The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Olympics Open with a Bang – and a Few Firsts

    The run-up to the 2014 Winter Games has been one Putin-induced controversy after another. But after a glittering Opening Ceremony, it’s time to turn the focus to sport. The U.S. scored the first gold of the Games in the inaugural slopestyle event, thanks to snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg (earlier this week hopeful Shaun White withdrew from the event). For more mountain action, be sure to tune in to freestyle skiing, one of 12 new extreme winter sports debuting in Sochi this year. Skating fans were also amped up to watch the first black Olympic skating pair take the ice. Not sure which events to follow? Check out OZY’s favorites.

    Sources: Washington PostFusion, BBC, NYT

  2. Hollande’s Visit to U.S. Promises Tension – or European Reconciliation 

    The American-French relationship has seen better days. Right now, France — like much of the rest of Europe — is still reeling from revelations about American NSA spying. President Francois Hollande, who pays a state visit to his country’s former revolutionary cohort, has the press on his heels after his recent split with his ex-first lady. Hollande will be the first French president since 1958 not to address Congress during his visit. While controversy follows the French leader, this low-key meeting between global heavyweights could be to the world’s advantage. Over discussions of Syria and surveillance, Hollande and Obama will have the opportunity to tackle a “difficult moment” in transatlantic relations. 

    Sources: TimeBloombergYahoo

  3. Wave of Violent Protests Hit Balkans 

    Protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina, at the site of Europe’s last major war, have damaged buildings and left dozen injured. Bosnians are fed up with high unemployment, systemic corruption and endless political squabbling. Some politicians blame “hooligans” for setting fires and throwing rocks at police. Institutionalized ethnic divisions in post-war Bosnia are undoubtedly to blame for the state’s inefficiency, but with leaders from Bosnia’s Serb entity openly calling for the country’s breakup, reformists must know that any proposals for major changes could risk plunging Bosnia into even more serious conflict.

    Sources: BBC, NYT, Guardian

  4. The Roller-coaster Week That Was for Tech Firms

    This week in tech looks like this: Twitter profits rose but the firm’s stock plunged 20 percent. Microsoft tapped a new CEO, betting on the future of the cloud, while Bill Gates accepted a more active advisor role with the firm that made him famous (and oh so rich). Sony bowed out of the PC business, and Apple is reworking its international offering. Meanwhile the White House pushed free universal connectivity for all American schools — $750 million worth to start. Phew. 

    Sources: USA Today, Time, CNET, Politico, Quartz

  5. Medal Sweep on the Slopes, Snowden’s Cheap Trick Revealed

    Good medal sweep for the U.S. at debut Olympic slopestyle events. (NYT, Yahoo).

    “Landmark decision” gives equal treatment for same-sex couples. (WSJ, NPR).

    Snowden used low-cost and automated tools to “scrape” NSA networks. (NYT).

    Clint Eastwood saves a life, stops PGA Tour official from choking. (USA Today).

    Outrage sparked after Danish zoo kills healthy giraffe. (The GuardianCNN).

  6. Star’s Death Raises Profile of Heroin Epidemic

    Beloved Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman’s heroin-related death has brought new attention to the realities of drug addiction. Just days before the Doubt and Capote star’s tragic end, the DEA released some worrying figures: American heroin use is up 45 percent since 1999. Hoffman’s colleagues have praised the star’s talents, and Hollywood writing legend and former addict Aaron Sorkin suggested that Hoffman’s good work may continue in his death: News of his overdose could save the lives of 10 other addicts, scaring them into sobriety.

    Sources: LA TimesTime

  7. Water Crisis Plagues California Communities

    It’s very dry in California. Some relief is coming over the weekend, in the form of rain and even snowfall, but the state is still on track for the worst drought in 500 years. The situation is so severe that some rural communities, with supplies for almost 25 million dwindling, may run out of water in the next several months. While residents are encouraged to conserve water and authorities are making emergency preparations, scientists are citing the drought as proof of the dangers posed by climate change. 

    Sources: NYTUSA TodayBusinessweek

  8. Erdogan’s Dubious Strategy Scares Away Supporters

    Since rising to power in 2003, Turkey’s conservative leader, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, has bolstered the economy and raised living standards. But 2013 proved that all is not well in Erdogan’s domain. Violent protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square reflected resentment with the authoritarian tendencies espoused by the administration, which have caused his most stalwart supporters to take pause. Artists, students, environmentalists and many Turks from all walks of life are clamoring for liberalization, while Erdogan consolidates his power. With municipal elections coming in the spring, 2014 will prove whether democratic forces can chip away at Erdogan’s grip, or tighten it even further. 

    Source: NYT


  1. Did a Serial Killer Claim 8 in Jefferson Parish — or Could It Be Even Worse? 

    An investigation into the deaths of local prostitutes in tiny Jennings, La., posits that maybe a serial killer wasn’t to blame — maybe local police did it. The case had garnered national attention. The writer suggests that the women’s involvement as police informants tied their fates together. He unearthed shady drug dealings and suspicious interpersonal connections. Former and current sheriffs did not comment on the victims’ status as informants or DNA tests, and the current sheriff said he’s trying to bring trust back. But this real-life whodunnit might dig up some ghosts.

    Source: Medium

  2. New York Fashion Week Kicks Off

    High heels have started clicking on the Big Apple’s catwalks. For the next week, designers like Jenny Peckham, Zac Posen, Carolina Herrera and Naeem Khan will present their take on fall 2014. Fashionistas will get the scoop on the hottest trends hitting NYC, and on the London runways starting next Friday. Our roundup includes slideshows, but that’s not all we’re looking for. We hope to spot another trend: not just variety in color and pattern but also in model’s sizes.

    Sources: IBTCNNCBS, Washington Post

  3. The Art of American Tractor Folk

    Putting a whole new spin on “Ya’ll come dance now,” America’s rural culture has been hiding a gem: tractor square dancing. For over 60 years, farmers and country-lovers across the U.S. have built a tradition that combines folk dancing with tractor driving. The craze was sparked by a tractor commercial in 1953 and involves four couples steering their dressed-up vintage tractors around in a dance-like formation of daisy chains and do-si-dos. What says America more than watching a tractor combo sweep muddy farm floors in style? 

    Source: Modern Farmer

  4. Germany’s Nazi Laws Dictate What Constitutes Murder Today

    Despite opposition by lawyers and activists, a law using the 1940s Nazi definition of murder is still in use: Murder is defined as an act of surprise and treachery. Opponents say this legal relic of the Third Reich favors the aggressor and prevents openly violent killings from being sentenced correctly. For example, it allowed a cannibal to be charged with manslaughter, and a woman who shot her child‘s molester in court to be charged with murder. Public uproar forced German courts to revise those charges, but surely it’s time to change the 70-year-old law that allows this to happen in the first place. 

    Source: BBC

  5. Alaskan Yukon’s Natural Resources Are Threatened by New Minerals Craze

    In the 1890s, prospectors hurried north into the uncharted Alaskan wilderness in search of gold. Now a new generation of adventuring entrepreneurs has struck treasure again — this time in the form of gold, copper and other minerals. But the Yukon, a territory larger than California but home to only 37,000 human residents, is threatened by new prospecting possibilities. The Yukon’s mountains and tundras make up one of the most pristine habitats on Earth, sheltering caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, eagles and other endangered species. But with the price of gold soaring, mining operations may be making inroads into one of the planet’s last protected environments. 

    Source: National Geographic

  6. Agri-Firm Turns on Scientist Following Inconvenient Findings

    When biologist Tyrone Hayes was first hired by Sygenta (then part of Novartis), one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, he thought testing the herbicide atrazine would be a good way to increase funding for his lab at UC Berkeley. Then he saw that atrazine likely produced sexual abnormalities in frogs, and soon Hayes suspected that Sygenta was trying to discredit him. He was right. Internal documents show Sygenta had systematically tried to take Hayes down — and demonstrate how far one business was willing to go to silence a scientist whose conclusions questioned the safety of a profitable product. 

    Source: New Yorker