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.

America's Atheist Warriors
Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones | America's Atheist Warriors | October 19, 2011

Like Pat Tillman before them, up to 40,000 US soldiers don't believe in God. Meet the man who would bring secular wisdom to their ranks...

California and Bust
Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair | California and Bust | October 19, 2011

The smart money says the U.S. economy will splinter, with some states thriving, some states not, and all eyes are on California as the nightmare scenario. After a hair-raising visit with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who explains why the Golden State has cratered, Michael Lewis goes where the buck literally stops—the local level, where the likes of San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Vallejo ?re chief Paige Meyer are trying to avert even worse catastrophes and rethink what it means to be a society...

Hamas Frees Israeli Soldier as Prisoner Swap Begins
Ethan Bronner and Stephen Farrell, The New York Times | Hamas Frees Israeli Soldier as Prisoner Swap Begins | October 18, 2011

In an elaborate prisoner exchange that could roil Middle East politics, an Israeli soldier held for more than five years by the militant Palestinian group Hamas was swapped on Tuesday for hundreds of Palestinians who have spent many years in Israeli jails, all them freed to jubilant welcomes tinged with bitterness and grief...

Kudzu Bug Threat to South's Soybean Crops
Allen G. Breed, Associated Press | Kudzu Bug Threat to South's Soybean Crops | October 18, 2011

Kudzu, the “plant that ate the South” has met a pest that eats it and is just as voracious. Trouble is, the so-called “kudzu bug” is also fond of another East Asian transplant that is big money for American farmers: soybeans...

K Street Suffers From Twitter Jitters
Dave Levinthal, Politico | K Street Suffers From Twitter Jitters | October 18, 2011

There are no smoke-filled backrooms in cyberspace — or even a spot for a simple hallway conversation.

So some lobbyists are shocked these days to walk into congressional offices and find staffers communicating not by phone but through Facebook. They’re surprised to witness members of Congress transfixed by their iPhones while updating their Twitter feeds. They’re puzzled to hear government officials suggest “meeting” by Google-chat...

Notes From a Dragon Mom
Emily Rapp, The New York Times Opinion | Notes From a Dragon Mom | October 17, 2011

MY son, Ronan, looks at me and raises one eyebrow. His eyes are bright and focused. Ronan means “little seal” in Irish and it suits him.

I want to stop here, before the dreadful hitch: my son is 18 months old and will likely die before his third birthday. Ronan was born with Tay-Sachs, a rare genetic disorder. He is slowly regressing into a vegetative state.  He’ll become paralyzed, experience seizures, lose all of his senses before he dies. There is no treatment and no cure...

Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Ouf of Deal
David Streitfeld, The New York Times | Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal | October 17, 2011

Amazon.com has taught readers that they do not need bookstores. Now it is encouraging writers to cast aside their publishers. Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing program that will place Amazon squarely in competition with the New York houses that are also its most prominent suppliers...

How a Smoggy Chinese City Turned Green
Christina Larson, The Guardian | How a Smoggy Chinese City Turned Green | October 17, 2011

Shenyang -- once a key in Mao Zedong's push to industrialie China -- has begun to emerge from its smoggy past, cleaning up its factories and expanding its green spaces...

Koreans to Occupy (Their) Wall Street
Song Jung-a, Financial Times' beyondbrics | Koreans to Occupy (Their) Wall Street | October 14, 2011
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When it comes to demonstrations, Koreans are second to none. The country’s vociferous civic groups and militant labour unions plan to join the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in the US and hold a massive rally this weekend in Yoido, central Seoul, where most major financial institutions and regulators are based...

Insiders Voice Doubts About CIA's 9/11 Story
Rory O'Connor and Ray Nowosielski, Salon | Insiders Voice Doubts About CIA's 9/11 Story | October 14, 2011

Former FBI agents say the agency's bin Laden unit misled them about two hijackers...