The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Verdict Deserves a Closer Look

    The city and the nation are still simmering. But cooler heads are asking: Did the grand jury do the right thing? Liberal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz tells OZY that he believes it’s “crystal clear” that the first shots fired by Darren Wilson were justified. But things got very complicated when Wilson continued shooting at Michael Brown as he allegedly tried to flee. In the end, Dershowitz said, the jurors “probably arrived at the right decision” because it’s “very, very” likely that Wilson would have been acquitted at trial.


  2. Economic Growth Signals a Bright New Year

    Third-quarter numbers out Tuesday are full of holiday cheer. The U.S. economy grew at an unexpectedly high 3.9 percent annual rate. Following a 4.6 percent bump in the spring, this gives the U.S. its biggest consecutive quarters of growth since 2003. Another healthy sign: Consumers are borrowing again. Weakness overseas could still dampen the party, but the sweet song of lower oil prices and improved employment should have Americans dancing to the bank.

    NYT, USA Today, WSJ (sub)


  3. Darren Wilson Faces Uncertain Future

    He walked on Monday night, but the cop at the center of America’s racial crisis isn’t free just yet. Wilson could still face civil suits brought by Obama’s Justice Department or Michael Brown’s parents. Some believe he will never again wear a badge. The grand jury may have cleared the officer of criminal wrongdoing, but the jurors didn’t settle the wrenching question of whether he was justified in shooting the unarmed black teen. Notes one criminal defense attorney: “They are not making a decision on officer Wilson’s guilt.”

    USA Today, OZY, CNN

  4. New FDA Regulations Make Calories Count

    Want a side of guilt with those fries? Federal rules due out today require calorie counts on the menus of chain movie theaters, convenience stores and supermarkets serving prepared food, provided they have 20 or more locations. Industry leaders say compliance will cost north of $1 billion, and poses challenges for places with a lot of variables — consider all the possible pizza toppings. In NYC, which has similar rules, Starbucks saw only a 6-percent drop in customers’ calorie consumption. But maybe every little bit helps?

    NPR, WSJ (sub)

  5. Search for Lasting Solutions Begins

    The city of Ferguson, Missouri, has become a touchstone for issues plaguing the American judicial system. While some say the grand jury did its duty, others point to horrendous deficits in the U.S. courts. Many citizens were not surprised by the verdict. We may always be a country divided unless major reforms are implemented. One burgeoning area to explore is intelligent cop technology, which promises to make policing safer and more transparent — imagine if Officer Darren Wilson had been carrying a Taser or wearing a camera. For now, the big questions and the pain remain.

    OZY, New Yorker, Boston Globe, USA Today

  6. More Time Granted in Iran Nuclear Talks

    Facing stalled talks, negotiators have extended the deadline until June for a deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. The interim deal had already been extended by four months, but the problems remain the same: disagreement on how far Iran can develop its “peaceful” atomic program, and the West’s unwillingness to lift sanctions. The news was welcomed by the leader of Iran’s sworn enemy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said, “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

    NYT, BBC

  7. With No Indictment, Unrest Grips Ferguson

    The city exploded with anger. A St. Louis County grand jury found “no probable cause” to bring charges against police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Protesters torched at least a dozen buildings in Ferguson, as police in riot gear threw tear gas and smoke grenades. Protests broke out in other cities too. Gov. Jay Nixon called in National Guard troops to secure police headquarters, even as Brown’s family and President Obama pleaded for peace.

    LA Times, OZY, NYT, Reuters

  8. Russia’s Economy Slides Precariously

    Falling oil prices and Western sanctions have cost Russia about $140 billion — seven percent of the national economy — in the last year, according to its finance minister. Moscow is considering cutting way back on oil production to stoke prices, and OPEC members Iran, Venezuela, and Libya have all suggested a similar route. While President Putin admits the economic troubles could have “catastrophic consequences” at home, he warned on Sunday that “the modern world is interdependent,” and others would suffer, too.

    Reuters, BBC

  9. Heavy National Guard Presence in Missouri, Egyptian Building Collapse Kills 13

    Gov. Jay Nixon triples number of troops deployed to Ferguson. (NYT)

    Building collapses in Egypt, killing at least 13. (AP)

    Turkish president calls gender equality ‘contrary to nature.’ (SMH)

    Honda failed to tell U.S. regulators about 1,700 accidents. (FT) sub

    Hackers strike Sony Pictures Entertainment, shut down site. (BBC)

    Bill Cosby faces more show cancellations. (Hollywood Reporter)


  1. Can Women Cut It As Combat Marines?

    They’re the few, but not yet the proud. A cohort of 100 women at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina are trying to show the U.S. Marines they’re battle-ready. The volunteers are enduring the same burdens as male recruits — like hiking 20 miles with 100-pound packs — while the military weighs whether those World War II-era standards still make sense. The Pentagon wants to see female ground combat troops by 2016, but gender equality for “infantrymen” isn’t a done deal — the Marines can still ask for a waiver.


  2. Chat With Astronauts? There’s an App for That

    Becoming an astronaut is hard work, but friending one is now as simple as downloading an app. Friends in Space allows smartphone users to follow the daily life of 37-year-old astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti — the first Italian woman in space — on the International Space Station. This weekend, she tweeted a Spotify playlist of countdown songs for her launch. But if you want to talk to Cristoforetti, you’ll have to wait until the ISS floats over your location.

    TIME, Tech Times

  3. Antarctic Sea Ice Thicker Than Expected

    Give it up for the robot. An autonomous underwater vehicle known as SeaBed allowed scientists to create the first detailed, high-resolution 3D maps of the continent’s sea ice, revealing thicknesses of up to 52 feet. The new data published Monday could help scientists solve the mystery of Antarctica’s counterintuitively expanding sea ice. But further studies over time will be needed to reveal the true effects of climate change on this some what uncharted planetary extremity.

    The GuardianNew ScientistCBS News

  4. Sting Gambles on Himself to Save Musical

    Will the captain go down with the ship? Sting’s debut Broadway musical, The Last Ship, has hit rough seas. Critics and audiences haven’t been blown away by the story of a shipyard foreman struggling to make a new life. So in a last-ditch attempt to fill seats for the five-years-in-the-making, $15-million production, the 63-year-old British singer-songwriter is swooping in to play the loosely autobiographical lead role. It’s risky, Sting says, but “you have to do whatever it takes.”


  5. Pitching Greats Vie for Hall of Fame

    Power hitters, check your swing. Three marquee aces lead the annual ballot, while tainted sluggers like Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa are one year closer to the end of their eligibility windows. With the second most strikeouts ever, five-time Cy Young winner Randy Johnson is a shoo-in. Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz hope to follow. The key to scoring 75 percent of the votes and a place in Cooperstown? Don’t use steroids, it seems. A select untarnished few will be announced January 6.