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.

The Mouse Faces Extinction As Computer Interaction Evolves
Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post | The Mouse Faces Extinction As Computer Interaction Evolves | October 8, 2012

Swipe, swipe, pinch-zoom. Fifth-grader Josephine Nguyen is researching the definition of an adverb on her iPad and her fingers are flying across the screen. Her 20 classmates are hunched over their own tablets doing the same.

Conspicuously absent from this modern scene of high-tech learning: a mouse.

Nguyen, who is 10, said she has used one before — once — but the clunky desktop computer/monitor/keyboard/mouse setup was too much for her.

“It was slow,” she recalled, “and there were too many pieces.”...

Russian Top Human-Rights Journalists Face Threats, Murder
Anna Nemtsova, The Daily Beast | Russian Top Human-Rights Journalists Face Threats, Murder | October 4, 2012

The country's top human-rights journalists are being threatened and killed in broad daylight in a brutal campaign of intimidation to stop them from reporting on torture and killings in the Caucasus -- and some think the government is to blame...

Factory Girls: Cultural Technology and the Making of K-Pop
John Seabrook. The New Yorker | Factory Girls: Cultural Technology And The Making Of K-Pop | October 4, 2012

It was five o’clock on a Sunday in May, two hours before showtime, but already thousands of K-pop fans had flooded the concrete playa outside the Honda Center, a large arena in Anaheim, California. Tonight’s performers were among the biggest pop groups in South Korea—SHINee, f(x), Super Junior, EXO, TVXQ!, and Girls’ Generation. In the United States, Korean pop music exists almost exclusively on YouTube, in videos like “Gangnam Style,” by Park Jae-sang, the rapper known as PSY, which recently went viral. The Honda Center show was a rare chance for K-pop fans to see the “idols,” as the performers are called, in the flesh.

K-pop is an East-West mash-up. The performers are mostly Korean, and their mesmerizing synchronized dance moves, accompanied by a complex telegraphy of winks and hand gestures, have an Asian flavor, but the music sounds Western: hip-hop verses, Euro-pop choruses, rapping, and dubstep breaks. K-pop has become a fixture of pop charts not only in Korea but throughout Asia, including Japan—the world’s second-biggest music market, after the U.S.—and Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. South Korea, a country of less than fifty million, somehow figured out how to make pop hits for more than a billion and a half other Asians, contributing two billion dollars a year to Korea’s economy, according to the BBC...

Sioux Racing To Find Millions To Buy Sacred Land In Black Hills
Timothy Williams, The New York Times | Sioux Race To Find Millions To Buy Sacred Land In Black Hills | October 4, 2012

The Black Hills, the rolling range of mountains that rise out of the badlands of western South Dakota, are considered sacred to the Sioux, who for 150 years have fought on battlefields and in courtrooms for the return of the land.

And so the Great Sioux Nation exulted this summer when a long-sought parcel in the mountains called Pe’ Sla by the Lakota was put up for sale and a bid from the Sioux was accepted by the family that had controlled the land since 1876, the year that Gen. George Armstrong Custer died not far to the west at Little Bighorn.

But now, anxiety has replaced optimism as more than a half-dozen Sioux tribes, which include some of the nation’s poorest people, race to come up with the $9 million purchase price before the deadline next month...

DHS 'Fusion Centers' Portrayed As Pools Of Ineptitude, Civil Liberties Intrusions
Robert O'Harrow, Jr., The Washington Post | DHS 'Fusion Centers' Portrayed As Pools Of Ineptitude, Civil Liberties Intrusions | October 3, 2012

An initiative aimed at improving intelligence sharing has done little to make the country more secure, despite as much as $1.4 billion in federal spending, according to a two-year examination by Senate investigators.

The nationwide network of offices known as “fusion centers” was launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to address concerns that local, state and federal authorities were not sharing information effectively about potential terrorist threats.

But after nine years — and regular praise from officials at the Department of Homeland Security — the 77 fusion centers have become pools of ineptitude, waste and civil liberties intrusions, according to a scathing 141-page report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations...

Bring Down The African Big Wigs
Sitinga Kachipande, The Guardian | Bring Down The African Big Wigs | October 3, 2012

During the procession of judges in Malawi and many commonwealth countries, a familiar scene includes judges in 'traditional' robe and wig. The status of the judicial employee is reflected through the style of the robe as well as the elaborate, white, silky headdress made from horse hair – the periwig. These ill-fitting, itchy wigs are manufactured by two large British oligopolies and exported to African countries. The cost of these wigs ranges between $1,000 – $6,000 USD per wig, rendering them a costly drain on foreign exchange. A hefty price tag that is ludicrous for an article of clothing largely symbolic that does not improve the quality of work of the individual. In most cases, the silky long white wigs are ill suited as they bear little resemblance to Black African hair textures. They are a symbol of a colonial legacy and our inability to "restructure our colonial institutions to reflect our culture and needs". Yet, several years after independence, commonwealth nations continue to cling on to this garb signaling continued psychological and economic attachment to the Britain...

New Orleans' Times-Picayune Prints Last Daily Edition
The Huffington Post | New Orleans' Times-Picayune Prints Last Daily Edition | October 3, 2012

The Times-Picayune published its last daily edition on Sunday, making New Orleans the biggest city in America without a daily newspaper.

The newspaper announced deep cuts, including a shift to publication just three days a week, in May. Residents and public figures protested the decision, to no avail...

Debate Preview: Six Reasons Why This Is Romney's Big Chance
John Cassidy, The New Yorker | Debate Preview: Six Reasons Why This Is Romney's Big Chance | October 2, 2012

Less than thirty-six hours to go until Jim Lehrer asks the first question in Denver, and I, for one, am ready to go. In the past couple of days, in my role as D.P. (designated prognosticator), I’ve read the dispatches about both candidates decamping to the West for a couple of days of intensive prep. I’ve followed the ludicrous expectations game. “Gov. Romney, he’s a good debater. I’m just O.K.,” says Barack (The Great Communicator) Obama; “It’s not so much winning and losing … it’s about something bigger than that,” insists Mitt Romney, who has spent months preparing for what he clearly views as a championship bout. I’ve considered the importance of brevity, substance, accuracy, likability, and even, courtesy of The Daily, the number of times that a candidate blinks. (“Obama, who blinked 62 times per minute, trounced McCain who clocked in at 104 times per minute.”) I’ve been reminded of Richard Nixon’s five-o’-clock shadow in 1960; the George H. W. Bush “check my watch” moment, in 1992; and Michael Dukakis’s excruciating 1988 answer to Bernie Shaw’s hypothetical question about whether he’d favor the death penalty for somebody who raped and murdered his wife. I’ve even pondered the conventional wisdom among political scientists, which is that debates don’t matter much.


After all that arduous research, what can I tell you...

Two Who Perished Too Early Get Their Due From Cal Poly Pomona
Kurt Streeter, The Los Angeles Times | Two Who Perished Too Early Get Their Due From Cal Poly Pomona | October 2, 2012

They were the best of friends, a trio of college seniors just weeks shy of graduating from Cal Poly Pomona and bursting into the world.

First there would be a celebratory trip to Las Vegas.

A flight on a small plane was arranged, and Frank Brandt couldn't wait to take it.

Then he got sick. Terribly sick. It hit hard enough that he told Dennis Midas and Michael Young to go on their own.

Hours later, on a dark tarmac at Ontario airport, Midas and Young boarded a single-engine Piper PA-28. It wasn't long after takeoff before the plane hit sleet, ice and gusting wind, not long before it plunged into the ground near Lake Arrowhead...

Send Bin Laden The Bill: Dakota Meyer On His Return From Afghanistan
Dakota Meyer, The Daily Beast | Send Bin Laden The Bill: Dakota Meyer On His Return From Afghanistan | October 2, 2012

For his bravery at the battle of Ganjigal in eastern Afghanistan, Dakota Meyer became the first living Marine in three decades to receive the Medal of Honor. In an excerpt from Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, co-written with Bing West, he recalls his tough transition back home to Kentucky...