The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s First Black President, Dies at 95

    The “father of South Africa” and anti-apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela, has died. The former leader was being treated at home for a lung infection after spending three months in hospital. After spending 27 years in prison, Mandela led South Africa’s transition against racial oppression. “Our nation has lost its greatest son,” South Africa President Jacob Zuma said during his TV announcement of the leader’s passing.

    Sources: NYT, BBC, USA Today

  2. Globe Mourns Mandela’s Passing

    Reactions to the loss of an international icon of peace and justice came quickly after the world learned of the passing of former South African president Nelson Mandela. ”Perhaps his greatest legacy was his willingness and ability to reach across the many fault lines in South Africa society,” wrote one prominent human rights attorney, of the man many called Madiba. From Detroit to Twitter, thoughts and remembrances poured in moments after the breaking news banner headlines hit the Web.

    Sources: South Africa’s Mail & GuardianMSNBC, USA Today, In pictures: TIME, Social media: Mercury News

  3. Top College QB Won’t Face Rape Charges

    College football star and Heisman Trophy favorite Jameis Winston will not be charged with sexual assault in a case that captivated sports pages across the country. A woman accused Winston of rape last year in Tallahassee, Fla., and later accused local police of favoring the star athlete in the city that is home to the No. 1 ranked Florida State University Seminoles. Many Heisman voters were waiting on a resolution before casting their ballots, ESPN reported. The voting deadline is Monday. 

    Sources: ESPN, USA Today, CNN

  4. Biden’s China Visit Focuses on Flight Zone Dispute

    Vice President Joe Biden received a mixed welcome in Beijing, where he met with China’s President Xi Jinping. The visit was supposed to cover a wide range of issues, but China’s ongoing airspace dispute with Japan dominated the discussions. The VP confirmed that the U.S. would uphold its treaty obligations to Japan, but stressed that America doesn’t want to be involved in military clashes between the two countries. Xi echoed Biden’s comments on the importance of increasing cooperation between Washington and Beijing, but stood firm on the legitimacy of the “air defense identification zone” and called on the U.S. to respect China’s core interests.

    Sources: NYT, Reuters, ChinaDaily

  5. European Banks Fined $2.3 Billion for Interest Rate Collusion

    The European Commission has fined eight major banks, including JPMorgan and Citigroup, a total of $2.3 billion for rigging interest rates. Two banks — Barclays and UBS — were granted immunity because they helped reveal the manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or LIBOR, and its euro equivalent. Joaquin Almunia, the EU Competition Commissioner, said he was shocked at the scale of the scam and assured that EU antitrust regulators would continue to investigate and combat rate-rigging. The CEO of Deutsche Bank claims that such collusion is a “legacy issue,” but how much have the banks really changed?

    Sources: USA Today, NPR

  6. Libyan Assembly Votes for Sharia Law

    Islamic law will underpin all of Libya’s legislation and state institutions, following a vote by the General National Congress on Wednesday. The scope of the change is uncertain, but it could have a substantial impact on the banking, criminal and financial systems. A new constitution is now being drafted, two years after the uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi and prompted fierce internal debate on the role of Islam in Libyan society and government. With the approval of an official Sharia-based legal system — one of just 12 in the world — it seems that debate is over.

    Source: Al Jazeera

  7. Canada Rocked by a Series of Soldier Suicides

    The Canadian military is under scrutiny following three soldier suicides in recent days, and the announcement of a possible fourth. All of the deceased had served in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Roméo Dallaire, a senator and former general who suffers from PTSD, fell asleep at the wheel of his car and crashed. He has been unable to sleep lately , which he attributes in part to the recent suicides. Canada’s defense minister urged struggling soldiers to link with available support services but those services may not be enough — it is believed that for every soldier suicide, there are up to 12 attempts by others.

    Sources: CBC, Toronto Star


  1. Millennials’ Support for Obama Wanes

    Barack Obama has toppled off the pedestal. According to a new survey, 18- to 29-year-old Americans no longer see him as a beacon of change. Obama’s approval rating among millennials has fallen from 52 to 41 percent. This demographic played a crucial role in securing Obama’s victory in 2008, but issues like rising college debt, health care, government surveillance and unemployment have left many disillusioned. While Obama’s early success provided many millennials with a positive introduction to politics, it seems that their experience has quickly soured.

    Source: The Atlantic

  2. China’s Digital Revolution Could Start Here

    Beijing’s cramped Zhongguancun District may not appear as glamorous as Silicon Valley, but the next Bill Gates could be there already. Unusually for China’s top-down economy, Zhongguancun has become a center for young venture capitalists. A growing number of big investors are joining forces with up-and-coming digital stars to achieve the next generation of technological breakthroughs. Many start-ups are creating new smartphone apps, mainly targeting China’s young people who are relatively disengaged from TV and computers and using their phones as entertainment hubs. How do you say “Angry Birds” in Chinese?

    Source: WSJ (sub)

  3. Testing of Ancient DNA Sparks New Questions about Evolution

    The oldest human genetic material ever sequenced has come from a 400,000-year-old human thighbone recently uncovered in Spain, but the discovery has raised more questions than answers. The DNA shows that ancient humans were more closely related to Denisovans, an early human ancestor whose fossils have been found in Siberia, than to Neanderthals. We may not know nearly as much about early human migration as previously believed. Given the extraordinary age of the Spanish fossil, it’s possible that there may be more evidence out there than scientists anticipated.

    Source: BBC, Nature 

  4. Jay Z Gives Himself the Gift of Veganism 

    Jay Z and Beyoncé are taking on the 22-day vegan challenge to mark the rapper’s 44th birthday. He announced the plan on his blog, describing it as a spiritual and physical cleanse (which Ozy thinks he could use based on his recent ethical muddles). The couple temporarily joins a long list of famous vegans, including Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt and Ben Stiller. Though Jay Z has suggested he might go permanently plant-based, the challenge conveniently ends on Dec. 25. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some meat.

    Sources: LA Times

  5. Adidas Unveils Match Ball for 2014 World Cup

    Adidas has unveiled the ball for next year’s World Cup. The Brazuca has been designed with six rather than eight panels to improve grip and stability. It’s been tested by 600 top players from 30 teams in 10 countries, making it the most tested ball ever produced by Adidas. Their diligence may be the result of issues with the Jabulani ball used in 2010, which was widely criticized by players. The colorful design of the Brazuca represents the multi-colored wish bracelets that are widely worn in Brazil, as well as the vibrancy of Brazilian soccer.

    Sources: NYT, BBC