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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.

Thirty Years Of Skating
James Guida, The New Yorker | Thirty Years Of Skating | July 20, 2012

Go to a spot popular with skateboarders today, and be prepared to encounter a curious breed: the senior-citizen skater. All things being relative, the skaters in question are usually between thirty and thirty-eight years old. There are still older riders, no doubt, but these must be classified as a shade more geriatric. It is possible that precise age has less to do with it than how often you step on a board. In any case, the breed tends to give itself away less by appearance than by their little pauses for conversation. “I used to have energy like that,” a specimen like myself might be heard saying wistfully between short breaths, indicating some limber teen-ager flying past. Alternatively, it could be a remark about the mysterious pain in their right thigh, or laughter as their whole lower half refuses to submit to even humble demands. Just as often, though, the talk is of ancient videos and favorite skaters from the past...

In A First, An Entire Organism Is Simulated By Software
John Markoff, The New York Times | In A First, An Entire Organism Is Simulated By Software | July 20, 2012

Scientists at Stanford University and the J. Craig Venter Institute have developed the first software simulation of an entire organism, a humble single-cell bacterium that lives in the human genital and respiratory tracts. The scientists and other experts said the work was a giant step toward developing computerized laboratories that could carry out complete experiments without the need for traditional instruments. For medical researchers and drug designers, cellular models will be able to supplant experiments during the early stages of screening for new compounds. And for molecular biologists, models that are of sufficient accuracy will yield new understanding of basic biological principles...

Romney, At Harvard, Merged Two Worlds
Peter Lattman and Richard Perez-Pena, The New York Times | Romney, At Harvard, Merged Two Worlds | July 18, 2012

President Obama has a Harvard law degree. Former President George W. Bush has a Harvard M.B.A. Will the next president have both?

One of the most exclusive clubs in academe is a Harvard University dual-degree program allowing graduate students to attend its law and business schools simultaneously, cramming five years of education into four. On average, about 12 people per year have completed the program — the overachievers of the overachievers — including a striking number of big names in finance, industry, law and government...

Golden Gate Bridge Photo Contest
Carly Schwartz, The Huffington Post | Golden Gate Bridge Photo Contest | July 18, 2012

We received more than 200 submissions for our Golden Gate Bridge photo contest, which we held in honor of our favorite International Orange icon's 75th birthday in May.

And after hours of deliberation, we're proud to announce that the winning image was shot by Sausalito resident Jason Braun...

Meeting Our Cultural Overlords
Seth Stevenson, Slate | Meeting Our Cultural Overlords | July 18, 2012

For the most part, I've stuck to the comic-book-related panels here at Comic-Con. They are the raison d'être of the festival. Comic books are still the topic that seems to fuel the most passionate, thoughtful conversations—as witnessed at the 30th anniversary tribute to Love and Rockets, or the seminar on progressive politics in comics. It's beautiful to watch the insular passion of the comic book obsessives—they are the warm, beating heart of the whole Con.

Still, I worried I'd be missing out if I didn't attend at least one panel devoted to filmed entertainment. Comic-Con could never draw 130,000 attendees to a convention solely focused on comic books. The Con's powerful place in the modern media landscape stems from its role as a showplace for the pop-culture-industrial complex—a place where TV networks and movie studios come out to play...

U.S. Empire Of Bases Grows
David Vine, The Huffington Post | U.S. Empire Of Bases Grows | July 17, 2012

...

Since the “Black Hawk Down” deaths in Somalia almost 20 years ago, we’ve heard little, if anything, about American military casualties in Africa (other than a strange report last week about three special operations commandos killed, along with three women identified by U.S. military sources as “Moroccan prostitutes,” in a mysterious car accident in Mali). The growing number of patients arriving at Ramstein from Africa pulls back a curtain on a significant transformation in twenty-first-century U.S. military strategy.

These casualties are likely to be the vanguard of growing numbers of wounded troops coming from places far removed from Afghanistan or Iraq. They reflect the increased use of relatively small bases like Camp Lemonnier, which military planners see as a model for future U.S. bases “scattered,” as one academic explains, “across regions in which the United States has previously not maintained a military presence.”...

Human Corpses Are Prize In Global Drive For Profits
Kate Wilson, Vlad Lavrov, Martina Keller, Thomas Maier and Gerard Ryle, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists | Human Corpses Are Prize In Global Drive For Profits | July 17, 2012

On Feb. 24, Ukrainian authorities made an alarming discovery: bones and other human tissues crammed into coolers in a grimy white minibus.

Investigators grew even more intrigued when they found, amid the body parts, envelopes stuffed with cash and autopsy results written in English.

What the security service had disrupted was not the work of a serial killer but part of an international pipeline of ingredients for medical and dental products that are routinely implanted into people around the world.

The seized documents suggested that the remains of dead Ukrainians were destined for a factory in Germany belonging to the subsidiary of a U.S. medical products company, Florida-based RTI Biologics...

The Chickens And The Bulls
William McGowan, Slate | The Chickens And The Bulls | July 17, 2012

The rise and incredible fall of a vicious extortion ring that preyed on prominent gay men in the 1960s:

On a sleepy Sunday morning in late July 1965, Detective 3rd Grade James McDonnell received a call in the upstairs squad room of midtown Manhattan’s 17th Precinct. There was a man at the Western Union office in Grand Central Station who might be impersonating a police detective, he was told. The man was in the company of a 14-year-old runaway and had contacted the boy’s father in Texas to wire plane fare so the son could fly home. The father had grown suspicious when the man had asked for $150—twice the needed amount. McDonnell quickly drove the 10 blocks to Grand Central, parking his unmarked black sedan on Lexington Avenue and hurrying down to the terminal’s lower level. Criminal impersonation of a police officer was an E felony—a “good collar,” as cops like to say, and if the perp had a gun, even better. There’d also been chatter on the detective grapevine about a number of recent cases of phony policemen, so McDonnell was eager to see what was up...

Terrorised Chicago Residents Please For Police Crackdown As Gang War Murders Soar

The cluster of young men hanging out on the porch of the run-down brick home cast menacing stares at the unknown car as a "spotter", a teen on a bicycle, talked into a mobile phone.

Beneath a tree across the street, burned red candle wax was the last remnant of an impromptu shrine for a 13-year-old boy, Tyquan Tyler, shot dead two weeks earlier by a killer just a few years older than him.

The assailant had run through an alleyway past a boarded-up home, mown down his victim and then disappeared back down the same route into a neighbouring street before the "ATM boys" could respond with their Glock pistols...

What Your Trash Reveals About The World Economy
Sarah Zhang, Mother Jones | What Your Trash Reveals About The World Economy | July 16, 2012

The fastest way to reduce solid waste volumes is to have a recession," writes World Bank urban specialist Dan Hoornweg in a report on the state of trash in cities. Hoornweg elegantly sums up why garbage is and will remain a vexing problem. Here in America, we hear "zero waste" and think sanctimonious yuppies. Yet much of the world's population is too poor to buy—and throw away—much stuff in the first place. But as developing countries become wealthier and adopt higher standards of living, they're also following our wasteful lead.

Here are three key takeaways from the report...