The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. The U.S. Beats Expectations While Eurozone Interest Rates Surprise

    The American economy performed better than anticipated, according to third quarter numbers released this morning. The annual growth rate hit 2.8 percent, not the 2 percent or less that economists had expected. Across the pond, the European Central Bank cut interest rates to a record low 0.25 percent, triggering a market rally and a euro fall. Recent data show the European economy still struggling, but euro-watchers hadn’t expected a move until at least December. There is some doubt, though, that worried banks will pass the lower rates to customers.

    Sources: New York Times, Washington Post

  2. New Food Ruling Could Blast Away Trans Fat for Good

    A new measure proposed Thursday would all but eliminate trans fats from the nation’s food supply. This takes things one big step further than the current regulations, which started in 2006 and require food labels to show details on the artery-clogging substance. Trans fats still remain in items like microwave popcorn, desserts and frozen pizza. The agency’s goal, after 60 days of public input, is to declare trans fat sources no longer safe — a definite “challenge,” says the commissioner. But it’s also difficult to ignore that the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year. That’s food for thought.

    Source: New York Times

  3. Twitter shares soar 92 percent in frenzied NYSE debut

    The Twitter roadshow worked. The initial public offering price, set on Wednesday at $26, opened at 73 percent above — and reached as high as 92 percent — in early trading, making it the “biggest in a series of huge opening day ‘pops’ for IPOs.” The IPO should raise as much as $2.1 billion for the social giant, which, despite its growing revenue stream, faces challenges in recruiting new users to what remains a somewhat confusing and proudly geeky social networking site. 

    Sources: ReutersNew York Times, USA Today

  4. Iranian Nuke Talks Step Up as Israel-Palestine Talks Stall

    The Obama administration’s diplomacy scorecard is mixed this week. Talks between Iran and the P5+1 group restart today, and senior White House officials would consider easing some sanctions in return for Iran’s freezing its nuclear program, a move designed to create a window for negotiations. The idea doesn’t thrill Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who accuses Palestinian negotiators of creating obstacles in their talks. The Palestinians note that the 1,800 newly confirmed Jewish homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are themselves rather significant obstacles. Secretary of State John Kerry has had his hands full this week shuttling between the two sides.

    Sources: Washington Post, The Guardian, New York Times, Al Jazeera

  5. Colombian Rebels Agree to Exchange Guns for Political Participation

    After 50 years, 220,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of people displaced, Colombia’s guerrilla movement FARC has agreed to turn to politics. Peace talks between the government and the rebel group have been going on for a year in Havana, and yesterday’s announcement signals the resolution of one of their thorniest issues. The announcement could also give a much-needed political boost to Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, whose approval ratings have suffered from the slow pace of the talks. He must soon announce if he will seek re-election.

    Sources: The Guardian, BBC

  6. Teen Angolan Activist Begins Prison Hunger Strike

    Could the next Malala hail from Angola? A teenage dissident in the southern African nation is on hunger strike, having been arrested for insulting the country’s leader. Nito Alvez printed T-shirts calling President Jose Eduardo dos Santos a “disgusting dictator,” and he has been imprisoned without trial for two months, including stints in solitary confinement. Alvez, 17, is a member of a youth movement that has repeatedly called for democratic reforms and the resignation of Dos Santos, who has ruled Angola for 34 years. With groups like Amnesty International calling for Alvez’s release, Dos Santos is learning that imprisoning a teenager is attracting far more critical attention than 20 homemade shirts ever could.

    Sources: Al Jazeera, Reuters


  1. U.S. Supreme Court Takes On Prayer at Public Meetings

    The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a tricky topic yesterday: the place of public prayer in local government. The plaintiffs argue that the mostly Christian prayers before town council meetings in Greece, N.Y., forced nonadherents to participate against their will or risk irritating council members from whom they hoped to receive favorable action. No clear consensus emerged from the justices’ questioning in a case that could affect not just prayer but any religious expression (including holiday decorations) in public settings.

    Sources: NPR, Al Jazeera, Washington Post

  2. The Video Rental Giant of Yore Finally Folds

    Video rentals are dead; long live the video rental. Almost 30 years after launching its first rental service, Blockbuster has announced that it will close its last 300 stores. Anyone who’s ever had to fend off collection agencies for failing to return New Jack City can take comfort in the fact that Blockbuster paid dearly for its tardy entry into the mail order and digital streaming services pioneered by Netflix. The worst part? Netflix, currently worth about $20 billion, was offered to Blockbuster 13 years ago for $50 million. Wow, what a difference!

    Sources: Wall Street Journal, New York Times

  3. Belgian Doctors Discover Previously Unknown Knee Ligament

    In 1879, a French surgeon postulated that a yet-undocumented ligament existed in the human knee. More than 130 years later, two Belgian physicians finally found it: the anterolateral ligament, or the ALL. Functioning as a stabilizer, ALL failures are actually a large reason for ACL tears in pivot-heavy sports like soccer, basketball and football. That’s big news, but it will still be years before surgeons figure out how ALL repairs can shorten recovery times. So if Derrick Rose goes down in a heap on the basketball court again before 2025, don’t expect a quick fix.

    Sources: Science Daily, Time

  4. Anglo-German Hybrid Words Causing a Sh*tschturm in Deutschland

    Hold on to your basecap. Denglisch — the borrowing and corruption of English words in German — are fighting words with linguistically minded Germans. Duden, Germany’s version of The Oxford English Dictionary, is under fire from the language society Verein Deutsche Sprache for giving words like flashmob and handy (cell phone) official status. To help stem the tide, national railway operator Deutsche Bahn distributed a list of 2,000 English words, from business class to nonstop, that employees were banned from using. Somehow, one of the world’s less, shall we say, melodious languages now sounds even worse.

    Sources: The Week, The Economist

  5. Brittney Griner Rattles Rims and Gender Norms

    She’s 6 feet 8 inches tall, uncompromisingly queer, a budding fashion icon and one of the brightest young basketball stars in the world. Brittney Griner is also a rare commodity in the sporting world — a combination of elite talent, media savvy, beauty and style, not to mention a gay-rights icon. Those qualities may soon make Griner, a member of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, the top woman in American sports. Much still stands in her way: Internet trolls, gender norms and the possibility of the International Olympic Committee testing her femininity all loom large. But, as Elle magazine notes, Griner shows us that “there are a whole lot of ways to be a woman.”

    Source: Elle