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.

Loner Sought A Refuge, And Ended Up In War
John M Broder and Ginger Thompson, The New York Times | Loner Sought A Refuge, And Ended Up In War | July 31, 2013

Feeling outcast and alone in Iraq, Bradley Manning, then a 22-year-old Army private, turned to the Internet for solace in early 2010, wanting to share with the world what he saw as the unconscionable horrors of war, an act that resulted in what military prosecutors called one of the greatest betrayals in the nation’s history...

Good Jill, Bad Jill: The Queen Of The New York Times
Lloyd Grove | Good Jill, Bad Jill | July 31, 2013

April was an unusual, if not the cruelest, month for New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who in September will mark two years on the job. On Monday afternoon, April 15, Abramson—who, at 59, is the first woman to serve as top editor in the Times’ 160-year history—had barely begun savoring the four Pulitzer Prizes that her staff had just won (this year’s biggest haul, by far, for any journalistic outlet) when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. Pulling an all-nighter at one point in the third-floor newsroom of the Times’ Renzo Piano–designed Manhattan skyscraper, she presided over a breathless week of “flooding the zone” (as one of her predecessors, Howell Raines, liked to say), while her reporters and editors managed to avoid the sort of embarrassing errors committed by the Associated Press, CNN, and even the Times Co.–owned Boston Globe.

Then, the night of April 23, Politico—the Washington trade paper that aims to “drive the conversation”—published a story suggesting that Abramson’s young editorship was already a failure...

Mythbusters: Obamacare Edition
David Nather, Politico | Mythbusters: Obamacare Edition | July 30, 2013

There are a lot of wild stories about Obamacare that make the debate sound like a fact-free zone.

No, the IRS isn’t going to be posting your medical tests all over the Internet. No, people’s premiums aren’t doubling in the crucial swing state of Ohio. And no, the Obamacare “data hub” isn’t like a new version of the NSA, spying on your hemorrhoids instead of your phone calls.

Those are all claims that are muddying the waters as consumers get ready to sign up for Obamacare for the first time in October. On the other hand, not all of the stories that are swirling around the health care law these days are completely far-fetched. And the Obama administration is spinning some rosy scenarios of its own...

Sexism And Abuse Isn't Only On Twitter: One Woman's Gaming Experience
Charles Arthur, The Guardian | Sexism And Abuse Isn't Only On Twitter: One Woman's Gaming Experience | July 30, 2013

While the extent of aggressive abuse on Twitter has recently hit the headlines – and led the company to issue a statement insisting it hears the complaints – the problems with outright sexism and misogyny are not limited to online blogging or social networks. One commenter on the Guardian, who uses the pseudonym TheIneffableSwede, described her experiences as a player in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)...

13th Century Alleyways And A Modern Plague Of Illegal Renovations
Sue-Lin Wong, The New York Times | 13th Century Alleyways And A Modern Plague Of Illegal Renovations | July 30, 2013

Wang Xue stood in the middle of his courtyard house, next to a pomegranate tree. It could have been a scene out of a Tang dynasty poem but for the sound of a jackhammer and a layer of construction dust that thinly caked the rows of potted plants and vine-covered awnings.

“The weather is warm, and with that comes construction season,” Mr. Wang, 53, said with a grimace at his home northeast of Tiananmen Square, in the middle of a Beijing neighborhood still filled with hutongs, or traditional Chinese alleyways.

Beijing’s courtyard homes and hutongs have been disappearing rapidly since China opened its economy in the 1980s, robbing the capital of some of its character...

Big Marijuana Lobby Fights Legalization Efforts
Byron Tau, Politico | Big Marijuana Lobby Fights Legalization Efforts | July 29, 2013

Talk about a buzz kill. Pot legalization activists are running into an unexpected and ironic opponent in their efforts to make cannabis legal: Big Marijuana.

Medical marijuana is a billion-dollar industry — legal in 18 states, including California, Nevada, Oregon and Maine — and like any entrenched business, it’s fighting to keep what it has and shut out competitors. Dispensary owners, trade associations and groups representing the industry are deeply concerned — and in some cases actively fighting — ballot initiatives and legislation that could wreck their business model. That pits them against full legalization advocates...

Obama's Double Consciousness
Jonathan Alter, Slate | Obama's Double Consciousness | July 28, 2013



More than a century ago, W. E. B. Du Bois wrote of the “double consciousness” of the black man: “One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings.” President Barack Obama’s extemporaneous remarks in the press room last week about the Trayvon Martin case and the plight of young black men were pitch-perfect in part because they let no one off the hook, not even well-intentioned people who want him to lead what he predicted would be a “stilted” national conversation on race.

But the surprise appearance will have lasting importance if it keeps the President on the hook, too...

Inside 40 Towns: Literary Journalism, Dartmouth Students And A Professor Who Wanted More

If you’ve been following 40 Towns, the new literary journalism magazine produced by Jeff Sharlet’s creative nonfiction students at Dartmouth, you’ve seen longform stories about ex-cons, a roadside motel, a bead shop, a diner, a homeless woman named Tecumseh, and more — stories that get inside the lives of people of the Upper Valley. Sharlet’s students fanned out to dozens of towns and communities, looking for the kind of immersion-reporting opportunities that would produce “literary journalism from the fault line between Vermont and New Hampshire,” as the magazine’s Twitter bio puts it. Sharlet, a contributing editor at Harper’s and Rolling Stone, and the best-selling author of The Family and other books, wanted his students writing with a goal: to be read...

Should Reddit Be Blamed For The Spreading Of A Smear?
Jay Caspian Kang, The New York Times Magazine | Should Reddit Be Blamed For The Spreading Of A Smear? | July 26, 2013

On an overcast day in early May, I traveled to suburban Philadelphia to visit the family of Sunil Tripathi, the deceased 22-year-old Brown University student who, for about four hours on the morning of April 19, was mistakenly identified as Suspect No. 2 in the Boston Marathon bombings. The Tripathis had just arrived home after nearly two months spent in Providence, R.I., where they went to organize the search for Sunil, who disappeared on March 16. When I entered the house, Judy Tripathi, Sunil’s mother, asked me for a hug. In a shattered voice, she said, “I need hugs these days.” We sat at the kitchen table and talked, and at one point Judy handed me a photo of a young, smiling Sunil, caught in the motion of throwing a ball. “Look how happy he looks,” she said. For the next two hours, she and her husband, Akhil, and their daughter, Sangeeta, described what happened to them in the early-morning hours of April 19, and how the false identification of their son derailed their ongoing search for him and further traumatized their lives...

Scientists Trace Memories Of Things That Never Happened
James Gorman, The New York Times | Scientists Trace Memories Of Things That Never Happened | July 26, 2013

The vagaries of human memory are notorious. A friend insists you were at your 15th class reunion when you know it was your 10th. You distinctly remember that another friend was at your wedding, until she reminds you that you didn’t invite her. Or, more seriously, an eyewitness misidentifies the perpetrator of a terrible crime.

Not only are false, or mistaken, memories common in normal life, but researchers have found it relatively easy to generate false memories of words and images in human subjects. But exactly what goes on in the brain when mistaken memories are formed has remained mysterious.

Now scientists at the Riken-M.I.T. Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have created a false memory in a mouse, providing detailed clues to how such memories may form in human brains...