The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Ukraine President, Opposition Agree to Constitutional Changes, Elections

    President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders agreed to a European Union-brokered deal that pushes up the presidential elections to this year, and rolls back recent constitutional changes. The deal, reached overnight, aims to end the violent clashes between protesters and police that claimed 77 lives this week. Yesterday, EU leaders agreed to impose sanctions against Ukraine, including travel bans and asset freezes. But with the nation now on the brink of debt default, a tough road still lies ahead. 

    Sources: Reuters, The Guardian, WSJ

  2. Canadian Women Grab Hockey Gold in Shock Loss for U.S.

    Cheers from the North are drowning out American sobs after hockey fans watched the Canadian women’s team come back from two goals down to beat the U.S. 3-2 for gold — their fourth consecutive Olympic win. But Maddie Bowman’s ski half-pipe win helped keep the U.S. in the medal lead. The ladies’ skating sparked controversy with Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova beating favorite Yuna Kim. Two Ukrainians bowed out of Sochi yesterday in a show of solidarity with those fighting in Kiev. Highlights today include ladies’ slalom, curling and the men’s semifinal hockey matchup between the U.S. and Canada.

    Sources: NPRESPNThe GuardianNYT

  3. Public Sector Employers Deny Health Benefits to Part-Time Workers

    Part-time employees in the public sector are reportedly finding their hours cut as employers try to save money and avoid providing health insurance as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The cuts may fuel Republican critics of Obamacare who say it adversely affects the economy. The trend towards limiting hours has impacted police dispatchers and school workers, with employers noting that they have to choose between cutting full-time staff or paying part-time benefits. But the implication for the economy is uncertain — since the law was signed, the private sector has added more than eight million jobs.

    Source: NYT

  4. Egyptian Journalists’ Trial Raises Freedom Concerns

    Three journalists appeared in court on Thursday to answer charges of abetting terrorism. The trial is considered by some to be politically motivated, with prosecutors accusing the three Al Jazeera journalists of supplying money, equipment and information to 16 Egyptians belonging to a “terrorist organization,” an apparent reference to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. The journalists themselves deny the charges as “absurd,” and the trial has been adjourned now until March. Worldwide, journalists and human rights organizations have protested that the trial is a means of blocking freedom of expression. 

    Sources: ReutersAl Jazeera


  1. Hubble Spots New Galaxies Far, Far Away

    The long-nosed cameras of the paparazzi are no match for Earth’s very own private eye: The Hubble Space Telescope. NASA’s orbiting shot maker has produced a new set of images, giving us glimpses further into the universe than ever before. Among them are pictures of what could be one of the most distant galaxies discovered so far. The cluster, dubbed Abell2744 Y1, is believed to be more than 13 billion light years away. As yet, though, Hubble hasn’t beamed back any pictures of little green men. 

    Source: Scientific American

  2. Cleaner Accidentally Tosses Part of Installation

    A cleaner threw away part of an art installation thinking it was trash. The unnamed woman was tidying the Sala Murat gallery in southern Italy and inadvertently discarded several items, including newspaper and cookie crumbs she believed had been left behind by workers. In fact, the tossed art was part of an exhibition about the environment. The cleaning company has apologized and explained that insurance will cover the damage, estimated at about $13,700. The cleaner isn’t the first to mistake modern art for garbage. 

    Source: BBC

  3. Google Eyes Smartphone with 3D Vision

    The Internet giant has unveiled a prototype phone that brings human sight to mobile technology. The Smartphone uses cameras and motion sensors to give users a 3D map of their surroundings. The sensors can make more than 250,000 three-dimensional measurements a second, updating the device’s position in real time. Gaming enthusiasts will no doubt be jumping up and down at the prospect of augmented reality games on cell phones, but 3D phones could also be revolutionary in helping the blind navigate unfamiliar locations. With Google Glass and now this, the company is showing real vision.

    Sources: WSJ (sub), BBC

  4. Smiles at Walmart Turn Upside Down As Profits Fall

    The world’s biggest retail chain is feeling the cold shoulder of would-be customers this winter, having announced a 21 percent drop in profit compared to the same period a year before. The news pushed Walmart stock down 1.8 percent in trading yesterday. Cuts to food stamp programs — as well as the polar vortex and higher taxes — contributed to the slump. Traffic through U.S. outlets was down 1.7 percent, but the chain sees hope in smaller format stores and plans to introduce more of them in a bid to boost sales.

    Sources: NYTUSA Today

  5. Olympic Skating Scores Raise Eyebrows

    Crestfallen faces, elated cheers and floods of tears are part and parcel of Olympic judging. But controversy erupted last night over the ladies’ figure skating gold medal, when Russian Adelina Sotnikova beat favorite Yuna Kim, of South Korea, for the coveted prize. Kim skated cleanly and was expected to win. Replacement judges on the panel from Ukraine and Russia led to questions over Russian-favored judging. Others, however, dismissed cries of injustice, saying it came down to a technicality: Sotnikova’s routine was simply harder. Testing judges’ mettle, it seems, should be an Olympic event all on its own.

    Sources: USA TodayBusiness Insider