The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Credit Suisse Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion

    The banking giant has pleaded guilty in a Virginia courthouse to one count of conspiring to help U.S. clients dodge their taxes — the first time a large bank has admitted criminal wrongdoing in two decades. The result? Credit Suisse must pay $2.6 billion in fines and hire an independent monitor for up to two years. The plea follows federal prosecutors leaning heavily on the bank for months in a bid to show that powerful financial institutions are not above the law. It’s widely speculated that this is simply the first guilty plea and that France’s BNP Paribas will soon follow suit.

    Sources: LA Times, Reuters, NYT, FT (sub)

  2. China Slams U.S. for Charging Soldiers as Cyber Spies

    Angry Chinese government officials have accused the U.S. Justice Department of using ”fabricated facts” in charges filed against five Chinese military officers for alleged cyber snooping. The unprecedented criminal indictments accuse the men of conducting economic espionage by hacking into the computers of U.S. companies involved in nuclear energy, steel manufacturing and solar energy. A Chinese spokesman called the charges “absurd.” China is suspending the activities of the joint China-U.S. Cyber Working Group in retaliation and has summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing to discuss the incident.

    Sources: LA Times, BBC

  3. Thailand Declares Martial Law

    In a surprise move, the Thai army has declared martial law after months of civil unrest over political corruption. A military official insisted the move was not a coup and was intended merely to “keep peace and order.” But the military didn’t consult the government before taking action, according to an aide to acting Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, who called it “half a coup d’etat.” All TV stations and major intersections are being guarded by the military, and government officials are meeting to discuss the matter. The move comes after former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was forced to step down earlier this month.

    Sources: DW, CNN, BBC

  4. Oregon Same-Sex Couples Wed as Judge Strikes Down Marriage Ban

    Gay couples were heading down the aisle in Oregon yesterday after a U.S. district judge overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, deeming it unconstitutional. Judge Michael McShane ruled the law discriminated “on the basis of sexual orientation without a rational relationship to any legitimate government interest,” and lifted the ban. It’s the 13th legal victory for gay marriage advocates since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Gay couples can now legally marry in 18 states and in the District of Columbia. 

    Sources: Seattle Times, Oregonian


  1. Court Tells Russian Oligarch to Cough Up $4.4B in Record Divorce

    In what may be the biggest divorce award ever, a Swiss court has ordered Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev to pay his ex-wife $4.4 billion, ostensibly half of his fortune. Rybolovlev, 47, and Elena were married for 23 years but have been battling over the divorce for six years, during which time Rybolovlev reportedly tried to conceal his assets. Elena’s lawyer said the decision fell “like a hammer blow” on the tycoon and was a warning to others who try to hide their assets. Rybolovlev, who owns AS Monaco soccer club, could appeal.

    Source: The Guardian

  2. San Francisco May Face Greater Seismic Activity

    The Bay Area could be in for decades of trembles, according to a new study. Based on historical earthquake records dating from 1776 to 2012, as well as paleoseismic data, researchers have concluded that earthquakes in the region follow a cyclical pattern and that a big quake or cluster of quakes is likely in the coming decades. Although it has not been conclusively proven that seismic activity is cyclical, the team believes that over time seismic pressure builds up and must then be released. Ultimately, time will tell whether the theory shakes out.

    Source: Nature

  3. Who’s to Blame for Bad Airline Food?

    It’s not the chef, according to research. There are scientific headwinds pushing against efforts to make airline food palatable: Modern planes fly higher than they once did, at elevations and pressures that deaden human taste buds. Recycled air and air conditioning dry out nasal membranes, affecting the sense of smell and further reducing eating pleasure. Airlines have used sauces to keep foods moist, but adding more salt to improve taste would come with health risks. Perhaps passengers should feast on the movies instead.

    Sources: The Atlantic, Quartz

  4. Rapper Lashes Out at Uproar Over Costume

    Macklemore has come under fire for donning what some deemed an “anti-Semitic” costume during a performance. His response? Maybe it’s the critics who have a problem. Macklemore performed his song “Thrift Store” over the weekend in his hometown of Seattle in a fake dark beard, wig and hooked nose. After he was lambasted on Twitter for presenting a Jewish caricature, he tweeted: “A fake witch’s nose, wig and beard = random costume. Not my idea of a stereotype of anybody.” Still, it may be time to shop for a new look.

    Sources: NPR, NYDN, US Weekly

  5. Manchester United Names New Manager

    Dutchman Louis van Gaal is set to take the helm of the world’s biggest soccer club. Van Gaal, the 62-year-old national coach for the Netherlands, has been offered a three-year contract and plans to take over at the English Premier League team after Holland finishes playing in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Manchester United tapped Van Gaal after David Moyes lasted just 10 months and failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 18 years. Fans will relish Van Gaal’s plans: ”I’m sure we will make history.”

    Sources: BBC, Fox