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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.

Secret Assad Emails Lift Lid on Life of Leader's Inner Circle
Robert Booth, The Guardian | Secret Assad Emails Lift Lid on Life of Leader's Inner Circl | March 16, 2012

Bashar al-Assad took advice from Iran on how to handle the uprising against his rule, according to a cache of what appear to be several thousand emails received and sent by the Syrian leader and his wife.

The Syrian leader was also briefed in detail about the presence of western journalists in the Baba Amr district of Homs and urged to "tighten the security grip" on the opposition-held city in November...

Karzai Sharply Criticizes U.S. Over Shooting Inquiry
Matthew Rosenberg and Sharifullah Sahak, The New YorkTimes | Karzai Sharply Criticizes U.S. Over Shooting Inquiry | March 16, 2012

President Hamid Karzai chastised the United States on Friday, saying that he was at “the end of the rope” over what he termed the United States’ lack of cooperation in investigating the American soldier accused of going on a rampage earlier this month and killing 16 civilians in southern Afghanistan...

Is Silence Going Extinct?
Kim Tingley, The New York Times | Is Silence Going Extinct? | March 16, 2012

Setting off in the predawn gloaming of central Alaska, we were the sounds of swishing snow pants, crunching boots and cold puffs of breath. As sunrise gradually lightened the late November sky, we took visible shape: a single-file parade on a narrow white trail traveling west, deeper into Denali National Park and Preserve. It was three degrees and so still that when we pulled up to rest, I heard no wind, no sibilant leaves, just a barely perceptible ringing in my ears. Tundra swans, kestrels and warblers had all flown south. Grizzlies were asleep in their dens. We tramped over frozen streams and paused to discover water still trickling faintly in hollows below...

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs
Greg Smith, International Herald Tribune, Opinion | Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs | March 15, 2012

Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it...

Is The V-Bomb The New F-Bomb? Can We Limit Jokes Naming Female Anatomy?
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post | Is The V-Bomb The New F-Bomb? Can We Limit Jokes Naming Female Anatomy? | March 14, 2012

Is the V-bomb the new F-bomb?

And if so, can we declare a moratorium?

In the new comedy “21 Jump Street,” opening Friday, leading men Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill deliver four jokes featuring the word “vagina.” But they’re running a close second to Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott and their co-stars in “Friends With Kids,” an uneven, fitfully funny romantic comedy in which the word is uttered no fewer than five times, a fusillade that grows more grating with every gynecologically themed zinger...

When Gen. Grant Expelled the Jews
Jonathan D. Sarna, Slate | When Gen. Grant Expelled the Jews | March 14, 2012

On Dec. 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history: “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from the department within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.” Known as General Orders No. 11, the document blamed Jews for the widespread smuggling and cotton speculation that affected the area under Grant’s command...

Nina Turner, Ohio State Senator, Introduces Viagra Bill To Counter Anti-Contraception Legislation

As a member of a heavily male- and GOP-dominated state Senate since 2008, Ohio legislator Nina Turner says she has cringed watching her colleagues pass bill after bill to regulate women's reproductive health. Now, the Democrat has become the latest in a series of female state legislators to give her male colleagues a taste of their own medicine by introducing a bill that limits men's ability to get a Viagra prescription without meeting certain government conditions.

"We should show the same attention and love to men's reproductive health as we do to women's," Turner told HuffPost. "And my bill does that."...

'Emo' Killings Raise Alarms in Iraq
Lara Jakes, Associated Press | 'Emo' Killings Raise Alarms in Iraq | March 12, 2012

Young people who identify themselves as so-called Emos are being brutally killed at an alarming rate in Iraq, where militias have distributed hit lists of victims and security forces say they are unable to stop crimes against the subculture that is widely perceived in Iraq as being gay...

The End of Japanese Illusions
Yoichi Funabashi, International Herald Tribune Opinion | The End of Japanese Illusions | March 12, 2012

March 11, 2011, was a transformational moment for the Japanese people. It not only shattered the public myth of absolute safety that had been nurtured by the Japanese nuclear-power industry and its proponents. It also destroyed Japan’s self-image as a “safe and secure nation” that grew out of the country’s pacifism since World War II...

Harlem Churches See A Boom Of Tourists Seeking Gospel Music, Buyt Congregants Bristle At Rudeness

The stern warning issued from the pulpit was directed at the tourists – most of whom had arrived late – a sea of white faces with guidebooks in hand. They outnumbered the congregation itself: a handful of elderly black men and women wearing suits and dresses and old-fashioned pillbox hats.

"We're hoping that you will remain in place during the preaching of the Gospel," a church member said over the microphone at this Harlem church on a recent Sunday morning. "But if you have to go, go now. Go before the preacher stands to preach."...