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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 Surprise Trip To Kabul By Obama Marks A Shift In Ties
Mark Landler, The New York Times | A Surprise Trip To Kabul By Obama Marks A Shift In Ties | May 1, 2012

President Obama landed here Tuesday, on a surprise visit, to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan meant to mark the beginning of the end of a war that has lasted for more than a decade.

Mr. Obama, arriving after nightfall under a veil of secrecy at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, flew by helicopter to the presidential palace, where he was to meet President Hamid Karzai before both leaders signed the pact. It is intended to be a road map for two nations lashed together by more of than a decade of war and groping for a new relationship after the departure of American troops, scheduled for the end of 2014...

British Panel Finds Murdoch Unfit To Lead Media Empire
Alan Cowell and John F. Burns, The New York Times | British Panel Find sMurdoch Unfit To Lead Media Empire | May 1, 2012

In a startlingly damning report after months of investigation into the hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers, a parliamentary panel here concluded on Tuesday that he was “not a fit person” to run a huge international company, amplifying a public outcry against him, but threatening further bruising divisions within the political establishment.

The conclusion about the world’s most influential media tycoon went much further in lambasting Mr. Murdoch than had been expected from Parliament’s select committee on culture, media and sport...

Bin Laden's Last Stand: In Final Months, Terrorist Leader Worried About HIs Legacy

A few months before Osama bin Laden’s death, Web sites linked to al-Qaeda ran excited commentary about a proposed new killing machine dubbed the “human lawn mower.” The idea was to attach rotating blades to the front of a pickup truck and drive the contraption into crowds.

While some jihadists admired the idea, one graying veteran of the terrorist movement took a stand against it. That was bin Laden himself, by then living out his twilight years in a Pakistani villa with ample time to think about his legacy. The man who famously ordered jetliners flown into skyscrapers drew the line at cutting down humans like weeds...

Machine Politics: The Man Who Started the Hacker Wars
David Kushner, The New Yorker | Machine Politics: The Man Who Started the Hacker Wars | April 30, 2012

In the summer of 2007, Apple released the iPhone, in an exclusive partnership with A.T. & T. George Hotz, a seventeen-year-old from Glen Rock, New Jersey, was a T-Mobile subscriber. He wanted an iPhone, but he also wanted to make calls using his existing network, so he decided to hack the phone...

Sudan Declares State of Emergency as Clashes Continue
Isma'il Kushkush and Josh Kron, The New York Times | Sudan Declares State of Emergency as Clashes Continue | April 30, 2012

Sudan declared a state of emergency on Sunday along much of its border with South Sudan as the momentum toward all-out war continues to build after weeks of clashes over disputed areas and oil.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s decree gives authorities in the border areas wide powers to make arrests and set up special courts. It was issued a day after Sudan detained three foreigners and a South Sudanese near the border and accused them of spying for South Sudan, a charge the South denies...

Joseph Kony Hunt Is Proving Difficult For U.S. Troops
Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post | Joseph Kony Hunt Is Proving Difficult For U.S. Troops | April 30, 2012

ix months after President Obama ordered 100 elite troops to help capture the messianic warlord Joseph Kony, U.S. military commanders said Sunday that they have been unable to pick up his trail but believe he is hiding in this country’s dense jungle, relying on Stone Age tactics to dodge his pursuers’ high-tech surveillance tools.

Kony and his brutal militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army, have slowed their pace of rapes, abductions and killings in recent months. Under renewed international pressure, LRA fighters have slipped deeper into the bush, splintering into smaller bands to avoid detection and literally covering their tracks, according to U.S., African and United Nations officials who are collaborating on the hunt...

The Koch Brothers -- Exposed!
Julian Brookes, Rolling Stone | The Koch Brothers -- Exposed! | April 26, 2012

If the Koch brothers didn't exist, the left would have to invent them. They're the plutocrats from central casting – oil-and-gas billionaires ready to buy any congressman, fund any lie, fight any law, bust any union, despoil any landscape, or shirk any (tax) burden to push their free-market religion and pump up their profits.

But no need to invent – Charles and David Koch are the real deal. Over the past 30-some years, they've poured more than 100 million dollars into a sprawling network of foundations, think tanks, front groups, advocacy organizations, lobbyists and GOP lawmakers, all to the glory of their hard-core libertarian agenda. They don't oppose big government so much as government – taxes, environmental protections, safety-net programs, public education: the whole bit...

Bo Xilai Officials 'Wiretapped call to President Hu Jintao'
Tania Branigan, The Guardian | Bo Xilai Officials 'Wiretapped call to President Hu Jintao" | April 26, 2012

The spotlight on the Bo Xilai affair has turned back on to political tensions in China following reports that officials in Chongqing wiretapped a call to the country's president, Hu Jintao – helping to trigger the scandal that unseated Bo.

Official accounts of the case have portrayed it as being unrelated to the political struggle for power in the country. Bo is instead accused of unspecified disciplinary violations while his wife, Gu Kailai, is accused of murdering the British businessman Neil Heywood...

Wendell Berry, American Hero
Mark Bittman, The New York Times Opinionator | Wendell Berry, American Hero | April 26, 2012

The sensibility of Wendell Berry, who is sometimes described as a modern day Thoreau but who I’d call the soul of the real food movement, leads people like me on a path to the door of the hillside house he shares with his wife, Tanya, outside of Port Royal, Ky. Everything is as the pilgrim would have it: Wendell (he’s a one-name icon, like Madonna, but probably in that respect only) is kind and welcoming, all smiles...

Fracking's BFs
David Sirota, Salon | Fracking's Best Friends | April 25, 2012

In the ongoing battle over the development of domestic fossil fuel resources, there is no shortage of unanswered questions. Is hydraulic fracking perfectly safe? How toxic are the chemicals used in that controversial oil and gas extraction technique? To protect the environment, do we need to better regulate the process?

These are questions that can be answered — and, in fact, are already being answered – most accurately by dispassionate scientists. But in a country whose public policymaking apparatus is so dominated by money, the scientific questions may ultimately be less important than a set of key political questions: namely, which level of government gets to decide whether drilling moves forward — state or local?...