The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Mobster Charged in Heist That Helped Inspired ‘Goodfellas’

    Early morning raids included charges against Vincent Asaro, 78, who police say was a high-ranking part of the Bonanno mob family. Asaro allegedly took park in a $6 million caper at Kennedy International airport in 1978, the biggest score in U.S. history at the time. Four others, including Asar’s son, face a host of criminal charges. An informant on the mob, and this case, formed the basis of Hollywood classic. No word yet from Robert DeNiro. 

    Sources: NY Post, WSJ

  2. Abe War Talk at Davos Fuels Sino-Japanese Tensions

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe knows how to get China’s attention. Using the platform of the keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Abe compared the current rivalry between Japan and China to the rivalry between European nations that led to World War I. He called on China to reduce military spending and refused to rule out war between the two nations. Tensions have been rising between the two countries since Abe’s election in 2012, so much so that some experts believe the China and Japan divide poses one of the greatest risks of world conflict in 2014.

    Sources: The Guardian, Reuters, BBC

  3. Israel Says It Foiled Terror Plot Against U.S. Embassy

    Alleged militants with links to Al-Qaeda have been detained in Jerusalem. Israeli officials said they arrested three men who planned a suicide attack against the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, as well as other targets. The Palestinian cell was arrested on Wednesday, halting the most ambitious terror plan against Israel inspired by Al-Qaeda since the early 2000s. Israeli officials said the plot highlights the potential spillover from the Syrian conflict, claiming that one of the plotters planned to travel to Syria to learn how to build weapons.

    Sources: WSJ (sub), BBC

  4. Texas Executes Mexican Inmate Despite Diplomatic Row

    The Mexican government and attorneys have lost their battle to save the life of 46-year-old Edgar Tayamo, who was on death row in Texas for killing a police officer. They argued that Tayamo was mentally handicapped and ill-advised of his consular rights. Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stepped in, asking Texas to delay the execution. In the end, it was the U.S. Supreme Court that got the final word, and when it denied a stay of execution, Texas administered the lethal injection. Tayamo opted not to make a final statement.

    Sources: DW, CNN

  5. EU Climate Change Goals Draw Mixed Reactions

    The EU is pressing ahead with its policies to address climate change despite inaction by many developed countries. The European Commission has proposed setting carbon reduction goals at 40 percent by 2030, which defies industry demands of a 35 percent drop. Several environmental groups even expressed frustration with the plan, pointing to the EU’s silence on renewable energy targets. While some support the proposal, all 28 member states must endorse it before it can take effect. Leaders hope to obtain these approvals before global climate change talks in Paris next year.

    Sources: WSJ (sub), BBC


  1. Quarter of Shark Species Face Possible Extinction

    We’re all less likely to swim with sharks these days, but that’s not good news. A study has revealed that nearly a quarter of sharks and rays are in more danger than previously believed, making sharks one of the most endangered animals in the world. Experts point fingers at commercial fishing, which they say is responsible for netting a hundred million sharks each year. The fish cannot reproduce fast enough to maintain their populations and have disappeared from some areas. With the magnitude of the problem revealed, it’s sink or swim time for shark conservation efforts.

    Source: NPR

  2. Researchers Say Facebook Users Will Soon Part Ways

    A majority of the social network‘s 1.2 billion users may soon be hitting the ”Unfriend” button, according to recent study by Princeton researchers. They say the success rate of Mark Zuckerberg‘s enterprise compares similarly to the curve of an infectious disease, and will cause 80 percent of its followers to become immune within the next three years. Investors still seem to have faith in the company, now valued at $142 billion, but Google Trends reveals a decreasing number of Facebook searches over the past year. Still, with the site approaching its tenth birthday next month and its share price hitting an all-time high, users and investors alike have plenty of reasons to click “Like.”

    Source: The Guardian

  3. Doing Nothing May Wreak Havoc on Nervous System

    Doctors have been telling us to get off the couch and choose a more active lifestyle for years in order to lose weight and keep our hearts healthy. But a new scientific report suggests a more important reason for getting on the move  — inactivity can alter the brain leading to possible cardiovascular disease. Like a potato in the dark, brain neurons develop little branches during periods of inactivity, disturbing the flow of information. It seems the brain, much like its owner, gets a bit rumpled by laying on the sofa all day.

    Source: NYT

  4. Netflix Reports Strong Quarter and Possible Price Change

    The online television and film streaming service has reported that it attracted 2.3 million new subscribers in the U.S. last quarter and enjoyed a six-fold jump in profits from a year ago. By expanding its original programming with new shows and stand-up specials, Netflix now enjoys 44 million subscribers worldwide. Although both membership and revenue are growing, along with share value, Netflix says it may add subscription options and new pricing. Analysts wonder whether the move will further boost the firm’s good fortunes or cause viewers to change channels.

    Source: USA Today, WSJ (sub)

  5. Internet Donors Send Jamaican Team to Sochi Olympics

    When the Jamaican two-man bobsled team found out they had qualified for the Sochi Olympics, there were a couple of problems: they had no money to travel to Russia and their equipment needed replacing. Cue the world of online donors and crowdfunding, including Dogecoin (a digital currency), who raised more than $184,000 through campaigns on Indiegogo and Crowdtilt. Jamaica’s bobsled team rose to fame in 1988, when it first qualified for the Winter Olympics, as depicted in the film Cool Runnings. A team from the country has failed to qualify for the last two Olympics, but team Jamaica is back and bound for Russia.

    Sources: NPR, Jamaica Observer