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.

Hanukkah, Rekindled
Howard Jacobson, NYT Op Ed | Hanukkah, Rekindled | December 1, 2010

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Tonight, Hanukah begins. The word – Hanukkah – is lovely, but what’s the festival itself for? What does it do?

Bomb Kills Iranian Nuclear Scientist
William Yong and Alan Cowell, The New York Times | Bomb Kills Iranian Nuclear Scientist | November 29, 2010

Unidentified assailants riding motorcycles launched bomb attacks early on Monday against two Iranian nuclear physicists here, killing one of them and prompting accusations by Iran that the United States and Israel were behind the episode.

At a news conference here, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that “undoubtedly the hand of the Zionist regime and Western governments is involved” in the killing but did not identify those governments by name. The killing led Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, to warn the West and its allies not to “play with fire.” Both Mr. Salehi and Mr. Ahmadinejad vowed that Tehran would not be deterred from expanding its nuclear project...

Foreign Governments Blast Wikileaks Revleations While Denying Their Importance
Debbi Wilgoren and Leila Fadel, The Washington Post | Foreign Governments Blast Wikileaks | November 29, 2010

Foreign governments reacted with a mixture of denials and dismissiveness Monday to the massive leaking of U.S. diplomatic cables, questioning the decision to make the material public but at the same time insisting, for the most part, that the revelations were either untrue or unlikely to impact world events...

Scientists Look to Redwoods For Answers on Warming
Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle | Scientists Look To Redwoods | November 29, 2010
Stephen Sillett swung from a rope in the second-tallest redwood tree in Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve in Mendocino County and shouted measurements to his colleagues on the ground. The professor of forest ecology at Humboldt State University has been clambering around a lot lately on the 365-foot-tall giant, which is believed to be well over 1,000 years old. He can tell you the number of branches, 403, and estimate the number of leaves, 514 million...
Alaska Native Status Gave Tiny, Inexperienced Firm a $250 Million Army Contract
Robert O'Harrow, Jr., The Washington Post | $250 Million Army Contract | November 26, 2010

In summer 2008, the U.S. military had a major problem. More than 2,400 service members had reported being sexually assaulted the previous year, and the number was rising. Congress wanted immediate action. The Army responded by reaching out to a tiny firm in Delaware. It was an unlikely choice for such a sensitive task. The year before, United Solutions and Services, known as US2, had just three employees and several small contracts for janitorial services and other work. It was based in a four-bedroom colonial, where the founder worked out of his living room...

Pentagon Alerts House, Senate Panels To New Classified WikiLeaks Release
Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg News | Pentagon Alerts House, Senate | November 26, 2010

The Pentagon warned the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees that the website WikiLeaks.org “intends to release several hundred thousand” classified U.S. State Department cables as soon as Nov. 26. The documents “touch on an enormous range of very sensitive foreign policy issues,” Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Elizabeth King wrote yesterday in an e-mail to the defense panels.

Talking to the Taliban About Life After Occupation
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian | Talking to the Taliban | November 26, 2010

In the south-eastern city of Khost, the everyday business of the Taliban administration carries on across the street from the fortified, government-run city court and police station. The head of the Haqqani network's civilian administration and his assistant hold their council in the grand mosque, which is also known as the Haqqani mosque because it was built with Taliban and Arab money. When I met them, the two men – a frail-looking 60-year-old and his younger sidekick – gave the impression of being haggard peasants seeking work in the city rather than members of one of Britain and America's most feared organisations...

Jury Convicts Tom DeLay in Money Laundering Trial
Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press | Jury Convicts Tom DeLay | November 25, 2010

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay - once one of the most powerful and feared Republicans in Congress - was convicted Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge...

South Korea's Defense Chief Resigns in Wake of Attack
Mark McDonald, The New York Times | Soth Korea's Defense Chief Resigns | November 25, 2010

President Lee Myung-bak accepted the resignation of Defense Minister Kim Tae-young on Thursday amid intense criticism over the South’s response to an artillery attack by North Korea two days earlier and the sinking of a warship in March. “There was a need to revamp the military landscape,” a senior government official said Thursday night. “It was time.”...

Sen. Mitch McConnell's Earmark Power Credited For Revitalizing Louisville
Ann Gerhart and R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post | McConnell's Earmark Power | November 23, 2010

The once grand downtown of this city on the Ohio River is shabby, as the nation's old downtowns tend to be. Magnificent tall cast-iron-fronted buildings sit empty. So do historic brick tobacco warehouses, surrounded in razor-wire, tagged with graffiti. But the downtown of Kentucky's largest city also has a spectacular redeveloped waterfront featuring bike paths and open vistas, the spanking-new KFC Yum! sports arena, and a medical complex of several hospitals that employ nearly 20,000 people, treat tens of thousands and conduct cutting-edge research. This resurgence is a result of civic vision, pride, tenacity - and the impressive earmark performance of Louisville's Slugger: Mitch McConnell (R), Kentucky's longest-serving senator and the powerful Senate minority leader.