The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Story of the Week: A Once and Future Kingdom

    The X of Scotland’s St. Andrew’s Cross still marks the spot. It helps make Britain’s flag distinctive, and it remains so now that 55 percent of Scottish voters have preserved the 307-year-old “United” Kingdom. But it was a close call; Scottish voters turned out like never before, reflecting both dissatisfaction and concern. Now their fellow subjects must craft a deal strengthening Scottish autonomy. As much as it irks conservatives in London, it’s a cross they will have to bear.

    NYT, USA Today, TIME, OZY

  2. Coming Up: Leaders Gather in New York for Climate Summit

    Tens of thousands of demonstrators plan to hit Manhattan on Sunday to tell world leaders to get serious at Tuesday’s U.N. climate change summit. The private sector has joined the chorus — institutional investors worth $24.5 trillion have urged an “economically meaningful” levy on carbon emissions. But the leaders of carbon-happy China, India, Russia and Canada have taken rain checks, stoking fears that this summit, like others before it, will generate little more than hot air.

    New YorkerThe Guardian, The Economist

  3. Why Islamic State Does Not Want U.S. Intervention

    The prospect of ground troops back in Iraq makes Americans queasy — exactly the effect Islamic State was going for, posting its grisly execution videos, some analysts say. Washington’s caution springs from the opposite belief, that militants want the soldiers to complete their Islam-versus-Crusader narrative. Ignore your gut, the analysts say, and understand that combat troops may be the only solution. Regardless of Obama’s assurances that he will avoid that, IS foes already on the ground are dying for Western help.  

    Foreign AffairsThe Guardian

  4. Can China Frack Its Way to Greener Growth?

    To fuel his “Great Leap Forward” a half-century ago, Chairman Mao supersized China’s coal infrastructure, planting the seeds of the current pollution crisis. Today, history may be repeating itself as China — desperate for smog-free growth — rapidly develops fracking technology without considering the social and environmental impacts. The boom is powered by the technology and expertise of Western energy companies like BP and ExxonMobil, enticed by vast shale fields unshackled by their home countries’ political and regulatory headaches.

    Mother Jones


  1. Trailblazers Remaking Plus-Size Fashion Scene

    “Plus size” fashion has had many incarnations — “mama’s,” “full-figured” and now “curvy.” There has always been demand, but not always an impetus to supply such clothing. In the age of blogs like Fatshionista, which have given 14-plus buyers an activist voice, the styles have become more exciting, but big labels remain reticent to enter a stigmatized market. Ultimately, consumers must enjoy shopping — many do not — for it to be worth the investment, meaning clever marketing could re-tailor this shameful secret into a lucrative trade.  

    New Yorker

  2. Free-Diving Researchers Swim with Whales 

    In the myths of old, sperm whales both ate humans and avoided them, but a group of researchers is debunking such myths in a novel way: They’re hanging with them, sans oxygen. Sometimes it’s just a social visit, but they’re also free diving in order to study creatures that otherwise shy away from bulky breathing equipment. While the leviathans aren’t intentionally violent, the intense vibrations of their echolocation can injure divers. We know this because these courageous explorers have extended a hand to the deep.


  3. Nuclear Tourists Visit Abandoned Chernobyl Zone

    There are many wacky kinds of vacations, but nuclear tourism is as surreal as it gets. The catastrophic 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown left a contaminated area known as “the zone.” Now it’s open for visitors to watch bison and boars roam freely among abandoned hospitals, schools and homes. Apart from a few residents who refused to leave and “stalkers” — enthusiasts entering illegally — the only human presence in the post-apocalyptic territory is tourists warily eyeing their dosimeters.  

    National Geographic

  4. Silence Surrounds Male Military Rape

    Thirty-eight U.S. military men are sexually assaulted every day, but 81 percent of them never report their harrowing attacks. Research suggests that those who do report “MST,” or military sexual trauma, are often deliberately misdiagnosed with pre-existing personality disorders. That shuffles them out of the ranks and spares the government the costs of victims’ care. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) had the votes to strip individual commanders of control over prosecuting such crimes, but opponents replaced it with a Pentagon-favored bill that victims call toothless.


  5. How the Nats Rose from the Dead

    In summer 2009, the Washington Nationals locker room was a place where dreams went to die. So how is it that within five years they’re sitting on the best record in the National League and seriously playing for Washington’s first World Series in over 90 years? Basically, when the Nats got bad, they got so bad that General Manager Mike Rizzo could claim a string of young, promising high draft players. At the same time, the franchise spent big on tried-and-tested older players to complete its virtually weakness-free roster.