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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.

"A War For No Wise Purpose": Afghanistan Defeats The West Again
William Dalrymple, The Daily Beast | "A War For No Wise Purpose": Afghanistan Defeats The West Again | April 17, 2013

The West invades Afghanistan, tries to control it, and has to retreat in defeat. Sound familiar? It happened in 1842 to the British and it's happening now to America. Historian William Dalrymple explains how in writing his new book, Return of a King, he found eerie historical echoes repeating in the valleys of Afghanistan...

Cycling Past An Afghan Taboo
Jed Lipinski, The New York Times | Cycling Past An Afghan Taboo | April 17, 2013

In November, Shannon Galpin was riding her single-speed mountain bike through the hills outside Kabul. It was her 11th visit to Afghanistan, and she had grown accustomed to the sight of camel caravans, abandoned Soviet tanks and soldiers sweeping the desert for land mines.

In November, Shannon Galpin was riding her single-speed mountain bike through the hills outside Kabul. It was her 11th visit to Afghanistan, and she had grown accustomed to the sight of camel caravans, abandoned Soviet tanks and soldiers sweeping the desert for land mines.

In November, Shannon Galpin was riding her single-speed mountain bike through the hills outside Kabul. It was her 11th visit to Afghanistan, and she had grown accustomed to the sight of camel caravans, abandoned Soviet tanks and soldiers sweeping the desert for land mines...

The Woman Near Kenmore Square
Nicholas Thompson, The New Yorker | The Woman Near Kenmore Square | April 17, 2013

Yesterday, I published a post on the meaning of the Boston Marathon. I explained why I care about the race and noted that, when we find the perpetrator, we may find “someone who saw a reflection of the human spirit and decided just to try to shatter it.”

Above my post, we published a photograph, taken by Alex Trautwig of Getty, of “a woman near Kenmore Square.” Today, that woman sent me an e-mail, and then she told me the story of her day. Like that of so many runners, it’s both ordinary and extraordinary...

Carlos Arredondo, Boston Marathon Hero In A Cowboy Hat, On The Bombs
Michael Daly, The Daily Beast | Carlos Arredondo, Boston Marathon Hero In A Cowboy Hat, On The Bombs | April 16, 2013

He had gone to the marathon to honor his dead sons. By the end of the day, Carlos Arredondo was a hero. He tells Mic hael Daly about saving a man with his legs blown off by the explosion...

Thou Shalt Not Stoop To Political Point-Scoring
Jeremy Stahl, Slate | Thou Shalt Not Stoop To Political Point-Scoring | April 16, 2013

If you were watching television on 9/11, then you probably remember the early initial reports—later proven false—that a car bomb had exploded outside of the State Department. This mistaken bit of speculation, which spread widely during that day’s chaos, was later used as “evidence” by those who accused the government and media of complicity in the attacks that brought down the World Trade Center.

Twitter has only made the business of news gathering and sharing in the wake of a disaster more treacherous. If, as a wise journalist once said, journalism is the first rough draft of history, then Twitter is the first rough draft of journalism. During nightmarish events like today’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, the micro-blogging service is both the cause of and solution to a whole lot of journalistic problems...

Gitmo Is Killing Me
Samir Naji al Hasas Moqbel, The New York Times Op Ed | Gitmo Is Killing Me | April 15, 2013

One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago.

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial...

My Life Is An Open Book: Stanford Is Recording Everything This Guy Does

Nic Fleming: You are the subject of Stanford University’s first living archive. What does that involve?
William McDonough: Most of my meetings and speeches are being filmed and phone conversations recorded. They are dated and archived along with tweets and emails, as well as physical drawings and records. We are trying to design the process so that my creative work is not disrupted. A guy in the office next to mine takes care of the technology, records, and cataloging...

Bill Moyers Essay: The United States Of Inequality
Bill Moyers, Moyers and Company | Bill Moyers Essay: The United States Of Inequality | April 14, 2013

The unprecedented level of economic inequality in America is undeniable. In an extended essay, Bill shares examples of the striking extremes of wealth and poverty across the country, including a video report on California’s Silicon Valley. There, Facebook, Google, and Apple are minting millionaires, while the area’s homeless — who’ve grown 20 percent in the last two years — are living in tent cities at their virtual doorsteps....

Jonathan Winters, Unpredictable Comic And Master Of Improvisation, Dies At 88
William Grimes, The New York Times | Jonathan Winters, Unpredictable Comic And Master Of Improvisation, Dies At 88 | April 13, 2013

Jonathan Winters, the rubber-faced comedian whose unscripted flights of fancy inspired a generation of improvisational comics, and who kept television audiences in stitches with Main Street characters like Maude Frickert, a sweet-seeming grandmother with a barbed tongue and a roving eye, died on Thursday at his home in Montecito, Calif. He was 87.

His death was announced on his Web site, JonathanWinters.com.

Mr. Winters, a rotund man whose face had a melancholy basset-hound expression in repose, burst onto the comedy scene in the late 1950s and instantly made his mark as one of the funniest, least definable comics in a rising generation that included Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman and Bob Newhart...

Maria Tallchief, A Dazzling Ballerina And Muse For Balanchine, Dies At 88
Jack Anderson, The New York Times | Maria Tallchief, A Dazzling Ballerina And Muse For Balanchine, Dies At 88 | April 12, 2013

Maria Tallchief, a daughter of an Oklahoma oil family who grew up on an Indian reservation, found her way to New York and became one of the most brilliant American ballerinas of the 20th century, died on Thursday in Chicago. She was 88.

Her daughter, the poet Elise Paschen, confirmed the death. Ms. Tallchief lived in Chicago.

A former wife of the choreographer George Balanchine, Ms. Tallchief achieved renown with Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, dazzling audiences with her speed, energy and fire. Indeed, the part that catapulted her to acclaim, in 1949, was the title role in the company’s version of Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” one of many that Balanchine created for her...