The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Video Claims Japanese Hostage Beheaded

    The hope has faded. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the latest ISIS hostage video’s “credibility is high.” It shows captive journalist Kenji Goto saying that self-styled security consultant Haruna Yukawa, 42, has been beheaded. In response, Goto’s mother pleaded for help from the Japanese government, which refused to pay a $200 million ransom demand for the two men. When he went to Syria to find the missing Yukawa, Goto did not tell his mother, probably because “he didn’t want me to worry,” she said.

    Al Jazeera, NBC

  2. Dems, GOP Draw Line in Sandbox

    They’re not playing nice. Obama addressed the nation on Tuesday, vowing to tackle inequality with plans for middle-class tax cuts, tax hikes on the rich and initiatives like free community college tuition. Republicans responded by promising the voters they’d bring change to the Capitol and shoot down the president’s tax-and-spend plans. Speaker of the House John Boehner, meanwhile, bypassed Obama and invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress about Iran. And Obama responded by telling Bibi not to meddle — or visit him — during his stay.

    Haaretz (sub), FoxNews, NPR

  3. Obama’s India Trip Signals Shift

    New Delhi and Washington are cozying up like never before. Only allies get invited to India for Republic Day, and Obama is the chief guest for Monday’s parade. Prime Minister Narendra Modiwho greeted the U.S. president with a hug at Delhi Airport yesterday, wants better trade relations — the same kind Obama extolled in last week’s State of the Union. And in a nod to its bolstered friendship, India has slashed orders for Iranian oil, possibly signaling an attempt to redraw Asia’s power map in Uncle Sam’s favor.

    BBC, U.S. News, Reuters

  4. Rebels Launch New Attacks in Ukraine

    The war in eastern Ukraine is heating up again. Echoing a familiar pattern, there’s more evidence that Russian soldiers and armaments are playing a role in the new fighting, and strong signs that the current ceasefire is paper-thin. Ukraine said 27 people were killed Saturday in a barrage of rockets on homes and a market in Mariupol. Pro-Russian separatists say their mission is to take that coastal city, even if its inhabitants are generally friendly to the government in Kiev.

    NYT, WSJ (sub)

  5. Nigeria Is Looking for a Few Good Bullets

    Fighting jihadists isn’t easy, even for a well-equipped superpower. Then there’s the Nigerian army, reportedly scrabbling for ammunition as well-armed Boko Haram kills and kidnaps untold numbers of civilians. Some soldiers say they face combat with empty weapons and fuel tanks, and witnesses tell of troops pulling off uniforms and fleeing with civilians during attacks. The government and the military called such reports “blackmail against the nation” orchestrated by its enemies, and they remained “concerned, committed and focused” on defeating the insurgents.

    BBC, Punch Nigeria


  6. Guantanamo Diary Points to Inhumanity

    He may not be free, but he’s free to share. Twelve years ago, Mauritanian Mohamedou Ould Slahi was locked up in Guantanamo without a trial or substantial evidence. In 2010, a U.S. judge ordered his release, but an appeal has kept him in custody. His 460-page diary, on the other hand, has been cleared for release. In it, Slahi puts a grim, albeit human face on last year’s report on CIA torture. He claims he was force-fed and sexually abused, and eventually fabricated confessions to give his interrogators what they wanted.



  1. Gates Shares Good News for World’s Poor

    They’re betting on big improvements. Bill and Melinda Gates have been investing in innovations to help tackle inequality through health and education for 15 years. Looking ahead, they’re wagering on a much brighter future for the world’s poor. In 15 years’ time, Gates tells OZY, standards of living among today’s poorest will be higher than ever before, thanks to better nutrition, housing and health care. But, the Microsoft co-founder warns, the planet must tackle climate change and develop renewable energy to ensure a better future for us all.


  2. Wolves Fight to Survive Political Landscape

    Ranchers and farmers wanted them gone. So by 1930, the U.S. government poisoned and hunted wolves to near extinction in the western United States. In the 1990s, federal wildlife authorities reintroduced them. The wolves are now thriving in states like Montana and Wyoming and have spread as far as the Grand Canyon. But hunters and ranchers — citing risks to valuable livestock — are once again raising their rifles, killing hundreds each year. Some activists now fear a “paramilitary assault” will undermine efforts to bring back the American wolf.


  3. The Ultra-Orthodox Confront Sexual Taboos

    She wants them to have fun. Sex counselor Bat Sheva Marcus, a modern Orthodox woman, specializes in helping women from the strictest ultra-Orthodox branches of Judaism enjoy intimate relations. Some of her clients fear that being at all immodest will lead to calamity, and their libidos respond in kind, making sex a painful experience. Marcus puts these women in touch with their sexuality — encouraging them to practice kissing, wear lingerie or even use vibrators — bringing what one rabbi called signs of God’s light to the bedroom.


  4. Is Damian Lillard Blazing a Trail to MVP?

    Leave the court a crime scene — that’s the mentality of the underappreciated 24-year-old Portland Trail Blazers point guard. The former Rookie of the Year has fought his way from struggling nobody to top-tier ballplayer in just a few short years. He boosted his team to an impressive 31–13 this season with stellar outside shots, explosive moves around the basket and a notable assist record. And with teammate LaMarcus Aldridge injured, fans will be rooting for more than the usual suspects.


  5. ‘Storytellers Street’ Recites Final Chapter

    Traveling traders once sipped chai in Peshawar’s bazaar, swapping tales of their journeys through Afghanistan, Central Asia and India. But in today’s Pakistan, the market street  known for its qehwa khawni (“storytelling”) green tea — is little more than a fable itself. Taliban bombings, coupled with rising rents caused by war-weary rural Pakhtuns fleeing to the city, have pushed out many of the town’s legendary tea stands. Journalist Manzoor Ali illustrates what may be the final chapter for this ancient cultural hub.

    Roads and Kingdoms