The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Soldier Dies in Contested Peninsula Amid Rising Tensions

    A Ukrainian serviceman has been killed at the Crimean base in Simferopol. Pro-Russia forces have taken control of the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol, reportedly taking the commander hostage. The drama started just hours after Vladimir Putin signed a bill to reunite Crimea with Russia, when armed men reportedly fired automatic weapons as they stormed Simferopol, killing one officer and injuring another. Meanwhile, Russia lashed out at the West on Wednesday, threatening to retaliate for “unacceptable” EU and U.S. sanctions.

    Sources: BBCNYT, Al Jazeera, USA Today

  2. Feds, Toyota Reach $1.2B Criminal Settlement 

    The deal marks the largest criminal agreement between a car company and the U.S. government ever. At issue: 9.4 million vehicles recalled because of stuck gas pedals. The agreement is on top of more than $1.6 billion Toyota has already paid out in lawsuits and fines. Toyota’s chief legal officer for North America called the deal “a major step toward putting this unfortunate chapter behind us.” Here’s looking at a smoother road ahead. 

    Sources: NYT, USA Today

  3. U.S. Orders Closure of Syrian Embassy in Washington

    Syria has been told to shut up shop, and Syrian diplomats have been ordered to leave by the end of the month as the U.S. toughens its stance on the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict. Daniel Rubinstein, Obama’s special envoy for Syria, says the U.S. cannot cooperate with representatives of the Assad regime given the atrocities it has committed. But Washington will continue its diplomatic ties with Damascus in a show of solidarity with the Syrian people as it awaits Assad’s departure, which doesn’t seem to be coming anytime soon.

    Sources: Al JazeeraWashington Post

  4. Yellen to Face Press as Fed Policy Meeting Concludes

    All eyes are on Janet Yellen today as she announces the outcomes of the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting — her first as chairwoman. Monthly asset purchases are expected to be reduced from $65 to $55 billion, but it’s less clear whether there will be changes for short-term interest rates — the centerpiece of the stimulus package. The Fed will also have to address the softening economic data of recent months, which previously had been attributed to adverse weather. Yellen has assumed leadership at a transitional time and may face more dissent than her predecessor about the Fed’s future direction as a result. 

    Sources: WSJ (sub), NYT

  5. One Third Have Less Than $1,000 Saved for Retirement

    Americans better like their jobs, because they’re going to need them for a long, long time. New surveys show that 36 percent of workers have less than $1,000 saved up for their golden years, and 60 percent have less than $25,000 set aside. The scariest part is that many don’t even know how much they’ll need for life after work. Those who have done the math tend to save the most, so it’s high time we all reached for those calculators.

    Source: USA Today


  1. Robot Writes First Story on L.A. Earthquake

    While most Angelenos slept through the 4.7-magnitude earthquake that rocked southern California early Monday, the Los Angeles Times’ Ken Schwencke had the story within three minutes. How? Via “robo-journalist” Quakebot, of course. Schwencke has created an algorithm that instantly generates an article whenever the U.S. Geological Survey issues local alerts for earthquakes above a certain intensity. Quakebot spits out the story, and an editor hits “publish.” Thankfully, robot reporters cannot yet master the sparkling wit necessary to make Ozy’s news staff obsolete. Hush Quakebot, hush! 

    Sources: BBCio9

  2. 3,000-Year-Old Skeleton Shows Earliest Evidence of Cancer

    Cancer is usually attributed to a modern lifestyle filled with processed foods, bad habits and environmental toxins. But archaeologists in Sudan have found the remains of a 3,200-year-old male skeleton with telltale signs of metastatic cancer, the oldest evidence of the disease ever found. Scientists hope to use the discovery to learn more about the underlying causes of cancer — currently the second most-common cause of death in the U.S. — and the evolution of the disease. 

    Sources: ABCMedical Daily

  3. New App Allows Us to Steer Clear of Chance Encounters

    Tired of constantly being “available”? The new Cloak app presents a possible solution — building an “anti-social network” that lets you know when the people you’d rather not talk to are in close range. Cloak uses information from other sites that collect geolocation data to warn users when selected people are nearby, allowing them to evade unwanted social encounters with folks they’d rather not have on their friends list. The flip side, critics say, is even less privacy. Perhaps Cloak signals the Facebook generation’s move into its anti-social phase.

    Sources: WiredCBS

  4. Disney Announces the Force Will Return for ’Star Wars’ 30 Years On

    Fans of the epic space drama reached for their lightsabers upon hearing that the much-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII will be set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. Filming starts in the UK this May under the direction of Star Trek revamper J. J. Abrams, but other plot details remain hush-hush. Fans were relieved to hear R2-D2 is reprising his role. There’s no word yet about whether other big-name, force-wielding heroes will return — but, conveniently, 30 years have passed since the original cast last took to the screen.

    Sources: The GuardianHollywood ReporterBBCReuters

  5. Soccer’s Biggest League May Be Failing Disabled Fans

    A leading UK disability charity claims soccer isn’t doing enough for some of its most dedicated fans. Recent investigations show that out of England’s Premier League, only three major stadiums provide sufficient wheelchair access. In fact, nearly half of the current league’s clubs provide less than half of the wheelchair-accessible seating national guidelines stipulate. Since 2010, it’s been illegal for British soccer clubs to treat disabled fans differently, but activists say work remains to be done. Let’s hope they club together and give apathy a backseat.

    Source: BBC