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.

Teaching Good Sex
Laurie Abraham, The New York Times Magazine | Teaching Good Sex | November 18, 2011

“First base, second base, third base, home run,” Al Vernacchio ticked off the classic baseball terms for sex acts. His goal was to prompt the students in Sexuality and Society — an elective for seniors at the private Friends’ Central School on Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line — to examine the assumptions buried in the venerable metaphor. “Give me some more,” urged the fast-talking 47-year-old, who teaches 9th- and 12th-grade English as well as human sexuality. Arrayed before Vernacchio was a circle of small desks occupied by 22 teenagers, six male and the rest female — a blur of sweatshirts and Ugg boots and form-fitting leggings...

Andrew Sullivan, American by Choice
Mark Warren, Esquire | Andrew Sullivan, American by Choice | November 18, 2011

A Catholic British intellectual becomes a revolutionary American...

Armed Groups Are on Rise in Syria, as Are Civil War Fears
Nada Bakri, The New York Times | Armed Groups Are on Rise in Syria, as Are Civil War Fears | November 18, 2011

For the second day in a row, deserters from the Syrian Army carried out attacks on symbols of the Assad government’s centers of power, targeting the youth offices of the ruling Baath Party on Thursday after firing rocket-propelled grenades on a military intelligence base on Wednesday, activists said...

A Moment of Beauty
Ron Rosenbaum, Slate | A Moment of Beauty | November 18, 2011

Consider this a public service. My gift to you, devoted readers. You will thank me! I’m offering a few precious moments of pure pleasure--one single song—that will take your mind off a world gone wrong. For all those starving for something to feel hopeful about...

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone | How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests | November 16, 2011

I have a confession to make. At first, I misunderstood Occupy Wall Street.

The first few times I went down to Zuccotti Park, I came away with mixed feelings. I loved the energy and was amazed by the obvious organic appeal of the movement, the way it was growing on its own. But my initial impression was that it would not be taken very seriously by the Citibanks and Goldman Sachs of the world...

Syria: Arab League Gives Syria Three Days
BBC News | Arab League Gives Syria Three Days | November 16, 2011

The Arab League has given Syria three days to "stop the bloody repression" of protesters and allow in teams of observers. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani said Syria faced sanctions if it did not co-operate. At a meeting of the Arab League in Morocco, he said diplomatic efforts were "close to the end of the road"...

Novelist Fights the Tide by Opening a Bookstore
Julie Bosman, The New York Times | Novelist Fights the Tide by Opening a Bookstore | November 16, 2011

After a beloved local bookstore closed here last December and another store was lost to the Borders bankruptcy, this city once known as the Athens of the South, rich in cultural tradition and home to Vanderbilt University, became nearly barren of bookstores. A collective panic set in among Nashville’s reading faithful. But they have found a savior in Ann Patchett, the best-selling novelist who grew up here...

Recruiting Veterans, Columbia Finds an Impressive Applicant Pool
Michael Winerip, The New York Times | Recruiting Veterans, Columbia Finds an Impressive Applicant Pool | November 15, 2011

Two years ago, in an effort to attract more veterans to Columbia, Curtis Rodgers, a dean of admissions, began recruiting at military bases. Almost immediately he noticed differences between the Marines and the typical 18-year-old Ivy League applicant. Marines are less aggressive. When Mr. Rodgers asked Sgt. Tiffani Watts at the end of a recent interview if she had any questions, the Marine answered, “I do, sir, but I don’t want to make you late for your next interview, sir.”...

Echoes from a Distant Battlefield
Mark Bowden, Vanity Fair | Echoes from a Distant Battlefield | November 15, 2011

When First Lieutenant Jonathan Brostrom was killed by Taliban fighters in 2008, while attempting a heroic rescue in a perilously isolated outpost, his war was over. His father’s war, to hold the U.S. Army accountable for Brostrom’s death, had just begun. And Lieutenant Colonel William Ostlund’s war—to defend his own record as commander—was yet to come. With three perspectives on the most scrutinized engagement of the Afghanistan conflict, one that shook the military to its foundations, Mark Bowden learns the true tragedy of the Battle of Wanat...

Your Prius' Deepest, Darkest Secret
Kiera Butler, Mother Jones | Your Prius' Deepest, Darkest Secret | November 15, 2011

So you're considering buying a hybrid car. Or maybe you already have. Good for you! You're saving a bundle on gas and reducing your environmental footprint at the same time. But fuel isn't the only natural resource that your car requires. Its motor also contains a small amount of neodymium, one of 17 elements listed at the very bottom of the periodic table. Known as the rare earths, these minerals are key to all kinds of green technology...