The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Israel Pulls Troops as UN Slams ‘Criminal’ Strike

    Bowing to pressure, Israel is withdrawing most of its ground troops from Gaza and declaring a seven-hour truce in the wake of another school strike that UN chief Ban Ki-moon slammed as “criminal.” Even the U.S. was unusually harsh, referring to the attack that killed 10 as “disgraceful.” Israel denies targeting civilians but is investigating whether the strike was linked to an attempt to kill militants as they drove near the school. 

    ReutersWashington PostFT (sub)

  2. U.S. Reconnaissance Plane Dodged Russian Fighter

    Games of chicken should be played on playgrounds, not in the skies near Russia. But that’s just what happened when a U.S. military spy plane conducted electronic eavesdropping on the Russian military on July 18, a day after flight MH17 crashed. A U.S. Air Force RC-135 fled into Sweden to avoid being intercepted by a Russian fighter, according to U.S. military officials. The incident reflects growing tensions, as well as lowered expectations that either side intends to play nice. 

    NYTThe TelegraphAP

  3. Closing ExIm Bank Would be Damaging Says GE Boss

    Shutting the U.S. Export-Import Bank would be a big mistake, says General Electric boss Jeff Immelt. The bank has helped establish trade links between the U.S. and Africa, but its charter expires next month, and congressional attempts to reauthorize it have hit opposition from Republicans, who see it as a form of crony capitalism. Debate over the ExIm Bank’s merits are sure to hit a fever pitch as President Obama hosts the inaugural U.S.-Africa leaders summit this week.

    FT (sub)

  4. Portugal Rescues Lending Giant for $6.6 Billion

    The country’s central bank is using bailout funds to rescue its second-largest lender, Banco Espírito Santo, to the tune of $6.6 billion. The strategy? Out with the bad, in with the good. The bank’s deposit-taking operations and healthy assets will be transferred to a new “good” company, Novo Banco. Troubled assets will remain with the “bad” bank with losses being absorbed by shareholders and subordinated creditors. In other words, to “safeguard the financial system,” they’re breaking the bank.

    BloombergWSJ (sub), BBC


  1. Artist Creates Trees That Grow 40 Fruits

    Fruit trees usually yield one type of fleshy produce, but what if a single tree was able to offer a variety of fruits? That’s the idea behind artist Sam Van Aken’s ‘Tree of 40 Fruit,’ designed to bear dozens of kinds of juicy sweetness. He created 16 trees — dotted across the U.S. — using old-fashioned grafting techniques. They look normal until they blossom into leaves of varying colors, offering fruit lovers more than a plum choice.


  2. French Hospital Plans Wine Bar for Terminally Ill

    A hospital is taking the notion of drinking to one’s health literally and is raising a glass of wine to the dying. Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital in central France will soon open the nation’s first wine bar for terminally ill patients. They will be able to enjoy a tipple with visiting family and friends to create “moments of conviviality,” say organizers, but imbibing will be “medically supervised.” The wine bar is a small detail that can make “all the difference,” said a spokesman. We’ll drink to that.

    Global Post

  3. Scientists Eye Squid in Fight Against Sarin

    Could squid enzymes stop chemical weapons like Sarin in their tracks? A team of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory think so, and they’re using cutting-edge computational techniques to engineer the perfect prophylactic. While such an enzyme would only work for a little over a week, immunization of military operatives, NGO staff and as many civilians as possible could significantly reduce the casualty count. Best case scenario? Deterring belligerents like Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons in the first place.


  4. Testosterone Dip Linked to Human Artistry

    Scientists say humans began creating art — and more advanced tools — when the species experienced a reduction in testosterone. Culture began to blossom some 50,000 years ago as humans developed gentler personalities and became more cooperative. The theory is based on shrinking brow-size measurements, which have been linked to lower levels of testosterone. So once we stopped hitting each other over the head with clubs, our creative juices were able to flow.

    The Telegraph

  5. Usain Bolt Sets Sights on New Record

    He’s already the fastest person ever, but he’s planning to speed up even more. Bolt holds the world record in the 200-meter sprint, with a 19.19-second race from 2009. But he now plans to focus his energy on cracking the 19-second mark, even if it means training less for the 100-meter sprint. With plans to retire in 2017, Bolt needs to move quickly, but competitors are no doubt thinking: Not so fast.