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.

For Nobel, They Can Thank The 'God Particle'
Dennis Overbye, The New York Times | For Nobel, They Can Thank The 'God Particle' | October 9, 2013

The “God particle” became the prize particle on Tuesday.

Two theoretical physicists who suggested that an invisible ocean of energy suffusing space is responsible for the mass and diversity of the particles in the universe won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday morning. They are Peter W. Higgs, 84, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and François Englert, 80, of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium...

Focusing On Fruit Flies, Curiosity Takes Flights
James Gorman, The New York Times | Focusing On Fruit Flies, Curiosity Takes Flights | October 8, 2013

To hear Michael Dickinson tell it, there is nothing in the world quite as wonderful as a fruit fly.

And it’s not because the fly is one of the most important laboratory animals in the history of biology, often used as a simple model for human genetics or neuroscience.

“I don’t think they’re a simple model of anything,” he says. “If flies are a great model, they’re a great model for flies.

“These animals, you know, they’re not like us,” he says, warming to his subject...

With Little Fanfare, Afghanistan War Drags Into 13th Year
Heath Druzin, Stars and Stripes | With Little Fanfare, Afghanistan War Drags Into 13th Year | October 7, 2013

Monday marks 12 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, and for a conflict that’s been seemingly forgotten by most Americans who’ve grown weary of war, it seems fitting that the anniversary should be overshadowed by a domestic story: the federal government shutdown.

More than a decade since the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001, there are still 54,000 American troops in Afghanistan. That is more, by far, than at any time during the first seven years of the war, yet these days, they garner scant news coverage. Most recently, Syria’s civil war and the use of chemical weapons as well as the federal government shutdown have buried Afghanistan news, even as Americans continue to die — four were killed were killed within a week in so-called insider attacks just at the end of September.

“There is a bloody war happening, and no one is talking about it,” said Ahmad Majidyar, an Afghanistan expert at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent adviser to the U.S. Army...

California's New Feudalism Benefits A Few At The Expense Of The Multitude
Joel Kotkin, The Daily Beast | California's New Feudalism Benefits A Few At The Expense Of The Multitude | October 7, 2013

California has been the source of much innovation, from agribusiness and oil to fashion and the digital world. Historically much richer than the rest of the country, it was also the birthplace, along with Levittown, of the mass-produced suburb, freeways, much of our modern entrepreneurial culture, and of course mass entertainment. For most of a century, for both better and worse, California has defined progress, not only for America but for the world.

As late as the 80s, California was democratic in a fundamental sense, a place for outsiders and, increasingly, immigrants—roughly 60 percent of the population was considered middle class. Now, instead of a land of opportunity, California has become increasingly feudal. According to recent census estimates,  the state suffers some of the highest levels of inequality in the country. By some estimates, the state’s level of inequality compares with that of such global models as  the Dominican Republic, Gambia, and the Republic of the Congo...

In Conversation: Antonin Scalia
Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine | In Conversation: Antonin Scalia | October 7, 2013

On September 26—a day that just happened to be the 27th anniversary of his swearing-in as associate justice—Antonin Scalia entered the Supreme Court’s enormous East Conference Room so casually that one might easily have missed him. He is smaller than his king-size persona suggests, and his manner more puckish than formal. Washingtonians may know Scalia as charming and disarming, but most outsiders tend to regard him as either a demigod on stilts or a menace to democracy, depending on which side of the aisle they sit...

Leave No Man Behind!
David Weigel, Slate | Leave No Man Behind! | October 4, 2013

Eugene Morgan is a veteran of World War II, a Marine, age 96—and for 20-odd minutes, he’s the most photographed man in downtown Washington. Morgan’s misfortune was to arrive in the city on the second day of the 2013 government shutdown. His trip, organized by his 50-year-old son Jeff, couldn’t really be rescheduled. So father and son showed up around 10 a.m. to visit the World War II Memorial.

They ran smack into a delegation from Congress. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Rep. John Carter were at the monument site, talking to Honor Flight’s Jeff Miller about a minor act of civil disobedience. Since 2007, Honor Flight has organized free Washington trips for veterans who want to see the memorial before passing into the great unknown...

Why Are There Still So Few Women In Science?
Eileen Pollack, The New York Times Magazine | Why Are There Still So Few Women In Science? | October 3, 2013

Last summer, researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were significantly more willing to offer the man a job. If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s. Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts.

The new study goes a long way toward providing hard evidence of a continuing bias against women in the sciences...

Iraqi, and Afghan, Translators Deserve The Visas They Were Promised
Editorial Board, The Washington Post | Iraqi, and Afghan, Translators Deserve The Visas They Were Promised | October 3, 2013

In December 2005, when the war in Iraq was intensifying, President George W. Bush insisted that that country could yet avoid civil war. In a speech, he praised those Iraqis who “put their lives on the line” for a free and democratic Iraq, in some cases by having the courage to defy the violence and cast ballots. Mr. Bush insisted that the United States must not “abandon the Iraqi people in their hour of need.”

Eight years later, Iraqis who put their lives on the line to help the United States are in their hour of need. They are waiting for a simple, promised act of gratitude, and it is urgent and necessary that it be provided...

10 Of The Best Snoopy Moments To Celebrate Peanuts' 63rd Anniversay

Today marks the anniversary of Charles M. Schulz's iconic comic series, "Peanuts," which debuted in daily newspapers on October 2, 1950. That means it's time to sit down, relax and pay homage to the man who proudly proclaimed, "The only thing I ever wanted to be was a cartoonist. That's my life. Drawing."

The beloved comic strip, featuring timeless characters like Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Peppermint Patty, ran from October 2, 1950 to February 14, 2000. In total, Schulz's work, formerly known as "Lil' Folks," reached 75 countries in 2,600 different papers and was published in an impressive 21 languages every day. Perhaps Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson put it best when he famously described "Peanuts" as "arguably the longest story ever told by one human being."...

Tom Clancy, Best-Selling Novelist Of Military Thrillers, Dies At 66
Julie Bosman, The New York Times | Tom Clancy, Best-Selling Novelist Of Military Thrillers, Dies At 66 | October 2, 2013

Tom Clancy, whose complex, adrenaline-fueled military novels made him one of the world’s best-selling and best-known authors, died on Tuesday in a hospital in Baltimore. He was 66...

“You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf. You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired -- it’s hard work.”