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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.

Vietnam Was Even More Horrific Than We Thought
Jonathan Schell, Tomdispatch.com via Salon | Vietnam Was Even More Horrific Than We Thought | January 18, 2013

For half a century we have been arguing about “the Vietnam War.” Is it possible that we didn’t know what we were talking about? After all that has been written (some 30,000 books and counting), it scarcely seems possible, but such, it turns out, has literally been the case.

Now, in Kill Anything that MovesNick Turse has for the first time put together a comprehensive picture, written with mastery and dignity, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings disclose an almost unspeakable truth.  Meticulously piecing together newly released classified information, court-martial records, Pentagon reports, and firsthand interviews in Vietnam and the United States, as well as contemporaneous press accounts and secondary literature, Turse discovers that episodes of devastation, murder, massacre, rape, and torture once considered isolated atrocities were in fact the norm, adding up to a continuous stream of atrocity, unfolding, year after year, throughout that country...

Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For
CNN Money | Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For | January 17, 2013

Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For...

'Dear Abby' Pauline Phillips Dead: Advice Columnist Dies At 94
Steve Karnowski, The Huffington Post | 'Dear Abby' Pauline Phillips Dead: Advice Columnist Dies At 94 | January 17, 2013

Pauline Friedman Phillips, who under the name of Abigail Van Buren, wrote the long-running "Dear Abby" advice column that was followed by millions of newspaper readers throughout the world, has died. She was 94.

Publicist Gene Willis of Universal Uclick said Phillips died Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Phillips' column competed for decades with the advice column of Ann Landers, written by her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer...

Nuclear Weapons Didn't End WWII
Ashutosh Jogalekar, Scientific American via Salon | Nuclear Weapons Didn't End WWII | January 16, 2013

Two foundational beliefs have colored our views of nuclear weapons since the end of World War 2; one, that they were essential or at least very significant for ending the war, and two, that they have been and will continue to be linchpins of deterrence. These beliefs have, in one way or another, guided all our thinking about these mythic creations. Ward Wilson who is at the Monterey Institute of International Studies wants to demolish these and other myths about nukes in a new book titled “5 Myths about Nuclear Weapons“, and I have seen few volumes which deliver their message so effectively in such few words. Below are Wilson’s thoughts about the two dominant nuclear myths interspersed with a few of my own...

NRA Unleashes Lobbyists
Anna Palmer, The Washington Post | NRA Unleashes Lobbyists | January 16, 2013

The NRA kept its dozen in-house lobbyists on lockdown in the first month after the Newtown massacre, but no more. The group is moving back onto Capitol Hill in force, not shying away from its take-no-prisoners message: no new gun laws.

But as President Barack Obama prepares to release his gun-control proposals Wednesday, lawmakers can expect to hear a new argument alongside the NRA’s longtime case — about the right to bear arms and the sanctity of the Second Amendment.

Its friends in the gun manufacturing lobby are relying on union workers to make a more practical argument — that guns are about jobs...

In Gun Debate, Even Language Can Be Loaded
Peter Baker | In Gun Debate, Even Language Can Be Loaded | January 16, 2013

When the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wanted to promote more restrictions on firearms after the Connecticut school shootings in December, it turned to a firm to help publicize its position. The firm’s name? Point Blank Public Affairs.

When Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. promised ideas for responding to the massacre, he said he was “shooting for Tuesday” — even as he warned that there is “no silver bullet” for stopping gun violence. When President Obama noted that he was reviewing those ideas, he said on a different topic that he would not negotiate “with a gun at the head.”

No wonder it is hard to get rid of gun violence when Washington cannot even get rid of gun vocabulary. The vernacular of guns suffuses the political and media conversation...

Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie
Stephen Rodrick, The New York Times Magazine | Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan In Your Movie | January 15, 2013

Lindsay Lohan moves through the Chateau Marmont as if she owns the place, but in a debtor-prison kind of way. She’ll soon owe the hotel $46,000. Heads turn subtly as she slinks toward a table to meet a young producer and an old director. The actress’s mother, Dina Lohan, sits at the next table. Mom sweeps blond hair behind her ear and tries to eavesdrop. A few tables away, a distinguished-looking middle-aged man patiently waits for the actress. He has a stack of presents for her.

Lohan sits down, smiles and skips the small talk.

“Hi, how are you? I won’t play Cynthia. I want to play Tara, the lead.”...

In California, It's U.S. vs. State Over Marijuana
Adam Nagourney, The New York Times | In California, It's U.S. vs. State Over Marijuana | January 14, 2013

Matthew R. Davies graduated from college with a master’s degree in business and a taste for enterprise, working in real estate, restaurants and mobile home parks before seizing on what he saw as uncharted territory with a vast potential for profits — medical marijuana.

He brought graduate-level business skills to a world decidedly operating in the shadows. He hired accountants, compliance lawyers, managers, a staff of 75 and a payroll firm. He paid California sales tax and filed for state and local business permits.

But in a case that highlights the growing clash between the federal government and those states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, the United States Justice Department indicted Mr. Davies six months ago on charges of cultivating marijuana, after raiding two dispensaries and a warehouse filled with nearly 2,000 marijuana plants.

The United States attorney for the Eastern District of California, Benjamin B. Wagner, a 2009 Obama appointee, wants Mr. Davies to agree to a plea that includes a mandatory minimum of five years in prison...

How NRA's True Believers Converted A Marksmanship Group into A Mighty Gun Lobby
Joel Achenbach, Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post | How NRA's True Believers Converted A Marksmanship Group into A Mighty Gun Lobby | January 14, 2013

In gun lore it’s known as the Revolt at Cincinnati. On May 21, 1977, and into the morning of May 22, a rump caucus of gun rights radicals took over the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association.

The rebels wore orange-blaze hunting caps. They spoke on walkie-talkies as they worked the floor of the sweltering convention hall. They suspected that the NRA leaders had turned off the air-conditioning in hopes that the rabble-rousers would lose enthusiasm.

The Old Guard was caught by surprise. The NRA officers sat up front, on a dais, observing their demise. The organization, about a century old already, was thoroughly mainstream and bipartisan, focusing on hunting, conservation and marksmanship. It taught Boy Scouts how to shoot safely. But the world had changed, and everything was more political now. The rebels saw the NRA leaders as elites who lacked the heart and conviction to fight against gun-control legislation...

The Flu, Explained
Kiera Butler, Mother Jones | The Flu, Explained | January 14, 2013

This year's flu season is no joke: On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it had reached epidemic status. Although experts believe that the season may have peaked in most places, flu incidence is still thought to be very high. The media blitz about the flu seems to be an epidemic of its own—so I spoke to several experts to set the record straight on some of the most common flu questions...