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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 To Kill An Abortion Bill
Irin Carmon, Salon | How To Kill An Abortion bill | March 30, 2012

Jessica Luther was never much of an activist, until she started reading about antiabortion laws online last year. When the government nearly shut down over the funding of Planned Parenthood, Luther started posting satire on Tumblr from her home in Texas. But as she learned about states proposing, and often passing, restrictions on abortion access, the posts got more and more substantive. And through Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, she found a lively community of red-state progressive women like herself, angry over legislators’ attempts to strip their reproductive rights. Now she’s a regular at pro-choice rallies — in real life. “I no longer feel like I’m screaming in a soundproof room,” says Luther...

The Master From Flint Hill: Earl Scruggs
Steve Martin, The New Yorker | The Master From Flint Hill: Earl Scruggs | March 29, 2012

Earl Scruggs died yesterday morning, March 28, 2012. The bluegrass and wider music worlds mourn and celebrate him. Be sure to listen to the example of his music offered immediately after the last paragraph of this essay. —Steve Martin

Some nights he had the stars of North Carolina shooting from his fingertips. Before him, no one had ever played the banjo like he did. After him, everyone played the banjo like he did, or at least tried. In 1945, when he first stood on the stage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and played banjo the way no one had ever heard before, the audience responded with shouts, whoops, and ovations. He performed tunes he wrote as well as songs they knew, with clarity and speed like no one could imagine, except him. When the singer came to the end of a phrase, he filled the theatre with sparkling runs of notes that became a signature for all bluegrass music since. He wore a suit and Stetson hat, and when he played he smiled at the audience like what he was doing was effortless. There aren’t many earthquakes in Tennessee, but that night there was...

Behind Every Harassed Child? A Lot of Clueless Adults
A.O. Scott, The New York Times | Behind Every Harassed Child? A Lot of Clueless Adults | March 29, 2012

“Bully,” Lee Hirsch’s moving and troubling documentary about the misery some children inflict upon others, arrives at a moment when bullying, long tolerated as a fact of life, is being redefined as a social problem. “Just kids being kids” can no longer be an acceptable response to the kind of sustained physical and emotional abuse that damages the lives of young people whose only sin is appearing weak or weird to their peers...

Wind Map
HINT.FM | Wind Map | March 29, 2012

An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us -- energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future. This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US right now...

Iran Says Expects Nuclear Talks On April 13
Marcus George, Reuters | Iran Says Expects Nuclear Talks On April 13 | March 28, 2012

Iran expects to reopen talks with world powers that could defuse mounting tensions over its disputed nuclear program on April 13, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Wednesday.

Turkey has offered to host the talks and the location will be decided in the next few days, Salehi said, after greeting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on his arrival in Tehran.

The major nations are keen to get Iran to enter talks on curbing its uranium enrichment program, which the West suspects is aimed at developing a nuclear weapons capability but Tehran says is peaceful...

India Cracks Down on Tibetan Protests During Chinese Leader's Visit
Jason Burke, The Guardian | India Cracks Down on Tibetan Protests During Chinese Leader's Visit | March 28, 2012

A Tibetan exile who set himself on fire in Delhi earlier this week has died, as Indian police and paramilitaries launch a security crackdown to prevent further protests or self-immolations during the visit of the Chinese premier, Hu Jintao.

Jamphel Yeshi, 27, suffered 90% burns after dousing himself with petrol during a protest on Monday, and authorities fear that more Tibetans will follow suit to protest at Chinese policies in their homeland. About 30 Tibetans have died and another dozen have been seriously injured in the past 13 months in similar protests, mainly inside China...

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...