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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.

Franken Sense: The Very Serious Senator From Minnesota
Jeffrey Rosen, The New Republic | Franken Sense | November 17, 2010

In July 2009, after a cliff-hanger of an election and an ugly court battle over the results, Al Franken finally arrived in the United States Senate. Eager to lay the groundwork for legislative accomplishments, the author of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot looked for common ground with his new GOP colleagues. In the case of Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, that common ground was music. In addition to his senatorial career, Hatch is a prolific songwriter—he has written odes to John McCain, America, Hanukkah, and Princess Diana, among other subjects—and so Franken approached him and asked to hear a few tunes...

 

Olbermann, O'Reilly and the Death of Real News
Ted Koppel, The Washington Post | Olbermann, O'Reilly and the Death of Real News | November 17, 2010

To witness Keith Olbermann - the most opinionated among MSNBC's left-leaning, Fox-baiting, money-generating hosts - suspended even briefly last week for making financial contributions to Democratic political candidates seemed like a whimsical, arcane holdover from a long-gone era of television journalism, when the networks considered the collection and dissemination of substantive and unbiased news to be a public trust...

 

The Gulf Between Us
Terry Tempest Williams, Orion | The Gulf Between Us | November 15, 2010

Stories of terror and beauty from the world's largest accidental offshore oil disaster...

Mark Twain Editors Work for Decades on Writings
Debra Levi Holtz, The San Francisco Chronicle | Mark Twain Editors Work for Decades on Writing | November 15, 2010

A century after his death, Mark Twain is back on the national best-seller lists, thanks to decades of work by some UC Berkeley scholars. Editors from the Mark Twain Papers and Projects archive at the university's Bancroft Library have released the first volume of the author's unexpurgated autobiography, which contains some searing remarks about politics and Wall Street that still resonate today...

One Moment in Afghanistan, Heroism and Heartbreak
Elizabeth Rubin, The New York Times | One Moment In Afghanistan | November 15, 2010

Three years and three weeks ago. Dusk was falling fast on the Korengal Valley. We were crouched on a shrub-laden plateau some 8,000 feet up in the mountains. The soldiers were exhausted and cold. We’d been sleeping in ditches for five nights. Insurgents were everywhere...

Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners
Matt Taibi, Rolling Stone | Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners | November 12, 2010

The foreclosure lawyers down in Jacksonville had warned me, but I was skeptical. They told me the state of Florida had created a special super-high-speed housing court with a specific mandate to rubber-stamp the legally dicey foreclosures by corporate mortgage pushers like Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase. This "rocket docket," as it is called in town, is presided over by retired judges who seem to have no clue about the insanely complex financial instruments they are ruling on — securitized mortgages and laby­rinthine derivative deals of a type that didn't even exist when most of them were active members of the bench. Their stated mission isn't to decide right and wrong, but to clear cases and blast human beings out of their homes with ultimate velocity. They certainly have no incentive to penetrate the profound criminal mysteries of the great American mortgage bubble of the 2000s, perhaps the most complex Ponzi scheme in human history...

What Everything Means
Gail Collins, NYT Op Ed | What Everything Means | November 12, 2010

I can’t stop thinking about the elections. Last weekend I saw “127 Hours,” and all I could think about was that this was a metaphor for the lame-duck session of Congress...

What The Heck Has Obama Done So Far?
Shavanna Miller, Will Carlough and Richard Boenigk | What the Heck Has Obama Done So Far? | November 10, 2010

What the heck has Obama done so far?

New Push To Ban Earmarks In Senate
Janet Hook, The Wall Street Journal | New Push To Ban Earmarks In Senate | November 9, 2010

Lawmakers aligned with the tea party are moving quickly to show their strength by trying to ban budget earmarking in the Senate, where support is still strong for the practice critics deride as pork-barrel spending...

Taking On Google By Learning From Ants
Nick Wingfield | Taking On Google By Learning From Ants | November 7, 2010

Fifteenth- and 16th-century European explorers helped to transform cartography during the Age of Discovery. Rather than mapping newly discovered worlds, Blaise Agüera y Arcas is out to invent new ways of viewing the old ones.

Mr. Agüera y Arcas is the architect of Bing Maps, the online mapping service that is part of Microsoft Corp.'s Bing Internet search engine. Bing Maps does all the basics, like turn-by-turn directions and satellite views that offer a peek into the neighbor's backyard, but Mr. Agüera y Arcas has attracted attention in the tech world by pushing the service to do a lot more...