The Presidential Daily Brief


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    Syrian Airstrikes Labeled ‘War Crimes,’ Russia Denies Role

    They’re retaliating. Russia came out swinging this morning over Turkish allegations that Moscow was involved in airstrikes on medical facilities and schools that killed at least 50 in northern Syria. French and Turkish officials say the attacks should be deemed war crimes, and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said they violated international law. Adding fuel to the fire, Bashar Assad shed doubt on the planned truce. “Ceasefires occur between armies and states, but never between a state and terrorists,” he said, noting the difficulty of holding “terrorists” accountable.

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    Former U.N. Head Boutros Boutros-Ghali Dies at 93

    His term was short, but significant. The Egyptian politician served less than five years as the leader of the United Nations, but they were a busy five years and saw genocide in Rwanda and bloody conflict in Bosnia. Though Boutros-Ghali gained widespread support for a second term, the U.S. vetoed his run — possibly to keep what Americans widely saw as U.N. mismanagement from being an issue in the 1996 U.S. presidential election. Today, the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council observed a 15-minute silence in honor of their colleague.

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    Will GOP’s SCOTUS Fight Affect Senate Races?

    Voters will be the judge of that. Sen. Mitch McConnell is insisting that Obama leave the job of replacing Justice Antonin Scalia, who died of a heart attack over the weekend, to the 45th U.S. president. Fellow Republicans are backing the Senate majority leader, but the White House says Obama plans to “fulfill his constitutional responsibility” and nominate a successor. Democrats, meanwhile, will use any GOP stonewalling as a potentially divisive campaign issue, one that is expected to spill over into tight Senate races in the fall.

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    Oil Prices Jump as Producers Agree to Freeze Supply Levels

    They’re plugging the leak. Major oil producers agreed today to limit production to January levels, the mere speculation of which saw the global Brent benchmark increase 40 cents to $33.84 a barrel. Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Qatar agreed to slow production if other major producers follow suit. The Saudi oil minister called their meeting a success, noting that because the world’s oil supply is already dipping thanks to current prices, a freeze on last month’s production levels should be “adequate.” But OZY’s Steve Butler says it’s just a first step and that “much harder ones will be needed to have any lasting impact.”

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    Republicans Amp Up Rivalries and Rhetoric

    It’s getting ugly. Donald Trump is well ahead in South Carolina, but that hasn’t stopped his campaigning colleagues from hurling pointed barbs his way ahead of Saturday’s primary. The real estate mogul called Ted Cruz an “unstable individual” and threatened to sue him, while the Texas senator accused Trump of secretly supporting gun control, abortion and Obamacare. But Cruz understandably saved most of his criticism for Marco Rubio, with the pair deadlocked for second place and vying for the chance to become Trump’s main opponent in the weeks ahead.


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    Manny Pacquiao Sparks Backlash with Homophobic Comments

    This is one fight the champion boxer might not be able to win. Pacquiao, 37, said in an interview that gay people are “worse than animals,” likely trying to win over Filipino voters as he campaigns for the Senate. The Catholic church has a lot of power in the Philippines, where gay marriage is banned and 80 percent of citizens identify as Catholic. After Twitter lashed out at his comments with the hashtag #PrayForMannyPacquiao, the boxer took to Instagram to apologize — but he says he’s still against same-sex marriage.

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    Project Loon Takes Off at TED Conference

    The name doesn’t inspire confidence. But Project Loon has Alphabet to back up its plans to connect remote areas to the internet by sending wireless enabled balloons around the globe. A successful pilot project in 2013 — and a lengthy trial-and-error process for designing the balloons — will now be followed by more testing in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. OZY Editor and co-founder Carlos Watson says “humanity” is as much front and center at TED this year as technological innovation — and Project Loon could potentially get five billion humans online.

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    Could T-Cell Immunotherapy Rid the World of Cancer?

    We’ll take the cure! Two new studies say this “living drug,” engineered from the body’s own cells, may be able to stop cancer in its tracks. It works like a vaccine and stays on guard against the disease’s return. Experts in Seattle say they’ve seen a 94 percent success rate in leukemia patients who’d been given just months to live. The revolutionary “memory T-cells” can live in the body for over a decade, and potentially a lifetime, boosting hope that they may soon wipe out cancer for good.

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    3-D Printing Technology Delivers Living Body Parts

    Folks will be up in arms … and legs and muscles. The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has rolled out its new 3-D printer, which they say can manufacture living tissue. Past technology has had trouble creating stable tissue that could stay alive long enough to be implanted. But the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System, or ITOP, uses new materials and structures to surmount those problems. The next step will be testing it for long-term safety before moving forward with human implants.

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    East African Music Gets Its Groove Back

    There’s a new K-pop in town. East African music is widely acknowledged to have declined since its ’70s funk heyday, but thanks to a concerted effort from producers, musicians and DJs, Kenya’s once again bringing the noise. Santuri, a musical project aimed at getting East Africa back in the spotlight, has organized 10 festivals since it was founded in 2013, sharing a Kenyan musical heritage unknown to the younger generation. New royalties structures help protect artists, and their tunes are popularizing East African sounds at home and abroad.

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    Villanova Stays Atop College Basketball Poll

    With March Madness just a month away, the Wildcats have entered rare territory, becoming just the sixth team to sit atop the AP rankings two weeks running. They more than doubled the first place votes of No. 2 Kansas, receiving 44 to the Jayhawks’ 21. Until 14 days ago Duke had one of the longest streaks ever, appearing in the poll for 167 consecutive weeks before losing four out of five games. But the Blue Devils are suddenly hot again, giving fans reason to cheer by re-emerging at No. 20.