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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.

Obama Mama:

When depicting their family origins for public consumption, American presidents tend to downplay the importance of Dad while idealizing Mom. Dwight D. Eisenhower described his mother, who was a pacifist and Jehovah's Witness, as "saintly." Richard Nixon called Hannah Milhous Nixon a "Quaker saint." Jimmy Carter wrote one of his many post-presidential books about his "remarkable mother," Miss Lillian, who went to India with the Peace Corps at the age of 68. George W. Bush identified with saber-toothed Barbara as a way of differentiating himself from the male parent he physically resembled...

For Microsoft, Skype Opens Vast New Market in Telecom
Steve Lohr, The New York Times | For Microsoft, Skype Opens Vast New Market in Telecom | May 11, 2011

Microsoft has peered into the future, and placed a bet that people the world over want to stay in touch with someone anytime and anywhere — preferably at no cost...

Unspoken Truths
Christopher Hitchins, Vanity Fair | Unspoken Truths | May 10, 2011

Until cancer attacked his vocal chords, the author didn't fully appreciate what was meant by "a writer's voice," or the essential link between speech and prose. As a man who loved to talk, he turns to the masters of such conversation, both in history and in his own circle...

Mississippi River Crests in Memphis
Judith Tackett and Campbell Robertson, The New York Times | Mississippi River Crests in Memphis | May 10, 2011

The Mississippi River crested here Tuesday morning, flooding low-lying neighborhoods in the city but falling short of record levels that would have caused far more damage. The river topped out at 47.8 feet early Tuesday, far above flood stage, but 4 inches lower than the predicted crest of 48 feet and almost a foot lower than the record crest of 48.7 feet in 1937...

Tiny Brown Is Still Hungry For Buzz
Peter Sevenson, The New York Times Magazine | Tina Brown Is Still Hungry For Buzz | May 9, 2011

Around sunset on a recent spring evening in Manhattan, a nervous-looking young woman was clutching a clipboard outside the entrance to the East 57th Street apartment belonging to Tina Brown and Harry Evans. Guests were shown into a large room filled with fresh-cut flowers, caterers bearing trays of hors d’oeuvres and wall-to-wall chatter. The hum was baritone: men in suits outnumbered women in heels two to one. The billionaire chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz — whose book, “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul,” was the reason for the party — stood a head taller than the crowd, watching with a smile as flush-cheeked beefy guys from his scrappy youth in Canarsie, Brooklyn, knocked back the free booze...

Pakistan-U.S. Rift Widens
Siobhan Gorman and Matthew Rosenberg, The Wall Street Journal | Pakistan-U.S. Rift Widens | May 9, 2011

Pakistani media aired the name of a man they said is the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief, prompting questions about whether the Pakistani government tried to out a CIA operative in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. is looking into the matter. There are no plans at this time to withdraw the station chief. If the government had attempted to publicize the name, that would be the second such outing in the past six months, a sign of how deeply U.S.-Pakistan relations have soured...

Now. to Find a Parking Spot, Drivers Look on Their Phones
Matt Richtel, The New York Times | Now, to Find a Parking Spot, Drivers Look on Their Phones | May 9, 2011

It is the urban driver’s most agonizing everyday experience: the search for an empty parking place. It is part sleuthing and part blood sport. Circling, narrowly missing a spot, outmaneuvering other motorists to finally ease into a space only to discover that it is off limits during working hours. In this city, it is also a vexing traffic problem. Drivers cruising for parking spots generate 30 percent of all downtown congestion, city officials estimate. Now San Francisco professes to have found a solution — a phone app for spot-seekers that displays information about areas with available spaces...     

50 Years After Trial, Eichmann Secrets Live On
Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times | 50 Years After Trial, Eichmann Secrets Live On | May 9, 2011

Germany is famous for confronting its Nazi past. But confronting the years after the war is another matter. The latest proof comes as the country’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, refuses to declassify several thousand secret files detailing what Adolf Eichmann, the high-ranking Nazi who helped orchestrate the Holocaust, was doing between 1945 and his capture by Mossad agents in Buenos Aires in 1960. More than a few Germans have been speculating that the refusal has as much to do with tarnishing a cherished era as with betraying potential sources...       

Inked for Mom: A Brief History of the "I Love Mom" Tattoo for Mother's Day
Noreen Malone, Slate | Inked for Mom | May 7, 2011

When it comes to honoring one's mother, there are the things you do—the flowers you might have ordered for this Sunday—and, just as important, the things you don't do: I'd like to remind my own sainted mother of the bail she never had to post, the terrible men I haven't dated, the tattoos I decided against. But while the materfamilias Malone might weep at the sight of even the most delicate design peeking out from beneath her daughter's shirt, a tattoo dedicated to Mom is in fact one of the most iconic American maternal tributes...

FBI set to kill secret-stealing Russian 'botnet.' Is your computer infected?
Mark Clayton, The Christian Science Monitor | FBI set to kill secret-stealing Russian 'botnet." Is your computer infected? | May 7, 2011

The FBI might be asking your permission soon to reach into your computer and rip something out. And you don’t know it’s there. In a first for US law enforcement efforts to make the Internet more secure, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized control of a Russian cybercrime enterprise that has enslaved millions of personal computers and may have gained access to US diplomatic, military, and law enforcement computer systems...