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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.

Indian Computer Tablet Could Herald an Internet Revolution
Jason Burke, The Guardian | Indian Computer Tablet Could Herald an Internet Revolution | January 13, 2012

In a laboratory on a leafy campus in the Indian desert city of Jodhpur, Professor Prem Kalra believes he is overseeing a revolution. It takes the form of a computer "tablet" – a basic form of device similar to the Apple iPad – which can be made and sold for under £35.

Already 100,000 of the devices, called Aakash, which means "sky" or "ether" in the local Hindi language, are to be manufactured for testing.

Within weeks a new version, which will allow hundreds of millions of Indians in remote rural areas to connect to the internet via local mobile phone networks, will be launched...

Inside the Fed in 2006: A Coming Crisis, and Banter
Binyamin Appelbaum, The New York Times | Inside the Fed in 2006: A Coming Crisis, and Banter | January 13, 2012

As the housing bubble entered its waning hours in 2006, top Federal Reserve officials marveled at the desperate antics of home builders seeking to lure buyers.

The officials laughed about the cars that builders were offering as signing bonuses, and about efforts to make empty homes look occupied. They joked about one builder who said that inventory was “rising through the roof.”

But the officials, meeting every six weeks to discuss the health of the nation’s economy, gave little credence to the possibility that the faltering housing market would weigh on the broader economy, according to transcripts that the Fed released Thursday...

Present at the Counterculture's Creation
Ben Ratliff, The New York Times | Present at the Counterculture's Creation | January 13, 2012

Testifying at the Chicago Seven trial in 1970, Ed Sanders identified himself to Judge Julius Hoffman as a “poet, songwriter, leader of a rock-and-roll band, publisher, editor, recording artist, peace-creep.” He lived in the East Village, which, as he writes in his great-souled memoir of the 1960s, was a “Do-It-Now zone.” The book portrays him doing many things.  Which was the most interesting?...

Adventures with an Extreme Polyglot: Excerpt from 'Babel No More'
Michael Erard, Bookbeast | Adventures with an Extreme Polyglot: Excerpt from 'Babel No More' | January 12, 2012

On a quest to find the person we could say spoke the most languages in the world, I stumbled on the online personae of a language learning guru and hyperpolyglot, Alexander Arguelles, who invited me to Berkeley, California, where he was living at the time. It was my first introduction to the life of the contemporary hyperpolyglot. On many mornings, once Alexander has greeted the sun doing extensive writing exercises in Chinese, Arabic, Latin, Russian, Persian, German, and other languages, he goes for a long run in the arid hills of the park above his neighborhood, while listening to a German audiobook tape on his Walkman. (So far, he eschews the MP3.) Marathon lengths are easy for him—once, he says, he got lost in the woods and ended up running more than thirty miles, though he felt faint. Later someone told him that long-distance runners have to eat every two hours, which came as a revelation; he finds the carbohydrate goo disgusting. He eschews that, too...

Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival
A.G. Sulzberger, The New York Times | Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival | January 12, 2012

In an ideal world, vegetarians would be built like camels. Not humpbacked, of course, but able to sustain themselves through long stretches by tapping stored energy reserves, like previously consumed soy products.

But after the first three dinners in my new hometown, where I moved from New York to cover the Midwest for this newspaper, even this veteran vegetarian was flagging...

The Herbivore's Dilemma
Alexandra Harney, Slate | The Herbivore's Dilemma | January 12, 2012

Ryoma Igarashi likes going for long drives through the mountains, taking photographs of Buddhist temples and exploring old neighborhoods. He's just taken up gardening, growing radishes in a planter in his apartment. Until recently, Igarashi, a 27-year-old Japanese television presenter, would have been considered effeminate, even gay. Japanese men have long been expected to live like characters on Mad Men, chasing secretaries, drinking with the boys, and splurging on watches, golf, and new cars.

Today, Igarashi has a new identity (and plenty of company among young Japanese men) as one of the soushoku danshiliterally translated, "grass-eating boys."...

Blaming U.S. and Israel, Iran Reports Killing of Nuclear Scientist
Alan Cowell and Rick Gladstone, The New York Times | Blaming U.S. and Israel, Iran Reports Killing of Nuclear Scientist | January 11, 2012

A bomber on a motorcycle killed a scientist from Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site and his bodyguard-driver on Wednesday during the morning commute in Tehran, Iranian media reported, in an assassination that could further elevate international tensions over the Iranian nuclear program and stoke the country’s growing anti-Western belligerence...

In Defense of Political Journalists
John Cassidy, The New Yorker online | In Defense of Political Journalists | January 11, 2012

...I would offer the perhaps heretical suggestion that political journalism, far from having gone into a terminal decline, is in better shape now than it was back in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, which some hold up as a golden age. Back then, the American media world was a cozy oligopoly, and, like all oligopolies, it limited its output. On television, the three networks provided half an hour of evening news, much of it unrelated to politics, and, from 1980 onwards, one decent late-night news show: ABC Nightline. In print, the big metropolitan papers and the three newsweeklies dominated things, largely to the exclusion of other players...

The Autumn of Joan Didion
Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic | The Autumn of Joan Didion | January 11, 2012

Women who encountered Joan Didion when they were young received from her a way of being female and being writers that no one else could give them. She was our Hunter Thompson, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem was our Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He gave the boys twisted pig-fuckers and quarts of tequila; she gave us quiet days in Malibu and flowers in our hair. “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold,” Thompson wrote. “All I ever did to that apartment was hang fifty yards of yellow theatrical silk across the bedroom windows, because I had some idea that the gold light would make me feel better,” Didion wrote. To not understand the way that those two statements would reverberate in the minds of, respectively, young men and young women is to not know very much at all about those types of creatures...

Ron Paul on the 2012 Campaign Trail: 1,000 Points of Darkness
James Hohmann and Charles Mahtesian, Politico | Ron Paul on the 2012 Campaign Trail: 1,000 Points of Darkness | January 10, 2012

It’s a nation that permits the assassination of private citizens, a place where the military can arrest you at will. The unemployment rate is higher than officials let on. The economy is careening toward crisis. Violent street demonstrations are on the horizon. The government edges toward tyranny and dictatorship.

Welcome to Ron Paul’s America...