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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.

Is Obama Grounding JFK's Space Legacy?
Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan, USA Today | Is Obama Grounding JFK's Space Legacy? | May 26, 2011

A half century has passed since Kennedy challenged our citizenry to do what most thought to be impossible. The subsequent American achievements in space were remarkable: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab. Our efforts enhanced international cooperation with Apollo-Soyuz, the space shuttle and the International Space Station. The compelling fascination of our space achievements among young people spurred their interest in education...

A God Is Dead, But It's Business That May Suffer Most
Jim Yardley, The New York Times | A God Is Dead, But It's Business That May Suffer Most | May 26, 2011

His face adorns the yellow motorized rickshaws zipping down the streets. Billboards bear his simple motto, “Love All, Serve All.” His portrait hangs in almost every shop: a tiny man with a gravity-defying crown of curly hair regarded by millions of worldwide devotees as a god. Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who declared himself a “living god” as a teenager and spent decades assembling a spiritual empire, permeates every corner of this small Indian city. He transformed it from a village of mud huts into a faith center with a private airport, a university, two major hospitals, rising condominium towers and a stadium — a legacy now forcing a question upon his followers: What happens when a god dies?...

Herman Cain's Enron-esque Disaster
Andy Kroll, Mother Jones | Herman Cain's Enron-esque Disaster | May 25, 2011

What GOP presidential contender Herman Cain lacks in political experience, he likes to say, he makes up for with decades' worth of success in corporate America. He climbed the corporate ladder at the Pillsbury Company, chaired the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and rescued the failing Godfather's Pizza franchise. That business-centric message has won Cain his share of admirers: a focus group convened after a recent Fox News presidential debate overwhelmingly declared Cain the winner...

Bay Area Native Jon Huntsman Jr. May Run in 2012
Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle | Bay Area Native Jon Huntsman Jr. May Run in 2012 | May 25, 2011

Republican Jon Huntsman Jr., the former U.S. ambassador to China, has a political profile that sets him apart from the pack of possible 2012 GOP presidential candidates. For starters, he starred in a 2004 advertisement with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger lobbying for congressional action on climate change...

A Tree Hugger, With a Twist
Henry Fountain, The New York Times | A Tree Hugger, With a Twist | May 25, 2011

Stefan Schnitzer paused along one of the trails that crisscross this forested island in the Panama Canal waterway. Around him were trees, their high canopies muting the light from the tropical sun, the occasional woody vine, or liana, climbing up their thick trunks. But Dr. Schnitzer’s attention was turned to a break in the forest just a few yards off the trail. There, in harsher sunlight, a tree stump was all but obscured by a riot of lianas, their tangled stems forming a heavy thicket. Clearly the tree had come down at some point, which created an opening in the forest canopy that allowed the vines to run amok...

GOP Braces for Medicare Blowback
Jennifer Haberkorn & John Bresnahan, Politico | GOP Braces for Medicare Blowback | May 24, 2011

This week, an off-year special election in Buffalo and a purely symbolic vote in the Senate might tell Republicans all they need to know about the mercurial politics of Medicare reform...

O'Malley, O'Mara...O'Bama?
Henry Chu, The Los Angeles Times | O'Malley, O'Mara...O'Bama? | May 24, 2011

Until recently, Moneygall's most famous son wasn't even human. It was a horse, Papillon, who streaked to the title as a long shot in a nail-biter at Britain's prestigious Grand National race in 2000. But for months now, the modest sign marking Papillon's achievement has been muscled aside by pictures celebrating the new hero in this tiny pit stop on the Dublin-to-Limerick road: President Obama -- or, as they like to call him here, Barack O'Bama...

The Syrian Problem
Steve Coll, The New Yorker | The Syrian Problem | May 24, 2011

The Damascus Spring of 2001 was so called because Syrian democrats hoped that President Bashar al-Assad, a mild-mannered doctor trained in London, who had been installed as the successor to his ruthless father, Hafez, might forswear tyranny. That Spring ended, and some of the hopeful landed in torture rooms. Four years later, activists issued the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change, which called on Assad to hold free parliamentary elections, “launch public freedoms,” and “abolish all forms of exclusion in public life.” Instead, he imprisoned the document’s leading signatories...

Religion and Sex Quiz
Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, Op Ed | Religion and Sex Quiz | May 23, 2011

Faith is a huge force in American life, and it’s common to hear the Bible cited to bolster political and moral positions, especially against same-sex marriage and abortion. So here’s my 2011 religion quiz. Choose the best responses (some questions may have more than one correct answer)...

Free Speech on Twitter Faces Test
Claire Cain Miller and Ravi Somaiya, The New York Times | Free Speech on Twitter Faces Test | May 23, 2011

What began as seamy gossip about an affair between a famous British soccer player and a reality TV star has quickly become another test over how far the rights to privacy and free speech extend online, where social media operate in countries with vastly different laws...