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 Amazon Effect
Steve Wasserman, The Nation | The Amazon Effect | June 4, 2012

From the start, Jeff Bezos wanted to “get big fast.” He was never a “small is beautiful” kind of guy. The Brobdingnagian numbers tell much of the story. In 1994, four years after the first Internet browser was created, Bezos stumbled upon a startling statistic: the Internet had been growing at the rate of 2,300 percent annually. In 1995, the year Bezos, then 31, started Amazon, just 16 million people used the Internet. A year later, the number was 36 million, a figure that would multiply at a furious rate. Today, more than 1.7 billion people, or almost one out of every four humans on the planet, are online. Bezos understood two things...

Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are
Garance Franke-Ruta, The Atlantic | Americans Have No Idea How Few Gay People There Are | June 4, 2012

Surveys show a shockingly-high fraction think a quarter of the country is gay or lesbian, when the reality is that it's probably less than 2 percent...

Intirgue in Karzai Family as an Afghan Era Closes
James Risen, The New York Times | Intrigue in Karzai Family as an Afghan Era Closes | June 4, 2012

With the end in sight for Hamid Karzai’s days in office as Afghanistan’s president, members of his family are trying to protect their status, weighing how to hold on to power while secretly fighting among themselves for control of the fortune they have amassed in the last decade...

California Cuts Threaten The Status Of Universities
Jennifer Medina, The New York Times | California Cuts Threaten The Status Of Universities | June 2, 2012

Class sizes have increased, courses have been cut and tuition has been raised — repeatedly. Fewer colleges are offering summer classes. Administrators rely increasingly on higher tuition from out-of-staters. And there are signs it could get worse: If a tax increase proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown is not approved this year, officials say they will be forced to consider draconian cuts like eliminating entire schools or programs...

The Price Of Tribal Betrayal
Steve Kornacki, Salon | The Price Of Tribal Betrayal | June 2, 2012


When Donald Trump hijacked the news this week with his latest birther ravings and Mitt Romney refused to repudiate him, Bob Inglis could only sigh.

“It really damages our credibility to not deal in facts,” the former South Carolina congressman told Salon. “The fact is the president is an American. The fact is the president is not a socialist. He’s left of center – he’s way left of me. But he’s not a socialist. There’s a difference.”...

What You Hate Most About Waiting In Line
Seth Stevenson, Slate | What You Hate Most About Waiting In line | June 2, 2012

Queuing theory is the study of lines. All kinds of lines. The lines at supermarket checkouts, the lines at toll booths, the lines of people on hold waiting for someone, anyone, to pick up at the cable company’s 1-800 number...


One Afghan's Three-Generation Quest For Peace
Adam Klein, The New York Times / At War | One Afghan's Three-Generation Quest For Peace | June 1, 2012

Two years ago, I began working with Afghan writers in workshops, introducing them to short narratives from around the world, frequently from postwar writers. Most of my students weren’t raised reading stories in English, and very few had ever sat down to write their own in a second or third language. Unlike an American workshop, it was rare to find an Afghan who felt their story warranted such attention, theirs or mine, or who wanted their work to ever appear in print. Through a process of close conferencing, the stories developed, as did trust, and eventually a desire to see their work published — preferably outside Afghanistan, where candor is still risky...

Are Literary Classics Obsolete?
Laura Miller, Salon | Are Literary Classics Obsolete? | June 1, 2012

You have only to look at the one-star reviews given to classic novels on Amazon.com to recognize that quite a few contemporary readers find these immortal works of literature unreadable. Stories that don’t begin with a Hollywood-style bang or that skimp on action are dismissed as “boring.” Subtleties of character and context are overlooked. But more than anything else, the one-star brigade hates the prose of the past. Any writer whose sentences contain multiple clauses typically gets labeled “wordy” or “flowery” (a term that only seems to be used by people who don’t know what it means)...

The Opposite Of Loneliness
Marina Keegan, The Yale Daily News | The Opposite Of Loneliness | May 31, 2012

The piece below was written by Marina Keegan '12 for a special edition of the Yale Daily News distributed at the class of 2012's commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place. It's not quite love and it's not quite community; it's just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team...

The Syria Dilemma
Philip Gourevitch, The New Yorker | The Syria Dilemma | May 30, 2012

In April of 1993, President Bill Clinton and Elie Wiesel presided over the dedication of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C. Wiesel spoke first. He asked, “What have we learned?,” then went on to say, “Mr. President, I cannot not tell you something. I have been in the former Yugoslavia last fall. I cannot sleep since for what I have seen. . . . I am saying that we must do something to stop the bloodshed in that country.”...