The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Russia, Ukraine Face Off Over Crimea

    According to the Ukraine, Putin’s military is demanding that Ukrainian forces leave the peninsula by dawn Tuesday or a Russian “military storm” will descend. They also reportedly demanded the surrender of two Ukrainian warships by 5 p.m. GMT Monday. But Russia now says they have no intention of storming Ukrainian troops. The EU has called an “extraordinary summit” of leaders for Thursday to discuss the Crimean crisis. One U.S. pundit called the standoff a huge mistake by Putin. By morning, the world should know who’s right, and who’s bluffing.

    Sources: CNN, BBC, Washington Post

  2. ’Gravity’ Grabs Most, ’12 Years’ Nabs Top Film Honor

    It was a tight field for best picture this year, but the award went to director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. Alfonso Cuaron’s space odyssey, Gravity, for which he won best director, took home the most statues, but there were no big surprises in the major categories. Matthew McConaughey gave a charming acceptance speech for best actor, and Cate Blanchett seemed to have clocked the longest thank-you list as best actress. Host Ellen Degeneres served pizza to the audience and snapped a selfie with stars including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, which promptly became the most retweeted photo ever.

    Sources: LA Times, Entertainment Weekly

  3. Netanyahu and Obama to Discuss Mideast Peace Deal

    Israel’s prime minister is meeting the president in Washington today to discuss Middle East peace efforts. The stakes are high and the goal of a preliminary agreement in April is ambitious, but both men seem to be approaching it from different angles. While Obama implores Netanyahu to seize the opportunity, move forward and make peace, the Israeli leader has publicly vowed to ignore diplomatic pressure and maintain a tough line with the Palestinians. If declarations are any indication, Obama has a difficult day ahead of him and will need nothing short of a miracle to get a peace deal signed.

    Sources: NPRBloomberg

  4. UN Warns of Urgent Need for Aid in CAR

    After almost a year of inter-religious violence, the Central African Republic is now facing a new threat: a severe food crisis. According to the UN, only a fifth of the $500 million donations promised in January have arrived in CAR, and experts think it is crucial to get the rest of the aid in now before the rainy season starts and isolates many impoverished areas. The violence has stopped, but the nightmare continues for the troubled nation, where thousands have already died and 4.6 million have been displaced.

    Source: Al Jazeera

  5. Pistorius Trial Begins With Testimony of ’Bloodcurdling Screams’

    A neighbor’s description of hearing a woman screaming in pain, followed by a man yelling for help, from Olympian Oscar Pistorius’ home kicked off a murder trial being watched around the world. The screams, the neighbor testified, were followed by shots. Pistorius, an Olympic hero who ran on prosthetic limbs, doesn’t deny killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his bathroom in the middle of the night in February 2013. He maintains it was an accident, and that he mistook her for an intruder. The trial is slated to last three weeks, but with up to 107 witnesses scheduled, experts say it will likely last longer.

    Sources: ABC, Reuters

  6. Obama Pressures Putin to Ease Off Ukraine

    Obama may be facing his hardest decision yet over how toughly to respond to his counterpart in the Kremlin over Russia’s military buildup in the Crimea. Putin’s troops have reportedly taken control of the peninsula with a 6,000-strong force, and Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of declaring war. Secretary of State John Kerry visits the Ukraine tomorrow for talks. The president — who has said the intervention is a breach of international law — is seeking economic measures to punish Russia for the provocation, while the markets are starting to react — oil prices are higher, and the Russian stock market has plunged. 

    Sources: BBCDWNYT, FT


  1. Ants Sacrifice Young Generation for Greater Good

    We all know that ants are well-organized hard workers, but new research showing how ants form themselves into rafts to avoid floods reveals their true pecking order. In the event of water surges, the colony saves the queen by sacrificing the youngest among them. Larvae and pupae, which are the more buoyant, form the base of the raft, while workers disperse themselves to form a protective dome around the queen. Scientists believe the colony is willing to lose its youngest generation if it means a faster rebuilding of the nest, giving a new twist to the saying: “Last in, first out!”

    Source: International Science Times

  2. Study Finds Rare Gene Protects Against Disease

    Hope may soon be at hand for those who suffer from or are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. A new study has found a rare mutation that protects people against the disease, even if they’re overweight. The mutation decreases the likelihood of getting diabetes by two-thirds by destroying a gene used by pancreas cells where insulin is made. People with the mutation seem to make slightly more insulin and have lower glucose levels. Drug companies hope to harness the mutation’s power by developing a drug to mimic its effect.

    Source: NYT

  3. Disney World Hikes Prices … Again

    Entering the Magic Kingdom just got a little less magical as one-day ticket prices to Disney World went up to $99 last week. Tickets have steadily been rising since 1970, when they cost just $20. A spokesperson for the company said the increases reflect improvements at the park, including $1.5 billion spent on new high-tech wristbands. Despite the price hikes, customers keep on going to the cartoon kingdom, apparently unperturbed with Mickey and Minnie pocketing a handsome $14 billion last year. 

    Source: Quartz

  4. Statistician Reveals Ingredients for Oscar Best Picture Winners

    It just wouldn’t be Oscar night without a few surprises, but famed analyst Nate Silver doesn’t like dealing in unknowns. In the run-up to last night’s awards, Silver revealed some of the most common components of previous Academy Award-winning best picture films. They include grand, Shakespearean themes usually set in the Big Apple, and husband-wife relationships are over-represented, as are doctors. But the secret sauce is not complete without a final dash of spice — an incredible 31 percent of the winning flicks contain a scene where someone gets slapped in the face. 

    Source: ABC

  5. Top NCAA Teams Suffer Losses Ahead of March Madness

    The college basketball tournament is still two and a half weeks away, but the drama is already here. In recent days several ranked NCAA basketball teams have faltered, revealing cracks at the top. Creighton and Iowa State appear to be too dependent on too few players while Kansas and Michigan State are hobbling with new and old injuries. Kentucky can’t seem to shed its reputation for being inexperienced while Louisville can’t seem to beat top-ranked teams. Building the perfect bracket and winning Warren Buffet’s billion dollar prize has never looked harder.

    Source: Bleacher Report