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.

The Secret Casualties Of Iraq's Abandoned Chemical Weapons
C.J. Chivers, The New York Times | Secret Casualties of Iraq's Chemical Weapons | October 15, 2014

The specialist swabbed the shell with chemical detection paper. It turned red — indicating sulfur mustard, the chemical warfare agent designed to burn a victim’s airway, skin and eyes.

All three men recall an awkward pause. Then Sergeant Duling gave an order: “Get the hell out.”...

On Actions Taken, Or Not: Review of 'Worthy Fights'
Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times | Parsing Panetta's 'Worthy Fights' | October 12, 2014

The most interesting news in former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s memoir, “Worthy Fights,” concerns his disagreements with the Obama White House over Syria, Iraq and the budget crisis — disagreements that have been outlined in recent interviews and in testimony before Congress. Still, Mr. Panetta elaborates on such subjects here, and these passages — in what is otherwise an often opaque and evasive book — shed light on the distressing events now unfolding in the Middle East as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, rolls through large sections of Syria and Iraq...

From Didion To Dunham, Female Essayists Seize The Day
Lucy Scholes, The Daily Beast | Female Essayists Seize The Day | October 12, 2014

Joan Didion's trailblazing nonfiction set a forbiddingly high standard, but a slew of idiosyncratic writers are proving that her example may be inimitable but it is also inspiring.

“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman,” writes Lena Dunham in the introduction to her essays-cum-memoir Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” But does simply announcing one has a story automatically legitimize its telling?...

Paying Respects, Pentagon Revives Vietnam, And War Over Truth
Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times | Remembering Vietnam | October 10, 2014

It has been nearly half a century since a young antiwar protester named Tom Hayden traveled to Hanoi to investigate President Lyndon B. Johnson’s claims that the United States was not bombing civilians in Vietnam. Mr. Hayden saw destroyed villages and came away, he says, “pretty wounded by the pattern of deception.”Now the Pentagon — run by a Vietnam veteran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — is planning a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War...

The Self-Made Man
John Swansburg, Slate | The Self-Made Man | October 10, 2014

The  story of America's most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The Greatest Ancient Picture Gallery
William Dalrymple, The New York Review of Books | Caves Of Ajanta | October 9, 2014

In the winter of 1844, Major Robert Gill, a young British military draftsman, set off from Madras into the independent princely state of Hyderabad to record a major new archaeological discovery. Some years earlier, in 1819, a British hunting party in the jungles of the Western Ghats had followed a tiger into a remote river valley and stumbled onto what was soon recognized as one of the great wonders of India: the painted caves of Ajanta...

Saul Steinberg At One Hundred
Ian Frazier, The New Yorker | Saul Steinberg At 100 | October 8, 2014

He said that he always tried to draw like a child. The portrait photo he engineered of his adult self holding hands with a life-size cutout photo of himself at age six shows how seriously he took this idea. The goal was to draw like a child who never stopped drawing that way even as he aged and his subject matter became not childish...

Our Understanding Of Giraffes Does Not Measure Up
Natalie Angier, The New York Times | Understanding Giraffes | October 8, 2014

Giraffes are the "forgotten megafauna," said the executive director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation...

With Dry Taps And Toilets, California Drought Turns Desperate
Jennifer Medine, The New York Times | Drought Desperation | October 6, 2014

After a nine-hour day working at a citrus packing plant, her body covered in a sheen of fruit wax and dust, there is nothing Angelica Gallegos wants more than a hot shower, with steam to help clear her throat and lungs.

“I can just picture it, that feeling of finally being clean — really refreshed and clean,” Ms. Gallegos, 37, said one recent evening.

But she has not had running water for more than five months — nor is there any tap water in her near future...

Battle of the Upstarts: Houston vs. San Francisco Bay
Joel Kotkin, The Daily Beast | Houston Vs. SF | October 6, 2014

The energy and tech capitals of the U.S., Houston and San Francisco have little in common, but in the coming decades they are likely to become America's dominant cities...