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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.

Philadelphia Pepper Pot: The Soup That Won The American Revolution
Oliver Thring, The Guardian | Philadelphia Pepper Pot: The Soup That won The American Revolution | December 30, 2011

It's the 234th birthday of this inventive dish that, as legend has it, revitalized George Washington's troops to help them win the war...

The Christmas War On Atheism: What's the Religious Right Whining About When It's Really Non-Believers Who Are Under Attack?
Alex DiBranco, AlterNet | The Christmas War On Atheism | December 28, 2011

 

 
 
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It’s that time of year when, if you tune into Fox News or right-wing talk radio, you’re sure to hear the phrase “war on Christmas” repeated ad infinitum. Perhaps you’ve also seen Rick Perry’s new war on Christmas ad, which gives the added gift of rabid homophobia, while absurdly accusing President Barack Obama of leading a war on religion. But in reality, this year, like most years, it's right-wing Christians who are waging a war on the right of non-believers to avoid having religion shoved down their throats...

UnderObama, An Emerging Global Apparatus For Drone Killing
Greg Miller, The Washington Post | Under Obama, An Emerging Global Apparatus For Drone Killing | December 28, 2011

The Obama administration’s counterterrorism accomplishments are most apparent in what it has been able to dismantle, including CIA prisons and entire tiers of al-Qaeda’s leadership. But what the administration has assembled, hidden from public view, may be equally consequential.

In the space of three years, the administration has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries...

Turtles Show Way To Prosperity
Vincent M. Mallozzi, The New York Times | Turtles Show Way To Prosperity | December 28, 2011

The turtles in a large aquarium in a Midtown window often bring passers-by to a halt, even those used to seeing the unexpected.

“Everyone who passes this store wants to know about the turtles,” said Johnny Lu, whose business specializes in the manufacture and sale of coral and pearl jewelry. “I tell them that my family owes everything we have to the turtles.”...

UC-Berkeley And Other 'Public Ivies' In Fiscal Peril
Daniel de Vise, The Washington Post | UC-Berkeley and Other 'Public Ivies' In Fiscal Perils | December 27, 2011

Across the nation, a historic collapse in state funding for higher education threatens to diminish the stature of premier public universities and erode their mission as engines of upward social mobility.

At the University of Virginia, state support has dwindled in two decades from 26 percent of the operating budget to 7 percent. At the University of Michigan, it has declined from 48 percent to 17 percent...

Navigating Love And Autism
Amy Harmon, The New York Times | Navigating Love and Autism | December 27, 2011

The first night they slept entwined on his futon, Jack Robison, 19, who had since childhood thought of himself as “not like the other humans,” regarded Kirsten Lindsmith with undisguised tenderness. She was the only girl to have ever asked questions about his obsessive interests — chemistry, libertarian politics, the small drone aircraft he was building in his kitchen — as though she actually cared to hear his answer. To Jack, who has a form of autism called Asperger syndrome, her mind was uncannily like his. She was also, he thought, beautiful...

Ron Paul's House Record Marked By Bold Strokes, And Futility
David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post | Ron Paul's House Record Marked By Bold Strokes, And Futility | December 27, 2011

The passage of H.R. 2121, in fall 2009, unfolded without drama. It allowed for the sale of a customhouse in Galveston, Tex. The House debate took two minutes, and the vote took eight seconds. The ayes had it. But something historic was happening. On his 482nd try, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) had authored a bill that would become law...

Life And Letters
Roger Angell, The New Yorker | Life And Letters | December 26, 2011

Christmas has flown, and mail at home this week will produce shiny bargain-sale notices, some bills and invitations, an early thank-you note for a gift, and a late Christmas card or two, but perhaps not an actual letter. There’s nothing new about this, but a bit of sadness, a pang, has remained since the Postal Service announced, last month, that it will soon drop any promises of next-day delivery for first-class letters...

Vast Rally In Moscow Is A Challenge To Putin's Power
Ellen Barry and Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times | Vast Rally In Moscow Is A Challenge To Putin's Power | December 25, 2011

Tens of thousands of citizens converged in Moscow on Saturday for the second huge antigovernment demonstration in a month, an early victory for activists struggling to forge a burst of energy into a political force capable of challenging Vladimir V. Putin’s power...

Newt Gingrich's Bipolar Mother Kit Gingirch and His Difficult Childhood
Gail Sheehy, The Daily Beast | Newt Gingrich's Bipolar Mother Kit Gingrich and His Difficult Childhood | December 25, 2011

Gingrich's painful childhood was scarred by his mother's manic-depression -- and a distant, violent stepfather. The Daily Beast's Gail Sheehy draws upon dozens of interviews with family members to trace the former speaker's path, including his mother's assertion that she "almost didn't" survive his childhood and his stepfather's admission that he once "smashed [Newt] against the wall" for breaking curfew...