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.

Mt. Fuji, So Popular It Hurts
Ken Belson, The New York Times | Mt. Fuji, So Popular It Hurts | August 13, 2013

The words printed on the buses that drive through Kawaguchiko, a scenic town in the foothills of Japan’s tallest and most sacred mountain, were as reassuring as they were disconcerting: “Preserve the Nature of Mt. Fuji.”

The message was a reminder that despite years of effort, the millions who visit the mountain and nearby towns each year and the plethora of businesses that serve them continue to have a profound impact on the environment, whether through mounting trash, poor air quality or suburban sprawl. Mount Fuji, or Fujisan as it’s known to the Japanese, is the nation’s most recognizable natural landmark, a conical volcano immortalized by artists like Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige. These days, the mountain, less than two hours from Tokyo, is a playground for rich and poor. Climbing the mountain is on many hikers’ bucket lists...

This Pulsing Earth
Robert Krulwich, NPR | This Pulsing Earth | August 12, 2013

John Nelson is a designer, well known for tracing complex weather patterns or cultural information on maps, so considering what he usually does, this was easy. NASA's publishes pictures of our planet every month of the year, so John thought, why not stitch them together, and see what the seasons look like from outer space?

So he stitched, and then looked...

Baltimore Researchers Turn Carnivorous Fish Into Vegetarians
Darryl Fears, The Washington Post | Baltimore Researchers Turn Carnivorous Fish Into Vegetarians | August 12, 2013

Cobia is a sleek and powerful fish that devours flesh and doesn’t apologize for it. Open its belly and anything might pop out — crab, squid, smaller fish, you name it.

Recently, three Baltimore researchers — Aaron Watson, Frederic Barrows and Allen Place — set out to tame this wild and hungry fish sometimes called black salmon. They didn’t want to simply domesticate it; hundreds of fish farmers have already done that. They sought to turn one of the ocean’s greediest carnivores into a vegetarian...

Skippy, The Guardian Angel? Australian Boy Says Kangaroo Saved Him During Night Lost In Bush

A seven-year-old boy who spent a winter's night lost in chilly conditions in the Australian bush says a friendly kangaroo is the reason he survived.

South Australian police said Simon Kruger went missing in the Deep Creek Conservation Park, south of Adelaide, after wandering away from a family picnic shortly after 1.15pm Saturday....

Everything You Need To Know: Perseid Meteor Shower
Bruce McClure, EarthSky | Everything You Need To Know: Perseid Meteor Shower | August 10, 2013

In the Northern Hemisphere, the annual August Perseid meteor shower probably ranks as the all-time favorite meteor shower of the year. This major shower takes place during the lazy, hazy days of summer, when many families are on vacation. And what could be more luxurious than taking a siesta in the heat of the day and watching this summertime classic in the relative coolness of night? This shower is visible in the Southern Hemisphere, too, though to a lesser extent. No matter where you live worldwide, the 2013 Perseid meteor shower will probably be at its best on the nights of August 11-12 and/or August 12-13. Try the nights before and after that, too. Before dawn viewing is best. From northerly latitudes, you often see 50 or more meteors per hour, and from southerly latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps you’ll see about one-third that many meteors...

Why I Changed My Mind On Weed
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN | Why I Changed My Mind On Weed | August 9, 2013

Watch Dr. Sanjay Gupta's groundbreaking documentary "WEED" at 8 p.m. ET August 11 on CNN.


Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called "Weed." The title "Weed" may sound cavalier, but the content is not.


I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.


Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled "Why I would Vote No on Pot."


Well, I am here to apologize.

I apologize because I didn't look hard enough, until now...

Why The World Is Smarter Than Us
Dana Goldstein, The Daily Beast | Why The World Is Smarter Than Us | August 9, 2013

Why does the U.S. lag behind our peers when it comes to educating our students? Dana Goldstein on a new book that looks at school systems across the globe to come away with a startling conclusion: they value the intellect more than we do.

...In the U.S., most teachers earned about average grades and test scores when they were in high school and college. But in Finland, it is as competitive to become a public school teacher as it is to gain acceptance into an Ivy League university. There are no shortcuts into the classroom — prospective teachers must earn a master’s degree, write a research-driven thesis, and spend a full year in a teaching residency, observing master educators at work and practicing lessons and classroom management...

Sea Change
Andrew Testa, Mother Jones | Sea Change | August 9, 2013

Most of us were introduced to the Moken last winter, when there was a brief flurry of stories on how the "sea gypsies" of Thailand and Burma managed to escape the tsunami by reading the language of the ocean—a language exceedingly familiar to a people who spend all of their lives in or very close to the water. It was a heartening tale, in a context where those kinds of tales were hard to come by, and it gained intrigue from the other tidbits we learned about this remote tribe: how their four-year-olds can swim in waters 20 feet deep and adults can dive to 200 feet (most of us conk out by 30 feet); how throughout most of history they lived on boats, coming in to terra firma for only a few months each year; how Moken children have learned to constrict their pupils to see 50 percent better under water than we can, enabling them to go harpooning without goggles and find tiny shells on the ocean floor. All of which is true, and amazing. But there’s one more story that, perhaps, we should also have heard: how the Moken have been struggling to maintain their lives and livelihoods in a world that claims to admire them but has little room for their expansive relationship with the natural universe...

The Washington _______
David Plotz, Slate | The Washington _______ | August 8, 2013

This is the last Slate article that will refer to the Washington NFL team as the Redskins.

For decades, American Indian activists and others have been asking, urging, and haranguing the Washington Redskins to ditch their nickname, calling it a racist slur and an insult to Indians. They have collected historical and cultural examples of the use of redskin as a pejorative and twice sued to void the Redskins trademark, arguing that the name cannot be legally protected because it’s a slur. (A ruling on the second suit is expected soon; the first failed for technical reasons.) A group in the House of Representatives also recently introduced a bill to void the trademark. The team has been criticized from every different direction, by every kind of person. More than 20 years ago, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser, no politically correct squish, urged the team to abandon the name. Today, the mayor of Washington, D.C.—the mayor!—goes out of his way to avoid saying the team’s name...

Creator of xkcd Reveals Secret Backstory Of His Epic 3,099-Panel Comic

When xkcd creator Randall Munroe first posted a new installment of his webcomic titled “Time” on March 25, it looked deceptively simple: a picture of two black and white stick figures, a man and a woman, sitting wordlessly on the ground. There was no story, no punchline, no words. 30 minutes later, the image changed; the figures shifted slightly. And they continued to change every half-hour for the next week–and every hour for months after that–slowly coalescing into a story as the two characters discovered disturbing changes in the landscape around them, and set out on an epic, time-lapsed journey to discover the truth about what was happening to their world. ...