The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. ISIS Video Killer ‘Jihadi John’ Identified

    The black-clad man with a British accent beheaded hostages on camera. In reality, he’s Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Emwazi, raised in middle class West London. He has a college degree in computers. He was on U.K. and U.S. radar as early as 2009, when he was detained while traveling to Africa, and again the next year trying to return to a fiancé and a job in Kuwait. This may be Western authorities’ worst fear — an educated, Western-raised, urbane man who couldn’t resist the call of terrorism.

    BBC, Washington Post

  2. FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules

    Your streaming movies are safe. The Federal Communications Commission approved today strict new rules to preserve the open Internet by categorizing broadband as a utility. With only Republican members dissenting, the landmark change will prohibit providers like Verizon and Comcast from slowing down content coming over their digital pipes or creating “fast lanes” that allow speedier access to websites for a fee. The new restrictions will surely face legal challenges by providers and attempts by conservative lawmakers to overturn them. The battle for the open Web rages on.

    Washington Post, NYT


  3. Charges Against Argentine President Dismissed

    A federal judge today tossed out allegations that Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner tried to shield Iranian officials from responsibility in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, firmly absolving her in a scandal that has rocked the nation. Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was preparing to issue an arrest warrant for the president before dying with a bullet to the head. A deeply divided Argentina will debate the charges and Nisman’s death for years. Meanwhile, the government made its first reforms, completely revamping its spy agency.

    CBS News, Reuters

  4. U.S. Hits Back at Netanyahu’s Iran Claims

    Are America and its strongest Middle Eastern ally turning deaf ears? The Israeli prime minister — aggressively opposed to a nuclear deal with Iran — asserted yesterday that the West had given up on preventing the Islamic Republic from developing nukes. Tensions flared as the U.S. hit back, questioning Netanyahu’s judgment ahead of his congressional speech next week, where he hopes to win support for his cause. But with an increasing number of lawmakers planning to boycott his address, Netanyahu may struggle to find listeners.

    DW, Washington Post

  5. Morgan Stanley Settles on Mortgage Claims

    Those 2008 roosters have come home. Embroiled this week in an embarrassing video leak, the financial giant has agreed to pay $2.6 billion to resolve claims that it improperly sold mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis. The settlement — reducing Morgan Stanley’s 2014 profit by more than half — raises the Department of Justice’s big-bank extractions for mortgage-related abuses to $40 billion. The Feds will be looking next to charge individuals for their role in the meltdown.

    Reuters, FT (sub)

  6. D.C. Defies Congress and Legalizes Pot

    Smoke signals are rising over Capitol Hill. The District has legalized weed possession in small amounts, and smoking in private will no longer roll you into court. At 12:01 a.m. the nation’s capital joined Alaska, Colorado and Washington state in allowing recreational use of cannabis. But it wasn’t a joint decision: Congress warned local officials that they couldn’t pass such a law without its approval, and threatened the city’s mayor with possible prosecution. She fought back, but may get burned as D.C. begins (legally) toking up.

    Washington Post, The Hill

  7. ISIS Destroys Mosul Museum, Judge Throws Out Adrian Peterson Ruling

    Militants torch 1,000 treasured library manuscripts. (IBT)

    Federal judge overturns arbitrator’s ruling on Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. (USA Today)

    Afghans search for survivors after deadly avalanches. (BBC)

    Fed chair denounces calls for central bank transparency. (FT) sub

    Argentina plans intelligence revamp in wake of Nisman’s death. (Reuters)

    Greek official: The bloodletting must stop. (DW)

    Bombs target cell phone companies in Cairo. (Al Jazeera)


  1. Human Head Swap Could Happen by 2017

    He thinks it’s a no-brainer. Leaving aside the profound ethical implications, Italian neuroscientist Sergio Canavero wants to attempt the first human head transplant. He’s published a summary of the techniques involved, including cooling the head and body, cleanly severing the spinal cords and fusing them together. He hopes to help those suffering from muscle degeneration or cancer live longer lives. While critics think he has his head in the clouds, Canavero is set to propose a two-year project culminating in the ultimate test.

    New ScientistBig Think

  2. Google Can Spank You at Space Invaders

    First IBM’s Watson beats Ken Jennings at Jeopardy, now this. Google’s DeepMind team is developing artificial intelligence that can play classic Atari video games better than most humans. The AI learns as it goes and is motivated by high scores, so it doesn’t even need to know the rules to dominate. The implications extend beyond ‘80s nostalgia, with the deep-learning techniques holding potential to help us do complex tasks like planning vacations. The AI’s next big challenge? Nintendo.

    Popular ScienceWired

  3. Hackers Target Lenovo With Teenage Angst

    When the Chinese computer maker was outed last week for pre-installing adware on its laptops — which made users vulnerable to hacking — many suspected pending retaliation. The firm stopped shipping products infected with the software. But that didn’t prevent its site from falling prey yesterday to hackers who redirected visitors to a picture slideshow of bored teens, with the High School Musical song “Breaking Free” blaring in the background. Lizard Squad claimed responsibility, raising questions about coders’ ability to battle firms implicated in endangering web privacy.

    The Verge, CNET

  4. Camel-Size Thickness Beats Length 

    It’s not what you’re thinking. Engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology think they’ve discovered why animals have eyelashes. By measuring eye openings and lashes of 22 mammals, researchers found that the optimal length was one-third the width of the eye. This helps keep eyes optimally moist — neither too dry, nor so wet as to cause infection. Bigger eyes need bigger lashes, so ships of the desert and giraffes get top winks for great length and density that block debris. 

    Scientific American

  5. Millennials Don’t Want to Be President

    The future of the republic is at stake. Young people mistrust the government so much that only 7 percent of Americans under 30 work for Uncle Sam — the lowest percentage in a decade. New research suggests that not only do many millennials have zero political ambition, they believe they can effect bigger change by working outside Washington. And those who do want to make a run at politics tend to be financially secure, older white men — a group that’s already fairly well-represented.


  6. Madonna Suffers Nasty Fall at Brit Awards

    The Material Girl should thank her lucky star. Making her 20-year return to the U.K. awards show, the pop star was pulled backward down several stairs and hit the ground hard after one of her backup singers yanked her long cape. Like a pro, the “Living for Love” performer immediately recovered and kept on singing. She later revealed the cape had malfunctioned, but she’s “fine.” On hand to collect an award, Taylor Swift might’ve offered Madge some advice — to simply “Shake It Off.”

    TIME, People

  7. Mavs Suspend Point Guard Over Coach Rift

    You’re never too old for a time-out. Rajon Rondo — acquired in a December trade — was benched in last night’s 104-87 loss to the Hawks. The one-game suspension followed the 29-year-old Louisville native’s shouting match with coach Rick Carlisle the night before, when the player ignored third-quarter instructions. The four-time All-Star is averaging over six assists and almost three turnovers in 25 games, but sideline fights don’t bode well for the playoffs, where chemistry is key.

    ESPN, USA Today