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.

Who Am I To Judge? : A Radical Pope's First Year
James Carroll, The New Yorker | Who Am I To Judge? | December 16, 2013

On most Wednesdays, the Pope gives a general audience, and this one was packed. It was a balmy October morning, and more than a hundred thousand pilgrims, tourists, and Romans had funnelled into St. Peter’s Square. It was the first of three large gatherings Pope Francis presided over that week for a celebration of the family during the Catholic Church’s “Year of Faith.”Wooden railings imposed order in the square. I was about thirty yards from the Pope. In front of me were a pair of Vatican ushers in white tie and tails, several clergy, a short man in a yarmulke, and a handsome couple holding hands. Beyond them, Francis, seventy-six years old, in his stark-white cassock and skullcap, seemed energized by the festive crowd. A large man with a ready smile, he read from a brief text in Italian, but with fervor. “What kind of love do we bring to others? . . .

The Sculpture On The Moon
Corey S. Powell and Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Slate | Sculpture On The Moon | December 16, 2013

Scandals and conflicts obscured one of the most extraordinary achievements of the Space Age...

One crisp March morning in 1969, artist Paul van Hoeydonck was visiting his Manhattan gallery when he stumbled into the middle of a startling conversation. Louise Tolliver Deutschman, the gallery’s director, was making an energetic pitch to Dick Waddell, the owner. “Why don’t we put a sculpture of Paul’s on the moon,” she insisted. Before Waddell could reply, van Hoeydonck inserted himself into the exchange: “Are you completely nuts? How would we even do it?”

Deutschman stood her ground. “I don’t know,” she replied, “but I’ll figure out a way.”


She did...

Machiavelli With Malaprops: A Quarter-Century Of Covering Harry Reid
Jon Ralston, Politico Magazine | Machiavelli W. Malaprops | December 16, 2013

hen I heard late last week that Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander—a Republican who was apoplectic about Harry Reid’s changing the Senate’s hoary filibuster rules—had said the majority leader should have the words “The End of the Senate” etched on his tombstone, I imagined what Reid’s reaction would be: a broad, wry smile.

In covering Reid for more than 25 years, I have seen that smile so many times. Reid is the most unconventional of politicians, one who cares little about public perception and delights in infuriating the opposition...

Suddenly, Illegal At Home
Lorgia Garcia-Pena, New York Times Op Ed | Suddenly, Illegal At Home | December 13, 2013

On the afternoon of Oct. 4, Maria Pierre stood up in front of a huge crowd of demonstrators at the Dominican Constitutional Court in Santo Domingo and confessed that she was in her native land illegally. “My only crime is that I was born here,” she began, and then her tears started flowing. The supportive crowd cheered her on with a loud chant: “We are Dominican, too! We belong here! We are not going anywhere!”

Ms. Pierre, 19, who was born to Haitian parents who were in the Dominican Republic illegally, is one of more than 200,000 people affected by a historic ruling by the Dominican Constitutional Court denying citizenship rights to those born to undocumented people...

The End Of The Arctic? Ocean Could Be Ice Free By 2015
Mark Hertsgaard, The Daily Beast | The End Of The Arctic? Ocean Could Be Ice Free By 2015 | December 13, 2013

Say goodbye to polar bears and a whole lot of ice. New research suggests the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by 2015, with devastating consequences for the world. Can it be stopped?...

Bill Moyers: "We are this close to losing our democracy."
Bill Moyers, Tomdispatch.com via Salon | Bill Moyers: "We are this close to losing our democracy." | December 13, 2013

Legendary journalist Bill Moyers warns about the devastating impact of dark money and voter suppression...

How To Talk To Republican Congressmen: A Guide For Women
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate | How To Talk To Republican Congressmen: A Guide For Women | December 11, 2013

House Speaker John Boehner has acknowledged the GOP needs help speaking to women, but how should ladies get through to him?...

Ray Kurzweil: This Is Your Future
Ray Kurzweil, CNN | This Is Your Future | December 11, 2013

Ray Kurzweil is one of the world's leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists, with a 30-year track record of accurate predictions. Called "the restless genius" by The Wall Street Journal and "the ultimate thinking machine" by Forbes magazine, Kurzweil was selected as one of the top entrepreneurs by Inc. magazine, which described him as the "rightful heir to Thomas Edison." Ray has written five national best-selling books. He is Director of Engineering at Google. Below are five ways he predicts our lives will change....

Key Military Sexual Assault Reforms Dropped From Defense Bill
Laura Bassett, The Huffington Post | Key Military Sexual Assault Reforms Dropped From Defense Bill | December 10, 2013

House and Senate leaders pre-negotiated a defense authorization bill on Monday that doesn't include Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-N.Y.) controversial amendment to remove military sexual assault cases from the chain of command.

The bill that will move forward does work to address the problem of military sexual assault, but several victim advocacy groups had considered Gillibrand's amendment to be the most essential proposed reform. Military sexual assault victims have said they are afraid to report their assaults because they don't trust the chain of command to handle their cases effectively. The Pentagon estimates that out of the 26,000 incidences of unwanted sexual contact that occurred in the military in 2012, only 3,000 were reported, and only 300 led to prosecutions...

Jerry Dammers: How I Made 'Free Nelson Mandela'
Jerry Dammers, The Guardian | Jerry Dammers: How I Made 'Free Nelson Mandela' | December 10, 2013

Jerry Dammers on how a kid from Coventry who had never heard of Nelson Mandela ended up writing a global hit that became the anti-apartheid anthem...