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Daily Briefing

Deep buzz for the content-deprived

Every weekday, while you get showered and dressed, we pluck these dewy- fresh, breaking stories from the info-clogged byways of the datasphere. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and stoke up on everything you need to know, or at least enough to fake it.

Life With Syria's Rebels In A Cold And Cunning War
C.J. Chivers, The New York Times | Life With Syria's Rebels In A Cold And Cunning War | August 21, 2012

Abdul Hakim Yasin, the commander of a Syrian antigovernment fighting group, lurched his pickup truck to a stop inside the captured residential compound he uses as his guerrilla base.

His fighters had been waiting for orders for a predawn attack on an army checkpoint at the entrance to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. The men had been issued ammunition and had said their prayers. Their truck bomb was almost prepared.

Now the commander had a surprise...

This Feature Will Return In A Few Weeks
David Stanford, Duty Officer, Doonesbury.com | | July 27, 2012
This Feature Will Return In A Few Weeks
David Stanford, Duty Officer, Doonesbury.com | | July 27, 2012
This Feature Will Return In A Few Weeks
David Stanford, Duty Officer, Doonesbury.com | | July 27, 2012
New Film Captures Ai Weiwei's Defiance
Dan Levin, The Daily Beast | New Film Captures Ai Weiwei's Defiance | July 27, 2012

A new documentary captures how China's most famous artist has also become the country's most well-known dissient.

Known for their smug brutality, police in China do not, as a matter of course, get interrogated—especially not by the people whom they beat and harass. Yet there’s a remarkable scene in Alison Klayman’s new documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry in which Ai, the Chinese artist-turned-dissident walks into a Chengdu police station, trailed by his camera-wielding entourage and demands an investigation into his assault months earlier by the city’s police force. Surprised, the officers respond by taking out their own cameras, as the scene turns into a tense face-off that serves as a metaphor for the artist’s harrowing four-year battle against the Chinese state. The film, which opens in the U.S. on Friday, is a riveting look at Chinese tyranny and the people who fight back...

Mystery Tug On Spacecraft Is Einstein's 'I Told You So'
Dennis Overbye, The New York Times | Mystery Tug On Spacecraft Is Einstein's 'I Told You So' | July 27, 2012

It’s been a bad year to bet against Albert Einstein.

In the spring physicists had to withdraw a sensational report that the subatomic particles known as neutrinos were going faster than light, Einstein’s cosmic speed limit; they discovered they had plugged in a cable wrong.

Now scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have reported that they have explained one of the great mysteries of the space age, one that loomed for 30 years as a threat to the credibility of Einsteinian gravity...

Florida At The Forefront As States Plan Fresh Assault On Voting Rights
Ed Pilkington, The Guardian | Florida At The Forefront As States Plan Fresh Assult On Voting Rights | July 26, 2012

Voting rights groups are struggling to hold back a tide of new laws that are likely to make it harder for millions of Americans to vote in the presidential election in November and could distort the outcome of the race for the White House.

Since January 2011, 19 states have passed a total of 24 laws that create hurdles between voters and the ballot box. Some states are newly requiring people to show government-issued photo cards at polling stations. Others have whittled down early voting hours, imposed restrictions on registration of new voters, banned people with criminal records from voting or attempted to purge eligible voters from the electoral roll...

Ferrigno Rift, Antarctica 'Grand Canyon,' Discovered Beneath Ice
Andrea Mustain, Our Amazing Planet | Ferrigno Rift, antarctica 'Grand Canyon,' Discovered Beneath Ice | July 26, 2012

A dramatic gash in the surface of the Earth that could rival the majesty of the Grand Canyon has been discovered secreted beneath Antarctica's vast, featureless ice sheet.

Dubbed the Ferrigno Rift for the glacier that fills it, the chasm's steep walls plunge nearly a mile down (1.5 kilometers) at its deepest. It is roughly 6 miles (10 km) across and at least 62 miles (100 km) long, possibly far longer if it extends into the sea.

The rift was discovered during a grueling 1,500-mile (2,400 km) trek that, save for a few modern conveniences, hearkens back to the days of early Antarctic exploration. And it came as a total surprise, according to the man who first sensed that something incredible was literally underfoot, hidden by more than a half-mile (1 km) of ice...

IED Blasts Spike In Afghanistan War As The Wounded Flow Home
David Wood, The Huffington Post | IED Blasts Spike In Afghanistan War As The Wounded Fly Home | July 26, 2012

Roadside bombs in Afghanistan are taking a growing toll on American troops this summer as blasts from improvised explosive devices tear off arms and legs of soldiers and Marines, including one who survived the traumatic amputation of both arms and both legs.

They are the latest of almost 50,000 Americans wounded during 11 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, including some 16,000 catastrophically wounded. IEDs and other blasts have shorn off 1,653 limbs during the two wars, according to Pentagon records. Among the wounded are five who lost all four limbs...

Brand Police Are On The Prowl For Ambush Marketers At London Games
David Segal, The New York Times | Brand Police Are On The Prowl For Ambush Marketers At London Games | July 25, 2012

It is one of the fiercest contests at the Olympics, but it is not on any list of events. Every two years, the International Olympic Committee and the host city battle companies that want to bask in the Games’ prestige and global exposure but have not paid the small fortune required to be an official sponsor.

Ambush marketing, as it is called, has been around for decades, and no company has practiced this dark art with more verve and success than Nike. The triumphs of the sportswear giant, and other ambushers, have compelled the I.O.C. to impose ever more stringent rules to keep corporate crashers away from the party...