The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Turkish, Russian Confrontation Too Close for Comfort

    World War III has been avoided … for now. But many are wondering why Turkey risked drawing Mother Russia’s ire by shooting down one of her planes. Turks say the Su-24 entered their airspace and was warned to leave, but Russia’s foreign minister claims that the downing appeared to be “a planned provocation,” rather than unintentional. Both sides, thankfully, have opted not to declare war, but with Moscow now deploying an anti-aircraft missile system in Syria to destroy anyone who targets its warplanes, Turkey’s NATO allies remain understandably nervous.

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    US Takes Action After Kunduz Hospital Strike

    It was a “tragic mistake.” American military personnel have been suspended following an airstrike that killed 30 at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan last month. Gen. John Campbell said the clinic was misidentified as another building in which combatants were reportedly holed up, leading to the 30-minute onslaught. The decision to strike, he said, resulted from technical and procedural lapses, including “avoidable human error,” partly caused by troop fatigue. The aid organization’s chief responded, calling it “gross negligence” and reiterating his demand for an independent inquiry.

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    Pope’s African Tour Focuses on Peace, Reconciliation

    He’s more worried about mosquitoes than terrorists. That’s what the pontiff said about security concerns as he launched his visit in Kenya, meeting with religious leaders he asked to be “prophets of peace.” This morning, Pope Francis gave Mass at the University of Nairobi, telling tens of thousands there that a society’s well-being “depends on the health of its families.” He’s expected to extol traditional values and push for a resolution to the Christian-Muslim conflict plaguing the continent as his tour continues in Uganda and the Central African Republic.

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    US Consumer Confidence Slips, Spending Slows

    Vendors won’t find this at all jolly. American shoppers are exercising increasing caution before the start of the holiday season, stashing away more and spending less. The personal savings rate is at a three-year high, but lower consumer confidence could hurt economic growth for the end of the year. Concerns over terrorism, energy-sector layoffs, low oil prices and the strong dollar’s impact on overseas demand could be behind the spending slump. But analysts say it’s a mystery, and businesses hope it’s just the quiet before a shopping-crazed storm.


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    Eagles of Death Metal Discuss Paris Terror Attack

    The show must go on. In their first interview since the Nov. 13 tragedy, members of the rock band shared what it was like inside the Bataclan theater. All of the musicians escaped unharmed, but not without several close encounters, including co-founder Jesse Hughes being chased by a gunman and sound engineer Shawn London repeatedly coming under fire as he tried to escape. The band promised to continue touring, with Hughes declaring, “I want to be the first band to play in the Bataclan” when it reopens.

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    Australia Hopes Drones Can Reduce Shark Attacks

    They want predators to buzz off. In a bid to keep people safe from ravenous sharks, New South Wales is testing a beach-monitoring program using drones. Unmanned aerial vehicles — as opposed to far pricier helicopters — will be sent up over the waves, feeding images to operators on the ground who are scanning for sharks. Authorities hope the $11 million trial, coupled with new “smart drum lines” that alert lifeguards when a shark is snagged on a baited hook, will help them wave away deadly encounters.

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    Could a Balanced Diet Alleviate Mental Illness?

    This might sweeten the pill for eating right. While mainstream psychiatry has yet to embrace its potentially curative properties, a nascent research field has found intriguing links between food and mood. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce schizophrenia risk, and nutrient cocktails can lower anxiety. Although it’s too soon to tell, the possible paradigm shift could allow the nearly one in five American adults who suffer from mental illness to access treatment without the weight gain, listlessness and other common side effects of psychiatric drugs.

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    Should We Ignore Black Friday Statistics?

    It’s a numbers game. Every year we hear whether Black Friday sales are busier than past years, and analysts look at the figures to gauge the health of the U.S. — and increasingly the global — economy near the end of the year. But many of the reports are anecdotal, and others cite data from the National Retail Federation that was collected before Thanksgiving weekend ends. So while tomorrow’s receipts are important for business, they’re not the best way to predict whether holiday shoppers will be naughty or nice.

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    NFL Great Frank Gifford Suffered From CTE

    Signs of the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) were found in the late Hall of Fame player, his family says. The longtime Monday Night Football host’s brain, following his August death at age 84, is being donated for research into treating the traumatic brain injuries that have come to haunt football in recent years. Research into CTE has long been stymied because its effects can only be confirmed post-mortem. But Gifford’s family says revealing his diagnosis shows the risks can affect anyone playing football “at any level.”