The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Justices Clear Docket with Rash of Rulings

    The U.S. Supreme Court upset the president, police officers and pro-choice activists this week as it handed down rulings in quick succession to close out its term. It labeled TV streaming service Aereo illegal and removed the buffer zone between abortion clinic doors and protesters. The justices also boosted digital privacy by declaring cell phones subject to warrants before they can be searched, complicating thousands of criminal cases. And they took on the president, limiting his ability to fill high-level vacancies with temporary appointments, much to the GOP’s delight. 


  2. EU Divisions Will Dominate Leaders’ Summit

    Italy will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Tuesday, and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says he will use his six months in the hot seat to push for a “United States of Europe.” That aim is shared by Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, whom the summit will likely confirm as president of the European Commission, despite staunch opposition from the UK. David Cameron has publicly clashed with Angela Merkel on the issue, warning that Juncker’s appointment would increase the likelihood of Britain quitting the EU. 

    The Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC

  3. ISIS Looks to the Past to Map Its Future

    ISIS sent a clear message when it posted images of a bulldozer plowing through the Iraqi-Syrian border. The destruction was a conscious rejection of the boundaries established by the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916. The treaty, drawn up between France and England, carved the Middle East into smaller nations after the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. ISIS may seem to have emerged from nowhere, but it’s feeding off 100 years of anger and resentment towards the West in an attempt to recreate an idealized, precolonial Middle East.


  4. Do We Need a New Approach to Oil Pipelines?

    Hillary Clinton has avoided commenting on Keystone XL, a reminder that the “bullet pipeline” from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico remains a hot-button issue. But a panel of scientists has criticized the case-by-case approach taken by both sides, arguing that focusing on the harms of Keystone alone elides the key issue of how to balance energy and economic security with protecting the environment. They call for North America to develop a bi-national climate change strategy, a move that Clinton has openly supported.

    Nature, The New Yorker

  5. 83 Percent of People Live in Unstable Nations

    The United States became markedly less stable in 2013, largely thanks to November’s government shutdown. In the annual Fragile States Index — which assesses corruption, factionalism, economic inequality and other factors — the U.S. trailed 19 other countries. The robust democracies of Scandinavia are global leaders, whereas the world’s youngest state, South Sudan, is also its most fragile. Just 17 percent of the global population lives in stable countries, while the rest operate dangerously close to the brink.

    Foreign Policy


  1. Drug Lord’s Hippos Roam Free in Colombia

    Colombia’s drug problem has spawned a hippo problem. In the 1980s and early ’90s, drug lord Pablo Escobar unleashed a wave of violence across Colombia while living like a king on a ranch complete with a private zoo. Years after his death, Escobar’s hippos have escaped into the wild, growing at an alarming rate and presenting a risk to locals. Experts and environmentalists have suggested some rather unsavory options to check their numbers, from castrating the males to holding a hippo barbecue.


  2. Giving Mixed Signals on Success v. Happiness

    When it comes to doing good, parents expect their kids to do as they say and not as they do. Most school-going children believe their parents would be prouder if they were successful than if they were doing good, even though caring for others develops empathy, activates moral reasoning and boosts relationship satisfaction. Researchers at Harvard suggest that parents can shift the focus by assigning their kids daily caring tasks to promote empathy. Whether such tasks will help them get into Harvard is another story.

    The Atlantic

  3. Small Camera Gets a Big Start

    GoPro made one of the largest consumer electronics debuts ever this week, starting at $24 a share and rising nearly 31 percent. The attachable camera, designed for filming extreme sports, has sparked a social media craze — the GoPro YouTube channel has more than 50 million hits. GoPro’s profits derive mostly from hardware sales, however, and to ride the Wall Street wave, it will need to make its videos a product in their own right. Thankfully, taking risks is nothing new to Nick Goodman, the adrenaline-junkie-turned-billionaire at the helm.

    CNBC, NYT, USA Today

  4. Keeping Joyce’s Masterpiece from the Censors

    With its frank descriptions of the sexual, the scatological and the politically radical, James Joyce’s masterpiece was never going to find favor with the censors of his day. In The Most Dangerous Book, Kevin Birmingham recounts the battle to publish Ulysses, weaving the stories of literary legends, prudish publishers, heroic editors and the specter of WWI. Today the furor over the novel seems rather quaint, but Birmingham argues that it is a testament to the impact of Joyce’s work, insisting that “all revolutions look tame from the other side.”


  5. U.S. Prepares for Unexpected Round of 16 Clash

    Team USA has battled its way out of the “Group of Death” and will face Belgium on Tuesday in the Round of 16. Belgium is favored to win, but this topsy-turvy tournament has shown that anything is possible: Spain, Italy and England are out, but underdogs Costa Rica and Greece continue on. Unprecedented numbers of Americans have tuned in to watch this World Cup, helped along by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who posted an excuse note on Twitter urging bosses to sacrifice productivity for the good of the nation.

    Bleacher Report, Washington Post