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.

Taking On Google By Learning From Ants
Nick Wingfield | Taking On Google By Learning From Ants | November 7, 2010

Fifteenth- and 16th-century European explorers helped to transform cartography during the Age of Discovery. Rather than mapping newly discovered worlds, Blaise Agüera y Arcas is out to invent new ways of viewing the old ones.

Mr. Agüera y Arcas is the architect of Bing Maps, the online mapping service that is part of Microsoft Corp.'s Bing Internet search engine. Bing Maps does all the basics, like turn-by-turn directions and satellite views that offer a peek into the neighbor's backyard, but Mr. Agüera y Arcas has attracted attention in the tech world by pushing the service to do a lot more...

China's New Guru of Productivity
Sebastian Mallaby, Wall Street Journal | China's New Guru of Productivity | November 7, 2010

After weeks of ominous debate about a global "currency war," the leaders of the world's largest economies will gather this Thursday and Friday for a G20 meeting in South Korea. The Obama administration will put a brave face on its failure to shame China into revaluing its currency, a concession that would help to tame the country's destabilizing trade surplus. But the lack of concessions from China may prove even more serious than the currency warriors realize, because a quiet revolution is stirring deep inside the country's manufacturing machine. China is advancing so rapidly in terms of productivity that a compromise on currency might serve only to slow its rise as an export juggernaut...

The Facebook Skeletons
Jeremy W. Peters and Brian Stelter, NY Times | The Facebook Skeletons Come Out | November 7, 2010

Among the many firsts in the 2010 elections, it is safe to assume that the following words had never before been uttered about a future member of Congress, “This is a candidate who is probably best known for getting drunk and having sex on television.”...

Republicans Capture Control of House; Dems to Retain Senate
Dan Balz, Washington Post | Republicans Capture House | November 3, 2010

Just four years after surrendering power, Republicans recaptured control of the House and made gains in the Senate on Tuesday night, in a major rebuff of President Obama and the Democrats by an electorate worried about the economy and the size of the government...

Bomb Plot Narrowly Averted
Adam Goldman and Adam Schreck, AP | Bomb Plot Narrowly Averted | November 1, 2010

The mail bomb plot stretching from Yemen to Chicago may have been aimed at blowing up planes in flight and was only narrowly averted, officials said Sunday, acknowledging that one device almost slipped through Britain and another seized in Dubai was unwittingly flown on two passenger jets. Senior U.S. officials met to develop a U.S. response to the al-Qaida faction linked to the powerful explosives addressed to synagogues in Chicago...

Tea Party Philosophy
Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor | Tea Party Philosophy | November 1, 2010

It’s still unclear what contribution the tea party movement –- its grass-roots element, its behind-the-scenes funding apparatus, and the surging national candidates it’s brought forward –- will make to the good of the republic. But one thing for sure: It’s a dream come true for political science departments around the world. It may well do for poli sci what Watergate heroes Woodward and Bernstein did for journalism. Let a thousand doctoral dissertations bloom!...

Newly Discovered Planet May Be First Truly Habitable Exoplanet
Tim Stephens, UC Santa Cruz | Newly Discovered Planet | October 29, 2010

A team of planet hunters led by astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington has announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet (three times the mass of Earth) orbiting a nearby star at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the star's "habitable zone," where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface. If confirmed, this would be the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered and the first strong case for a potentially habitable one...

Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law
Laura Sullivan, NPR | Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law | October 29, 2010

Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal.

     Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch.

     "The gentleman that's the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger," Nichols said. "He's a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman."

     What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants.

      "They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community," Nichols said, "the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate."

      But Nichols wasn't buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years — decades even — with illegal immigrants?

     "They talked like they didn't have any doubt they could fill it," Nichols said.

     That's because prison companies like this one had a plan — a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona's immigration law...

D.C. Metro Bomb Plot
Peter Finn, Spencer S. Hu, Caitlin Gibson, The Washington Post | D.C. Metro Bomb Plot | October 28, 2010

Federal law enforcement authorities arrested a Northern Virginia man Wednesday in connection with an alleged plot to carry out terrorist bombings at stations in the Washington Metro system. Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn conspired with people he thought to be al-Qaeda operatives to bomb the Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon City, Crystal City and Court House stations, according to a federal indictment...

George Soros, Wall Street Journal | Why I Support Legal Marijuana | October 26, 2010

We should invest in effective education rather than ineffective arrest and incarceration. Our marijuana laws are clearly doing more harm than good. The criminalization of marijuana did not prevent marijuana from becoming the most widely used illegal substance in the United States and many other countries. But it did result in extensive costs and negative consequences...