The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Iraqi Militants Post Images of Alleged Mass Executions

    Sunni militants storming through Iraq have posted images that, although unverified, apparently depict mass executions of Iraqi troops, in what a U.S. official called a “horrifying depiction” of “bloodlust.” Staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are being evacuated and Marines who specialize in high-threat embassy protection have been called in. Washington is reportedly considering direct talks with Tehran on how best to deal with the Iraqi crisis. Halting the advancing militants is in both countries’ interest, and Iran has already sent hundreds of troops to support Iraq’s security forces.  

    Sources: NYTTIMEBBC, CNN

  2. Ukraine Faces Gas Cuts as Talks Fail to Achieve Compromise

    The country has failed to meet the deadline for payment of its outstanding gas debts, according to Russian gas exporter Gazprom. Kiev will now have to pay for gas upfront, which will cause a reduction of supply to Ukraine and disruption of energy flows to the EU. Despite a weekend of round-the-clock negotiations between officials from Russia, Ukraine and the EU, Gazprom refused to extend the deadline. The move heralds the third “gas war” between Russia and Ukraine in eight years and will heighten tensions over the increasingly bloody conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

    Sources: Reuters, FT (sub)

  3. Suspected Islamists Kill Dozens in Attack on Kenyan Town

    At least 48 people are believed to have died after suspected Islamist militants attacked hotels and a police station in the Kenyan coastal town of Mpeketoni. Witnesses report that on Sunday evening, armed men with covered faces threw explosives into the local police station before entering and seizing weapons. In an attack believed to have lasted for hours, the assailants opened fire in the streets as well as setting buildings alight. The U.S. has advised its nationals to stay away from the coastal region, which is at the heart of Kenya’s tourism industry.  

    Sources: ABCBBC, Al Jazeera

  4. Starbucks Offers to Pay Employee Tuition for Online Degrees

    Starbucks will pay for its workers in the U.S. to study for online degrees from Arizona State University. The program, open to all of the company’s 135,000 employees in the country, aims to reduce the barriers low-wage workers face when trying to gain university degrees. Unusually, the offer comes without conditions, so baristas can leave for higher-skilled jobs after completing their degrees. Chief Executive Howard D. Schultz believes the scheme will allow Starbucks to “attract and retain better people.”

    Sources: ABC, Mashable


  1. How the Beautiful Game Developed Two Names

    Many assume that the word “soccer” is a peculiar U.S. invention, but it was actually born in 19th century England. When the rules of the game were codified in 1863 — in a pub, of course — it was officially known as Association Football to distinguish it from its rival, Rugby Football, and over time the names were shortened to “rugger” and “soccer.” Why the word “soccer” died out in England is unclear, but it remains popular in countries, like the U.S. and Australia, that play other sports also called football.

    Sources: Quartz

  2. ‘Bitcoin Jesus’ Offers Passports to Tax-Free Islands

    Millionaire former U.S. citizen and convict Roger Ver, more colorfully known as “Bitcoin Jesus,” is offering citizenship in exchange for the digital currency. The founder of is currently offering a $400,000 Caribbean condo that comes with a passport from the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, where there are no taxes on income or capital gains, and laws protect citizens from outside scrutiny. The U.S. Treasury Department believes that St. Kitts’ passports are being used for financial crime, but bitcoin-loving libertarians are unlikely to care. 

    Source: Bloomberg

  3. Europe’s the Place for Billion-Dollar Tech Start-Ups

    The continent has produced 30 $1billion technology companies since 2000, according to a study challenging perceptions that Europe is lagging behind entrepreneurs in the U.S. The “unicorns” – start-up firms that reached a value of more than $1billion – include clothing site Asos, games studio King Digital and music service Spotify. But just half of the unicorns, which were mostly started by innovative 30-somethings, have reached a sale or IPO, suggesting that Europe remains a more challenging environment for technology investment.

    Source: The Guardian

  4. DJ Casey Kasem Dies at 82

    The man known as the voice of U.S. pop died on Sunday in a hospital in Washington State. Casey Kasem, the son of Lebanese immigrants, launched American Top 40 in 1970. It became one of the country’s most popular syndicated pop music shows, famous for its music trivia and long-distance dedications. He was also an accomplished voice actor, whose most famous role was as Shaggy in Scooby Doo. From the 1980s onward he was a vocal advocate for Middle East peace. He died after a long illness, but in his final months he was at the center of a family legal battle over the terms of his death. 

    Sources: NYT, NPR

  5. Spurs Claim Fifth NBA Title

    The San Antonio Spurs are NBA champions, cemented with a convincing 104-87 win on Sunday night. Kawhi Leonard, 22, took home the finals MVP trophy, averaging almost 18 points in the series. The Spurs took down the supposed super-team of the decade, the Miami Heat, in five games denying the Heat their third straight championship. LeBron James was the only Heat player to live up to his billing, pouring in 31 points. But the Spurs chipped away at their opponents’ an early lead, taking control in the third quarter.  

    Sources: ESPN, CBS