The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Ukraine Cracks Down on Protesters Despite Reconciliatory Promises

    Thousands of riot police overnight Wednesday dismantled barricades and cleared streets of protesters who had gathered in and around Kiev’s Independence Square. The move, just after midnight, came despite President Viktor Yanukovych’s perceived assurances to the West that there would be no use of force. The protests began after Yanukovych rejected a pact with the EU. Western leaders, who had urged opposition leaders to talk with the government, are now rethinking their stance. 

    Sources: The Guardian, NYT, LA Times



  2. Congressional Leaders Reach Bipartisan Budget Deal

    Budget negotiators have reached a bipartisan agreement, removing the threat of another U.S. government shutdown ahead of the Dec. 13 deadline. The deal, brokered by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democrat Sen. Patty Murray, eliminates $63 billion of unpopular sequester cuts to domestic and military spending. Some of these costs are absorbed by deficit-reduction measures — totaling $22.5 billion — leaving overall spending at $1.012 trillion for 2014 and $1.014 trillion for 2015. President Obama called the deal “a good first step.” But Ryan will have to win over recalcitrant House Republicans.  

    Source: NYT, USA Today

  3. Time Magazine Taps Pontiff as Person of the Year

    Pundits may have argued for Edward Snowden as the face of 2013, with the global impact of his trove of leaked U.S. government documents. But the Time editors selected Pope Francis, who has relaxed some church attitudes on homosexuality and women leaders and refocused attention on poverty. Also on the short list: Bashar al-Assad and Miley Cyrus. For those who disagree with the final choice, just remember: It could have been worse. 

    Sources: Washington Post, New Yorker, The Guardian

  4. GM Names First Female CEO

    General Motors has appointed Mary Barra as its new chief executive. The current global product chief will become the first female CEO of a major automaker. Outgoing CEO Dan Akerson described Barra, who has spent her entire career at GM, as one of the most gifted executives he has ever worked with. She takes the reins as GM exits a five-year government bailout. The company has recently improved its performance, thanks in part to Barra’s expansion of GM’s presence in Europe. All the same, the manufacturer is a long way from regaining its status as a global leader.

    Source: USA Today, Forbes

  5. Obama and Castro Shake Hands in South Africa

    President Obama’s high-profile handshake with Cuban President Raúl Castro at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg was unplanned, according to the White House. Both leaders were invited to speak and briefly greeted one another as Obama approached the podium. The Cuban government said the friendly move could mark a new phase in U.S.-Cuban relations. Some Republicans have criticized the gesture, claiming that it represents a victory for the Cuban dictatorship. Even in death, Mandela seems to inspire high-profile reconciliation.

     Sources: CNN, NYT, Politico

  6. Netanyahu Criticized for Skipping Mandela Memorial

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was conspicuously absent from yesterday’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, which was attended by nearly 100 heads of state. Although he apparently considered attending, Netanyahu decided his travel and security costs — as much as $2 million — were too high. Bibi has been criticized for wasteful spending, but Israelis seem unimpressed with this cost-saving initiative. The progressive Jewish blog Mondoweiss even organized a mock fundraising drive to send Netanyahu to the funeral.

    Sources: Washington Times, Haaretz


  1. National Mall Immigration Fast Expected to End Thursday

    The Fast for Families protest on the National Mall will wrap up this week, after a month of fasts lasting up to 22 days. The end of the physical campaign, designed to attract the attention of lawmakers, coincides with Congress’s Christmas recess. The three-tent demonstration, which involves faith, labor and immigrant groups, began on Nov. 12. Although Speaker John Boehner, the primary target of the campaign, did nothing to acknowledge the movement, the site has been visited by the Obamas, Joe Biden and about 50 other legislators. Nevertheless, the House is unlikely vote on comprehensive immigration reform this year. 

    Sources: Washington Post, NBC, Take Part

  2. Pot Growing and Smoking Now Legal in Uruguay

    Uruguay has become the first country in the world to legalize the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana. The law permits individuals to grow up to six plants at home, for individual consumption, or to join clubs that can grow up to 99 plants. The government aims to reduce violent drug crime and to allow the state to profit from cannabis. The move doesn’t have the support of the majority of Uruguayans, who worry the legalization will encourage increased drug use.

    Sources: Reuters, NPR, Quartz

  3. John Cornyn Faces a Tea Party Challenger in Texas Senate Race

    Tea Party favorite Rep. Steve Stockman will challenge Sen. John Cornyn in the Texas GOP Senate primary in March. Tea Party supporters have been clamoring for a challenger to Cornyn — ranked the second most conservative senator in America — since the minority whip withdrew his support for Sen. Ted Cruz’s initiative to defund Obamacare in the fall. The move has been described as a sign that the Tea Party has “entered its dada period.”  Stockman’s presence may force Cornyn to tack right, in what could be a preview of Tea Party challenges facing his fellow incumbents Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell and Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. 

    Sources: The Atlantic, Politico, NPR

  4. Adam Sandler Named Hollywood’s Most Overpaid Actor

    Adam Sandler’s shtick isn’t as valuable as it once was, according to Forbes’ ranking of the most overpaid actors of 2013. Continuing to ride the wave of hits like The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy, Sandler commands a huge paycheck for every project. But Forbes has concluded that for his last three films, the comic returned an average of just $3.40 for each $1 he was paid. Admittedly, the magazine’s cut-off point was June 1, just weeks before Sandler’s Grown Ups 2 was released and grossed $247 million worldwide. Maybe producers shouldn’t toss his resume just yet.

    Sources: BBC, The Guardian, Forbes

  5. An Inspirational Win for Uganda’s Netball Women

    Women’s netball is creating a stir in Africa. This week, Uganda won the Netball Nations Cup in Singapore, despite setbacks that would reduce many professional athletes to despair. The side, which hadn’t played outside Africa in over 30 years, could only attend the tournament thanks to last-minute government sponsorship, achieved by a public newspaper appeal. Then they missed their flights and had to forfeit the first round, but battled through to the final and scored a decisive victory against Singapore. Despite severe underfunding, African netballing nations are emerging as forces to be reckoned with.

    Source: The Guardian