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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.

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?...

At 64, Israel Celebrates, But Not Without Wariness
Ethan Bronner, The New York Times | At 64, Israel Celebrates, But Not Without Wariness | April 25, 2012

The paradox that is Israel — wealthy, dynamic and safe, yet mistrusted, condemned and nervous — was on full display on Wednesday as the country mourned its fallen soldiers and began celebrating its 64th independence day. Commentators on the left and the right stuck to their scripts, with the left asserting that the country’s treatment of the Palestinians and its regional saber rattling have made it isolated and stagnant, and the right glorifying Israel’s accomplishments: high-tech innovations, long life expectancies and democracy...        

Do the Eyes Have It?
Pat Shipman, American Scientist | Do the Eyes Have It? | April 25, 2012

We all know the adage that dogs are man’s best friend. And we’ve all heard heartwarming stories about dogs who save their owners—waking them during a fire or summoning help after an accident. Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows the amazing, almost inexpressible warmth of a dog’s companionship and devotion. But it just might be that dogs have done much, much more than that for humankind. They may have saved not only individuals but also our whole species, by “domesticating” us while we domesticated them.

Get Rich U.

Stanford University is so startlingly paradisial, so fragrant and sunny, it’s as if you could eat from the trees and live happily forever. Students ride their bikes through manicured quads, past blooming flowers and statues by Rodin, to buildings named for benefactors like Gates, Hewlett, and Packard. Everyone seems happy, though there is a well-known phenomenon called the “Stanford duck syndrome”: students seem cheerful, but all the while they are furiously paddling their legs to stay afloat. What they are generally paddling toward are careers of the sort that could get their names on those buildings. The campus has its jocks, stoners, and poets, but what it is famous for are budding entrepreneurs, engineers, and computer aces hoping to make their fortune in one crevasse or another of Silicon Valley...

No Sympathy for the Creative Class
Scott Timberg, Salon | No Sympathy for the Creative Class | April 22, 2012

They’re pampered, privileged, indulged – part of the “cultural elite.” They spend all their time smoking pot and sipping absinthe. To use a term that’s acquired currency lately, they’re entitled. And they’re not – after all – real Americans.

This what we hear about artists, architects, musicians, writers and others like them. And it’s part of the reason the struggles of the creative class in the 21st century – a period in which an economic crash, social shifts and technological change have put everyone from graphic artists to jazz musicians to book publishers out of work – has gone largely untold. Or been shrugged off...

Friends for Life? Wait Till Kids enter the Picture
Judith Warner, The New York Times | Friends for Life? Wait Till Kids Enter the Picture | April 22, 2012

Nothing can sink a friendship like differences over parenting. Sometimes the areas of disagreement are stark and dramatic, leading to blowups and out-and-out breaks. Most of the time they’re subtle and unstated, a matter of dark looks and long-simmering resentments, that erode, rather than rupture, formerly close relationships. Often they arise from a vague sense of betrayal, a friend’s having changed once he or she has had children, breaking unspoken assumptions about shared values and goals, how to live and who to be...

Drone Use Takes Off on the Home Front
Andy Pasztor and John Emshwiller, The Wasll Street Journal | Drone Use Takes Off on the Home Front | April 21, 2012

With little public attention, dozens of universities and law-enforcement agencies have been given approval by federal aviation regulators to use unmanned aircraft known as drones, according to documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests by an advocacy group. The more than 50 institutions that received approvals to operate remotely piloted aircraft are more varied than many outsiders and privacy experts previously knew. They include not only agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security but also smaller ones such as the police departments in North Little Rock, Ark., and Ogden, Utah, as well the University of North Dakota and Nicholls State University in Louisiana...