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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.

Out of Afghanistan: Incredible Stories of the boys Who Walked To Europe
Caroline Brothers, The Guardian | Out of Afghanistan: Incredible Stories of the Boys Who Walked to Europe | January 30, 2012

Behind the security bars of a spartan, white-tiled room, 25 youths are arranging bedrolls on the floor. The workers on the Salvation Army nightshift, who watch over these lone foreign teenagers in a shelter in a gritty corner of Paris, are distributing sheets and sleeping bags; there are a couple of boys from Mali and a contingent of Bangladeshis; the rest have travelled overland, by every conceivable method, from Afghanistan...

The Bookstore's Last Stand
Julie Bosman, The New York Times | The Bookstore's Last Stand | January 30, 2012

In March 2009, an eternity ago in Silicon Valley, a small team of engineers here was in a big hurry to rethink the future of books. Not the paper-and-ink books that have been around since the days of Gutenberg, the ones that the doomsayers proclaim — with glee or dread — will go the way of vinyl records. No, the engineers were instead fixated on the forces that are upending the way books are published, sold, bought and read: e-books and e-readers. Working in secret, behind an unmarked door in a former bread bakery, they rushed to build a device...

Blue Marble 2012: NASA Releases High Definition Image Of Earth
Huffington Post Science | Blue Marble 2012: NASA Releases High Definition Image Of Earth | January 27, 2012

NASA on Wednesday released "Blue Marble 2012," a view of the home planet that the agency calls the "most amazing high definition image of Earth."...

Dirty Money
Matthew Yglesias, Slate | Dirty Money | January 27, 2012

The astonishing new data showing that simply eliminating inefficient fossil fuel subsidies could achieve half the world's carbon reduction goals...

Kim Jong-nam Claims North Korea Reformist Mantle
Takashi Yokota, The Daily Beast | Kim Jong-nam Claims North Korea Reformist Mantle | January 26, 2012

It’s been a month since North Korea’s Kim Jong-il met his maker, but the outside world has yet to hear whether Kim Jong-un, his young successor, has any plans to chart a different future for the impoverished nuclear state.

But according to a new book that hit shelves in Japan last week, the new ruler’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, has an idea—one that has kept him from returning to Pyongyang. In My Father, Kim Jong-il, and I, author Yoji Gomi, a reporter at Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, reveals three interviews and 150 email exchanges he’s had with Kim Jong-nam—many of them critical of the policies adopted by his father’s regime. In those correspondences, Kim Jong-nam spoke of his conviction that reform is the only way forward for North Korea, and questions whether his half-brother can better the lives of his countrymen...

Bill Gates: 'Have to raise Taxes'
MJ Lee, Politico | Bill Gates: "Have to raise taxes" | January 26, 2012

Bill Gates said Thursday that the county’s has got to hike taxes and the wealthy should shoulder a greater burden of the increase, while he rejected any close correlation between job creation and the level of taxes...

In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad
Charles Duhigg and David Barboza, The New York Times | In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad | January 26, 2012

...Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors...

U.S. Swoops In and Frees Two From Pirates
Jeffrey Gettleman, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, The New York Times | U.S. Swoops In and Frees Two From Pirates | January 26, 2012

Around 2 a.m. Wednesday, elders in the Somali village of Galkayo said they began hearing an unusual sound: the whirl of helicopters. It was the culmination of a daring and risky mission by about two dozen members of the Navy Seals to rescue two hostages — an American aid worker and her Danish colleague — held by Somali pirates since October. The commandos had dropped down in parachutes under a cloak of darkness while 8,000 miles away President Obama was preparing to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday night. The commandos hiked two miles from where they landed, grabbed the hostages and flew them to safety...

K Street's Boom Goes Bust
Anna Palmer, Politico | K Street's Boom Goes Bust | January 23, 2012

K Street boom days have come and gone.

A bad economy and rigid stalemates on Capitol Hill took its toll on big firms for the second year in a row, with seven out of the 10 biggest lobbying groups reporting flat or negative revenues in 2011, a significant contrast with the double-digit growth many of the same firms experienced in the mid-2000s, according to recently filed federal lobbying reports...

The Obama Memos
Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker | The Obama Memos | January 23, 2012

On a frigid January evening in 2009, a week before his Inauguration, Barack Obama had dinner at the home of George Will, the Washington Post columnist, who had assembled a number of right-leaning journalists to meet the President-elect. Accepting such an invitation was a gesture on Obama’s part that signalled his desire to project an image of himself as a post-ideological politician, a Chicago Democrat eager to forge alliances with conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill. That week, Obama was still working on an Inaugural Address that would call for “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.”...