The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Early Results Show Support for New Egyptian Constitution

    Egypt has closed its polls on a referendum for a new constitution, and partial results reflect support, perhaps as high as 90 percent. Egypt’s military needed high voter turnout to legitimize the constitution. It would replace the 2012 constitution and ban the Muslim Brotherhood, which boycotted the vote, clearing the way for the popular General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to run for president. But reports of voter turnout were mixed after election-related clashes led to 11 deaths. Critics claim the constitution favors the military over the people, but most Egyptians seem more concerned with stability.

    Sources: BBC, Washington Post, CS Monitor, DW

  2. Trial Begins for Hezbollah Operatives Accused of Killing Former Prime Minister

    Four Hezbollah operatives accused of murdering former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others with a car bomb in 2005 are being tried in absentia by an international tribunal in the Netherlands. Established by the UN, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has conducted an investigation into the bombing and related killings over six years at a cost of about $325 million in hopes of heralding a new era of accountability for political killings. But with Lebanon struggling to form a government and increased sectarian strife linked to Syria’s civil war, the trial comes at a challenging time and could contribute to further unrest in the coming weeks.

    Sources: Der Spiegel, WSJ (sub), The Daily Star, NYT

  3. Conman Comedy and Out-Of-This-World Thriller Top Noms List

    Neck and neck for most Oscar noms are American Hustle and Gravity; both snagged 10 each. Second in line, joining them in the Best Picture and Best Director categories is 12 Years a Slave which picked up nine nominations. Actors vying for Academy Award gold include Leonardo DiCaprio and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. But there were some surprise snubs, too, including Robert Redford. Tinseltown’s big show airs on March 2.

    Sources: LA Times, Washington Post, BBCUSA Today

  4. Obama Launches New High-Tech Institute in North Carolina

    President Obama has announced the creation of a public-private venture in North Carolina aimed at creating well-paid manufacturing jobs. The move delivers on one of Obama’s pledges in last year’s State of the Union. The institute, steered by a consortium of 18 businesses and six universities, will work on developing energy-efficient electronics. It is one of three such institutes the president plans to announce this winter. Following a disappointing December jobs report, the president is off to a promising start with his resolution to focus on employment in 2014. 

    Sources: NYT, Al Jazeera

  5. U.S. Ranks Behind Western Europe in Access to Healthy Foods

    Want a healthy diet? It’s not easy to do in America. Oxfam, an anti-poverty non-profit organization, measured how easily families around the world can access affordable, nutritious produce. The U.S. ranked 21, behind 19 western European countries — including top-ranked Netherlands — and Australia. Despite food being inexpensive in the U.S., poorer Americans still don’t have access to healthy options at a low enough price. With 900 million people in the world not having enough to eat while one billion are obese, it’s clear there is enough food to go around, but we need to distribute it better.

    Source: NPR


  1. Anti-Semitism v. Freedom of Speech

    Proponents of an Israeli bill to ban calling someone a “Nazi” are being called out by defenders of free speech who prefer awareness of anti-Semitism to criminalization. Those backing the bill say they are responding to increased public displays of anti-Semitism around the world. But banning the word in the Jewish state will have little impact on legalities elsewhere. In Poland this week, a prosecutor decided that football fans chanting “Move on, Jews! Your home is at Auschwitz” was not criminal. While free speech may win, hatred needs to lose.

    Sources: CNN, NYT

  2. Brazil’s Flashmob Trend Raises Concerns Ahead of World Cup

    In recent weeks, several flashmob-style gatherings of young Brazilians have sprung up in shopping centers across Sao Paulo, drawing as many as 6,000 people. These mostly tame affairs have, on occasion, been subject to police action, with tear gas and rubber bullets being used. Social media discussions have expressed fears about the political aims and social backgrounds of the participants, who are primarily black and hail from the city’s poorer areas. President Dilma Rousseff has reportedly convened a meeting to discuss the issue as Brazil inches closer to playing soccer World Cup host this summer.

    Source: BBC

  3. JC Penney and Sears Announce Thousands of Layoffs

    Weak holiday sales are being translated into department store cuts across North America. JC Penney plans to close 33 of its roughly 1,100 stores and eliminate some 2,000 jobs. CEO Myron E. Ullman III said the closures are part of the retailer’s reassessment as it walks the long road towards profitability. In Canada, Sears’ employees have also been put on alert to news that the chain will slash 1,600 jobs, mostly from customer call centers. The cuts are part of an industry-wide trend in which Macy’s, an even stronger performer, announced earlier this month that it is laying off 2,500 employees.

    Sources: WSJ (sub), USA Today, Business Insider, BBC

  4. Razzie Awards Nominate Hollywood’s Underachievers

    It’s award season in Hollywood. That means it’s time for the Oscars as well as the Razzies — the annual mock awards for underachievers of the cinema industry. With eight nominations, including worst movie for his comedy Grown Ups 2, Adam Sandler leads the polls but is closely followed by Will Smith and his six nominations for the post-apocalyptic fantasy After Earth. Johnny Depp, Lindsay Lohan, Sylvester Stallone and Selena Gomez are also up for receiving the only award nobody wants, which are awarded on March 1, the eve of the Academy Awards.

    Sources: CNN, Time

  5. U.S. Athlete Gives Her Spot on Olympic Team to Twin Sister

    For most athletes, giving up their spot in an Olympic team would be unthinkable. But that is exactly what Tracy Barnes has done, handing her U.S. Olympic biathlon team baton to her twin sister, Lanny, who was too ill to attend team trials. Tracy was convinced her twin would make a better Olympian and so, despite Lanny’s initial refusal, chose to give up her own dream of participating in the Sochi Games in Russia next month. Tracy, 31, will probably not get another chance to compete in the Olympics, but she certainly gets a gold medal for being a good sister.

    Source: USA Today