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.

Letter From China: Got A Degree And An Idea? Go To China
Evan Osnos, The New Yorker | Letter From China: Got A Degree And An Idea? Go To China | June 26, 2012

...In China, immigration poses new questions, and the philosophical and practical pressures are very different. For centuries, it was not an issue: beset by poverty and upheaval, the Chinese were the ones headed abroad, and hardly anyone was showing up looking for shelter. Now that the tables have turned, the legal infrastructure is lacking. As recently as the mid-eighties, foreigners registered in Beijing were not permitted to leave a radius of twenty kilometers from Tiananmen Square, without permission, according to China Daily...

As Rebels Attack Elite Guards, Assad Talks of 'State of War'
Rod Nordland, The New York Times | As Rebels Attack Elite Guards, Assad Talks of 'State of War' | June 26, 2012

A surprise assault by lightly armed Syrian insurgents on a military base housing the elite Republican Guard in Damascus, just a few miles from the Presidental Palace, elicited a furious military response on Tuesday, with government forces shelling surrounding neighborhoods in an escalation that brought combat in the Syrian conflict close to the heart of the capital. Anti-government activists estimated at least 33 people were killed in the artillery barrages of the Damascus suburb of Qudssaya aimed at the Free Syrian Army insurgents, less than three miles northwest of President Bashar al-Assad’s official residence, and on Barzeh in northern Damascus, about three miles northeast...

A Photo Finish Too Close To Call, Even By Camera
Sam Borden, The New York Times | A Photo Finish Too Close To Call, Even By Camera | June 25, 2012

It was track’s version of Bush v. Gore. Potential fame and fortune were on the line for the winner, if those in charge could only figure out who had won. In this case, hanging chads were not the issue. Rather, it was a photograph — or thousands of them, taken within a second — that somehow failed to reveal who had finished in third place and earned a spot on the United States Olympic track and field team for this summer’s London Games...

Sonia Gandhi Health Mystery Sets India Leadership Adrift
Bruce Riedel, The Daily Beast | Sonia Gandhi Health Mystery Sets India Leadership Adrift | June 25, 2012

The Indian economy is slowing down, and the impact will be global. One of the fastest-growing economies of the last decade has slipped from almost 9 percent growth to less than 6 percent. The reasons are many, but questions about the leadership at the top are a problem. The woman who ran the world’s largest democracy for much of the last decade, Sonia Gandhi, is apparently in poor health, and the Indian political establishment senses change is coming...

Review: Me @ The Zoo
David Wiegand, The San Francisco Chronicle | Me @ The Zoo | June 25, 2012

The world shifted a bit on its axis on April 23, 2005. On that night, Jawed Karim uploaded a video to a site he and others had recently created called YouTube. He named the video simply for what it was, "Me @ the Zoo."

That's also the title of a weird but compelling documentary airing Monday night on HBO about a young man who'd be judged fairly outrageous in any community, but especially in the city of Bristol, Tenn...

Egyptians Pack Tahrir To Slam Military 'Coup'

Thousands have packed Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square to denounce a power grab by the ruling military, as the nation nervously awaited the results of the first post-Mubarak presidential election.

Yet Egypt's ruling military warned it would "deal firmly" with any attempt to harm the public interest, and blamed political divisions on the release of unofficial presidential poll results by candidates...

China Successfully Completes Space Docking
Xin Dingding and Wang Qian, China Daily via The Washington Post | China Successfully Completes Space Docking | June 22, 2012
China's fourth manned spacecraft lifted off at 6:37 pm on Saturday, sending its first female astronaut into space and history. 
Shenzhou IX, carrying female astronaut Liu Yang and male astronauts Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province into a blue sky. 
The crew will stay in space for more than 10 days, during which time they will perform scientific experiments and the country's first manual space docking - a highly technical procedure that brings two vessels together in high-speed orbit...
Putting The Squeeze On A Family Ritual
Matt Richtel, The New York Times | Putting The Squeeze On A Family Ritual | June 22, 2012

At mealtime, I turn into a vaudevillian. The Contortionist. Dr. Airplane. Maestro the Great.

“I will make this bite of avocado disappear — in your mouth!”

My lovely assistant is my daughter, Mirabel, age 22 months, strapped into a highchair. She might well demur, pursing her lips. Or sometimes she’ll meet my overture with raised arms and a single word: “Out!”

It’s a challenge that will be familiar to anyone who has tried to feed a baby developing both a palate and free will...

New NSA Docs Contradict 9/11 Claims
Jordan Michael Smith, Salon | New NSA Docs Contradict 9/11 Claims | June 20, 2012

Over 120 CIA documents concerning 9/11, Osama bin Laden and counterterrorism were published today for the first time, having been newly declassified and released to the National Security Archive. The documents were released after the NSA pored through the footnotes of the 9/11 Commission and sent Freedom of Information Act requests.

The material contains much new information about the hunt before and after 9/11 for bin Laden, the development of the drone campaign in AfPak, and al-Qaida’s relationship with America’s ally, Pakistan. Perhaps most damning are the documents showing that the CIA had bin Laden in its cross hairs a full year before 9/11...

Intrigue Over Mubarak Condition Intensifies As Lawyer Offers New Account
Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times | Intrigue Over Mubarak ConditionIntensifies As Lawyer Offers New Account | June 20, 2012

A new sense of political intrigue compounded the confusion over the health of Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday when one of his lawyers contradicted what he called false reports in Egypt’s state-run media that the imprisoned former president had nearly died, insisting that Mr. Mubarak simply fell down in the prison bathroom.

The new account from the lawyer, Youssri Abdel Razeq, raised new questions not only about Mr. Mubarak’s condition but about possible motives within the military-led government that has been in charge since Mr. Mubarak was deposed in the Egyptian revolution last year...