The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. The Stories That Rocked, Comforted and Changed Us in 2013

    The U.S. government shut down. Even non-Catholics found faith in a new Pope, and drew inspiration from a young teen, while another young woman sparked cultural controversy. We’ve rounded up our votes for the top news stories of 2013 that defined our world this year. We expect 2014 to continue wrestling with the NSA bombshells, the implications of America’s new healthcare rules, and continued Middle East unrest. Click through to for the full links to these amazing stories. Do you agree with our year-end picks? Tell us what we missed

  2. Negotiations with Iran and Syria Make Unexpected Progress

    John Kerry might surpass Hillary Clinton’s well-received performance as U.S. Secretary of State, as negotiations with Syria and Iran defied expectations. Kerry’s suggestion that U.S. military strikes could be averted if President Bashar al-Assad handed over Syria’s chemical weapons could have been a gaffe, but it worked. Negotiations to limit Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons are continuing apace. Both the Iran and Syria negotiations are reshaping the U.S.’s frenemy-ship with Russia, potentially for the better — and Kerry is just warming up.

    Sources: The GuardianNPR, Washington Post, The Atlantic

  3. Explosions in Boston Prompt Fear and Citywide Manhunt

    In the wake of the two pressure cooker bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three and injuring 264, rumors flew about the identity of the bombers. A manhunt shut down sections of the city, and the bombers allegedly killed an MIT patrol officer. One suspect, Chechen Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died and his brother Dzhokhar was arrested after found hiding in a stranger’s boat. The FBI was criticized for ignoring warnings about Tamerlan’s potential for extremist violence, and for killing another Chechen connected to the brothers, Ibragim Todashev.

    Sources: CNN, Twitter, CS Monitor, NYT

  4. Obamacare Derail: Technical Glitches Succeed Where GOP Fails

    The U.S. federal government shut down for 16 days in October as congressional Republicans attempted to get President Obama to negotiate scaling back his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. Federal employees were furloughed or left entirely unpaid, parks and monuments shut down, and John Boehner found himself an unhappy hostage of a small but insistent minority in his party, dedicated to pulling a strategy the Speaker had expressly dismissed days before. The shutdown backfired on the Republicans, prompting a popularity boost for Obama — at least until it became apparent that the launch of Obamacare’s online insurance exchange was its own dysfunctional mess.

    Sources: Politico, Slate, Washington PostVanity Fair, WSJ

  5. Power Outages Persist and Christmas Messages Urge Aid, Awareness

    Ten of thousands in U.S. and Canada still in the dark, days after ice storm. (CNN).

    Pope’s Christmas message urges aid for Syria and end to world conflicts. (BBC).

    Snowden delivers “Alternative Christmas Message” on spying and privacy. (NYT).

    Bishop in South Sudan makes plea for peace. (The Guardian).

    Turkish PM announces major cabinet reshuffle after ministers resign in corruption crackdown. (BBC).



  1. Nelson Mandela Passes Away at Age of 95, Draws Countless Tributes

    During 10 days of memorials and opportunities for public grieving, South Africa and the world mined Mandela’s teachings and legacies – from his eventual decision to support violence in the fight against apartheid to the nearly two decades of democracy for which he was prepared to sacrifice his life. Mandela inspired legions of people, and his service to his country lives on in its democratic institutions and civically minded people, however fitful South Africa’s democracy may seem at times.

    Sources: New Yorker, Business Day, Daily Maverick, Washington Post, Daily Maverick

  2. Snowden’s Leaks Shook Faith in Government

    Like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden created shockwaves in the global political landscape by revealing deeply hidden state secrets. Or, maybe he merely furnished the evidence for what all of us already knew. Americans continue struggling with their response. Meanwhile world leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel fumed over her ally’s phone taps. As for Snowden, now in Russia after evading capture by the U.S., he’s hoping for relocation to Brazil — which may be aided by the fact that President Dilma Rousseff was also an unhappy target.

    Sources: The Guardian, NYT, CNN

  3. Malala Yousafzai Fights for Female Rights to Education

    Malala’s advocacy work on behalf of girls’ education earned her a number of accolades and prizes, as well as a vicious attack from the Taliban that left her and her friends fighting for their lives in hospital. Since her release, Malala has been indefatigable in her activism, and if she is the face of Pakistan’s future, the future is bright indeed. Perhaps a sign of her stature isn’t that she was denied the Nobel Peace Prize this year, but that she was considered a front-runner at only 16. 

    Sources: BBC, The Guardian, WSJ

  4. Pope Francis Garners Rock Star Status Through Everyday Humility

    The selection of Argentinian Jorge Bergoglio as the new Pope in March 2013 was a step in a new direction for the Catholic Church: he was the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, the first Jesuit, and the first non-European for more than 700 years. Francis has been radically reshaping the Church. Gone are extravagant wardrobes and expensive building renovations, as well as the obsessive focus on social issues. Pope Francis was named person of the year by Time Magazine — and by gay interest magazine The Advocate, edging out Miley Cyrus and Edie Windsor. Joseph Ratzinger he is not.

    Sources: TIME, Toronto Star, CBC, The Advocate

  5. Miley Cyrus Twerks a Cultural Nerve

    Miley Cyrus made “twerking” one of the top Google searches of the year. Her cheeky performance with Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards sent chastisers’ tongues wagging, but also sent any number of imitators’ derrières waggling. Though twerking was familiar to hip hop and rap circles, the word hardly cracked the mainstream lexicon until Cyrus provoked a furor. Sinead O’Connor, alt-goth queen Amanda Palmer, and even Catching Fire star and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence weighed in – as well as OZY readers. But at the end of the day, the outcry seemed less about Miley, and more about judgments of young women.

    Sources: MTV (Video), USA Today, National Post, People, New Statesman