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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.

The Rise of the American Oligarchy
Michael Kinsley, New York Times Book Review | The Rise of the American Oligarchy | January 9, 2012

Thomas Frank is the thinking person’s Michael Moore. If Moore, the left-wing filmmaker, had Frank’s Ph.D. (in history from the University of Chicago), he might produce books like this one and Frank’s previous best seller, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” As you can tell from its ham-fisted title, “Pity the Billionaire” is not the world’s most subtle political critique. But subtlety isn’t everything. Frank’s best moments come when his contempt boils over and his inner grouch is released...

How Sex, Bombs and Burgers Shaped Our World
Thomas Rogers, Salon | How Sex, Bombs and Burgers Shaped Our World | January 9, 2012

Our lives today are more defined by technology than ever before. Thanks to Skype and Google, we can video chat with our family from across the planet. We have robots to clean our floors and satellite TV that allows us to watch anything we want, whenever we want it. We can reheat food at the touch of a button. But without our basest instincts — our most violent and libidinous tendencies — none of this would be possible. Indeed, if Canadian tech journalist Peter Nowak is to be believed, the key drivers of 20th-century progress were bloodlust, gluttony and our desire to get laid...

How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body
William J. Broad, The New York Times Magazine | How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body | January 8, 2012

On a cold Saturday in early 2009, Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades, whose devoted clientele includes a number of celebrities and prominent gurus, was giving a master class at Sankalpah Yoga in Manhattan. Black is, in many ways, a classic yogi: he studied in Pune, India, at the institute founded by the legendary B. K. S. Iyengar, and spent years in solitude and meditation. He now lives in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and often teaches at the nearby Omega Institute, a New Age emporium spread over nearly 200 acres of woods and gardens. He is known for his rigor and his down-to-earth style. But this was not why I sought him out: Black, I’d been told, was the person to speak with if you wanted to know not about the virtues of yoga but rather about the damage it could do...

Debate Wrap-Up
Burns & Haberman | Debate Wrap-Up | January 8, 2012

A mere handful of questions on the economy and an hour and forty-five minutes later, the ABC News debate is over...

John Brockman: The Man Who Runs the World's Smartest Website
John Naughton, The Observer | John Brockman: The Man Who Runs The World's Smartest Website | January 8, 2012

Since the mid-1960s John Brockman has been at the cutting edge of ideas. He is a passionate advocate of both science and the arts, and his website Edge is a salon for the world's finest minds...

Mitt Romney's Weekend From Hell
Maggie Haberman, Politico | Mitt Romney's Weekend From Hell | January 6, 2012

Newt’s seething. Perry’s desperate. Huntsman wants to get noticed. Santorum needs to make a mark.

All of it adds up to a long — and potentially painful — weekend for Mitt Romney, who will run the gauntlet at back-to-back New Hampshire debates. The 2012 front-runner played the pincushion role before, in the lead-up to the 2008 GOP primaries. But this time around, Romney has largely avoided being perforated by rivals. That’s likely to change on Saturday and Sunday due to a mix of personal animus and strategic imperatives...

How Michele Bachmann Went Bust
Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post | How Michele Bachmann Went Bust | January 6, 2012

On Aug. 13, 2011, Michele Bachmann was on top of the world — the winner of the Ames Straw Poll and presumptive frontrunner in the Iowa caucuses. On Wednesday, Bachmann left the presidential race after placing sixth in those same caucuses. What heppened in the 144 days between those two dates was a mix of bad luck, bad strategy and...

Excerpt: The Operators
Michael Hastings, Rolling Stone | Exclusive Excerpt: The Operators by Michael Hastings | January 5, 2012

McChrystal, Petraeus and the inside story of America's war in Afghanistan...

How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?
Charles McGrath, The New York Times | How Many Stephen Colberts Are There? | January 5, 2012

There used to be just two Stephen Colberts, and they were hard enough to distinguish. The main difference was that one thought the other was an idiot. The idiot Colbert was the one who made a nice paycheck by appearing four times a week on “The Colbert Report” (pronounced in the French fashion, with both t’s silent), the extremely popular fake news show on Comedy Central. The other Colbert, the non-idiot, was the 47-year-old South Carolinian, a practicing Catholic, who lives with his wife and three children in suburban Montclair, N.J., where, according to one of his neighbors, he is “extremely normal.” One of the pleasures of attending a live taping of “The Colbert Report” is watching this Colbert transform himself into a Republican superhero...

Japan's Tsunami Has Dealt Lasting Blow To Family Farms
John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times | Japan's Tsunami Has Dealt Lasting Blow To Family Farms | January 5, 2012

The fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, coupled with the possibility that Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact, may forever alter a 2,500-year-old tradition...