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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.

History Tricked the Tea Party
Ira Chernus, Salon | History Tricked The Tea Party | October 24, 2013

For decades, Democrats across the country have been holding Jefferson Day dinners, filling their coffers by honoring their party’s founder. Suddenly, along comes the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, snatches up poor old TJ, and says, “Sorry, he’s actually ours. After all, didn’t he say, ‘That government is best which governs least’?”Well, no, in fact he didn’t. But perhaps he should have...

Christian, Not Conservative
Robert Long, The American Conservative | Christian, Not Conservative | October 22, 2013

At a White House ceremony in July, President Obama told this year’s recipients of the National Humanities Medal, “Your writings have changed me—I think for the better.” He then turned directly to novelist Marilynne Robinson and said, “Marilynne, I believe that.”

It was a spontaneous acknowledgement of Robinson’s prominence in American life and letters, another honor atop the Pulitzer, National Book Award, and host of other prizes her work has collected. For a writer whose novels barely have plots and whose essays plumb the thought of John Calvin, Robinson is astonishingly popular—and not just among readers who share the president’s politics...

Why Have Young People In Japan Stopped Having Sex?
Abigail Haworth, The Guardian | Why Have Young People In Japan Stopped Having Sex? | October 22, 2013

Ai Aoyama is a sex and relationship counsellor who works out of her narrow three-storey home on a Tokyo back street. Her first name means "love" in Japanese, and is a keepsake from her earlier days as a professional dominatrix. Back then, about 15 years ago, she was Queen Ai, or Queen Love, and she did "all the usual things" like tying people up and dripping hot wax on their nipples. Her work today, she says, is far more challenging. Aoyama, 52, is trying to cure what Japan's media calls sekkusu shinai shokogun, or "celibacy syndrome"...

Civilian Deaths In Drone Strikes Cited In Report
Declan Walsh and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, The New York Times | Civilian Deaths In Drone Strikes Cited In Report | October 22, 2013

In the telling of some American officials, the C.I.A. drone campaign in Pakistan has been a triumph with few downsides: In more than 300 missile attacks there since 2008, dozens of Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed, and the pace of the strikes, which officials frequently describe as “surgical” and “contained,” has dropped sharply over the past year.

But viewed from Miram Shah, the frontier Pakistani town that has become a virtual test laboratory for drone warfare, the campaign has not been the antiseptic salve portrayed in Washington...

New Report Of N.S.A. Spying Angers France
Alissa J. Rubin, The New York Times | New Report Of N.S.A. Spying Angers France | October 21, 2013

The National Security Agency has carried out extensive electronic surveillance in France, a French newspaper reported Monday, drawing an angry condemnation from an important American ally.

The report, based on secret documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, was published in Le Monde, the authoritative French newspaper, the day Secretary of State John Kerry arrived here for an official visit.

Adding to the previous disclosures about the agency’s wide surveillance net abroad, the article said the agency had recorded 70 million digital communications in a single month, from Dec. 10, 2012, to Jan. 8, 2013...

Our Interview With Bill Watterson
Jake Rossen, Mental Floss | Our Interview With Bill Watterson | October 21, 2013

For the December issue of mental_floss magazine, Jake Rossen managed to do something we thought was impossible—he snagged an interview with the legendary Bill Watterson! Since we’re guessing there are a few Calvin and Hobbes enthusiasts in the audience, we thought we’d provide a glimpse of the e-mail exchange. For our full story on the comic strip, be sure to pick up the print magazine...

Everyday Jet Lag
Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times Magazine | Everyday Jet Lag | October 21, 2013

If you consider yourself to be a born morning person or an inveterate night owl, there is new research that supports your desire to wake up early or stay up late. Each of us has a personal “chronotype,” or unique circadian rhythm, says Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and one of the world’s experts on sleep. In broad strokes, these chronotypes are usually characterized as early, intermediate or late, corresponding to people who voluntarily go to bed and wake early, at a moderate hour or vampirishly late. If you are forced to wake up earlier than your body naturally would, you suffer from what Roenneberg calls “social jet lag.”...

Grieving Father Finds An Outlet In His Music
Corey Kilgannon, The New York Times | Grieving Father Finds An Outlet In His Music | October 18, 2013

Before last Dec. 14, Jimmy Greene had been a jazzman for most of his 38 years, well known among serious jazz fans. He had dozens of albums to his name. He played with such luminaries as Freddie Hubbard. He was a scholar, too, teaching jazz at a public university.

On Dec. 14, Mr. Greene’s 6-year-old daughter, Ana Márquez-Greene, who shared his passion for music and loved to listen to her father play, was a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That was the day a gunman killed Ana along with 19 other children and 6 educators.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever feel whole again,” Mr. Greene said of his family...

The Novel That Norman Mailer Didn't Write
Richard Brody, The New Yorker | The Novel That Norman Mailer Didn't Write | October 17, 2013

Norman Mailer was one of the most original and powerful writers of the twentieth century, but he never wrote a truly great novel. Despite the great success of his first book, “The Naked and the Dead,” which he wrote at twenty-three, and despite the merits of his second and third novels, “Barbary Shore” and “The Deer Park,” Mailer missed the boat early on, because he never wrote (and seems never even to have considered writing) the book that he was born to write—the bildungsroman of a Maileresque boy in Brooklyn in the nineteen-thirties. Had he written a novel based on his early experiences, it might have done more than launch his career (which “The Naked and the Dead” did quite well); it might have launched his imagination. The power of deep-rooted experience, I suspect, would have given rise to a self-sustaining run of novels. Instead, he sacrificed his literary birthright for the pursuit of experiences that he considered literature-worthy, and he paid a high price to replace it...

Snowden Journalist's New Venture To Be Bankrolled By eBay Founder
Noam Cohen and Quentin Hardy, The New York Times | Snowden Journalist's New Venture To Be Bankrolled By eBay Founder | October 17, 2013

For years, the tech billionaire Pierre M. Omidyar has been experimenting with ways to promote serious journalism, searching for the proper media platform to support with the fortune he earned as the founder of eBay. He has made grants to independent media outlets in Africa and government watchdog groups in the United States. In a more direct effort, he created a news Web site in Hawaii, his home state...