The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Missing Plane: Theories and ‘Sightings’ But No Sure Sign

    Conspiracies about the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 range from heroism in the face of fire to terrorism. But speculation has done little to provide real clues as to what really happened to the plane or its 239 passengers. Despite possible sightings of debris, intense searches, focused on objects spotted in satellite imagery, have come up empty-handed. Hopes rose on Saturday as China set out to investigate a new image of large debris floating in the southern Indian Ocean, but again, search teams found no sign of it. Meanwhile, the world waits for news.

    Sources: CNN, BBC, NYT

  2. Globetrotting U.S. First Family Visit China and Europe

    The East Wing will be quiet next week. Michelle Obama is on tour in China with her daughters and her mother. While this week-long trip is seen primarily as a “cultural exchange,” on Saturday the First Lady pushed for free speech and access to information, both sensitive political issues. The President will likely be even more political during his trip, as he travels to Brussels for a U.S.-EU summit and attends an extraordinary summit of the G7 to discuss the Crimea crisis. The emergency meeting will be held on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands.

    Sources: Quartz, CNN, White House, WSJ 

    Coming Up: Divide and Conquer

  3. Russia Moves in to Centralize Control over Crimea

    Many of Crimea’s military bases are now flying Russia’s flag. Tensions rose after Russian troops, backed by armored vehicles, smashed though the gates at a major airbase at Belbek, one of the last military facilities still under Ukrainian control. Pro-Russian militia has also seized Navy ships and numerous bases in the south, while hundreds of unarmed protestors took over a western naval base. Independent monitors, to which Russia agreed earlier on Saturday, are expected to arrive in the Ukraine – but not Crimea – into Sunday. World leaders are meeting next week at the G7 summit to discuss the crisis. 

    Sources: BBC, NYT, The Guardian, CNN

  4. Hobby Lobby Takes Birth Control Battle to the Supreme Court

    The Affordable Care Act mandates all business of a certain size offer health care to employees. But the owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores and the family-owned Conestoga Wood Specialties don’t want to comply because the ACA includes birth control. The staunchly Christian owners say it violates their faith. Lower courts are divided and the Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday. This likely isn’t the last ACA challenge; one expert predicts a case a year for the next five.

    Sources: CNN, Reuters, SCOTUSblog

  5. Examining Pakistan’s Links With Al Qaeda and the Taliban

    America’s ally in the War on Terror, it seems, may have been its enemy all along. According to a New York Times Magazine report, Pakistan supported the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and knew of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. Pakistan’s long-suspected knowledge of bin Laden was reportedly confirmed by an insider source, who said that Pakistan’s main intelligence service, the ISI, had a special desk handling him. As the U.S. moves forward with plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, Pakistan reportedly hopes to use the Taliban to reassert its influence.

    Source: NYT Magazine


  1. Agriculturalists Look to the Sea as Future Frontier

    The future of landlubbers looks grim; as sea levels rise, populations grow and soil deteriorates. Hawaiian activists say that agriculture’s future lies in the sea itself. Others agree: in recent years there’s been a wave of water-based living projects – from Thailand to Manhattan. Advocates argue that man-made islands and rigs, powered by ocean thermal energy conversion, could be used for farming, public amenities and even accommodation. The “lily pad” city in Japan is a striking example. But the “Blue Revolution” lacks big investment, so it may be a while before you see a floating farm on your local river.

    Source: Modern Farmer

  2. Are Commonly Used Toxins Damaging Children’s Brains?

    Pesticides and rising levels of ADHD may be connected. A 2012 medical paper suggests that pre-natal exposure to neurotoxins has cost Americans 41 million IQ points. In addition to lowering IQ, new research suggests that exposure to chemicals found in common products like furniture and clothing also cause ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. Some scientists argue that there’s no reason to panic and that the risk has been overblown. But don’t be surprised to see more moms-to-be loitering in the organic produce aisle.

    Source: The Atlantic

  3. Retracing the Steps of a Murder Trial, 32 Years On

    When murder rocks a small community, a passionate fight for justice is expected. But can that fervor make things worse? Three decades after a brutal triple homicide shook the town of Waco, Texas Monthly takes a fresh look at the case through the eyes of five people closely involved with the story. Four men were found guilty, one was later exonerated and one was put to death. Their contrasting fates prompt some unsettling questions. Did Texas, thirsty for retribution, kill an innocent man? And if so, will the real villain ever be brought to justice?

    Source: Texas Monthly

  4. Photo Gallery Shows the Powerful Art of Amateurs

    Picture this: Birds atop an aged man’s shoulders in purple dawn (or maybe twilight), stars splayed above an observatory, the open faces of children, the unabashed glee of an adult set free into the air. One of the world’s most prestigious competitions for amateur photographers showcases what happens when we put down the mobile phones and focus on the art around us. The pictures go on display in London later this spring. But they’re also online, providing an easy opportunity to appreciate the beauty of a split-second captured for eternity. 

    Sources: Daily News, World Photo

  5. Rare Down Under Matchup Kicks Off Baseball Season

    The Sydney Cricket Ground welcomes unusual sights this weekend as the L.A. Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks face off for the 2014 MLB season-opener. The match-up marks the 100-year anniversary of an exhibition game between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants. Opening day stateside is officially March 31. In honor of the start, ”Moneyball” maven Billy Beane expounds on the state of the sport – the antiquated draft, the number crunching everywhere. Batter up.

    Sources: Globe and Mail, Grantland

  6. Novelist Applies Poetry to Climate Change

    In a personal essay, “Elegy for a Country’s Seasons,” Zadie Smith uses poetic prose to comment on the impact of climate change and the surrounding emotional fervor. By using poetry – instead of the scientific and ideological vocabulary normally applied to the sometimes mundane realities of climate change – she crystallizes the situation in a way that apocalyptic visions of the future cannot. Smith’s novels are also notable for their intimate and lyrical language, with prescient reflections on the rhetoric of the state of our environment. 

    Source: New York Review of Books