The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Young Leader’s Rapid Rise in Italy Prompts Questions 

    The Florence mayor prefers leather jackets and open shirts, once won the Wheel of Fortune and relies on the kind of political personality more typical of American politicians. What Matteo Renzi, 39, hasn’t done is face a national election, despite being poised to become the next Italian prime minister. He has an ambitious schedule for reform, promising political and electoral change by month’s end and labor changes next month. While many hope he’ll fix the economy, concerns continue that once again Italy has a leader whom national voters never had a chance to endorse. 

    Sources: BBC, USA Today

  2. U.N. Findings Liken North Korea Prison Treatment to Nazis

    A mother forced to kill her newborn child, a woman who watched a malnourished friend die — these tragedies are just the tip of the woe detailed in a U.N. commission report released today condemning North Korea and President Kim Jung-Un, an ”unprecedented public rebuke” against a sitting ruler. Hundreds of thousands have reportedly died. China’s seat on the U.N. Security Council makes an international Hague trial unlikely, but that doesn’t mean the U.N. won’t seek other avenues of redress. North Korea may call witnesses “scum,” but it seems unlikely, to say the least, that so many people would make up so much horror. 

    Sources: CNN, Reuters, BBC

  3. Protesters in Ukraine End Kiev City Hall Occupation

    Officials are breathing a sigh of relief after anti-government protesters withdrew from City Hall in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday, ending a two-month long occupation of the building. The demonstrators left in exchange for the release of their colleagues arrested during the protests. The government has confirmed that the amnesty requirements have been met, but tensions remain high. Demonstrators and opposition politicians have vowed to continue their protests until President Viktor Yanukovych resigns and Ukraine returns to its European path.

    Sources: DW, BBC

  4. Kerry Takes Aim at Climate Change in Indonesia Speech

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is taking on climate change with gusto, describing it as the world’s “most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” In a speech in Indonesia on Sunday, he urged leaders there to take steps to combat the problem, citing rising sea levels and acidic sea water that threaten the country. Kerry has prioritized climate change as part of his agenda, and he hopes to help broker a UN treaty in 2015 with global commitments to significant carbon emissions cuts.

    Sources: Washington PostNYT

  5. U.S. Skaters Eye Ice Dancing Gold as New Records Are Set

    Sliding out of the weekend with the most medals is the Netherlands with 17. The U.S. and Russia follow with 16 each. It’s record-making time in Sochi, with Bode Miller, 36, becoming the oldest man to earn an Olympic alpine skiing medal on Sunday. Today biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen seeks to secure his 13th medal — a historic record for Winter Olympians — and the skating duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White look set to win the first U.S. gold in ice dancing.

    Sources: USA TodayNYTNBC, CNN, Bleacher Report

  6. Trapped South African Miners Refuse Help in Face of Arrests

    Miners stuck in a collapsed illegal gold mine since Saturday have refused assistance after learning that they could surface only to be thrown behind bars. The first 11 miners to be rescued were treated and then hauled off to jail to face charges of illegal mining, so their colleagues are refusing to come out. The remaining 19 will stay underground until they request help. Despite the fact that most underground deaths in South Africa occur in illegal mines, people continue risking their lives by working in them to make a living.

    Sources: BBCCNN


  1. Last-Minute Scrambling Prevents Sochi Crisis

    A potential calamity at the Olympic Games has been averted, but it was neither terrorism nor doping allegations that almost brought events to a standstill: It was a lack of salt. The unlikely mineral is key to snow-based events, such as downhill skiing, where it is used to briefly melt the snow, allowing it to refreeze into a solid surface. Event organizers had been advised to stockpile 19 tons of salt before the games began, which they duly ignored. They then had to scramble to source enough salt from around Europe with 10 days of events still to go.

    Source: NYT

  2. Very Different Films Take Center Stage in London Awards

    What could 3D space doom and 19th century slavery flicks have in common? Thunderous British applause. Both Gravity and 12 Years a Slave shone brightly at last night’s BAFTA awards — Britain’s own Oscars — in London. The space film nabbed six awards and the U.S. saga claimed best film, with star Chiwetel Ejiofor being crowned best actor. The best actress nod went to Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett, who dedicated her award to Philip Seymour Hoffman. The awards will add momentum to the big-winning films ahead of next month’s Oscars.

    Sources: The GuardianUSA Today

  3. How Facebook Can Predict New Couples’ Online Behavior

    You may not know whether your new love is perfect, but Facebook does. A recent study of the social media giant’s user data reveals that in the first three months of a budding relationship, men and women exhibit certain behaviors before falling head over heels. Leading up to “Facebook official” status, they post more often on one another’s timelines, and their online interactions drop when they finally get together. The anthropologist matchmakers at Facebook — who also say it’s possible to spot romantic trends by religion and age — are giving today’s online flirts hope for loving tomorrows.

    Source: The Atlantic

  4. Study Finds the Ideal Age for Strokes of Genius

    Those in their thirties should be on the lookout for some brilliant ideas. A study of people who achieved scientific and artistic breakthroughs shows that innovation peaks in the late thirties. Researchers plotted the ages of Nobel Prize winners, looking not at when they received the award but when their groundbreaking research was conducted. They found the sweet spot for strokes of genius was late thirties. But creative types need not worry about being past their prime: The study shows aging often enhances the quality, if not the quantity, of work. 

    Source: Quartz

  5. Americans May Set Aside Knowledge to Favor Belief

    A recent study reveals that Americans are as knowledgeable about basic scientific information as people from other developed countries, but politics and religion do influence their thinking. When asked if humans descended from earlier species of animals, only 48 percent of those questioned said yes, but 72 percent gave a positive reply when the same question followed the clause “according to the theory of evolution…” The results suggest that while a significant number of Americans are aware of scientific theories about the origins of the universe and humankind, they may simply choose not to believe them.

    Source: The Atlantic