The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Mystery Deepens as Search for Missing Plane Widens

    How is it that modern technology can’t find any trace of missing Malaysia Airlines MH370? That’s the question 12 searching nations, millions of readers and the loved ones of the 239 passengers have been asking since the jetliner disappeared last weekend. Naval vessels have searched, aircraft have scoured and tech-savvy netizens have scanned satellite imagery online — all looking for a single clue to help solve the mystery. On Sunday Malaysian officials said that around 25 countries were involved in a vast land and sea search operation ranging from central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean.

    Sources: The Guardian, The Independent, BBC

  2. Tense Talks Loom on Middle East and Iran, Fed to Announce Interest Rate

    The first couple will address global hot spots this week. Michelle Obama is unlikely to stir up controversy with her trip to China, but her husband faces a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid what John Kerry describes as the highest levels of Israeli-Palestinian mistrust he has ever seen. The P5+1 are due to resume talks with Iran about its nuclear program this week, but there are fears that intra-council tensions over Ukraine could have a negative impact on negotiations. The Crimean crisis could also impact the Fed’s interest rate, which will be announced on Wednesday.  

    Sources: AFP, Washington Post, The Telegraph, WSJ (sub) 

  3. White House Tries to Calm Standoff Ahead of Crimea Vote

    The Obama administration is working on several fronts to try and calm the Ukraine crisis ahead of Sunday’s referendum on Crimea’s future, which could further inflame an already volatile situation. For this crucial task, the U.S. president appears to be taking a reverse approach to Roosevelt’s diplomatic axiom, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” So far, Washington has been “speaking more loudly” against Russia than its European allies while, when it comes to threats, Obama has chosen to discard the scarier military option and use the “smaller stick” of sanctions. Critics, meanwhile, have been calling on the president to get tougher with Putin.

    Sources: New Republic, NYT, Washington Post

  4. Could Fracking Be Behind the Rising Numbers of Earthquakes? 

    Between 2010 and 2013, there were nearly 450 earthquakes of 3.0 or higher magnitude in the region at the center of the “fracking boom.” Ohio is now investigating whether quakes in the central and eastern U.S. are actually being caused by hydraulic fracturing, which breaks shale rock thousands of feet below the earth in order to acquire oil and gas. Evidence suggests that quakes can be caused by the deep wells that dispose of fracking’s wastewater. Fracking companies continue to defend their practices, but it may be time for them to call a giant drill rig a spade.   

    Sources: Time, NYT 

  5. Charlie Crist Wants to Make Florida Feel Good (and Win an Election)

    He used to be a Republican, and he used to rule Florida from the governor’s mansion. Now Charlie Crist’s a Democrat running for his former job. Never a true conservative, he broke left when the Tea Party forced the GOP right. He’s credited with helping give Florida to President Obama and swing the last national election. But he’s also accused of just telling people what they want to hear — and sometimes doing the opposite. The question is: Is he truly devoted to serving Floridians and speaking for their needs? Or is he just another political opportunist changing with the tides? 

    Source: The Atlantic


  1. Did Russ Feingold Find Peace in the Congo?

    The career of Russ Feingold, former Democratic senator from Wisconsin, took an unexpected turn when, in 2010, after losing his re-election campaign, he was named U.S. special envoy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Feingold’s choice to leave the Senate for a country where the M23 Rwandan-backed rebels were waging a bloody war against the government might have seemed odd. But his patient efforts to organize talks with neighboring African leaders and oversee the peace negotiation have been fruitful. In November 2013, Rwanda withdrew its support to the M23, and they renounced the rebellion. Despite recent challenges in places like Syria and Ukraine, Feingold has succeeded in showing that diplomacy is still alive and well.

    Source: Politico 

  2. Rio’s Emblematic Christ Is Suffering

    Brazil’s iconic statue of the “Cristo Redentor” is one of the world’s best-known landmarks, yet few get to see it up close. The original idea for the monument was to rejoice in Rio’s Christianity in the face of rising secularism but, ever since, the Christ has become a popular tourist attraction. But the effect of 2 million annual visitors and the powerful weather have taken their toll on the 83-year-old statue. In January, the granite peak lost its middle fingertip and part of the back of its head to two direct lightning hits. Now the race is on to repair Rio’s favorite photo backdrop before the World Cup this summer.

    Source: BBC

  3. New Interactive Map Shows Worldwide Migration Trends

    Migration flows are often difficult to visualize. Enter the Migration Policy Institute, which has created an interactive map that shows, to the nearest thousand, the latest number of immigrants and emigrants moving between countries. This new tool, which uses U.N. data, casts some interesting light on migration trends. For example, some nations send nearly equal amounts of migrants each other’s way – like the U.K. and Australia. Most have a preferred destination — like the Americans moving to Mexico in large numbers. And it seems Russians have had a longtime preference for Ukraine.

    Sources: New Republic, Migration Policy 

  4. DARPA’s Robotic Focus May Prove a Game-Changer for Disasters

    Had workers been able to reach Reactor One in Fukushima when the plant melted down in 2011, the scale of the damage could have been substantially reduced. The DARPA Robotics Challenge aims to create robots that can go places too hazardous for humans. While long a source of imaginative fascination, humanoid robots still lack basic responsive capacities and cannot autonomously act in disaster zones. But developments like the driverless car, which is funded by Google and can independently navigate cities, suggest that commercially viable C3POs might not be science fiction for much longer. 

    Source: Aeon

  5. Heartbreaking Clown Earns Internet Fame for Cover of Lorde Hit

    A 7-foot singing clown has stolen Lorde’s thunder. Puddles, the sad clown with the golden voice, was already well-known in his native Atlanta, but thanks to his cover of the soulful teenager’s song “Royals,” he’s now a YouTube icon. Although journalists are dying to learn more about Puddles, the clown refuses to speak. At all. His “associate” Mike Geier says there’s no reason to talk about Puddles anyway because it’s like trying to describe the sunset — “just watch the sunset.”

    Source: Grantland

  6. The NFL Goes Boom as the NCAA Prepares to Explode

    Two sports, two career-making scrambles this week. Football had its first $1 billion day in a free agency bonanza. New salary cap rules push the teams to spend more. A lot more. Middling players have snagged fortunes. College basketball players can only dream of such money as they take the stage for March Madness’ Selection Sunday, kicking off the tournament that launched a thousand office betting pools — and NBA careers, of course. Break out those brackets — play begins Tuesday. 

    Sources: WSJ, Sports Illustrated, Businessweek