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.

The Disappeared: How The Fatwa Changed A Writer's Life
Salman Rushdie, The New Yorker | The Disappeared: How The Fatwa Changed A Writer's Life | September 10, 2012

Afterward, when the world was exploding around him, he felt annoyed with himself for having forgotten the name of the BBC reporter who told him that his old life was over and a new, darker existence was about to begin. She called him at home, on his private line, without explaining how she got the number. “How does it feel,” she asked him, “to know that you have just been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini?” It was a sunny Tuesday in London, but the question shut out the light. This is what he said, without really knowing what he was saying: “It doesn’t feel good.” This is what he thought: I’m a dead man. He wondered how many days he had left, and guessed that the answer was probably a single-digit number. He hung up the telephone and ran down the stairs from his workroom, at the top of the narrow Islington row house where he lived. The living-room windows had wooden shutters and, absurdly, he closed and barred them. Then he locked the front door...

Why I Left The GOP
Jeremiah Goulka, Salon | Why I Left The GOP | September 10, 2012

I used to be a serious Republican, moderate and business-oriented, who planned for a public-service career in Republican politics.  But I am a Republican no longer.

There’s an old joke we Republicans used to tell that goes something like this: “If you’re young and not a Democrat, you’re heartless. If you grow up and you’re not a Republican, you’re stupid.” These days, my old friends and associates no doubt consider me the butt of that joke. But I look on my “stupidity” somewhat differently.  After all, my real education only began when I was 30 years old...

Martin Scorsese Plans Roger Ebert Documentary
Ben Child, The Guardian | Martin Scorsese Plans Roger Ebert Documentary | September 10, 2012

Scorsese has optioned Ebert's book Life Itself: A Memoir, which follows the American film critic's public triumphs and personal struggles...

The New York Times Book Review | The New York Times Book Review | September 9, 2012

Bob Woodward, Michael Chabon, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Auster, "The Yellow Birds" and more...

At Antietam, Desperate, Bloody Battle Let To A Civil War Turning Point
Michael E. Ruane, The Washington Post | At Antietam, Desperate, Bloody Battle Let To A Civil War Turning Point | September 9, 2012

A spine of gray limestone runs north and south through the legendary cornfield here, just breaking the surface and leaving a path where no corn can grow.

For a century and a half, the elements have scoured the dirt, and crops have come and gone. But the stone has remained, scarred and smoothed by the plow and the weather.

In this stony cornfield, the doomed 1st Texas lost, along with its flag, 82 percent of its men. Here, the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam exploded in fury, and here, a crucial, bloody step was taken toward the end of slavery in America.

“Of all the days on all the fields where American soldiers have fought, the most terrible by almost any measure” was here at Antietam, historian Stephen W. Sears wrote in his classic 1983 study of the battle.

In the late summer and fall of 1862, as the Civil War moved through its second year, it had reached frightful new levels of violence, which would grow as the war went on...

An Open Letter To Wikipedia
Philip Roth, The New Yorker | An Open Letter To Wikipedia | September 9, 2012

Dear Wikipedia,

I am Philip Roth. I had reason recently to read for the first time the Wikipedia entry discussing my novel “The Human Stain.” The entry contains a serious misstatement that I would like to ask to have removed. This item entered Wikipedia not from the world of truthfulness but from the babble of literary gossip—there is no truth in it at all.

Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the “English Wikipedia Administrator”—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.”...

The Slaughter Of Elephents In Vietnam Is Nearly Complete
Mark McDonald, International Herald Tribune | The Slaughter Of Elephants In Vietnam Is Nearly Complete | September 7, 2012

The plight of elephants in Africa is being explained, in graphic and saddening detail, in a new series of stories by my colleague Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times. “An epic elephant slaughter,” he calls it, with poachers wiping out tens of thousands of elephants a year for their ivory.

The killing has now reached a kind of frenzy, and even military units in central Africa are involved, gunning down elephants from their helicopters. Ivory tusks, most of them bound for China, have become the new blood diamonds.

The poachers have already done their worst in Vietnam. Along with developers, loggers, villagers and negligent bureaucrats, they have conspired to reduce the wild elephant population to just a few dozen...

'The Economy Stole My Retirement'
Sarah E. Needleman and Emily Maltby, The Wall Street Journal | 'The Economy Stole My Retirement' | September 7, 2012

Danny Sullivan dreams of gardening and spending time with his grandchildren, but that's just a fantasy. Retirement is out of his reach, at least for the foreseeable future.

The 62-year-old founder of a small catering company spends his days helping stock bars with beer and ice, wooing potential new clients and juggling the 20 to 30 different events his firm handles daily.

"I am so tired," he says. "I don't know that I'll ever be able to retire."...

On Cellphone Solitude
Matt Love, Coast Weekend | On Cellphone Solitude | September 7, 2012

“Contemporary Western culture makes the peace of solitude difficult to attain. The telephone is an ever-present threat to privacy … and the invention of the car telephone has ensured that drivers who install it are never out of touch with those who want to talk to them.”

So wrote Anthony Storr in his book, “Solitude: A Return to the Self.” I bought it not long ago from a coastal thrift store for a quarter and read it practically in one sitting.

Solitude’s publication date? 1988...

Woodward Book Chronicles Obama's Fiscal Policy Battle With Congressional Republicans
Steve Luxenberg, The Washington Post | Woodward Book Chronicles Obama's Fiscal Policy Battle With Congressional Republicans | September 6, 2012

A combination of miscalculations, ideological rigidity and discord within the leadership of both political parties brought the U.S. government to the brink of a catastrophic default during the 2011 showdown over the federal debt ceiling, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

“The Price of Politics,” Woodward’s 17th book, chronicles President Obama’s contentious and still unresolved fiscal policy battle with congressional Republicans that dominated the White House agenda for nearly all of 2011. (On Sunday, The Washington Post will publish an adaptation in its print, mobile and Web editions. The book is scheduled for release on Tuesday. Woodward is a Post associate editor.)

As the nation’s leaders raced to avert a default that could have shattered the financial markets’ confidence and imperiled the world’s economy, Obama convened an urgent meeting with top congressional leaders in the White House. According to Woodward, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) pointedly told the president that the lawmakers were working on a plan and wouldn’t negotiate with him...