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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.

Taylor Receives 50 Years for 'Heinous' Crimes in War
Marlise Simons and J. David Goodman, The New York Times | Taylor Receives 50 Years for 'Heinous' Crimes in War | May 30, 2012

Charles G. Taylor, the former president of Liberia and a once-powerful warlord, was sentenced on Wednesday to 50 years in prison over his role in atrocities committed in Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s.

The judge presiding over the sentencing in an international criminal court near The Hague said Mr. Taylor had been found guilty of “aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history"...

Hope: The Sequel
John Heilemann, New York Magazine | Hope: The Sequel | May 30, 2012

David Plouffe sits in his White House office, just a few steps from the Oval, staring at an oversize map of these United States. It’s late afternoon on May 9, two hours after Barack Obama’s declaration that his evolution on gay marriage has reached its terminus. The president is down the hall and on the phone, discussing his decision’s theological implications with several prominent African-American pastors—while Plouffe is being queried about its political dimensions by a querulous Caucasian reporter. The map at which Plouffe is gazing isn’t the electoral kind with the states shaded blue and red; as a federal employee, he notes wryly, “I’m not permitted to have one on the wall.” But given the way his head is hardwired, I’m pretty sure Plouffe is seeing those colors regardless...

Secret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will
Jo Becker and Scott Shane, The New York Times | Secret 'Kill List' Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will | May 29, 2012

This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years. President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces...

'Hell and Back Again': PBS Airs Documentary on Wounded Marine
Jesse Ellison, The Daily Beast | 'Hell and Back Again': PBS Airs Documentary on Wounded Marine | May 28, 2012

Sergeant Nathan Harris has a tendency to pull down his pants to show strangers the Frankenstein-like scar that runs across one buttock and all the way down his right leg. He shows it to an elderly greeter at Walmart, and to the guy who escorts Harris and his wife around a house they hope to rent. It’s as if he needs to prove something --to show that there’s a reason he’s driving a motorized wheelchair; to excuse the fact that a stranger catches Harris doubled over his walker, in a drugged-out stupor. Harris is the subject of Hell and Back Again, an Oscar-nominated documentary that premieres nationwide Monday night on PBS’s Independent Lens...

'I Was There': On Kurt Vonnegut
William Deresiewicz, The Nation | 'I Was there': On Kurt Vonnegut | May 28, 2012

“The cruelest thing you can do to Kerouac,” Hanif Kureishi has a character say in The Buddha of Suburbia, “is reread him at thirty-eight.” If that was true, I wondered as I opened the first two volumes of the Library of America’s ongoing series of the complete novels, then what of Vonnegut at a decade older still? The two are linked, of course, as items on the syllabus of adolescent male samizdat that used to go like this: Mad magazine at 13, Vonnegut at 15, Salinger at 17, Hunter Thompson at 18, Kerouac at 20. (When you got real big, you read Kundera.)...

How The Chicken Conquered The World
Jerry Adler and Andrew Lawler, Smithsonian | How The Chicken Conquered The World | May 28, 2012

The chickens that saved Western civilization were discovered, according to legend, by the side of a road in Greece in the first decade of the fifth century B.C. The Athenian general Themistocles, on his way to confront the invading Persian forces, stopped to watch two cocks fighting and summoned his troops, saying: “Behold, these do not fight for their household gods, for the monuments of their ancestors, for glory, for liberty or the safety of their children, but only because one will not give way to the other.” The tale does not describe what happened to the loser, nor explain why the soldiers found this display of instinctive aggression inspirational rather than pointless and depressing. But history records that the Greeks, thus heartened, went on to repel the invaders, preserving the civilization that today honors those same creatures by breading, frying and dipping them into one’s choice of sauce. The descendants of those roosters might well think—if they were capable of such profound thought—that their ancient forebears have a lot to answer for...

My Break With The Extreme Right
Michael Fumento, Salon | My Break with the Extreme Right | May 26, 2012

I worked for Reagan and wrote for National Review. But the new hysterical right cares nothing for truth or dignity...

In Brazil, A Showdown Over Rainforest Deforestation
Taylor Barnes, The Christian Science Monitor | In Brazil, A Showdown Over Rainforest Deforestation | May 26, 2012

A throng of students, young professionals, and activists gathered on the lawn as dusk took over the towering parliament and Planalto, Brazil’s executive branch. They took their tambourines and whistles, promising to camp out until midnight and serenaded the president: “Oh Dilma! You can veto it! Brazil will support you!”

Theirs was the latest in a series of nationwide protests in recent months over a proposed reform of the 1965 “Forest Code” that will, as currently written, effectively legalize the deforestation of tens of millions of Amazon jungle after the fact and reduce requirements on landowners to reforest protected areas...

Nail Armstrong Breaks His Silence to Give Accountants Moon Exclusive

As the first person to walk on the moon, he is a man whose name will be remembered for generations to come. But one of the other well-known things about Neil Armstrong is that he hardly ever gives interviews.

It was therefore something of a coup for Alex Malley, chief executive of Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia, to secure almost an hour of Armstrong's time to discuss the astronaut's trip to the moon...

In Vatican Whodunit, a Punch Line of a Suspect
Rachel Donadio, The New York Times | In Vatican Whodunit, a Punch Line of a Suspect | May 26, 2012

A mysterious source named Maria. A room furnished with a single chair where sensitive Vatican documents are turned over to an investigative journalist at regular meetings. The arrest of the pope’s butler. Perhaps the greatest breach in centuries in the wall of secrecy that surrounds the Vatican...