The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. The Mystery Men of the Ukrainian Crisis

    A top American political operative’s last known job was working for now-ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. But Paul Manafort appears to have fallen off the map, and Washington’s high-fliers are asking questions. Meanwhile, a pro-Russian Ukrainian leader rose from an unknown to vocal leader for Russian intervention in the space of a very short week. Amid the confusion on the ground, EU leaders meet on the Ukraine crisis, but one analyst says even if full-on war is averted, the Crimea mess is going to take a long time to untangle. 

    Sources: Politico, The Australian, The Guardian, NYT

  2. Watchdog Probes CIA After U.S. Congress Complains

    Who’s monitoring the monitors? Apparently, the CIA. The agency’s inspector general has reportedly launched an internal investigation following complaints from Congress that the CIA had improperly monitored work by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers. Operatives were believed to have been after information concerning the committee’s investigation of the Bush administration’s controversial and now-defunct detention and interrogation program. Noting the rising tension, Intelligence Committee Chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein, said: “Our oversight role will prevail.” Looks like the honeymoon between the committee and intelligence agency may be over.

    Source: NYT

  3. China Sets New Course for Growth and Defense

    The National People’s Congress opened today with premier Li Keqiang signaling China’s intention to lower pollution and fight corruption even as it pursues a high 7.5 per cent economic growth target. Reformist president Xi Jinping’s administration has promised people-friendly policies of development and urbanization, but troubling trends loom, especially the 12.2 percent rise in defense spending. The military boost comes amid rising tensions with Japan and the Philippines over disputed territories and domestic anti-terrorism efforts. Japanese leaders responded by calling for a more transparent Chinese defense policy.

    Sources: BBCDW

  4. Abuse Hurts a Third of European Women

    In the largest study of its kind, a European survey has discovered that a third of all women have been the victim of some kind of abuse since the age of 15. Surprisingly, Denmark had the highest percentage of females — 52 percent — who reported being the victim of physical or sexual abuse, followed by Finland and Sweden. The survey was based on interviews with 42,000 women in 28 countries. The director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, which conducted the survey, said this “extensive human rights abuse” cannot be overlooked and urged countries to take action.

    Sources: DW, The Guardian

  5. Obama Tells Russia to Pull Back Troops

    The president is warning Russian troops in Crimea to retreat, but they’re not budging from what Russian leader Vladimir Putin boasts is a “humanitarian mission.” So far, it’s only a barbed war of words over the tense standoff in Ukraine, though Russia underscored its military might with a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile in Kazakhstan. Putin insists many apparently Russian soldiers in Crimea are actually local defense groups, but Ukrainian leaders refute the claim. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to meet Russia’s foreign minister today in Paris.

    Sources: BBCNPRThe GuardianWashington TimesNYT


  1. Hordes of Academics Take to Zombie Studies

    The walking dead have invaded academia. With at least 20 scholarly books published about zombies over the past five years, it appears that studying the undead is now a legitimate field. From the roots of folklore to the use of Buddhist imagery in zombie films, the undead are a compelling field of study for scholars in disciplines ranging from medicine to religion. Even Harvard University runs a course on the subject. Some may argue that zombie studies divert students away from more important subjects, but fans say the critics are dead wrong.

    Source: WSJ

  2. Protein-Heavy Diet May be as Bad as Smoking

    Eating lots of meat, eggs, milk and cheese could be just as bad for you as lighting up, a new study suggests. Heavy consumers of animal protein who are under the age of 65 increase their risk of dying from cancer or diabetes four-fold, similar to the effects of smoking. The days of high-protein and carb-minimizing diets may be numbered, with the study’s authors recommending that folks get less than 10 percent of their calories from dairy and meat. But people may start asking, where’s the beef?

    Source: The Guardian

  3. Facebook Eyes Aerospace Company

    The social network giant is reportedly in negotiations to scoop up start-up drone-maker Titan Aerospace for $60 million. Titan’s solar-powered “atmospheric satellite” drones, capable of flying in the air for five years before landing, would likely be used as communication relays for wireless networks. It’s all part of the grand plan of an initiative launched by non-profit organization (Facebook is a founding partner) to make the web affordable and accessible around the globe — and, obviously, vastly expand the potential pool of Facebook users. 

    Sources: TechCrunchArs TechnicaThe Guardian

  4. NPR’s Carl Kasell Announces Retirement

    Fans of the comedy quiz show Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me will be left wanting this spring as Kasell, 79, turns off his microphone. The newscaster for NPR’s Morning Edition from 1979 to 2009 began an unlikely second career as the judge and scorekeeper of the quiz in 1998. He also provided the coveted prize of customized voicemail greetings for the show’s winners, a role he will continue to play to the relief of contestants. A replacement for Kasell has not been announced.

    Sources: NYTCNN

  5. NFL Salary Cap Gets Unexpected Boost

    Professional football’s hard salary cap is reportedly set to rise by nearly $10 million, adding a whole new twist to the year’s already intriguing draft class. The cap on the total amount that teams can spend on players’ salaries has fundamental implications for team-building and strategy. Until a few weeks ago, teams expected only a modest increase in the cap. The new $133 million cap comes as a shock, and it could give teams much-needed breathing room and the opportunity to secure star players.

    Sources: Grantland, CBS