The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Obama Pledges Action, Promptly Leaves Washington to Get Started

    President Obama used his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to pledge a year of action. Much of the speech outlined the ways he would fulfill that pledge without Congress, from raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers to protecting wilderness and other sensitive lands. He then took his message on the road. His two-day, four-state tour is a sign of things to come: The President plans to leave Washington at least once a week and unveil dozens of new executive actions in the months ahead. The emphasis on executive action, though, has created an opening for Republicans to portray Obama as a power-grabbing president, which could serve them well in a midterm election showdown. 

    Sources: NYT, Politico, Washington PostNew Yorker, New York Magazine

  2. The Trials and Tribulations of a Controversial Olympics

    The Olympics bring the world together and sometimes put politics on the playing field. The Sochi Winter Games promise both. Russia’s treatment of the LGBT community has prompted outcry, resulting in Obama appointing gay athletes to the U.S. opening ceremony delegation and the German Olympic team sporting rainbow uniforms. But Sochi also guarantees a fresh look at the world’s best athletes. Watch out for Slovenian skier Tina Maze, who causes a stir on and off the slopes, 15-year-old American figure-skating wonder Polina Edmunds and Japan’s half-pipe king (and next Shaun White?) Taku Hiraoka.

    Sources: Boston Globe, Denver Post, Bleacher Report

  3. Protesters Stand Their Ground in Kiev

    The world has witnessed a buildup of tensions in Ukraine since November, when President Viktor Yanukovych turned his back on an EU trade deal, sparking protests in Kiev. Demonstrators have been demanding new elections, and the government answered their demands with a new antiprotest law, which led to hundreds of arrests. Parliament voted to grant amnesty to the detainees this week in an attempt to calm the situation, but under the condition that they vacate government buildings. Yanukovych, meanwhile, has gone off sick from work, and the demonstrators are accusing security forces of abducting and torturing protesters. While the outcome remains uncertain, one thing’s for sure: The protesters aren’t going home anytime soon.

    Sources: BBC, DW

  4. Nigeria Set to Pounce as Africa’s Next Economic Tiger

    In the next few years, Nigeria is eyeing the lead role as Africa’s economic powerhouse. Compared with its rival economy South Africa, Nigeria has over 100 million more people, fewer entrenched labor problems and an economy that’s growing nearly twice as fast. Technology and telecommunication firms are drawing international competition to a previously struggling African economy. But to grasp the golden ticket to prosperity, the country must first tackle ongoing corruption and heavy reliance on the oil industry.

    Source: GlobalPost

  5. The Winners and Losers in the $500 Billion Farm Bill

    After two years and 900-plus pages, it finally looks like the U.S. will have a new farm bill. Already scoring House approval, it’s slated to pass the Senate this coming week. Food stamps are cut by the billions, but so are some farm subsidies. The organic industry scores a win, but meat processors aren’t happy. The bill may just signal a sea change for rural America, and it’s slowly slipping in importance for the GOP.

    Sources: Politico, The Week, Atlantic

  6. Residents in Wartime Pakistan Are Wary of Tackling the Taliban

    If you lived in South Waziristan, a rural tribal area in Pakistan, you’d have had a scary and remarkable past few years. Until recently, the region was under Taliban rule; now, the Pakistani army has brought about improvements, including roads and women’s education. Militant attacks have forced a national debate on whether to launch another assault against the Taliban. Many war-weary residents don’t see another upheaval in their lives as a good thing. While former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s son calls for armed response to the Taliban, who still occupy northern regions, current PM Nawaz Sharif insists the talking option must stay on the table.

    Source: GlobalPost, BBC


  1. Oddsmen, Taxmen, Businessmen — the Super Bowl’s Game of Millions

    No matter who wins or loses the Super Bowl, big money changes hands this weekend. More than $99 million was bet on last year’s games, with more than $7 million landing in bookies’ laps. Meanwhile, New Jersey taxpayers hold a $17.7 million bill and counting, for increased public expenditures for the game staged at the Giants’ Meadowlands home in the Garden State. Local businesses say the expected $500 million jolt to the region hasn’t materialized, and, in fact, the NFL has proved a difficult partner. Wither sportsmanship?

    Sources: NYT, Asbury Park Press, Star-Ledger

  2. How to Promote Sustainable Living Without All the Sacrifice

    Our consumption-driven growth is unsustainable, and while this has been recognized for years, politicians, business leaders and NGOs have been slow to help people embrace sustainable lifestyles without feeling deprived. By focusing on three simple narratives — simplicity, green growth and ”collaborative consumption” — we might just gain greater reliance on sharing or temporarily renting what we need to maintain our lifestyles. While none of these visions is likely to capture the imagination of an entire population, creative use of all three may help speed up the embrace of sustainable lifestyles.

    Source: Aeon

  3. Double Life of a Tour Guide Says a Lot About How We Sell College

    College acceptance letters are starting to roll in, but how well do you really know that first-choice school? College tours are increasingly geared toward consumerism rather than fact, as many of their tour guides will tell you (off the record). Topics tour guides are told to avoid include alcohol, dating, grade deflation and Ivy League social elitism. Many report lying to make their school seem more attractive, so much so that current students and alumni who go on the college tours often don’t recognize the school being described. Ultimately, the more applications, the better a college looks — so what’s the harm in a little fibbing?

    Source: Narratively

  4. You No Longer Have to Trust the Weather Forecaster

    Between the recent polar vortex snaps and California dry spells, there’s been plenty of reason to talk about the weather. And with a profusion of data sources online, it is now possible to move beyond mere talk to a fuller understanding of weather patterns at all levels, from apps that tell you when it will rain at your location to global models that incorporate effects from planetary forces. New maps, charts and time-series plots abound. Explore this impressive list of meteorologists, institutes, imagery, data, forecasts and models for a sampling of the possible weather-related knowledge at your fingertips.

    Source: Atlantic

  5. Former Big Law Partner’s Bankruptcy Filing Emblematic of Malaise in Profession

    Gregory Owens, a partner at a prestigious global law firm, made $375,000 last year, and yet on New Year’s Eve, he filed for bankruptcy. While part of Mr. Owens’ situation is due to personal circumstances, the precariousness of his finances also reflects the changing professional landscape for lawyers. As law firms compete for declining market share, they will likely continue to consolidate — a process that will see more partners ”de-equitized,” like Mr. Owens was when he moved from the collapsing Dewey & LeBoeuf to White & Case. These so-called service partners aren’t really partners at all, since they work on salary, and when their area of expertise isn’t hot, they may find themselves out of work. A career track that for decades was seen as a relatively secure path to success now seems anything but. 

    Source: NYT