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.

Hurrican Sandy And The Myth of the Big Government-vs.-Small-Government Debate

Quite a shock the other day to look out my window in Jersey City, and see the Hudson River rushing over what used to be the street in front of my building. For nearly three days my dog and I played Robinson Crusoe and Friday, sleepily watching from our little apartment-island while we waited for hot water, cell service, the internet, even elevators to come back on line.

When I finally got back on the internet and was able to read the news again, I saw that Hurricane Sandy, in addition to being the rare storm to live up to its televised hype, had turned into the last-minute curveball plot twist that always seems to pop up in presidential races...


Chart: Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory Ever
Asawin Suebsaeng and Dave Gilson, Mother Jones | Chart: Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory Ever | November 2, 2012

Barack Obama's presidency has been an inspiration to many Americans—especially nutjobs. Ever since the first-black-president-to-be appeared on the national political stage, a cottage industry of conservative conspiracy theorists has churned out bizarro, paranoid, and just plain racist effluvia—some of which has trickled into the political mainstream. Below, we've charted some of the Obama-baiters best (i.e. worst) work. (Scroll down for more detailed descriptions of the conspiracy theories in the diagram.)...

Some Notes On The Novella
Ian McEwan, The New Yorker | Some Notes On The Novella | November 2, 2012

When a character in my recent book, “Sweet Tooth,” publishes his short first work of fiction, he finds some critics are suggesting that he has done something unmanly or dishonest. His experience reflects my own. A novella? Perhaps you don’t have the necessary creative juice. Isn’t the print rather large, aren’t the lines too widely spaced? Perhaps you’re trying to pass off inadequate goods and fool a trusting public.

Composers, including those of the highest rank, have never had such problems of scale. Who doubts the greatness of Beethoven’s piano sonatas and string quartets or of Schubert’s songs? Some, like me, prefer them to the symphonies of either man. Who could harden his heart against the intimate drama of Mozart’s G minor trio, or not lose himself in the Goldberg variations or not stand in awe of the D minor Chaconne played on a lonesome violin?...

C.I.A. Played Major Role Fighting Militants in Libya Attack
Eric Schmitt, The New York Times | C.I.A. Played Major Role Fighting Militants In Libya Attack | November 2, 2012

Security officers from the C.I.A. played a pivotal role in combating militants who attacked the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, deploying a rescue party from a secret base in the city, sending reinforcements from Tripoli, and organizing an armed Libyan military convoy to escort the surviving Americans to hastily chartered planes that whisked them out of the country, senior intelligence officials said Thursday.

The account given by the senior officials, who did not want to be identified, provided the most detailed description to date of the C.I.A.’s role in Benghazi, a covert presence that appears to have been much more significant than publicly disclosed...

A Tale Of Two New Yorks: Sandy Splits City But Its Residents Band Together
Jason Farago, The Guardian | A Tale Of Two Cities: Sandy Splits City But Its Residents Band Together | November 1, 2012

On the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Wednesday, 36 hours after the storm, New York seems in full swing. Booksellers are back out on Columbus Avenue, the movie theaters are open, the nail salons are full. The New York City Marathon – which passes through the Upper East Side and Central Park – will go ahead on Sunday, because nobody has anything better to do than clean up millions of paper cups trampled underfoot by runners blocking the avenues.

But a few miles south, it's another city. There is no power anywhere in lower Manhattan, cellphone service is spotty, and many buildings have no water or heat. Residents who'd planned for a short blackout, as happened here for one day in 2003, are facing days without power – and, as a consequence, without food or supplies...

Small Wonders
The Washington Post | Small Wonders | November 1, 2012

The winning images from Nikon's 2012 Small World Photo Micrography Competition...


Mayans Protest 'Twisting Of Truth' Over 2012 Doomsday Predictions
Jaweed Kaleem, The Huffington Post | Mayans Protest 'Twisting Of Truth' Over 2012 Doomsday Predictions | November 1, 2012

As the so-called "Mayan doomsday" approaches, the Mayans of Guatemala are speaking out against what some are calling a government- and tour business-led effort to profit off misinterpretations of their traditions.

"We are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit. They are not telling the truth about time cycles," said Felipe Gomez, who leads a Maya alliance called Oxlaljuj Ajpop, in an interview this week with Agence France-Presse...

Tall Ship HMS Bounty Sinks Off N.C. Coast; Two Still Missing
Ian Shapira, The Washington Post | Tall Ship HMS Bounty Sinks Off N.C. Coast; Two Still Missing | October 29, 2012

The Coast Guard is searching for two people off the coast of North Carolina who had been passengers aboard the tall ship HMS Bounty, which lost power in Hurricane Sandy and sank after 14 other passengers were rescued.

The Coast Guard said that a C-130 Hercules aircraft and a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter are still scouring the waters for the two missing people, who did not make it aboard lifeboats about 90 miles off Hatteras, N.C., on the Outer Banks. As of late Monday morning, the Coast Guard had not completed its interviews with the 14 survivors, and had not identified the missing people...

Four Possible Freak Election Outcomes
Alexander Burns and Emily Schultheis, Politico | Four Possible Freak Election Outcomes | October 29, 2012

Could the 2012 campaign end in a tie? Is it possible for Mitt Romney to end up as president — with Joe Biden as his vice president? Could the presidential election end up decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, again?

The short answer is: probably not. To call those outcomes improbable would be a huge understatement. The strong likelihood is that one candidate will win both the Electoral College and the popular vote on Nov. 6 and bring our long 2012 slog to an end.

But hey, it’s the end of October in a presidential election year — a hurricane is improbably threatening the Eastern seaboard — so it’s the time when a politico’s mind turns to the wild and crazy outcomes that could upend all expectations. And public polls still show a close enough race between Romney and Barack Obama that speculation is inevitable...

Paul McCartney: Yoko Didn't Break Us Up
Delia Lloyd, The Washington Post | Paul McCartney: Yoko Didn't Break Us Up | October 29, 2012

Other than Hurricane Sandy, few things can distract us right now from our single-minded focus on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 6. But on Sunday, Sir Paul McCartney managed to do just that when he announced that Yoko Ono – John Lennon’s widow — was not responsible for the break up of the world’s most famous rock band...