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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.

Polemicist Who Slashed All, Freely, With Wit
William Grimes, The New York Times | Polemicist Who Slahsed All, Freely, With Wit | December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell who trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy and Mother Teresa, wrote a best-seller attacking religious belief, and dismayed his former comrades on the left by enthusiastically supporting the American-led war in Iraq, died Thursday at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He was 62...

Why Do People Still Deny Climate Change?
Gene Lyons, Salon | Why Do People Still Deny Climate Change? | December 15, 2011

At the expense of being tedious, from a climatological perspective, 2011 was a real killer — both figuratively and literally. If not quite so hot as 2010, which tied 1998 for the warmest in recorded history, it’s likely to end up among the top 10, all occurring over the past 15 years according to the World Meteorological Organization...

At Iraq War's end, Wounds Are Still Fresh for Fallujah
Jack Healy, The New York Times | At Iraq War's End, Wounds Are Still Fresh For Fallujah | December 15, 2011

Once an inner ring of Iraq’s wartime inferno, Falluja is only too eager to say goodbye to nearly nine shattering years of raids, bombings and house-to-house urban combat. At least 200 American troops were killed in this city. Untold thousands of Iraqis died, civilians and insurgents who are mourned equally as martyrs...

Don't Support Your Local Bookseller
Farhad Manjoo, Slate | Don't Support Your Local Bookseller | December 15, 2011

Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you...

We're Already At War With Iran
Jordan Michael Smith, Salon | We're Already At War With Iran | December 14, 2011

Even as the United States winds down its war with Iraq, former vice-president Dick Cheney is calling for another war in the Middle East. On Tuesday he advised the Obama administration to launch a “quick air strike” against Iran after it captured a U.S. drone flying in its airspace. According to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, “the Obama administration’s decision not to risk war by going in and destroying the drone reflects its desire to avoid catastrophic escalation. For Cheney, all-out war appears not to be a risk, but a desired outcome.”

Cheney need not worry—he will likely get his wish in time. The United States is already at war with Iran. A covert, low-level war, yes. But a war nonetheless...

The Attack on "All-American Muslim"
Amy Davidson | The Attack on "All-American Muslim" | December 14, 2011

Dearborn, Michigan, is the city in America with the highest proportion of Muslims. That is not a new development. Immigrants from the Middle East began arriving in the area generations ago, when jobs building cars were still a lure—which should give a sense of the community’s vintage. Some still work in the auto industry, including Angela Jaafar, who is a marketer, and is married to Mike, a deputy chief in the sheriff’s office. The Jaafars and their children form one of five Dearborn families featured on “All-American Muslim,” a reality show, on TLC, created by some of the same team behind “Real Housewives of New York.” The show has become the target of an ugly campaign by a group called the Florida Family Association, which calls it “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”...

In California, Indian Tribes With Casino Money Cat Off Members
James Dao, The New York Times | In California, Indian Tribes With Casino Money Cast Off Members | December 14, 2011

The six-page, single-spaced letter that Nancy Dondero and about 50 of her relatives received last month was generously salted with legal citations and footnotes. But its meaning was brutally simple. “It is the decision by a majority of the Tribal Council,” the letter said, “that you are hereby disenrolled.”...

WWF Announces Discovery of Over 200 Species in Greater Mekong Area

A brightly coloured gecko, a fish that looks like a gherkin, and a monkey with a hairstyle similar to Elvis Presley were among the more than 200 species discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year, the environmental group WWF has said...

Is Russia's Mikhail Prokhorov a Fake Challenger for Vladimir Putin?
Anna Nemtsova, The Daily Beast | Is Russia's Mikhail Prokhorov a Fake Challenger for Vladimir Putin? | December 13, 2011

Billionaire New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has declared his intention to run against Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency in March. But opposition figures say his candidacy's a sham to help legitimize the election...

Speed of Light Lingers in Face of New Camera
John Markoff, The New York Times | Speed of Light Lingers in Face of New Camera | December 13, 2011

More than 70 years ago, the M.I.T. electrical engineer Harold (Doc) Edgerton began using strobe lights to create remarkable photographs: a bullet stopped in flight as it pierced an apple, the coronet created by the splash of a drop of milk. Now scientists at M.I.T.’s Media Lab are using an ultrafast imaging system to capture light itself as it passes through liquids and objects, in effect snapping a picture in less than two-trillionths of a second...