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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 Boehner Trap
Michael Tomasky | The Boehner Trap | July 29, 2011

Don’t worry about the House’s failure to vote on John Boehner’s debt plan Thursday night. That’s Boehner’s problem, not the country’s. True, I suppose we should devote a moment to reflecting on how terrible it’s gotten when a speaker with a lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union of 94 can’t pass a bill in his own party because he and it are “too left wing.”...

Unraveling Mexico's Sinaloa Drug Cartel
Richard Marosi, The Los Angeles Times | Unraveling Mexico's Sinaloa Drug Cartel | July 29, 2011

Never lose track of the load.

It was drilled into everybody who worked for Carlos “Charlie” Cuevas. His drivers, lookouts, stash house operators, dispatchers -- they all knew. When a shipment was on the move, a pair of eyes had to move with it.

Cuevas had just sent a crew of seven men to the border crossing at Calexico, Calif. The load they were tracking was cocaine, concealed in a custom-made compartment inside a blue 2003 Honda Accord...

Japanese, In Shortage, Willingly Ration Watts
Norimitsu Onishi, The New York Times | Japanese, in Shortage, Willingly Ration Watts | July 29, 2011

With Japan suffering from electricity shortages this summer, Michio Kuniyuki has stepped up his conservation patrols of Rikkyo University. As he has done these past six summers, Mr. Kuniyuki spends his days making sure the lights and air-conditioning have not been left on in empty classrooms. Whenever he finds students in a classroom, he turns off the air-conditioning and inquires about the lights...

Why Writers Belong Behind Bars
Tony Perrottet, The New York Times Book Review | Why Writers Belong Behind Bars | July 27, 2011

While researching the Marquis de Sade several years ago, I came across an intriguing biographical tidbit: that crazed French libertine, whose string of luridly violent works gave rise to the term “sadism,” actually began his literary career as a travel writer. In 1775, Sade embarked on a yearlong grand tour of Italy, and wrote an enormous (and enormously tedious) manuscript about the journey entitled “Voyage d’Italie.” The rambling opus, filled with ruminations on Florentine museums and Neapolitan customs, was never completed. Sade’s attention wandered to more carnal pleasures, and in 1777, he was arrested for a long list of unsavory imbroglios, including one that historians call the Little Girls Episode. Sade was thrown into the prison of Vincennes, and would spend most of his remaining life incarcerated. “Voyage d’Italie” soon joined a range of half-finished manuscripts from his youth, scraps of verse and staid dramatic pieces, none of which Sade ever had the discipline to bring to fruition.

From a strictly literary point of view, prison was the best thing that ever happened to the marquis. It was only behind bars that Sade was able to knuckle down and compose the imaginative works upon which his enduring, if peculiar, reputation lies...

Ads by Christian Groups Pressure Lawmakers to Protect the Poor in Debt Talks
Peter Wallsten, The Washington Post | Ads by Christian Groups Pressure Lawmakers to Protect the Poor in Debt Talks | July 27, 2011

A new coalition of influential Christian groups is ramping up pressure on President Obama and Congress to shield the poor from spending cuts in the debt-limit struggle, with one organization launching an advertising campaign Tuesday on Christian radio stations in politically important markets...

Billionaires' Rise Aids India, and the Favor Is Returned
Jim Yardley and Vikas Bajaj, The New York Times | Billionaires' Rise Aids India, and the Favor Is Returned | July 27, 2011

On a recent wind-whipped morning, a steel-hulled behemoth arrived at a desolate stretch of India’s western coast groaning with enough coal to power a city of one million people for more than two weeks. The ship, the Vanshi, was carrying coal from Indonesia, a two-week trip across the Indian Ocean. India has its own abundant reserves of coal, which raises a question: Why did India need to go so far to get something it already had?...

McDonald's Revamps Happy Meal To Include Fruit
Christina Gossman, Slate | McDonald's Revamps Happy Meal To Include Fruit | July 26, 2011

For the past 30 years, kids have been ripping into their Happy Meal boxes with glee. Starting this September, they will find some changes...

President Obama, House Speaker Boehner Present Dueling Debt-Limit Plans to Nation
Paul Kane and Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post | President Obama, House Speaker Boehner Present Dueling Debt-Limit Plans to Nation | July 26, 2011

President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner escalated their battle over the national debt on Monday, pressing their arguments in a pair of prime-time television addresses as Congress remained at a loss over how to keep the United States from defaulting next week for the first time...

Debt Drama Blocks Out Big Picture on Credit
Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times | Debt Drama Blocks Out Big Picture on Credit | July 26, 2011

As Washington continues to debate a debt deal, the Obama administration has been preparing the country for the worst, with officials essentially saying the sky is about to fall.

But so far, oddly enough, nothing has happened. Despite warnings that a deal would need to be brokered by Sunday night before the Asian markets opened, stocks merely stumbled on Monday — the type of weakness usually associated with soft corporate earnings instead of an economic apocalypse...

Terror, Counter-Terror, and Insurgency in Harry Potter, or Why Harry Won
Dan Nexon, The Duck of Minerva | Terror, Counter-Terror, and Insurgency in Harry Potter, or Why Harry Won | July 25, 2011

In the waning days of classes, one of my colleagues asked a student if she’d been among those celebrating outside of the White House the night that President Obama announced the killing of Osama Bin-Laden. “Of course,” she responded, “I mean, they got Voldemort!”...