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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.

Seeker, Doer, Giver, Ponderer: A Billionaire Mathematician's Life Of Ferocious Curiosity
William J. Broad, The New York Times | Billionaire Mathematician | July 8, 2014

James H. Simons likes to play against type. He is a billionaire star of mathematics and private investment who often wins praise for his financial gifts to scientific research and programs to get children hooked on math.

But in his Manhattan office, high atop a Fifth Avenue building in the Flatiron district, he’s quick to tell of his career failings.

He was forgetful. He was demoted. He found out the hard way that he was terrible at programming computers. “I’d keep forgetting the notation,” Dr. Simons said. “I couldn’t write programs to save my life.”

After that, he was fired...

'Drunk History': A Booze Cruise Of Red, White, And Blood
Rich Goldstein, The Daily Beast | Drunk History | July 8, 2014

Drunk History is about getting loaded and telling tales you should have learned in school. Not only are there celebrity re-enactors, but watch sober and you might learn something...

 

ISIS Is About To Destroy Biblical History In Iraq
Christopher Dickey, The Daily Beast | Iraq Antiquities in Peril | July 7, 2014

Iraqi antiquities officials are calling on the Obama administration to save Nineveh and other sites around jihadist-occupied Mosul. But are drone strikes really the answer?

More than two and a half millennia ago, the Assyrian King Senaccherib descended on his enemies “like the wolf on the fold,” as the Bible tells us—and as Lord Byron wrote in cantering cadences memorized by countless Victorian schoolchildren: “His cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold; And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea.”...

Turned The Tide
Jim Yardley, The New York Times | Remembering The Marne | July 4, 2014

The Germans were pushing toward Paris in 1918 when untested American troops helped stop them at the Marne River in a pivotal World War I battle...

Cliven Bundy's War: Inside The Rancher's Independent Sovereign Republic
Zach Baron, GQ | Bundy's War | July 2, 2014

Did you know there was a revolutionary war fought on American soil earlier this spring? It's true! Back in April, a small band of militiamen led by a rabble-rousing Nevada rancher named Cliven Bundy defeated the United States of America without firing a single shot. And so a brand-new country—sand-choked, heatstroked, and very heavily armed—was formed inside this one. GQ's Zach Baron spent a few days behind the borders of the fledgling republic and discovered that the uprising was the easy part...

 

 

 

 

War's Lingering Requiem In Vietnam
Donatella Lorch, The New York Times | War's Lingering Requiem In Vietnam | July 2, 2014

I was 13 when Saigon fell in 1975. I watched the evening news as the last American helicopter lifted off from the United States Embassy roof. In 1977, in the closet of a rented house, I discovered a pile of dusty Life magazines that pictured the Vietnam War: dust, heat, blood, tanks and helicopters, faces contorted with pain and desperation or just impenetrable. 1966, 1967, 1968. Tet, Hue, Khe Sanh, the Perfume River, Ben Tre, Dak To. Dates and names that grabbed and held.

I became a war correspondent because of those pictures...

Turning Over The Internet's Rocks To Expose What Creeps Beneath
Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review | Virtual Unreality | July 1, 2014

Charles Seife is a pop historian who writes about mathematics and science, but his abiding theme, the topic that makes his heart leap like one of Jules Feiffer’s dancers in the springtime, is human credulity...Mr. Seife’s new book, “Virtual Unreality,” is about how digital untruths spread like contagion across our laptops and smartphones. The author is unusually qualified to write on this subject, and not merely because his surname is nearly an anagram for “selfie.”...

The Fraught Friendship Of T.S. Eliot And Groucho Marx
Lee Siegel, The New Yorker | The Fraught Friendship Of T.S. Eliot And Groucho Marx | June 30, 2014

In 1961, T. S. Eliot wrote Groucho Marx a fan letter requesting a photograph of the comic actor and humorist. Groucho enthusiastically complied, and the two continued to correspond until they finally met, in June of 1964, in London, when Groucho and his fourth wife, Eden, went to the Eliots’ house for dinner. So far as I know, Eliot never gave a public account of what transpired that evening. Groucho, though, described the occasion in a letter that he wrote to his brother Gummo the following day...

Pancakes And Pickaninnies: The Sage Of Sambo's, The 'Racist' Restaurant Chain America Once Loved
Andrew Romano, The Daily Beast | The Sambo's Saga | June 23, 2014

Not too long ago, Sambo's had 1,117 locations in 47 states -- and a reputation for pushing racist iconography along with its breakfasts...

Not too long ago, right here in America, there was a restaurant called Sambo’s. That’s Sambo: as in, the racist slur for a loyal and contented black servant. Or Sambo: as in, The Story of Little Black Sambo—the controversial 1899 children’s book by Helen Bannerman about a dark-skinned South Indian boy that eventually came to be seen as emblematic of black “pickaninny” stereotypes...

Why I Left '60 Minutes'
Charles Lewis, Politico | Why I Left '60 Minutes' | June 30, 2014

The big networks say they care about uncovering the truth. That's not what I saw.

Ernest Hemingway famously said that "the most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have it."...