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.

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...

The Second Term: What Would Obama Do If Re-Elected?
Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker | The Second Term: What Would Obama Do If Re-Elected | June 11, 2012

In November, 1984, President Ronald Reagan was reëlected in a landslide victory over Walter Mondale, taking forty-nine states and fifty-nine per cent of the popular vote. The Reagan revolution was powerfully reaffirmed. Soon after, Donald Regan, the new chief of staff, sent word to a small group of trusted friends and Administration officials seeking advice on how Reagan should approach his last four years in office. It was an unusual moment in the history of the Presidency, and the experience of recent incumbents offered no guidance. No President since Dwight D. Eisenhower had served two full terms. John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lyndon Johnson, overwhelmed by the war in Vietnam, had declined to run for reëlection in 1968. Richard Nixon resigned less than seventeen months into his second term. Gerald Ford (who was never elected) and Jimmy Carter were defeated. By the nineteen-eighties, it had become popular to talk about the crisis of the Presidency; a bipartisan group of Washington leaders, with Carter’s support, launched the National Committee for a Single Six-Year Presidential Term...

Tony Awards 2012
Peter Marks, The Washington Post | Tony Awards 2012 | June 10, 2012

The Kennedy Center fell just short of achieving Tony glory Sunday night as its acclaimed production of “Follies,” considered by some the best musical revival of the Broadway season, lost in the category to a revised version of George and Ira Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”

Still, in its third incarnation on Broadway, the 1970 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman did receive one Tony, for Gregg Barnes’s costume design. The $7.3 million show, directed by Signature Theatre’s Eric Schaeffer, received a total of eight nominations and had a 152-performance run on Broadway after its engagement last spring in the center’s Eisenhower Theater...

Ray Bradbury: Paris Review Interview
Sam Weller, The Paris Review | Ray Bradbury: Paris Review Interview | June 10, 2012

Ray Bradbury has a vacation house in Palm Springs, California, in the desert at the base of the Santa Rosa mountains. It’s a Rat Pack–era affair, with a chrome-and-turquoise kitchen and a small swimming pool in back. A few years ago, Bradbury let me look through some files stored in his garage as part of my research for a biography. Inside a tiny storage closet I found a compact filing cabinet covered in dust and fallen ceiling plaster, which contained, amid a flurry of tear sheets and yellowing book contracts, a folder marked paris review. In the folder was the manuscript of a remarkable unpublished interview that this magazine had conducted with the author in the late 1970s...


Earth Tipping Point Study In Nature Journal Predicts Disturbing And Unpredictable Changes

Earth is rapidly headed toward a catastrophic breakdown if humans don't get their act together, according to an international group of scientists.

Writing Wednesday (June 6) in the journal Nature, the researchers warn that the world is headed toward a tipping point marked by extinctions and unpredictable changes on a scale not seen since the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago...

Treading A Fine Line By Teaching Journalism In China
Lara Farrar, The New York Times | Treading A Fine Line By Teaching Journalism In China | June 8, 2012

On a Monday afternoon, Peter Arnett took his class of Chinese journalism students to the outskirts of the southern coastal city of Shantou, to a park dedicated to remembering the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. The memorial’s walls bear descriptions of the killings during the decade-long campaign that Mao Zedong began in 1966 to eradicate what were considered bourgeois elements. Like the memory of the revolution itself, the memorial, which opened in 2005, exists in a gray area. The local media rarely write about it. Few who live in Shantou know it is there. “I bring all of my classes here,” said Mr. Arnett who has visited the site at least a dozen times. “They need to know the truth. It is something they should know.”...

Algae Garden Blooms Under Polar Ice
Margaret Munro, Postmedia News | Algae Garden Blooms Under Polar Ice | June 8, 2012

The most intense phytoplankton bloom recorded on Earth occurred under the Arctic ice last summer - a finding that has stunned seasoned polar scientists.

"The ice was over a metre thick," says Kevin Arrigo at Stanford University, leader of the international team that reported Thursday finding the massive bright green algal bloom beneath the ice...

Gregor Duncan: Pictures Of Life
Rob Stolzer, Hogan's Alley | Gregor Duncan: Pictures Of Life | June 8, 2012

The Second World War cut millions of live short. One of its victims was a cartoonist and illustrator whose future appeared assuredly bright, but a German artillery shell ended his life...

The Virtues Of Daydreaming
Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker | The Virtues Of Daydreaming | June 5, 2012

Humans are a daydreaming species. According to a recent study led by the Harvard psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Matthew A. Killingsworth, people let their minds wander forty-seven per cent of the time they are awake. (The scientists demonstrated this by developing an iPhone app that contacted twenty-two hundred and fifty volunteers at random intervals during the day.) In fact, the only activity during which we report that our minds are not constantly wandering is “love making.” We’re able to focus for that...