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.

North Korean Cruise Seeks Tourists, 8 To A Room
Edward Wong, The New York Times | North Korean Cruise Seeks Tourits 8 To A Room | September 14, 2011

It was billed as a cruise ship, but the creaking, nearly-40-year-old vessel that set sail from the remote North Korean town of Rajin had more of the trappings of a tramp steamer. With its cramped cabins, cut-rate cuisine and foul, water-deprived bathrooms, it was not about to compete anytime soon with Cunard or Carnival in the leisure industry...

New 'Super-Earth" That is 36 Light-Years Away Might Hold Water, Astroners Say
Brian Vastag, The Washington Post | New "Super-Earth" That is 36 Light-Years Away Might Hold Water, Astronomers Say | September 13, 2011

Astronomers on Monday announced the discovery of 50 new planets circling stars beyond the sun, including one “super-Earth” that is the right distance from its star to possibly have water.

“If we are really, really lucky, this planet could be a habitat” like Earth, said Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

The planet, dubbed HD85512b, circles an orange star somewhat smaller and cooler than our sun about 36 light-years away...

Back on Track
John Cassidy, The New Yorker | Back on Track | September 13, 2011

A few hours before President Obama presented his new job-creation plan to Congress last week, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, made a less ballyhooed appearance, before the Economic Club of Minnesota. Bernanke reminded his audience that it has been exactly three years since the financial crisis that attended the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Then he pointed out that the recession that Obama had inherited from his Republican predecessor was even more calamitous than had previously been thought. Recent revisions to government statistics show that, between the end of 2007 and the second quarter of 2009, the Gross Domestic Product declined by more than five per cent—the deepest drop since the Second World War.

Obama didn’t refer to Bernanke’s update, but knowing the true magnitude of the collapse is critical to understanding the economic and political context in which the President spoke..

Libya's Battle-Tested Women Hope Gains Last
Anne Barnard, The New York Times | Libya's Battle-Tested Women Hope Gains Last | September 13, 2011

Aisha Gdour, a school psychologist, smuggled bullets in her brown leather handbag. Fatima Bredan, a hairdresser, tended wounded rebels. Hweida Shibadi, a family lawyer, helped NATO find airstrike targets. And Amal Bashir, an art teacher, used a secret code to collect orders for munitions: Small-caliber rounds were called “pins,” larger rounds were “nails.” A “bottle of milk” meant a Kalashnikov...

Lunch With the Abbot of the Shaolin Temple
Jamil Anderlni, Financial Times | Lunch With the Abbot of the Shaolin Temple | September 12, 2011

With my iPod headphones plugged in, the abbot of Shaolin keeps his expression perfectly neutral as his eardrums are assailed by the thumping beats of the Wu-Tang Clan.

"I don't get it," says Shi Yongxin in his heavily accented Mandarin, after politely listening to the pioneering 1990s rappers from the New York borough of Staten Island who, in homage to kung fu movies of the 1970s, described themselves as coming "straight from the slums of Shaolin."...

'First Grandma' Embraces Life in D.C.
Amie Parnes, Politico | 'First Grandma' Embraces Life in D.C. | September 12, 2011

When Marian Robinson moved to Washington more than two and a half years ago, she wasn’t exactly measuring the drapes of her spacious third-floor quarters and looking to stay. She planned to get the first family settled and most likely return to her quiet Chicago life, far from the spotlight of the White House, which she likened to sleeping in a museum.

But the “first grandmother” appears to have gotten over her reluctance, embracing her famous address while maintaining a low-visibility lifestyle, those who know the first family say...

Report Details Rose of Social Media
Stuart Elliott, The New York Times | Report Details Rise of Social Media | September 12, 2011

The Nielsen Company, which has long provided such information about the traditional media, is seeking to become a go-to source of data for new media, too...

The Terrible Missed Chance
Philip Shenon, The Daily Beast | The Terrible Missed Chance | September 11, 2011

Credible terror threats put New York and Washington on highest alert the day before 9/11's tenth anniversary. Exclusive interviews show how the FBI bungled its final opportunity to prevent tragedy the first time...

At Pentagon, No Words Will Fill Void
Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times | At Pentagon, No Words Will Fill Void | September 11, 2011

“No memorial, no ceremony, no words will ever fill the void left in your hearts by their loss,” Mr. Biden said...

A Day That Stands Alone in History
James Barron, The New York Times | A Day That Stands Alone in History | September 11, 2011

Just as Sept. 11 was unthinkable, Sunday was inevitable: the 10th anniversary of a day that stands alone. In history. In memory...