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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.

How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secret
Peter Maass, The New York Times Magazine | How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secret | August 19, 2013

This past January, Laura Poitras received a curious e-mail from an anonymous stranger requesting her public encryption key. For almost two years, Poitras had been working on a documentary about surveillance, and she occasionally received queries from strangers. She replied to this one and sent her public key — allowing him or her to send an encrypted e-mail that only Poitras could open, with her private key — but she didn’t think much would come of it...

How Does All Your Stuff Get To You? Inside The Shipping Industry
Rose George, The Daily Beast | How Does All Your Stuff Get To You? Inside The Shipping Industry | August 19, 2013

Let’s play a game. I’m sitting at my desk, drinking mint tea and eating toffees. In front of me is my laptop. Around me are files, folders, books, office chaos. And as I chew, I begin to play a game: I count the ships. I count the ships behind the laptop and its components; and the one behind the toffees, made in Germany, sent by ship. The bottom of my coffee mug says it was fired in Northamptonshire, England, but still, behind the pretty patterned roses I see the ships that fetched the ink that painted them. I see the Grete Maersk coming from Bremerhaven with my toffee; the Cscl Africa arriving from Guangdong with my logic board; the MV Bravery leaving Russia, forcing itself through the awful, nauseating Barents Sea in winter with the Murmansk timber that became my books. The only thing I can't play the game with is the mint tea: the water came from Yorkshire and the mint came out of my garden. Everything else probably came by ship because nearly everything does. Ninety percent of world trade travels by sea even now when we travel mostly by car or plane, so that the sea—the working sea—is a blue blank on a moving inflight map, or somewhere to sail yachts on or to swim in.

An Afghan Poet Shapes Metal And Hard Words
Azam Ahmed, The New York Times | An Afghan Poet Shapes Metal And Hard Words | August 19, 2013

The poet guided a strip of sheet metal into the ancient steel clippers, cutting shimmering triangles that fell with a dull clang on the shop floor.

In the background, a workman’s chorus filled the yard: a handsaw planing a log beam; a generator humming and catching; the groan of a giant diesel truck idling.

The harsh music of the workday welled up around Matiullah Turab, one of Afghanistan’s most famous Pashtun poets, in the garage where he earns a living repairing the colorful Pakistani caravan trucks that transport goods around the countryside.

The cadence of his nights, though, is his own: shaping poetry as hard and piercing as the tools he uses by day. Nature and romance carry no interest for him.

“A poet’s job is not to write about love,” he growled, his booming voice blending with the ambient noise of the workshop. “A poet’s job is not to write about flowers. A poet must write about the plight and pain of the people.”...

The Art Of Passing For Them
Mary Stewart Hammond, The New York Times Sunday Book Review | The Art Of Passing For Them | August 16, 2013

Please. Get back in your body. All I said was
“I’m a poet.” I tried not to. We get along fine
until then, talking about golf which I don’t play,
and tennis which my friends pay me
not to play, about how much you hate teachers
because they ruined your life, left you hating
everything, so all you can do is “make money,
and know nothing. Nothing! Horrible people, teachers.
Horrible! I hope you don’t know one,”
and since I am one, I know I’m passing.
It must be the pearls. The off-the-shoulder dress...

New Bloodshed In Egypt As Islamists Defy Threat Of Force
David D. Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell, The New York Times | New Bloodshed In Egypt As Islamists Defy Threat Of Force | August 16, 2013

Dozens of people were reportedly killed in renewed clashes on Friday as thousands of followers of the embattled Muslim Brotherhood took to the streets of Cairo and other cities, facing police officers authorized to use lethal force if threatened.

As the Islamist Brotherhood sought to regain momentum after a crushing crackdown by security forces on Wednesday in which almost 640 people were killed, witnesses spoke of gunfire whistling over a main overpass in Cairo and at a downtown square as clashes erupted and police officers lobbed tear gas canisters. Reports of a rising death toll continued throughout the day, with up to 50 dead, a Reuters report said. About 30 bodies were laid out in a mosque in Ramses Square, which was being used as a makeshift field hospital as the injured were brought in from clashes that included gunfire nearby...

52 Amazing Uses for WD-40
Reader's Digest | 52 Amazing Uses for WD-40 | August 16, 2013

from Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things:

WD-40 has far more uses than just on squeaky hinges. Find out the amazing ways this garage staple can make your life easier...

Peter Berg Threw Himself Under A Bus. Now What?
Pat Jordan, The New York Times Magazine | Peter Berg Threw Himself Under A Bus. Now What? | August 15, 2013

Peter Berg wanted me to box with him. “Come on, you’re a tough guy,” he said. I tried to disabuse him of that notion. I told him I’d been in only one fight in my adult life, and I lost that one.

We went to Team Tapia Boxing Academy in Albuquerque, where Berg was scouting locations for the film he had written and was directing, “Lone Survivor,” based on a book with the same title about a Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan that went terribly wrong in 2005. Berg fell in love with boxing when he was a 14-year-old freshman at the Taft School in Connecticut. “I was on fire,” he said, “a seething ball of energy moving at a speed I couldn’t explain.” He was angry and disruptive “and diagnosed as a troublemaker,” he said. “Today it’d be A.D.H.D., and I’d be Ritalined up.” Instead a dean took him after class to his basement, where Berg and other disruptive students learned “to dissipate all our energy” by fighting. Boxing calmed him. “You can’t box angry,” he said. “You have to be disciplined. Before boxing, I was this angry kid ready to fight if someone said, ‘Hello.’ ”

Through boxing, Berg became fascinated with what he referred to as “the psychology of violence,” which has informed most of the things he has directed or acted in. Sports violence...

The Plight Of The Honeybee
Bryan Walsh, Time | The Plight Of The Honeybee | August 14, 2013

You can thank the Apis mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls you'll eat today. Honeybees — which pollinate crops like apples, blueberries and cucumbers — are the "glue that holds our agricultural system together," as the journalist Hannah Nordhaus put it in her 2011 book The Beekeeper's Lament. But that glue is failing. Bee hives are dying off or disappearing thanks to a still-unsolved malady called colony collapse disorder (CCD), so much so that commercial beekeepers are being pushed out of the business...

The Inside Of A Beehive, Live-Streamed
Lindsay Abrams, Salon | The Inside Of A Beehive, Live-Streamed | August 14, 2013

A 24/7 view of honeybees doing their thing.

Big-picture, the disappearance of the honeybee will mean catastrophe for the global food system and economy. On a much smaller scale, it will mean the loss of a uniquely fascinating insect.

Explore.org has launched a live honeybee cam that uses infrared to let viewers look inside a surviving hive. In the past six years, 10 million others like it have been wiped out by Colony Collapse Disorder. This star-turned colony has settled inside a hollow log in small-town Germany, and are busy rebuilding after their honeycomb collapsed...

Sequesytration Ushers In A Dark Age For Science In America
Sam Stein, The Huffington Post | Sequesytration Ushers In A Dark Age For Science In America | August 14, 2013

On the first floor of Jordan Hall at the University of Virginia School of Medicine is a 12-by-8 room that, at first glance, looks like a rundown storage space. The floor is a mix of white, teal and purple tiles, in a pattern reminiscent of the 1970s. Trash cans are without tops and half filled. There are rust stains on the tiles, and a loose air vent dangles a bit from the ceiling.

It is only when you see four incubators attached to six tanks of carbon dioxide that you get the feeling something more intriguing is taking place here.

Inside these incubators Dr. Anindya Dutta stores cell cultures that he believes hold the key to a massive advancement in health care. He has identified the specific strands of microRNA, the molecule that plays a large role in gene expression, that are responsible for promoting the formation and fusion of muscular tissue...