The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. A Big U.S. Debt Deadline Looms Again

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says he faces a financial sticking point on Feb. 27, when he can no longer move the budget chess pieces, which could leave the U.S. vulnerable to debt default. Due to a House Democrats’ retreat, and a week-long holiday for all of Congress, lawmakers won’t all work a full day from this Wednesday until Feb. 26. The biggest change and cause for hope this time around is a new sense of cooperation and pragmatism emanating from the capital. A quiet resolution to a new debt ceiling crunch might end up being the biggest news of all, but time is short.

    Source: Washington Post

  2. Peacekeepers Face Attacks in Homs as Syrian Talks Reopen in Geneva

    The Syrian city of Homs has been a battleground between regime forces and rebels for a year and a half, with 2,500 civilians trapped in the firing line. Thanks to the crumbling of last week’s ceasefire, UN and Syrian Red Crescent workers are finding themselves increasingly under attack. In spite of this, the international aid teams have managed to evacuate more than 600 civilians from the unstable city. A second round of peace talks is set to begin today in Geneva, where diplomats plan to urge both sides to allow for more humanitarian aid.

    Sources: BBCAl JazeeraGuardian

  3. First Olympic Weekend Offers Plenty of Mountaintop Thrills

    This year’s Games may go down in history as the “Slopestyle” rather than Sochi Olympics, thanks to the snowboarding event’s well-received debut. Americans Jamie Anderson and Sage Kotsenburg thrilled in the event this weekend as they slid to golden victory, and British fans basked in the glory of their first snow medal with Jenny Jones taking bronze. Other must-sees included the Canadian sister act of Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe taking gold and silver on moguls. Skating enthusiasts got to see Evgeni Plushenko shine as Russia’s ageless showman, and they got to glimpse American Ashley Wagner pouting over lower-than-expected scores. Day three gets under way today with curling, more skating and hockey.

    Sources: CNNUSA TodayBBC

  4. Swiss Opt to Halt Mass Immigration in Close Vote

    Five hundreds years of neutrality have left the Swiss feeling very independent, and they’ve just issued us a reminder. Despite close ties to major European powers — it’s not a part of the EU — Switzerland has set continental fingers a wagging with a referendum that will reverse freedom of movement for EU citizens. Swiss voters narrowly backed a move to bring back strict immigration quotas from EU countries, reconstructing an invisible fence around their precious alps. With race and immigration already long-standing tough issues for Europe, Switzerland’s step back guarantees repercussions in Brussels.

    Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC

  5. Iran Agrees to Cooperate With UN Nuclear Investigation

    Tehran has been tight-lipped about its nuclear program in the face of international scrutiny, but that is about to change. Iran has agreed to provide UN weapons inspectors with some limited information about its nuclear capabilities and future plans. What weapons inspectors and the world really want to know is whether Iranian officials have access to a red button, so they’re looking to see whether Iran has developed detonator technology. The offer of transparency is a welcome olive branch in the run-up to this month’s talks in Vienna about lifting sanctions on the Islamic republic. 

    Sources: ReutersCBC


  1. Danish Zoo Kills Giraffe and Feeds It to Lions

    A zoo in Denmark has been internationally condemned after it killed a healthy male giraffe, publicly dissected it and threw it to the lions. Copenhagen Zoo has defended its decision to snuff out the giraffe, saying international uproar was totally out of proportion. Marius, who stood at 11ft 6ins, met his untimely end by shotgun and was turned to food before a crowd of spectators, despite other zoos’ offers to give him a safe home. The Danish zoo said Marius was useless for breeding as his genes were too common. Now that’s taking natural selection to new heights.

    Sources: NYT, Guardian

  2. Pakistan Sets Sights on Clean Slate

    Karachi’s 18 million inhabitants are being disarmed of their spray cans with a new law against graffiti on urban walls. Authorities blame militants for writing inflammatory messages on the city’s walls, and they’re fed up with the eyesore. It’s an optimistic law that will be tough to enforce, so residents are being asked to get involved by cleaning up their neighborhoods. It is hoped that they will also clean up Karachi’s image and inspire a broader campaign to reclaim public space from the trouble-making, graffiti-prolific minority.

    Source: NPR

  3. Media Gaffe Forces AOL Boss to Reverse Cutback Plan

    CEO Tim Armstrong had big plans: He was going to cut back on AOL’s retirement benefits in order to offset rising employee healthcare costs. He highlighted the cases of two female workers with sick babies as examples of why costs were spiraling out of control. The resulting outcry, however, has forced Armstrong not only to apologize for referring to the children as ”distressed babies,” but also to reverse his proposed retirement plan changes. It seems that throwing a tantrum can produce healthy results after all.

    Sources: ForbesReuters

  4. Berlin’s Film Festival Opens Its Arms to Everyone

    The red carpets at Sundance and Cannes may be hard for regular Joes to find, but that’s nicht so in Berlin. The International Film Festival or Berlinale, one of the city’s biggest cultural events, is currently under way, and is open to anyone. The public is invited to screenings at 400 venues across the city, and tickets cost less than $20. The open nature of the festival allows for a truly civic experience of watching and discussing film. It’s not a low-brow affair either, with this year’s luminaries including Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater and Lars von Trier.

    Sources: LA TimesNYT

  5. Football Star Michael Sam Announces He Is Gay

    The former University of Missouri star defensive lineman hopes to plant his cleats firmly in the history books as the first openly gay player in NFL history. Sam is expected to get snapped up by the NFL in an early round draft pick this year, which would make him the first active, openly gay man in the U.S.’s major professional sports leagues (NBA player Jason Collins announced he was gay last year, but hasn’t played since). Rather than allowing the rumor mill to shape his story, Sam has decided to tell it himself. His Missouri teammates have been very supportive, and Sam’s hoping the NFL proves to be just as open-minded. 

    Sources: NYTUSA TodayBleacher Report