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.

Fossils Raise Questions About Human Ancestry
Ewen Callaway, Scientific American | Fossils Raise Questions About Human Ancestry | September 9, 2011

New descriptions of Australopithecus sediba fossils have added to debates about the species' place in the human lineage. Five papers published today in Science describe the skull, pelvis, hands and feet of the ancient hominin unearthed three years ago in South Africa.

The papers reveal a curious mix of traits, some found in apes and earlier Australopithecus fossils, and others thought to be unique to Homo erectus--the tall, thin-boned hominin that emerged around 2 million years ago in eastern Africa and colonized Europe and Asia--and its descendants, including modern humans...

The Shadow of Suspicion Falls in the Mall of America
G.W. Schulz, Daniel Zwerdling and Andrew Becker, Salon | The Shadow of Suspicion Falls in the Mall of America | September 7, 2011

On May 1, 2008, at 4:59 p.m., Brad Kleinerman entered the spooky world of homeland security.

As he shopped for a children's watch inside the sprawling Mall of America, two security guards approached and began questioning him. Although he was not accused of wrongdoing, the guards filed a confidential report about Kleinerman that was forwarded to local police. The reason: Guards thought he might pose a threat because he had been looking at them in a suspicious way...

The ACLU on Obama and Core Liberties
Glenn Greenwald, Salon | The ACLU on Obama and Core Liberties | September 7, 2011

The ACLU decided to use the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack to comprehensively survey the severe erosion of civil liberties justified in the name of that event, an erosion that -- as it documents -- continues unabated, indeed often in accelerated form, under the Obama administration...

The Retribution Will Not Be Televised
William Saletan, Slate | The Retribution Will Not Be Televised | September 7, 2011

If you're looking for something big to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, look again...

Subterranean Amazon River "Is Not a River"
Richard Black, BBC News | Subterranean Amazon River "Is Not a River" | September 7, 2011

A subterranean river said to be flowing beneath the Amazon region of Brazil is not a river in the conventional sense, even if its existence is confirmed.

The "river" has been widely reported, after a study on it was presented to a Brazilian science meeting last week...

"Thank You, America!"
Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times Op Ed | "Thank You, America!" | September 6, 2011

Americans are not often heroes in the Arab world, but as nonstop celebrations unfold here in the Libyan capital I keep running into ordinary people who learn where I’m from and then fervently repeat variants of the same phrase: “Thank you, America!”...

The 9/11 Decade
The Guardian | The 9/11 Decade | September 6, 2011

The 9/11 decade...

Reports Say Loyalists Are Fleeing From Libya to Niger
Anne Barnard, Adam Nossiter and Alan Cowell, The New York Times | Reports Say Loyalists Are Fleeing From Libya to Niger | September 6, 2011

As rebel negotiators pressed loyalists in the desert town of Bani Walid to surrender peacefully, a convoy of Libyan Army vehicles was reported on Tuesday to have crossed the country’s southern border into Niger in what could represent a shift in the balance of power after six months of conflict...

Can Japan Recover?: The New Fear of Food
Daisann McLane | Can Japan Recover?: The New Fear of Food | September 5, 2011

Food in Japan is entwined, inextricably, with place. So what happens when the place gets contaminated? The city of Tokyo survived the earthquake and missed the tsunami, and its background radiation level is safe—in fact it's even lower than Hong Kong's. But the Fukushima radiation, like a malevolent genie in a bottle, had slipped out and insinuated itself into Japan's cultural pride and lifeblood. It had gotten into the rice and even the tea leaves. Low levels, to be sure, but what, exactly, are safe levels?...

Libya's Powerful Islamist Leader
Babak Dehghanpisheh, The Daily Beast | Libya's Powerful Islamist Leader | September 4, 2011

Even some Libyans are worried by Abdel Hakim Belhaj. It’s not that his revolutionary credentials are anything less than impeccable. When victorious rebel forces blasted through the gates at Muammar Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli, the 45-year-old commander who led the charge was none other than Belhaj. As a battle-hardened veteran, he had organized and trained many of those rebel fighters in Libya’s western mountains. And now the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC) has accepted him as head of the newly created Tripoli Military Council, with control of some 8,000 troops, the biggest fighting force in Libya.

Click here to find out more!The trouble is that Belhaj’s record as a Gaddafi adversary just might be too impressive. Belhaj is a founding member and former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which is listed by both the U.S. State Department and the British Home Office as an international terrorist organization...