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.

Japan's Distinctly Un-American Brand of Heroism
Marie Mutsuki Mockett, Salon | Japan's Distinctly Un-American Brand of Heroism | May 14, 2011

On a trip to Japan three weeks after the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster, I repeatedly ran into the theme of "change." Young people in their 20s and 30s likened the Tohoku catastrophe to 9/11, after which Americans were enveloped by a sense of unity. "That feeling disappeared," I warned. "It won't disappear here," everyone insisted. "Japan is going to change."...

Armed With Stone-Tipped Arrows, Hunters Stalk Their Inner Cave Man
Justin Scheck, The Wall Street Journal | Armed With Stone-Tipped Arrows, Hunters Stalk Their Inner Cave Man | May 12, 2011

Late last month, Mike Huston crouched in a prickly pear patch. His blood-stained quiver—sewn from the hide of a deer he killed—was full of arrows fashioned from turkey feathers, wild plants and sharpened stones...

John Demjanjuk Convicted Over Nazi Camp Deaths
Andrew M. Jarach, Geir Moulson, The Huffington Post | John Demjanjuk Convicted Over Nazi Camp Deaths | May 12, 2011

Retired U.S. autoworker John Demjanjuk was convicted of thousands of counts of acting as an accessory to murder at a Nazi death camp and sentenced on Thursday to five years in prison, a groundbreaking verdict that closed one chapter in a decades-long legal battle...

The Dogs of War: Beloved Comrades in Afghanistan
Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times | Dogs of War: Beloved Comrades in Afghanistan | May 12, 2011

Marines were on a foot patrol last fall in the Taliban stronghold of Marja, Afghanistan, when they shot and killed a lethal threat: a local dog that made the mistake of attacking the Marines’ Labrador retriever.

Capt. Manuel Zepeda, the commander of Company F, Second Battalion, Sixth Marines, was unapologetic. If the Lab on the patrol had been hurt, the Marines would have lost their best weapon for detecting roadside bombs — and would have called for a medevac helicopter, just as they would for a human. An attack on the Lab was an attack on a fellow warrior. As Captain Zepeda put it that day, “We consider the dog another Marine.”...


Obama Mama:

When depicting their family origins for public consumption, American presidents tend to downplay the importance of Dad while idealizing Mom. Dwight D. Eisenhower described his mother, who was a pacifist and Jehovah's Witness, as "saintly." Richard Nixon called Hannah Milhous Nixon a "Quaker saint." Jimmy Carter wrote one of his many post-presidential books about his "remarkable mother," Miss Lillian, who went to India with the Peace Corps at the age of 68. George W. Bush identified with saber-toothed Barbara as a way of differentiating himself from the male parent he physically resembled...

For Microsoft, Skype Opens Vast New Market in Telecom
Steve Lohr, The New York Times | For Microsoft, Skype Opens Vast New Market in Telecom | May 11, 2011

Microsoft has peered into the future, and placed a bet that people the world over want to stay in touch with someone anytime and anywhere — preferably at no cost...

Unspoken Truths
Christopher Hitchins, Vanity Fair | Unspoken Truths | May 10, 2011

Until cancer attacked his vocal chords, the author didn't fully appreciate what was meant by "a writer's voice," or the essential link between speech and prose. As a man who loved to talk, he turns to the masters of such conversation, both in history and in his own circle...

Mississippi River Crests in Memphis
Judith Tackett and Campbell Robertson, The New York Times | Mississippi River Crests in Memphis | May 10, 2011

The Mississippi River crested here Tuesday morning, flooding low-lying neighborhoods in the city but falling short of record levels that would have caused far more damage. The river topped out at 47.8 feet early Tuesday, far above flood stage, but 4 inches lower than the predicted crest of 48 feet and almost a foot lower than the record crest of 48.7 feet in 1937...

Tiny Brown Is Still Hungry For Buzz
Peter Sevenson, The New York Times Magazine | Tina Brown Is Still Hungry For Buzz | May 9, 2011

Around sunset on a recent spring evening in Manhattan, a nervous-looking young woman was clutching a clipboard outside the entrance to the East 57th Street apartment belonging to Tina Brown and Harry Evans. Guests were shown into a large room filled with fresh-cut flowers, caterers bearing trays of hors d’oeuvres and wall-to-wall chatter. The hum was baritone: men in suits outnumbered women in heels two to one. The billionaire chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz — whose book, “Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul,” was the reason for the party — stood a head taller than the crowd, watching with a smile as flush-cheeked beefy guys from his scrappy youth in Canarsie, Brooklyn, knocked back the free booze...

Pakistan-U.S. Rift Widens
Siobhan Gorman and Matthew Rosenberg, The Wall Street Journal | Pakistan-U.S. Rift Widens | May 9, 2011

Pakistani media aired the name of a man they said is the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief, prompting questions about whether the Pakistani government tried to out a CIA operative in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. is looking into the matter. There are no plans at this time to withdraw the station chief. If the government had attempted to publicize the name, that would be the second such outing in the past six months, a sign of how deeply U.S.-Pakistan relations have soured...