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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.

Insane Art Formed By Carving Books With Surgical Tools
Karan Arora, Karan Arora's Posterous | Insane Art Formed By Carving Books With Surgical Tools | February 23, 2012

Using knives, tweezers and surgical tools, Brian Dettmer carves one page at a time. Nothing inside the out-of-date encyclopedias, medical journals, illustration books, or dictionaries is relocated or implanted, only removed.

Dettmer manipulates the pages and spines to form the shape of his sculptures. He also folds, bends, rolls, and stacks multiple books to create completely original sculptural forms...

Flowers Regenerated from 30,000-Year-Old Frozen Fruits, Buried by Ancient Squirrels

Fruits in my fruit bowl tend to rot into a mulchy mess after a couple of weeks. Fruits that are chilled in permanent Siberian ice fare rather better. After more than 30,000 years, and some care from Russian scientists, some ancient fruits have produced this delicate white flower.

These regenerated plants, rising like wintry Phoenixes from the Russian ice, are still viable. They produce their own seeds and, after a 30,000-year hiatus, can continue their family line...

In Din Over Iran, Rattling Sabers Echo
Scott Shane, The New York Times | In Din Over Iran, Rattling Sabers Echo | February 22, 2012

The United States has now endured what by some measures is the longest period of war in its history, with more than 6,300 American troops killed and 46,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate costs estimated at $3 trillion. Both wars lasted far longer than predicted. The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.

So why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air?...

Navy SEALs: Obama's Secret Army
Daniel Klaidman, Newsweek | Navy SEALs: Obama's Secret Army | February 22, 2012

At a time when many Americansthink their government is inept, the 'Special Operators' get the job done. Just ask the President, who is doubling down on the Navy SEALs...

Postscript: Marie Colvin, 1957-2012
David Remnik, The New Yorker | Postscript: Marie Colvin, 1957-2012 | February 22, 2012

Last night, after a long day and before a late dinner, I sat down with my wife to watch the news on CNN. Anderson Cooper was broadcasting from a studio in New York, but his tape was from Syria. He rightly demanded that we watch a two-year-old child in the besieged city of Homs die of shrapnel wounds inflicted by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The camera stayed on the child until the last breath was out of him. His father cradled him and kept asking what his poor son had ever done to anyone to deserve it...

Can Romney Break the Hoover Curse?
Abby Ohlheiser, Slate | Can Romney Break the Hoover Curse? | February 21, 2012

Americans haven't put a successful CEO in office since 1928. If Romney is to end the drought, he'll want to avoid appearing to be the second coming of our worst president...

Science: It's Really, Really Hard, And That's Something To Celebrate

It was my high school physics class and I must have been 17, all gangly and goofy, with an embarrassingly ratty "trash stache" (though I recall thinking my black Springsteen concert T-shirt elevated me into the stratosphere of cool). We were doing an experiment designed to measure the wavelength of visible light. At the time I still didn't get math. It always seemed really, really hard. I was never sure why, or what, I was doing with the calculations. On that day something shifted. All of a sudden I understood why math and science needed to be hard...

Three Scenes Inspired by the Gingrich Campaign
Calvin Trillin | Three Scenes Inspired by the Gingrich Campaign | February 21, 2012

he C.E.O., in his usual crisp manner, began the meeting without any small talk. “Let’s get to the business at hand,” he said. “We have to find ourselves a historian, and we have to do it A.S.A.P.”

“Maybe a historian could figure out how we got this silly name,” the vice-president for marketing said. “Freddie Mac!...

John Glenn, A Hero Well Before Orbiting Earth
Scott Simon, NPR | John Glenn, A Hero Well Before Orbiting Earth | February 20, 2012

Fifty years ago, John Glenn was alone on top of a rocket waiting to blast into space and around the Earth. In these times, when people can become suddenly famous for doing so little, it may be good to recall the daring and imagination of that moment on Feb. 20, 1962.

Two Russians, Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov, had already dauntlessly orbited the Earth. The Soviets kept their missions secret until they were under way, but John Glenn would fly with the eyes of the world watching every second...

Embracing the Drone
B.C. Henning, The New York Times | Embracing the Drone | February 20, 2012

Drones — more formally armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs — are “in.” Since a Predator strike in Yemen against Al Qaeda in November 2002 — the first known use of a drone attack outside a theater of war — the United States has made extensive use of drones. There were nearly four times as many drone strikes in Pakistan during the first two years of the Obama administration as there were during the entire Bush administration...