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 Father's War Pictures, And Mine
Colby Buzzell, The Daily Beast | My Father's War Pictures, And Mine | April 20, 2012

I asked a couple co-workers, like me, Iraq War veterans, what they think of the photographs printed this week by the L.A. Times. You know, the ones with U.S. soldiers posing with the remains of Afghanistan suicide bombers. One of my colleagues shrugs: “Who didn’t come back from Iraq with pictures like that?”...

'California, 90420': The Great Marijuana Hypocrisy
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon | 'California, 90420': The Great Marijuana Hypocrisy | April 19, 2012

During a road trip to a quasi-legal medical marijuana growing facility in the legendary cheeba-producing region around Mendocino, Calif., a couple of students from Oaksterdam University encounter a cheerful little guy in a cowboy hat known as Human (no other name given). Human assures his visitors, with an ostentatious manner of saying exactly the right thing, that he’s growing potent, high-quality “medicine,” and he knows that the “patients” are out there waiting for it because they need help. Yeah, they need help — help getting wicked high, you mean...

The Forty-Year Itch
Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker | The Forty-Year Itch | April 19, 2012

When the new season of “Mad Men” began, just a few weeks ago, it carried with it an argument about whether the spell it casts is largely a product of its beautifully detailed early-sixties setting or whether, as Matthew Weiner, its creator, insisted, it’s not backward-looking at all but a product of character, story line, and theme. So it seems time to pronounce a rule about American popular culture: the Golden Forty-Year Rule. The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between forty and fifty years past. (And the particular force of nostalgia, one should bear in mind, is not simply that it is a good setting for a story but that it is a good setting for you.)...

If Health Insurance Mandates Are Unconstitutional, Why Did the Founding Fathers Back Them?

In making the legal case against Obamacare’s individual mandate, challengers have argued that the framers of our Constitution would certainly have found such a measure to be unconstitutional. Nevermind that nothing in the text or history of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause indicates that Congress cannot mandate commercial purchases. The framers, challengers have claimed, thought a constitutional ban on purchase mandates was too “obvious” to mention. Their core basis for this claim is that purchase mandates are unprecedented, which they say would not be the case if it was understood this power existed. But there’s a major problem with this line of argument: It just isn’t true. The founding fathers, it turns out, passed several mandates of their own...

AP's Approval of 'Hopefully' Symbolizes Larger Debate Over Language
Monica Hesse, The Washington Post | AP's Approval of 'Hopefully' Symbolizes Larger Debate Over Language | April 18, 2012

The barbarians have done it, finally infiltrated a remaining bastion of order in a linguistic wasteland. They had already taken the Oxford English Dictionary; they had stormed the gates of Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition. They had pummeled American Heritage into submission, though she fought valiantly — she continues to fight! — by including a cautionary italics phrase, “usage problem,” next to the heretical definition.

Then, on Tuesday morning, the venerated AP Stylebook publicly affirmed (via tweet, no less) what it had already told the American Copy Editors Society: It, too, had succumbed. “We now support the modern usage of hopefully,” the tweet said. “It is hoped, we hope.”...

Hatsune Miku, Japan's Hologram Pop Idol
Melissa Leon, The Daily Beast | Matsune Miku, Japan's Hologram Pop Idol | April 18, 2012

The surprise revival of Tupac Shakur in hologram form at Coachella this weekend stunned audiences -- but Japan's been onto the hologram game for years. Meet Hatsune Miku, Japan's biggest (fictional) pop star...


Six Degrees of Aggregation: How the Huffington Post Ate the Internet
Michael Shapiro, Columbia Journalism Review | Six Degrees of Aggregation: How The Huffington Post Ate the Internet | April 18, 2012

Of the many and conflicting stories about how The Huffington Post came to be—how it boasts 68 sections, three international editions (with more to come), 1.2 billion monthly page views and 54 million comments in the past year alone, how it came to surpass the traffic of virtually all the nation’s established news organizations and amass content so voluminous that a visit to the website feels like a trip to a mall where the exits are impossible to locate—the earliest and arguably most telling begins with a lunch in March 2003 at which the idea of an online newspaper filled with celebrity bloggers and virally disseminated aggregated content did not come up...


Afghan Security Forces Kill 36 Insurgents to Quell Spate of Deadly Attacks
Kevin Sieff, The Washington Post | Afghan Security Forces Kill 36 Insurgents to Quell Spate of Deadly Attacks | April 16, 2012

A spate of insurgent attacks across Afghanistan on Sunday left four civilians and 11 members of the security forces dead, the government said Monday. Three dozen assailants, including some suicide bombers, were killed by Afghan security forces who — after many hours — succeeded in halting the attacks.

The rare coordinated attacks spanned some of the country’s most important population centers but resulted in relatively few deaths — illustrating the insurgents’ ability to penetrate well-fortified sites but raising questions about the potency of their attacks...

Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes?
Alyssa Battistoni, Mother Jones | Does Fracking Cause Earthquakes? | April 16, 2012

There are plenty of reasons to worry about fracking—groundwater contamination, methane leaks, that flaming tapwater thing. But can it really cause earthquakes? That's the question the US Geological Survey set out to answer after a spate of tremors in the Midwest—an area not usually known for earthquakes—alerted scientists to the possibility that some of them might be manmade...

Ai Weiwei on the Pen and the Gun
Mark McDonald, International Herald Tribune | Ai Weiwei on the Pen and the Gun | April 16, 2012

When we last looked in on Ai Weiwei, the feisty, plus-sized Chinese artist was suing the Beijing tax authorities over their charges against him. The Public Security folks had pulled the plug on Weiweicam, his project that was streaming live video feeds from inside his house to the Internet. And he has kept breaking the rules of his release from prison, blaming his lack of self-discipline, telling The Economist, “C’mon, I can’t even lose weight!”...