The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. The Superlatives Keep Coming for an Unrelenting Winter Storm

    The “potentially historic” storm has already knocked out power to some 200,000 homes and businesses in the South. Up to three-quarters of an inch of ice may coat Southern cities by the time the storm passes. By lunchtime travel already proved treacherous. Further north, cities accustomed to cold groan under yet another major snowfall forecast. It’s so bad that at least one woman has taken to painting grass on her snow. Clever, funny or madness? At this point in the long season, it’s hard to tell the difference.

    Sources: USA Today, CNN, WQAD

  2. House Passes Debt Ceiling Increase

    House Speaker John Boehner brought a debt limit increase bill to the floor on Tuesday that passed with the support of all but two Democrats and a mere 28 Republicans. The bill raises the debt limit, enabling the U.S. Treasury to borrow and pay its debts with no strings attached until March 2015, well past November’s mid-term elections. Democrats praised the plan as a step back from the political brinksmanship that has defined the 113th Congress, while Tea Party members expressed dismay and called for Boehner’s resignation.

    Sources: Washington PostPoliticoNYT

  3. Snowboarding Legend Misses the Medals in Half-Pipe

    Shaun White not only failed in his historic quest to win a third consecutive gold in the half-pipe — he didn’t even make it to the podium. Gold went instead to Russian-born Swiss snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov, who is nicknamed “I-Pod.” The U.S. remains tied with Russia in fourth place in the medals count with seven each; Norway leads with 11. Athletes in the women’s ski jump yesterday had their first shot at any medals with their Olympic debut. Today’s events include women’s biathlon, curling and hockey, as well as men’s skiing.

    Sources: ESPNUSA TodayBleacher Report

  4. Study Questions Value of Mammograms

    New research suggests that breast cancer screening fails to affect death rates and may actually harm women. A study of 90,000 women over the past 25 years found that cancer rates were the same, whether or not they had mammograms. And a fifth of the detected cancers were reportedly treated when they were not really a threat to the women’s health, exposing them unnecessarily to invasive procedures, chemotherapy and radiation. The new findings will no doubt prove controversial in the medical community, with many practitioners and breast cancer survivors contending that mammograms do save lives.

    Source: NYT

  5. China and Taiwan Hold First Official Talks Since Civil War

    Officials from the two nations met on Tuesday, marking the first formal talks between them since 1949. Tensions have eased since the election of a pro-Beijing president in Taiwan in 2008. The talks resulted in the establishment of a new communications mechanism between Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council and the Chinese government. Though Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory, and Taiwan has technically never renounced claims to mainland China, the talks — unimaginable decades ago — suggest the two governments are beginning to see the logic in working together.

    Sources: South China Morning PostNYTBBC


  1. Rising Car Complaints Tied to Greener Engines

    For the first time in 15 years the overall dependability ratings of vehicles has fallen, according to the annual rankings from J.D. Power & Associates’ U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, which came out Wednesday. The study looks at complaints from owners of vehicles that are 3 years old. New, more energy-efficient, four-cylinder engines appear responsible for the decline. Drivers are more likely to stick with a brand if they have fewer complaints. Judging from the rankings, it looks like BMW’s Mini could have a tough road ahead. 

    Sources: Detroit News, USA Today, WSJ

  2. Crocodiles Can Climb Trees

    If you thought you could outfox a croc by shimmying up a tree, think again. Researchers have found that the cold-blooded reptiles have the ability to climb trees too. What they can’t do is regulate their internal temperature, so they need the sun to stay warm. In most countries they simply bask on sun-soaked rocks but in some places they have to work a bit harder. Scientists have found crocodiles perched atop low-hanging branches to absorb the sun’s rays in Mexico, Indonesia, Colombia and Botswana. From up on high, crocs can easily scout out food sources and spot danger approaching below.

    Source: Live Science

  3. Emotionally Distraught Fans Win French Legal Case

    Several Michael Jackson fans have sued the pop star’s doctor, Conrad Murray, for emotional suffering over the singer’s death. Five of them succeeded in proving substantial emotional suffering to a French court. They are now hoping that the unusual ruling — which awarded them symbolic damages of one euro each — will help them gain access to Jackson’s grave, which is currently closed to the public. Although there is no question that Jackson’s music will live on, it’s also clear that some of his fans just can’t stop loving him. 

    Source: Guardian

  4. Sony Dives Underwater With MP3 Player

    The tech giant has launched a new advertising campaign cleverly promoting its waterproof MP3 Player and speakers — by selling them already immersed in water. Sony is trying to persuade swimmers that its product, which is sold in a bottle of water, can overcome the liquid barrier, allowing them to enjoy their favorite tunes as they swim. As the firm tries to convince aquatic athletes they can benefit from the same musical motivation as dry-land competitors, some wonder whether Sony’s new idea will sink or swim.

    Source: Next Web

  5. Bird Game Addiction Prompts Withdrawal

    Fans of the Apple App Store’s popular free game, Flappy Bird, are having to go cold turkey now that it has been pulled from the online market due to “unintended consequences.” Creator Dong Nguyen claims he is concerned that users are becoming too addicted to the game, which has been downloaded more than 50 million times over the past year. In a weekend tweet, Nguyen announced he would disable the app this week, which he has done, leaving fans across the world in a flap.

    Source: USA Today

  6. Russian Olympic Skater Apologizes for Racist Tweet

    Ten-time figure skating world champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist Irina Rodnina brought the Sochi games into disrepute in September when a doctored image appeared on her Twitter account showing Barack and Michelle Obama staring at someone waving a banana. At first, Rodnina dismissed the uproar, but she has apologized after the controversy fired up again with her participation in the flame-lighting ceremony. She has blamed hackers for the tweet, but some may find her statement that “in Russia we never encountered such concerns in the past” a bit disingenuous given that, in the past, some black athletes have been taunted with bananas.

    Source: BBC