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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.

Coming Home, as an Interpreter
First Lt. Holly Hernandez, The New York Times At War | Coming Home, as an Interpreter | April 22, 2011

It was 1 in the afternoon. I was looking through the mess hall in Bagram Airfield north of Kabul, scanning the faces to find Parween. I had met her a few days before as she commented on a book I was reading about Afghanistan; her first name was the same as that of the main character. The book was “Lipstick in Afghanistan” by Roberta Gately, a fictional account of an American nurse volunteering in Bamiyan Province after 9/11. Unlike the nurse in my book, Parween had grown up in Kabul in a highly educated family. Her father had attended Columbia University and worked as an ambassador for Afghanistan to Ethiopia. Now, she worked as a translator for American military forces in Afghanistan...

Shale Gas Fracking Q&A
Fiona Harvey, The Guardian UK | Shale Gas Fracking Q&A | April 21, 2011

Never mind the spin, what do we know for sure about the controversial process of fracking?...

Parting Glance: Chris Hondros
David W. Dunlap, James Estrin and Kerri Macdonald, The New York Times | Parting Glance: Chris Hondros | April 21, 2011

Conjure a combat photographer in your mind's eye -- fatigues, a whiskey flask and a fondness for rude pastimes. Now discard the cliche and conjure Chris Hondros of Getty Images insted. A tweed blazer with elbow patches. A taste for martinis. A love of Mahler. And a passion for chess...

Parting Glance: Tim Hetherington
David W. Dunlap, James Estrin and Kerri Macdonald, The New York Times | Parting Glance: Tim Hetherington | April 21, 2011

To call Tim Hetherington a great photographer would be a mistake. That's not now he saw it. "If you are interested in mass communication, then you have to stop thinking of yourself as a photographer," he told Michael Kamber in a revealing interview last year, as his documentary film "Restropo" was about to open. "We live in a post-photographic world."...

Syria Protests: Shocking Videos, Photos
Brian Ries, The Daily Beast | Syria Protests: Shocking Videos, Photos | April 19, 2011

Crowds surge, "martyrs" are carried from the protest field, and gunshots ring out through the night -- view videos from Syria's most recent protests as the country marches towards revolution...

Whales' Grandeur and Grace, Up Close
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, The New York Times | Whales' Grandeur and Grace, Up Close | April 19, 2011

On a warm summer afternoon in 2005, Bryant Austin was snorkeling in the blue waters of the South Pacific by the islands of Tonga, looking through his camera at a humpback whale and her calf swimming less than 50 yards away. As he waited for the right moment, the playful calf swam right up to him, so close that he had to lower his camera. That’s when he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. Turning around, Mr. Austin found himself looking straight into the eye of the mother whale...

World's Best Blogger?
Jesse Kornbluth, Harvard Magazine | World's Best Blogger? | April 19, 2011

It was noon in Washington, D.C., when the shooting began in Tucson. Across the country, reporters and media executives rushed to cover the story of the gunman, the Congresswoman he shot at close range, and the 14 other victims. But the news couldn’t reach one of the Internet’s most important writers. For Andrew Sullivan, M.P.A. ’86, Ph.D. ’90, the editor of a blog called TheDish.com, the weekend is a time for rest, and having teed up on Friday afternoon a half-dozen evergreen posts for Saturday, he had turned off his communication devices and was sleeping in...

In This Fairy Tale, Not One, But Two Queens In Waiting
John F. Burns, The New York Times | In This Fairy Tale, Not One, But Two Queens In Waiting | April 19, 2011

When 1,900 invited guests take their coveted places in Westminster Abbey next week for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, one of the most uneasy seats in the 13th-century Gothic church may be the one occupied by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the longtime lover of Prince Charles, and since her marriage to the heir to the throne in 2005, the stepmother to William, Charles’s older son...

Dear Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary
Paul Collins, Slate | Dear Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary | April 18, 2011

In my more hopeful moments, I like to think that drunken frat brothers everywhere are quoting Beat poetry to each other. It would be a fine vindication of our educational system. And it seems to be the implication of the definition of shit-faced—which, along with the other shit compound words, lives in the OED between shish-kebab and shiv...

Eerie Hush Descends on Japan's Nuclear Zone
Daisuke Wakabayashi, The Wall Street Journal | Eerie Hush Descends on Japan's Nuclear Zone | April 18, 2011

n the Coin Laundry, a dryer is still loaded with clothes: an orange hooded sweatshirt, a green worker's vest and two pairs of jeans, damp and smelling of mildew. At Joe's Man restaurant near the train station, a menu lists the lunch specials, starting with bacon-and-eggplant pasta in a tomato-cream sauce. A flyer on the open doors of the Nishio clothes shop promotes a five-day "inventory clearance" sale. Over the road that runs through the town center, a white-and-blue sign proclaims: "Understanding Nuclear Power Correctly Will Lead to an Abundant Life." But life, by and large, is what is absent in this town, just a few miles away from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant...