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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.

Bumpy Start For A Court Cloaked In Grandeur
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times Book Review | Bumpy Start For A Court Cloaked In Grandeur | March 5, 2013

A review of Sandra Day O'Connor's Out of Order:

The reason to read “Out of Order” is to get Justice O’Connor’s succinct, snappy account of how today’s court — so powerful, so controversial and so frequently dissected by the media — evolved from such startlingly humble and uncertain beginnings that it initially seemed like a jerry-built enterprise constructed on entirely ad hoc principles...

Denis Rodman And Diplomatic Dystopia
Ian Crouch, The New Yorker | Denis Rodman And Diplomatic Dystopia | March 5, 2013

The United States’ new top diplomat made his first official trip overseas last week, becoming the highest-profile American to visit with a young and enigmatic totalitarian dictator since the dictator was installed in power following the death of his father. After his trip, the diplomat, who, years before, had been a talented athlete, and who once wore a wedding dress to a press event promoting his autobiography, returned home and explained the nuances of the leader’s worldview to a high-ranking member of a recent Presidential Administration who now hosts a morning variety show. The diplomat brought good news: the dictator had promised peace, which in translation came out as, “I don’t want to do war. I don’t want to do war.”...

In Medical First, A Baby With H.I.V. Is Deemed Cured
Andrew Pollack and Donald G. McNeil, Jr., The New York Times | In Medical First, A Baby With H.I.V. Is Deemed Cured | March 3, 2013

Doctors announced on Sunday that a baby had been cured of an H.I.V. infection for the first time, a startling development that could change how infected newborns are treated and sharply reduce the number of children living with the virus that causes AIDS.

The baby, born in rural Mississippi, was treated aggressively with antiretroviral drugs starting around 30 hours after birth, something that is not usually done. If further study shows this works in other babies, it will almost certainly be recommended globally. The United Nations estimates that 330,000 babies were newly infected in 2011, the most recent year for which there is data, and that more than three million children globally are living with H.I.V....

Scientists Think They've Found A Lost Continent In The Indian Ocean

William Blake saw the universe in a grain of sand. A team of geologists saw a continent.

In a paper published online Monday in Nature Geoscience, an international research team reports that it has found evidence of a lost "microcontinent" in the Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar. The scientists analyzed sands they found on the beaches of the island nation of Mauritius and found traces of an ancient mineral called zircon. That's noteworthy because Mauritius is a relatively young, volcanic island, while zircon is typically found in much older, continental crust...

Holocaust Just Got More Shocking
Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times | Holocaust Just Got More Shocking | March 2, 2013

Thirteen years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.

The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945...

The Kimchi-ite: A Stroll Through The Infamous Gangnam
Jonathan Kramer, Gadling | The Kimchi-ite: A Stroll Through The Infamous Gangnam | February 28, 2013

Possibly the most famous thing to ever come out of Seoul, "Gangnam Style" has become one of the few things most people in the world know about South Korea. Judging by the more than 1.3 billion views Psy's music video currently has on YouTube, the most viewed video on the site, I can assume that if you haven't seen it multiple times, you have at least heard of it. I'm only just now, able to walk around my neighborhood without hearing it emanating from some convenience store, restaurant or clothing stand, almost 7 months after its first release...

Exclusive: The Woodward, Speling Emails Revealed
Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, Politico | Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, Politico | February 28, 2013

Politico's "Behind the Curtain" column last night quoted Bob Woodward as saying that a senior White House official has told him in an email he would “regret” questioning White House statements on the origins of sequestration. The official in question is Gene Sperling, economic adviser to the president. The White House has since pushed back, saying the exchange was far more innocuous than Woodward claims.

We have obtained, exclusively, the exchange. Here it is...

Yosemite Plan - Relief For Giant Sequoias
Peter Fimrite, SFGate | Yosemite Plan - Relief For Giant Sequoias | February 27, 2013

The days may be numbered for soda-slurping tourists in flip-flops who enjoy parking their sport utility vehicles under the giant sequoias of Yosemite and tromping around in human herds amid theme-park-style trams, car exhaust and noise.

The National Park Service on Tuesday released its long-awaited environmental review of plans to restore the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to something closer to its natural state - that is, without the indecorous carnival hubbub.

The document, which is open for review and public comment through May 7, proposes the removal of a gift shop and parking lot in the middle of the towering trees, the elimination of the trams, construction of a boardwalk over restored habitat and wetlands, new hiking trails, and shuttle buses from a remote location...

Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was The Right Move For The US And Its Allies
John Bolton, The Guardian | Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was The Right Move For The US And Its Allies | February 27, 2013

Overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 achieved important American strategic objectives. Our broad international coalition accomplished its military mission with low casualties and great speed, sending an unmistakable signal of power and determination throughout the Middle East and around the world. Despite all the criticism of what happened after Saddam's defeat, these facts are indisputable.

Nonetheless, relentless hostility by the war's opponents now threaten to overwhelm, in the public mind, the clear merits of eliminating Iraq's Ba'athist dictatorship...

Hate-Watchers Now
Andrew Leonard, Salon | Hate-Watchers Now | February 25, 2013

Put aside, for a second, whether Oscars host Seth MacFarlane’s comedy routine Sunday night revealed him as a sexist boor or just really, really unfunny. (Or both!) A more interesting question might be whether Twitter has evolved into a button-pushing comic’s worst nightmare. Funny or not, you will get called out on Twitter whenever you step over what anybody considers a politically incorrect line. That’s what we call a tough crowd. Maybe too tough.

A case in point: With the Twitter masses already on edge after several hours of jokes about eating disorders, domestic abuse and boobs, MacFarlane pissed off an entirely new swath of Oscar-watchers when he said, “Well, we have finally reached the point in the ceremony where either Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek comes onstage and we have no idea what they’re saying — but we don’t care because they’re so attractive.”

My primary objection to this joke was that it was lame. If you’re going to play the meta-commentary game you need to do better than that...