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.

Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Trial Set To Begin As State Concedes It Has No Proof Of In-Person Voter Fraud

Defendants in a case against one of the nation's strictest voter ID laws in Pennsylvania made a major concession to plaintiffs this week, just days ahead of the start of the trial over the measure.

In a stipulation agreement signed earlier this month, state officials conceded that they had no evidence of prior in-person voter fraud, or even any reason to believe that such crimes would occur with more frequency if a voter ID law wasn't in effect.

"There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states,” the statement reads...

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math
Bill McKibben, Rolling Stone | Global Warming's Terrifying New Math | July 24, 2012

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history...

Going Postal: What Would A World Without Mail Look Like?
Dave Jamieson, The Huffington Post | Going Postal: What Would A World Without Mail Look Like? | July 24, 2012

The post office in Syria, Va., is pretty easy to miss, but then so is the village of Syria itself. Lying in the eastern foothills of the Shenandoah mountains, about 90 miles from Washington, D.C., Syria has just a few hundred residents, mostly natives and recent retirees. The village has no stop lights and one general store, the Syria Mercantile Company, which serves as a grocer, a hunting-and-fishing outfitter and a meeting ground for town gossip.


Inside, near the cash register up front, a single employee of the U.S. Postal Service helms a tiny, wood-paneled office about the size of a generous walk-in closet.

Except for when it was briefly displaced after a pair of long-ago fires, the post office has occupied this same spot inside the general store since 1898...

Coffee At The Beach
Mark Prigg, The Daily Mail | Coffee At The Beach | July 23, 2012

If you've ever fancied a quick pick me up at the beach, you may not have far to look.

Scientists today said they have found elevated levels of caffeine at several sites in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon.

They believe the high concentration of caffeine could come from sewer overflows and septic tanks.

The problem is so bad that sea life is feeling the effect...

We Are Alive: Bruce Springsteen At Sixty-Two
David Remnick, The New Yorker | We Are Alive: Bruce Springsteen At Sixty-Two | July 23, 2012

Nearly half a century ago, when Elvis Presley was filming “Harum Scarum” and “Help!” was on the charts, a moody, father-haunted, yet uncannily charismatic Shore rat named Bruce Springsteen was building a small reputation around central Jersey as a guitar player in a band called the Castiles. The band was named for the lead singer’s favorite brand of soap. Its members were from Freehold, an industrial town half an hour inland from the boardwalk carnies and the sea. The Castiles performed at sweet sixteens and Elks-club dances, at drive-in movie theatres and ShopRite ribbon cuttings, at a mobile-home park in Farmingdale, at the Matawan-Keyport Rollerdrome. Once, they played for the patients at a psychiatric hospital, in Marlboro. A gentleman dressed in a suit came to the stage and, in an introductory speech that ran some twenty minutes, declared the Castiles “greater than the Beatles.” At which point a doctor intervened and escorted him back to his room...

Mayberry R.I.P.
Frank Rich, New York Magazine | Mayberry R.I.P. | July 23, 2012

Andy Griffith was a genial and gifted character actor, but when he died on Independence Day eve, you’d have thought we’d lost a Founding Father, not a television star whose last long-running series, the vanilla legal drama Matlock, expired in 1995. The public tributes to Griffith were over-the-top in a way his acting never was, spreading treacle from the evening newscasts to the front page of the New York Times.

It was as if the nation were mourning its own demise. To commentators in the liberal media, Griffith’s signature television role, Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, North Carolina, was “one of the last links to another, simpler time” (the Washington Post). On the right, the sermonizers quickly moved past an inconvenient fact (Griffith made a spot endorsing Obamacare in 2010) to deify Sheriff Taylor for embodying “a time when television was cleaner and simpler” and for giving “millions of Americans the feeling the country stood for all the right things” (National Review). Among those “right” things was the fictional Mayberry’s form of governance, which, in the ideological take of the Daily Caller, demonstrated that “common sense and local control work better than bureaucracy or top-down management.”

In reality, The Andy Griffith Show didn’t transcend the deep divides of its time. It merely ignored them...

Hearing Pete Seeger
Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker | Hearing Pete Seeger | July 20, 2012

...Seeger had been a member of the Weavers, a quartet that was the last popular band of stature before the Beatles changed everything. The Weavers had been on the cover of Time magazine, and Seeger had grown accustomed to being recognized, but he didn’t like it. After his engagement with the House Un-American Activities Committee, the government set about damaging Seeger’s career. He simply walked away from the nightclub life and the fancy people and went back to singing in schools and camps, where he had begun. I can’t imagine a popular entertainer today who would go to jail for a year then throw over his or her career in order to embody a stand of conscience...


Thirty Years Of Skating
James Guida, The New Yorker | Thirty Years Of Skating | July 20, 2012

Go to a spot popular with skateboarders today, and be prepared to encounter a curious breed: the senior-citizen skater. All things being relative, the skaters in question are usually between thirty and thirty-eight years old. There are still older riders, no doubt, but these must be classified as a shade more geriatric. It is possible that precise age has less to do with it than how often you step on a board. In any case, the breed tends to give itself away less by appearance than by their little pauses for conversation. “I used to have energy like that,” a specimen like myself might be heard saying wistfully between short breaths, indicating some limber teen-ager flying past. Alternatively, it could be a remark about the mysterious pain in their right thigh, or laughter as their whole lower half refuses to submit to even humble demands. Just as often, though, the talk is of ancient videos and favorite skaters from the past...

In A First, An Entire Organism Is Simulated By Software
John Markoff, The New York Times | In A First, An Entire Organism Is Simulated By Software | July 20, 2012

Scientists at Stanford University and the J. Craig Venter Institute have developed the first software simulation of an entire organism, a humble single-cell bacterium that lives in the human genital and respiratory tracts. The scientists and other experts said the work was a giant step toward developing computerized laboratories that could carry out complete experiments without the need for traditional instruments. For medical researchers and drug designers, cellular models will be able to supplant experiments during the early stages of screening for new compounds. And for molecular biologists, models that are of sufficient accuracy will yield new understanding of basic biological principles...

Romney, At Harvard, Merged Two Worlds
Peter Lattman and Richard Perez-Pena, The New York Times | Romney, At Harvard, Merged Two Worlds | July 18, 2012

President Obama has a Harvard law degree. Former President George W. Bush has a Harvard M.B.A. Will the next president have both?

One of the most exclusive clubs in academe is a Harvard University dual-degree program allowing graduate students to attend its law and business schools simultaneously, cramming five years of education into four. On average, about 12 people per year have completed the program — the overachievers of the overachievers — including a striking number of big names in finance, industry, law and government...