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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.

A Conflict's Acoustic Shadows
Ken Burns, New York Times Opinionator | A Conflict's Acoustic Shadows | April 12, 2011

More than once during the Civil War, newspapers reported a strange phenomenon. From only a few miles away, a battle sometimes made no sound — despite the flash and smoke of cannon and the fact that more distant observers could hear it clearly. These eerie silences were called “acoustic shadows.” Tuesday, the 150th anniversary of the first engagement of the Civil War, the Confederacy’s attack on Fort Sumter, we ask again whether in our supposedly post-racial, globalized, 21st-century world those now seemingly distant battles of the mid-19th century still have any relevance...

Japan To Raise Fukushima Crisis Level To Worst
Japan Broadcasting Corporation | Japan To Raise Fukushima Crisis Level To Worst | April 12, 2011

The Japanese government's nuclear safety agency has decided to raise the crisis level of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant accident from 5 to 7, the worst on the international scale...

Former Leader Of Ivory Coast Is Captured
Adam Nossiter, Scott Sayare, and Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times | Former Leader of Ivory Coast Is Captured | April 12, 2011

The strongman of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, was captured and taken into custody by his rival on Monday, ending a four-month standoff that left hundreds dead in this once-prosperous West African nation, put international diplomacy to a severe test and ultimately dragged the country back into civil war...

That Noisy Woodpecker Had An Animated Secret
Michael Cieply, The New York Times | That Noisy Woodpecker Had An Animated Secret | April 11, 2011

Sixteen years ago Tom Klein was staring at a Woody Woodpecker cartoon, “The Loose Nut,” when he started seeing things. Specifically, Mr. Klein watched that maniacal red-topped bird smash a steamroller through the door of a shed. The screen then exploded into images that looked less like the stuff of a Walter Lantz cartoon than like something Willem de Kooning might have hung on a wall...

 

Britain's Taste for Cheap Food That's Killing Brazil's 'Other Wilderness'

An "upside-down forest" of small trees with deep roots, Brazil's wildlife-rich outback is home to a 20th of the world's species, including the spectacular blue and yellow macaw and giant armadillos. Yet this vast wilderness – as big the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain put together – is being rapidly lost to feed the heavily carnivorous appetites of Britons and others. What was, only a generation ago, an almost unbroken two million square kilometre mass of trees and bushes in central Brazil is now covered with fields of soy beans, waiting to be fed to pigs and chickens in Europe and China...

The Fight That Just Won't Die
Richard Rapaport, Salon | The Fight That Just Won't Die | April 10, 2011

Gore Vidal tells of an apocryphal pilgrimage each April 12, the anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death at Warm Springs, Ga. The trek, organized by the Dutchess County New York Republican Central Committee, supposedly wends its way up the old Albany Post Road from Poughkeepsie to Springwood, FDR's beloved Hyde Park home. According to Vidal, the mythic mission is meant to reassure twitchy Republicans that the 32nd president still rests in something approaching peace at the Hyde Park Presidential Library -- that he has not risen for some new 21st century "rendezvous with destiny."...

Tiny Fey And Me
Curtis Sittenfeld, The New York Times Book Review | Tiny Fey And Me | April 9, 2011

IN the fall of 2008, when I heard that Oprah Winfrey would be making a guest appearance on Tina Fey’s NBC sitcom, “30 Rock,” I experienced the unique joy that arises when two entities you love equally but don’t think of as having much in common unexpectedly intersect — as if your iPhone suddenly started making pizza...

Behind the Scenes, Angry Meetings, Several Near Deals
Laura Meckler and Patrick O'Connor, The Wall Street Journal | Behind the Scenes, Angry Meetings, Several Near Deals | April 9, 2011

Meeting with his Republican caucus Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner laid out his strategy for budget talks with the White House. As rank-and-file members expressed their support, Mr. Boehner teared up, and the room erupted in a standing ovation. That moment, three days before the government was scheduled to shut down, helped turn the tide toward a deal after a tumultuous three weeks of drama...

Male Rape in the Military Being Confronted
Jesse Ellison, Newsweek | Male Rape in the Military Being Confronted | April 9, 2011

Greg Jeloudov was 35 and new to America when he decided to join the Army. Like most soldiers, he was driven by both patriotism for his adopted homeland and the pragmatic notion that the military could be a first step in a career that would enable him to provide for his new family. Instead, Jeloudov arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training in May 2009, in the middle of the economic crisis and rising xenophobia. The soldiers in his unit, responding to his Russian accent and New York City address, called him a "champagne socialist" and a "commie faggot." He was, he told Newsweek, "in the middle of the viper's pit." Less than two weeks after arriving on base, he was gang-raped in the barracks by men who said they were showing him who was in charge of the United States...

As Shutdown Nears, Both Parties Begin Casting Blame
Carl Hulse and Michael D. Shear, The New York Times | As Shutdown Nears, Both Parties Begin Casting Blame | April 8, 2011

Hours from a government shutdown, the leaders of the House and Senate offered dramatically different reasons for a budget stalemate and expressed little hope that the two sides will reach an agreement by midnight.  In a terse statement to reporters, House Speaker John Boehner said there is “only one reason we do not have an agreement yet and that is spending,” and asked “when will the White House and when will Senate Demorats get serious about cutting spending?” Moments later, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, offered a lengthier, scathing criticism of Mr. Boehner and House Republicans, accusing them of wanting to shut down the federal government by insisting on cutting funds for women’s heath services...