The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. U.S. Mourns and Seeks Change in Wake of California Tragedy

    Since last weekend, the country has been coming to terms with the stabbing and shooting rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, in which seven — including the suicidal suspected gunman — were killed. Elliot Rodger’s manifesto claimed he was seeking retribution against women for rejecting him. Since then, thousands have paid tribute to those killed, and one victim’s father has launched a “Not one more” postcard campaign aimed at promoting gun law reform. The shootings also prompted widespread online discussions about misogyny under the hashtag #YesAllWomen.

    Sources: OZYNYT

  2. Leaders Converge on Europe to Discuss Ukraine

    G7 leaders, including President Obama, will meet in Brussels on Wednesday, with the situation in Ukraine and relations with the Putin administration expected to dominate the conversation. A G8 meeting was scheduled to take place in Sochi but was canceled in March following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The same issues will be discussed elsewhere in the city at a meeting of the NATO defense ministers. In a clear sign of support for Ukraine, President Obama will attend a ceremony in Poland on Tuesday to honor a pro-Kiev Crimean leader. He is also expected to meet Ukraine’s newly elected president.

    Sources: USA Today, NATO

  3. Obama Offers Shaky Foreign Policy Optimism in West Point Speech

    President Obama delivered a commencement speech at West Point on Wednesday in which he defended his foreign policy record. With the mission in Afghanistan scheduled to officially end in December, Obama says institutions and diplomacy should now become the main tools of American foreign policy. The lack of direct action in response to conflicts in Syria and Ukraine reflects the president’s reluctance to plunge into conflicts in the post-Bush era. But while the President insists that America faces few threats and boasts a peerless economy, many believe that more is needed to re-establish America as an admired global leader.

    Sources: NPR, New Yorker, The Atlantic

  4. Iraq, Syria and Lebanon Fusing into One Combat Arena

    The conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon could be merging into one war, with participants fighting in a single operational area that transcends national boundaries. Three Shia-dominated governments find themselves up against increasingly collaborative Sunni rebels. The national boundaries drawn up in the Sykes-Picot agreement 90 years ago seem increasingly arbitrary as convoys of fighters and equipment flow easily across borders. Vast swathes of each of these countries are now beyond government control, and for civilians caught up in the fighting, life is almost impossible. Three nations, one conflict and no end in sight.

    Source: FT (sub)

  5. Far Right and Left Clash in Sweden as EU Grows More Polarized

    The far right is on the rise in Sweden and the extremist left is fighting back. Anti-fascist protesters have clashed with anti-EU and anti-immigration party supporters, and violence is increasing. Mass immigration has frustrated some Swedes, which left-wing groups view as racism. Clashes between political fringes in Sweden reflect a broader European trend, as divisions between pro- and anti-EU parties become more intense. Some fear that the recent electoral successes of far-right parties from various countries in last weekend’s parliamentary elections could seriously undermine the union itself.

    Sources: Vice, Guardian, WSJ, TIME


  1. Spring Prompts Reflection on the Curious Life of the Scarecrow

    Traditionally, scarecrows take to the fields during the spring, but they have largely disappeared with the advent of high-tech farming in the U.S. Yet Japan and Europe retain a rich tradition of scarecrow use, with farmers using the figures not only to scare off birds but also as symbols of fertility. With a history that stretches back at least 500 years, the scarecrow has been through many incarnations, including his famous appearance in the Wizard of Oz. Perhaps the straw man could offset his American decline if he only had a brain.  

    Source: Modern Farmer

  2. Are Plasma Centers Putting Donors and Recipients at Risk?

    For many Americans, donating plasma from their blood — or “plassing” — is the only way to make ends meet. The plasma pharmaceuticals market is booming, but many fear U.S. companies are cutting corners to increase profits. Other Western countries only allow donations once every two weeks, but American centers ask for twice weekly donations, which could have long-term health impacts. Some also suspect that safety screening procedures are lax, putting those who receive the end product at risk. In the past, shady plasma collection practices caused an HIV crisis among hemophiliacs, though that risk has been all but eliminated today. 

    Source: The Atlantic

  3. Baby Bird Deaths Point to Ecological Disruption

    Viewers watched in horror as a baby puffin starved to death on Maine Sea Island’s online “Puffin Cam.” At first the death was dismissed as natural, since 23 percent of baby puffins typically don’t survive to maturity. But on closer analysis, it seems that a fundamental change in the ecosystem meant that the baby puffin was only receiving plate-shaped butterfish, which it could not swallow. Normally baby puffins survive on tear-shaped hake and herring, but changes to ocean temperatures have significantly reduced their numbers, with the effects being felt along the food chain.

    Source: Mother Jones

  4. Acclaimed French Vintner Escapes East to Put Down Roots

    You might not think of a rocky Japanese island as the obvious destination for a talented French vintner, but Jean-Marc Brignot seems to enjoy defying expectations. A “natural winemaker” who uses a hand-cranked press to crush grapes, Brignot felt oppressed by the French wine scene and fled to plant vines on the island of Sado, Japan. Historically known for its large gold mine and penal colony, today Sado boasts an eclectic population of free-thinking gourmands. Brignot will soon open the island’s first wine-bar, but whether his vines will flourish remains uncertain.

    Source: Roads & Kingdoms

  5. War-Torn and Flooded Bosnia Prepares for World Cup Debut

    The small Balkan nation of Bosnia is going to its first ever World Cup. Twenty years after suffering Europe’s most brutal conflict since WWII and only a month after extreme floods, the country could use some good news. Many Bosnian players survived family tragedies during the war, and the side’s star striker, Edin Dzeko, dodged death at least once as a child. The resilient Bosnian squad is going into soccer’s biggest tournament as an underdog, but with nothing to lose and hopes of a miracle. 

    Source: The Telegraph