The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Berlusconi Booted from Italian Senate

    For the first time in about two decades Silvio Berlusconi will not be a political force in Italy. The Italian Senate voted to push him out after a tax fraud conviction, marking the true bottom for a man who once rode Europe like a Colossus. Berlusconi, 77, faces a year of community service for his crime, and cannot seek a return to public office for years. The party is officially over. 

    Sources: NYT, BBC

  2. Merkel and Social Democrat Rivals Reach Coalition Government Deal

    After five weeks of negotiations and one mammoth 17-hour session, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) reached a deal with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) to form a “grand coalition” government in Germany. The parties ruled together from 2005 to 2009, and after failing to reach a majority in September’s election, Merkel’s CDU had to invite them to become junior partners once more. The Social Dems got exemptions from the pension age of 67 and Germany’s first minimum wage. Now, whether the EU’s strongest economy gets a government will be voted on by the SPD’s 460,000 members via postal ballot.

    Sources:  NYT, BBC

  3. Pope Francis Has Harsh Words for the Rich and Powerful

    The Pope had tough words for those who worship capitalism and money in a new guide for Catholics released just weeks before Christmas. Capitalism, the Pope writes, is “a new tyranny… which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.” Money, according to Francis, is the new golden calf. Tax evaders, the unequal distribution of wealth, and those who choose profits over the environment drew the Pontiff’s ire. And he urged the church to be more compassionate and concerned with social justice. Is the new Pope now the New Left?

    Sources: NYT, The Guardian, Gothamist

  4. Scottish Leader Launches Independence Blueprint

    While he may not have painted his face blue, Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party and First Minister of the Edinburgh Parliament, did release a 649-page blueprint outlining his vision for Scottish independence. Elected in 2011 on the promise of a referendum on succession from the U.K., Salmond’s mission statement addresses health care and schooling. Polls show just 29 percent of Scots support independence, with a vote scheduled for fall 2014. Looks like even William Wallace would have a hard time rallying the troops behind this cause.

    Sources: BBC, The Guardian, CNN

  5. East African Nations Seek to Curb Press Freedoms

    Kenya is among several East African nations on the cusp of introducing new laws to curb press freedoms and levy stiff penalties on journalists publishing material considered harmful by the government. Many see Kenya’s proposed legislation, which would impose fines up to $240,000 on media companies, as a huge step back towards the dictatorship of the 1960s and 70s that strangled the nation’s press. While censorship is not uncommon in the region, Kenya’s slide towards media repression would strike a major blow to hopes of democratic progress. 

    Sources: The Guardian, BBC

  6. Freezing Weather Hinders Holiday Travelers, Frozen Accounts Hamper Pacquiao’s Charity

    Winds and wintry weather could hamper Thanksgiving travel in northeast U.S. (CNN).

    Boxer Manny Pacquiao’s Philippines charity efforts hindered by bank authorities in dispute over back taxes. (Al Jazeera).

    Obama administration moving to curb political activity by tax-exempt nonprofits. (NYT).

    Silvio Berlusconi withdraws his support for the current Italian government. (BBC).

    Amber Riley and partner Derek Hough win ‘Dancing With the Stars’ final. (USA Today).


  1. Black Friday ’Discounts’ Aren’t Actually Good Deals

    You sat on a sidewalk all night and may have frostbite, but it was worth it for those Black Friday deals, right? Nope — you got duped. As the average discount each year has increased, retailer margins have stayed the same. How? The discount is priced into the item from the start. After the retailer buys your widget from the manufacturer, they mark it up 70 percent, then “discount” when they want to move units. Some do less than that: recently, JCPenney was caught advertising a sale price identical to the regular price. This Friday, we recommend those in the U.S. consider sleeping in.

    Source: WSJ

  2. U.S. Prisoners Fill Gap in Fighting Forest Fires

    Inmates of a medium security prison outside of Phoenix are filling places left by federal budget cuts in the fight against forest fires. With prisoners paid as little as 50 cent an hour, some critics worry the scheme is putting firefighters out of work. Former wildfire fighter and Arizona State University professor, Stephen J. Pyne, says “there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available.” While advocates argue that criminals should be assisting the communities they have harmed, others suggest the measure is burning bridges with the professionals already employed.

    Sources: NYT, Al Jazeera


  3. Does Thanksgiving Plus Hanukkah Equal a New Holiday Altogether?

    For the first time in years, Hanukkah is occurring at the same time as Thanksgiving in the United States. The result of this convergence? This year, many Americans are celebrating “Thanksgivukkah,” a combination of two holidays related to community and giving. Some Jews see this as an opportunity to give thanks for religious freedom; others see it as an unusual instance of harmony between non-religious and religious ceremonies. Some just see it as a chance to watch The Hebrew Hammer and eat more latkes.

    Source: Washington Post

  4. ‘12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Nebraska’ Nab Most Indie Spirit Award Nominations

    The first set of major 2013 cinema award nominations officially kicked off the Oscar speculation season. Though the Spirit Awards are rarely taken as solid Oscar predictors, being included doesn’t hurt. Oscar screeners use the nominations from other competitions to ensure they’re screening the right movies. For the indie awards, Fruitvale Station, All is Lost and Blue Jasmine also snagged multiple nominations.  But the season is still young, and we’ve got a long way to go before we find out who gets to thank the Academy.

    Source: Variety

  5. Washington, D.C.’s Football Team Honors WWII Navajo Code Talkers

    As more publications refuse to print the full name of the Washington NFL team, the team itself took time during its Monday Night Football game to honor the work of Navajo Code Talkers. The Code Talkers created an unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which allowed for critical wartime communication. The team tied the gesture to the NFL’s Salute to Service month and Native American Heritage month, but some saw it as a cynical attempt to compensate for the increasing outcry over the team’s controversial name, considered by many to be a racial slur. The owner swears he’ll never change it.

    Source: USA Today