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.

South Korea's Defense Chief Resigns in Wake of Attack
Mark McDonald, The New York Times | Soth Korea's Defense Chief Resigns | November 25, 2010

President Lee Myung-bak accepted the resignation of Defense Minister Kim Tae-young on Thursday amid intense criticism over the South’s response to an artillery attack by North Korea two days earlier and the sinking of a warship in March. “There was a need to revamp the military landscape,” a senior government official said Thursday night. “It was time.”...

Sen. Mitch McConnell's Earmark Power Credited For Revitalizing Louisville
Ann Gerhart and R. Jeffrey Smith, The Washington Post | McConnell's Earmark Power | November 23, 2010

The once grand downtown of this city on the Ohio River is shabby, as the nation's old downtowns tend to be. Magnificent tall cast-iron-fronted buildings sit empty. So do historic brick tobacco warehouses, surrounded in razor-wire, tagged with graffiti. But the downtown of Kentucky's largest city also has a spectacular redeveloped waterfront featuring bike paths and open vistas, the spanking-new KFC Yum! sports arena, and a medical complex of several hospitals that employ nearly 20,000 people, treat tens of thousands and conduct cutting-edge research. This resurgence is a result of civic vision, pride, tenacity - and the impressive earmark performance of Louisville's Slugger: Mitch McConnell (R), Kentucky's longest-serving senator and the powerful Senate minority leader.

Coast Guard Rescues Man on Suisun Bay's Roe Island
Justin Berton, The San Francisco Chronicle | Coast Guard Rescues Man on Suisun Bay's Roe Island | November 23, 2010

What appeared to be a harrowing story of survival emerged from Suisun Bay on Monday - that of a wayward rafter who spent five days stranded on a deserted island nibbling on vitamins and native plants and fashioning a crude "SOS" sign until the U.S. Coast Guard rescued him. But after returning to shore, Brian "Goat Man" Hopper added a twist to the tale. He admitted that he failed to make use of a key piece of equipment during his stay on Roe Island north of Concord: a cellular telephone...

North and South Korea Exchange Dozens of Artillery Shells
Mark McDonald, The New York Times | North and South Korea Exchange Dozens of Artillery Shells | November 23, 2010

SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire on Tuesday after dozens of shells fired from the North struck a South Korean island near the countries’ disputed western sea border, South Korean military officials said.

The South Korean military immediately went to “crisis status,” said a Defense Ministry official. There were widespread media reports that Seoul had scrambled F-16 fighter jets but the official declined to confirm whether the planes were in the air...

Franken Sense: The Very Serious Senator From Minnesota
Jeffrey Rosen, The New Republic | Franken Sense | November 17, 2010

In July 2009, after a cliff-hanger of an election and an ugly court battle over the results, Al Franken finally arrived in the United States Senate. Eager to lay the groundwork for legislative accomplishments, the author of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot looked for common ground with his new GOP colleagues. In the case of Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, that common ground was music. In addition to his senatorial career, Hatch is a prolific songwriter—he has written odes to John McCain, America, Hanukkah, and Princess Diana, among other subjects—and so Franken approached him and asked to hear a few tunes...


Olbermann, O'Reilly and the Death of Real News
Ted Koppel, The Washington Post | Olbermann, O'Reilly and the Death of Real News | November 17, 2010

To witness Keith Olbermann - the most opinionated among MSNBC's left-leaning, Fox-baiting, money-generating hosts - suspended even briefly last week for making financial contributions to Democratic political candidates seemed like a whimsical, arcane holdover from a long-gone era of television journalism, when the networks considered the collection and dissemination of substantive and unbiased news to be a public trust...


The Gulf Between Us
Terry Tempest Williams, Orion | The Gulf Between Us | November 15, 2010

Stories of terror and beauty from the world's largest accidental offshore oil disaster...

Mark Twain Editors Work for Decades on Writings
Debra Levi Holtz, The San Francisco Chronicle | Mark Twain Editors Work for Decades on Writing | November 15, 2010

A century after his death, Mark Twain is back on the national best-seller lists, thanks to decades of work by some UC Berkeley scholars. Editors from the Mark Twain Papers and Projects archive at the university's Bancroft Library have released the first volume of the author's unexpurgated autobiography, which contains some searing remarks about politics and Wall Street that still resonate today...

One Moment in Afghanistan, Heroism and Heartbreak
Elizabeth Rubin, The New York Times | One Moment In Afghanistan | November 15, 2010

Three years and three weeks ago. Dusk was falling fast on the Korengal Valley. We were crouched on a shrub-laden plateau some 8,000 feet up in the mountains. The soldiers were exhausted and cold. We’d been sleeping in ditches for five nights. Insurgents were everywhere...

Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners
Matt Taibi, Rolling Stone | Courts Helping Banks Screw Over Homeowners | November 12, 2010

The foreclosure lawyers down in Jacksonville had warned me, but I was skeptical. They told me the state of Florida had created a special super-high-speed housing court with a specific mandate to rubber-stamp the legally dicey foreclosures by corporate mortgage pushers like Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase. This "rocket docket," as it is called in town, is presided over by retired judges who seem to have no clue about the insanely complex financial instruments they are ruling on — securitized mortgages and laby­rinthine derivative deals of a type that didn't even exist when most of them were active members of the bench. Their stated mission isn't to decide right and wrong, but to clear cases and blast human beings out of their homes with ultimate velocity. They certainly have no incentive to penetrate the profound criminal mysteries of the great American mortgage bubble of the 2000s, perhaps the most complex Ponzi scheme in human history...