The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Rand Paul Is Running for President

    He’s a contender. The Kentucky senator is looking to prove that a libertarian conservative has the right stuff for Pennsylania Ave. Paul threw his hat in the ring today, posting on his website that he plans to return the United States “to the principles of liberty and limited government.” He joins rival Ted Cruz on a list that is bound to grow in coming weeks. Critics question Paul’s ability to unify the party and secure a nomination, but others point to his great strides in setting up political operations in key voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

    NYT, Washington Post


  2. Ferguson Votes for a New City Council

    Will they make a change? The St. Louis suburb that vaulted into national news with massive riots over the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown is at the polls today, with the potential to elect three black city council members. That’d be half the seats on the council, and the highest proportion of black members ever (there have only been two in Ferguson’s history, and never two at a time). Activists are hoping that the city is on the verge of civic transformation after this summer’s violence.


  3. S.C. Police Officer Charged Over Shooting

    He says it was a fight over his stun gun. But video taken by a passerby shows Michael T. Slager, a white North Charleston officer, firing at apparently unarmed 50-year-old black man Walter Scott eight times as Scott tries to flee. Scott was killed after being stopped over a broken taillight on his Mercedes-Benz. North Charleston’s population  is 47 percent black, but its police force is 80 percent white. Slager will be charged with murder over what Mayor Keith Summey called his “bad decision.”

    NYT, USA Today

  4. U.S., Cuban Leaders May Meet at Summit

    It’s a spring thaw. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro are expected to have substantial in person interaction for the first time at the Summit of the Americas in Panama this week. The question is — talk about making things awkward — whether Obama will remove Cuba from the U.S.’s list of state sponsors of terrorism before that meeting. The White House says the timing rests with the State Department, but nobody seriously expects a change before Castro and Obama meet face to face. 

    WSJ (sub), The Guardian 

  5. Small Aircraft Crashes in Midwestern Field

    It was heading to Bloomington. The twin engine Cessna, which was ferrying seven people from Indianapolis, crashed about a mile from its intended runway, killing everyone aboard. The plane was leaving the NCAA championship game and carrying the Illinois State deputy director of athletics and its associate head men’s basketball coach, both fathers of two. Authorities lost contact with the pilot around midnight and found the wreckage three hours later. Dense fog may be to blame for the crash, but crews are still investigating the crash site. 

    NBC, USA Today, Buzzfeed

  6. Iraqi Soldiers’ Mass Grave Exhumed

    ISIS reportedly massacred some 1,700 air force cadets last year, and now, just days after Iraqi forces retook the city of Tikrit from the militants, forensics experts have begun excavating suspected mass graves. Work progresses slowly, as DNA samples from the recovery are sent to Baghdad for testing so bodies can be identified. Confessions from captured fighters led authorities to the site, but officials still aren’t sure if they will find all of the remains.

    BBC, WSJ

  7. Athens Puts a Price on War

    Greek officials say Germany owes $303 billion to cover reparations for the Nazi occupation of World War II, including a loan the Nazis forced Greece to make. Germany says the reparations issue was legally settled in 1990, and it’s surely no coincidence that Greece makes the demand while trying to dig out of an economic hole, and eurozone debt. Such a large reparations payment would cover Greek debt and then some, but the demand is bound to do little to warm Teutonic representatives in ongoing bailout talks.

    BBC, Telegraph

  8. Yemen’s Aden Becomes a Ghost City

    Fighting between Shia Houthi rebels and government forces have shut down the town. The death toll has risen above 500, including some children. More than 100,000 have been displaced, and all daily activity has come to a virtual halt. Officials desperately need medical aid, but the Red Cross struggles to find cargo planes to ferry in supplies. Red Cross officials want a 24-hour cease-fire for humanitarian purposes, but that may not be enough. There’s apparently no water, power or food in the city.

    Al Jazeera, BBC

  9. U.N. Demands Access to ISIS-Held Camp

    Long feared as a potential tool for penetrating the heart of Syria’s capital, ISIS has captured as much as 90 percent of a nearby Palestinian refugee camp. Hundreds of families have escaped, but the U.N. says 18,000 remain holed up — many without water and food — in a situation that is “beyond inhumane.” The Security Council is demanding humanitarian access to help the refugees, and while it’s unlikely ISIS will accommodate, the U.N. is ready to consider “further measures to provide necessary assistance.”

    BBC, AFP

  10. Boston Suspect ‘Wanted to Punish America’

    He’ll soon learn his fate. A jury begins deliberating today over whether alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “wanted to punish America,” as a federal prosecutor claimed yesterday in closing remarks. Tsarnaev and his brother allegedly killed three and injured 264 with homemade bombs on April 15, 2013. Jurors must also decide whether Tsarnaev, 21, is guilty of murdering a police officer three days later. The defense says the young Russian émigré was under his radicalized brother’s influence. But if found guilty, he alone will face life behind bars or execution.

    BBC, CNN

  11. Greek Economy Risking a New Recession

    This is the last thing Alexis Tsipras needs. The prime minister is scrambling to pay his country’s debts to the IMF this week while negotiating with eurozone officials for bailout funding. But analysts say Greece may be slipping back into recession, thanks to limited government spending and political uncertainty. Such a downturn may lead to even higher taxes and further spending cuts. But Germany hopes Athens can stay afloat until July, when it’ll need a bailout to pay $3.8 billion to the European Central Bank — or face default.

    WSJ (sub)

  12. FedEx Set to Purchase TNT Express

    They’re looking to blast the competition. FedEx is set to buy the struggling European delivery service for $4.8 billion, or $8.76 a share — 33 percent higher than the Dutch firm’s closing price last Thursday. While it reportedly hadn’t been seeking the buyout, TNT has struggled since European regulators halted a $5.7 billion takeover bid by UPS in 2013 and hailed the deal as “good news for all stakeholders.” For the American courier giant, meanwhile, it’s a way to spark growth in the European marketplace.

    FT (sub)


  1. Brontosaurus Real After All, Says Science

    For more than a century, it was just a figment. The Brontosaurus was first described in 1879, but in 1903 paleotologists determined it was identical to the existing Apatosaurus and struck it from the record as one of many dinosaurs later determined to not be distinct species. New analysis from an international team of researchers says the thunder lizard is in fact a different species, which could lead to the reinstatement of the brontosaurus. Think of it as the paleontological equivalent of Pluto actually being a planet again.

    Scientific AmericanSmithsonian


  2. Bezos Jumps on Rocket Bandwagon

    Everybody’s going to space these days. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is just the latest billionaire to explore the commercial space trade, with his company Blue Origin announcing that it’ll start test flights for commercial passenger rockets sometime in 2015. Bezos is planning space trips to ferry scientific equipment to astronauts, but he’ll also be zooming paying customers, three passengers at a time, in a small ship 62 miles above the earth. Tickets aren’t on sale yet, but you can bet the prices will be sky-high. 


  3. Woman Sends Facebook Divorce Summons 

    Relationship status: It’s complicated. A woman who got approval to serve her ex with divorce papers through Facebook’s private message feature has gotten a response from her husband, according to her lawyer. Ellanora Baidoo, who told a judge Facebook was her sole method of contacting spouse Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, is the first person in New York state to serve divorce papers via the site. Her lawyer says this could set a precedent for all other cases involving legal papers, as they can now be legitimately distributed through social media channels. 


  4. Twitter Introduces Commenting Feature

    No more truncated retweets! With only 140 characters to play with, users wanting to comment on exaisting tweets have often been driven to cut them up in odd ways, destroying the meaning (or worse, the joke) of their commentary. But now Twitter allows everyone to “retweet with comment,” embedding the original tweet while adding their own spin. For instance, users can add their own speculation to the rumors that Twitter will get taken over soon, which have been credited with a 4 percent spike in the site’s stock price.  


  5. Artists Install Snowden Tribute in NYC Park

    The infamous NSA leaker popped up in the Big Apple and got carted off by authorities. On Monday, under cover of darkness, guerrilla artists installed a big bronze-colored bust of Edward Snowden atop an obscure Brooklyn monument to Revolutionary War POWs. But the Parks Department and NYPD removed it by midday, saying it was illegal. They’ve taken the sculpture into custody, and anyone claiming it risks facing charges, but the artists hope it’ll be granted asylum in a museum.

    SMH, Mashable, NYDN

  6. Starbucks Now Offers Full College Tuition

    The Seattle-based coffee giant is offering employees four years of free online study at Arizona State University, extending its previous two-year tuition policy. Baristas who don’t already have four-year degrees and sling coffee for more than 20 hours a week — more than 73 percent of employees — qualify for the perk. Execs say the tuition program is aimed at helping staff, particularly underprivileged young workers, afford an undergraduate education, and the company plans to invest at least $250 million into 25,000 employees over the next decade.


  7. Helvetica Gets a Challenger

    It’s not every typeface that spawns odes in print and on film. The mighty Helvetica was never meant to be so ubiquitous, and now designers who spend their careers obsessing about such things have revived the 30-year-old Neue Hass Unica, Unica was originally designed for typesetting but got lost in the early days of the computer age. The differences might seem virtually microscopic, measuring in millimeters (or less). But those tiny changes make the letters more legible on digital media. Your eyes will thank you.


  8. Washington’s Bikini Baristas Draw Fire

    It’s service in a thong for customers of drive-through coffee shops in Washington State, but not everyone is delighted by the barely-clad ladies doling out caffeine. The women say they earn good money while providing an innocuous service. Critics see them as sex workers, especially after some women were caught flashing undercover cops for tips, and want the coffee shops regulated like adult entertainment. Local politicians struggle with whether the Grab-N-Go Bikini Hut has the potential to become the next Hooters, or a might-have-been.

    The Atlantic

  9. Would You Have Killed Hitler?

    It seems like a straightforward enough question — kill one evil man to save millions of innocent lives. But for some, the moral implication of murder is simply too much to bear, no matter the target. New research into the ethical quandary found that men were significantly more likely to overcome their qualms about homicide as long as it served the greater good. But women had more trouble breaking moral conventions, even if it meant saving lives, and were more likely to let the Führer live.

    Tech Times

  10. ’Baron of Botox’ Dies in Florida

    He helped celebrities stay wrinkle-free, but sadness lurked behind his mask of youth: Dr. Fredric Brandt, 65, hanged himself in his Miami home over the weekend. He was in psychiatric care and taking medication, but some are pointing fingers at an unflattering portrayal of a Brandt-like doctor on the Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. His publicist said that while the show was “mean” and a form of “bullying,” it was not the source of Brandt’s depression. It remains unclear what will come of his clinics.

    Salon, EW

  11. Duke Beats Wisconsin in NCAA Final

    They were both dreaming of glory, but the Blue Devils came out on top, netting a fifth national win last night for coach Mike Krzyzewski, outscoring the Badgers 68-63. Twenty-two-year-old forward Frank Kaminsky came through several times for Wisconsin, sinking 21 points and initially dominating Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. But Duke remained poised, Okafor’s shots heated up and Krzyzewski’s young recruit, Tyus Jones, sank a 3-pointer with just over a minute left to turn Wisconsin’s dream into a nightmare.

    USA Today, Charlotte Observer

  12. The Food Babe Comes Under Fire

    Here’s something to chew on. Vani Hari, aka the Food Babe, came under a blistering attack from Gawker, which accused the health activist of misleading consumers and spreading pseudoscience. Hari has led campaigns against companies like Subway and Starbucks that have resulted in major product changes. She pushed back on Tuesday, accusing Gawker of using a pesticide industry advocate with vested corporate interests to write the piece. Hari refused to retract any of her claims and said she’ll keep going after companies she believes use dangerous chemicals in their foods.

    Gawker, Food Babe