The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. U.S. Braces for Record-Setting Freeze

    Record low temperatures across America have grounded more than 3,600 flights and caused at least 16 deaths. With arctic air masses bringing dangerously low temperatures to the center of the country, some parts of the Midwest could see wind chills of minus 60 degrees. With exposed skin freezing within 10 minutes at minus 35, the National Weather Service said, “this is a particularly dangerous situation.” Though the weather on the East Coast reached comfortable highs of 54 on Monday, temperatures on Tuesday are expected to remain around 0 as the air front moves towards the sea.

    Sources: NYT, BBC

  2. Rodman and Team of Ex-NBA All Stars Arrive in North Korea

    North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-Un will be receiving a special gift for his birthday tomorrow: a basketball game orchestrated by his self-declared friend, Dennis Rodman. A group of former NBA athletes, including ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker, will play against a local team in an effort to show the world, as Rodman puts it, that North Korea is “not that bad.” This is Rodman’s fourth visit to Pyongyang in a year. Critics have voiced concern over the athletes playing ball with a dictator accused of human rights violations, but Rodman hopes the game will help open a dialog with North Korea.

    Sources: NYT, USA Today

  3. Rise of Authoritarianism May Overshadow Major Elections In 2014

    This will be an election-packed year with 40 percent of the world’s population going to the polls to vote, including in Brazil, the U.S., and India. But as 2013 revealed in many countries like Egypt, Russia, and Syria, authoritarianism is on the rise globally. Undemocratic governments have evolved from strong-arm tactics, preferring now to co-opt pluralistic institutions like the press and opposition activists in order to maintain power. The world’s growing middle class, increasingly choosing stability over democracy, may be in part to blame for this anti-democratic mood. The important thing to watch for is whether elected leaders ousted from power remain committed to democratic processes or themselves turn to violence.

    Sources: The Atlantic, NPR

  4. Senate Confirms Janet Yellen as New Federal Reserve Chair

    Janet Yellen, as expected, has been appointed successor to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who will step down from the post at the end of January. Yellen, who has been vice-chair since 2010, will become the first woman to lead the central bank. She was one of Bernanke’s staunchest allies, and many expect that her appointment will bring continuity to her predecessor’s policies in order to keep the U.S. economy on the road to recovery. Yellen will face the unenviable task, however, of scaling back some of the Fed’s extraordinary measures that have helped lower borrowing costs.

    Sources: NYT, The Guardian, Washington Post


  1. Run Run Shaw, Titan of Asian Filmmaking, Dies at 106

    His entertainment company helped launch the careers of John Woo, Wong Kar-wai and Chow Yun-fat, produced more than 1,000 films, and inspired many, including Quentin Tarantino. Shaw’s illustrious career began with his brother’s silent film business in the 1930s. He produced U.S. films including “Blade Runner,” donated more than $100 million to universities, and served as chairman of Hong Kong’s Television Broadcasts Ltd. until he retired at 104. 

    Sources: The Guardian, NYT

  2. Pope Francis Gives Unexpected Boost to Democrats’ Minimum Wage Battle

    Democrats are gearing up for a major 2014 midterm election battle to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, and they’re channeling the momentum from the Pope’s recent denunciations of economic inequality to advance their cause. While President Obama ran for the presidency in 2008 on a pledge to raise the living wage, Republicans and business interests successfully opposed the raise, arguing that it would be a job-killer. Now, in addition to the pontiff’s public clout, GOP politicians will have to contend with the 60 percent of independents and 57 percent of Republican voters who support the increase.

    Sources: NYT, Politico

  3. Wounded Veterans Recruited In Battle Against Child Predators

    America’s wounded warriors are being recruited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to catch child predators. Incorporating wounded soldiers into the fight against child pornography gives veterans a way to continue protecting their country while learning skills like computer forensics that can help them compete in the job market. Though dealing with difficult child pornography material could potentially adversely affect mental recovery from war trauma, veterans have reported that their combat experience and the satisfaction of saving children’s lives have aided in coping with the emotional toll of their job.

    Source: Huffington Post

  4. Disney’s ’Frozen’ Knocks Down the Hobbit

    Disney’s latest animated movie “Frozen” claimed the top spot at the U.S. and Canadian box offices for the first weekend of 2014, knocking “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” to third after holding the lead for three weeks. The icy fairy tale has already collected $640 million globally, making it the highest-grossing Disney animation release after the “The Lion King.” The unusual return of the film to the top of the chart, seven weeks after its premiere, might have something to do with the not so fairy-like freeze currently gripping North America.

    Source: BBC

  5. Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder Will Perform a Duet at the Grammys

    In their first televised gig since 2008, Daft Punk will perform at the Grammy Awards on January 26. That alone would be a rare treat, but the announcement that they will be doing so in a duet with soul legend Stevie Wonder makes it a truly special occasion. The French electronic duo, known for being camera shy, has been nominated for four Grammy awards, including album of the year and best performance for their single “Get Lucky.” Lucky is certainly how fans must be feeling about now. 

    Sources: Rolling Stone, TIME

  6. FSU’s Jaw-Dropping Triumph Over Auburn Scores National Title

    Football fans enjoyed a nail-biting fourth quarter on Monday as Florida State University faced Auburn in the BCS Championship game at the Rose Bowl. In the first three quarters, it looked as though the undefeated Seminoles had lost their nerve, and even their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Jameis Winston, looked shaky. Taking a page out of Auburn’s usual book of last-minute heroics, however, the Seminoles secured their 34-31 win at the very end. Winston threw the winning touchdown with just seconds left on the clock.

    Sources: USA Today, ESPN