The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Suicide Bombers Strike Near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut 

    At least 23 people have died and more than 145 were injured when double bombs exploded near the embassy in the Lebanese capital. A group linked to al-Qaeda claimed responsibility by two Lebanese Sunni “heroes.” It’s already being called the worst attack in southern Beirut since the Syrian war started, and it is the first time an Iranian target was hit. Embassy guards, and at least one diplomat, are among the victims. 

    Sources: BBC, NYT, The Guardian

  2. Paris Searches for a Gunman Who Terrorized Media Outlets

    Police are scouring the city for the man responsible for several high-profile shootings. A lone gunman walked into the headquarters of the newspaper “Libération” yesterday and seriously wounded a photographer. He also opened fire at the office of the major bank Société Generale before hijacking a car and disappearing near the Champs-Elysees. Days earlier, the same man is believed to have broken into the offices of the news channel BFMTV and threatened the staff. Police have deployed outside other possible targets for fear he might attack again.

    Sources: WSJ, BBC, CNN

  3. U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to NSA

    The U.S. Supreme Court has turned away a legal challenge seeking to halt the the National Security Agency’s formerly secret phone-spying program. But the Court’s refusal to hear the case brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center does not preclude the possibility of a future ruling on the agency’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records. Several other cases challenging the program are pending in federal courts, and congressional critics are planning to intensify their lobbying efforts. But the NSA already knew that.

    Sources: NYT, NPR

  4. Performance Issues Mar Sony’s PlayStation 4 Release

    Sony may have sold more than a million new PlayStation 4 gaming consoles within 24 hours, but a high number of complaints have prompted the technology giant to release a guide for dealing with glitches. Among other things, users complain about a “blue light of death” persistently flashing and interfering with game play. Sony says that the new hardware’s failure rate is but 0.4 percent, and the glitches look unlikely to hurt current sales, but intense competition for gaming supremacy between the PS4 and Microsoft’s anticipated Xbox One ensures any performance issues will receive extra attention.

    Sources: Businessweek, The Guardian, NBC News

  5. ’Offensive’ Tweets in Gulf States Could Lead to Prison Time

    Twitter users in the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have been sentenced for posting messages considered to be “offensive” or “against state security.” A Kuwaiti man was recently sentenced to five years in prison for a tweet that authorities said insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Meanwhile, a court in the UAE has condemned another Twitter user to two years in jail for a post that “violated state security” by mentioning the trial of 94 men accused of links to an armed group. These are just the latest examples of a social media crackdown spreading across the region. In Saudi Arabia, three lawyers are also facing trial over posts allegedly criticizing authorities.

    Sources: Al Jazeera, Washington Post

  6. Gettysburg Address Turns 150, George Zimmerman Booked for Assault

    Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds was stabbed, and seriously wounded, at his home. (Washington Post).

    Nepal sees record turnout for historic vote. (Christian Science Monitor.)

    George Zimmerman booked for aggravated assault for pointing a gun at girlfriend. (Orlando Sentinel).

    Third straight Obama nominee to fill key appeals court vacancy blocked by Senate Republicans. (NYT).

    Palestinians cast first vote in U.N. General Assembly. (Reuters).


  1. The Gettysburg Address Turns 150, but Was It Really Great? 

    Was President Lincoln too nice to the South? Would the U.S. have been better off, and its current politics less intransigent, if only Abe had been more brutally honest? One historian thinks so. But he’s far from the majority on a day when filmmaker Ken Burns believes every U.S. citizen should recite the speech. Don’t worry if you’re boss might look at you funny for playing Lincoln at your desk — listening to NPR’s recitation surely counts.

    Sources: Politico, USA Today, NPR

  2. NASA Launches New Spacecraft to Orbit Red Planet

    MAVEN is heading toward Mars. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission aims to learn how a planet that used to look very similar to Earth, with water and a dense atmosphere, became today’s barren, cold desert rock. It’s the first mission dedicated to studying Mars’ upper atmosphere and NASA says it will cost $671 million. If everything goes well, MAVEN will have a 10-month cruise before it arrives at its destination and begins investigating the Red Planet’s cause of death.

    Sources: NPR, CNN

  3. Birth Control Pills May Put Women at Greater Risk of Glaucoma

    Women taking oral contraceptives are more than twice as likely to develop glaucoma after three years of taking birth control pills than those who aren’t on the pill, according to a new U.S. study. Although the study did not explore the potential cause of glaucoma in women who took oral contraceptives, it could be linked to estrogen, which is a leading cause of blindness. While further research is required to determine the causes, women on the pill are advised to ask their doctor about glaucoma risks and to be tested after three years.

    Sources: NPR, Newsday

  4. Iran Announces a Bigger, Badder Drone

    Not to be outdone by its global rivals, Iran has announced the creation of the “biggest drone ever,” capable of flying for 30 hours and covering 1,250 miles. The drone’s hardware enables it to conduct reconnaissance missions over much of the Middle East, including Israel. The Islamic Republic’s Defense Ministry, defiant at the unveiling, added that sanctions by enemies would not deter Iran from technological progress. The move contrasts with the conciliatory overtures Iran has expressed in recent months. With suspicion and distrust already rife in the region, developments that increase surveillance seem less than promising.

    Source: Washington Post

  5. Russia Fines Concert Promoter Over Singer’s Show

    Lady Gaga’s Russian concert agency has been fined for propagating alcohol consumption and homosexuality for the singer’s St. Petersburg show last December. The claim originated with an outraged mother who accompanied her 13-year-old daughter to the show, which included allusions to sex between women. The mother will now have the opportunity to sue for millions of rubles due to the “psychic trauma” allegedly caused. Meanwhile, American viewers were subjected to a bizarre simulated sexual encounter between Gaga and R. Kelly on ”Saturday Night Live.” No trauma cases have been reported, though critics cringed at her Miley-esque turn.

    Sources: NYT, The Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian

  6. College Basketball Player Scores His Second Century

    Only three players have broken the 100-point barrier in NCAA men’s basketball history. Jack Taylor, a guard for Grinnell College, is the only player to have done it twice. On Sunday night, he notched 109 points in a Division Three game against Crossroads College, following his 138-point record-breaker last year. Not everyone is impressed. Grinnell’s strategy of sending almost every ball Taylor’s way is berated by some, who argue it’s merely designed to break records and garner media attention. It’s certainly a great gig for Taylor, but it can’t be much fun for his teammates.

    Sources: NPR, Dead Spin