The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Health Care Sign-Up Given One More Day

    Record traffic to the site prompted the White House to push back the deadline for people to sign up for coverage that starts Jan. 1. According to reports, the official cut-off remains 11:59 p.m. Monday, but anyone who seeks coverage in “good faith” and doesn’t formally register until tomorrow will still be covered. No word yet on if the move impacts the all-time-low poll numbers. 

    Sources: New York Times, CNN

  2. Refugees Flee South Sudan as Rebels Seize Key Oil City

    The world’s youngest country may be headed toward civil war, following the rebel seizure of Bentiu. The violence stems from President Kiir’s decision to sack his deputy, Riek Machar, in July. The President comes from the Dinka community, and troops loyal to Machar, from the Nuer community, have clashed with state forces and seized oil-rich regions. After fighting killed hundreds last week, the U.S. military evacuated Americans from the city of Bor. The evacuations took place amid an exodus of South Sudanese refugees and international workers from the troubled region. 

    Sources: BBC, CNN, Reuters

  3. Secret CIA Budgets and Assassinations in Colombia

    For decades, the Colombian government struggled to contain the FARC rebellion, but now, it seems, the rebel group has dwindled — thanks apparently to a secret U.S. campaign. Government insiders cite the CIA and Colombian military’s hush-hush budget, and use of smart bombs to assassinate FARC leaders. In the 2000s, the Bush administration and the CIA decided that FARC’s influence in Colombia posed a substantial threat to America and that the U.S. could use the same tactics used against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Gains have been made, but the strategy remains legally and ethically dubious.

    Source: The Washington Post

  4. Freed Pussy Riot, Former Tycoon Vow to Help Other Political Prisoners

    Mikhail Khodorkovsky was Russia’s preeminent oil tycoon and one of the 20 wealthiest men in the world. He was also a critic of government corruption, and for that Vladimir Putin imprisoned him in 2003. But with the Olympics bringing scrutiny to Putin’s human rights record, Khodorkovsky was released on Friday under the same amnesty that freed members of Pussy Riot and the Arctic 30. He intends to work on behalf of Russia’s other political prisoners, as do the women of Pussy Riot. 

    Sources: AP, LA Times, NYT

  5. Thai Protesters Move to Disrupt February Elections

    In a controversial shift, Bangkok’s anti-government protesters are attempting to scuttle the national election scheduled for February. The vote, which is being boycotted by Thailand’s main opposition party, is expected to return Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to power and continue the influence of her brother, the exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. The Shinawatras are popular in rural areas, but opponents do not want to afford the corrupt administration an opportunity to claim legitimacy. Instead, they advocate a temporary suspension of the democratic system and the establishment of a people’s reform council.

    Sources: Global Post, NYT

  6. Healthcare Deadline, Aleppo Bombarded, European Storms

    The White House extends the healthcare sign-up deadline by one day. (WSJ).

    Mikhail Kalashnikov, who invented the AK-47, the world’s most popular rifle, has died. (The Independent).

    Aleppo strikes kill 56. (Al Jazeera).

    Severe wind and rain disrupts Christmas travel in Britain and Ireland. (The Guardian).

    Having condoms puts sex workers at risk of arrest. (Mother Jones).

    Forty-foot Swedish Christmas straw goat torched by vandals for the 27th time. (Gawker).


  1. New Apple Deal Expected to Boost Sales in China

    Having signed a long-awaited deal with China Mobile, Apple now has greater access to 763 million Chinese consumers. The agreement was announced on Sunday and the iPhone will launch with China Mobile — the biggest network carrier in the world — on Jan. 17. But Apple still faces some big hurdles to rapid growth there. In China, the iPhone can cost more than eight times as much as Android-operated smartphones. As a result, Apple ranks just fifth in the national smartphone market. 

    Source: NYT

  2. Estonia and Finland Take International Agreements Online

    When Finnish and Estonian Prime Ministers Jyrki Katainen and Andrus Ansip sat down to sign an agreement about e-commerce two weeks ago, it was from desks in different countries. They claim that this is the first digitally signed international agreement. Heads of state have used digital signatures since 1998, but the Finns and Estonians insist that this agreement is the first of its kind and will regularly be used in interactions between the countries, saving both time and money. Digital technology is used for economic trade, leaking top-secret information, and mass surveillance — why not international governance?

    Source: The Atlantic

  3. China Plans $290 Billion Environmental Investment 

    Chinese cities are famous for their air pollution, but the government has plans to (hopefully) change that soon. From 2013 to 2017, a $290 billion anti-pollution program aims to create alternative energy sources, build green public transport and research new ways to clean the air. Some have opposed the huge investment, but the anti-pollution plan could help China breathe easier in more ways than one. If successful, the scheme could boost the country’s GDP by $329 billion and create more than two million jobs.

    Source: The Guardian

  4. PR Exec Fired for Racist Tweet

    Media conglomerate IAC fired a PR executive for posting a racist tweet before boarding a 12-hour flight to South Africa. Justine Sacco wrote “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” As she flew, the message went viral, sparking outrage, mockery and the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet. IAC, which operates sites like The Daily Beast and, scrambled to contain the storm while their plane-bound executive remained unaware of the backlash. The company has since announced that it has “parted ways” with Sacco.

    Source: CNN

  5. Bayern Munich Caps Stellar Year with Club World Cup Win

    German heavyweights Bayern Munich beat Raja Casablanca 2-0 this weekend in the final of the 2013 Fifa Club World Cup. Raja qualified for the tournament as the best team from the host country, Morocco, making it only the second team outside Europe or South America to play in the final. Bayern won the German league and championship, as well as the European Champion’s League too. With such an impressive collection of silverware, the title of ”World’s Best Club” is hard to dispute.

    Sources: Goal, NYT