The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Ukrainians and Pro-Separatists Both Claim Control in Eastern Town

    Officials in Ukraine said Thursday that they had regained control of an eastern port’s city hall, but pro-Russian separatists claim they still control the building in Mariupol. President Obama, referring to “malicious, armed men” occupying buildings in eastern Ukraine, noted that Russia has failed to abide by the spirit of a deal struck in Geneva last week, and the U.S. is readying new sanctions in response. Ukrainian leaders are also accusing Russia of supporting the kidnapping of patriots, like Vladimir Rybak, whose body was found last weekend.

    Sources: Al JazeeraBBCThe Guardian

  2. Obama Confirms Disputed Islands Fall Under U.S.-Japan Defense Pact 

    Barack Obama has confirmed that the Senkaku Islands, over which there is a territorial dispute between Japan and China, fall under a U.S.-Japanese defense pact should they ever come under attack. But the U.S. president, who is touring Asia, emphasized that the U.S. would work to help settle the dispute peacefully. Obama also discussed a desired Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both nations want to protect key national industries, with Japan hoping to boost exports to the American car market and the U.S. seeking reduced tariffs on agricultural products.

    Sources: BBC, DW, BBC

  3. Facebook, Apple Revenues Surge in First Quarter

    Tech is apparently still king. Apple chalked up record first-quarter results with a net profit of $10.2 billion on revenues that hit $45.6 billion thanks to continued strong iPhone sales. The company also upped its stock-buyback program, announcing a seven-for-one stock split to take place in June. Facebook, meanwhile, breezed past analysts’ expectations with a 72 percent jump in revenues to $2.5 billion, thanks to a significant boost in mobile ads. Despite the good news, the company also announced without explanation that its chief financial officer is resigning. 

    Sources: BloombergNBCUSA TodayForbes

  4. FDA Moves to Crack Down on E-Cigarettes

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it intends to regulate electronic cigarettes. The agency will propose new rules Thursday that would extend its regulatory authority over the devices for the first time. If finalized, the FDA will be able to regulate e-cigarettes in a number of ways, including banning sales to minors or in vending machines, and requiring that they carry warnings just like traditional cigarettes. The popularity of e-cigarettes has soared in recent years, but to date the nearly $2 billion industry has operated without federal oversight.

    Sources: NPR, NYT, Washington Post


  1. Russian Politicians Vote to Ban Cursing in Arts

    Bleeping heck, the lower house of Russia’s parliament has passed a bill banning swearing in movies, music, plays, TV shows and blogs. Residents could face $70 fines for cursing in public if the bill is approved by the upper house and signed by Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Pavel Durov, the founder of Russia’s Facebook-like social network Vkontakte, has fled the country after a suspected government takeover. He said he felt threatened for refusing to share users’ personal data with the government. But at least he can swear about it.

    Sources: IndependentBBCIntar-TassRTWiredMoscow Times

  2. Google Offers ‘Time Capsule’ Street Views

    Take a virtual trip back in time, thanks to Google’s new Street View time machine, which shows how neighborhoods and buildings have evolved. Users can now teleport themselves back in time by using the clock icon in Google Maps Street View, changing the year or season of the image. It only goes back as far as 2007, when Street View began snapping pictures, so it’s not exactly ancient history. But viewers can still witness dramatic changes in specific locations, such as the destruction wrought by Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

    Sources: MashableTime

  3. Music in Hospitals and Gyms Soothes Bodily Aches

    Music can be a potent salve for a broken heart, but could it soothe surgery or workout pain? A hospital study has found that patients who underwent cancer surgery showed decreased levels of anxiety, pain and irritation when exposed to ambient music. Humans have longed combined tunes with physical work — from chain-gang chants to workout playlists — and research shows this makes bodies more efficient. And those who make music while working out use less oxygen and feel less exertion. So, go ahead — hit the high notes: It’s good for your health.

    Sources: Scientific AmericanScientific American

  4. One Shakespearean Bird Lover Caused the U.S. a Peck of Trouble

    William Shakespeare loved birds and referenced more than 60 species in his canon. But the 450-year-old playwright couldn’t have anticipated being the cause of the U.S.’s biggest feathery problem. In 1890, German immigrant Eugene Schieffelin decided to introduce some of Shakespeare’s birds to North America. He released 60 starlings, which make an appearance in Henry IV Part I, into New York’s Central Park. The U.S. now has an estimated 200 million European starlings, and the birds are costing the country approximately $1 billion a year in crop damages.

    Source: BBC

  5. Lance Armstrong Asks: So Who Won If I Didn’t?

    The disgraced cyclist is wondering who won seven years of the Tour de France now that his titles have been stripped. He says it’s “disrespectful” to leave those champion slots empty. Armstrong still feels that he won and thinks that the sport should ask his fellow cyclists for their opinions. And since he insists almost everyone was doping, he is convinced that diet, strategy and training took the competition “to the next level.” But sports officials don’t agree. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency just banned Armstrong’s former manager from the sport for 10 years.

    Sources: OutsideThe Guardian