The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. French Police Kill 3 Terrorists in Twin Sieges

    The brothers suspected of carrying out the Charlie Hebdo massacre and an alleged associate were killed during two hostage situations outside Paris. Four hostages are dead after a gunman — suspected of murdering a Parisian policewoman with an accomplice who is now on the run — stormed a kosher market in the capital. He’s believed to be linked to Cherif and Said Kouachi, who were cornered by police in a shootout at a print shop northeast of Paris. Meanwhile, an Al Qaeda source took responsibility today for the magazine attack amid growing evidence of the terror group’s involvement.

    CNN, The Guardian, NYT

  2. Radical Cleric Gets Life in U.S. Prison

    He will die in jail. British cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, 56, received two consecutive life terms today for his conviction on 11 terrorism-related charges, including his role in the 1998 kidnapping of 16 Western tourists in Yemen, trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Oregon and sending recruits to aid Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The one-eyed, armless imam gained notoriety for his hate-filled sermons. A disciple of his mentored one of the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo massacre this week.

    BBC, Reuters, The Guardian

  3. U.S. Job Growth Best in 15+ Years

    Time to party like it’s 1999. Employers added 252,000 positions last month, more than economists predicted. Unemployment fell to 5.6 percent. The one dark spot: Wages haven’t increased. The job market’s tight, but not that tight yet. Experts expect still more jobs as housing construction ticks up when the weather turns. Now that the U.S. approaches full recovery, can Obama take credit? One report says yes (mostly), though not as much as he claims. The Republicans beg to differ.

    NYT, Politico

  4. Keystone Plan Can Move Forward

    The controversial pipeline winds toward the ultimate decision. A Nebraska court has tossed out a challenge to the Keystone XL plan that would move oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Now it’s on to the Senate, where a vote could happen as early as today. Obama has vowed to break out his veto pen in the first big test of the new Republican-held Congress. After all, many say the project has become less about the environment and more about politics.

    NPR, NYT

  5. Boko Haram Kills Thousands in “Deadliest Massacre’’

    There are too many bodies to count. Boko Haram’s attack on the Nigerian town of Baga may have left as many as 2,000 dead, mostly women, children and the elderly who were unable to outrun the Islamic extremists as they fired assault weapons and launched grenades. Fighting continued Friday around the town near the Chad border where insurgents seized a military base on Jan. 3. The massacre represents a deadly escalation of the five-year insurgency, which killed more than 10,000 people last year.

    The Guardian, Associated Press

  6. Obama Frees Up College Education

    He wants more young Americans to crack the books. The president has unveiled a bold new plan to make two years of community college “the norm” by making it tuition-free. Students who attend at least half-time and keep good grades would be eligible for free education, which could save nine million students roughly $3,800 a year each. How the government plans to foot the bill is still unclear, but Obama promises to tell us on January 20, in his State of the Union address.

    Washington Post, Politico

  7. China Is Flirting With Deflation

    The world’s second-largest economy is at risk, with consumer prices rising just 1.5 percent in December. This brings the full-year inflation rate to 2 percent, its lowest level since 2009. Meanwhile, wholesale prices declined 3.3 percent for the 34th straight month, mostly due to falling crude. China risks following the eurozone and Japan into a deflationary spin. That’s why economists expect the country’s central bank will soon cut interest rates again, as it did in November.

    NYT, Reuters, WSJ (sub)

  8. U.S. Troops Face European Reshuffle

    It’s all about the money — and Russia. To use resources more effectively, the U.S. wants to consolidate its forces across Europe in the coming years. The Pentagon plans to close bases in England, Germany and Portugal, reducing the number of Americans permanently stationed on the continent. Instead, more troops will rotate in and out, and they’ll be sent to German and Italian bases that are more strategically placed to deal with an increasingly aggressive Russian bear.

    NYT, The Guardian, Cambridge News

  9. Romney Mulling Another Run, Fidel Castro Rumors Sweep Web

    Mitt Romney tells donors he is considering 2016 presidential bid. (Bloomberg)

    Social media flooded with unconfirmed reports of Fidel Castro’s death. (AP)

    Salvage crew detects ‘pings’ in search for AirAsia 8501. (SCMP)

    Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa concedes defeat to Sirisena. (Al Jazeera)

    Jackie Chan’s son sentenced to six months in Chinese prison over drugs. (E! Online)

    Thailand’s former prime minister faces impeachment. (DW)

    Father charged with throwing daughter off Florida bridge. (CBS)

    Juncker proposes third EU bailout for Ukraine. (FT) sub


  1. Moscow Bans Transgender Drivers

    They’re driving the LGBT community crazy. Putin’s cronies are clearing the streets of transgender drivers in a supposed bid to reduce road accidents. Under a law published yesterday, folks with gender identity disorders are no longer able to obtain driver’s licenses. Other “mental deviations” subject to the ban include fetishism, exhibitionism, voyeurism and pathological gambling. Human Rights First lashed out, calling it an “alarming violation.” It seems Russia’s human rights record — already filled with potholes — has hit a dead end.

    Time, New York Magazine

  2. Dogs Arrived in Americas After Humans

    We’ve been barking up the wrong tree. We thought man’s best friend accompanied the first humans to the Americas because they migrated with people to other continents. But a new study of genetic diversity in ancient canine remains suggests that dogs came thousands of years after humans, possibly just 10,000 years ago. The earliest dog burials also date to that period. What’s less clear and requires more research is why humans didn’t take their furry friends across that land bridge.

    Discovery News, Science 2.0, io9

  3. George Soros Has His Say on Ukraine

    Europe is ”under attack from Russia,” says the Hungarian-born billionaire, who’s chiding the West for botching its response to Russia’s encroachment on Ukraine. Soros says Ukraine is more important to the eurozone than anyone realizes, and that Western countries sanctioning Russia (a “necessary evil”) should worry about Moscow defaulting on its debt and crippling European banks. The solution? To invest in Ukraine’s infrastructure — to the tune of $50 billion — before Russia makes borscht of it.

    The New York Review of Books


  4. Big Apple Says ‘So Long, Styrofoam’

    If you can’t recycle it, don’t use it. That’s the logic behind NYC’s newly announced ban on plastic foam packaging, which goes into effect on July 1. Manufacturers scrambled to keep such a move at bay, offering concessions like buying back used Styrofoam and recycling it in other states. But Mayor Bill de Blasio decided the stuff can’t be recycled safely, and thus has to go. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee-lovers, fear not: The chain is already looking for alternative cups.


  5. Boston Eyes Olympic Glory in 2024

    Will the flame burn over Beantown? The 4.5-million-strong metropolitan area is America’s best shot at its first Summer Olympics since 1996, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee. Boston plans to spend a thrifty $4.5 billion — and no public funds — on events. It beat two-time host Los Angeles for a shot at the title, but that was just the first hurdle. Now it must court favor from the International Olympic Committee. Its decision comes in 2017, and there’s no medal for second place.

    Boston Globe

  6. ‘50 Shades’ Fans Fear Boring Sex

    Better bring a pillow. Devoted readers are worried that the big-screen version of the S&M bestseller 50 Shades of Grey will water down the steamiest passages. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson says the on-camera sex is tastefully handled. The nudity wasn’t enough to earn an NC-17 rating, though the MPAA called out depictions of so-called unusual behavior in handing out its “R” rating. Reports of poor chemistry between the leads are also raising fears that it’ll be rather vanilla between the sheets.

    Vanity Fair, Crushable

  7. Virtual Reality Looking Less Realistic

    Time to take off the goggles. Despite attendees geeking out over VR gizmos on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, the technology has a long way to go before your kids find an Oculus Rift under the tree. The virtual reality space has stalled somewhat, in danger of becoming just another way to sell Mountain Dew and hotel rooms. Wary of turning out bad tech, Oculus execs are backing off from hitting the consumer market too soon. Welcome to real life.

    The Verge