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.

President Obama's Syria Decision-Making
The Daily Beast | President Obama's Syria Decision-Making | September 2, 2013

Now that the State Department has confirmed the Syrian government crossed President Obama's red line and used chemical weapons against its own people, the world is waiting to see whether the United States will launch military strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime. The president said he will seek congressional approval before he commits the armed forces to another combat situation even though the legislative branch is out of session until Sept. 9. It's been a difficult road for the Obama administration, which has been back and forth about whether it would intervene in the brutal civil war. Despite all of the criticism, there was one thing Obama has made clear: if Syria uses chemical weapons again, the United States won't wait for Congress to get back from recess to launch its attack...

For A Classic Motown Song About Money, Credit Is What He Wants
Larry Richter, The New York Times | For A Classic Motown Song About Money, Credit Is What He Wants | September 1, 2013

On the lawn outside Motown Records’ former headquarters here, a historical marker honors the pivotal role that the song “Money (That’s What I Want)” played in building the Motown empire. With its hypnotic piano riff and unabashedly materialistic refrain, “Money,” recorded in 1959, was the first national success for the label that came to be known as “Hitsville U.S.A.,” giving the fledgling company credibility and a vital infusion of cash.

Over the years, “Money” has generated millions of dollars in publishing royalties. It was recorded by both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, has been widely used in films and advertisements and is now featured in “Motown: The Musical” on Broadway. But the pianist and singer Barrett Strong, who first recorded “Money” and, according to records at the United States Copyright Office in Washington, was originally listed as a writer of the song, says that he has never seen a penny of those profits...

Big Waste Country: To A Chinese Scrap-Metal Hunter, America's Trash Is Treasure
Adam Minter, Bloomberg Businessweek | Big Waste Country: To A Chinese Scrap-Metal Hunter, America's Trash Is Treasure | August 31, 2013

Just before 8 a.m., Johnson Zeng eases his rented Chevrolet into a space in front of Cash’s Scrap Metal & Iron in St. Louis. He’s in the market to buy scrap metal he can ship to China, and this is the first stop of the day in the middle of a two-and-a-half-week road trip to regular suppliers that started in Albuquerque and will end in Spartanburg, S.C. But that, Zeng says, is nothing. “My last trip with Homer,” he recalls, referring to Homer Lai, the scrap importer in China’s Guangdong Province who provides him with most of his business, “we drove 9,600 miles in 26 days.”

The result? Millions of pounds of metal worth millions of dollars left the U.S. for China...

Art's Big Road Trip
Isabel Wilkinson, The Daily Beast | Art's Big Road Trip | August 30, 2013

Doug Aitkien's 'Station to Station' throws artists, musicians, and everything in between on a cross-country train to see what sticks.

Four years ago multimedia artist Doug Aitken began thinking about the experience of viewing art, and watching movies, and listening to music, and how it all seemed the same: confined within the walls of a museum, gallery, concert venue, or movie theater. “Things created within art or music or film or architecture, they’re often restrained by the system that surrounds them,” Aitken says.

So he came up with Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening. It's what he calls a "liquid art platform," a constantly moving and evolving venue with no set parameters for experience the art...

Seamus Heaney, Irish Poet Of Soil And Strife, Dies
The New York Times | Seamus Heaney, Irish Poet Of Soil And Strife, Dies | August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney, a widely celebrated Irish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, died at a hospital in Dublin on Friday after a short illness, according to a statement issued on behalf of his family. He was 74...

"The main thing is to write for the joy of it."...

New Neighbor's Agenda: White Power Takeover
John Eligon, The New York Times | New Neighbor's Agenda: White Power Takeover | August 30, 2013

The bearded man with thinning, gray-and-bleach-blond hair flapping down his neck first appeared in this tiny agricultural town last year, quietly and inconspicuously roaming the crackly dirt roads.

Nettie Ketterling thought nothing of it when he came into her bar to charge his cellphone in an outlet beneath the mounted head of a mule deer. To Kenneth Zimmerman, the man was just another customer, bringing his blue Dodge Durango in for repairs. Bobby Harper did not blink when the man appeared in front of his house and asked him if he had any land to sell. And the mayor, Ryan Schock, was simply extending a civic courtesy when he swung by the man’s house to introduce himself...

Nine Things About MLK'S Speech And The March On Washington
Jim Polk and Alicia Stewart, CNN | Nine Things About MLK'S Speech And The March On Washington | August 28, 2013

"I have a dream this afternoon that my four little children will not come up in the same young days that I came up within, but they will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not the color of their skin."

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words in 1963, but this was not the speech that would go down as one of the most important addresses in U.S. history.

King spoke these words in Detroit, two months before he addressed a crowd of nearly 250,000 with his resounding "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs on August 28, 1963.

Several of King's staff members actually tried to discourage him from using the same "I have a dream" refrain again...

The Morning Of The March
Calvin Trillin, The New Yorker | The Morning Of The March | August 28, 2013

We flew to Washington the day before the march and, early the next morning, walked from Pennsylvania Avenue past the side entrance of the White House and toward the lawn of the Washington Monument, where the marchers were gathering. It was eight o’clock—three and a half hours before the march was scheduled to move from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial—and around the Ellipse, the huge plot of grass between the White House grounds and the lawn of the Washington Monument, there were only about half a dozen buses...

City Of The Lost
David Remnick | City of the Lost | August 27, 2013

In the world's second-largest refugee camp, Syrians find that it's not easy to flee the war.

Early on a summer morning in the Jordanian desert, driving along an empty road toward the Syrian border. A skeletal hound limps by the roadside. An old man selling melons and coffee slumps on a crate and watches the dog. It’s in the nineties already, and dust is everywhere. A gust picks up, and your lips are filmed with a gritty scum. After a few miles, signs start appearing for the crossings into Syria. In the villages here at night, you can sometimes hear the sounds of artillery fire thudding across the frontier...

In March On Washington, White Activists Were Largely Overlooked But Strategically Essential

Eric Kulberg was an 18-year-old intern in the summer of 1963 when he asked his boss for the day off so he could attend the March on Washington.

“What are you, a n----- lover or something?” Kulberg’s superior at the Department of Interior asked.

“Uh-huh. I guess so,” Kulberg blurted out.

The exchange between Kulberg and his boss, who was also white, didn’t sway the young man’s resolve to march. After the boss told him, “Go ahead — you’ll have a job when you get back,” Kulberg took his Argus C3 camera and Kodachrome film to the roof of the Interior building to take photographs of the buses rolling in. Then he joined the crowd walking around the Tidal Basin toward the Lincoln Memorial, one of between 75,000 and 95,000 white people who joined the swelling, predominantly black crowd...