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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.

Dissident Chinese Artist Is Released
Edward Wong, The New York Times | Dissident Chinese Artist Is Released | June 22, 2011

Chinese legal authorities have released the dissident artist Ai Weiwei after detaining him for nearly three months on suspicion of tax evasion, likely ending a prosecution that had become a focal point of criticism of China’s human rights record, according to a report on Wednesday night by Xinhua, the state news agency. Mr. Ai was reached on his cell phone shortly before 12:30 a.m. Thursday. "I’m released, I’m home, I’m fine," he said in English. "In legal terms, I’m — how do you say — on bail. So I cannot give any interviews. But I’m fine."...

Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck? (Part One)
Errol Morris, The New York Times Opinionator | Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck? (Part One) | June 22, 2011

It was a short comment on my recent essay in The Times, “The Ashtray.”

#82: Tom Van Vleck
Ocean City, NJ
March 11th, 2011
9:44pm

…I had email today from another middle school student asking about Noel Morris’s place in history as (a) creator of electronic mail.

Noel Morris’s place in history? Noel Morris was my older brother, who had dropped out of MIT and spent most of his waking hours holed up in an apartment working at a computer terminal. This was in the ‘60s, long before there was anything close to a home computer. The name Tom Van Vleck was not unfamiliar. He was a friend of my brother’s who worked with him at MIT in those days.

I called him...

A Scary Report Card on the World's Oceans
Bryan Walsh, Time | A Scary Report Card on the World's Oceans | June 21, 2011

Work in environmental journalism for very long and you can eventually become inured to catastrophe. Every ecosystem is on the brink of collapse; every endangered species is just a few steps from extinction; every government decision to authorize an oil well or a coal mine is the one that will push carbon emissions over the edge. The language of environmentalism is the language of scarcity and loss, a constantly repeated message that we cannot continue living the way we are, or else. Sometimes the sheer, relentless doomsaying is enough to make you want to take a long, air-conditioned drive in a nice SUV.

But while news of the Earth's impending doom can sometimes seem exaggerated, there's one environmental disaster that never gets the coverage it really deserves: the state of the oceans...

Spamazon
Laura Miller, Salon | Spamazon | June 21, 2011

Exactly one year ago, I wrote of my fear that, in the current self-publishing boom, "slush fatigue" -- a form of existential nausea, once suffered only by a few entry-level staffers in the book business, brought on by overexposure to terrible manuscripts -- could infect the general public. How innocent those days seem now! As if slush weren't bad enough, readers looking for a good ebook must now also wade through the same maddening stuff that's been clogging up their email inboxes for decades: spam...

You Are Followers of the Juche Philosophy, So I Can Put My Trust in You

Reading North Korea's comic book propaganda...

Government Selects Graphic Photos to Deter Smokers
Duff Wilson, The New York Times | Government Selects Graphic Photos to Deter Smokers | June 21, 2011

Federal health officials on Tuesday released their final selection of nine graphic warning labels to cover the top half of cigarette packages beginning next year, in the first major change to those warnings in more than a quarter century, over the opposition of tobacco manufacturers...

Spongebob, the Mushroom, Discovered in Borneo
David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle | Spongebob, the Mushroom, Discovered in Borneo | June 20, 2011

You can find all the porcini you want in your supermarket, but don't go looking for the mushroom's distant cousin, Spongiforma squarepantsii, because the newly discovered species can only be found in the rain forest of Borneo -- so far...

Fewer Hands in the Fields
Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times | Fewer Hands in the Fields | June 20, 2011

Labor contractor Don Pedtro -- like farmers across Georgia -- is worried that the state's tough new immigration law is scaring away an illegal immigrant workforce...

Aung San Suu Kyi Tells of Burma's Struggle For Freedom and Its Cost
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian | Aung San Suu Kyi Tells of Burma's Struggle for Freedom and Its Cost | June 20, 2011

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy leader and Nobel peace prize winner, has issued a passionate manifesto for freedom in an unprecedented international broadcast describing the continuing 21-year-long struggle against Burma's military junta and the inspirational impact of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions...

Qaeda Woes Fuel Talk of Speeding Afghan Pullback
Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, The New York Times | Qaeda Woes Fuel Talk of Speeding Afghan Pullback | June 19, 2011

As the Obama administration nears a crucial decision on how rapidly to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan, high-ranking officials say that Al Qaeda’s original network in the region has been crippled, providing a rationale for an accelerated reduction of troops...