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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.

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior
Amy Chua, The Wall Street Journal Saturday Essay | Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior | January 9, 2011

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

 

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin...

Southern Sudanese Begin Historic Vote on Secession
Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times | Secession Vote | January 9, 2011

It’s not every day that a beleaguered, marginalized and persecuted people get a chance to vote for their own freedom. On Sunday, southern Sudan did. Starting in the cool hours of the night, long before the polls even opened, people across this region began lining up at polling stations to cast their votes in a historic referendum on whether to declare independence. Jubilant crowds made clear which was the overwhelmingly popular choice. “I feel like I’m going to a new land,” beamed Susan Duku, a southern Sudanese woman who works for the United Nations...

U.S. Cites Evidence of Assassination Plot
Marc Lacey and David M. Herszenhorn, The New York Times | U.S. Cites Evidence of Assassination Plot | January 9, 2011

Prosecutors accused Jared Lee Loughner, a troubled 22-year-old college dropout, of five serious federal charges on Sunday, including the attempted assassination of a member of Congress, for his role in a shootout that left 20 people wounded, six of them fatally, on Saturday morning...

U.N. Data Notes Sharp Rise in World Food Prices
William Neuman, The New York Times | Food Prices Rise | January 6, 2011

World food prices continued to rise sharply in December, bringing them close to the crisis levels that provoked shortages and riots in poor countries three years ago, according to newly released United Nations data. Prices are expected to remain high this year, prompting concern that the world may be approaching another crisis, although economists cautioned that many factors, like adequate stockpiles of key grains, could prevent a serious problem...

Retracted Autism Study An 'Elaborate Fraud,' British Journal Finds
CNN Wire Staff | Autism Fraud Charge | January 6, 2011

A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday. An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible...

Killing of Governor Deepens Crisis in Pakistan
Salman Masood and Carlotta Gall, The New York Times | Killing of Governor Deepens Crisis in Pakistan | January 5, 2011

p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }The assassination of an outspoken secular politician by one of his elite police guards on Tuesday plunged the government deeper into political crisis and highlighted the threat of militant infiltration even within the nation’s security forces. The killing of Salman Taseer, the prominent governor of Punjab Province, was another grim reminder of the risks that Pakistani leaders take to oppose religious extremists, at a time when the United States is pushing Pakistan for greater cooperation in the war in Afghanistan by cracking down on militant groups like the Taliban...

Detroit In Ruins
Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, The Guardian | Detroit In Ruins | January 4, 2011

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre's extraordinary photographs documenting the dramatic decline of a major American city...

Digital DIY Music Platform Bandcamp Finds Its Footing...
David Greenwald, The Los Angeles Times | Bandcamp Finds Its Footing | January 4, 2011

After six years, a handful of albums and one censorship controversy, Amanda Palmer wanted a way to call her own shots after splitting with Roadrunner Records in April. After she claimed the label sought to cut or alter shots of her stomach in the video for the “Who Killed Amanda Palmer” song “Leeds United,” Palmer asked to be dropped in late 2008. As fans bared their own bodies in an online protest dubbed “The ReBellyon,” the singer took to performing a song pointedly titled “Please Drop Me” in concert. When she finally got her wish, Palmer celebrated by offering a free download of a track titled “Do You Swear to Tell the Truth the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth So Help Your Black Ass,” a decision that probably would have made her former label cringe.

Independence has its virtues.

The Dresden Dolls frontwoman-turned-solo artist has joined a growing number of artists who’ve found a home on Bandcamp, a San Francisco-based website and publishing platform that aims to put musicians in better control of their digital sales and online merchandising...

Bumble Bees In U.S. Suffer Sharp Decline
Travis Walter Donovan, The Huffington Post | Bumble Bee Decline | January 4, 2011

North American bees are disappearing at a rapid rate, signaling a dire threat to the production of countless food sources. The Guardian reports that four common species of U.S. bumble bees have declined 96 percent in recent decades, and scientists allege that disease and inbreeding are responsible...

A Triage to Save the Ruins of Babylon
Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times | Ruins of Babylon | January 3, 2011

The damage done to the ruins of ancient Babylon is visible from a small hilltop near the Tower of Babel, whose biblical importance is hard to envision from what is left of it today. Across the horizon are guard towers, concertina wire and dirt-filled barriers among the palm trees; encroaching farms and concrete houses from this village and others; and the enormous palace that Saddam Hussein built in the 1980s atop the city where Nebuchadnezzar II ruled. Something else is visible, too: earthen mounds concealing all that has yet to be discovered in a city that the prophet Jeremiah called “a gold cup in the Lord’s hands, a cup that made the whole earth drunk."...