The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Obama Plans to End NSA Bulk Data Grabs

    President Obama intends to introduce legislation to rein in the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk data on phone calls. The proposed changes would create greater control over call records for phone companies, which currently have to share information with the NSA and cannot dispose of files before a certain period of time has passed. Although companies will control records, the agency will retain the right to review data. If it is established that the information requested is linked to a suspected security threat, then phone companies will be expected to comply.

    Sources: NYT, WSJ (sub)

  2. Russia Shrugs Off Exclusion from International Summit

    Russia’s membership of the G-8 has been suspended in response to its aggression in Crimea, following an emergency meeting of the other seven heads of state. Putin was due to host an economic conference in Sochi this summer, but the leaders will meet in Brussels instead. Moscow took a defiant stance, claiming that being kicked out of the group was “no great tragedy” for Russia. But, in the face of harsher G-7 sanctions, foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met with his Ukrainian counterpart yesterday, suggesting that Russia may not be as cool and confident as it appears.  

    Sources: The Guardian, Al Jazeera

  3. MH370: Search Put on Hold as Investigators Look at Pilots

    Once the bad weather lifts, searchers are likely to look for wreckage of the Malaysian plane as investigators hone in on the flight’s two pilots. According to one source, the aircraft was flown for some distance in a deliberate, “rational” way, indicating a suicide mission, but others believe the plane’s unusual movements indicate desperate maneuvering to survive some catastrophic event. Many suspect that the Malaysian government is holding information back, including relatives who clashed with police outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. The search will now focus on finding the black box, and some answers.

    Sources: Telegraph, CNNDer Spiegel

  4. Bloomberg Editor Quits Over China Story

    Ben Richardson has left Bloomberg in protest, following its decision to quash an investigative piece on China. The article examined financial ties between one of China’s wealthiest men and the families of Chinese leaders. It wasn’t published, allegedly because Bloomberg feared the impact that expulsion from China would have on its bottom line. Richardson, an editor-at-large in Asia, is the third journalist to quit over treatment of the story, which has prompted debate over how the Western media should engage with China.   

    Sources: Politico, NYT


  1. Could Venice Hop on the Next Gondola Out of Italy?

    Over 2.1 million Venetians have voted to secede from Italy in an unofficial online referendum. Eighty nine percent of ballots supported independence for the lagoon city. Venetians also voted to enter the EU, NATO and the Euro. Though the tally doesn’t have any legal clout, Venice joins other restive European regions like Scotland and Catalonia seeking to cut themselves free from overbearing national governments. But since Rome has dismissed the result, the Venetians may be stuck up a canal without a paddle.

    Sources: The Atlantic, The Week

  2. Authors Fight Britain’s Ban on Books for Prisoners

    Famous authors have condemned a recent ban on prisoners receiving books by mail in British jails. As of November, inmates can’t receive packages, including those containing clothes, CDs, magazines, and books. But novelists including Philip Pullman, Susan Hill, and Anthony Horowitz are having none of it. A petition against the British government’s ban has drawn thousands of signatures from academics, writers, and book-lovers around the world. Supporters claim that reading helps rehabilitate prisoners and that books are often their only means of — figurative — escape.

    Source: The Independent

  3. Ukrainian Women Slap Russians with a Hanky Panky Sanction

    A group of Ukrainian women have responded to Russian aggression with a “sex embargo.” The “Don’t give it to a Russian” campaign has heated up online, with the Ukrainians working to recruit Russian women to their cause. The sex boycott is an ancient anti-war device, or at least it was the focus of Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata, in which Athenian women refused sex to their husbands in an attempt to end the Peloponnesian War. The Ukrainian movement already has its own t-shirts. What would a sex embargo be without a line of merchandise?

    Sources: Al Jazeera, Global Voices

  4. Disney Pays $500 Million for YouTube Network

    With its $500 million acquisition of Maker Studios, the Disney conglomerate has burst on to the digital video scene. With suggestions that the short-form online film — or YouTube video — is set to be the next big media platform, Disney has planted itself firmly at the center of this growing industry. Maker Studios alone attracts 5.5 billion video views per month and its purchase represents the largest acquisition of a YouTube multichannel network. The move confirms that YouTube, from its humble beginnings as a cat video hub, is fast becoming a corporate playpen.

    Source: Tech Crunch

  5. When Will Amir Khan Get to Fight Floyd Mayweather?

    British boxer Amir Khan has wanted a shot at Floyd Mayweather for years – but he’ll be playing second fiddle at the champ’s next title match. Mayweather — professionally undefeated and considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world — will face Argentinian Marcos Maidana in May, while Khan will fight on the undercard. This news comes after Khan won a fans’ poll designed to determine Mayweather’s next title opponent. The British former world champion insists a showdown will happen eventually, suggesting that the title-holder, afraid for his unbeaten record, is currently taking the easy way out.

    Source: BBC