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.

Algae Garden Blooms Under Polar Ice
Margaret Munro, Postmedia News | Algae Garden Blooms Under Polar Ice | June 8, 2012

The most intense phytoplankton bloom recorded on Earth occurred under the Arctic ice last summer - a finding that has stunned seasoned polar scientists.

"The ice was over a metre thick," says Kevin Arrigo at Stanford University, leader of the international team that reported Thursday finding the massive bright green algal bloom beneath the ice...

Gregor Duncan: Pictures Of Life
Rob Stolzer, Hogan's Alley | Gregor Duncan: Pictures Of Life | June 8, 2012

The Second World War cut millions of live short. One of its victims was a cartoonist and illustrator whose future appeared assuredly bright, but a German artillery shell ended his life...

The Virtues Of Daydreaming
Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker | The Virtues Of Daydreaming | June 5, 2012

Humans are a daydreaming species. According to a recent study led by the Harvard psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Matthew A. Killingsworth, people let their minds wander forty-seven per cent of the time they are awake. (The scientists demonstrated this by developing an iPhone app that contacted twenty-two hundred and fifty volunteers at random intervals during the day.) In fact, the only activity during which we report that our minds are not constantly wandering is “love making.” We’re able to focus for that...

Chinese Insiders Start To Speak Out About Tiananmen Square
Editorial Board, The Washington Post | Chinese Insiders Start To Speak Out About Tiananmen Square | June 5, 2012

The official position of China’s rulers is that the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 3-4, 1989, is not open for discussion: a student-led “counter-revolutionary rebellion” was put down by security forces. Case closed.

Yet, for an event so thoroughly airbrushed out of view, there was plenty of activity on its 23rd anniversary this week. A candlelight vigil in Hong Kong drew tens of thousands of people, one of the largest gatherings in that city since 1989. Authorities in a Beijing district posted stringent security precautions calling for “wartime systems and protective measures.” When the Shanghai stock market fell 64.89 points Monday — which some Chinese interpreted as an eerie reference to the date of the massacre — censors went into overdrive trying to wipe out any references to it on popular micro­blogs...

I Can Happen Here: Europe's Screwed Generation And America's
Joel Kotkin, The Daily Beast | It Can Happen Here: Europe's Screwed Generation And America's | June 5, 2012

In Madrid you see them on the streets, jobless, aimless, often bearing college degrees but working as cabbies, baristas, street performers, or—more often—not at all. In Spain as in Greece, nearly half of the adults under 25 don’t work. Call them the screwed generation, the victims of expansive welfare states and the massive structural debt charged by their parents. In virtually every developed country, and increasingly in developing ones, they include not only the usual victims, the undereducated and recent immigrants, but also the college-educated...

Walter Cronkite: New Biography Uncovers The Life Of TV Legend
Frazier Moore, The Huffington Post | Walter Cronkite: New Biography Uncovers The Life Of TV Legend | June 5, 2012

Walter Cronkite's power was considerable and he used it for good. He flourished in the bargain and lived a heck of a life.

None of that will come as news to the world he so reliably informed, but it is carefully and colorfully laid out in "Cronkite" (Harper), the just-released biography by Douglas Brinkley.

The CBS Newsman emerges from its 667 pages in a form that will be fully recognizable to his viewers and admirers: as the intrepid newshound, the reassuring authority, the cultural colossus who called himself "a reluctant big shot," upon whom was thrust the unsought mantle of "most trusted man in America" and who never betrayed that public trust...

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...