The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Former Israeli Prime Minister Dies at Age 85

    ”The Bulldozer”, one of Israel’s most controversial leaders, had spent eight years in a coma following a stroke at the height of his political power. Ariel Sharon, the iconic and hard line general-turned-politician, divided national opinion: to Israelis he was a hero, warrior and decisive ruler; to Palestinians he was ”The Butcher of Beirut,” responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. A giant figure – both in presence and metaphorically – Sharon leaves behind a complex legacy. His son Gilad said, “He has gone. He went when he decided to go.”

    Sources: BBC, Al Jazeera, USA Today, The Guardian

  2. Photos Illustrate U.S. Frozen in a Polar Vortex

    Record chills swept across the U.S. this week, dipping down from the arctic north. Photos speak more than words here, with commuters huddled behind balaclavas, water frozen mid-splash, plant life encased in ice and visions of stark white landscapes all around. Frozen weather tricks dominated the Internet, but maybe some folks’ common sense was, er, a little frozen too. Thankfully this coming week looks a lot warmer.

    Sources: Colossal, The AtlanticThe Telegraph, RTV6, LA Times

  3. U.S. Supreme Court to Decide on President’s Recess-Appointment Power

    Supreme Court justices will rule next week on the president’s right to appoint candidates to executive and judicial branch openings while Congress is not in session. Presidents have been doing this for decades, bypassing the need for congressional approval with their right to fill vacancies during congressional recesses. But Obama’s appointment of two people to the National Labor Relations Board during a congressional break in 2012 led to a constitutional test. Noel Canning, a firm that suffered an unfavorable ruling by the NLRB shortly after Obama’s selections, says the appointments were unconstitutionally made during a break, not a recess. A lower court agreed with the firm, but the Supreme Court will get the last word.

    Source: ScotusBlog

  4. Reaction to Sharon’s Death, Huge Fire Ravages Tourist Town

    The world and global leaders react to death of Ariel Sharon. (AP, Al Jazeera).

    Franklin McCain, civil rights leader and ’Greensboro Four’ member, dies. (CNN). 

    Huge fire severely damages ancient Tibetan town popular with tourists. (BBC). 

    Alex Rodriguez suspended for 2014 season; plans to fight ruling. (ESPN).

    “Golden Globes” promises fun with Poehler and Fey at the podium. (Toronto Star).

  5. Could 2014 be a Year of Victories for Republicans?

    The 2014 midterm election promises the usual campaigning, heated punditry and political debate. But some analysts say the GOP may already have it in the bag. Some key political trends are already tipping in the Republicans’ favor. The president’s approval rates are falling, for example, and voters may remain unconvinced by the slowly recovering economy. Also, the House and the Senate have been vulnerable places for Democrats in the past few years. Experts say deciding factors will include the progress by November of the economy and Obamacare.

    Source: Politico

  6. Russia Beefs Up Olympics Security With Legendary Fighters

    Security was a concern in Sochi from day one. But after the bombing that killed 34 people in Volgograd last month, Vladimir Putin has launched an unprecedented safety campaign that entails deploying twice as much security personnel as in the 2012 London Olympics. It also includes use of the legendary Spetsnaz fighters – an elite SEALs-esque group comprising officers from the Army, the intelligence services and the Interior Ministry. The special force will be key to protecting 62 miles of coast, challenging terrrain and a new 44-mile train route from Sochi to the Olympic Village. 

    Sources: Der SpiegelCNN, RT


  1. Zimbabwe is One of Africa’s Poorest Countries – and Most Expensive

    The average monthly wage is $253. So why does a can of Coke cost $2? After a decade of hyperinflation and the emergency adoption of the U.S. dollar, Zimbabwe is slowly recovering from an economic crisis that puts Wall Street to shame. But costs of household goods are still far higher than in any of its neighboring countries, and 70 percent of goods are imported from wealthier African countries, mostly South Africa. Zimbabwe effectively runs two economies: the government’s which few can afford and the unofficial black market.

    Source: New Republic

  2. Persuasion Guru Loses Faith in American Politics

    It’s time to worry. Something must be truly wrong in American politics when Frank Luntz — the political consultant and Republican persuasion guru — thinks we’ve gone too far down the partisan road. The man who runs focus groups on Fox News after presidential debates says he is disheartened by how confrontational people have become, and how reluctant they are to listen to other points of view. One of America’s top political advisors has lost faith in our ability to change our mind. Is it time to call rock bottom?

    Source: The Atlantic

  3. How Will the World Look Eons From Now?

    Ever wondered how the world will look in a 1,000 years? A new infographic says most of today’s buildings will have fallen or been engulfed by the sea after the Greenland ice sheet melts. Humans will speak an incomprehensible dialect, since no present day words will have survived language evolution. Some 15,000 years from now, Europe might enjoy tropical weather and Chernobyl will finally be safe. Humanity’s official expiration date, barring catastrophe, is about 5 million years, when men become extinct. Yet the barren planet will keep turning for a hundred quintillion years before plunging into the sun. Humbling, right?

    Source: BBC

  4. 2014 Academy Awards Promise an Eclectic Mix

    It’s been a strange year for cinema, with lots of last-minute potential winners squeezing in just before the Oscar nominations announcement this week. Recent successful releases include 12 Years A Slave, which has already been nominated for 11 BAFTAs, and the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, this year’s champion in Cannes. Most summer films have been left off the critics’ guess lists, with late-2013 releases Gravity, Wolf of Wall Street, Captain Phillips and Nebraska all looking to receive multiple nominations.

    Sources: Variety, Rope of Silicon, IndieWire

  5. Science Needs Big Ideas, Not Just Big Equipment

    Technology has always been a catalyst of discovery. But while instruments were once seen as mere tools at the service of ideas, they have recently become symbols of prestige. But having “the largest telescope” or “the fastest computer” brings the risk of giving machines too much credit. The growing number of projects aiming to map or catalog everything, from genes to stars, shows how traditional hypothesis-based research is being left behind in hopes that data mining will be enough to generate knowledge. And while instruments do expand human perception – astronomy would suffer without telescopes – the most important ingredient for research is imagination.

    Source: Aeon

  6. Rediscovering Charlie Rich, Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Missing Link

    Heard of Charlie Rich? He’s a country and R&B singer that time forgot, one of many 1960s savants who lost the series of battles with record labels that might’ve guaranteed him status as a household name. Joe Hagan describes Rich as “the definitive missing link between Elvis Presley and Ray Charles.” The enigmatic Rich’s soulful country sound made him a key influence for Tom Waits. But alcoholism and drug abuse brought about his withdrawal from music and his early death in 1995. Despite his talent, Rich never made it big, and so remains a mere shadow of 1960s and 70s Americana.

    Source: Oxford American