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 Tweaker: The Real Genius of Steve Jobs
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker | The Tweaker: The Real Genius of Steve Jobs | November 10, 2011

Not long after Steve Jobs got married, in 1991, he moved with his wife to a nineteen-thirties, Cotswolds-style house in old Palo Alto. Jobs always found it difficult to furnish the places where he lived. His previous house had only a mattress, a table, and chairs. He needed things to be perfect, and it took time to figure out what perfect was. This time, he had a wife and family in tow, but it made little difference. “We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years,” his wife, Laurene Powell, tells Walter Isaacson, in “Steve Jobs,” Isaacson’s enthralling new biography of the Apple founder. “We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?’ ”...

Crews Rush to Save Russian Mars Probe Stranded in Earth Orbigt
Brian Vastag, The Washington Post | Crews Rush to Save Russian Mars Probe Stranded in Earth Orbit | November 9, 2011

The Russian Mars curse has struck again. Since 1960, the Soviet Union and Russia have launched 18 unmanned missions to Mars. Sixteen failed completely, while two returned data from the planet only briefly. Now engineers are scrambling to save the country’s latest attempt....

Joe Frazier, R.I.P.
David Remnick, The New Yorker | Joe Frazier, R.I.P. | November 9, 2011

The greatest heavyweight championship fight in history took place on October 1, 1975, in Manila, and the combatants were Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. And despite the result—Frazier’s magnificent cornermen refused to let their man, blinded by the welts around his eyes, go into the ring for the fifteenth round—no one would ever call Frazier a loser. “It was like death,” Ali admitted after the fight. “Closest thing to dyin’ that I know of.”...

How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich
Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone | How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich | November 9, 2011

The nation is still recovering from a crushing recession that sent unemployment hovering above nine percent for two straight years. The president, mindful of soaring deficits, is pushing bold action to shore up the nation's balance sheet. Cloaking himself in the language of class warfare, he calls on a hostile Congress to end wasteful tax breaks for the rich. "We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that allow some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share," he thunders to a crowd in Georgia. Such tax loopholes, he adds, "sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary – and that's crazy."

Preacherlike, the president draws the crowd into a call-and-response. "Do you think the millionaire ought to pay more in taxes than the bus driver," he demands, "or less?"

The crowd, sounding every bit like the protesters from Occupy Wall Street, roars back: "MORE!"

The year was 1985. The president was Ronald Wilson Reagan...

Chinese-Funded Hydropower Project Sparks Anger in Burma
Andrew Higgins, The Washington Post | Chinese-Funded Hydropower Project Sparks Anger in Burma | November 8, 2011

After five years of cozy cooperation with Burma’s ruling generals, China Power Investment Corp. got a shock in September when it sent a senior executive to Naypyidaw, this destitute Southeast Asian nation’s showcase capital, a Pharaonic sprawl of empty eight-lane highways and cavernous government buildings. Armed with a slick PowerPoint presentation and promises of $20 billion in investment, Li Guanghua pitched “an excellent opportunity,” a mammoth, Chinese-funded hydropower project in Burma’s far north...

A Tale of Two Trees
Michael Daly, The Daily Beast | A Tale of Two Trees | November 8, 2011

Down at the Wall Street movement stands the Tree of Life, and only one block away is the 9/11 Survivor Tree. Michael Daly on how they symbolize American greatness -- and our fractured country...

At Sony Music, a Plan to Dominate the Industry
Ben Sisario, The New York Times | At Sony Music, a Plan to Dominate the Industry | November 8, 2011

A huge self-portrait of Bono hangs in the Madison Avenue office of Doug Morris, the new chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment, and on a nearby table sit his snapshots, arm-in-arm with Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg. Along with a determination to dominate the music industry, Mr. Morris brought them from his last job as head of the Universal Music Group. “My plan here is very simple,” he said on a recent visit, leaning back in his sofa. “To help create the pre-eminent record company in the world.”...

80,000 Muslims Pray Together on the Freezing Streets of Moscow to Celebrate Eid al-Adha

Tens of thousands of Muslim men knelt shoulder-to-shoulder in prayer on the freezing streets of Moscow on Sunday to celebrate the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha. Estimates of the number of Muslims living or working in the Russian capital run from 2 million to as high as 5 million, but the city only has a few mosques...

IAEA Says Foreign Expertise Has Brought Iran to Threshold of Nuclear Capability
Joby Warrick, The Washington Post | IAEA Says Foreign Expertise Has Brought Iran to Threshold of Nuclear Capability | November 7, 2011

Intelligence provided to U.N. nuclear officials shows that Iran’s government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles, according to Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings.

Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction...

Pushing China's Limits On Web, If Not On Paper
Edward Wong, The New York Times | Pushing China's Limits On Web, If Not On Paper | November 7, 2011

When the novelist Murong Xuecun showed up at a ceremony here late last year to collect his first literary prize, he clutched a sheet of paper with some of the most incendiary words he had ever written. It was a meditation on the malaise brought on by censorship. “Chinese writing exhibits symptoms of a mental disorder,” he planned to say. “This is castrated writing. I am a proactive eunuch, I castrate myself even before the surgeon raises his scalpel.”...