The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Coming Up: Anti-ISIS Coalition Meets in Belgium

    John Kerry will travel to Brussels next week to chair the first official meeting of governments fighting ISIS. Since August, the U.S.-led coalition has launched near-daily airstrikes, killing some 865 people, including 50 civilians. But doubts about the American strategy are growing, particularly in Syria, where the militant group continues to expand its control. Many Syrians, opposed to both ISIS and the regime of Bashar al-Assad, insist that the U.S. cannot target one and ignore the other.

    The Hill, AP, NYT

  2. Story of the Week: Making Sense of Ferguson

    Where do we go from here? As protests continue against the exoneration of police officer Darren Wilson, Americans are conceptualizing Michael Brown’s death and its aftermath in all sorts of ways , from taking the long view on civil rights and history to seeing things from Wilson’s perspective . It’s been a dark and divisive week, but some saw hope in the response of the Ferguson Public Library, which stayed open all week as a refuge for both adults and children and was rewarded with $175,000 in nationwide donations.

    OZY, NPR

  3. Egyptian Judge Clears Mubarak in Killings

    The circle is nearly complete. Egypt’s iron-fisted president for 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, was deposed and imprisoned during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. But yesterday a Cairo judge acquitted Mubarak, 86, in the killings of hundreds of demonstrators, and he could be released next year after completing his three-year term for embezzlement. The country went from revolution to military junta to elected Islamist government back to a general in charge. It was another step, said one observer, toward “closing the file on the Jan. 25 revolution.”

    CNN, NYT

  4. Asian Hub Adjusts to World City Status

    As Singapore prepares to mark the 50th anniversary of its independence, are cracks appearing in its gleaming facade? Under the steely leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, post-1965 Singapore transformed itself from a colonial backwater to one of the world’s leading economies, favored by many multinational companies seeking an Asian hub. But globalization, high immigration and low birth rates are challenging the state’s identity politics and, for the first time, the ruling People’s Action Party is threatened by political challengers.

    FT (sub)

  5. Student Deaths Spotlight National Fragility

    Has Mexico reached a breaking point? The abduction and alleged massacre of 43 students has sparked massive protests and a tidal wave of anti-government anger. The students disappeared after police opened fire on their buses en route to a demonstration, the latest instance of Mexican state-sanctioned violence and corruption. But even as President Enrique Peña Nieto seeks to end corruption by putting local police under state control, continued protests highlight the underlying social issues that threaten Mexico’s stability and identity.

    SpiegelWSJ (sub)


  1. Understanding Germany’s Quiet Chancellor

    She’s the most powerful woman in the world, but what makes Angela Merkel tick? A quantum chemist who grew up in East Germany, Merkel abruptly shifted into politics in her mid-30s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, she’s managing complex relationships with Barack Obama and Vladmir Putin, while attempting to resuscitate the eurozone. Critics denounce her apparent lack of strong political beliefs, but her friends argue that — as the child of total political repression — Merkel cares deeply about freedom and is willing to negotiate the rest.

    New Yorker

  2. Why Is Turkey Called ‘Turkey’?

    Hint: The country came first. Amid a tangled web of colonial misunderstandings, the English apparently mistook the native American birds for guinea fowl, which first came to Europe via Constantinople, in Turkey. But if you delve into the word’s etymology in other languages, you find more misunderstandings: The Turkish term for turkeys is hindi , presumably because they thought they came from India, and the French word dinde implies the same. If you’re aiming for authenticity, the Blackfoot tribe use omahksipi’kssii , which translates to “big bird.”

    The Atlantic

  3. Remembering a Massacre in the Family

    Honoring Native American history now goes hand-in-hand with Thanksgiving, but that’s a complicated proposition for a white American. Michael Allen discovered this for himself when he began researching his great-great-grandfather’s participation in one of the most notorious massacres in U.S. history. William M. Allen was among the soldiers who gunned down some 200 people at Sand Creek in 1864. The effects of their ancestors’ murder and relocation are still felt among the Cheyenne and Arapaho today, but Allen found a community committed to healing and forgiveness.


  4. Looking for Black Holes Is Tough Work

    When searching for black holes, you have to find somewhere almost as inhospitable to look from. Scientists at the Atacama Large Millimeter Array observatory — ALMA is Spanish for soul — not only grapple with the vastness of space, but also with the horrible symptoms of altitude sickness associated with working on Chile’s Chajnantor Plateau, 16,500 feet above sea level. But the astronomers say it’s all worth it for a glimpse of Sagittarius A*, the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.


  5. Spotting a Star Pre-Supernova

    Looking at a cohort of incoming freshman football players, all with buckets of potential, it’s near impossible to tell which ones will make it to the NFL. But Drew Lock, the University of Missouri’s baby-faced prospective quarterback, is a safer bet than most. With a standout throwing arm, a “no-flinch” mentality and a tendency towards dazzling flashes of brilliance, the shaggy-haired Midwesterner has attracted plenty of attention from NFL experts. A lot of expectation for an 18-year-old, but Lock seems unfazed. “Pressure makes me perform,” he assured OZY.