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.

We're Already At War With Iran
Jordan Michael Smith, Salon | We're Already At War With Iran | December 14, 2011

Even as the United States winds down its war with Iraq, former vice-president Dick Cheney is calling for another war in the Middle East. On Tuesday he advised the Obama administration to launch a “quick air strike” against Iran after it captured a U.S. drone flying in its airspace. According to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, “the Obama administration’s decision not to risk war by going in and destroying the drone reflects its desire to avoid catastrophic escalation. For Cheney, all-out war appears not to be a risk, but a desired outcome.”

Cheney need not worry—he will likely get his wish in time. The United States is already at war with Iran. A covert, low-level war, yes. But a war nonetheless...

The Attack on "All-American Muslim"
Amy Davidson | The Attack on "All-American Muslim" | December 14, 2011

Dearborn, Michigan, is the city in America with the highest proportion of Muslims. That is not a new development. Immigrants from the Middle East began arriving in the area generations ago, when jobs building cars were still a lure—which should give a sense of the community’s vintage. Some still work in the auto industry, including Angela Jaafar, who is a marketer, and is married to Mike, a deputy chief in the sheriff’s office. The Jaafars and their children form one of five Dearborn families featured on “All-American Muslim,” a reality show, on TLC, created by some of the same team behind “Real Housewives of New York.” The show has become the target of an ugly campaign by a group called the Florida Family Association, which calls it “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”...

In California, Indian Tribes With Casino Money Cat Off Members
James Dao, The New York Times | In California, Indian Tribes With Casino Money Cast Off Members | December 14, 2011

The six-page, single-spaced letter that Nancy Dondero and about 50 of her relatives received last month was generously salted with legal citations and footnotes. But its meaning was brutally simple. “It is the decision by a majority of the Tribal Council,” the letter said, “that you are hereby disenrolled.”...

WWF Announces Discovery of Over 200 Species in Greater Mekong Area

A brightly coloured gecko, a fish that looks like a gherkin, and a monkey with a hairstyle similar to Elvis Presley were among the more than 200 species discovered in the Greater Mekong region last year, the environmental group WWF has said...

Is Russia's Mikhail Prokhorov a Fake Challenger for Vladimir Putin?
Anna Nemtsova, The Daily Beast | Is Russia's Mikhail Prokhorov a Fake Challenger for Vladimir Putin? | December 13, 2011

Billionaire New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has declared his intention to run against Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency in March. But opposition figures say his candidacy's a sham to help legitimize the election...

Speed of Light Lingers in Face of New Camera
John Markoff, The New York Times | Speed of Light Lingers in Face of New Camera | December 13, 2011

More than 70 years ago, the M.I.T. electrical engineer Harold (Doc) Edgerton began using strobe lights to create remarkable photographs: a bullet stopped in flight as it pierced an apple, the coronet created by the splash of a drop of milk. Now scientists at M.I.T.’s Media Lab are using an ultrafast imaging system to capture light itself as it passes through liquids and objects, in effect snapping a picture in less than two-trillionths of a second...

Gingrich's Doodles
Jacob Weisberg, Slate | Gingrich's Doodles | December 10, 2011

These notes and doodles, handwritten by Newt Gingrich, appear in a series of exhibits appended to a report published on Jan. 17, 1997 by the House Select Committee on Ethics. The notes are mainly from the period leading up to his big 1994 victory. The text at left reads:

Gingrich—Primary Mission

—Advocate of civilization

—definer of civilization

—Teacher of the rules of civilization

—arouser of those who form civilization

—Organizer of the pro-civilization activists

—leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces...

The 'Green' Debate on Christmas Trees: Fresh vs. Fake?
Darryl Fears and Robert Samuels, The Washington Post | The 'Green' Debate on Christmas Trees: Fresh vs. Fake? | December 10, 2011

This Christmas, Vicki Freshley will proudly show off her prized fake fir.

In her eyes, it’s a beautiful thing, as nice as any real Christmas tree — nine feet tall, emerald and fluffy, and decked out with so many eye-popping trimmings that her brother stopped in his tracks when he saw it and said, “Oh my God.”

But in the eyes of many environmentalists, Freshley could have made a better choice than buying that artificial tree last year at a Costco near her home in Gaithersburg. Even tree huggers are encouraging Americans to go out every December and buy a real tree from a lot or go to a farm, cut one down, and drag it home because tree farms are good for the atmosphere...

The 10 Best Books of 2011
The New York Times | The 10 Best Books of 2011 | December 10, 2011

Choosing our 10 Best Books of the Year was not an arbitrary process, but neither was it a scientific one. How could it be, when the editors here, like all readers, respond subjectively to any work of fiction or nonfiction? The one guideline for the 10 was that they had to have been reviewed in our pages sometime in the past 12 months...

Obama's Square Deal
E.J. Dionne, Jr., The Washington Post Opinion | Obama's New Square Deal | December 8, 2011

President Obama has decided that he is more likely to win if the election is about big things rather than small ones. He hopes to turn the 2012 campaign from a plebiscite about the current state of the economy into a referendum about the broader progressive tradition that made us a middle-class nation. For the second time, he intends to stake his fate on a battle for the future...