The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Families Await Word on Missing Loved Ones

    The weeks-long search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been agonizing for the families of the 239 people aboard. They were notified on Monday that the plane is presumed to have crashed and left no survivors. On Friday a search plane sighted “objects” in the water after new data shifted the search closer to Australia. In Washington State, families await word about missing loved ones feared dead after last weekend’s devastating mudslide. The official death toll has risen to 18, though the number of people missing has dropped from 90 to 30. Crews continue to search the displaced earth in the slim hope of finding survivors.

    Sources: BBCCNN, The Guardian

  2. A Soft Obamacare Deadline, Engagement with North Africa

    The Obama Administration has exceeded its revised target of 6 million sign-ups ahead of Monday’s insurance deadline, but it’s still providing a “Special Enrollment Period” for latecomers. The extension supposedly applies only to complex cases, but opponents are painting it as yet another Obamacare delay. Internationally, both President Obama and John Kerry are turning their attention to North Africa. Kerry takes a multiday trip to Algeria and Morocco, while Obama meets the Tunisian prime minister at the White House on Friday. Obama’s other guests of note are the World Series-winning Red Sox, whose Tuesday visit will offer the president a break from politics.

    Sources: Washington Post, Associated Press

  3. Kerry and Lavrov Meet in Paris to Discuss Ukraine Crisis

    From George Soros to OZY’s Eugene Robinson, everyone has an opinion on how Western leaders should respond to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The initial international response seemed to have had little impact, but Russia’s unexpected diplomatic overtures in the last two days suggest that its stance is softening. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet in Paris today, following a conversation between Obama and Putin on Friday evening. Yesterday Lavrov announced on state television that Russia has “no intention” of invading Ukraine. But, given the tens of thousands of Russian soldiers massed on the Ukrainian border, that assurance is being taken with a pinch of salt.   

    Sources: Al Jazeera, Washington Post, BBC 

  4. Egypt Plans Elections amid Rising Tide of Violence

    The numbers don’t lie: Egypt has never seen such violence and repression. Earlier this week, more than 500 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death for the killing of a police officer, though there has been no investigation of the deaths of some 3,000 Egyptians, mostly civilians. Since the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi’s government, tens of thousands of Egyptians have gone to prison as the judicial system takes revenge against Islamists through mass arrests and trials waged in the name of fighting terror. Elections are scheduled to take place by the summer, but there’s little hope of an end to the chaos.

    Source: Carnegie Endowment

  5. Gunshot and Stabbing Victims to be Suspended between Life and Death

    In the coming months, a Pittsburgh hospital aims to redefine death and save some lives in the process. Ten victims of gunshots or stabbings will have their body temperatures brought down to a point where almost all cellular function ceases, leaving them in a state of “suspended animation.” This reduces the amount of oxygen required by the body, offsetting brain damage and affording doctors precious extra hours for treating emergency cases. The technique is ready to roll out, and the surgical team is on alert. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the right emergency.

    Source: New Scientist


  1. Physicists and Astronomers Celebrate Spectacular Month

    Any scientist knows that outside of Hollywood, Eureka! moments are few and far between. But this month alone has seen three extraordinary scientific discoveries. Not only have we gazed past the limits of our universe, we’ve also caught a glimpse of the beginning of time. Two weeks ago, a team of scientists announced that they had detected the reverberations of the Big Bang. This week, teams of astronomers spotted a new dwarf planet, affectionately called Biden, and an asteroid with Saturn-like rings. Many mysteries remain, but it seems that our universe is slowly coming into focus.

    Sources: National Geographic, Nature

  2. Portugal’s Attempt to Sell Off Heritage Sparks Protest

    A Catalan painter is at the center of a debate over extreme privatization in Europe’s struggling south. Portugal is currently battling over the sale of Joan Miro paintings, considered a national treasure, to pay back vast international debts. Like Greece, Spain and Italy, the country has been bleeding assets, and cultural heritage is now on the chopping block. Socialist opposition leaders have decried the move, claiming that a country’s heritage belongs to its people, and are seeking legal action against the auction, planned for June.

    Source: NYT 

  3. Digital Currency Provides Relief to Legal Marijuana Sellers

    Selling drugs is dangerous work even for legal pot dealers, and a new digital currency aims to protect them. Although marijuana is now legal in 20 states and Washington, D.C., banks are reluctant to work with legal “potrepreneurs” for fear of violating federal law. As a result, dispensaries must deal only in cash and are being targeted by criminal groups. Enter PotCoin, a digital crypto-currency similar to BitCoin that provides secure financial services for the sale and purchase of weed. In other words, it’s a jackpot.

    Source: Mother Jones

  4. Family Feud Strikes at Heart of Danish Craft Beer Revolution

    Alcohol consumption often plays a part in familial tension, but for Denmark’s Mikkel and Jeppe Bjergso, the problem is alcohol production. The 38-year-old identical twins are successful craft brewers, but instead of bringing them together, their shared love of beer has driven them apart. They haven’t spoken in over a year, and Jeppe — who is now based in Brooklyn, N.Y. — went so far as to call his brewing company “Evil Twin.” Though the brothers both produce distinctive ales, their relationship is more like a mass-produced lager: ice cold.

    Source: NYT

  5. March Madness: The Perfect Time to Get Snipped?

    A goofy ad campaign by an Oregon urologist has become a spring trend. Husbands taking one for the familial team, as it were, are timing their vasectomies to college basketball mayhem. They have an excuse to do nothing for two days except watch sports while they recover. In Eugene, Ore., the snipping comes with a recliner of honor at a local bar, with 20 sports screens and waitresses who bring a bag of frozen peas with the beer. With the Elite 8 coming up this weekend, concerned gents should gird their loins.

    Sources: Grantland, NCAA