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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.

How We Got From 9/11 To Massive NSA Spying On Americans: A Timeline
AJ Vicens, Dave Gilson and Alex Park, Mother Jones | How We Got From 9/11 To Massive NSA Spying On Americans: A Timeline | September 12, 2013

Recent news reports exposed how the National Security Agency has been collecting millions of Americans' phone data and online communications. Here's how we got from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to the massive domestic spying operations of today...

I 'Got Snatched': Daniel McGowan's Bizarre Trip Through America's Prison System
Matt Sledge, The Huffington Post | I 'Got Snatched': Daniel McGowan's Bizarre Trip Through America's Prison System | September 12, 2013

...Forty-two prisoners are currently in the CMU at Marion. Another 43 are in a similar facility in Terre Haute, Ind., that was built two years earlier. The special units were developed as part of the federal government's crackdown on terrorism following 9/11. Particularly after Lynne Stewart, the former defense attorney for the Blind Sheik, Omar Abdel-Rahman, was convicted in 2005 of covertly sending messages to her client's followers in Egypt, the Bureau of Prisons was determined to create a new form of incarceration to monitor inmates' every contact with the outside world. When the CMUs were first opened, nearly all of their inmates were Muslim men....

The Falling Man
Tom Junod, Esquire | The Falling Man | September 11, 2013

In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity's divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did -- who jumped -- appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else -- something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom...

The First Victim Of Sept. 11
Molly Knight Raskin, Slate | The First Victim Of Sept. 11 | September 11, 2013

He was likely the first person killed, but his influence was felt that entire terrible dayt -- online.

This essay is adapted from No Better Time: The Brief, Remarkable Life of Danny Lewin, the Genius Who Transformed the Internet, by Molly Knight Raskin, out now from Da Capo Press.

Just before 8 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 took off from Boston's Logan Airport. Bound nonstop for Los Angeles, the flight was just one of more than 40,000 scheduled to crisscross the country that day. The plane was partially full -- 81 passengers, nine crewmembers, and two pilots. Many of its passengers were traveling for work on the daily flight, including 31-year-old Internet entrepreneur Danny Lewin...

Memo
Paul Rudnick, The New Yorker | Memo | September 11, 2013

A prominent Russian screenwriter working on a ?lm of Tchaikovsky’s life that has just received state financing caused an uproar this week by saying that the biopic will not focus on the homosexuality of the composer because “it is far from a fact that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual.”...

World's Best Lasagna Tops AllRecipes List For More Than A Decade
Deb Lindsey, The Washington Post | World's Best Lasagna Tops AllRecipes List For More Than A Decade | September 11, 2013

John Chandler has a secret, and he guards it carefully, lest yet another friend or co-worker ask him to make it for a dinner party.

Chandler is, by day, a 43-year-old salesman and father of two, a self-proclaimed “Southern boy” who lives outside Dallas and grew up on college football and barbecue. Online, Chandler’s fans know him differently: He is the creator of the World’s Best Lasagna, an artery-clogging tower of sweet Italian sausage, ground beef and ricotta cheese that has reigned as the most popular recipe on AllRecipes.com for more than a decade. It has earned 10,423 ratings and been “pinned” to Pinterest more than 25,000 times. AllRecipes estimates that 12 million people viewed it in the past five years alone...

Why Web TV Series Are Worth Watching
Rachel Syme, The New Yorker | Why Web TV Series Are Worth Watching | September 10, 2013

If the best television shows today are like novels, with sustained narratives stretched out over seasons, then it would stand to reason that Web series are like short stories in glowing rectangles, drama and comedy distilled. The average Web short lasts between two and ten minutes, an easily digestible entertainment snack that doesn’t ask for too much attention in a space where a listicle can derail even the most focussed mind. The smartest Internet filmmakers understand the frenetic, lonely, jumpy browsing experience and just how much a surfer can bear when her eyes are always being pulled away. What a Web series can do, if it deploys itself correctly, is create a pause, a visual coffee break, a moment of communion in an open tab...

What Gamers Can Teach Us
Jane McGonigal, The Huffington Post | What Gamers Can Teach Us | September 8, 2013

I'm going to tell you a secret. The TEDTalk you're about to watch seems like a pretty ordinary TEDTalk, maybe even a pretty good one, given the standing ov ation at the end.

But here's the truth that almost no one in the world knows: This talk, my talk, went down in TED history as the single biggest disasgter to ever happen at TED...

May The Books Flourish
Larry McMurtry, BookBeast | May The Books Flourish | September 8, 2013

For writer Larry McMurtry, auctioning off part of his vast book collection was bittersweet, bu they are off on a new adventure in the hands of new readers. He writes to urge readers to support a film on Kickstarter documenting this remarkable sale.

...At its peak, my book town harbored between 500,000 and 600,000 volumes, not counting my own 28,000-volume personal library. I love my books, all of them. Holding them in my hands, leafing through the pages, is a comfort to me. But this is a lot of books: my son and grandson might not be so inclined as to simply sit and appreciate their presence...

A Peek Inside My Son's Head
David Mitchell, Slate | A Peek Inside My Son's Head | September 6, 2013

The author of Cloud Atlas on why he translated a book by a 13-year-old Japanese boy with autism.

The 13-year-old author of The Reason I Jump invites you, his reader, to imagine a daily life in which your faculty of speech is taken away. Explaining that you’re hungry, or tired, or in pain, is now as beyond your powers as a chat with a friend. I’d like to push the thought-experiment a little further. Now imagine that after you lose your ability to communicate, the editor-in-residence who orders your thoughts walks out without notice. The chances are that you never knew this mind-editor existed, but now that he or she has gone, you realize too late how the editor allowed your mind to function for all these years. A dam-burst of ideas, memories, impulses, and thoughts is cascading over you, unstoppably. Your editor controlled this flow, diverting the vast majority away, and recommending just a tiny number for your conscious consideration. But now you’re on your own...