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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.

Fugitive Slave Mentality
Robert Gooding-Williams, The New York Times Opinion | Fugitive Slave Mentality | March 28, 2012

Before he temporarily stepped down from his position last week as chief of the Sanford, Fla., police department, Bill Lee Jr., gave an explanation of his decision not to arrest George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. Lee said he had no reason to doubt Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. Though Lee is no longer in the spotlight, his words linger for at least one compelling reason: his explanation bears an eerie resemblance to cases brought under the Fugitive Slave Law during the Antebellum period. Today, a legal standard that allowed the police chief to take Zimmerman at his word recalls the dark past of slave-owners claiming their property. The writings of Martin Delany, the African American political philosopher and activist, shed light on the uncanny resemblance...

Even Non-Techies Aim to Learn the Internet's Language
Jenna Wortham, The New York Times | Even Non-Techies Aim to Learn the Internet's Language | March 27, 2012

Parlez-vous Python? What about Rails, or JavaScript? Foreign languages tend to wax and wane in popularity — but the language du jour is computer code.

The market for Web sites, night classes, online lectures and games that offer crash courses in programming and Web site construction is booming. Those jumping on board say they are preparing for a future in which the Internet is the foundation for entertainment, education and nearly everything else. Knowing how the digital pieces fit together, they say, will be crucial to ensuring that they are not left in the dark ages...

For Some, Texting And Walking Don't Mix
Deborah Netburn, The Los Angeles Times | For Some, Texting And Walking Don't Mix | March 27, 2012

Think texting and walking is no problem? Well, maybe you should talk to Bonnie Miller, a Michigan woman who recently fell off a pier while texting and walking at the same time.

"I can't let pride get in my way of warning other people to not drive and text or walk and text. It's quite dangerous," Bonnie Miller told ABC 57, a local television station in South Bend, Ind...

Reports: Afghan Soldiers Complicit In a Suicide Plot Against Their Own Government
Ariel Zirulnick, The Christian Science Monitor | Reports: Afghan Soldiers Complicit in a Suicide Plot Against Their Own Government | March 27, 2012

Concerns about disloyal Afghan security forces are deepening after an Afghan soldier and local police officer yesterday killed three members of the international coalition, known as ISAF, that is seeking to build up the Afghan security forces.

The head of ISAF sought to ease pessimism about the ability of Afghan forces to take over from coalition troops as they prepare to withdraw by 2014, saying that while such attacks are upsetting, they are typical in a conflict like this and do not indicate failure...

James Cameron 'Bearing 'Witness' In The Deepest Dark
Brian Vastag, The Washington Post | James Cameron 'Bearing Witness' In The Deepest Dark | March 26, 2012

For three decades, filmmaker James Cameron has vividly drawn alien worlds.

On Monday, ocean explorer James Cameron visited one: the bottom of the sea. Nine hours after completing a historic solo dive to the deepest slice of the ocean floor, Cameron described his “very surreal day” in the language of an astronaut...

The New Girl Power
Laura Miller, Salon | The New Girl Power | March 26, 2012

Like a lot of other people, I spent a good chunk of last week talking about “The Hunger Games.” Because I’ve written about the books for various publications over the past couple of years, journalists called me up for quotes about the series’ appeal. Along with the usual questions about depictions of violence, the popularity of dystopian narratives in young adult fiction and whether or not Katniss Everdeen is a “good role model” for girls, there usually came a point where the interlocutor observed that the movie was going to make the books hugely popular...

The Interpreter
John Colapinto, The New Yorker | The Interpreter | March 25, 2012

One morning last July, in the rain forest of northwestern Brazil, Dan Everett, an American linguistics professor, and I stepped from the pontoon of a Cessna floatplane onto the beach bordering the Maici River, a narrow, sharply meandering tributary of the Amazon. On the bank above us were some thirty people—short, dark-skinned men, women, and children—some clutching bows and arrows, others with infants on their hips. The people, members of a hunter-gatherer tribe called the Pirahã, responded to the sight of Everett—a solidly built man of fifty-five with a red beard and the booming voice of a former evangelical minister—with a greeting that sounded like a profusion of exotic songbirds, a melodic chattering scarcely discernible, to the uninitiated, as human speech. Unrelated to any other extant tongue, and based on just eight consonants and three vowels, Pirahã has one of the simplest sound systems known. Yet it possesses such a complex array of tones, stresses, and syllable lengths that its speakers can dispense with their vowels and consonants altogether and sing, hum, or whistle conversations. It is a language so confounding to non-natives that until Everett and his wife, Keren, arrived among the Pirahã, as Christian missionaries, in the nineteen-seventies, no outsider had succeeded in mastering it..

Murray Lender, The Man Who Brought Bagels To The Masses
Lily Rothman, The Washington Post | Murray Lender, The Man Who Brought Bagels To The Masses | March 25, 2012

We can’t know who baked the first bagel. The path from when the first circle of malty dough was moved from a vat of boiling water into an oven to now, to you with your lox spread and Sunday paper, is murky.

But we can be sure that Murray Lender, who died Wednesday at 81, was the most important man in the modern history of bagels. Lender’s bagels may taste like white bread with a hole, but what they lack in authenticity they make up for in meaning...

My Son, The Straight Boy
Heather Aimee O'Neill, Salon | My Son, The Straight boy | March 25, 2012

The day Tommy came out to me, we were walking home from school. He was telling me about Taylor, his most recent crush, when he stopped in the middle of the story, looked up and said, “Mama, you know how you and Mommy are gay?”

I nodded and figured he was going to ask more questions about why we had to get married for the second time.

“Well,” he said, “I’m not. I’m a boy who likes girls.”...

A New Era of the Digital Revolution: The Role of Mobile Devices & Social Media in News Consumption

In early 2012, the digital revolution entered a new era. The age of mobile, in which people are connected to the web wherever they are, arrived in earnest. A new survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults conducted in January 2012 by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that people are taking advantage of having access to news in their pockets, on their laps and at their desks...