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.

We Are Alive: Bruce Springsteen At Sixty-Two
David Remnick, The New Yorker | We Are Alive: Bruce Springsteen At Sixty-Two | July 23, 2012

Nearly half a century ago, when Elvis Presley was filming “Harum Scarum” and “Help!” was on the charts, a moody, father-haunted, yet uncannily charismatic Shore rat named Bruce Springsteen was building a small reputation around central Jersey as a guitar player in a band called the Castiles. The band was named for the lead singer’s favorite brand of soap. Its members were from Freehold, an industrial town half an hour inland from the boardwalk carnies and the sea. The Castiles performed at sweet sixteens and Elks-club dances, at drive-in movie theatres and ShopRite ribbon cuttings, at a mobile-home park in Farmingdale, at the Matawan-Keyport Rollerdrome. Once, they played for the patients at a psychiatric hospital, in Marlboro. A gentleman dressed in a suit came to the stage and, in an introductory speech that ran some twenty minutes, declared the Castiles “greater than the Beatles.” At which point a doctor intervened and escorted him back to his room...

Mayberry R.I.P.
Frank Rich, New York Magazine | Mayberry R.I.P. | July 23, 2012

Andy Griffith was a genial and gifted character actor, but when he died on Independence Day eve, you’d have thought we’d lost a Founding Father, not a television star whose last long-running series, the vanilla legal drama Matlock, expired in 1995. The public tributes to Griffith were over-the-top in a way his acting never was, spreading treacle from the evening newscasts to the front page of the New York Times.

It was as if the nation were mourning its own demise. To commentators in the liberal media, Griffith’s signature television role, Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina, was “one of the last links to another, simpler time” (the Washington Post). On the right, the sermonizers quickly moved past an inconvenient fact (Griffith made a spot endorsing Obamacare in 2010) to deify Sheriff Taylor for embodying “a time when television was cleaner and simpler” and for giving “millions of Americans the feeling the country stood for all the right things” (National Review). Among those “right” things was the fictional Mayberry’s form of governance, which, in the ideological take of the Daily Caller, demonstrated that “common sense and local control work better than bureaucracy or top-down management.”

In reality, The Andy Griffith Show didn’t transcend the deep divides of its time. It merely ignored them...

Hearing Pete Seeger
Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker | Hearing Pete Seeger | July 20, 2012

...Seeger had been a member of the Weavers, a quartet that was the last popular band of stature before the Beatles changed everything. The Weavers had been on the cover of Time magazine, and Seeger had grown accustomed to being recognized, but he didn’t like it. After his engagement with the House Un-American Activities Committee, the government set about damaging Seeger’s career. He simply walked away from the nightclub life and the fancy people and went back to singing in schools and camps, where he had begun. I can’t imagine a popular entertainer today who would go to jail for a year then throw over his or her career in order to embody a stand of conscience...


Thirty Years Of Skating
James Guida, The New Yorker | Thirty Years Of Skating | July 20, 2012

Go to a spot popular with skateboarders today, and be prepared to encounter a curious breed: the senior-citizen skater. All things being relative, the skaters in question are usually between thirty and thirty-eight years old. There are still older riders, no doubt, but these must be classified as a shade more geriatric. It is possible that precise age has less to do with it than how often you step on a board. In any case, the breed tends to give itself away less by appearance than by their little pauses for conversation. “I used to have energy like that,” a specimen like myself might be heard saying wistfully between short breaths, indicating some limber teen-ager flying past. Alternatively, it could be a remark about the mysterious pain in their right thigh, or laughter as their whole lower half refuses to submit to even humble demands. Just as often, though, the talk is of ancient videos and favorite skaters from the past...

In A First, An Entire Organism Is Simulated By Software
John Markoff, The New York Times | In A First, An Entire Organism Is Simulated By Software | July 20, 2012

Scientists at Stanford University and the J. Craig Venter Institute have developed the first software simulation of an entire organism, a humble single-cell bacterium that lives in the human genital and respiratory tracts. The scientists and other experts said the work was a giant step toward developing computerized laboratories that could carry out complete experiments without the need for traditional instruments. For medical researchers and drug designers, cellular models will be able to supplant experiments during the early stages of screening for new compounds. And for molecular biologists, models that are of sufficient accuracy will yield new understanding of basic biological principles...

Romney, At Harvard, Merged Two Worlds
Peter Lattman and Richard Perez-Pena, The New York Times | Romney, At Harvard, Merged Two Worlds | July 18, 2012

President Obama has a Harvard law degree. Former President George W. Bush has a Harvard M.B.A. Will the next president have both?

One of the most exclusive clubs in academe is a Harvard University dual-degree program allowing graduate students to attend its law and business schools simultaneously, cramming five years of education into four. On average, about 12 people per year have completed the program — the overachievers of the overachievers — including a striking number of big names in finance, industry, law and government...

Golden Gate Bridge Photo Contest
Carly Schwartz, The Huffington Post | Golden Gate Bridge Photo Contest | July 18, 2012

We received more than 200 submissions for our Golden Gate Bridge photo contest, which we held in honor of our favorite International Orange icon's 75th birthday in May.

And after hours of deliberation, we're proud to announce that the winning image was shot by Sausalito resident Jason Braun...

Meeting Our Cultural Overlords
Seth Stevenson, Slate | Meeting Our Cultural Overlords | July 18, 2012

For the most part, I've stuck to the comic-book-related panels here at Comic-Con. They are the raison d'être of the festival. Comic books are still the topic that seems to fuel the most passionate, thoughtful conversations—as witnessed at the 30th anniversary tribute to Love and Rockets, or the seminar on progressive politics in comics. It's beautiful to watch the insular passion of the comic book obsessives—they are the warm, beating heart of the whole Con.

Still, I worried I'd be missing out if I didn't attend at least one panel devoted to filmed entertainment. Comic-Con could never draw 130,000 attendees to a convention solely focused on comic books. The Con's powerful place in the modern media landscape stems from its role as a showplace for the pop-culture-industrial complex—a place where TV networks and movie studios come out to play...

U.S. Empire Of Bases Grows
David Vine, The Huffington Post | U.S. Empire Of Bases Grows | July 17, 2012


Since the “Black Hawk Down” deaths in Somalia almost 20 years ago, we’ve heard little, if anything, about American military casualties in Africa (other than a strange report last week about three special operations commandos killed, along with three women identified by U.S. military sources as “Moroccan prostitutes,” in a mysterious car accident in Mali). The growing number of patients arriving at Ramstein from Africa pulls back a curtain on a significant transformation in twenty-first-century U.S. military strategy.

These casualties are likely to be the vanguard of growing numbers of wounded troops coming from places far removed from Afghanistan or Iraq. They reflect the increased use of relatively small bases like Camp Lemonnier, which military planners see as a model for future U.S. bases “scattered,” as one academic explains, “across regions in which the United States has previously not maintained a military presence.”...

Human Corpses Are Prize In Global Drive For Profits
Kate Wilson, Vlad Lavrov, Martina Keller, Thomas Maier and Gerard Ryle, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists | Human Corpses Are Prize In Global Drive For Profits | July 17, 2012

On Feb. 24, Ukrainian authorities made an alarming discovery: bones and other human tissues crammed into coolers in a grimy white minibus.

Investigators grew even more intrigued when they found, amid the body parts, envelopes stuffed with cash and autopsy results written in English.

What the security service had disrupted was not the work of a serial killer but part of an international pipeline of ingredients for medical and dental products that are routinely implanted into people around the world.

The seized documents suggested that the remains of dead Ukrainians were destined for a factory in Germany belonging to the subsidiary of a U.S. medical products company, Florida-based RTI Biologics...