatitis C, which primarily affects the liver, is often transmitted via needles through intravenous drug use, blood transfusions or inadequate sterilization. It’s the leading cause of liver transplants. It affects some 150 million people worldwide, three to five times more than H.I.V. There is currently no vaccine or effective treatment.

    Sources: The Guardian, NYT

  4. Tesla Beats Expectations But Investors Still Sell

    After increasing by about 400 percent in 2013, perhaps Tesla’s stock had nowhere to go but down. Despite revenues more than $50 million higher than expected, and 10 percent more cars sold than the electric-car maker estimated last quarter, reports of $38 million in third quarter losses sent investors to the exits and the company’s stock down about 10 percent to $157 a share. As OZY asks, with production up and projections that more vehicles will be sold in the U.S., Europe and its new dealership in China, can Tesla outrace the expected bubble and prove the naysayers wrong?

    Sources: Forbes, USA Today

  5. Computer-Generated Avatar Nets Sexual Predators

    A Dutch non-profit has identified at least 1,000 people who attempted to purchase web-cam sex acts from a 10-year-old Filipino girl. The girl, named Sweetie, was actually a computer-generated avatar, who is said to have been approached by up to 200,000 Internet users. The project raised awareness of the growing problem of web-cam child sex, and the identities of those involved have been forwarded to Interpol. Still, European authorities have expressed skepticism, arguing that criminal investigations, particularly those involving invasive surveillance, should be exclusively controlled by law-enforcement officials.

    Sources: NPR, BBC

  6. Surveillance Roundup: China’s Latest Smog Victims, Brazil’s Not-So-Clean Hands

    Millions of security cameras installed throughout major Chinese cities are suffering from poor vision and jeopardizing security operations due to to bad air, prompting renewed government action to clear the skies. After sharply criticizing U.S. spying efforts, Brazil has admitted that its top intelligence agency regularly spied on officials from the U.S., Iran and Russia — not quite the NSA’s global surveillance operation, but not particularly diplomatic either. Finally, it looks like a “no-spy pact” between Germany and the U.S. is unlikely to occur any time soon.

    Sources: Quartz, SCMP, NPR, NYT, Reuters


  1. Yasser Arafat Was Most Likely Poisoned, Tests Show

    Scientists found high levels of radioactive polonium in the remains of the late Palestinian leader, leading them to say with 83 percent confidence that he was poisoned, according to a report obtained by Al Jezeera. Polonium is rare and lethal — a dose smaller than a snowflake could kill a man. Arafat fell ill on Oct. 12, 2004, and died a month later. Of course, this now begs the question: Who did it?

    Source: Al Jazeera, The Guardian

  2. Wellbeing Report Charts Effects of Austerity, Economic Crisis

    Across the developed world, the 2008 crash has caused a decline in wellbeing, particularly in the Eurozone. The OECD has released its second “How’s Life” study, which assesses the wellbeing of its 34 member states. The study found that increased financial stress and unemployment have contributed to the slide, along with a loss of trust in institutions and in democracy.  Since 2008, life satisfaction scores have dropped by more than 20 percent in Greece, 12 percent in Spain, and 10 percent in Italy. Wellbeing is increasingly valued as an indicator of the state of nations. But, as OZY reports, the relevance of these studies is far from certain.

    Sources: WSJ, Deutsche Welle

  3. Masked Protests Mark Guy Fawkes Night

    Traditionally, Guy Fawkes Night celebrates a Catholic dissident’s failed plot to blow up the House of Lords in London. But Tuesday’s global protests reflect just how much the festival has changed. The hacktivist collective Anonymous announced a “million mask march,” and protesters wearing the famous Guy Fawkes mask gathered in cities from Cape Town to Bangalore to London, where protesters opposed the U.K. government’s austerity program. The exact purpose of the protests remains unclear, beyond a general spirit of anti-authoritarianism. Ironically, the clearest beneficiary of the evening might be the media giant Time Warner, which owns the rights to the Guy Fawkes image. 

    Sources: International Business Times, Business Insider

  4. Vatican Launches Worldwide Poll of Clergy

    Religious institutions like the Catholic Church ordinarily issue edicts, not questionnaires, but yet again, Pope Francis is proving he’s not a typical pontiff. A new Vatican survey seeks clergy input about their changing flocks and approach to family and pastoral issues, including previously-taboo topics like gay marriage, divorce and single-parent families. Is this part of Francis’s effort to decentralize power and reform doctrine, or an admission that the Church is behind the times? And could the exercise subject the pontiff to criticism that, like other world leaders, he is governing with one eye on the polls?

    Sources: The Telegraph, The Guardian,

  5. M.I.A.’s Latest Album Underscores Her Ironic Stance on Cultural Heritage

    The London-born musician of Sri Lankan descent has taken a lot of heat for her cross-cultural style. Her willingness to borrow from non-Western influences makes for great listening but sometimes uneasy politics. Vice’s Aeysha Siddiqi argues that M.I.A.’s polyglot style could be read as an ironic critique of demands for the rest of the world to fit Western categories and standards. But for some reviewers, there is one standard that M.I.A.’s latest album, Matangi, released Tuesday, just does not live up to: that of her previous genre-shattering work.

    Source: Vice

  6. Freak Incidents Take Down Star Athletes…and Their Fans

    First Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. Then an enthusiastic fan bowled over Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte so badly he tore his MCL (she was unscathed, how does that work?). But the winner, and yet another casualty of Monday’s Bears-Packers game, was a Wisconsin woman who lost a high-stakes bet on the game and was tasered by her Bears-fan husband outside a bar. Her spouse was the real loser — he was arrested and faces a possible $10,000 fine and up to six years in prison.

    Sources: USA Today, ESPN, SI, Beaver Dam Daily Citizen