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.

German Investigators Confident That Local Sprouts Caused The Deadly E. Coli Outbreak

German vegetable sprouts caused the E. coli outbreak that has killed 31 people and sickened more than 3,000, investigators announced Friday after tracking the bacteria from patients in hospital beds to restaurants and then farm fields...

Megan Rye Paints Scenes From Iraq
Katherine Bindley, Huffington Post | Megan Rye Paints Scenes From Iraq | June 10, 2011

In its eighth year, the Iraq war tends to fade in and out of the headlines. But for artist Megan Rye, whose solo-show opened at the Forum Gallery in New York this week, it's always at the forefront of her mind.

"I could paint this subject forever,” Rye said while seated in the gallery, surrounded by 28 oil paintings that depict scenes from military life taken during the war. "I'll never get to the bottom of it."..

How Newt Gingrich's Campaign Imploded
Peter J. Boyer, The Daily Beast | How Newt Gingrich's Campaign Imploded | June 10, 2011

The former speaker's top aides bolted en masse Thursday, leaving his campaign in tatters. Peter J. Boyer on staffers complaints about gingrich's rogue inclinations, the Greek cruise with wife Callista that was the final straw -- and whether the candidate has any chance of recovering....

U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes
Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times | U.S. Is Intensifying a Secret Campaign of Yemen Airstrikes | June 9, 2011

The Obama administration has intensified the American covert war in Yemen, exploiting a growing power vacuum in the country to strike at militant suspects with armed drones and fighter jets, according to American officials...

Price of Internet Freedom? Eternal Misquotes.
David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post | Price of Internet Freedom? Eternal misquotes. | June 9, 2011

On election night, a jubilant Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) laid out the modern-day tea party’s philosophy — in the words of a man who was alive for the Boston Tea Party. “Thomas Jefferson,” the newly elected Paul said, “wrote that government is best that governs least.” No, he didn’t...

The First Computer Musician
R. Luke Dubois, The New York Times | The First Computer Musician | June 9, 2011

In 1957 a 30 year-old engineer named Max Mathews got an IBM 704 mainframe computer at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, N. J., to generate 17 seconds of music, then recorded the result for posterity.  While not the first person to make sound with a computer, Max was the first one to do so with a replicable combination of hardware and software that allowed the user to specify what tones he wanted to hear. This piece of music, called “The Silver Scale”  and composed by a colleague at Bell Labs named Newman Guttman, was never intended to be a masterpiece. It was a proof-of-concept, and it laid the groundwork for a revolutionary advancement in music, the reverberations of which are felt everywhere today...

Awesome Telescope Sheds New Light on Cosmos
Craig Johnson, CNN | Awesome Telescope Sheds New Light on Cosmos | June 8, 2011

From a mountaintop in northern Chile, the largest visible-light telescope in the world has captured stunning images of the cosmos in never-before-seen detail. The Paranal Observatory released initial images Wednesday from the powerful VLT Survey Telescope...

Coming Soon: The Palin Emails
David Corn, Mother Jones | Coming Soon: The Palin Emails | June 8, 2011

Ready for some real summer reading? Mother Jones, msnbc.com, and ProPublica will be unveiling a searchable database containing 24,000-plus pages of correspondence. During the 2008 presidential campaign, I filed a request under Alaska's open records law, for all—yes, all—of Palin's gubernatorial emails. Other journalists and citizen activists later did the same. And after many delays—see here and here—the state is finally preparing to release those emails, probably within the next week or so. But not all of the emails from Palin's half-term as governor will be made public...

When Cowboys Cry: In Today's Wild West, Energy Corporations Are the New Outlaws
Sandra Steingraber, Orion Magazine | When Cowboys Cry | June 8, 2011


LAST NOVEMBER, at the annual meeting of the Northern Plains Resource Council, which took place in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Billings, Montana, I watched a cowboy cry.

As someone born east of the Mississippi, I’m aware that I may have my vocabulary words mixed up here. The crying man called himself a rancher, not a cowboy. But he had the hat. The legs in the blue jeans were bowed. And he said things like, Sometimes you have to ride with the brand, and sometimes you have to speak yer mind.

Which sounded like cowboy talk to me...

Live and Learn: Why We Have College
Louis Menand, The New Yorker | Live and Learn: Why We Have College | June 7, 2011

My first job as a professor was at an Ivy League university. The students were happy to be taught, and we, their teachers, were happy to be teaching them. Whatever portion of their time and energy was being eaten up by social commitments—which may have been huge, but about which I was ignorant—they seemed earnestly and unproblematically engaged with the academic experience. If I was naïve about this, they were gracious enough not to disabuse me. None of us ever questioned the importance of what we were doing...