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.

How Gandhi Became Gandhi
Geoffrey C. Ward, New York Times Book Review | How Gandhi Became Gandhi | March 27, 2011

Some years ago, the British writer Patrick French visited the Sabarmati ashram on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat, the site from which Mahatma Gandhi led his salt march to the sea in 1930. French was so appalled by the noisome state of the latrines that he asked the ashram secretary whose job it was to clean them. A sweeper woman stopped by for an hour a day, the functionary explained, but afterward things inevitably became filthy again.

But wasn’t it a central tenet of the Mahatma’s teachings that his followers clean up after themselves? “We all clean the toilets together, on Gandhiji’s birthday,” the secretary answered, “as a symbol to show that we understand his message.”...

In London, 250,000 March Against Austerity Plan
Ainsley Thomson and Serena Ruffoni, The Wall Street Journal | In London, 250,000 March Against Austerity Plan | March 27, 2011

Hundreds of thousands of Britons marched through central London on Saturday to protest spending cuts in the largest demonstration of public anger since the government began its aggressive austerity program. The predominantly peaceful union-organized rally was marked by isolated instances of violence when groups attacked shops on Oxford Street, the capital's busiest shopping street, leading to clashes with the police...

Airstrikes Clear Way for Libyan Rebels' First Major Advance
Kareen Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times | Airstikes Clear Way for Libyan Rebels' First Major Advance | March 27, 2011

Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces retreated from this strategic city on Saturday, running for dozens of miles back along the coast with Libyan rebels in pursuit in their first major victory since American and European airstrikes began a week ago. The rebels’ advance was the first sign that the allied attacks, directed not only against Colonel Qaddafi’s aircraft and defenses but also against his ground troops, were changing the dynamics of the battle for control of the country..

Japan Quietly Evacuating a Wider Radius From Reactors
David Jolly Hiroko Tabuchi and Keith Bradsher, The New York Times | Japan Quietly Evacuating a Wider Radius From Reactors | March 25, 2011

Japanese officials began quietly encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday, a sign that they hold little hope that the crippled facility will soon be brought under control...

Allies Step Up Bombing in Tripoli
Sam Dagher, Sebastian Moffett, and Nathan Hodge, The Wall Street Journal | Allies Step Up Bombing in Tripoli | March 24, 2011

Allied forces pounded several targets in the Libyan capital Tripoli overnight and in the early hours of Thursday, in what was the most intense night of bombing since the start of the campaign to cripple Col. Moammar Gadhafi's military capabilities...

Paglia on Taylor: "A luscious, opulent, ripe fruit!"
Camile Paglia, Salon Staff | Paglia on Taylor: "A luscious, opulent, ripe fruit!" | March 24, 2011

When news broke that Elizabeth Taylor had died at 79, we immediately reached out to founding Salon contributor and lifelong Taylor obsessive Camille Paglia for her thoughts. We found her in a Philadelphia research library researching her new visual arts book for Pantheon, but she diligently trekked outside in the rain to speak to Salon editor-in-chief Kerry Lauerman by telephone under a portico, as the wind howled around her.

Parents In Japan Comb Through School That's Now A Graveyard
John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Ti | Parents In Japan Comb Through School That's Now A Graveyard | March 23, 2011

Tatsuhiro Karino paused at the top of the muddy hill, took his wife, Masako, by the hand and led her slowly down to the ruins of the elementary school that entombed the body of their daughter, Misaki. Dwarfed by four mammoth cranes digging into the wreckage, the 40ish construction worker gently pulled a veil over his wife's face to shield her from the dust and whiff of death. But he couldn't protect her from this: the grim task of locating the body of their 8-year-old child, among the 94 students and teachers killed when their school was leveled March 11 in nature's twin strike of shaking ground and torrential wave...

The Nuclear Risk
Elizabeth Kolbert | The Nuclear Risk | March 23, 2011

The age of atomic energy could be said to have begun, literally, with the wave of a wand. On September 6, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was vacationing in Denver, passed a pole with a gleaming tip over a cabinet full of electronic equipment. This “neutron wand” supposedly sent a signal that was then conveyed to an unmanned power shovel, twelve hundred miles away, in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. The shovel lurched forward and scooped up three tons of dirt, breaking ground for the country’s first commercial nuclear power plant...

The War on Cats: Jonathan Franzen and Bird-Lovers Fight Back
Ben Crair, The Daily Beast | The War on Cats: Jonathan Franzen and Bird-Lovers Fight Back | March 23, 2011

To the list of recent upheavals, let’s add a new entry: The tide is finally turning against cats. The New York Times made it official Monday with an article headlined “Tweety Was Right: Cats Are a Bird’s No. 1 Enemy.” The article ran beneath a photograph of a gray-and-white kitty munching on the head of a songbird. The cat narrowed its eyes directly at the camera, as if to say, “So?”  ...

J.D. Salinger Slept Here (Just Don't Tell Anyone)
Michael Winerip, The New York Times | J.D. Salinger Slept Here (Just Don't Tell Anyone) | March 23, 2011

For years, officials at Ursinus College had been trying to figure out how to capitalize on the fact that J. D. Salinger had spent one semester there in the fall of 1938...