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.

On Cellphone Solitude
Matt Love, Coast Weekend | On Cellphone Solitude | September 7, 2012

“Contemporary Western culture makes the peace of solitude difficult to attain. The telephone is an ever-present threat to privacy … and the invention of the car telephone has ensured that drivers who install it are never out of touch with those who want to talk to them.”

So wrote Anthony Storr in his book, “Solitude: A Return to the Self.” I bought it not long ago from a coastal thrift store for a quarter and read it practically in one sitting.

Solitude’s publication date? 1988...

Woodward Book Chronicles Obama's Fiscal Policy Battle With Congressional Republicans
Steve Luxenberg, The Washington Post | Woodward Book Chronicles Obama's Fiscal Policy Battle With Congressional Republicans | September 6, 2012

A combination of miscalculations, ideological rigidity and discord within the leadership of both political parties brought the U.S. government to the brink of a catastrophic default during the 2011 showdown over the federal debt ceiling, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward.

“The Price of Politics,” Woodward’s 17th book, chronicles President Obama’s contentious and still unresolved fiscal policy battle with congressional Republicans that dominated the White House agenda for nearly all of 2011. (On Sunday, The Washington Post will publish an adaptation in its print, mobile and Web editions. The book is scheduled for release on Tuesday. Woodward is a Post associate editor.)

As the nation’s leaders raced to avert a default that could have shattered the financial markets’ confidence and imperiled the world’s economy, Obama convened an urgent meeting with top congressional leaders in the White House. According to Woodward, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) pointedly told the president that the lawmakers were working on a plan and wouldn’t negotiate with him...

Saying Goodbye To The Farm
Anne Raver, The New York Times | Saying Goodbye To The Farm | September 6, 2012

It's time to leave the farm in Maryland.

My brother has sold the fields that surround us and the new owner has put “No Trespassing” signs at the end of the lane that goes past our barn to the old tenant house and then down to the stream.

“You and Rock can still walk down there if you ask permission,” the new owner told us.

It would be easier to move than to ask permission to walk over fields that I know like the curve of my own hips. I know where the stream turns, where the otter lives...

The Target Post
Jim Walter, Huffington Post Parents Blog | The Target Post | September 6, 2012

Yesterday I was reading something from a fellow blogger about how he always buys solid-colored shirts at Target. His wife had posted a picture of him on Facebook, and it makes me laugh to tag pictures with ridiculous tags, so I tagged his pic. He was holding a piece of bacon, so I tagged it "Bacon" (duh). I tagged his eyes, "his eyes how they twinkled" and his cheek with "his dimples how merry," etc. I got to the shirt and tried to tag it "Target" and Facebook said I didn't have permission. Meh. But that made me remember I'd been at Target over the weekend with Lily...

Vagine: A New Biography
Naomi Wolf, The Guardian | Vagina: A New Biography | September 5, 2012

In an exclusive extract from her new book, the feminist writer explains how sexist langauge can wreck women's lives...

Bits Of Mystery DNA, Far From 'Junk,' Play Crucial Role
Gina Kolata, The New York Times | Bits Of Mystery DNA, Far From 'Junk,' Play Crucial Role | September 5, 2012

Among the many mysteries of human biology is why complex diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and psychiatric disorders are so difficult to predict and, often, to treat. An equally perplexing puzzle is why one individual gets a disease like cancer or depression, while an identical twin remains perfectly healthy.

Now scientists have discovered a vital clue to unraveling these riddles. The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave...

Special Ops Veterans Respond To Navy SEAL Book 'No Easy Day'

One day before Mark Bissonnette's controversial tell-all on the bin Laden raid is released, his colleagues have published their own e-book response to what they call the "greatest betrayal"...


Project Aims To Harness the Power Of Waves
Kirk Johnson, The New York Times | Project Aims To Harness The Power Of Waves | September 4, 2012

About 15 years ago, this environmentally conscious state with a fir tree on its license plates began pushing the idea of making renewable energy from the ocean waves that bob and swell on the Pacific horizon. But then one of the first test-buoy generators, launched with great fanfare, promptly sank. It was not a good start.

But time and technology turned the page, and now the first commercially licensed grid-connected wave-energy device in the nation, designed by a New Jersey company, Ocean Power Technologies, is in its final weeks of testing before a planned launch in October...       

The John Cage Century
Alex Ross, The New Yorker | The John Cage Century | September 4, 2012

John Cage would have been a hundred years old tomorrow. Scratch that: Cage is a hundred. He remains a palpably vivid presence, still provoking thought, still spurring argument, still spreading sublime mischief. He may have surpassed Stravinsky as the most widely cited, the most famous and/or notorious, of twentieth-century composers. His influence extends far outside classical music, into contemporary art and pop culture. When I wrote at length about Cage in 2010, I noted that he accomplished something like a colossal land grab, annexing the entire landscape of sound, from pure noise to pure silence. If you hear several radios playing together, it sounds like Cage. If the P.A. system makes a horrible noise during a lecture, it sounds like Cage. (I’ve used that joke more than once.) Because Cage made his music sound like the world, the world sounds like Cage. It’s a neat trick, and it could be done only once...

McDonald's Opens Vegetarian-Only Restaurant
BBC Business News | McDonald's Opens Vegetarian-Only Restaurant | September 4, 2012

The standard-bearer of the hamburger, McDonald's, is bowing to local demand and is opening a meat-free restaurant in India...