The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Scary Days for the Philippines as Aid Efforts Struggle

    Broken bones go untreated because a surviving X-ray machine doesn’t have enough electricity to operate. Medicine is running out, as is water and food. Reports describe miles of debris blocking access to hard-hit areas. Meanwhile, the world struggles to help deliver the basics to the hungry, the sick and the homeless. With so many lives upended, it’s clear the tragedy in the Philippines will continue to unfold for months to come, especially as the death toll rises. The links below include information on how to help.

    Sources: CNN, NY Times, The Guardian, NBC, OXFAM live blog

  2. Long Live Camelot: Marking 50 Years Since the JFK Assassination

    Friday marks a half century since the gunshots that changed the country, and there’s no shortage of memorials this week. Dallas itself still struggles to come to terms with the fateful event. Several museums offer a chance to brush up against history, while TV specials abound in the coming days. Powerful Americans share how the fateful motorcade shaped their world view, showing that Kennedy’s influence remains a vital part of U.S. life and politics decades later.

    Sources: NBC, Today, Wall Sreet Journal, Chicago Tribune, Parade

  3. Pint-Sized Superhero Saves “Gotham” in Epic Dream Come True

    After years fighting against cancer, five-year-old Miles Scott just wanted to help fight some crime – as Batkid for a day. The Make-A-Wish Foundation and the people of San Francisco made that dream happen Friday in an elaborately staged crime-fighting event that involved thousands of volunteers. The mini-caped crusader rescued a damsel in distress, foiled a bank robbery, and saved the Giants team mascot, to the delight of cheering street supporters and a captivated crowd on social media. It was the faith-restoring, feel-good story of the week and ”exactly the opposite of the Rob Ford story.”

    Sources: SFGate, LA TimesBBC, CNN

  4. Nobel-Winning Author Dies, Jet Order Makes History, Russian Plane Crashes

    Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing dies at age 94. (BBC, NPR).

    Dozens dead in Russian passenger plane crash. (BBC).

    $76 billion Boeing order makes commercial jetliner history. (WSJ).

    Developing nations furious over climate change pledge failures. (The Guardian).

    Reclusive son of a Nazi-era art dealer speaks out about mass art confiscation. (New York Times, The Guardian).

  5. Shooting of Unarmed Black Teen Girl Draws Comparisons to Florida Case

    An unarmed black teenager was shot by a white man in a state with permissive self-defense laws — but in Michigan earlier this month, not Florida last year. Renisha McBride was in a car accident in Dearborn, Michigan, and seeking help, according to her family, when she pounded on the door of a nearby home on November 2. Tests show that she was intoxicated at the time. The homeowner claims to have felt threatened and shot McBride in the face. The case has attracted national attention from civil rights leaders. Despite ambiguities surrounding the events and Michigan’s stand-your-ground laws, prosecutors charged the homeowner with second-degree murder on Friday.

    Sources: NY TimesThe Week, Christian Science Monitor

  6. Corruption Continues to Plague African States

    In any country in the world, political corruption is a frustrating experience and damages the people’s trust in politics. In Africa, where one in three people has paid a bribe in the past year, the scale of political corruption seriously threatens democracy itself. A comprehensive survey has found that Africans believe their governments have failed to fight corruption and that the situation is getting worse. Corruption affects the very poor the most and primarily benefits the middle and upper classes, exacerbating social and economic inequality. Quite simply, those who grapple with constant, small-scale corruption cannot believe in the efficacy of democracy.

    Source: AllAfrica, LA Times

  7. Dark Times for LGBT Rights around the World

    This Wednesday, Hawaii became the latest state in the U.S to legalize same sex marriage. Yet these are not good times for LGBT rights worldwide. Russia’s recent anti-gay legislation has laden the winter Olympics with controversy, but Africa — where homosexuality is still a crime in 38 countries — takes the shame cake.  On Thursday, five gay women were charged in Senegal as part of a broader homophobic movement that spreads through countries like Malawi, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. In Uganda, a nation strongly influenced by American evangelical activism, 96 percent of citizens say homosexuality is unacceptable. Pride marches shouldn’t shift to victory parades just yet,

    Sources: Al-Jazeera, The GuardianGlobal Post, NPR


  1. Painkiller Addictions, and Deaths, Soar in the U.S. 

    Painkiller abuse has become the most severe drug epidemic in U.S. history. From 1999 to 2010, opioid painkiller sales quadrupled. Related deaths soared: In 2010, there were more than 16,000 deaths associated with opioid drugs such as Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin. But the concerns haven’t stopped the FDA from approving a controversial new painkiller, Zohydro. The surge is driven, says one medical professional, by big pharma and doctors who collaborate with powerful medical corporations, as well as Americans demanding medications that eradicate pain entirely, eschewing assumptions that pain is a natural part of life. 

    Sources: New Yorker, Mother Jones

  2. The $400 Million Industry You’ve Never Heard Of

    The sale of hard-to-access political information to corporate clients seeking to make a buck off insider information about decisions that shape investment opportunities has been around since the 1980s. But as Wall Street has become increasingly reliant on speed and early access to knowledge to make profitable speculative trades, access to information from Washington insiders or gleaned from obscure subcommittee hearings has become even more valuable. Though not technically illegal, the secrecy so essential to the political intelligence industry’s success frustrates transparency advocates and seems tailor-made for eventual scandal. 

    Source: Mother Jones

  3. Sins of the Founding Family Topple One of the World’s Most Famous Religions

    In the 1970s, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church had thousands of members who worshiped him as a deity. He was celebrated inside and outside the church for his bold promotion of traditional family values. Ironically the Church has all but collapsed due to the breakdown of Moon’s own family. He advocated arranged marriage, staged mass nuptials and believed in punishing wives to atone for Eve’s sins. His family was supposed to pioneer a new model, untarnished by original sin. But sins came: addiction, suicide, premarital pregnancy, family feuds, financial collapse and tales of horrible abuse. Like Adam, how the Moons have fallen.

    Source: New Republic

  4. New NBA Rules Mean 400 Percent More Fouls than Last Year

    NBA players are finding themselves in a space jam — new restrictions on players’ movements are resulting in far more fouls this season than ever before. This year, the NBA has cracked down on “delay-of-game” tactics, i.e. holding the ball or redirecting it immediately after making a basket. While a long-standing rule of basketball, most referees have let offences slide until officials stepped up their game this year. Last season, whistles blew for only two delay-of-game fouls. At the moment, the score is 83 and counting.

    Source: NY Times


  5. The Power of Telling Your Own Story

    The Internet wept at Ariel Levy’s shattering New Yorker essay on motherhood and loss, published online and in the print magazine this week. Levy suffered a rare disorder in pregnancy and lost her baby, alone in a hotel in Ulaanbaatar. Her decision to write about the experience raises questions about the power of the first-person narrative, particularly in regard to traditionally taboo topics, such as pregnancy failure. Writing a first-person account, as kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart did earlier this year, may shield victims of tragedy from the sensationalism of many media outlets and allow us to hear the version of events that really matters.

    Source: New Yorker, Slate