The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Nepal Earthquake Death Toll Hits 2,500

    Survivors of Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake are cremating the dead and digging through rubble for victims as the official toll of dead and injured climbs into the thousands. Aftershocks — especially a 6.7-magnitude event this morning — continue to spread panic in the wake of the country’s worst temblor in more than 80 years. Most of the devastation occurred in or near the capital, Katmandu, but an avalanche at Mt. Everest’s base camp killed at least 18. Many fear the tally of victims will rise, even as planeloads of international relief workers and supplies arrive.

    AP, CNN

  2. EU Struggles to Turn Tide on Migrant Crisis

    Europe is reeling from a surge of migrants risking perilous Mediterranean journeys to reach its shores. Thousands are fleeing war-torn African nations in hopes of brighter futures, often aboard overcrowded boats that capsize — resulting in 1,750 deaths this year alone. EU leaders held an emergency summit this week to address the crisis, pledging to triple border-protection spending, destroy empty smuggling boats, enhance rescue efforts and implement rapid deportations. But advocacy groups aren’t satisfied, fearing it won’t be enough to stem the deadly tide. 

    BBC, NYT

  3. High Court to Hear Gay Marriage Case

    Americans’ support for gay marriage has hit an all-time high of 60 percent, but federal law doesn’t support nationwide equality. On Tuesday, lawyers standing before the Supreme Court will advocate for and against same-sex matrimony as a constitutional right, including recognizing such unions across state lines. While conservatives like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal steadfastly argue for “religious freedom” laws allowing discrimination, other opponents are starting to admit that the tide may have turned.

    Washington Blade, NYT, Washington Post

  4. Violence Mars Baltimore Police Protest

    Outraged over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody last weekend, demonstrators occupied downtown Baltimore Saturday night, prompting the temporary lockdown of fans attending an Orioles baseball game. On Friday, police officials acknowledged the department’s failure to treat Gray for a spinal injury, which killed him a week after an alleged deliberate “rough ride” in a police van without seat belts. The protest devolved into pockets of violence, with some smashing store windows and damaging police cruisers. As other such incidents are illuminated, a marcher warned, “the whole nation could be set afire.”

    NYT, Reuters

  5. Coming to Terms With G-Word in Turkey

    It’s one thing to say “Armenian genocide” in Yerevan, but quite another in Istanbul. On this week’s centenary of the Ottoman Empire launching mass deportations that killed some 1.5 million Armenians, the empire’s successors continue to wage semantic warfare over what to call the murderous campaign. But Turkey still has an Armenian population — including many whose ancestry was hidden a century ago — and some now feel empowered to discuss the forbidden topic, thanks, oddly enough, to Ankara’s Islamist government.

    Der Spiegel

  6. Clinton Cash Blurs Public-Private Boundary

    Former President Bill Clinton made $26 million in personal speaking fees from donors to his family’s charitable foundation, blurring the lines between the Clintons’ public and private accounts. A new book and media exposés raise uncomfortable questions about conflicts of interest, as some check-writers stood to benefit from Hillary Clinton’s actions as the top U.S. diplomat and potentially as president. Clinton foes are rejoicing, but money trails may lead sleuths to powerful doorsteps on both sides of the political divide.

    Washington Post, NYT, The Hill


  1. Get Ready for Empirical Creationism

    They’re calling him the next Charles Darwin. Yet 33-year-old MIT professor Jeremy England’s big idea is that life can form, unbidden, from non-life. A religious Jew, he’s got sound science to support his ideas about the origin of life. Even some things we consider inanimate, like the chair you’re sitting in, may already be alive, he says. While evolution may explain our complex world, England’s work aims to explain the step that preceded all of it, in a crucible where the laws of nature and hand of God are inseparable.


  2. Mine Fire Burns on Beneath Pa. Ghost Town

    The ground’s still hot and a sulfurous stench lingers in the air. Some say a deliberate trash fire ignited a coal mine in Centralia, Pennsylvania, and it’s been burning since 1962, when the government ordered residents to evacuate. Cleaner energy is on the rise, but coal continues to provide nearly 50,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, the top U.S. provider of high-quality anthracite. But with 38 mine fires reported statewide — nearly impossible to extinguish — some worry these infernos will rage for thousands of years, similar to Australia’s Burning Mountain.


  3. Transsexuals in Iran: ‘We Die Alone’

    Getting a sex-change operation in Iran is shockingly easy — authorities will even help pay for it. Since the Quran is silent on such procedures, they’re permitted, but that’s where the tolerance ends. Many Iranians who swap genders find it hard to recover from the social stigma that can result in job loss or even murderous reactions from family members. Even though many homosexuals are encouraged by therapists to switch genders to avoid anti-gay persecution, one surgeon says a third of his patients opt for suicide.


  4. CNN’s Unflappable Anchor Keeps Going

    There’s no stopping him. Don Lemon is the oft-derided face of CNN, known for his ability to eloquently fill airtime — as well as gaffes that can make colleagues and viewers cringe. His seemingly bulletproof persona has allowed him to declare from Ferguson that the air “obviously” smelled of cannabis and to inquire why a Bill Cosby accuser didn’t just bite the comedian — and still have ratings rivaling Anderson Cooper’s. But perhaps Lemon’s greatest talent is that he embraces mistakes without embarrassment, succeeding where others’ careers would’ve ground to a halt.


  5. NFL Hopeful Rises Up From Tragedy

    There was one he couldn’t defend. Washington University defensive tackle Danny Shelton is widely expected to be a first-round pick in Thursday’s NFL Draft. But fortune hasn’t always favored the 339-pound Samoan. On his way home from church in 2011, Shelton and his two brothers were drawn into a neighborhood fight. When it was over, one brother — and middle school football coach — was dead. Since then, Shelton has traded the mean streets for an exemplary academic career and is using football as a way to honor his brother.