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.

What We Know About The Obscure Film That Sparked The Deadly Riots In Libya

...Not a whole lot more is known about his film, Innocence of Muslims, which appears to have been screened only once, to a near empty theater in Hollywood earlier this year. Judging by the 13-minute trailer posted to YouTube in July, the film is supposed to be a "satirical" portrayal of the life of Muhammad. In addition to its criminally low production values, the film also takes care to portray Muhammad as a pedophile-appeasing, bumbling spreader of false doctrine. The offensive Muhammad narrative is interspersed with scenes of bearded men in generic Middle Eastern streets raiding missionary hospitals and threatening and killing young Christian women...

Where Cows Are Happy And Food Is Healthy
Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times Op Ed | Where Cows Are Happy And Food Is Healthy | September 12, 2012

Food can be depressing. If it’s tasty, it’s carcinogenic. If it’s cheap, animals were tortured.

But this, miraculously, is a happy column about food! It’s about a farmer who names all his 230 milk cows, along with his 200 heifers and calves, and loves them like children.

Let me introduce Bob Bansen, a high school buddy of mine who is a third-generation dairyman raising Jersey cows on lovely green pastures here in Oregon beside the Yamhill River...

The Deafness Before The Storm
Kurt Eichenwald, International Herald Tribune Opinion | The Deafness Before The Storm | September 11, 2012

It was perhaps the most famous presidential briefing in history.

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.

That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them..

The Disappeared: How The Fatwa Changed A Writer's Life
Salman Rushdie, The New Yorker | The Disappeared: How The Fatwa Changed A Writer's Life | September 10, 2012

Afterward, when the world was exploding around him, he felt annoyed with himself for having forgotten the name of the BBC reporter who told him that his old life was over and a new, darker existence was about to begin. She called him at home, on his private line, without explaining how she got the number. “How does it feel,” she asked him, “to know that you have just been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini?” It was a sunny Tuesday in London, but the question shut out the light. This is what he said, without really knowing what he was saying: “It doesn’t feel good.” This is what he thought: I’m a dead man. He wondered how many days he had left, and guessed that the answer was probably a single-digit number. He hung up the telephone and ran down the stairs from his workroom, at the top of the narrow Islington row house where he lived. The living-room windows had wooden shutters and, absurdly, he closed and barred them. Then he locked the front door...

Why I Left The GOP
Jeremiah Goulka, Salon | Why I Left The GOP | September 10, 2012

I used to be a serious Republican, moderate and business-oriented, who planned for a public-service career in Republican politics.  But I am a Republican no longer.

There’s an old joke we Republicans used to tell that goes something like this: “If you’re young and not a Democrat, you’re heartless. If you grow up and you’re not a Republican, you’re stupid.” These days, my old friends and associates no doubt consider me the butt of that joke. But I look on my “stupidity” somewhat differently.  After all, my real education only began when I was 30 years old...

Martin Scorsese Plans Roger Ebert Documentary
Ben Child, The Guardian | Martin Scorsese Plans Roger Ebert Documentary | September 10, 2012

Scorsese has optioned Ebert's book Life Itself: A Memoir, which follows the American film critic's public triumphs and personal struggles...

The New York Times Book Review | The New York Times Book Review | September 9, 2012

Bob Woodward, Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Auster, "The Yellow Birds" and more...

At Antietam, Desperate, Bloody Battle Let To A Civil War Turning Point
Michael E. Ruane, The Washington Post | At Antietam, Desperate, Bloody Battle Let To A Civil War Turning Point | September 9, 2012

A spine of gray limestone runs north and south through the legendary cornfield here, just breaking the surface and leaving a path where no corn can grow.

For a century and a half, the elements have scoured the dirt, and crops have come and gone. But the stone has remained, scarred and smoothed by the plow and the weather.

In this stony cornfield, the doomed 1st Texas lost, along with its flag, 82 percent of its men. Here, the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam exploded in fury, and here, a crucial, bloody step was taken toward the end of slavery in America.

“Of all the days on all the fields where American soldiers have fought, the most terrible by almost any measure” was here at Antietam, historian Stephen W. Sears wrote in his classic 1983 study of the battle.

In the late summer and fall of 1862, as the Civil War moved through its second year, it had reached frightful new levels of violence, which would grow as the war went on...

An Open Letter To Wikipedia
Philip Roth, The New Yorker | An Open Letter To Wikipedia | September 9, 2012

Dear Wikipedia,

I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed. This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip—there is no truth in it at all.

Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”...

The Slaughter Of Elephents In Vietnam Is Nearly Complete
Mark McDonald, International Herald Tribune | The Slaughter Of Elephants In Vietnam Is Nearly Complete | September 7, 2012

The plight of elephants in Africa is being explained, in graphic and saddening detail, in a new series of stories by my colleague Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times. “An epic elephant slaughter,” he calls it, with poachers wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year for their ivory.

The killing has now reached a kind of frenzy, and even military units in central Africa are involved, gunning down elephants from their helicopters. Ivory tusks, most of them bound for China, have become the new blood diamonds.

The poachers have already done their worst in Vietnam. Along with developers, loggers, villagers and negligent bureaucrats, they have conspired to reduce the wild elephant population to just a few dozen...