The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Americans Struggle as Germany Grabs Most Gold

    A week into the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and the international competition is already (predictably) turning cutthroat. For the most gold hardware, Germany leads the pack with seven gold medals, Switzerland comes in second with five, and tied for third are Canada, Norway, Russia, the Netherlands and the U.S. — with four each. But there have been a few surprises. The Americans were disappointed by halfpipe favorite Shaun White, who didn’t make the freestyle skiing podium. And warm weather threatens to turn the Sochi slopes into slush. Fortunately there’s indoor skating to watch.

    Sources: TulsaWorld, BBC, and more BBCNYT

  2. North American Leaders to Meet in Mexico

    To mark NAFTA’s 20th anniversary, President Obama is meeting Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian PM Stephen Harper next week. The summit in Toluca comes on the heels of a year of economic and political reform in Mexico. On the agenda: trade and investment, and competitiveness and security issues, with an eye toward the next 20 years. Expect immigration to be a heated topic after last month’s congressional failure to pass reform. But there may be better news on the energy front.

    Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, Reuters, OZY

  3. Wendy Davis — Democrat, Texan, Gubernatorial Candidate — Attempts to Lean In

    She gained a national profile for a pro-choice filibuster in the state Capitol. Now Wendy Davis wants to spin her trailer-park-to-Harvard story all the way to the Governor’s Mansion. But it’s becoming clear that her story isn’t just about leaning blue in a red state, but about double-standards that still exist for women in politics. Her race may have the most ink this week, but she’s not alone — 2014 is a big year for gubernatorial races, already viewed as a potential crystal ball for the parties’ White House chances in 2016. 

    Sources: NYT Magazine, NYT

  4. Polio Reemerges in War-Ravaged Syria

    The human toll of conflict is often measured in the immediate casualties of battle. But in Syria it’s the collapse of the healthcare infrastructure that could become the new killer. In 1995, the polio virus was eliminated through systematic vaccination. As Syria becomes increasingly unstable, however, reports of the disease’s re-emergence trouble UN health officials. Ninety cases have been documented across seven of 14 administrative districts; perhaps unsurprisingly, the infections have been exclusively recorded in non-government controlled areas. 

    Source: NYT

  5. Dramatic End to U.S. Hockey Game, Syrian Peace Talks Fail

    Wild shootout ends dramatic Olympic U.S. men’s hockey game. (NYT, USA Today).

    Deadlock continues after failure at the Syrian peace talks table. (BBC, Al Jazeera).

    After brawl erupts during debate, Turkey MPs pass judicial reforms. (CNN, BBC).

    Making catwalk history: How the Ebony Fashion Fair changed America. (NPR).

    Actress Ellen Page comes out as gay, hopes to “make a difference.” (CBC).

  6. U.S. Leads Battle Against Illicit Wildlife Trade

    It’s a graphic reminder of the illicit wildlife trade that is driving animals to extinction: killing African elephants simply for the ivory of their tusks. Obama has signed a new strategy to help fight the illegal trade and tackle related international organized crime rings. With illegal rhino horns sold for as much as $45,000 a pound — roughly the same price as gold — there are fears that such trade is being used to finance other illicit activity. As the U.S. administration prepares to take a stronger stand, conservationists are using unmanned drones to protect the vulnerable herds. 

    Sources: National Geographic, The Telegraph, CNN


  1. NFL Prospect Suffers for his Academic Dedication

    When football player Myrone Rolle was awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford, he was left with a tough decision: take up the academic opportunity of a lifetime or pursue a career in the NFL – options which didn’t seem to be mutually exclusive. But after taking the “no-brainer” scholarship, Rolle returned to a harsh reality. He slipped to the 207th overall pick at the 2010 draft and was treated as a curiosity by coaches and teammates who couldn’t see beyond his academic prowess. Ultimately, Rolle retired without appearing in a regular-season game.  

    Source: SB Nation

  2. Is The Next Silicon Valley In Vietnam?

    Flappy Bird: it’s last week’s craze, but before its developers pulled the mobile game for being too “addictive,” it was one of the most downloaded apps ever. This is just a taste of some of the big out-of-the-box ideas coming out of Vietnam’s teeming tech bubble. Supported by the Communist Party’s new funding for the private sector, young digital entrepreneurs have embarked on “The Silicon Valley Project.” It’s an ambitious idea: to transform Vietnam from leading small parts producer to the next driving force for technological ideas. If Flappy Bird was any indication, Vietnam has the potential to soar.

    Source: The Atlantic

  3. Could One Board Game Make or Break Monopoly?

    Klaus Teuber was an unhappy dental technician looking to escape his world, so he created a new one — in a board game. In The Settlers of Catan, players build their own island colony and work together for a better economic outcome. Thirty years later, Teuber is worth millions of dollars, and one of the few people to make a living off a board game — one that many compare to Monopoly, and is giving Boardwalk a run for its money.

    Source: New Yorker

  4. History Has Abused the Unattractive — and We’re No Different

    It’s an unspoken truth that beauty is an acceptable form of discrimination: from job interviews to courtrooms. But this is not a new factor of our celebrity-obsessed culture; it has been a mainstay throughout human history. The Ancient Greeks despised the ugly as weak, while the German philosopher Nietzsche believed that it reminded man of “decay, danger, powerlessness.” The disadvantages are obvious, but for those on the lower end of the spectrum, it seems the only option is to put on a brave face.  

    Source: Aeon

  5. A Different Point of View on Egypt and Gitmo: Feminist and Art

    An American belly-dancer in Cairo faces constant harassment and limited career advancement because she won’t give male fans the “favors” demanded of working in five-star establishments. Across the globe in Guantanamo, two female U.S. veterans wrestle with male advances of their own, as well as conflicting views over the treatment of mostly Muslim prisoners. Their stories are told through graphic novel format — we recommend viewing on a tablet — and beg the question: Are the hulking figures that haunt them really figments or the caricatures that loom over us all? 

    Sources: Narratively, and more Narratively

  6. The Tiny Group That Has Animated Films For The Ages

    It’s a specific, eerie coincidence. The 1970s California Institute of the Arts produced some of the greatest animators of our time; those behind Aladdin, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Beauty and the Beast came almost entirely from the same small pool. Many sat in the same classes and were influenced by CalArts’ founder Walt Disney’s death and the Vietnam War. Their “big bang” created countless childhood memories and will likely shape animation for years to come.

    Source: Vanity Fair