The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Bergdahl Prisoner Swap Sparks Controversy

    Many were surprised to hear that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been released by the Taliban in Afghanistan last Saturday. The case has generated controversy all week, from Republicans questioning the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees that enabled the swap to questions about whether Bergdahl was captured while trying to desert. He reportedly had a history of disappearing from his post and returning later. President Obama has defended the decision to free the 28-year-old, who is currently recovering at a military medical facility in Germany.

    Sources: NYT, Washington Post, BBC

  2. World Cup 2014 Opens in Sao Paolo

    The FIFA World Cup will officially begin on Thursday when the host, Brazil, kicks off against Croatia. President Dilma Rousseff will attend the game, although the tournament has been something of a thorn in her side. Despite their love of soccer, Brazilians have been frustrated by the costs associated with hosting, and the country has seen repeated strikes and anti-government protests. The U.S. will open against Ghana on June 16, but manager Jurgen Klinsmann is keeping hopes low, insisting that his team “cannot win this World Cup.” Oh, well, it’s taking part that counts, right?

    Sources: NPR, NYT

  3. Do Chinese Millennials Know What Happened on Tiananmen Square?

    China’s young people led the unprecedented protests that, 25 years ago this week, ended in the Tiananmen Square massacre. But today’s young people — even the highly educated — have only a foggy understanding of what actually happened on the square and, unlike the earlier generation, feel powerless to challenge their government. It doesn’t bode well for China, but Shen Tong, one of the 1989 leaders, is not concerned about the event being forgotten. He believes that “collective memories can’t be killed” and that even an apathetic population can suddenly become passionate about reform.

    Sources: New Republic, The Atlantic

  4. Russia Is Playing the Long Game in Ukraine

    President Obama claims that multilateral diplomacy will win out in the East-West tug of war over Ukraine. While his cautious optimism may be welcomed, Harvard’s Stephen Walt argues that President Putin may not be feeling as threatened as political pundits suggest. Russia has reintegrated Crimea, undermined NATO’s moves towards expansion and scored domestic approval. Putin’s tacit acceptance of Ukraine’s recent elections simply suggests that his plan was never to re-establish the old Soviet Union. Far from being the first to blink, Putin may have cashed in his chips while the table was hot.

    Source: Foreign Policy (reg)

  5. The Balkans Were Devastated by Floods and No One Really Noticed 

    Cyclone Tamara smashed through the Balkans on May 13, destroying much in its path and unleashing three months of rainfall in a matter of days. But few saw fit to report on the devastation, despite the efforts of Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic to draw attention to the disaster. Experts estimate that repairing the damage caused by the floods will be more costly than recovering from the civil wars that ripped the Balkans apart in the 1990s. Still, the West has reacted with a collective shrug, a reaction all too familiar to a region used to being ignored.

    Source: New Yorker


  1. Digital Dating Service Offers Companionship to Senior Citizens

    Social scientists and gerontologists are becoming increasingly concerned about isolation among the elderly, but an online community called Stitch hopes to change that. The service has been described as “Tinder for Seniors,” but creator Andrew Dowling insists it isn’t designed for casual hookups. Instead, Stitch matches people with similar interests in order to build friendships and provide companionship. The service officially launches in the coming months. Dowling acknowledges that profitability could be an issue since seniors are mostly on fixed incomes, but he still believes that Stitch can help create a social tapestry.  

    Source: The Atlantic

  2. Ugandans Hurt by Get-Rich-Quick Herbal Medicine Scheme

    Many Ugandans are snapping up products from Chinese herbalist TIENS, seeing their well-stocked and well-staffed stores as an attractive alternative to the overburdened public health-care system. But there’s a hitch — the “medicines” don’t work. Loyalists swear by them, and the “pharmacists” punt them as replacements for Western medicine with no side effects, but doctors are up in arms. Not only are the products dangerous, but many locals are lured into becoming distributors, who buy the products wholesale and unsuccessfully attempt to sell them. TIENS has 200,000 Ugandan members, but few are any healthier or wealthier as a result.  

    Source: Think Africa Press

  3. Comic Sans Creator Speaks at Boring Conference

    You have to tread carefully when inviting speakers to the annual Boring Conference, but the creator of the “world’s favorite font” was happy to attend. Vincent Connare didn’t intend for his creation to be so contentious, but despite 20 years of popularity among many users, Comic Sans may be the most reviled typeface in history. Connare revealed that the font took only three days to create as the Windows 95 software package was preparing to ship. Nevertheless, it has defied its detractors and continues to appear in the most inappropriate settings from mortuary invoices to tombstones. 

    Source: The Guardian

  4. Remembering the American Women Who Reported the Normandy Landings

    Though women were banned from the frontlines of WWII, a gutsy group of female American journalists refused to take no for an answer. The women came from a variety of backgrounds, from a fashion model to the bureau chief for the Chicago Daily News, but all were determined to cover the story of a generation — the D-Day landings. The legendary Martha Gellhorn smuggled herself to Normandy in a ship’s toilet, her scoop made all the sweeter by the fact that her estranged husband — one Ernest Hemingway — failed to make it to shore.

    Source: BBC

  5. John Green Respects Young Adults and They Love Him for It

    John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, has developed a cult teen following with his novels of love and loss. His work celebrates the excited energy that young adults bring to every aspect of their lives, from first love to first grief. For Green, the young adult novel is the perfect medium for discussing ethical and existential matters, and his characters retain their realism despite their often worldly philosophical thoughts. His aim with The Fault in Our Stars was to write an “unsentimental” novel about teen cancer patients, including plenty of humor, hope and romance.

    Source: New Yorker