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.

My Turn On The 'You're Not Special' Speech
David McCullough, Jr. | My Turn On The 'You're Not Special' Speech | June 19, 2012

The other day, I found myself in a small glass room with an honest-to-goodness Nobel laureate. This came to pass because a week earlier I had told the members of the Wellesley High School class of 2012 that they are not special. While the well-meant attentions of their parents and the advantages they’ve enjoyed (or taken for granted) might have led them to think otherwise, none of them, I said, matters more than anyone else, because everyone is special, everyone matters—all 6.8 billion of us. Simple logic, really. Along the way I tried to give them a few laughs, some thoughts to ponder, and, at the end, an exhortation to make for themselves, and for the rest of us, extraordinary lives, abundant in energy and guided by a spirit of selflessness. It was a lovely ceremony, and the speech was well received....

American Children, Now Struggling To Adjust To Life In Mexico
Damien Cave, The New York Times | American Children, Now Struggling To Adjust To Life In Mexico | June 19, 2012

Jeffrey Isidoro sat near the door of his fifth-grade classroom here in central Mexico, staring outside through designer glasses that, like his Nike sneakers and Nike backpack, signaled a life lived almost entirely in the United States. His parents are at home in Mexico. Jeffrey is lost.

When his teacher asked in Spanish how dolphins communicate, a boy next to him reached over to underline the right answer. When it was Jeffrey’s turn to read, his classmates laughed and shouted “en inglés, en inglés” — causing Jeffrey to blush.

“Houston is home,” Jeffrey said during recess, in English. “The houses and stuff here, it’s all a little strange. I feel, like, uncomfortable."...

How A Dead Dog Came Back To Bite Richard Nixon's Watergate Conspirators

Nixon operatives Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman pioneered their dirty tricks on the UCLA campus -- baiting reds like me...

Call Me, Mitt
Peter J. Boyer, The Daily Beast | Chris Christie: Call Me, Mitt | June 18, 2012

Did the Jersey governor blow his White House chances? He talks to Peter J. Boyer about why he passed on running -- and how Romney could talk him into being his running mate...

Sally Quinn Announces The End Of Power In Washington
Sally Quinn, The Washington Post | Sally Quinn Announces The End Of Power In Washington | June 18, 2012

In April, at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, my husband, Ben Bradlee, and I found ourselves sandwiched between the Kardashians and Newt and Callista Gingrich. Heavily made up and smiling for the cameras, the reality TV family and the political couple were swarmed over by the paparazzi, who were screaming and shouting the celebrities’ names to make them look toward the cameras for that million-dollar photograph.

I was shoved up against Callista’s hair and nearly broke my nose. It was scary. I felt as if I had been caught in a crowded theater and someone had yelled fire. Ben and I (he spouting expletives all the way), grabbed onto each other and managed to escape to the equally crowded hallway where desperate celebrity guests were heading toward the ballroom, murmuring to us as they passed, “Get me out of here.”

It was telling that Vanity Fair had bought more tables at the dinner than most of the Washington news organizations...

Plague Confirmed In Oregon Man Bitten By Stray Cat
Associated Press | Plague Confirmed In Oregon Man Bitten By Stray Cat | June 15, 2012

Health officials have confirmed that an Oregon man has the plague after he was bitten while trying to take a dead rodent from the mouth of a stray cat.

The unidentified man, who is in his 50s, remained in critical condition Friday at a Bend hospital. His illness marks the fifth case of plague in Oregon since 1995...

In Good Health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria
Gina Kolata, The New York Times | In Good Health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria | June 15, 2012

In a new five-year federal endeavor, the Human Microbiome Project, which has been compared to the Human Genome Project, 200 scientists at 80 institutions sequenced the genetic material of bacteria taken from nearly 250 healthy people. They discovered more strains than they had ever imagined — as many as a thousand bacterial strains on each person...

40 Years After Watergate, Nixon Was Far Worse Than We Thought
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, The Washington Post | 40 Years After Watergate, Nixon Was Far Worse Than We Thought | June 14, 2012

As Sen. Sam Ervin completed his 20-year Senate career in 1974 and issued his final report as chairman of the Senate Watergate committee, he posed the question: “What was Watergate?”

Countless answers have been offered in the 40 years since June 17, 1972, when a team of burglars wearing business suits and rubber gloves was arrested at 2:30 a.m. at the headquarters of the Democratic Party in the Watergate office building in Washington. Four days afterward, the Nixon White House offered its answer: “Certain elements may try to stretch this beyond what it was,” press secretary Ronald Ziegler scoffed, dismissing the incident as a “third-rate burglary.”

History proved that it was anything but...

Stories That Will Plain Curl Your Eyelashes: A Love Letter To The Moth

I can trace it back to the beginning for you, trace my Moth addiction to its start. For the uninitiated, the Moth is an organization devoted to the craft of storytelling. It’s real people telling true stories, “live and without notes.” They convene frequent shows in New York (though they now tour the country regularly), they have a weekly podcast that’s been downloaded many millions of times, and a radio show, now in its sixth season, that airs on some two hundred and fifty public-radio stations nationwide. They’ve been around since 1997, but I hadn’t heard of them until 2008, when I was in Perth, Australia, for a literary festival. That’s where I got hooked...

Battling To Preserve Arabic From English's Onslaught
D.D. Guttenplan, The New York Times | Battling To Preserve Arabic From English's Onslaught | June 14, 2012

At Northwestern University in Qatar the administration recently came up against a surprising problem: How to improve students’ Arabic. The overseas campus of the renowned university in Evanston, Illinois, attracts students from 30 countries for its programs in communications and journalism, popular majors in the hometown of Al Jazeera, the satellite broadcasting network. Although courses are given in English, about 60 percent of students speak some form of Arabic. “But most of them don’t speak Arabic well enough to appear on Al Jazeera,” said Everette E. Dennis, the school’s dean...