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.

Al Qaeda's Zawahiri Calls For War To Oust Syria's Assad
Elizabeth A. Kennedy, The Christian Science Monitor | Al Qaeda's Zawahiri Calls For War To Oust Syria's Assad | February 13, 2012


Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for the ouster of Syria's "pernicious, cancerous regime," raising fears that Islamist militants will try to exploit an uprising against President Bashar Assad that began with peaceful calls for democratic change but is morphing into a bloody, armed insurgency. The regime has long blamed terrorists for the 11-month-old revolt, and Zawahiri's endorsement creates new difficulties for the US, its Western allies and Arab states trying to figure out a way to help force Assad from power...

Romney's Path to 'Pro-Life' Position on Abortion
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times | Romney's Path to 'Pro-Life' Position on Abortion | February 13, 2012

From the moment he left business for politics, the issue of abortion has bedeviled Mitt Romney. In 1994, as a Senate candidate, he invoked the story of a “close family relative” who had died after an illegal abortion and insisted that abortion should be “safe and legal,” though he was personally opposed. In 2002, while running for governor of Massachusetts, he sought the endorsement of abortion rights advocates, promising to be “a good voice” among Republicans, one advocate said...

Latest Accident at San Onofre Nuclear Plant Worries Activists, Residents
Jamie Reno, The Daily Beast | Latest Accident at San Onofre Nuclear Plant Worries Activists, Residents | February 13, 2012

The coastal San Onofre facility's latest incident has renewed worries about the safety of the plant. A year after Fukushima, is the U.S. ignoring lingering threats here at home?...

Whitney Houston's Invincible Voice
Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker | Whitney Houston's Invincible Voice | February 12, 2012

With the weird blend of investment and helplessness that typifies kin, we’ve watched Whitney Houston die in front of us, slowly and unmistakably, for more than a decade. Now that she is dead at the age of forty-eight, found at the Beverly Hilton, we face a new and weirder blend: the grief you feel for someone you didn’t really know but are unable to pretend you weren’t tied to, and the awkward truth that they’ve met the end you expected...

A Voice of Triumph, the Queen of Pain
Jon Caramanica. The New York Times | A Voice of Triumph, The Queen of Pain | February 12, 2012


Whitney Houston died a cautionary tale, but all cautionary tales were heroes once. That is how she arrived in the mid-1980s, a flawless vocalist singing impeccable songs and singlehandedly inserting gospel and classic-soul theatrics into mainstream pop. She was a sunbeam — radiant, perspective-altering, impossible to touch...

Go Vest, Young Man

Rick Santorum, the GOP presidential candidate from Pennsylvania, is known—as you’ve probably heard by now—for wearing a sweater vest. That sweater vest now has its own Twitter account, Facebook page, YouTube video, and fundraising campaign. The vest is everybody’s favorite fun fact about Santorum—but nobody seems to agree on what it’s actually doing for the politician...

Alien Technology Photographed On Mars
Donna D., BuzzFeed | Alien Technology Photographed On Mars | February 9, 2012

This is it! The proof we've been waiting for that non-indigenous life forms have visited Mars...

Pentagon to East Restrictions on Women in Some Combat Roles
Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post | Pentagon to East Restrictions on Women in Some Combat Roles | February 9, 2012

The Pentagon said Thursday that it would ease some restrictions on women serving in combat roles, a step that in part codifies the reality on the ground in Afghanistan, where commanders have stretched rules to allow women to support ground combat units. After a long-delayed review that had been ordered by Congress, the Defense Department said it would open about 14,000 combat-related positions that women had previously been excluded from — but would continue to prohibit them from serving in 238,000 other slots...

Newt or Schrute: The Quiz
Asawin Suebsaeng, Mother Jones | Newt or Schrute: The Quiz | February 9, 2012

In case you haven't heard, in his younger days former House Speaker Newt Gingrich looked an awful lot like Dwight Schrute*.

But the eerie similarities surely end there, right? I mean, one of them is mercurial, despised by his colleagues, in love with animals, obsessed with pop culture mythology and modern warfare, and wrapped up in an endless subplot involving a blonde love interest.

And the other one is Dwight Schrute...

In Rediscovered Letter From 1865, Former Slave Tells Old Master To Shove It
Trymaine Lee, Huffington Post | In Rediscovered Letter From 1865, Former Slave Tells Old Masyter To Shove It | February 7, 2012


In the summer of 1865, a former slave by the name of Jourdan Anderson sent a letter to his former master. And 147 years later, the document reads as richly as it must have back then.

The roughly 800-word letter, which has resurfaced via various blogs, websites, Twitter and Facebook, is a response to a missive from Colonel P.H. Anderson, Jourdan's former master back in Big Spring, Tennessee. Apparently, Col. Anderson had written Jourdan asking him to come on back to the big house to work...