The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Chile Weathers Earthquake but Can the World Adapt to Climate Change? 

    The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report this week, warning that the effects of climate change will be “severe, pervasive and irreversible.” While it continues to advise reducing emissions, this report placed unprecedented emphasis on climate adaptation measures to protect vulnerable populations against increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Although this week’s earthquakes were not climate related, the world could take adaptation lessons from Chile, whose strict adherence to building codes and exemplary emergency protocols are credited with containing the damage done by Tuesday’s 8.2 quake. Six deaths have been reported, which contrasts sharply with Haiti’s death toll of 230,000 following a 7.0 earthquake in 2010. 

    Sources: National Geographic, Quartz, The Economist, CNN  

  2. A Week of Financial Talks and Fiscal Wrangling in Washington, D.C.

    U.S. House and Senate committees hold a series of hearings next week on the budget for the 2015 fiscal year, and things could get heated thanks to the unveiling of Paul Ryan’s controversial Republican budget earlier this week. On Thursday, Washington will also play host to the finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 in advance of the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings, which kick off on Friday. These are the major annual meetings of the world’s financial stability giants. Low international growth in the aftermath of the global financial crisis will feature high on the agenda.

    Sources: Bloomberg, Devex

  3. Rwanda Marks 20th Anniversary of Genocide

    The atrocity, which killed more than 800,000 people in 100 days, began 20 years ago this Monday. Things have changed a lot since then, and Rwanda is widely considered a post-conflict success story. But the years have done little to erase the memories of many survivors who are still torn between punishing and forgiving the perpetrators. The genocide is also a painful reminder of the consequences of the international community’s indifference in the face of mass murder. The lesson still resonates when discussing possible intervention in conflicts today, from the Central African Republic to Syria.

    Sources: BBC, DW, All Africa

  4. Afghans Turn Out to Vote, Despite Taliban Threats

    Voting hours were extended nationwide as, despite rain, cold and threats of Taliban violence, Afghans turned out in force for Saturday’s presidential election. “I have suffered so much from the fighting and I want prosperity and security in Afghanistan. That is why I have come here to cast my vote,” said a housewife who was first in line at her polling station This is the third presidential election since the fall of the Taliban, with Afghans choosing a successor to two-term President Hamid Karzai. But the shooting of two Associated Press journalists, one of whom was killed, cast a shadow over voting day.

    Sources: NPR, Al Jazeera, NYT

  5. Parties React to SCOTUS Strike-Down of Political Donation Cap

    On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the unconstitutionality of the total limit on the amount of money an individual donor can give to political parties. The decision has prompted vocal reactions on both sides of the aisle. While Republicans praised the ruling as a preservation of individual freedom, the Democrats were quick to bash it. They said it will increase the political power of America’s 1 percent. Campaign finance reform advocates have also protested, warning that allowing a single donor to contribute as much as $3.5 million will lead to increased corruption.

    Sources: Mother Jones, New Yorker, Politico, NYT


  1. Will the Pope Weigh in on Homophobia in Uganda?

    Pope Francis is under increasing pressure to confront growing homophobia in Uganda. This stems from the fact that the recently passed Anti-Homosexuality Act, which includes possible life imprisonment for gay people, was openly supported by Uganda’s Catholic clergy. Pope Francis, who has lately softened the Vatican’s stance on homosexuality and issues like civil marriage, has spoken against the bill saying he is “opposed to ’unjust discrimination.’” He also declined an invitation from Ugandan Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga to visit the country, although a firmer stand might be needed to counter the recent wave of homophobia in the region.

    Source: The Atlantic

  2. Humans Are Beating Horses in the Race to Get Faster

    Athletics records have been consistently hurdled over the past 50 years, while horse-racing times have flatlined — but why is man winning the race to get faster? It seems that while thoroughbred horses had practically reached perfection by the 1940s, humans have been steadily improving over the last 150 years. More protein in our diets has increased muscle development and height, while better gear has aided aerodynamics and grip. Though we may be speeding up, we’re still outsprinted by horses. Usain Bolt can only reach speeds of 27 mph, well shy of the 43 mph of a top racehorse.

    Source: BBC 

  3. Studies Show Need for Vitamin D but Should We Also Embrace Darkness?

     Two major studies have confirmed the importance of vitamin D to support a range of bodily functions, offsetting cancer and heart disease. But the studies also question the efficacy of taking vitamin D in supplement form. Known as the “sunshine nutrient,” most of the vitamin D we require is produced photochemically in the skin, and the best way to stock up is to spend time outdoors. But while we may be short on sunlight, today’s humans are overdosing on artificial light and risking depression, obesity and heart disease. Basically, we’re trapped between a light and a dark place.  

    Sources: NYT, Aeon, Medical News Today

  4. Expectation Grows as ’Game of Thrones’ Season Premiere Approaches

    The fourth season of Game of Thrones is premiering on Monday. Fans expectantly await the return of the series that has already won 10 Emmys, drew 5.4 million viewers with its last season finale and has the dubious honor of being the most illegally downloaded series on the Internet. The show also has eminent followers, including President Obama, who is among the few to have access to the episodes before they air. After all, beneath the stunning battles and sex scenes, what viewers really care about is the complex political allegory. Right?

    Source: Vanity Fair

  5. UConn to Face Kentucky in Unexpected March Madness Final 

    The seventh-seeded UConn Huskies will face the eighth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats in what pundits are calling “the most unlikely NCAA tournament final ever.” After a nail-biting contest, Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison netted a three-pointer with six seconds to go, scraping his team a 74-73 win over Wisconsin. But the big upset was UConn’s 63-53 takedown of Florida, ending the number one seed’s 30-game winning streak. The odds currently favor Kentucky for tomorrow night’s final game, but the Wildcats shouldn’t underestimate the little Huskies that could.

    Sources: NYT, LA Times, USA Today, Yahoo Sport