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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.

A Generic Guitar Inspires A Distinctive Project
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times | A Generic Guitar Inspires A Distinctive Project | April 3, 2013

It started out as an inside joke and quickly became an international art project, linked to a charitable cause.

Nick Didkovsky, a guitarist and composer, and Charles O’Meara, the guitarist in the eclectic rock trio Forever Einstein, were in the habit of scanning eBay for used instruments, and e-mailing each other links to the ones they considered interesting. Usually, their finds were expensive vintage guitars — say, a Gibson SG from 1961, the first year of its production — or exotic pieces that were also priced out of reach.

But one day in 2010 Mr. O’Meara stumbled on a beat-up, no-name red, white and black electric guitar — a starter instrument for a kid in a 1960s garage band — priced at $100.

“He sent me this e-mail called ‘The guitar of my dreams,’ ” Mr. Didkovsky said in a recent interview...

Opening Day 2013: How To Write About Baseball In The Big Leagues
Noah Charney, The Daily Beast | Opening Day 2013: How To Write About Baseball In The Big Leagues | April 1, 2013

With Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season upon us, we talk to two of the best baseball correspondents writing today: Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe and Jayson Stark of ESPN. From writing in hotel rooms to the press box, from 2 a.m. clubhouse interview\s to watching every detail of a ballgame, life as a sportswriter is more Ironman triathlon than A Room of One’s Own...

The Master: A charismatic teacher enthralled his students. Was he abusing them?
Marc Fisher, The New Yorker | The Master | April 1, 2013

When I was in high school, at Horace Mann, in the Bronx, in the nineteen-seventies, everyone took pride in the brilliant eccentricity of our teachers. There was an English teacher who slipped precepts from the Tao Te Ching into his classes on the Bible and occasionally urged us to subvert standardized tests by answering every question with the word “five.” There was a much loved language teacher who would pelt distracted students with a SuperBall. There was a history instructor who, in a lecture on how the difficulty of delivering mail in the early days of the republic helped shape Federalist ideas, would drop his trousers to reveal patterned boxer shorts....

Anger Over Plan To Sell Site Of Wounded Knee Massacre
John Eligon, The New York Times | Anger Over Plan To Sell Site Of Wounded Knee Massacre | April 1, 2013

Ever since American soldiers massacred men, women and children here more than a century ago in the last major bloodshed of the American Indian wars, this haunted patch of rolling hills and ponderosa pines has embodied the combustible relationship between Indians and the United States government.

It was here that a group of Indian activists aired their grievances against the government with a forceful takeover in 1973 that resulted in protests, a bloody standoff with federal agents and deep divisions among the Indian people.

And now the massacre site, which passed into non-Indian hands generations ago, is up for sale, once again dragging Wounded Knee to the center of the Indian people’s bitter struggle against perceived injustice — as well as sowing rifts within the tribe over whether it would be proper, should the tribe get the land, to develop it in a way that brings some money to the destitute region...

Biological Computer: Stanford Researchers Discover Genetic Transistors That Turn Cells Into Computers

Researchers at Stanford University announced this week that they've created genetic receptors that can act as a sort of "biological computer," potentially revolutionizing how diseases are treated.

In a paper published in the journal "Science" on Friday, the team described their system of genetic transistors, which can be inserted into living cells and turned on and off if certain conditions are met. The researchers hope these transistors could eventually be built into microscopic living computers. Said computers would be able to accomplish tasks like telling if a certain toxin is present inside a cell, seeing how many times a cancerous cell has divided or determining precisely how an administered drug interacts with each individual cell...

The One Woman Screwing Up North Dakota's Plan To End Abortion
Winston Ross, The Daily Beast | The One Woman Screwing Up North Dakota's Plan To End Abortion | March 29, 2013

An FBI agent sat quietly in the lobby of the Red River Women’s Clinic on Thursday morning, arms folded across his lap, waiting for the director of North Dakota’s only abortion provider to wrap up a local television interview, her umpteenth media appearance in the past few days. The agent asked to speak to Tammi Kromenaker privately, so she escorted him back to one of the few places in the small two-story building with a closed door, and they talked.

Just a courtesy call, the agent told Kromenaker; to let her know he was the person to contact should anyone decide to violate the federal law that prevents people from trying to stop women seeking an abortion from getting into a clinic...

Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry On Farms
Michael Wines, The New York Time | Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry On Farms | March 29, 2013

A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables.

A conclusive explanation so far has escaped scientists studying the ailment, colony collapse disorder, since it first surfaced around 2005. But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor...

The Skim Milk In Edith Windsor's Marriage
Amy Davidson, The New Yorker | The Skim Milk In Edith Windsor's Marriage | March 29, 2013

“Mr. Clement,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said to the lawyer arguing for the Defense of Marriage Act before the Supreme Court, “if we are totally for the States’ decision that there is a marriage between two people, for the federal government then to come in to say no joint return, no marital deduction, no Social Security benefits; your spouse is very sick but you can’t get leave; people—if that set of attributes, one might well ask, What kind of marriage is this?”

 

What kind of marriage, indeed? Listening, on Wednesday, to the oral arguments on DOMA—which says that in every last federal law and regulation, the words “marriage” and “spouse” can not apply to same-sex couples, no matter what New York or Iowa or any other state says—and watching the scene outside the court, where Edith Windsor, who brought the case, spoke to reporters, two answers came to mind...

New Study Demands Zero-Tolerance For Military Sexual Assault
George Zornick, The Nation | New Study Demands Zero-Tolerance For Military Sexual Assault | March 27, 2013

Female veterans who suffered a sexual assault in the military are nine times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder compared to other female veterans, and military officials must do more to prevent these assaults—these are the conclusions of a gripping new government report on the hardships faced by troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mandated by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, the 794-page study from the Institute of Medicine is a product of over four years of intense research into what troops face as they return from Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a gripping portrait of post-traumatic stress disorders among some troops, along with traumatic brain injuries, barriers to healthcare, and problems re-adjusting to family and society...

The Methodless Method
Alice Bolin, The New Yorker | The Methodless Method | March 27, 2013

The summers I spent at my grandmother’s house were defined by reading—particularly reading, with extreme interest and feeling, the oddest and most unsuitable things I could find lying around: an ancient issue of Good Housekeeping or a collection of Dave Barry columns or the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” It’s not like I had nothing to choose from. The house contained hundreds of books. I could have easily selected from my grandmother’s cache of Agatha Christie and Bess Streeter Aldrich, or from any of the books left by my grandfather, who, when he was alive, was known for reading a book a day. It’s baffling now to think of the things I chose to read, and it was baffling to my family at the time.

But these choices were evidence of an important beginning. Growing up can mean growing into a sense that what one reads has a larger personal and cultural significance, starting to read into things. For so many adolescent readers, this process of forming deeper connections and insights is about random discovery, following boredom, never analyzing or judging—which is how the summer I turned thirteen came to center on Rudolf Flesch’s “The Book of Unusual Quotations.”...