The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Abe’s Controversial Visit to Japan Shrine Shakes Asia

    A world leader paying his respects at a national shrine might not usually draw ire, but Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine, where the interred include convicted war criminals. China and South Korea protested, and the U.S. embassy made it clear they weren’t happy, either. Some postulate that the first visit to the shrine by a prime minister in seven years purposefully aimed to provoke, and to eventually bolster a domestic nationalistic agenda. 

    Sources: BBC, NPR, Bloomberg

  2. UPS, FedEx Shipment Delays Prompt Anger

    Some girls and boys didn’t receive the presents they expected yesterday morning, and it wasn’t Santa’s fault. Citing a system overload, UPS announced that a fraction of packages would not arrive on time for Christmas as promised. FedEx also apologized for delays and explained that it had processed more than 275 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Online retailer Amazon, from whom customers purchased many of the items that did not arrive on time, offered a $20 credit to customers affected by delays. What they really needed was a way to explain to disappointed children why Santa had failed to deliver.

    Sources: BBC, CNN, USA Today

  3. Turkish Cabinet Ministers Resign Amid Scandal

    Ministers of the environment, economy and interior have resigned from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s cabinet after appearing shoulder to shoulder with him earlier this week. Police uncovered links between Erdogan’s government and illegal construction projects and money transfers to Iran, even as Erdogan maintains his innocence. The three ministers resigned after police arrested their sons, who held key positions in state-run banks, on suspicion of bribery. After months of protests, it seems progressive Turks may get their wish for at least some change this New Year: Erdogan plans to run in the June 2014 presidential elections.

    Sources: BBC, NYT, Haaretz 

  4. Egypt Declares Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group

    Egypt’s military-supported interim government has announced that the Muslim Brotherhood shall henceforth be considered a terrorist organization. Egyptian authorities blamed the brotherhood for the suicide bombing of a police station in Mansoura, where 16 died and more than 100 others were injured. The announcement is the most recent in a series of escalating measures over the past seven months targeting the Brotherhood, whose leader, Mohamed Morsi, won the country’s presidential election in June 2012. Morsi is now on trial, and Egypt’s political forecast for 2014 looks cloudy.

    Sources: NYT, The Guardian, Washington Post

  5. Russia Drops Charges Against Greenpeace Protesters

    Russia is granting amnesty to 29 Greenpeace protesters who faced hooliganism charges, the latest of a series of high-profile pardons. In September, 30 activists were arrested as they attempted to board a Russian offshore oil rig. One was granted amnesty last week. Some view the pardons as goodwill gestures, others as propaganda tactics, in the run-up to February’s Olympic Games in Sochi. Last week former billionaire and Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, as well as two members of the band Pussy Riot, were pardoned.

    Sources: Deutsche Welle, NYT, Al Jazeera


  1. Entertainment for the Ages, Circa 2013

    Women took charge this year, be it exploring the “Gravity” of their situation, becoming the English-speaking world’s youngest literary light, or proving that teens don’t have to bear it all to get ahead (or do they?). We’ve rounded up some 2013 highlights of screen, page and sound. Visit for the full links to these amazing stories. What do you think? Tell us

  2. The Year in Books: Race Relations, Motorcycles, Tsunamis, and the Nature of Death

    The literary world stayed lively this year, with disputes ranging over everything from likeability and modernity to mansplaining.  As for the writing itself, longstanding literary darling Alice Munro was recognized with the Nobel, but the Man Booker went to the youngest winner in its history, 28-year-old Kiwi Eleanor Catton for “The Luminaries.”  Other critics’ fiction picks include Rachel Kushner’s ”The Flamethrowers,” “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life.”  On the non-fiction side of the divide, ”Wave,” Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir of the 2004 Sri Lankan tsunami garnered many fans, Facebook mogul Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” has dominated the cultural vernacular, and there’s another horror story by Stephen King—this one by the Yale prof (no relation) about what happens to the West ”When the Money Runs Out.”

    Sources: New Yorker, NYT, Book Riot, The Economist


  3. Meth Kingpins, Women’s Prisons, Political Machinations, and Sex Surveys

    The final season of ””Breaking Bad broke us all completely, “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones” continued to enthrall, and ”Masters of Sex” brought what it said on the tin—and some thrilling drama. Netflix introduced several gripping series and the best/worst method for delivering them, depending on how much work you had to get done. The last installment of ”Arrested Development,” Kevin Spacey’s revamped British political backstabber “House of Cards,” and ”Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan’s hilarious and poignant women’s prison ensemble series ”Orange is the New Black” all landed with all episodes available at once. If you haven’t seen these yet, for your sake, we hope you have more discipline than our writing staff, who’ve lost entire weekends to the stories of Taystee, Poussey, and Crazy Eyes.

    Sources: The Onion, Vulture, Washington Post


  4. Hear Ye: Drop It Like It’s Hot on These Sounds of 2013

    Yes, Lorde, it was a good year for music. We may be tired of Kimye but “Yeezus” is Kanye’s album good. Former Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell revved up his solo efforts. Bombino emerged from Niger. Daft Funk played all over our house. Critics swooned over the sisters of Haim, and pioneers like Paul McCartney, John Fogerty and David Bowie proved they still rock. Wagging tongues and “Wrecking Ball” aside, we can’t list all the year-end best, but we’ve rounded up a solid collection that should keep you rockin’ in the new year. 

    Sources: Rolling Stone, Spin, NPR, Pitchfork, USA Today 

  5. Looking Back at a Banner Year for the Silver Screen

    While there was no consensus for the film of the year, ”12 Years a Slave’s” harrowing portrayal of Solomon Northup’s abduction and bondage brought viewers to tears. ”Pacific Rim” revitalized the monster movie in ways only Godzilla could imagine. The Coens even returned and met expectations with the darkly comedic ”Inside Llewyn Davis.” But the film we will likely remember in future decades is the space thriller ”Gravity,” with special effects that justify the IMAX experience in a way no feature has before. Go find the biggest screen possible, and prepare for 90 minutes with your heart in your throat.

    Sources: Wired, The Atlantic, Huffington Post