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.

Gingrich's Doodles
Jacob Weisberg, Slate | Gingrich's Doodles | December 10, 2011

These notes and doodles, handwritten by Newt Gingrich, appear in a series of exhibits appended to a report published on Jan. 17, 1997 by the House Select Committee on Ethics. The notes are mainly from the period leading up to his big 1994 victory. The text at left reads:

Gingrich—Primary Mission

—Advocate of civilization

—definer of civilization

—Teacher of the rules of civilization

—arouser of those who form civilization

—Organizer of the pro-civilization activists

—leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces...

The 'Green' Debate on Christmas Trees: Fresh vs. Fake?
Darryl Fears and Robert Samuels, The Washington Post | The 'Green' Debate on Christmas Trees: Fresh vs. Fake? | December 10, 2011

This Christmas, Vicki Freshley will proudly show off her prized fake fir.

In her eyes, it’s a beautiful thing, as nice as any real Christmas tree — nine feet tall, emerald and fluffy, and decked out with so many eye-popping trimmings that her brother stopped in his tracks when he saw it and said, “Oh my God.”

But in the eyes of many environmentalists, Freshley could have made a better choice than buying that artificial tree last year at a Costco near her home in Gaithersburg. Even tree huggers are encouraging Americans to go out every December and buy a real tree from a lot or go to a farm, cut one down, and drag it home because tree farms are good for the atmosphere...

The 10 Best Books of 2011
The New York Times | The 10 Best Books of 2011 | December 10, 2011

Choosing our 10 Best Books of the Year was not an arbitrary process, but neither was it a scientific one. How could it be, when the editors here, like all readers, respond subjectively to any work of fiction or nonfiction? The one guideline for the 10 was that they had to have been reviewed in our pages sometime in the past 12 months...

Obama's Square Deal
E.J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post Opinion | Obama's New Square Deal | December 8, 2011

President Obama has decided that he is more likely to win if the election is about big things rather than small ones. He hopes to turn the 2012 campaign from a plebiscite about the current state of the economy into a referendum about the broader progressive tradition that made us a middle-class nation. For the second time, he intends to stake his fate on a battle for the future...

U.S. Base in Iraq a Funnel for Troops and Equipment Heading Out
David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times | U.S. Base in Iraq a Funnel for Troops and Equipment Heading Out | December 8, 2011

And then Moses spoke: "Let my people go."

Not that Moses. This would be David Moses. Captain, U.S. Army.

Moses' people — a rapidly shrinking U.S. military force — are pouring daily through this base in Iraq's southern desert on their way out of the country. It is Moses' mission to keep the floor of troops and equipment flowing south to Kuwait, retracing the route thousands of U.S. troops and their armor took when they entered Iraq more than eight years ago...

Inside the Geeky, Revolutionary World of "Minecraft"
Rob Spillman, Salon | Inside the Geeky, Revolutionary World of "Minecraft" | December 8, 2011

Can a video game change the world? At the "Minecraft" convention in Las Vegas, crazily costumed obsessives say yes...

Producer Miyahara Wants More J-Pop on The World Stage
Mark Jarnes, The Japan Times | Producer Miyahara Wants More J-Pop on the World Stage | December 7, 2011

Miyahara feels passionately about stimulating and rejuvenating the J-pop scene. "What we in Japan need to be is more assertive on the world stage," he says. "We have Toyota, we have Sony. We have sushi and tempura, and we even have anime. We don't really have music yet, and that's in my sights. We need to overcome these difficult times in the (Japanese) music industry right now."...

December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor in Images
Callie Oettinger, Command Posts | December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor in Images | December 7, 2011

Forty-one remarkable photographs of the attack and its immediate aftermath, with detailed captions...

Walter Lord, Day of Infamy, and an Inspired 12-Year-Old Writer
Eric Hammel, Command Posts | Walter Lord, Day of Infamy, and an Inspired 12-Year-Old Writer | December 7, 2011

I am a product of World War II, an early baby boomer. My father was wounded on Okinawa, and I was always aware of his status as a veteran of the war. The war certainly played a role in shaping me...

Tiny Tax on Financial Trades Gains Advocates
Steven Greenhouse and Graham Bowley, The New York Times | Tiny Tax on Financial Trades Gains Advocates | December 6, 2011

They call it the Robin Hood tax — a tiny levy on trades in the financial markets that would take money from the banks and give it to the world’s poor. And like the mythical hero of Sherwood Forest, it is beginning to capture the public’s imagination.

Driven by populist anger at bankers as well as government needs for more revenue, the idea of a tax on trades of stocks, bonds and other financial instruments has attracted an array of influential champions, including the leaders of France and Germany, the billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and George Soros, the consumer activist Ralph Nader, Pope Benedict XVI and the archbishop of Canterbury...