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.

Mayans Protest 'Twisting Of Truth' Over 2012 Doomsday Predictions
Jaweed Kaleem, The Huffington Post | Mayans Protest 'Twisting Of Truth' Over 2012 Doomsday Predictions | November 1, 2012

As the so-called "Mayan doomsday" approaches, the Mayans of Guatemala are speaking out against what some are calling a government- and tour business-led effort to profit off misinterpretations of their traditions.

"We are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit. They are not telling the truth about time cycles," said Felipe Gomez, who leads a Maya alliance called Oxlaljuj Ajpop, in an interview this week with Agence France-Presse...

Tall Ship HMS Bounty Sinks Off N.C. Coast; Two Still Missing
Ian Shapira, The Washington Post | Tall Ship HMS Bounty Sinks Off N.C. Coast; Two Still Missing | October 29, 2012

The Coast Guard is searching for two people off the coast of North Carolina who had been passengers aboard the tall ship HMS Bounty, which lost power in Hurricane Sandy and sank after 14 other passengers were rescued.

The Coast Guard said that a C-130 Hercules aircraft and a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter are still scouring the waters for the two missing people, who did not make it aboard lifeboats about 90 miles off Hatteras, N.C., on the Outer Banks. As of late Monday morning, the Coast Guard had not completed its interviews with the 14 survivors, and had not identified the missing people...

Four Possible Freak Election Outcomes
Alexander Burns and Emily Schultheis, Politico | Four Possible Freak Election Outcomes | October 29, 2012

Could the 2012 campaign end in a tie? Is it possible for Mitt Romney to end up as president — with Joe Biden as his vice president? Could the presidential election end up decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, again?

The short answer is: probably not. To call those outcomes improbable would be a huge understatement. The strong likelihood is that one candidate will win both the Electoral College and the popular vote on Nov. 6 and bring our long 2012 slog to an end.

But hey, it’s the end of October in a presidential election year — a hurricane is improbably threatening the Eastern seaboard — so it’s the time when a politico’s mind turns to the wild and crazy outcomes that could upend all expectations. And public polls still show a close enough race between Romney and Barack Obama that speculation is inevitable...

Paul McCartney: Yoko Didn't Break Us Up
Delia Lloyd, The Washington Post | Paul McCartney: Yoko Didn't Break Us Up | October 29, 2012

Other than Hurricane Sandy, few things can distract us right now from our single-minded focus on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 6. But on Sunday, Sir Paul McCartney managed to do just that when he announced that Yoko Ono – John Lennon’s widow — was not responsible for the break up of the world’s most famous rock band...

China Blocks New York Times Web Site After Report On Leader's Wealth
William Wan, The Washington Post | China Blocks New YorkTimes Web Site After Report On Leader's Wealth | October 26, 2012

An explosive story about the massive wealth accumulated by the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao caused the Chinese government to block the Web site of the New York Times early Friday morning, just days before a sensitive once-in-a-decade transition of power from Wen and others to a new generation of leaders.

The article documents assets controlled by Wen’s family worth at least $2.7 billion, a shocking figure even in a country where government corruption is rampant and popular resentment against the elite has increased in recent years. The scandal also complicates the apparent intention of Chinese leaders to tackle corruption as a main issue at the Nov. 8 party congress, a move they have been signaling in the wake of other scandals that had dramatically shaken the party’s core leadership...

Remote U.S. Base At Core Of Secret Operations
Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post | Remote U.S. Base At Core Of Secret Operations | October 26, 2012

Around the clock, about 16 times a day, drones take off or land at a U.S. military base here, the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Some of the unmanned aircraft are bound for Somalia, the collapsed state whose border lies just 10 miles to the southeast. Most of the armed drones, however, veer north across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, another unstable country where they are being used in an increasingly deadly war with an al-Qaeda franchise that has targeted the United States.

Camp Lemonnier, a sun-baked Third World outpost established by the French Foreign Legion, began as a temporary staging ground for U.S. Marines looking for a foothold in the region a decade ago. Over the past two years, the U.S. military has clandestinely transformed it into the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone, a model for fighting a new generation of terrorist groups...

Benghazi: The Real Libya Story Is No Story
Michael Hirsh, National Journal | Benghazi: The Real Libya Story Is No Story | October 25, 2012

No evidence has surfaced to indicate the administration is guilty of anything other than looking flat-footed.

It was, from the start, about as hard an intelligence problem as you can find. The date was Sept. 11, and the CIA was stretched thin, monitoring anti-American protests in no fewer than 54 countries that day, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Post-Qaddafi Libya itself was still chaotic, caught up in the fog of war, and indeed Ambassador Chris Stevens, at great personal risk, had journeyed to his old Arab Spring-era stomping ground in Benghazi to assess the situation himself. Still, Clapper recently told an annual conference of intelligence professionals that there was no warning to Stevens or anyone else that he was about to be targeted by an organized extremist attack...

Beluga Whale 'Makes Human-Like Sounds'
BBC News | Beluga Whale Makes Human-Like Sounds | October 25, 2012

Researchers in the U.S. have been shocked to discover a beluga whale whose vocalisations were remarkably close to human speech.

While dolphins have been taught to mimic the pattern and durations of sounds in human speech, no animal has spontaneously tried such mimicry.

But researchers heard a nine-year-old whale named NOC make sounds octaves below normal, in clipped bursts.

The researchers outline in Current Biology just how NOC did it.

The first mystery, though, was figuring out where the sound was coming from...

First Human Ancestor Looked Like A Squirrel
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News | First Human Ancestor Looked Like A Squirrel | October 25, 2012

Newly discovered fossilized bones for the world's oldest and most primitive known primate, Purgatorius, reveal a tiny, agile animal that spent much of its time eating fruit and climbing trees, according to a study.

The fossils, described today in a presentation at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology's 72nd Annual Meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, are the first known below-the-head bones for Purgatorius. Previously, only teeth revealed its existence...

Plan For Hunting Terrorists Signals U.S. Intends To Keep Adding Names To Kill Lists

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”

The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones...