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.

In Nuclear Crisis, Crippling Mistrust
Normimitsu Onishi and Martin Fackler, The New York Times | In Nuclear Crisis, Crippling Mistrust | June 13, 2011

On the evening of March 12, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant’s oldest reactor had suffered a hydrogen explosion and risked a complete meltdown. Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked aides to weigh the risks of injecting seawater into the reactor to cool it down. At this crucial moment, it became clear that a prime minister who had built his career on suspicion of the collusive ties between Japan’s industry and bureaucracy was acting nearly in the dark. He had received a confusing risk analysis from the chief nuclear regulator, a fervently pro-nuclear academic whom aides said Mr. Kan did not trust. He was also wary of the company that operated the plant, given its history of trying to cover up troubles...

I.M.F. Reports Cyberattack Led to 'Very Major Breach'
David E. Sanger and John Markoff, The New York Times | I.M.F. Reports Cyberattack Led to 'Very Major Breach' | June 12, 2011

The International Monetary Fund, still struggling to find a new leader after the arrest of its managing director last month in New York, was hit recently by what computer experts describe as a large and sophisticated cyberattack whose dimensions are still unknown...

Somalis Kill Mastermind of 2 U.S. Embassy Bombings
Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times | Somalis Kill Mastermind of 2 U.S. Embassy Bombings | June 12, 2011

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Al Qaeda’s leader in East Africa and the mastermind of the American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, was killed in a late-night shootout at a security checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, Somali and American officials said Saturday...

Syria: The Arab Spring's Tipping Point
Bruce Riedel, The Daily Beast | Syria: The Arab Spring's Tipping Point | June 11, 2011

As unrest continues in Syria, Bruce Riedel explains the complex religious differences within the country and its army. At stake is the future of Syria -- and the region...

German Investigators Confident That Local Sprouts Caused The Deadly E. Coli Outbreak

German vegetable sprouts caused the E. coli outbreak that has killed 31 people and sickened more than 3,000, investigators announced Friday after tracking the bacteria from patients in hospital beds to restaurants and then farm fields...

Megan Rye Paints Scenes From Iraq
Katherine Bindley, Huffington Post | Megan Rye Paints Scenes From Iraq | June 10, 2011

In its eighth year, the Iraq war tends to fade in and out of the headlines. But for artist Megan Rye, whose solo-show opened at the Forum Gallery in New York this week, it's always at the forefront of her mind.

"I could paint this subject forever,” Rye said while seated in the gallery, surrounded by 28 oil paintings that depict scenes from military life taken during the war. "I'll never get to the bottom of it."..

How Newt Gingrich's Campaign Imploded
Peter J. Boyer, The Daily Beast | How Newt Gingrich's Campaign Imploded | June 10, 2011

The former speaker's top aides bolted en masse Thursday, leaving his campaign in tatters. Peter J. Boyer on staffers complaints about gingrich's rogue inclinations, the Greek cruise with wife Callista that was the final straw -- and whether the candidate has any chance of recovering....

U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes
Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times | U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes | June 9, 2011

The Obama administration has intensified the American covert war in Yemen, exploiting a growing power vacuum in the country to strike at militant suspects with armed drones and fighter jets, according to American officials...

Price of Internet Freedom? Eternal Misquotes.
David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post | Price of Internet Freedom? Eternal misquotes. | June 9, 2011

On election night, a jubilant Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) laid out the modern-day tea party’s philosophy — in the words of a man who was alive for the Boston Tea Party. “Thomas Jefferson,” the newly elected Paul said, “wrote that government is best that governs least.” No, he didn’t...

The First Computer Musician
R. Luke Dubois, The New York Times | The First Computer Musician | June 9, 2011

In 1957 a 30 year-old engineer named Max Mathews got an IBM 704 mainframe computer at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, N. J., to generate 17 seconds of music, then recorded the result for posterity.  While not the first person to make sound with a computer, Max was the first one to do so with a replicable combination of hardware and software that allowed the user to specify what tones he wanted to hear. This piece of music, called “The Silver Scale”  and composed by a colleague at Bell Labs named Newman Guttman, was never intended to be a masterpiece. It was a proof-of-concept, and it laid the groundwork for a revolutionary advancement in music, the reverberations of which are felt everywhere today...