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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.

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...

The Student Victims Of Washington's Deficit Obsession
James Surowiecki, The New Yorker | The Student Victims Of Washington's Deficit Obsession | July 22, 2013

When, a couple of weeks ago, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans (the loans that the federal government offers to college students) doubled, going from 3.4 per cent to 6.8 per cent, the expectation was that Congress would reach a quick deal to reverse—or at least reduce—the increase. After all, making college more affordable is one of the rare issues on which the differences between Democrats and Republicans seem bridgeable. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle promised an immediate fix, and last week it appeared that a deal was about to be reached. Then Washington’s obsession with deficits got in the way. And that same obsession explains why, even if Congress does finally agree to a deal, college students are guaranteed to be paying more for loans, come the fall...

Inside Nike Headquarters
Winston Ross, The Daily Beast | Inside Nike Headquarters | July 22, 2013

When I got the email invite to Tuesday’s top-secret global summit at the world headquarters of Nike Corp., I gotta admit, a little part of me felt like I’d just opened a Wonka Bar and found a golden ticket inside.

Not necessarily because I thought a trip to the bowels of the Swoosh would be anywhere near as cool as visiting the Chocolate Factory and sucking on gobstoppers that last forever, but because I live in nearby Eugene, aka “Track Town USA,” where the sinewy and mustachioed Steve Prefontaine became a folk hero; where he and legendary University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman and alum Phil Knight basically turned the grunting and panting once known as “jogging” into the sleek, stylish, international obsession with “running” it is today. In Eugene, wearing Nikes passes for business attire. “Pre’s rock,” where the track star died in a car crash, is a sacred shrine. The Nike store in Eugene is a tourist attraction. If you don’t run here, there’s something wrong with you...

Minnesota's Moose Mystery
Jessica Benko, Salon | Minnesota's Moose Myster | July 22, 2013

The cell phone alert was designed to wake anyone from a deep sleep. “MORTALITY EVENT DETECTED,” the text message read, accompanied by a cacophony of drums and bells blaring from the phone’s speaker at top volume. It was near midnight on May 22nd, but David Pauly wasn’t asleep; he knew this call was coming. Already he had received five alarms like it over the past month, announcing that a female moose wearing a GPS tracking collar and ear tag #075 hadn’t moved for at least six hours.Usually, that’s enough to indicate that a moose is dead. But #075 was a survivor...

Save The Movie!
Peter Suderman, Slate | Save The Movie! | July 19, 2013

If you’ve gone to the movies recently, you may have felt a strangely familiar feeling: You’ve seen this movie before. Not this exact movie, but some of these exact story beats: the hero dressed down by his mentor in the first 15 minutes (Star Trek Into Darkness, Battleship); the villain who gets caught on purpose (The Dark Knight, The Avengers, Skyfall, Star Trek Into Darkness); the moment of hopelessness and disarray a half-hour before the movie ends (Olympus Has Fallen, Oblivion, 21 Jump Street, Fast & Furious 6).

 

It’s not déjà vu. Summer movies are often described as formulaic. But what few people know is that there is actually a formula—one that lays out, on a page-by-page basis, exactly what should happen when in a screenplay. It’s as if a mad scientist has discovered a secret process for making a perfect, or at least perfectly conventional, summer blockbuster.

The formula didn’t come from a mad scientist. Instead it came from a screenplay guidebook...

The Taliban's Letter To Malala Yousafzai
The Daily Beast | The Taliban's Letter To Malala Yousafzai | July 17, 2013

Not quite an apology, the open letter from a senior jihadist quotes Kissinger and British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Read the bizarre letter here...

 

"Why Did You Shoot Me? I Was Reading A Book": The New Warrior Cop Is Out Of Control

SWAT teams raiding poker games and trying to stop underage drinking? Overwhelming paramilitary force is on the rise.

Sal Culosi is dead because he bet on a football game — but it wasn’t a bookie or a loan shark who killed him. His local government killed him, ostensibly to protect him from his gambling habit.

Several months earlier at a local bar, Fairfax County, Virginia, detective David Baucum overheard the thirty-eight-year-old optometrist and some friends wagering on a college football game. “To Sal, betting a few bills on the Redskins was a stress reliever, done among friends,” a friend of Culosi’s told me shortly after his death. “None of us single, successful professionals ever thought that betting fifty bucks or so on the Virginia–Virginia Tech football game was a crime worthy of investigation.” Baucum apparently did...