The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. House Barely Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill

    They got it through. One of the least productive congressional bodies in modern memory managed to avoid a government shutdown with only a few hours to spare. The narrow 219-to-206 vote sends the measure to the Senate, which approved a two-day extension to keep the lights on and give it time to debate. The House vote capped off a day of dramatic political posturing that included a rare public spat between President Obama, who supported the bill, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who denounced it on the chamber’s floor.

    Washington Post, CNN, NYT


  2. Cheney: Bush Knew About CIA Torture

    He admits he hasn’t read the whole thing, but Dick Cheney insists the Senate report on CIA torture is “full of crap.” He says President Bush was “fully informed” about interrogation techniques, and argues that the report’s insinuation that the spy agency had somehow gone rogue is misleading. The former VP also denies the claim that none of the torture led to useful, unique intelligence. Meanwhile, the UN says U.S. officials should be prosecuted for human rights violations, and Cheney’s former entourage may figure prominently in such an effort.


  3. Hong Kong Protest Camp Disappears

    The Umbrella Revolution has folded. After 75 days, police have cleared out barricades at the main site of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations. The protests drew international attention, but achieved no political victories or concessions from the Chinese government, while 655 people were arrested. Even so, activists say their time on the streets was the beginning of a new era of resistance. The clear-out was largely peaceful, but protesters had the last word, chalked and posted on every surface they could find: “We’ll be back.”

    USA Today, Time

  4. U.S. Markets Follow Tanking Oil Prices

    Prompted partly by a 4.5-percent drop in oil prices, the Dow industrials took their worst shellacking in two months as nervous investors fled stocks. Wednesday’s 268-point punch came amid more signs of a greater-than-expected oil glut. This morning, crude prices stabilized and European markets seemed less jittery than their Asian counterparts. Meanwhile, some analysts predict stocks will recover by the end of the year, especially if today’s American retail sales data shows the upside of $60-a-barrel oil.

    FTCNBC, WSJ (sub)

  5. Worst Storm in Years Pounds West Coast

    Water, water, everywhere, and still dying from drought. The strongest winter storm in five years pummeled Northern California, cutting power to more than 150,000 Bay Area residents, flooding streets and canceling hundreds of flights at SFO. The “Pineapple Express” from Hawaii is expected to dump a couple feet of snow on the Sierras and intense rain throughout the Golden State. While any precipitation is welcome, many more storms are needed to counter the state’s extreme drought.

    USA Today, SFGate

  6. CIA Director Defends Torture Tactics, Palestinians and Israelis Cut Ties

    John Brennan acknowledges mistakes in forceful defense of CIA. (USA Today)

    Palestinians cut security ties with Israel after minister’s death. (CNN)

    Al Jazeera Arabic journalist killed while covering Syria fighting. (Al Jazeera)

    U.S. court throws out insider-trading convictions. (FT) sub

    Lost sailor saved by makeshift coat-hanger radio. (NBC)

    Hacked Sony e-mails show nasty side of showbiz. (Washington Post)


  1. ‘Birdman’ Flies With Golden Globe Nods

    Former Batman star Michael Keaton’s life-as-art turn as a washed-up superhero proved award season gold this morning, with seven nominations for the statuettes seen as Oscar precursors. Richard Linklater’s childhood-spanning “Boyhood,” along with “The Imitation Game,” had five each. On TV, “House of Cards” and “Downton Abbey” garnered nods, but the snubs hurt. “Modern Family,” “The Walking Dead,” even “Sons of Anarchy,” which rode off into the series sunset this week, got no love. The awards are doled out Jan. 11.

    LA Times, Deadline

  2. Japan’s Single Mom Problem

    For all of Japan’s relative prosperity, this might be one of the hardest first-world nations to be a single mom. Only 20 percent of divorced fathers pay alimony, compared to about 75 percent in the U.S. Childcare facilities with more work-friendly hours have a waiting list of 21,000 children, and other daycares have frequent off-days, so women scramble for coverage. Professional women are forced to take part-time work, and see savings that are a small fraction of their married counterparts. Planning for retirement? Forget it.

    Japan Times

  3. Sailor, Presumed Dead, Found Adrift

    His family had planned his funeral. But Ron Ingraham held on. The Hawaiian fisherman spent 12 days at sea living on raw fish until the U.S. Coast Guard rescued him. The ordeal began when Ingraham radioed mayday Nov. 27. On Dec. 1, the Coast Guard called off the search. Then came an 8-second call this week, about 60 miles off the Honolulu coast. On land, Ingraham received a cigarette, a lei and an emergency radio beacon with positioning – so he would never go missing again.

    Sydney Morning Herald 

  4. Oceans Awash in 5 Trillion Pieces of Plastic

    We’ve made a mess of things. Humans have dumped some 250,000 tons of plastic debris into the world’s seas. Mostly floating as tiny, toxic particles, the nautical litter is killing animals and destroying delicate ecosystems. “It’s everything you can imagine made of plastic,” says the lead author of the study released yesterday. “It’s like Walmart or Target set afloat.” Based on data collected on expeditions made around the globe, the shocking figures may turn out to be conservative.

    Washington Post, Nature World News

  5. Indonesia Uneasy About ‘Sex Mountain’

    And we thought Space Mountain was exciting. Gunung Kemukus is a hill on the island of Java where pilgrims travel every 35 days to have sex with strangers as part of an ancient rite thought to conjure good fortune. It’s embarrassing for the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, so five centuries of sex-pilgrimage tradition be damned, the regional governor has banned the practice out of concern for Indonesia’s international reputation. Others would preserve the carnal custom, arguing that globalization is eroding indigenous ways.


  6. Lumberjacks Come out of the Woodwork

    Looking like a Canadian invasion force, bearded, flannel-clad dudes are taking over American cities. None of them actually chop wood for a living, so why the ‘lumbersexual’ look? It’s a throwback to an era a century ago when woodsmen emerged as romantic figures, countering the weak and nervous urban male archetype. They’ve returned, especially among already-beardy hipsters, gays and guys who never outgrew grunge. Don’t be alarmed to see Paul Bunyan’s little brother in line at the gourmet grocery. He’s a lumberjack and he’s ok.

    The Atlantic

  7. Swastikas Spotted on Hanukkah Gift Wrap

    Well, this is awkward. A customer in California noticed that the blue-and-silver wrapping paper intended for Jews observing Hanukkah had an odd but distinctive geometric pattern — one that included swastikas. Hallmark has recalled the wrapping paper and apologized to its customers, saying the wrapping paper pattern was based on a Chinese vase decoration. Considering the swastika’s origins as an Eastern religious symbol, that may have made sense before 1933. Nowadays, it may only appeal to racist prison-gang Secret Santas.

    Fast Company

  8. Emails: IAAF Head’s Son Sought $5M

    Try this word association: hands, cookie jars, international sporting events. In what has become an alarming routine, leaked emails show the son of International Association of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack requested a $5-million payment from Qatar during its bid to host the 2017 World Athletic Championships. The Gulf nation didn’t get it that time, but it did score the 2019 championships. Both sides vehemently deny wrongdoing, and are apparently shocked that corruption could be perpetrated on such a level.

    The Guardian

  9. Is $6.5M Photo Just a Pretty Picture?

    It’s the most expensive photograph ever — and some say it’s no better than a clichéd hotel poster. The ethereal black-and-white image of an Arizona cavern by Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik sold yesterday, shattering Andreas Gursky’s previous record of $4.3 million. “Someone has been very foolish with their money, mistaking the picturesque for high art,” sniffed one critic. But collectors are paying no attention. Lik sold two other photos to the same L.A. buyer for a picture-perfect payday of $10 million.