The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘American Hustle’ Lead Golden Globe Nominations

    Tales of mobsters and Southern indenture lead the pack with seven nominations each for the awards that often serve as a precursor to the Oscars. One critic calls 12 Years a Slave a clear favorite for Best Picture (OZY profiled director Steve McQueen.) Television newcomers “Masters of Sex” and ”Brooklyn Nine-Nine” also received nods. Funny ladies Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who was also nominated for her role in TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) host the awards show Jan. 12.

    Sources: Entertainment Weekly, LA Times 

  2. Sebelius Details Fixes to, Labels Launch ’Unacceptable’

    U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified again before a congressional panel about the ailing health insurance website Sebelius assured the panel that “relentless” efforts were being made to fix the bugs, but admitted that the problems were “flawed, frustrating and unacceptable.” During the hearing, Sebelius revealed that the administration had spent $319 million on information technology for the site, up from the $174 million she said on Oct. 30. With confidence in the system running low, it may take some serious shocks to jumpstart the heart of this project.

    Sources: Washington Post, NYT

  3. Body of South Africa’s Former President to Lie in State

    The body of Nelson Mandela has arrived at the main government building in Pretoria where it will lie in state for three days, as South Africa continues 10 days of mourning. His coffin was draped in the South African flag as it arrived at the Union Building, where family members, politicians and the public will pay their respects. The Union Building is the seat of official power and where, 19 years ago, Mandela was sworn in as the first black president of post-apartheid South Africa.

    Sources: BBC, NYT

  4. Indian Supreme Court Upholds Law Criminalizing Gay Sex

    A Supreme Court ruling in India has reversed the landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order that had decriminalized homosexual acts. According to a 153-year-old colonial law, the act of consummating a same-sex relationship was deemed an “unnatural offense,” carrying with it a 10-year jail sentence. Indira Jaisingh, the government’s solicitor general, decried the court’s decision and the penal law as reflecting a “medieval mindset.” Though prosecutions were rare even before 2009, the decision to re-criminalize homosexual acts is certainly a blow to hopes for a more progressive image for the emerging global power. 

    Sources: Times of India, The Guardian, NYT

  5. U.S. Weighs Sanctions Against Ukraine If Violence Continues

    Weeks of protests in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev have paralyzed the Eastern European country of 46 million. Violence erupted as riot police tried to dislodge anti-government protesters from their strongholds. In response, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said Washington is “considering policy options,” and not ruling out sanctions. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych declared on national television that the authorities would “never use force against peaceful protests.” Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed disgust at reports of police brutality, including the use of batons and bulldozers to displace protesters.

    Sources: BBC, Washington Post


  1. Sign Language Interpreter at Mandela Memorial Deemed a Fake

    The deaf community has widely condemned the official sign-language interpreter at the Mandela memorial for being a fraud. Knowledgeable signers say the man had “zero percent accuracy” and that he flapped his arms without any purpose during President Obama’s speech. Experts agreed. “It was horrible, an absolute circus, really, really, bad,” an official interpreter said. Government officials have promised to investigate how a man with no relevant experience could have reached a position so close to some of the most powerful people in the world.

    Sources: ABC, Washington Post, SABC

  2. Twain and Science Agree: Broader Horizons Make Broader Minds

    Mark Twain wrote that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need to sorely on these accounts.” Psychologists from Northwestern University agree. “We found that breadth but not depth of foreign experiences increases generalized trust,” says researcher Jiyin Cao. “In other words, the more countries one travels, the more trusting one is.” Perhaps for Christmas, you should try giving your xenophobic uncle a world tour.

    Source: The Raw Story

  3. New Take on Earth’s Place in the Solar System

    NASA’s Juno satellite bound for Jupiter has captured rare footage of the Earth and moon dancing, as our planet spins around its axis and the moon rotates around it. But Juno isn’t the only projectile from Earth bound for Jupiter: U.S. scientists announced that the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs may have shot bacterial life forms from our planet to Jupiter’s moons and Mars. Could tiny aliens from Earth be evolving in the oceans of Europa? Researchers say more investigation is required.

    Sources: BBC, Discovery News

  4. Missing Peter Sellers Films Discovered

    Zis is quite zee find! Two 30-minute comedies from 1957 starring famed comedian Peter Sellers, thought lost forever, have resurfaced. “Insomnia is Good for You” and “Death of a Salesman” (decidedly not the depressing Arthur Miller play of the same name) were dumped in a trashcan outside London’s now-defunct Park Lane Films studio in 1996. The building manager took the canisters home and only recently realized their contents, which one film festival promoter called “the Dead Sea Scrolls of the film world.” A public showing is planned for May.

    Sources: NYT, The Telegraph

  5. Former President Pens Support Letter to Alabama Kicker

    Alabama kicker Cade Foster, No. 43, has had a rough few weeks since the game that ended the Crimson Tide’s unbeaten streak and knocked the team out of SEC and BCS championship contention. Foster missed two field goals and had a third blocked before Auburn rallied to beat Alabama 34-28 at the last second on Nov. 30. But the 43rd president, George W. Bush, gave Foster some support with a handwritten letter. “Life has its setbacks, I know,” he wrote. The Alabama senior tweeted a photo of the letter, which was signed, “Sincerely — another 43.”

    Source: ESPN

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