The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Militants Murder 36 in Kenya Quarry Attack

    They’re targeting non-Muslims for slaughter. The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the mass execution of Christians in an attack in northern Kenya early today. Witnesses in the village of Kormey said Christian quarry workers were killed, while their Muslim coworkers were set free. Hours after the attack, the interior minister was fired, and the national police chief has resigned. The attack is the latest in a spate of violence stemming from 2011, when Kenyan troops began battling the al-Qaida-linked Islamists in Somalia.

    AP, Reuters


  2. Official Defends Obama’s Immigration Plan

    Allowing law-abiding immigrants with ties to the U.S. to stay “is simple common sense,” Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson told Congress this morning. He took the hot seat before the House Homeland Security Committee to defend the president’s executive order allowing illegal immigrants who meet certain qualifications to stay in the country. Meanwhile, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the committee chair, is looking to block Obama’s action. Happy holidays from Washington.

    NBC, USA Today

  3. Obama: Cameras Should Bolster Policing

    He’s looking to restore faith. In the wake of riots over the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, the president has requested $263 million to equip police with 50,000 body cameras. But congressional approval for the funding isn’t a sure thing. Obama is also launching a task force on “21st century policing” to promote effective practices and rebuild public trust. Meanwhile, peaceful protests have continued in Ferguson and elsewhere as Americans raise their hands against discrimination.

    Time, NPR, ABC

  4. ’Uber-Wonk’ Tops List for Defense Chief

    He’s served as the Pentagon’s No. 2, holds degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale, and is considered among the “brightest minds” in the national security world. Meet Ashton Carter, the man reportedly tipped to become the next defense secretary. Carter is relatively unknown on the international political stage, having served most of his career behind the scenes. But that might serve him well in confirmation hearings — ranking Republicans don’t see any major impediments to his appointment.


  5. Ruble Plummets Along With Oil Prices

    The Russians are in trouble. Their currency suffered its worst intraday fall since the 1998 default crisis, plunging as much as six percent yesterday against the U.S. dollar — a nearly 40 percent drop in value this year, which mirrors the decline in world oil prices. The interrelated events are raising fears of a major crash for Russia, which derives half of its budget from black gold and gas, as well as speculation over Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.

    WSJ (sub), FT (sub), The Guardian

  6. Hedge Funds Lose Their Luster 

    The era of high-flying hedge funds is coming down to Earth as more outfits shut in the face of dismal returns. The $630-million commodity fund of Brevan Howard Asset Management is the latest victim. On average, hedge funds have returned just two percent this year — their worst performance since 2011 — with macro funds returning less than one percent. With 461 funds going under in the first half of 2014 alone, this could be the worst year for closures since the financial crisis.

    BloombergSeeking Alpha, WSJ (sub)

  7. ISIS Chief’s Wife and Son Held in Lebanon, Occupy Central Founders Prepare to Surrender

    Lebanese army reportedly detains ISIS chief’s wife, son. (RT)

    Occupy Central founders urge Hong Kong students to head home. (SCMP)

    Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys dead at 70. (Rolling Stone)

    Detroit power outage causes school dismissals, government building evacuations. (USA Today)

    U.S. attorney general set to provide guidelines to end racial profiling. (Al Jazeera)

    Lufthansa strike enters second day, impacts long-haul flights. (DW)

    Bill Cosby resigns from Temple University board. (AP)


  1. The Myth About American Divorces Needs to Die

    Marriage vows are for keeps these days. The oft-cited trope that half of all U.S. marriages fail simply isn’t true. Divorce rates peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s, and have steadily dropped in the decades since. Unions in the 2000s are ending in divorce less than 15 percent of the time — the majority of couples will never experience divorce. Among the happy reasons: later marriages, more education and more people coupling up for the sake of love (imagine that).


  2. Girl Scout Cookies Go Online

    No more door-to-door sales? America’s beloved Thin Mints and Samoas will soon be available online, with more than one million scouts turning to the Internet in a bid to adapt to the digital age. Girl Scouts are expected to sell the sweet stuff through personalized websites and a mobile app, with proceeds continuing to go to local councils. The purchases may be made without a baking badge in sight, but buyers can still request that the cookies be delivered by their favorite scout.

    ABC, ET, CSM

  3. HIV Is Weakening Over Time

    Getting it is still bad news, but its ability to cause AIDS is slowing. An Oxford University study of 2,000 African women suggests the human immunodeficiency virus may have reached its tipping point. Strong immune systems force HIV to evolve, which reduces its ability to replicate — thus weakening it as it spreads. Some suggest HIV could eventually become harmless, but for now the virus can still progress to AIDS, which has killed 40 million worldwide. “It’s still a virus you wouldn’t want to have,” said one scientist.

    BBC, RTE

  4. Duncan Campbell Wins Turner Prize

    The 42-year-old Irish-born artist known for his experimental films has nabbed the prestigious award, and its nearly $40,000, for an “ambitious and complex” video. It For Others combines archival footage, fictional elements and a modern dance sequence inspired by Karl Marx — all as a response to a 1953 documentary about colonialism and the commercialization of African culture. While Campbell’s entry was the favorite to win, that hasn’t quieted critics, one of whom called his 54-minute “essay film” overlong and preachy.

    BBC, The Guardian, LA Times

  5. The U.S. Abortion Rate Is Tumbling

    Liberals and conservatives can both applaud this one. A new CDC survey shows abortions have dropped to a 40-year low — down 13 percent since 2002. Nearly all of the procedures were performed before the 13th week of gestation, and the biggest decrease was seen in teenagers aged 15 to 19. Some suggest it’s due to a growing acceptance of unmarried couples; others point to economic woes. But politicians, despite the downward trend, are still eyeing new anti-abortion legislation.

    The Atlantic, The Hill, Politico

  6. Seattle Mariners Sign Home Run King 

    They’ve filled the gap. One of MLB’s worst offenses made a monumental pickup yesterday by closing a four-year, $57-million deal with Dominican outfielder Nelson Cruz. The former Oriole, who whacked 40 homers last season, is the second major offseason triumph for the Mariners — the first being third baseman Kyle Seager. Three-time All-Star Cruz holds the record for home runs and RBIs in a postseason series, but Seattle’s record suggests it might be a while before he gets another chance to save the day.