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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.

LSD, Reconsidered For Therapy
Benedict Carey, The New York Times | LSD Recosidered | March 4, 2014

He heard about the drug trial from a friend in Switzerland and decided it was worth volunteering, even if it meant long, painful train journeys from his native Austria and the real possibility of a mental meltdown. He didn’t have much time, after all, and traditional medicine had done nothing to relieve his degenerative spine condition.

“I’d never taken the drug before, so I was feeling — well, I think the proper word for it, in English, is dread,” said Peter, 50, an Austrian social worker...

Putin Goes To War
David Remnick, The New Yorker | Putin Goes To War | March 3, 2014

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country’s power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He thought that he would achieve this by building an Olympic wonderland on the Black Sea for fifty-one billion dollars and putting on a dazzling television show. It turns out that he will finish the season in a more ruthless fashion, by invading a peninsula on the Black Sea and putting on quite a different show—a demonstration war that could splinter a sovereign country and turn very bloody, very quickly...

War Death Toll For Afghan Security Forces Is Over 13,000
Rob Nordland, The New York Times | Afghan Death Toll | March 3, 2014

More than 13,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed during the war here, far more than previously known, according to Afghan government statistics. Most of those losses occurred during the past three years as Afghan forces took over a growing share of the responsibility for security in the country, culminating in full Afghan authority last spring...

'I'm Going To Prison For Working At A Pot Shop That Was Legal In My State'
Robert Duncan, The Huffington Post | Pot Shop To Prison | March 3, 2014

Robert Duncan moved from Los Angeles to Northern California in 2010 to manage marijuana growing operations for a collective of medical marijuana dispensaries. Although California voters legalized medical cannabis more than 17 years ago, the plant remains illegal under federal law, and the Obama administration launched a renewed crackdown on marijuana in California in 2011. That October, Duncan’s grow house was raided. A few months later, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner indicted him and others involved in the dispensary business on the grounds that it had grown too large. Despite California’s struggle with prison overcrowding, and despite new federal guidelines that say size should no longer be considered in prosecution decisions, Duncan, 31, was sentenced to two years in prison. He is scheduled to report to Mendota Federal Correctional Institution near Fresno, Calif., on Monday afternoon. HuffPost Live will go with him.

Oscars 2014: Why Are Special Effects Wizards Planning To Protest At The Ceremony?
Lily Rothman, Time Magazine | Life After Pi | March 1, 2014

If you catch a glimpse of something not quite normal on the red carpet outside Sunday’s Oscar ceremony, here’s what you’re likely to be looking at: the March in March, a protest by members of Hollywood’s visual effects industry.

That’s because — even though a hefty portion of today’s movies rely on the on-screen magic they can make — America’s effects industry is in big trouble...

The Realist: Obama's A Cold Warrior Indeed
Fred Kaplan, Politico | The Realist | February 28, 2014

In a little-noticed passage in Robert Gates’s new memoir, the former defense secretary recounts a trip he took to Azerbaijan in the spring of 2010. His mission was to hand the reigning dictator, Ilham Aliyev, a note from President Barack Obama, hailing the importance of the two countries’ relations. Aliyev had been grousing about the U.S. military using his land as a stopover along the supply route to Afghanistan. Just “showing up” brought him back in line, Gates writes, adding, approvingly, “Neither the letter nor I mentioned human rights.”

More than five years into Obama’s presidency, the single word that best sums up his foreign policy is “realist”—in some cases, as one former adviser told me, “hard-nosed,” even “cold” realist...

Inside Japan's Bitcoin Heist
Jake Adelstein, The Daily Beast | Bitcoin Incompetence | February 28, 2014

Bitcoin, the virtual currency that has been racing toward acceptance as a genuine currency, had a colossal setback this past Tuesday, when a major Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, based in Tokyo, went off-line.  Thousands of customers are unable to withdraw deposits and CEO Mark Karpeles is not talking to the press about what happened. Fears about the virtual currency’s security have multiplied with the closing of Mt. Gox. It appears that the theft of several hundred thousand Bitcoins from the company forced it to close the exchange. Speculation is rampant as to what exactly happened...

Hail To Helvetica: Mike Parker 1929-2014
CNN | Font God | February 28, 2014

Look at the letters in these words. Really look at them: the shape of the circle that makes the "o" and the roundness of the "c." Look at how wide and tall they are. Look at the spaces between them. How do the lowercase letters make you feel? HOW ABOUT THE CAPITALS? A lot of consideration goes into designing a font...

Creative Writing, Via A Workshop Or The Big City
Dwight Garner, The New York Times Book Review | MFA vs NYC | February 27, 2014

The four most influential young literary magazines in America, each founded within a few years of the turn of this century, are n + 1, based in Brooklyn; McSweeney’s and its sibling The Believer, both based in San Francisco; and Tin House, based in Portland, Ore. Tell me which you prefer, and I will, more or less, tell you who you are...

Abolitionist Or Terrorist?
Douglas R. Egerton, The New York Times | Abolitionist Or Terrorist? | February 27, 2014

On Feb. 14, a group of activists in Charleston, S.C., unveiled a life-size statue of Denmark Vesey, a black abolitionist who was executed in 1822 for leading a failed slave rebellion in the city.

For many people, Vesey was a freedom fighter and a proto-civil rights leader. But the statue, the work of nearly two decades, brought out furious counterattacks; one recent critic called him a “terrorist,” and a historian denounced him as “a man determined to create mayhem.”...