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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.

Egyptians Pack Tahrir To Slam Military 'Coup'

Thousands have packed Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square to denounce a power grab by the ruling military, as the nation nervously awaited the results of the first post-Mubarak presidential election.

Yet Egypt's ruling military warned it would "deal firmly" with any attempt to harm the public interest, and blamed political divisions on the release of unofficial presidential poll results by candidates...

China Successfully Completes Space Docking
Xin Dingding and Wang Qian, China Daily via The Washington Post | China Successfully Completes Space Docking | June 22, 2012
China's fourth manned spacecraft lifted off at 6:37 pm on Saturday, sending its first female astronaut into space and history. 
 
Shenzhou IX, carrying female astronaut Liu Yang and male astronauts Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province into a blue sky. 
 
The crew will stay in space for more than 10 days, during which time they will perform scientific experiments and the country's first manual space docking - a highly technical procedure that brings two vessels together in high-speed orbit...
Putting The Squeeze On A Family Ritual
Matt Richtel, The New York Times | Putting The Squeeze On A Family Ritual | June 22, 2012

At mealtime, I turn into a vaudevillian. The Contortionist. Dr. Airplane. Maestro the Great.

“I will make this bite of avocado disappear — in your mouth!”

My lovely assistant is my daughter, Mirabel, age 22 months, strapped into a highchair. She might well demur, pursing her lips. Or sometimes she’ll meet my overture with raised arms and a single word: “Out!”

It’s a challenge that will be familiar to anyone who has tried to feed a baby developing both a palate and free will...

New NSA Docs Contradict 9/11 Claims
Jordan Michael Smith, Salon | New NSA Docs Contradict 9/11 Claims | June 20, 2012

Over 120 CIA documents concerning 9/11, Osama bin Laden and counterterrorism were published today for the first time, having been newly declassified and released to the National Security Archive. The documents were released after the NSA pored through the footnotes of the 9/11 Commission and sent Freedom of Information Act requests.

The material contains much new information about the hunt before and after 9/11 for bin Laden, the development of the drone campaign in AfPak, and al-Qaida’s relationship with America’s ally, Pakistan. Perhaps most damning are the documents showing that the CIA had bin Laden in its cross hairs a full year before 9/11...

Intrigue Over Mubarak Condition Intensifies As Lawyer Offers New Account
Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times | Intrigue Over Mubarak ConditionIntensifies As Lawyer Offers New Account | June 20, 2012

A new sense of political intrigue compounded the confusion over the health of Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday when one of his lawyers contradicted what he called false reports in Egypt’s state-run media that the imprisoned former president had nearly died, insisting that Mr. Mubarak simply fell down in the prison bathroom.

The new account from the lawyer, Youssri Abdel Razeq, raised new questions not only about Mr. Mubarak’s condition but about possible motives within the military-led government that has been in charge since Mr. Mubarak was deposed in the Egyptian revolution last year...

The Rise Of The Fork
Sara Goldsmith, Slate | The Rise Of The Fork | June 20, 2012

If you live in Europe or the Americas, you likely pick up a fork every day and give no thought to it, unless you’re selecting flatware for a wedding registry or you happen to have recently returned from Asia. Using it probably seems as natural as breathing. And yet it is a bizarre object...

Unpopular Mandate
Ezra Klein, The New Yorker | Unpopular Mandate | June 19, 2012

On March 23, 2010, the day that President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, fourteen state attorneys general filed suit against the law’s requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance, on the ground that it was unconstitutional. It was hard to find a law professor in the country who took them seriously. “The argument about constitutionality is, if not frivolous, close to it,” Sanford Levinson, a University of Texas law-school professor, told the McClatchy newspapers. Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine, told the Times, “There is no case law, post 1937, that would support an individual’s right not to buy health care if the government wants to mandate it.” Orin Kerr, a George Washington University professor who had clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, said, “There is a less than one-per-cent chance that the courts will invalidate the individual mandate.” Today, as the Supreme Court prepares to hand down its decision on the law, Kerr puts the chance that it will overturn the mandate—almost certainly on a party-line vote—at closer to “fifty-fifty."...

My Turn On The 'You're Not Special' Speech
David McCullough, Jr. | My Turn On The 'You're Not Special' Speech | June 19, 2012

The other day, I found myself in a small glass room with an honest-to-goodness Nobel laureate. This came to pass because a week earlier I had told the members of the Wellesley High School class of 2012 that they are not special. While the well-meant attentions of their parents and the advantages they’ve enjoyed (or taken for granted) might have led them to think otherwise, none of them, I said, matters more than anyone else, because everyone is special, everyone matters—all 6.8 billion of us. Simple logic, really. Along the way I tried to give them a few laughs, some thoughts to ponder, and, at the end, an exhortation to make for themselves, and for the rest of us, extraordinary lives, abundant in energy and guided by a spirit of selflessness. It was a lovely ceremony, and the speech was well received....

American Children, Now Struggling To Adjust To Life In Mexico
Damien Cave, The New York Times | American Children, Now Struggling To Adjust To Life In Mexico | June 19, 2012

Jeffrey Isidoro sat near the door of his fifth-grade classroom here in central Mexico, staring outside through designer glasses that, like his Nike sneakers and Nike backpack, signaled a life lived almost entirely in the United States. His parents are at home in Mexico. Jeffrey is lost.

When his teacher asked in Spanish how dolphins communicate, a boy next to him reached over to underline the right answer. When it was Jeffrey’s turn to read, his classmates laughed and shouted “en inglés, en inglés” — causing Jeffrey to blush.

“Houston is home,” Jeffrey said during recess, in English. “The houses and stuff here, it’s all a little strange. I feel, like, uncomfortable."...

How A Dead Dog Came Back To Bite Richard Nixon's Watergate Conspirators

Nixon operatives Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman pioneered their dirty tricks on the UCLA campus -- baiting reds like me...