The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Hundreds Still Missing After South Korean Boat Capsizes

    Nearly 300 people, most of them teenagers, are missing after a ferry sank off the coast of South Korea. Anxious families await news in Seoul as rescuers search for survivors in the frigid waters. So far nine are confirmed dead. There is hope that some may have managed to survive in air pockets in parts of the ferry, but the death toll is expected to rise. Heartbreaking text messages were reportedly sent by those trapped in the boat, with one reading: “We are not dead yet.” 

    Sources: CBSCNNNYT

  2. Geneva Talks Begin as Clashes Kill Three Separatists in Ukraine

    For the first time since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, representatives from Russia, the EU, the U.S. and Ukraine are meeting to try and secure peace. The Geneva-based talks are getting under way as Ukrainian “anti-terrorist” efforts run up against violence. Overnight, three separatists were reportedly killed in a clash with Ukrainian troops on a base in the east. Yesterday, pro-Russian separatists commandeered military vehicles from Ukrainian soldiers before driving them in a victory lap in Kramatorsk as onlookers cheered.

    Sources: Washington PostBBCThe Guardian

  3. Diabetic Patients in U.S. Suffer Fewer Complications

    A new study shows that the most devastating complications from diabetes have dropped drastically over the past 20 years, with heart attacks and high blood sugar deaths falling by more than 60 percent. Strokes, kidney failure and amputations also declined. Researchers credited efforts to improve the lives of Type 2 patients in particular. The good news is doctors are better at controlling risk factors that can lead to complications. The bad news, however, is that the number of Americans with the disease more than tripled during the study’s period. 

    Sources: NYT, New England Journal of Medicine

  4. Study Finds Elite Rule U.S. Politics, Not Voters

    Adding weight to the notion “money is power,” a new study demonstrates that rich and powerful special interests have the biggest influence in U.S. politics. The implication? The nation is ruled by an oligarchy, not a democracy. The Northwestern and Princeton University study compared 1,800 policies enacted from 1981 to 2002 to the expressed preferences of average Americans, wealthy Americans and large special-interest groups. Based on political results, they determined that the economic elite wielded the most clout. “Mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” the study concluded.

    Sources: The TelegraphRussia TodayPolicyMicUPI


  1. Mom Saves Life of Son’s Killer on Iranian Gallows

    As a killer was about to be hanged in Iran, the victim’s mother slapped him across the face before her husband removed the noose to spare his life. Minutes later, the mothers of both the victim and the spared sobbed in one another’s arms. The victim’s family was expected to push the chair out from under the prisoner to hang him — as allowed for under qisas, the sharia law of retribution. But they had a change of heart because they didn’t believe their 18-year-old son’s killer intended to fatally stab him. 

    Source: The Guardian

  2. Scientists Witness Possible Birth of New Saturn Moon

    While Saturn has developed many new moons over the years, scientists have never been able to see it happen — until now. They say they are witnessing what could be the birth of a new moon — informally named Peggy — amongst the rings orbiting the planet. Peggy is thought to be approximately half a mile in diameter and made of ice. The question now is whether Peggy stays in the orbit of the rings, potentially colliding with other particles of ice and falling apart, or escapes to go the way of Saturn’s 62 other, more substantial moons.

    Sources: BBCUSA Today

  3. Google Phone Prototype Lets Users Swap Parts

    The Internet giant is revolutionizing its cell phone sales strategy by introducing a phone with replaceable parts. Instead of the phone being an impenetrable brick that requires replacing every few years, this one is modular. Screens, cameras and more can now be easily replaced. So while customers benefit from upgrading or replacing only the pieces they care about, clogged desk drawers and dumps can benefit from fewer discarded phones. Watch for it in stores next year.

    Sources: Wired, CNN

  4. Paul Walker’s Family Helps Out on Movie

    Production on Fast & Furious 7 was halted in November after star Paul Walker died in a car crash. But to pay tribute to their late brother — and to complete his final work — Caleb and Cody Walker have stepped in to complete the final scenes. A statement on the film’s Facebook page describes how having the brothers on set “made us all feel that Paul is with us too.” Walker’s death was particularly poignant because he rose to fame through the street racing franchise. The film is scheduled to be released next year. 

    Sources: The TelegraphEntertainment Wise

  5. First Night of NHL Playoffs Delivers Wild Finishes

    Heart-stopping playoff hockey has returned in style, with a sudden-death overtime win for the Montreal Canadiens after a three-period barn burner against Tampa got the adrenaline pumping. The Pittsburgh Penguins had to claw out of a two-goal hole to top the less experienced Columbus squad, 4-3, with Brandon Sutter netting the go-ahead goal with eight minutes left on the clock. Anaheim beat Dallas 4-3 after going up 3-0 in the first.  

    Sources: Toronto StarESPN