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.

Roger Ebert As A Builder Of An Empire
David Carr, The New York Times | Roger Ebert As A Builder Of An Empire | April 9, 2013

At journalism conferences and online, media strivers talk over and over about becoming their own brand, hoping that some magical combination of tweets, video spots, appearances and, yes, even actual written articles, will help their name come to mean something

As if that were a new thing.

Since Roger Ebert’s death on Thursday, many wonderful things have been said about his writing gifts at The Chicago Sun-Times, critical skills that led to a Pulitzer Prize in 1975, the first given for movie criticism. We can stipulate all of that, but let’s also remember that a big part of what he left behind was a remarkable template for how a lone journalist can become something much more...


Remembering Margaret Thatcher
Amy Davidson, The New Yorker | Remembering Margaret Thatcher | April 8, 2013

The British will have the final say on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, who died on Monday morning at the age of eighty-seven. She was their leader, Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, the first woman to lead a European (or North American) country. But she has a presence in so many political images and ideologies—and world historical and cultural moments—that the rest of the world has some reckoning to do, too. She was a grocer’s daughter. She died as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. She went to war with Argentina. She seemed ready to provoke the Soviet Union to a civilization-ending conflict, bringing American nuclear missiles to Europe, and instead was present at the Warsaw Pact’s mostly peaceful disintegration. She once told George H. W. Bush that it would be “wobbly” of him not to go to war with Iraq. She met with Nelson Mandela, smiling, after years of what might generously be called ambivalence on her part about what he represented for South Africa. If the relationship with Northern Ireland was still as it was when she was in charge, her obituaries today might have a sharper tone—from both sides. She was the most powerful woman in the world and went regularly to pay homage to a Queen...

Book Review: The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth, by Mark Mazzetti

On May 1, 2011, CIA Director Leon Panetta was in command of the single most important U.S. military operation since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: the Navy SEAL Team 6 assault on a mysterious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was suspected to be hiding. The SEALs were sneaking into Pakistan without the permission of its government on a covert “deniable” mission in a country that was supposedly allied to the United States. Because U.S. law forbids the military to do this kind of work, the SEALs were turned over to the control of the CIA and were “sheep-dipped” to become, in effect, spies under Panetta’s nominal control.

Yet isn’t the CIA’s real job to steal other countries’ secrets, rather than to carry out targeted killings?...

Margaret Thatcher, Who Remade Britain, Dies At 87
Joseph R. Gregory, The New York Times | Margaret Thatcher, Who Remade Britain, Dies At 87 | April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” of British politics, who pulled her country back from 35 years of socialism, led it to victory in the Falklands war and helped guide the United States and the Soviet Union through the cold war’s difficult last years, died Monday. She was 87. “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother, Baroness Thatcher, died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” a statement from her spokesman, Lord Tim Bell, said. She had been in poor health for months, and suffered from dementia...

Anonymous Hacks North Korean Twitter, Flickr Accounts
Stephanie Miot, PC Magazine | Anonymous Hacks North Korean Twitter, Flickr Accounts | April 5, 2013


North Korea's official Twitter and Flickr accounts have been hacked, reportedly as part of "hacktivist" group Anonymous's efforts to disrupt the Communist country's Web presence.

The attackers targeted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a series of tweets and photos that portray him in a less-than-flattering light.

Five tweets from @uriminxok were sent between 10:45 and 11:20 p.m. Wednesday. Most included a simple message - "Hacked" - accompanied by links to various North Korean websites. One said "Tango Down" with a link to the country's Flickr page.

The group uploaded four images to North Korea's official Flickr photostream, including a fake "Wanted" poster...

Grover Krantz Donated His Body To Science, On One Condition...

Grover Krantz (1931-2002) was known as a teacher, a loving pet owner, an eccentric anthropologist, and the first serious Bigfoot academic. Seven years after losing a battle to pancreatic cancer, Krantz’s reputation is still well preserved, in more ways than one. His skeleton and that of his giant Irish Wolfhound Clyde are now on display at the 5,000 square foot exhibition “Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake,” which opened last Saturday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History...

Roger Ebert Dies At 70 After Battle With Cancer
Neil Steinberg, The Chicago Sun-Times | Roger Ebert Dies At 70 After Battle With Cancer | April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert loved movies.

Except for those he hated.

For a film with a daring director, a talented cast, a captivating plot or, ideally, all three, there could be no better advocate than Roger Ebert, who passionately celebrated and promoted excellence in film while deflating the awful, the derivative, or the merely mediocre with an observant eye, a sharp wit and a depth of knowledge that delighted his millions of readers and viewers.

“No good film is too long,” he once wrote, a sentiment he felt strongly enough about to have engraved on pens. “No bad movie is short enough.”...

Outsider Art Invades Paris
Allison Meier, Salon | Outsider Art Invades Paris | April 4, 2013

For a brief time, a former Catholic seminary on Paris’ classy Boulevard Raspail was overtaken with a psychoanalyst’s jubilee of art from self-taught creators who worked in secret or seclusion, in mental asylums or hospitals, or just from their own particular perspective of the world. The Museum of Everything is a traveling exhibition started by British filmmaker James Brett in 2009 that’s been widely successful in its unique curation of overlooked art, having now collaborated with the Tate Modern and the Missoni fashion house. Its Exhibition #1.1 popped up from October 2012 to March 2013 in the Saint-Germain space of the Chalet Society, a project of Marc-Oliver Wahler, the former director and chief curator of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. I was lucky enough to catch it in its last days, and it was one of the most fascinating experiences I’ve had of viewing “outsider” art, as it’s usually classified, from the sheer overwhelming density of the work to the truly talented, and truly bizarre, artists corralled into one alternative arts space...

This Story Just Won't Write
Calvin Trillin, The New Yorker | This Story Just Won't Write | April 3, 2013

Time Warner, whose profits now come from cable and film, has announced that Time magazine is about to be “spun off”—a phrase that to me has always conjured up a business enterprise caught in the final cycle of a giant washing machine, with desks and office machines flying through the air and middle-management types being blown away, head over heels, like so many tumbleweeds. Newsweek has ceased to exist as a print magazine. For a long time now, of course, newsmagazines have borne little resemblance to the sort of publication that was invented at Time in 1923 and loosely replicated at Newsweek ten years later—a magazine designed to present the week’s news succinctly to “busy men” who were too involved in their important endeavors to spend time wading through a lot of newspapers. Starting as strictly a rewrite operation, Time eventually had reporters and stringers around the world. They sent “files” to an operation called Time Edit, in New York, where writers, drawing on those files and the material that researchers had dug out of the library and whatever could be lifted from the Times, composed tight narratives that were conveniently compartmentalized into sections like Sport and Medicine and Religion and Show Business. That system, which for decades was the formula for producing a newsmagazine, went by a name that had the communal ring of a town picnic or a Tupperware party—group journalism...

The Nocebo Effect: How We Worry Ourselves Sick
Gareth Cook, The New Yorker | The Nocebo Effect: How We Worry Ourselves Sick | April 3, 2013

Many of us hope to find Wi-Fi wherever we go, preferably for free. But some people devote their lives to avoiding Wi-Fi altogether. Sufferers of Wi-Fi syndrome say that the radio waves used in mobile communication cause headaches, nausea, exhaustion, tingling, trouble concentrating, and gastrointestinal distress, among other symptoms. Some of the most afflicted take drastic action. According to the Agence France-Presse, one woman left her farmhouse in southeastern France after the arrival of mobile-phone masts (which, like Wi-Fi, use radio waves) and fled for a cave in the Alps. A handful of others have moved to homes within the United States National Radio Quiet Zone, a vast area of mountainous terrain on the Virginia-West Virginia border, where Wi-Fi, cell phones, and other technologies are severely limited to protect a nearby radio telescope. Scientists have given the syndrome a mouthful of a name: “idiopathic environmental intolerance attributed to electromagnetic fields,” or I.E.I.-E.M.F. But no one has found any good evidence that we are at any risk...