The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. The World Remembers an Icon

    Tributes continue to pour in following Nelson Mandela’s death at the age of 95. President Obama, who is likely to travel to South Africa in the coming days, described Mandela as a man “who bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a friend and fellow Nobel laureate of Mandela’s, was visibly emotional as he led a service of remembrance at St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. The ANC government faces the enormous challenge of managing the funeral rites, as international leaders and countless South Africans flock to pay tribute to the beloved statesman.

    Sources: CNN, Financial Times, The Telegraph

  2. Good U.S. Job and Economic News Greets the Holidays

    Job numbers released today show some 203,000 positions added in November, about 20,000 more than some analysts predicted. The hiring spanned a broad spectrum of industries, prompting cautious optimism that the recession is receding in the review mirror. Meanwhile, consumer spending rose in October. Caution always tempers the good news, though — personal savings are down, and there are still many Americans who aren’t counted in employment stats because they’ve just stopped looking. 

    Sources: AP, CNN

  3. UN Deploys Troops to Central African Republic

    The UN fears that genocide is looming in the Central African Republic, which has been riven by sectarian violence since a mostly rebel group ousted the president in March. On Thursday, the UN Security Council unanimously authorized the deployment of 1,200 French troops, who will join 2,000 African Union troops on the ground. Since the coup, the mostly-Muslim Seleka rebel alliance has been accused of widespread killings, kidnappings and sexual assaults. Christian counter-militias are fighting back in the capital of Bangui. In recent days they have mounted sustained assaults, killing at least 50.

    Sources: WSJ, NYT, BBC

  4. Volcker Rule Would Hold CEOs Personally Accountable for Some Trades

    The Volcker Rule, a long-awaited provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, is slated to be voted on next week, and on Thursday U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said that it would be implemented with ”CEO attestation.” That’s a victory for regulators and a move that could prompt banks to spin off stand-alone entities to engage in proprietary trading. The rule would prevent banks from trading with their own capital such that deposits are put at risk. Since 2011, regulators have been pushing for it to include a provision that would hold bank CEOs directly accountable for making sure such trades do not occur, a provision that Wall Street has strongly opposed.

    Source: WSJ, Bloomberg

  5. New Catholic Commission to Tackle Church Child Abuse Issues

    Pope Francis will appoint a panel of experts to determine how the Catholic Church can prevent clerical abuse and protect children, the archbishop of Boston has announced. The commission will have a broad mandate to develop procedures and best practices for both protection and prevention, and will focus on fashioning a pastoral response to child abuse within the church. However, several advocacy groups were skeptical about the development, arguing that if the Vatican really wanted to protect children, it would hold clergy members accountable for turning a blind eye to abuse and refusing to cooperate with police.

    Sources: NYT, BBC, Al Jazeera


  1. Fast Food and Retail Workers Demand Higher Wages

    Thousands of fast food and retail workers went on strike across the U.S. yesterday, demanding higher wages. President Obama appears to support their cause, as he voiced a renewed commitment to addressing inequality in a speech delivered just a day before. Many workers in both sectors make little more than the local minimum wage, which is typically not enough to feed and house a family. The protests are part of a growing campaign to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour.

    Sources: The Guardian, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC

  2. ‘Sexy’ Ads Lower Women’s Interest in Products

    It turns out sex doesn’t sell after all, if you’re trying to market products to women. The racy ads found in many women’s glossies do not endear women to the products being sold, according to a study in Psychological Science. Up to 27 percent of ads rely on sexual connotation, but mid-market and down-market advertisers may be taking the wrong tack. Luxury retailers have more leeway; women’s aversion to sexual content is mitigated when expensive products are being showcased. According to the study, this is because women have been conditioned to see sex as prized and rare — unlike the goods typically advertised in Cosmo.

    Source: The Independent

  3. UN Deploys Peacekeeping Surveillance Drones in Congo

    The UN launched its first unmanned drones on Tuesday to monitor the Democratic Republic of Congo’s second biggest city, Goma. Due to its size and location, Goma has long been a center of rebel activity, and the UN is using two drones to keep tabs on developments there. At first glance, the move makes some sense — the roads nearby are bad to non-existent, plenty of hiding spots exist, and it’s not the sort of community that foreign spies could easily infiltrate. Then again, as critics note, the U.S. also said its drones were surveillance only.

    Source: Daily Maverick

  4. Google Robots May Precede Amazon Drones

    The Internet is buzzing with talk of Amazon drones, but Google has been building its own robot army, which could hit the skies first. Google’s latest robotics projects are being run by Andy Rubin, the man responsible for Android software, and have largely been kept behind closed doors. However, some sources suggest that Google’s developments might be far more practical and advanced than Amazon’s. Either way, as economist Tim Harford asks, though delivery-bots seem flashy, will they actually have much impact?

    Source: NYT, Wired

  5. Athletes Pay Homage to Beloved Madiba

    Nelson Mandela’s appearance in a South African jersey at the 1995 Rugby World Cup Final was one of the most electrifying moments in sporting history. He was also a key player in bringing the soccer World Cup to South Africa in 2010, and made his last public appearance at the final. Mandela was a statesman who understood the great power of sport and, fittingly, the world of sport has been paying its respects. Australian and English players wore black armbands at the Ashes, a moment’s silence will be observed before FIFA’s next international fixtures, and Usain Bolt described Mandela as “the world’s greatest fighter.”

    Source: The Guardian