The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. How to Keep Your Accounts Secure After Heartbleed

    Moderate panic followed this week’s discovery of the Heartbleed security failure that affected major Internet providers. The standard advice is simple: Use a “test site” to check if a website is affected by the OpenSSL bug and then change your passwords, then change them again when the SSL is fully repaired. But experts say the web will only truly become less vulnerable with more diversity in both encryption languages and web hosts. While having our accounts centralized at Apple, Google and Facebook is convenient, if safety really comes first, then it may be time to dust off our Hotmail accounts.

    Sources: The Atlantic, New Republic

  2. U.S. Grapples with Terrorism on Anniversary of Boston Bombing

    Some 36,000 runners will participate in Tuesday’s Boston Marathon, paying tribute to the victims and survivors of last year’s bombing. Meanwhile, military tribunal hearings are scheduled to take place in Guantanamo Bay, focusing on five alleged 9/11 conspirators, including the self-proclaimed “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Another terror suspect — radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza — will go on trial in New York City on Monday, following his extradition from the UK. He faces charges of hostage-taking, advocating jihad and establishing a jihad training camp.

    Sources: USA Today, Reuters

  3. Indian Candidates Face Off in Biggest-Ever Democratic Exercise

    With 370 parties on the ballot, Indian voters have plenty of choice, but novelist and skeptic Arundhati Roy says whoever is elected will serve corporate interests rather than those of the people. This weekend, 14 people have been killed in attacks by Maoist rebels, who claim they are fighting for a more equitable division of labor and resources. Polls show the BJP’s Narendra Modi as the leading candidate for prime minister. He is seen as an effective politician, but prominent Indians including Salman Rushdie have said that a Modi win would “bode ill for India.”

    Sources: BBC, The Guardian, Democracy Now, NYT

  4. Veteran Journalist Accuses Turkey of Complicity in Syrian Chemical Attack

    Turkey was behind the Damascus gas attack that nearly drove the U.S. to intervene in Syria last August, according to Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh. Hersh describes Ankara’s plan to force Barack Obama over his own red line by facilitating a gas attack and then pointing the finger at Assad. But the U.S. Joint Chiefs apparently smelled a rat and diverted Obama from his planned course. Both Turkey and the U.S. have denied the allegations, questioning the credibility of Hersh’s sources. 

    Sources: London Review of Books, Al Monitor, Radio Free Europe

  5. HIV Grips the American South

    Nine of the 10 U.S. states with the highest AIDS-fatality rates are in the south, and the region accounts for nearly half of new AIDS diagnoses nationwide. A contributory factor could be the persistent social stigma and lack of comprehensive sex education in conservative states. But HIV rates are also related to other social issues like crime and incarceration. Louisiana’s death rate from AIDS is nearly twice the national average. So while Americans often perceive HIV as a problem for the developing world, the threat persists at home.  

    Source: New Yorker


  1. Is Medical Technology Wiping Out Deaf Culture?

    Cochlear implants can help the profoundly deaf to hear, but the deaf community has rejected the technology. The rich culture of the deaf world, which incorporates language, education, arts and social interaction, is treasured by many deaf people. They argue that giving children implants devalues their identities, even equating the effort to “cure” children of deafness with efforts to cure them of being gay, black or female. As one dad of a deaf child asks, “How do you explain that she was fine the way she was born when the first thing we did was change her?”

    Source: Medium

  2. Statistics Help Nigeria’s Economy Boom Overnight

    Nigeria had plenty to cheer about last Sunday when it was declared Africa’s largest economy thanks to new GDP data. But the numbers didn’t reveal that it had been 24 years since the calculation method was last updated. Until now, Nigeria wasn’t factoring in booming industries like telecommunications and film, which explains why the market value for goods and services soared to $510 billion, seemingly overnight. Despite its wealth, areas of Nigeria are still plagued by extreme poverty. The update raises questions about the measurement of wealth and the truth behind the data.

    Source: The Atlantic

  3. Zoo-Bred Californian Condors: Miracle or Tragedy?

    Californian condors have been bred in captivity for 27 years, ever since their population dropped to a mere 22 birds. Today, more than 220 of these New World vultures live in the wild. Saving a species seems laudable, but critics say captive breeding practices alter the bird’s wild essence. While they can survive alone in nature, zoo-bred condors often suffer from behavioral issues, including aggression towards humans. Considering that the baby birds were raised by condor-shaped puppets, it’s hardly surprising they’re suffering a bit of angst in their teenage years.

    Sources: Aeon

  4. Rob Lowe’s New Book Causes a Stir 

    The former teen heartthrob may struggle to top the success of his 2011 memoir, but his latest book, Love Life, has certainly got people talking. From embracing libertarianism and Ellen DeGeneres to lamenting society’s cruel bias against good-looking people, Lowe seems to think there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The book offers highly personal essays on kissing men, coaching kids’ baseball and learning to eat on-camera. The writing may seem a little preachy, but kiss-and-tells are hard to resist.

    Sources: Salon, The Independent , ABC

  5. American Football Catches on in China

    Chinese American football may ring as incongruously as Jamaican bobsledding, but as the Middle Kingdom’s middle-class expands, recreational sport is booming. Journalist Christopher Beam spent a year following the progress of the Chongqing Dockers, from their first game to their showdown with Shanghai for the inaugural American Football League of China title. It’s a story of fumbled catches, inopportune hangovers and hits that are “more like careful hugs,” but what emerges is that football for them is a way of stepping beyond the over-regulated world of their parents.

    Source: New Republic