The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Story of the Week: Talking About Mental Health

    This week the world mourned the passing of comedian and actor Robin Williams. His struggle with depression has become emblematic of society’s inability to deal effectively with mental illness. The painful details of Williams’ death were splashed across front pages around the world, which, according to critics, only served to stigmatize mental illness more. With one suicide in America every forty seconds, many are demanding greater support for those in need, even those who, like Williams, present a happy face to the world. 

    New Yorker , TIME

  2. Coming Up: UNSC Assesses Iraq Strategy

    The United Nations Security Council will focus on the escalating crisis in Iraq when it continues its discussions of the Middle East on Monday. The U.S. is increasing the intensity of its air campaign against the Islamic State, while the EU is expected to step up arms supplies to support Kurdish military efforts. Although President Obama has pledged to keep American troops out of combat, the humanitarian crisis is escalating; Yazidi villagers were reportedly massacred in northern Iraq on Friday afternoon. 

    NYT, Foreign Policy (reg), BBC

  3. What’s Fueling the Clashes in Ferguson?

    When did American protesters become enemy combatants? Since the shooting of Michael Brown last week, Ferguson, Missouri, has witnessed surreal scenes of violence and media suppression. As an almost entirely white police force used rubber bullets, tear gas and the threat of deadly force against frustrated black communities, some blamed the post-9/11 phenomenon of arming cops like military combat units. From Ferguson to Fallujah, civil rights activists argue that the costs of anti-terror strategies far outweigh their benefits.

    BBC, New Republic, The Atlantic

  4. Does International Surrogacy Encourage Abuse?

    The case of an Australian couple abandoning their baby—born with Down Syndrome—and his Thai surrogate mother has shone a light into the murky world of offshore surrogacy. This multi-billion-dollar industry has existed since the 1970s, when it became possible for a woman to bear the child of two other people. The practice remains legally dubious; parents regularly travel to developing countries like Thailand to avoid high costs and strict regulations. That, combined with huge income imbalances between parents and surrogates, has become a recipe for exploitation.

    Al Jazeera


  1. Education Fad Puts Kids in Charge

    “Unschooling” is a new trend in homeschooling that puts book-learning out to pasture. It is adult-supervised, but instead of working from a set curriculum, kids are given total autonomy over what and how they learn, mixing practical and book smarts. Unschoolers could be reading Huck Finn one day and building their own raft the next. Sound radical? Maybe – but mainstream public education in America is hardly a rip-roaring success, so it’s unsurprising that some parents want out.


  2. New UN Rights Chief Rises Above Royalty

    Next month, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein will take up perhaps the world’s most influential human-rights post: U.N. High Commissioner. Prince Zeid will be the first commissioner from the Muslim or Arab worlds and, as cousin to Jordan’s King Abdullah, also its first prince. While human rights advocates are excited — Zeid tends to call out powerful institutions, including the UN itself — some worry about his ties to the Jordanian regime, whose readings on the political-rights barometer have been cloudy of late.


  3. Hardcore Wrestlers Get Their Zen On

    We normally associate yoga with lithe bodies and superfood diets, but pro wrestlers are adopting the eastern practice with surprising success. In 2012, former ring star Diamond Dallas Page took beefcake yoga to the next level when he sold $800,000 worth of training DVDs in only one month. Using his slam-damaged buddies as exemplars and dropping the “froufrou” lingo, Page has enticed brawny tough guys onto the mat. While trimming their waistlines, Page’s retired pros have also kicked substance abuse and healed their damaged bodies.


  4. Minding the Gap In the Pan-American Highway

    Running from Alaska to the tip of South America, the Pan-American Highway covers nearly 30,000 miles. Its only break is the strip of dense jungle known as the Darien Gap, an enduring symbol of nature’s power over man. Located on the border of Colombia and Panama, this spot has barely changed since the first European explorers arrived in 1510, although narcotics trafficking is slowly eating its way through the region. In a strange alliance, drug runners and preservationists agree that the highway should never be completed.


  5. How A Two-Bit Handicapper Shook Baseball

    Pittsburgh Pirate Jeff Locke’s pitching was sloppy, to be sure. During an era of Major League Baseball betting clampdowns, ugly reports surfaced that Locke might have taken dives for handicapper and childhood friend Kris Barr to enrich betting clients. Never forgetting the infamous “Black Sox” World Series fraud that almost killed baseball in 1919, the NYPD and league investigators stepped in. What they found was a pathetic falsehood, perpetrated by a small-town player who didn’t make the big leagues and did his best to punish another who did.  

    Sports Illustrated