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.

Texas Public Schools Are Teaching Creationism
Zack Kopplin, Slate | Texas Public Schools Are Teaching Creationism | January 16, 2014

An investigation into charter schools' dishonest and unconstitutional science, history, and "values" lessons.

When public-school students enrolled in Texas’ largest charter program open their biology workbooks, they will read that the fossil record is “sketchy.” That evolution is “dogma” and an “unproved theory” with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the Earth. These are all lies...

"Too Much Estrogen": The Golden Globes, Chris Christie And Men Who Don't Want To Share Culture
Soraya Chemaly, The Huffington Post | "Too Much Estrogen" | January 15, 2014

Brit Hume thinks Chris Christie is paying for a "feminized atmosphere," in which his naturally tough guy (read: male) behavior has been erroneously cast as bullying. Meanwhile, the NY Post's film critic Kyle Smith's take on the Golden Globes was that there was just "too much estrogren." These are just this weekend's examples of men having a hard time-sharing culture...

Tweeting Cancer
Meghan O'Rourke, The New Yorker | Tweeting Cancer | January 15, 2014

For good reason, the Internet lit up on Monday with debate over Bill Keller’s strange column “Heroic Measures,” in the Times, which, like a recent Guardian post by his wife, Emma Keller, addresses the ethics of publicly chronicling one’s battles with cancer. (Emma Keller’s post was taken down by the Guardian on Monday.) The occasion for both editorials are the tweets and blog posts of Lisa Bonchek Adams, who is being treated for metastatic breast cancer (Stage IV). Adams, as Emma Keller writes, has tweeted more than a hundred and sixty thousand times, often about her illness. (A recent example: “Another shoutout to the palliative team. Pain management specialists are some of my heroes @sloan_kettering.”)...

The Bitcoin-Mining Arms Race Heats Up
Ashlee Vance and Brad Xstone, BloombergBusinessweek | The Bitcoin-Mining Arms Race Heats Up | January 15, 2014

Joel Flickinger’s two-bedroom home in the hills above Oakland, Calif., hums with custom-built computing gear. Just inside the front door, in a room anyone else might use as a den, he’s placed a desk next to a fireplace that supports a massive monitor, with cables snaking right and left toward two computers, each about the size of a case of beer. Flickinger has spent more than $20,000 on these rigs and on a slower model that runs from the basement. They operate continuously, cranking out enough heat to warm the house and racking up $400 a month in electric bills. There isn’t much by way of décor, other than handwritten inspirational Post-it notes:
“I make money easily,” one reads.
“Money flows to me.”
“I am a money magnet.”
Flickinger, 37, a software engineer and IT consultant by trade, doesn’t leave the house much these days. He’s a full-time Bitcoin miner...

"We Are Terrified As A People": Nigeria's Gays Live In Fear Amid New Crackdown
Jonathan Krohn, The Daily Beast | "We Are Terrified As A People": Nigeria's Gays Live In Fear Amid New Crackdown | January 14, 2014

The country arrested dozens Tuesday as its anti-homosexual law took effect, but activists say they are prepared to fight back amid the atmospher of intimidation and persecution...

I Read You Loud And Clear
Kevin Baker, The New York Times Book Review | I Read You Loud And Clear | January 13, 2014

I love book clubs. I love reading for them, I love talking to them, and if I had my choice I’d probably do nothing but visit them to promote my books. Where else do you find people who have already made a commitment to read your book, and to read it closely enough to discuss it in a knowledgeable fashion with their friends? The best insights I’ve ever been offered about my work have come from book club members. In a world full of readings attended by the inevitable, random 5-to-10 bookstore browsers and 20-year-old assistant night managers who consistently mangle the title of your work, book clubs are an oasis of intelligent thought and discussion...

The Intelligent Plant
Michael Pollan, The New Yorker | The Intelligent Plant | January 12, 2014

In 1973, a book claiming that plants were sentient beings that feel emotions, prefer classical music to rock and roll, and can respond to the unspoken thoughts of humans hundreds of miles away landed on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction. “The Secret Life of Plants,” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, presented a beguiling mashup of legitimate plant science, quack experiments, and mystical nature worship that captured the public imagination at a time when New Age thinking was seeping into the mainstream...

Iraq Veterans On Fallujah: City Was 'A Microcosm Of The Iraq War'
Erin McCann, The Guardian | Iraq Veterans On Fallujah: City Was 'A Microcosm Of The Iraq War' | January 12, 2014

Three former members of the occupation forces reflect on the capture of the strategically important city by insurgent forces...

For TV Fans, Cramming In Sunday's Best
Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times | For TV Fans, Cramming In Sunday's Best | January 12, 2014

Pity the DVR, destined to be overworked on Sunday night.

The 9 p.m. hour alone this Sunday is a traffic jam of vexing choices, a thoroughfare gridlocked with hit shows like “The Good Wife” on CBS, and “Downton Abbey” on PBS, to which HBO is adding the premiere of “True Detective,” a thriller starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, to be followed at 10 by the first episode of the new season of “Girls.”..

Cigarettes and Alcohol: Andy Capp
Paul Slade, Planetslade | Cigarettes and Alcohol: Andy Capp | January 10, 2014

Reg Smythe was the greatest British newspaper strip cartoonist of the 20th Century – and second only to Peanuts’ Charles Schulz on a global scale. So why don’t we treat him that way?
Smythe invented Andy Capp for the Daily Mirror in 1957, personally writing, drawing, inking and lettering every line of the 15,000 Andy cartoons he produced over the following 40 years. When he died in 1998, the strip was syndicated to 1,700 newspapers – 1,000 in America alone – translated into 14 languages and read by a combined audience of 250 million...