The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Supreme Court Approves Prayers at Town Meetings

    The U.S. Supreme Court has pointed to tradition in ruling that legislative bodies, including city councils, can begin meetings with prayers, even if they favor one religion over another. “Legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition,” one justice wrote. Two residents of the town of Greece, N.Y., had questioned the constitutionality of the prayers. But the justices narrowly voted 5-4 that the prayers did not breach the constitution, reflecting the division between the court’s conservative and liberal members and their varied views on religion’s role in society.

    Sources: Washington Post, NYT

  2. FBI May Help Find Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

    U.S. law enforcement officials are offering counter-terrorism help and mobilizing to send the FBI if necessary to help recover 276 Nigerian high school girls abducted by Boko Haram militants. For the first time, the leader of Boko Haram has boasted of his responsibility for the kidnappings and has vowed to steal more girls from more schools. Abubakar Shekau said he plans to sell the girls he already has, calling them slaves. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” he said in a taunting video.

    Sources: ABC, All AfricaBBCCNNThe Guardian

  3. Separatists Killed as Violence Escalates in Sloviansk

    The Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists are battling for the soul of Sloviansk as eastern Ukraine continues to devolve into chaos. Militants shot down a government helicopter — the fourth since clashes began — killing several and wounding scores. Ukraine’s interim interior minister said on Tuesday that more than 30 separatists had been killed, in addition to a number of Ukrainian military. The fierce fighting erupted as Ukrainian troops also sought to regain control of the key port city of Odessa. Meanwhile, nervous officials of neighboring Moldova placed their borders on alert.

    Sources: DWEuronewsFTWashington Post

  4. WHO Declares Emergency Over Growing Polio Problem

    Despite having been nearly wiped out through a 25-year vaccination campaign, polio is making a fierce comeback. Its spread across three continents has prompted the World Heath Organization to declare a global health emergency. Those in conflict-plagued nations are particularly vulnerable, owing to the collapse of medical facilities. Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon have allowed the virus to spread, and WHO’s emergency effectively imposes travel restrictions on the three countries. The organization is urging governments to take immediate action to ensure the inoculation of young children and stem the spread of the deadly disease.

    Sources: NYTBBCThe Guardian


  1. Video Criticizing Social Media Goes Viral on Facebook

    A video encouraging social media users to “Look Up” from their smartphones and computers has found success through the very websites it derides. London-based writer Gary Turk describes how lonely he feels despite having hundreds of “friends” on Facebook. Uploaded to YouTube a couple of weeks ago, the film has already been viewed 13.6 million times, but its success is largely owed to viewers sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. Turk, no doubt, appreciates the irony.

    Sources: TIMEWashington Post

  2. Chinese Cars to Offer Breath of Fresh Air

    China’s polluted streets may seem an unlikely place to find a clean lungful of air, but drivers will soon be able to draw in the good stuff inside their vehicles. Car manufacturers — including Volvo, Nissan and PSA Peugeot Citroen — are installing internal purifiers in their new models to scrub incoming air. Nissan will even offer a “Forest AC” system in its Infiniti models that also emits a woodsy aroma to help drivers feel “closer to nature.” Pollution may prove a harder fix, but at least China is coming up with ways to ride out the storm.

    Source: Global Post

  3. Coca-Cola to Drop Flame Retardant From Drinks

    The carbonated beverage giant is to remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO) from its drinks by the end of the year. BVO contains bromine, which is used as a flame retardant in plastics. When over-consumed, it can lead to memory loss as well as skin and nerve problems. The change is all thanks to one Mississippi teenager who started a successful petition against the use of BVO in her favorite sports drinks Gatorade, owned by rival PepsiCo. Coca-Cola has also obviously decided not to inflame the situation any further. 

    Sources: NYTCNN

  4. Stars Picket Legendary Hotel to Oppose Sharia Law

    Demonstrators are picketing the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel to protest oppressive sharia law introduced by the Sultan of Brunei, who owns the hotel. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last week that Brunei is imposing a new criminal code based on Muslim sharia law. Fines will be incurred for failing to attend Friday prayers, and gay sex and adultery could incur death by stoning. Public figures — including Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno — have weighed in, protesting and vowing to boycott the hotel until Brunei changes its laws or the sultan relinquishes ownership. 

    Source: LA Times

  5. Liverpool Collapse Decimates Hopes of Premier League Title

    With 11 minutes left and a 3-0 lead against a middling team, Liverpool just needed to coast to the win to give themselves a fantastic shot at taking home the Premier League title. But opponent Crystal Palace shattered those dreams, netting three goals in quick succession to equalize. Liverpool star Luis Suarez wept as the final whistle blew. Though they maintain a one point lead in the standings, Manchester City is almost certain to leapfrog the Reds in their remaining matches. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers acknowledged the bleak odds afterwards saying “it was a killer blow.”

    Sources: BBCESPN