The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. The U.S. Is Falling Out of Love with Preferential Policy 

    Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold a Michigan ban on racial preferences in college admissions is only the most recent indicator of the country’s dwindling support for affirmative action. The issue continues to divide Americans, with some seeing it as an inadequate response to a society more segregated by class and income than by race. Meanwhile, advocates of the measure believe that giving minorities foundational opportunities is fundamental to creating a color-blind future. Ultimately, while Americans broadly support helping those in need, the concept of “preferential treatment” tends to rankle.

    Sources: The Atlantic, NYTNew Yorker, USA Today 

  2. Syria Will Meet Its Deadline but Many Concerns Remain

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is likely to hit this week’s deadline for the handover of the government’s entire chemical arsenal, but continuing chemical attacks have cast a shadow over the achievement. According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, more than 90 percent of the stockpile has been handed over for destruction, yet the regime allegedly waged a chlorine gas attack against civilians in Kfar Zeita earlier this month. After Sunday’s deadline, the OPCW will report to the U.N. Security Council, which will be discussing Syria this week.

    Sources: Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera, UN News Centre

  3. Is Soviet Ideology Regaining Momentum in Russia?

    Russian writer Vladimir Sorokin believes that Soviet ideals were not overthrown in 1991 so much as shoved under the rug to fester. The resurgent popularity of Soviet idols like Stalin and the nostalgia for lost imperial grandeur have found an outlet in the annexation of Crimea, exposing Russia’s failure to “let the past collapse.” As in the communist era, the country is becoming increasingly isolated. On Friday, the G7 announced a new set of sanctions against Putin’s administration. The Soviet hangover is perhaps best illustrated by the president himself, a former KGB lieutenant colonel who openly laments the fall of the USSR.

    Sources: NY Review of Books, Al Jazeera

  4. Georgia Approves Bill Allowing Weapons in Public Places

    Georgia will become the first state to allow guns on the street and in most libraries, schools, churches and stores — unless those establishments specifically prohibit them. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill two days after a woman was shot and killed outside a mall in Atlanta. Opponents of the new law are calling it the “Guns Everywhere Bill” while supporters say it promotes self-defense, personal liberties and public safety. Many of Georgia’s gun activists will flock north this weekend for the annual NRA conference in Indianapolis, attended by more than 70,000 gun enthusiasts.

    Sources: IndyStar, AJC, CNN

  5. Piracy on the Rise in Strategic Southeast Asian Waters

    An oil tanker traveling through the Malacca Straits near Malaysia was attacked by pirates on Tuesday. Three Indonesian crew members were taken hostage and millions of liters of fuel were stolen. This latest attack demonstrates that pirate activity in Southeast Asia is, worryingly, bucking the global trend. In 2013, global acts of piracy were down 41 percent from their 2011 peak. But in Southeast Asia, the figures are reversed, with pirate attacks steadily creeping upwards, particularly in the Malacca Straits, a primary shipping channel to and from China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. 

    Sources: Quartz, BBC


  1. Should Cognitively Advanced Animals Be Entitled to Sue Their Owners?

    Tommy is legally precluded from suing his employers, even though they force him to live in a tiny, dank cage. Admittedly, Tommy is a chimp, but the Nonhuman Rights Project thinks he should still be entitled to take civil action. Tommy made legal history as the first nonhuman primate to attempt to sue his owner for freedom, with the Nh.R.P. filing the documents on his behalf. The presiding judge refused to hear the case on legal technicalities, but Tommy’s team will keep fighting for him, and other cognitively advanced creatures like elephants and orcas, to attain legal personhood.

    Source: NYT

  2. Neurological Scanning Helps “Locked-In” Patients Communicate

    Trapped in your own body, unable to move, communicate or let anyone know that you’re conscious. This experience is increasingly common thanks to modern medicine, which can keep people alive after catastrophic brain injuries, albeit in a persistent vegetative state. But an international team of neurologists is trying to help, using advanced brain-imaging technologies to locate brain activity and read the thoughts of those who are conscious but cannot speak. While the technology is still in development, the team believes it has the potential to free up to 20 percent of coma patients from the scariest kind of prison.

    Source: Mosaic Science

  3. American Middle Class Kicked Off the Podium

    Once the richest in the world, the American middle class has now been outstripped by Canada and several European countries. While the American economy has grown steadily, New York Times data suggests that only the wealthiest Americans are reaping the rewards. Since 2000, median income in both Canada and the U.K. has risen by nearly 20 percent, but it’s inched up by just 0.3 percent in the United States. According to the Times, the middle American lag could be linked to poor educational attainment, unequal allocation of company profits and lack of income redistribution.  

    Sources: NYT, TIME

  4. The Witchcraft and Sexcapades that NASA Erased from Rocketry’s History

    Scientific discovery can often seem magical, so much so that the father of modern rocketry actually believed quantum physics to be the study of magic. Jack Parsons was a founding member of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab but was later shunned due to his belief in the occult, involvement in early Scientology and cultist hedonistic lifestyle. Yet the rocket fuel he developed found its way into NASA’s space shuttles and military ballistic missiles. Written out of history books, Parsons lives on through his poems, published this year, which recall the hidden magical world of an archetypal mad scientist.

    Source: Wired

  5. Northwestern Becomes First College Football Team to Hold Unionization Vote

    Players for the Northwestern Wildcats have decided whether they want to unionize, but it may be some time before results are known. Votes will be sealed until the National Labor Relations Board rules on an appeal from the university, which lost the initial hearing when players were declared school employees. It’s expected that players will oppose unionization, perhaps due to fear of repercussions and pressure from coaches. Northwestern even pressed players’ parents to tell their children to vote no. Unionized or not, if the NLRB rules in favor of the players, they will be considered school employees. 

    Sources: NYT, Chicago Tribune