The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. U.S. Troops Enter Syria and Kill Senior ISIS Commander

    They’ve crossed the line. U.S. special forces descended on the eastern Syrian city of al-Amt, the Pentagon said, killing senior ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf and capturing his wife, who may have been involved in enslaving a young Yazidi woman freed in the Friday raid. Meanwhile, the militant group has routed Iraqi forces and allied militias in the key city of Ramadi in Iraq’s western Anbar province, leaving the world wondering where ISIS — and America — will strike next.

    BBC, Stars and Stripes, McClatchy


  2. Egyptian Court Sentences Ex-President to Death

    He was the country’s first freely elected leader. But seasons change, and today a Cairo court condemned Mohammed Morsi and more than 100 others for a prison break during the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising. The revolt ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years of autocracy and fomented the 2012 ballot that put Morsi and his controversial Muslim Brotherhood party in power. They were deposed by the military a year later, and now Mubarak may be released after serving time for corruption. Ironically, the death sentences now require a non-binding review by an Islamic theologian.

    AP, The Guardian

  3. David Letterman Ends 33 Years of Late-Night Laughs

    He plans to turn in earlier and spend more time with his son. The man responsible for making late night edgy, inspiring legions of comedians and introducing the world to Top 10 lists will draw his final curtain on Wednesday. The 68-year-old — who claims he’s no longer miserable enough for comedy — has a star-studded final week, including Tom Hanks and his first-ever and final guest, Bill Murray. After the goodbyes, Stephen Colbert takes over, competing for viewers in a brave new Web-dominated entertainment world.

    Rolling Stone, NYT, NPR

  4. Crash Spotlights Amtrak’s Dim Future

    As investigators probe whether a bullet or rock struck doomed Amtrak 188 Tuesday, President Obama is demanding Congress step up to the plate. Yet just a day after the accident, the House voted along party lines to reduce Amtrak’s funding by 15 percent. Republicans say their cuts don’t affect safety, but tighter budgets stand in contrast to bursting passenger rates — Boston’s jumped 211 percent between 1997 and 2012. Conservatives have always seen the service as a boondoggle, so it’s unlikely the budget will be increased anytime soon.

    Mother Jones, WSJ (sub), Washington Post

  5. Burma’s Rohingya Flee From Squalid Internment

    The U.N. says it is one of the most persecuted minorities on Earth. A rare look into conditions at a Rohingya Muslim camp in Myanmar — full of barbed wire but scarce on necessities — helps explain why the group is fleeing at all costs. Some 2,000 have recently been rescued at sea or found ashore in other Southeast Asian countries. Thousands more are thought to be adrift as monsoon storms loom, and if they don’t get relief, it’s feared al-Qaida and others will foment a violent response to the Rohingyas’ plight.

    The Guardian

  6. Congress, Germans Embroiled in NSA Scandals

    They’re all ears. A bill to stop the NSA from secretly collecting domestic phone data en masse overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House this week, with Senate approval yet to come, in the wake of last week’s court ruling declaring the practice illegal. Now it’s surfaced that Germany, following U.S. orders, may have monitored European corporate communication — despite the denials of Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose own phone reportedly had an NSA tap. Now everyone wants to know what the tight-lipped leader heard, and when.

    Der Speigel, Wired


  1. A Father’s Love Seen Through Jaws of Death

    Sometimes dads show they care by wiping away children’s tears. For one boy who grew up in rural Mississippi, his father chose a different form of expression. This sensitive, overweight child of 12 never forgot being forced into the murky waters of the Pearl River, eye-to-eye with a 600-pound alligator. At the time, it seemed clear that Pop was trying to kill him. But years later, that boy, now a writer and father himself, ponders the lessons learned in that swamp long ago.


  2. Three Jobs Just Another Day at the Office in Poland

    Poles are 50 percent more likely than the average European to hold multiple jobs, and that can mean three or four spread across a seven-day work week. Twenty-six years after the collapse of communism, when they had to make due with the bare necessities, Poles are now determined to “work more, and faster,” for a Western lifestyle, experts say. But for some, this industriousness is driven by necessity: If they don’t double or triple up, their low wages won’t pay for their families’ food or clothing.


  3. Will Data Be Kind When It Paints Our Portraits?

    This may be hard to face. A century ago, portraiture relied on an artist’s in-person perception to divine a subject’s nature. But now an app like Crystal compiles data and sums up personalities on smartphones from thousands of miles away. Heather Dewey-Hagborg takes it to another level, doing portraits of people she’s never seen by extracting their DNA from cigarette butts or chewing gum. It may sound scary, but don’t expect regulatory efforts to obscure your likeness from painters … or posterity.


  4. Literati Drag Stealth Novelist Into the Limelight

    In an era that’s archived our most mundane scribblings, Nell Zink has written entire novels — and then deleted them. She’s been a secretary and bird journalist, and believes her stint as a bricklayer fueled her intellectual life more than college. Now, in her early 50s, she’s reluctantly publishing, with her first book out last year and her new one, Mislaid, coming out this month. In keeping with her own unlikely life story, it reads like a freakish Shakespearean comedy, set against America’s race and gender battleground.

    New Yorker 

  5. LeBron James Is Showing His Age

    Heavy is the head that wears the crown. King James is still an NBA superstar, but even royals age, and it’s time to start adjusting or preparing to pass the scepter. Analysis reveals that the Ohio native doesn’t rule inside shots like he once did, and he’s inexplicably embraced three-pointers with mediocre results. Cleveland’s savior may be emulating older players like Kobe Bryant, who shifted their approach to compensate for diminished agility. But, whatever the reason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the crown is losing its luster.