The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Lawsuits on New Net Neutrality Rules Begin

    Soon, the deluge. The FCC passed new rules last month classifying internet as a basic utility, and now it’s being sued by USTelecom, an industry group, and by Alamo Broadband, a Texas provider, for overreaching existing laws. These are just the first lawsuits — along with a case against the rules by the state of Tennessee, filed last week — but they’ll set the standard for future cases and thus the FCC is expected to fight tooth and nail against claims.

    WP, CNET  

  2. Durst Being Investigated in Vermont Murder

    The case had gone cold until now. Robert Durst, who appeared to inadvertently confess to a string of murders during filming of an HBO documentary, has been deemed a flight risk and denied bail. Police believe he may be responsible for another murder, that of a female college student who disappeared in 1971 in the same town where Durst ran a health food store. He’s currently being held in Louisiana and will get a preliminary hearing there next week.

    NYT, Reuters  

  3. Bibi’s Apology: Too Little, Too Late?

    It was an easy vote-grab. But Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election comments that he could never support a two-state solution may have cut him out of the decision-making process. Today he continued walking back his remarks, apologizing to his Arab constituents for racist asides about Arab voting. However, the White House Chief of Staff expressed public support for a separate Palestinian state and defended a hoped-for nuclear deal with Iran that Netanyahu has opposed vehemently. Looks like that special relationship may have crumbled.   

    CSM, Reuters

  4. Utah Brings Back the Firing Squad

    It was gone only five years. The firing squad option for capital punishment has been illegal since 2004, although the last inmate to choose but wasn’t executed until 2010 — making his death only the third civilian death by firing squad in the U.S. since the Civil War. Now Utah’s governor has signed it back into existence as a back-up option, fearing a shortage of the lethal cocktails the state now uses to kill inmates. Some are concerned about finding eight people willing to pull those triggers.

    BBC, WP 

  5. The Consequences of Ukraine’s Regime Change

    The tragedies are adding up. Some call it justice, some government intimidation, but a string of apparent suicides by members of the pre-revolution ruling party is causing concern in Ukraine. Over a few weeks in February and March, four former senior officials were found dead. No evidence suggests foul play, but some argue that overzealous prosecutors, their eyes on political gain, are driving men to the brink. The government, however, shows no sign of stopping — officials say the suicides are a clear indicator of guilty consciences.

    Guardian, Sky  

  6. Controversial Voter ID Law Upheld by Court

    It’s long been a wedge issue. Conservatives say that requiring IDs for in-person voting prevents fraud while progressives point out that such fraud is vanishingly uncommon and these laws may unfairly target minorities and the poor. The Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law, therefore effectively deciding most similar cases — and coming down on the side of conservative governor Scott Walker, who’s behind the bill. This victory could bolster Walker with the GOP as he mulls a run for the White House. 

    LAT, AP

  7. ‘No Evidence’ for UVA Gang Rape Allegation

    Was it all just made up? When Rolling Stone published a horrifying account of a brutal assault on a woman (known as “Jackie” in the article) at a University of Virginia frat house last year, readers were shocked — and skeptical. The Charlottesville police launched an investigation, but now say they’ve found nothing to indicate such an assault ever occured. The case will remain open, as there is no statute of limitations for rape — and if anyone comes forward with new evidence, Jackie’s story could be vindicated.

    WP, Al Jazeera

  8. Afghan Activists Rally Around Murdered Woman

    She was killed for dissenting. Farkhunda, a 27-year-old Afghan Muslim, was beaten and burned last week by a Kabul mob who accused her of burning a Koran. But an offical investigation has found that Farkhunda simply voiced disagreement with local mullahs over corruption. Female activists shrugged off tradition and insisted on carrying Farkhunda’s coffin to her grave Sunday. Now hundreds of protestors are demanding the prosecutions of the 18 people arrested for her murder — and of the policemen who stood by and did nothing.  


  9. Ebola Likely Gone By August

    A year ago today the World Health Organization announced Ebola had hit West Africa. Thankfully the crisis appears mostly under control now, as UN health officials predict the epidemic will be over by August. More than 10,000 have died. But the impacts may linger as strained impoverished healthcare systems struggle to regroup. Western aid groups have stepped in, but the measures remain stopgap. Hospitals struggle to restock the basics, and kids’ immunization rates are falling. Ebola may soon be gone, but the impact will linger for years.

    BBC, NPR

  10. SCOTUS Hears Confederate Flag Case

    Six inches worth of metal has become the latest battleground for the First Amendment. In nine states, drivers can honor the Sons of the Confederate Veterans with vanity license plates featuring the Confederate flag. But Texas denied the design, after a campaign by civil rights groups. Proponents say the move hinders free speech, while others say the government doesn’t have to support symbols like swastikas, and Sons can always buy bumper stickers. The hearings open the courts March seating — expect decisions and arguments all week.

    NYT, Scotusblog

  11. Singapore’s Founding Father Dies at 91

    Tributes are pouring in following this morning’s death of Lee Kuan Yew. He stepped down as prime minister in 1990, after 31 years in power, leaving an indelible mark on the city-state of 5.4 million. By relying on strong central governance, economic liberalism and suppression of political protest, he attracted foreign investment and improved infrastructure, successfully transforming Singapore. While his soft brand of authoritarianism was sometimes criticized, President Obama hailed Lee — who will lie in state before his funeral next Sunday — as a “true giant of history.”

    Forbes, NYT

  12. Ted Cruz Throws His Hat in 2016 Ring

    He got there first. “I’m running for president and I hope to earn your support,” tweeted the 44-year-old Texas senator early this morning. Cruz’s move, which makes him the GOP’s first official contender, aims to take the focus off other possible candidates — namely Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The first-term senator hopes to slowly build support across the party. But it’ll be a long, hard race for the renowned Obamacare opponent, who’s warming up today with a speech at Liberty University.

    Fox, NYT

  13. Tunisian PM Fires Six Police Chiefs

    Prime Minister Habib Essid dismissed six police chiefs today following last week’s deadly terrorist attack in Tunis, which killed 20 foreign tourists and three Tunisians. The decision was reportedly prompted by Essid’s visit last night to the site of the attack, where he found “several deficiencies.” President Beji Caid Essebsi warned yesterday that one terrorist remains on the run and vowed that “he won’t get far.” Both leaders are hoping to shore up Tunisia’s fledgling democracy and save its lucrative tourism industry.

    France 24, BBC

  14. Yemen Calls on Neighbors for Help

    They need all the help they can get. Houthi rebels have overrun Yemen’s government, chased President Hadi out of the capital and attacked the seaside city of Aden with warplanes. Now that the U.S. and Britain have withdrawn most of their personnel from the country, Yemen’s foreign minister is pleading with other Gulf countries to help establish a no-fly zone. Althought al-Qaida and ISIS are no friends to the Shiite Houthis, many fear that the terrorist groups may gain power in the chaos. 

    BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera

  15. Greece, Germany Seek Financial Solution

    It’s a question of debt. Angela Merkel, perhaps fearing that Greece’s financial woes will force it out of the Eurozone, has been meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. He needs money, but says he’s not in Germany to “beg.” Merkel has demurred on questions of her own negotiating power, saying all EU countries are equally important, but she could likely broker the deal. Meanwhile, Greece is pressing the question of reparations for German war crimes in WWII, which may play a symbolic part in the negotiations.

    FT (sub), BBC

  16. French Voters Veer in New Direction

    France is turning right. In local elections this weekend, former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP came out on top, pushing Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front — which looked like a front-runner before the vote — into second place. It’s a setback for Le Pen, who aspires to the presidency, but it’s an even bigger blow to President Francois Hollande, whose Socialist Party came third. Sarkozy, meanwhile, is celebrating the “massive swing” back toward the right ahead of 2017’s national election.

    France 24, DW


  1. Secret Nazi Camp Found in Argentine Jungle

    Welcome to the jungle. Argentinian researchers say they have found a camp used by Nazis escaping Germany after World War II, deep in the heart of the jungle along the Argentina-Paraguay border. Among the ruins, researchers found German coins, pottery and even Nazi symbols, all but confirming speculation that the site was a hideout for former Nazis. The researchers say they hope the discovery will help shed further light on the mysterious fates of many prominent German war criminals, who escaped prosecution for decades.

    BoingBoing, Washington Post

  2. Sharper Agrees to Plea Deal with Four States

    He’s getting a serious timeout. Ex-NFL All-Pro Darren Sharper has taken plea deals in four states that, combined, will likely carry more than a decade of prison time. The 39-year old former Packer, Viking, and Saint has been in a Los Angeles jail since February 2014, after pleading not guilty to drugging and raping two women using the sedative Zolpidem. An Arizona judge has sentenced him to nine years. A California judge is expected to announce his sentence later today, followed by Nevada and Louisiana.


  3. Largest Asteroid Impact Ever Found

    Two space rocks apparently smashed into what is now Australia’s outback many millions of years ago, leaving an impact zone that stretches close to 250 miles wide. Scientists confirmed their findings in a paper published in the journal Tectonophysics. The direct hit would have been big enough to kill anything living on planet Earth at the time. So could this have been the big one that took out the dinosaurs? Scientists say it’s too soon to tell, although the data seems to point to probably not.


  4. Burger King Flips for Whopper Perfume

    Will this pass the smell test? On April 1st — no, it’s not a hoax — 1,000 customers in Japan can fork over 5,000 yen, about $40, in exchange for the Flame Grilled fragrance. Whiffs will be reminiscent of the restaurant chain’s grilled beef classic, and the bottled scent comes with a real burger. The combo’s only available for one day, and only in Japan, where “No Whopper, No Life” ads aim to see fans come to their senses.

    Evening Standard, Newser

  5. Paris Says ‘Non’ to Pollution and Cars

    Its romance with the automobile has died. After a “pollution emergency” shrouded the Eiffel Tower last week, Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s office is temporarily halving the number of vehicles allowed into the City of Love. Those getting green lights include electric cars, hybrids, cars carrying more than three people and public transportation — the latter being free to ride during the ban. Paris, which hosts the U.N. climate summit this December, is also flirting with the idea of permanently banning the heaviest-polluting vehicles to avoid future smog.


  6. Death of the Album Was Exaggerated

    It’s already enjoying a revival. iTunes made it easy to buy individual tracks, ignoring the “filler” in between so-called radio hits. But surprise releases, not reliant on early radio buzz, have encouraged listeners to take their time with the old-fashioned, sequential format. Recently superstars like Drake and Kendrick Lamar have broken sales and streaming records with unannounced releases, and Beyoncé’s 2013 marketing strategy was studied by Harvard Business School. Kanye West will reportedly be the next star to surprise listeners with an album drop.


  7. Suarez Beats Real Madrid With Stellar Goal

    It was a classic indeed. Barcelona and Real Madrid didn’t disappoint in the latest version of El Clasico — the name given to any match-up between the rivals — which saw Barca reign 2-1, jumping a solid four points ahead of Real in the league tables. Lionel Messi set up a beautiful first goal that was soon countered by Madrid’s own superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo. But a breakaway run by Luis Suarez, capped by a brilliant finish in the 56th minute, turned out to be the decider.


  8. Weight Loss Can Lead to Depression

    Shedding weight has become such an industry, and societal obsession, you’d expect those who succeed in dropping pounds to feel victorious. Or at least, happy. But the opposite is true, according to a flurry of medical studies. Depression and anxiety accompanied the dieters, with some even veering into psychosis. This could be one reason why so few people manage to lose weight, and to keep it off for more than a year. But at least if your weight loss attempts are making you miserable, take heart: you aren’t alone.

    The Atlantic


  9. Blue Light May Lead to Arousal

    Red may be the color of passion, but blue seems to make it happen. Scientists in Zurich have found a way to trigger reliable erections in males suffering from erectile dysfunction by injecting a gene construct into the erectile tissue of penises. When exposed to blue light, molecules create a process that leads to an erection, without any need for sexual arousal. The injection might help men over 60, who suffer from erectile dysfunction 50 percent of the time.