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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.

Spooky Sex: Inside The Randy Culture Of The CIA
Reuel Marc Gerecht, The New Republic | Spooky Sex: Inside The Randy Culture Of The CIA | February 25, 2013

"A cock has no shame.” That’s what it said on the little plaque on the door of the espionage instructor. He’d been discovered a few nights earlier going at it with a female junior officer on a pool table in the recreation room at “the Farm,” the Central Intelligence Agency’s training facility in the swamps of eastern Virginia. The instructor flaunted his defiance, slightly camouflaged in Gothic calligraphy. Among the students and teachers, even among the more straight-laced Mormons, few thought he’d done anything particularly wrong (except getting caught). We were all adults. Some of the female students aggressively hunted the better-looking paramilitary instructors, who welcomed the attention. In the mostly temporary couplings that occurred during training, it was sometimes unclear who was married and who was not.

What happened at the Farm wasn’t just the by-product of being stuck in the woods for months in boring espionage and paramilitary courses. During my tour of duty with the operations directorate in the 1980s and 1990s, case officers weren’t exactly models of propriety at headquarters or in the field. Unlike the U.S. military post-Vietnam, where senior officers are supposed to be moral role models, the CIA—that is, the Clandestine Service, the engine room of espionage and covert action that has always defined the agency’s ethos—has been much more relaxed about these things...

Buddhists, Reconstructing Sacred Tibetan Murals, Wield Their Brushes In Nepal
Edward Wong, The New York Times | Buddhists, Reconstructing Sacred Tibetan Murals, Wield Their Brushes In Nepal | February 24, 2013

Dozens of painters sat atop scaffolding that soared toward the roof of an ancient monastery. With a swipe of their brushes, colors appeared that gave life to the Buddha. Gold for the skin. Black for the eyes. Orange for the robes.

They worked by dim portable electric lights. Dusty statues of Tibetan Buddhist deities gazed on. From openings in the roof, a few shafts of sunlight fell through the 35 wooden pillars in the main chamber of the enormous Thubchen Monastery, the same edifice that had awed Michel Peissel, the explorer of Tibet, when he visited a half-century ago.

“In Nepal, no one knows how to do this, so we have to learn,” said Tashi Gurung, 34, a painter participating in what is one of the most ambitious Tibetan art projects in the Himalayas...

Can The Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence?
Robert Draper, International Herald Tribune | Can The Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence? | February 22, 2013

One afternoon last month, I paid a visit to two young Republicans named Bret Jacobson and Ian Spencer, who work in a small office in Arlington, Va., situated above an antique store and adjacent to a Japanese auto shop. Their five-man company, Red Edge, is a digital-advocacy group for conservative causes, and their days are typically spent designing software applications for groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Lately, however, Jacobson and Spencer have taken up evangelizing — and the sermon, delivered day after day to fellow conservatives in the form of a 61-point presentation, is a pitiless we-told-you-so elucidation of the ways in which Democrats have overwhelmed Republicans with their technological superiority...

For Music Industry, A Story Of Two Googles
Ben Sisario The New York Times | For Music Industry, A Story Of Two Googles | February 22, 2013

When it comes to the music industry, there are two Googles. And the difference between them leads to a complicated and fraught relationship.

One Google is represented by its suite of entertainment media services like YouTube and Google Play, which have licensing agreements with the major labels and music publishers, along with movie studios and other media companies. That side is slowly becoming integrated into the fabric of the entertainment industry, through deals like the one announced by Billboard magazine this week that it would start incorporating YouTube play counts into its chart formulas.

The other side of Google is its mighty search engine, the road map to the Internet, which people use to find content of all kinds — some of it preferred by the entertainment industry, but a great deal of it not. This is the side of Google that has the most frequent and public fights with the entertainment industry...

The Sequester: Absolutely Everything You Could Possibly Need To Know, In One FAQ
Dylan Matthews, The Washington Post | The Sequester: Absolutely Everything You Could Possibly Need To Know, In One FAQ | February 20, 2013

At the end of the month, the dread sequester is set to take effect. Hands up if you know what exactly that means — and be honest. Don’t worry, we’re here to set you straight. Follow along for answers to some of the most-asked questions about the impending cuts...

A Deeper Divide: The Gun Control Debate After Newtown
Matthew Kauffman, The Hartford Courant | A Deeper Divide: The Gun Control Debate After Newtown | February 20, 2013

Last fall, residents of Newtown were having a debate that could have taken place almost anywhere in America.

It was an argument over guns. The issue was fairly simple: Should amateur shooting ranges be subject to inspection and approval by the police chief? On one side were residents concerned about noise and wary of unregulated shooting. On the other were those who believe gun rights spring from essential American freedoms.

Today, Newtown is like no place in America. The killing of 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School devastated the small community. It also launched an examination of the culture, safety and legality of guns that, while occurring across the nation, is unfolding in Newtown and Connecticut with unmatched urgency...

This Is How China Hacks America: Inside The Mandiant Report
John Avlo and Sam Schlinkert, The Daily Beast | This Is How China Hacks America: Inside The Mandiant Report | February 20, 2013

Cybersecurity firm Mandiant released a massive and scathing report identifying a unit of the Chinese government that has hacked 115 U.S. Companies. Here are the critical details...

Scholar Finds Flaws In Work By Archenemy Of Comics
Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times | Scholar Finds Flaws In Work By Archenemy Of Comics | February 20, 2013

For all the colorful adversaries that comic books have yielded, perhaps no figure in the history of that industry is as vilified as Dr. Fredric Wertham.

Wertham, a German-born American psychiatrist, stirred a national furor and helped create a blueprint for contemporary cultural panics in 1954 with the publication of his book “Seduction of the Innocent,” which attacked comic books for corrupting the minds of young readers.

While the findings of Wertham (who died in 1981) have long been questioned by the comics industry and its advocates, a recent study of the materials he used to write “Seduction of the Innocent” suggests that Wertham misrepresented his research and falsified his results...

Mystery Over The Seven-Mile Long 'Super Mega-Pod' Of 100,000 Dolphins Spotted Off The Coast Of San Diego

A group of over 100,000 dolphins spotted off the coast of San Diego caused a spectacle for nature watchers as they traveled together in an enormous pack.

'They were coming from all directions, you could see them from as far as the eye can see,' Joe Dutra said after seeing the spectacle first hand.

Mr Dutra, who captains Hornblower Cruises, was out on his daily tour with a boat full of nature watchers when he spotted the massive group of dolphins...

We Talk With God: What Evangelical Christians Hear
T.M. Luhrmann, The Daily Beast | We Talk With God: What Evangelical Christians Hear | February 18, 2013

Many evangelical Christians say they speak to God and he responds. Anthropologist M Luhrmann on what she learned about people who converse with the divine -- and how she came to hear his voice too.

I know what it is like to hear God speak. I am not a Christian. I am not even sure what I mean, speaking for myself, by the word “God.” But for 10 years I have been doing anthropological research among the sort of evangelical Christians who experience God as interacting with them. They believe that prayer is a conversation in which they talk to God and God talks back. They will say that God “told” them to do something—to talk to the stranger next to them on the bus, or move to Los Angeles. To other Christians, this can seem incomprehensible, even dangerous...