The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Massive International Effort Moves to Save Hard-Hit Philippines

    Filipinos who escaped the typhoon unscathed have started fundraising drives to help their countrymen, as the UN launches an international effort to amass $300 million in aid. One U.S. general describes the need as so great that waiting even a week for aid will be too late for many. Thousands have been storming the airport in the hard-hit city of Tacloban praying for a rare seat on a flight out of the destruction zone, as others take to social media to send word from towns the storm cut off from civilization.

    Sources: CNN, The Guardian, WSJ

  2. EU and U.S. Resume Trade Deal Talks Despite Row Over Spying

    When European leaders learned that the U.S had been eavesdropping on them, many pushed to suspend the Trans-Atlantic trade deal. Yet John Kerry has managed to deflect the European angst and bring Germany, France and Spain back to the bargaining table to hammer out what would be the world’s biggest free trade agreement. The deal could bring $159 billion to the EU’s still frail economy. Talks have resumed although polls show that most Germans still oppose the deal. It seems the EU may be more willing to forgive than to forget.

    Sources: BBC, EuroNews, Der Spiegel

  3. Mounting Evidence Links Bacteria to Mental Health Problems

    After heavy rains in a small Ontario town left the municipal water supply contaminated with cattle excrement carrying the bacteria E. coli and campylobacter, an epidemic of bacterial dysentery ensued. Two years later, those stricken were more likely to have been diagnosed with mental diseases like depression or an anxiety disorder. A new study provides rare human epidemiological evidence that microorganisms can cause illnesses widely believed to be non-communicable. Though the causations may be complex and the timing important, such insights suggest that treating such conditions with antibiotics may not be impossible.

    Source: The New Yorker

  4. Brazil Triggers Furor with New Internet Privacy Law

    Groundbreaking legislation in Brazil would grant President Dilma Rousseff — a primary target of U.S. spying — the power to order companies like Google or Facebook to store users’ personal information at Brazilian data centers. It aims to protect Brazil’s more than 100 million Internet users from being spied on following reports that the NSA had been monitoring communications in the country. If the bill passes, it could impact the way Internet giants operate, not only in South America but all over the world.

    Sources: FT (sub), Reuters

  5. China Shops, Healthcare.Gov Stumbles, Google Glass Gets Props

    The son of Sen. Jim Inhofe died in a plane crash near Tulsa, Okla. (AP).

    Congo and M23 Rebels peace signing delayed over wording of pact. (Al Jazeera).

    Fewer than 50,000 have enrolled on Obamacare website. (TIME).

    Google Glass could save companies $1 billion by making employees’ hands more efficient. (CNN).

    China’s “Singles Day” records $5.75 billion in online sales, two and a half times the total from last year’s Cyber Monday in the U.S. (NYT).

    ”Huh?” The universal word. (NPR).

  6. As Haiyan Death Toll Rises, Debate Over Super Storms Rages

    U.S. and British warships sped to the Philippines to help aid survivors of Typhoon Haiyan as the nation declared a state of calamity. The natural disaster, which has killed more than 1,700, threatens to spark a health crisis. Haiyan was far more powerful than Hurricane Katrina, and has prompted everyone from Scientific American to Fox News to George Clooney to wonder if climate change is to blame. At the U.N. Climate Change talks in Poland, the Philippines envoy, still awaiting word from his own family, threatened to go on a hunger strike if there was no “meaningful outcome.”

    Sources: BBC, CNN, Scientific American, Deutsche Welle, The Independent


  1. Will It Take a Revolution to Save the American Middle Class? 

    A reporter returns to her Midwestern home town to find a city in decline. Lincoln, Ill., might have deep meaning in American history, but today it exemplifies the struggles of the country’s slowly shrinking middle class. Heroin has taken hold, crime is rising, the next generation is leaving and not coming back. One expert says that only desperate measures can save Lincoln, and the rest of middle America. 

    Source: NPR

  2. Pro-Dem Super PACs Significantly Outspend GOP Rivals in U.S. Elections

    Citizens United, Schmitizens United. Though Democratic politicians may love to condemn big spending super PACs, it seems their party is now taking a page from the Republican playbook. So far this year, liberal super PACs have spent about twice as much as conservative ones on federal elections, and liberal money makes up 70 percent of election-related federal spending by so-called “dark money” groups. Billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg have boosted the trend. Unions have also spent millions at the state and federal levels. With the Senate up for grabs in 2014, the spending on both sides will almost certainly continue to rise.

    Source: USA Today

  3. Sweden Closes Several Prisons Due to Sharp Decline In Inmates

    An extraordinary fall in prison admissions has prompted Sweden to shutter four penitentiaries. While many attribute the recent decline — about a 6 percent annual drop — to the country’s strong focus on rehabilitating inmates, another explanation might be lenience in sentencing drug offenses after a ruling of the nation’s supreme court in 2011. The country of 9.5 million now has fewer than 5,000 prisoners, placing it 112th in the world in prisoners per capita. That’s well behind the first-place U.S., whose prisons house more than 2.2 million people — roughly the population of metropolitan Stockholm.

    Sources: The Guardian

  4. USPS to Begin Sunday Deliveries for Amazon

    The U.S. Postal Service will now deliver packages for online retailer Amazon on Sundays in New York City and Los Angeles, a move that helps the USPS staunch its own financial bleeding while cutting into the profitable parcel delivery business of UPS and FedEx. Amazon, meanwhile, brings its customers — especially those with Amazon Prime — that much closer to instant gratification. There are plans to expand Sunday deliveries to Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Phoenix and other U.S. cities in 2014.

    Sources: NYT, Wired, L.A. Times

  5. Lukewarm Reception Greets Lady Gaga’s Newest Album

    It’s not easy being Gaga. Having transformed the pop world through sheer weirdness, Gaga can now seem rather passé, as reflected by the reviews of her new album, ”ARTPOP.” Following her breakthrough years of musical fusion, meat dresses and drag, Gaga has simply not been able to maintain the extraordinary level of forward momentum demonstrated in ”The Fame” and ”The Fame Monster.” Critics have portrayed her latest contribution as a desperate, but ultimately futile, attempt to stay at the vanguard of pop.

    Sources: TIME, Washington Post

  6. Djokovic Slays No. 1 Nadal at ATP World Tour Final

    Last month, Rafael Nadal broke Novak Djokovic’s 101-week run atop tennis’ international rankings. But in the pair’s 39th match-up at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, the Serb smashed to victory in straight sets. These two players have electrified the tour in recent years, facing one another more than any other two players in the modern era, and with breathtaking play. Still, Djokovic may be getting tired of his adversary, mournfully observing yesterday that he sees Rafa more often than he sees his mum.

    Sources: The Guardian, BBC