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.

Protest on Web Uses Shutdown to Take On Two Piracy Bills
Jenna Wortham, The New York Times | Protest on Web Uses Shutdown to Take On Two Piracy Bills | January 18, 2012

With a Web-wide protest on Wednesday that includes a 24-hour shutdown of the English-language Wikipedia, the legislative battle over two Internet piracy bills has reached an extraordinary moment — a political coming of age for a relatively young and disorganized industry that has largely steered clear of lobbying and other political games in Washington.

Danger! Nuclear Waste! Keep Out - Forever!
Edan Corkill, Japan Times | Danger! Nuclear Waste! Keep Out - Forever! | January 18, 2012

What if we needed to leave a message for people 100,000 years from now? What if there was some terrible danger from which we wanted to protect people in the year 102,012? Could we do it?

These are questions that have been much mulled in recent decades in sectors of the nuclear power industry — an industry which, at its current level of development in the United States, Britain, France, Finland, Japan and elsewhere, produces waste that will remain dangerous for at least that long...

For the Washington Area, No Snow In Sight in a Winterless Winter
Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post | For the Washington Area, No Snow in Sight in a Winterless Winter | January 18, 2012

This has been a winterless winter, a season that can’t make it past lunchtime without busting out in a springtime melody. Every time cold weather shows up, it catches a flight back north the next day. Snow this year is a thing of myth and legend.

Tuesday has been typical of Winter 2012 here: Chilly and damp in the morning, but Frisbee weather by mid-afternoon. The calendar insists, implausibly, that it is Jan. 17...

"Why Write Novels at All?"
Garth Risk Hallberg, The New York Times Magazine | "Why Write Novels at All?" | January 17, 2012

Last year, I found myself mildly obsessed with a cache of YouTube clips, featuring the novelists Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace and Nathan Englander at a 2006 literary conference in Italy called Le Conversazioni. Part of what interested me, in a gate-crashing kind of way, was the backdrop: midsummer on the Isle of Capri, with flora aflame and a sky the color of Chablis. Another part, inevitably, was watching Wallace with the knowledge that he would kill himself two years later. Mostly what I kept coming back to, though, was how lighthearted, how loose — how young — these writers seemed here...

The "What Do You Know About MLK" Quiz
Matthew Green | The "What Do You Know About MLK" Quiz | January 17, 2012

1: In the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to...

Posthumous Posting App Gets Facebook Users Talking

Want to leave a Facebook post after your time is up? There's an app for that...

Ron Paul Is My Homeboy
Libby Copeland, Slate | Ron Paul Is My Homeboy | January 15, 2012

Since Ron Paul swept the youth vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s become popular for press accounts to contrast the age of his supporters with the wizened appearance of the 76-year-old country doctor. The stories go like this: a “great-grandfather” with a “crotchety streak” possesses a “youthful magic” that spellbinds a “surprisingly young support base,” and not just because he wants to “legalize drugs.” Often enough, the stories take Paul at face value, concluding that college students have been pining for a presidential candidate who talks about the Constitution, ending the Fed, and Ludwig von Mises.

But this doesn’t explain the passion Paul inspires...


Why Tim Tebow Is the Sarah Palin of Football
Allison Yarrow, The Daily Beast | Why Tim Tebow Is the Sarah Palin of Football | January 15, 2012

The harder the Broncos quarterback and the Alaskan governor fall, the more convinced their supporters become that they are modern messiahs...

Indian Computer Tablet Could Herald an Internet Revolution
Jason Burke, The Guardian | Indian Computer Tablet Could Herald an Internet Revolution | January 13, 2012

In a laboratory on a leafy campus in the Indian desert city of Jodhpur, Professor Prem Kalra believes he is overseeing a revolution. It takes the form of a computer "tablet" – a basic form of device similar to the Apple iPad – which can be made and sold for under £35.

Already 100,000 of the devices, called Aakash, which means "sky" or "ether" in the local Hindi language, are to be manufactured for testing.

Within weeks a new version, which will allow hundreds of millions of Indians in remote rural areas to connect to the internet via local mobile phone networks, will be launched...

Inside the Fed in 2006: A Coming Crisis, and Banter
Binyamin Appelbaum, The New York Times | Inside the Fed in 2006: A Coming Crisis, and Banter | January 13, 2012

As the housing bubble entered its waning hours in 2006, top Federal Reserve officials marveled at the desperate antics of home builders seeking to lure buyers.

The officials laughed about the cars that builders were offering as signing bonuses, and about efforts to make empty homes look occupied. They joked about one builder who said that inventory was “rising through the roof.”

But the officials, meeting every six weeks to discuss the health of the nation’s economy, gave little credence to the possibility that the faltering housing market would weigh on the broader economy, according to transcripts that the Fed released Thursday...