The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Philippine Typhoon Aid Logjammed by Security Concerns, Mobs

    Violence and fears of violence are hampering relief efforts in Leyte province, one of the areas most devastated by the deadly typhoon. With nowhere to house volunteers and gas stations concerned about looting unwilling to turn on the pumps, available aid has been paralyzed. Food is scarce and demand is extremely high. A stampede over supplies at a government-run rice warehouse left eight people dead and stretched security forces “helpless.” The situation in Tacloban is so dire that the mayor is advising residents to flee.

    Sources: New York Times, The Guardian, CBC

  2. Both Sides Claim Victory in Long-Simmering Southeast Asia Border Dispute

    A long-simmering, sometimes deadly border dispute over a spit of land around a sacred Hindu temple on the Thai-Cambodia border has been resolved in a Solomonic decision by the International Court of Justice — sort of. Just over half a mile was declared Cambodian, with the court mandating the two sides negotiate the rest of the almost 3-mile-square area. The ruling allows both sides to claim victory, and tens of thousands of local villagers to return home. There’s some descent in Bangkok over treaty negotiations, but so far the frontier remains calm.

    Sources: Al Jazeera, Christian Science Monitor, Bangkok Post

  3. Top Dems Pressure Obama to Let Americans Keep Canceled Health Plans

    President Obama’s recent apology for misinforming Americans that they could all retain their current health care plans hasn’t staunched the chorus calling for the White House to find a solution. Former President Bill Clinton told OZY that “the president should honor the commitment that the federal government made to those people.” White House officials have not ruled out changing the law, but have declined to discuss their options. While there is no obvious legislative fix, critics argue that the complexity of the situation should not deter action.

    Sources: NYT, WSJ, USA Today

  4. China Vows to Loosen the Reins, but Remains Vague on the Details

    China-watchers kept their eyes on moves toward a freer market and a more modernized government at the country’s Third Plenum meetings. During the four-day session, communist officials promised judicial reform that would lead to more impartial verdicts and signaled that the market would play a more “decisive role” in the nation’s future economy. But China isn’t going laissez-faire anytime soon: the Party vowed to maintain strict control over society, including the retention of the nation’s one-child policy. “Such a lot of long, empty talk,” one Weibo user opined.

    Sources: WSJ, TIME, Washington Post, Businessweek

  5. Justice Dept. Approves Merger of US Airways and American Airlines

    US Airways and American Airlines are set to merge into the most patriotic carrier ever after reaching a deal with the U.S. Justice Department that settles antitrust concerns. The two airlines agreed to sell about 15 percent of their combined takeoff and landing slots at a few major U.S. airports. But most analysts feel that this is a small price for the carriers to pay, and that the resulting reduction in competition from the merger will ultimately mean fewer flights and more fare increases across the U.S. 

    Sources: NYT, CNN

  6. Disastrous Rice Subsidies Breed Unrest in Thailand

    In Bangkok, the sticky rice has become a political sticking point. Thailand’s massive rice subsidy program, which places prices 40 percent above market value and costs the public more than $7 billion annually, may change soon. Meant to win over rural farmers, the program makes profitably exporting rice virtually impossible. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had steadfastly refused to admit any problems, but an International Monetary Fund shaming led Thai officials to acknowledge that the IMF’s suggested reduction might be a good idea.

    Sources: Quartz, ABC

  7. Art Auction Sets Record, New York Bests Chicago, Irony Defeats Cameron

    Death toll from Haiyan less than previously believed as relief teams battle to reach storm victims in the Philippines. (BBC).

    Francis Bacon triptych sells for $142.4 million, sets auctioned art record. (NYT).

    New York’s One World Trade Center declared tallest building in the U.S., much to Chicago’s chagrin. (Chicago Tribune).

    British PM David Cameron calls for austerity from a gold and velvet armchair. (The Independent).

    International Space Station attacked by computer ”virus epidemics.” (The Guardian).


  1. Scientists Inch Closer to Making Us All Invisible

    It’s not a Harry Potter-like invisibility cloak, but researchers at the University of Texas have made significant progress towards what they claim is the next best thing. Their new invisibility cloak hides objects over a broad range of frequencies. It’s not magic, but the more obscure dark art of “transformation optics” that uses man-made materials to bend radiation around an object. Complete invisibility to the human eye remains impossible, but cloaking materials can also protect from magnetic fields, heat and even sound, raising the hopes of army commanders and aspiring wizards.

    Sources: The Independent, BBC, ExtremeTech

  2. Occupy Wall Street Buys Up and Erases $15M of Americans’ Debt

    In the past year, 2,693 Americans received a letter explaining that their medical debt had been cancelled. Just like that. Behind it is a simple scheme, run by Occupy Wall Street and their “Strike Debt Group,” that raises money through small contributions and buys private debt for pennies on the dollar. Instead of collecting the debt, the group extinguishes it. The amount is a small drop in the debt ocean, but organizers hope the efforts will educate many about the workings of the mysterious secondary debt market.

    Sources: Reuters, The Guardian

  3. Commemorative Keepsakes of Toronto’s Mayor a Hot Seller

    The local narcotics trade isn’t the only thing that may have benefited financially from besieged Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s unfortunate actions. A few bold city residents recently decided to take a crack at selling bobblehead dolls of the mayor to benefit charity. Starting at 5 a.m. yesterday, more than 1,000 people lined up outside city hall for a chance to get their hands on one, and an embattled Ford even stopped by to sign a few — they can now be had on eBay for around $200. It appears that some bad decisions do indeed cost more than others. 

    Sources: TIME, The Star

  4. The Original Shakespearean Experience Comes to Broadway

    Recent transatlantic transfers of London Shakespeare productions to New York are causing a stir for bringing the Bard back to basics – that is, replicating an authentic Elizabethan theatrical experience on Broadway. After successful runs at London’s Globe Theatre, ”Twelfth Night” and ”Richard III” have transferred to New York with minimal sets and traditional music. Director Tim Carroll aims to avoid some of the more cinematic distractions of contemporary theatre and focus on the aural nature of the plays, making this Broadway run as close to a window onto Shakespeare’s own stage as we can get.

    Source: NPR

  5. Mike Tyson Admits to Being High During Major Fights

    For anyone disappointed that there will be no “Hangover 4,” Mike Tyson has more than a few zany escapades to keep you occupied. In the new tell-all autobiography “Undisputed Truth,” published yesterday, the former heavyweight champion, 47, writes that he was a “full-blown cokehead” who first tried cocaine at age 11. Marijuana and alcohol accompanied his career, including some major fights like his 2002 bout with Lennox Lewis where the addled champ took a pre-fight bite out of Lewis’s leg. The key to not getting caught: he says he eluded drug testers with a fake penis filled with another’s urine.

    Sources: The Telegraph, Bleacher Report