The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Leaders Grapple with MH17 Implications

    A week on, responding to the MH17 crash remains a practical and diplomatic minefield. Australia and the Netherlands are still being denied access to the crash site, although a Malaysian-brokered deal ensured the recovery of most of the victims’ bodies. President Putin denies any involvement in the crash, but the U.S. claims to have proof that Russia is firing into the Ukraine and the EU has voted to impose additional sanctions. To add to the confusion, a rebel commander claims that separatists were in control of a surface-to-air missile system.

    BBC, The Guardian, CNN

  2. Cantor Steps Down and Into Uncertain Future

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor steps down next week, handing the reins to Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. Since Cantor’s stunning loss to Tea Party-backed David Brat, there has been a lot of talk of regime change — McCarthy isn’t expected to champion immigration reform or business interests the way Cantor did. It’s uncertain what Cantor’s future holds, but columnist Ramesh Ponnuru suggests he become a lobbyist and stay in the game. 

    Politico, WSJ (sub), Statesman

  3. Rash of Recent Crises Point to Global Imbalance

    We’re living in a time of unprecedented worldwide instability, according to a distinguished elder statesman of international affairs. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, argues that interlocking crises in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine, Nigeria and elsewhere are evidence of an extremely shaky global order, exacerbated by the fraught relationship between the world’s twin superpowers. The 86-year-old analyst insists that — whether they like it or not — the only solution is a more cooperative relationship between China and the U.S.

    Foreign Policy

  4. Slow Execution Prompts Death Penalty Debate

    Arizona’s protracted execution of Joseph Wood is the fourth scandal of its kind in 2014, prompting both supporters and opponents of the death penalty to argue against the use of lethal injections. Amid severe drug shortages, states are using untested drug cocktails of unknown provenance. Judge Alex Kozinski says a firing squad or guillotine would be more humane, while one Texas lawyer — highlighting the cost and extent of potential error — suggests that even if the death penalty is permissible, it’s simply not worth the trouble.

    New Republic, NYT, Above the Law

  5. UN Promises AIDS-Free Generation

    At this week’s International AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia, the U.N. claimed that an AIDS-free generation could be a reality by 2030. Bill Clinton spoke out against stigmatizing those living with HIV, but was interrupted by protesters calling for a Robin Hood tax to fund treatment. Bob Geldof, too, called for more funds to fight the disease, expressing the fear held by many activists that, having reached the “last mile,” the world’s attention has been distracted from the disease.

    The Guardian, AllAfrica, Herald Sun


  1. Hiroshima, Understood Through a Pocket Watch

    Shinji Mikamo was helping his father clear out their house when the Enola Gay dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. He lost everything in the bombing, save his father’s watch, hands forever frozen at 8:15 a.m., the time of the attack. Fury towards the Americans who dropped the bomb would have been understandable, but instead Shinji expresses compassion and total forgiveness. In an interactive article, the BBC tells the story of the watch, the man and the war.


  2. Study Warns CEOs Against Warlike Rhetoric

    All’s fair in love and profit margins, but dramatic speeches could backfire on the CEOs who deliver them. New research finds that when CEOs use battlefield language — like Steve Jobs declaring “thermonuclear war” on Samsung — they prompt their own employees to behave more ethically, while motivating rivals to play dirty. For example, employees of competing firms become more likely to fake negative reviews online. Although the dynamics of these reactions aren’t entirely clear, executives are advised to contain their inner Bravehearts.

    Pacific Standard, Washington Post

  3. Women Drivers Hit Morocco for Off-Road Rally

    The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is not your average sporting event. Although the nine-day race spans a portion of desert the size of Maryland, competitors can only navigate using a compass and 55-year-old maps. For practical reasons, it’s a women’s only rally — the environment is so rough that the speed-demon men who participated until 2002 usually destroyed their cars. Despite entry fees of $18,000, the grand prize is just a medal — along with some seriously badass bragging rights.

    Autoblog (Part 1), Autoblog (Part 2)

  4. Can Autocorrect Deal With Life’s Complexity?

    Autocorrect started as a minor improvement to user experience in Microsoft Word, and became an inextricable part of digital life. The programming could be tricky, but even trickier was how to arbitrate and moderate language. How dogmatic should a computer be about contested spellings? Should Word offer a correction for “dooshbag”? The programmers quickly relaxed the Victorian sensibilities of early versions of Word, realizing that computer-users curse a blue streak. Pretty ducking amazing, if you ask us.


  5. LeBron’s Remarkable Memory Fine-Tunes His Play

    When and if God was handing out talents, LeBron James was at the front of the line. Not only is the basketball star strong, fast, hardworking and athletic, but, according to ESPN, he also has near-perfect recall. LeBron apparently remembers every game in detail, and has an exhaustive knowledge of the plays, strengths and weaknesses of his opponents. On a good day, his apparently eidetic memory allows him to perfectly calibrate his game, but on bad days he’s haunted by intrusive memories of failures past.