The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Eric Cantor Falls to Tea Party Challenger

    In a huge blow to the GOP establishment, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost his Virginia primary to Tea Party-backed primary challenger David Brat. The newcomer — an economics professor — claimed an 11 percentage point victory over Cantor, who had invested nearly $1 million in the primary and was widely expected to be the next speaker. Brat’s victory has been attributed to his staunch opposition to immigration reform and raising the debt ceiling, both key areas of conflict within the party.

    Sources: Washington Post, USA Today

  2. Teacher Tenure Ruled Unconstitutional

    A California judge has declared teacher tenure unconstitutional in the state because it deprives children of their right to education. Judge Rolf M. Treu emphasized in his ruling that tenure statutes have a disproportionate impact on poor and/or minority children. The case, Vergara v. California, was brought by a group of student plaintiffs with the backing of a Silicon Valley millionaire. They argued that state tenure laws undermined the quality of their education by safeguarding bad teachers. California teachers’ unions have already announced their intention to appeal the decision, which is expected to spark similar cases in other cities and states.

    Sources: NYT, Politico

  3. Obama Encourages “Soul Searching” Over Gun Violence

    Hours after a 14-year-old high school student was shot in Oregon, President Obama described resistance to gun control as his “biggest frustration.” The president emphasized that the U.S. is an extreme outlier among developed nations, with rates of mass shooting that are “exponentially higher than any place else.” In the aftermath of the 2012 Newton attack that killed 20 first-graders, Obama launched a campaign for legislative reform, but it stalled in the face of stiff opposition. Yesterday’s Oregon attack was the 74th school shooting the country has seen since the Sandy Hook attack in December 2012.

    Sources: BBC, NPR, Washington Post, ABC

  4. FAA Approves Unmanned Planes Over U.S.

    For the first time, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved commercial drones flying over home soil. The BP oil and gas company will use an AeroVironment Puma drone — four and a half feet long with a nine-foot wingspan — to survey the pipelines, roads and equipment of Alaska oilfields. Although the FAA will continue to adjust regulations covering drone flights, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has recognized that this is “another important step toward broader commercial use of unmanned aircraft.”

    Sources: Al Jazeera, TIME


  1. NASA Aims to Get Astronauts Growing Fresh Food

    It’s expensive and complex to provide astronauts with a balanced diet in space, so NASA is experimenting with kitchen gardening on the International Space Station. The Veg-01 project is the first attempt to create a vegetable production system in orbit and relies on red, green and blue LED lights to grow romaine lettuce. But the astronauts won’t get to eat the first harvest; the lettuce leaves will go back down to Earth in the fall for testing to make sure the plants are free of dangerous pathogens. Looks like dinner’s going to be freeze-dried…again.

    Source: NPR

  2. China Planning Fake Islands in Disputed Sea

    China is building Dubai-style artificial islands to strengthen its claim to the South China Sea, according to Filipino fishermen and officials. Chinese ships laden with construction materials are reportedly working in areas near the disputed Spratly Islands. Experts believe that artificial lands could strengthen China’s de facto territorial claims, as well as housing military bases that could be used to control the region’s busiest shipping lanes. China’s neighbors, particularly Vietnam, have become increasingly resistant to its incursions into the disputed waters but may be overwhelmed by its brazen exercise of power.

    Sources: Bloomberg, NBC

  3. Cell Phones Could be Damaging Sperm

    A new study suggests that electro-magnetic radiation from cell phones could be contributing to rising male infertility. Researchers at the University of Exeter, England, reviewed 1,492 sperm samples and found that exposure to such radiation reduced sperm motility by eight percent and viability by nine percent. The causal link is uncertain, but it’s possible that because most men carry their phones in their pants pockets, electro-magnetic radiation fields could raise the temperature of the testes enough to interfere with sperm production.

    Sources: TIME, Science World Report

  4. Porn Stars Leading Cultural Change in Bollywood

    The Indian film industry has traditionally taken a conservative approach to sexuality, but the presence of foreign-born sex stars in Bollywood could signal a change. Canadian-born porn star Sunny Leone was the most Googled person in India last year, having starred in a Bollywood erotic thriller in 2012. The industry reaches an audience of 3.6 billion, produces twice as many films as Hollywood, and is expected to grow 11.5 percent by 2017. What’s more, sexual themes in Bollywood movies could provoke conversation about women’s sexuality and social status.

    Source: OZY

  5. Machado Gets Five-Game Suspension for Throwing Bat

    Most Major Leaguers understand that throwing a bat at another player is both dangerous and stupid, but Manny Machado has received a five-game suspension for doing just that. Towards the end of a tense encounter between the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, 21-year-old Machado “accidentally” slung his bat at A’s pitcher Fernando Abad as he took a swing. Machado’s aim was thankfully off and the bat tumbled into the outfield. Orioles manager Dan Duquette has acknowledged that a “player development issue” exists and mooted the possibility of a demotion to the minor leagues.

    Sources: NBC, SI