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.

Christian Mom Faces Execution
Asra Q. Nomani, The Daily Beast | Christian Mom Faces Execution | December 15, 2010

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Aasia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, is sitting in a Pakistani jail awaiting a death sentence for blaspheming the prophet Muhammad — and an appeal by the pope hasn't saved her...

As U.S. Assesses Afghan War, Karzai a Question Mark
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, The Washington Post | Karzai A Question Mark | December 13, 2010

For more than an hour, Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and other top Western officials in Kabul urged Karzai to delay implementing a ban on private security firms. Reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars would have to be shuttered, they maintained, if foreign guards were evicted.

Sitting at the head of a glass-topped, U-shaped table in his conference room, Karzai refused to budge, according to two people with direct knowledge of the late October meeting. He insisted that Afghan police and soldiers could protect the reconstruction workers, and he dismissed pleas for a delay.

As he spoke, he grew agitated, then enraged. He told them that he now has three "main enemies" - the Taliban, the United States and the international community.

"If I had to choose sides today, I'd choose the Taliban," he fumed...

Silvio Berlusconi's Political Fight is Going Down to the Wire
Nick Squires, The Christian Science Monitor | Berlusconi's Political Fight | December 13, 2010

Silvio Berlusconi is fighting for his political life as he faces two no-confidence votes that could bring down his government and pitch Italy into an acute political crisis...

More Christians Flee Iraq After New Violence
Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times | More Christians Flee Iraq | December 13, 2010

A new wave of Iraqi Christians has fled to northern Iraq or abroad amid a campaign of violence against them and growing fear that the country’s security forces are unable or, more ominously, unwilling to protect them...

U.S. Embassy Cables: Browse the Database
The Guardian, UK | The U.S. Embassy Cables | December 10, 2010

U.S. Embassy Cables: Use our interactive guide to discover what has been revealed in the leak of 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables. Mouse over the map below to find key stories and a selection of original documents by country, subject or people. Click on red dots for latest stories…


At Peace Prize Ceremony, Winner's Chair Stays Empty
Sarah Lyall and Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times | Winner's Chair Stays Empty | December 10, 2010

Imprisoned in China and with close family members forbidden to leave the country, the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, an empty chair representing his absence at the prize ceremony here. Noting Mr. Liu’s absence, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said to a standing ovation: “This fact alone shows that the award was necessary and appropriate.”...

On Eve of Nobel Ceremony, China Cracks Down and Lashes out
Keith B. Richburg, Washington Post Foreign Service | China Cracks Down And Lashes Out | December 9, 2010

Restaurant and bar owners in China have been summoned to local police stations and warned against allowing large gatherings on Friday. Some lawyers, writers and academics have been stopped at airports from boarding their flights; others have been forcibly taken to the countryside. Known activists are under house arrest. And today, several foreign media Web sites and television stations were blocked. Chinese police have said they were taking these actions to guard against a threat to national security. The threat, apparently, is the 54-year-old bespectacled intellectual Liu Xiaobo, currently serving an 11-year prison sentence in China's northern Liaoning province for the crime of "inciting subversion of state power." Liu in October was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. Since neither Liu nor any of his family members are being allowed to leave China to attend Friday's ceremony in Oslo, the Nobel committee organizers said he will be represented by an empty chair...

The New Hue For 2011
Christina Binkley, The Wall Street Journal | The New Hue For 2011 | December 9, 2010

The new year is looking brighter in at least one respect. Thursday, color authority Pantone plans to announce that its color of the year for 2011 is an intense pink it calls "honeysuckle."...

Election Violence Flares In Haiti
Deborah Sontag, The New York Times | Election Violence Flares In Haiti | December 9, 2010

Violent protests, ignited by preliminary presidential election results that were widely considered suspect, shut down this troubled country on Wednesday and threatened the fragile stability that has held since the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. Businesses and schools were shuttered, streets emptied of traffic and the international airport closed. Angry protesters set fire to the party headquarters of President René Préval’s chosen successor, and many hundreds marched on the electoral council offices, where United Nations peacekeeping troops repelled them with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades...

'Naughty' Joke Gets Santa Claus Fired From Macy's
Kevin Fagan, San Francisco Chronicle | Santa Claus Fired | December 7, 2010

Santa Claus has been canned from Macy's, and he's anything but jolly about it. His fans aren't happy, either. And there are many...