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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.

Yosemite Plan - Relief For Giant Sequoias
Peter Fimrite, SFGate | Yosemite Plan - Relief For Giant Sequoias | February 27, 2013

The days may be numbered for soda-slurping tourists in flip-flops who enjoy parking their sport utility vehicles under the giant sequoias of Yosemite and tromping around in human herds amid theme-park-style trams, car exhaust and noise.

The National Park Service on Tuesday released its long-awaited environmental review of plans to restore the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to something closer to its natural state - that is, without the indecorous carnival hubbub.

The document, which is open for review and public comment through May 7, proposes the removal of a gift shop and parking lot in the middle of the towering trees, the elimination of the trams, construction of a boardwalk over restored habitat and wetlands, new hiking trails, and shuttle buses from a remote location...

Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was The Right Move For The US And Its Allies
John Bolton, The Guardian | Overthrowing Saddam Hussein Was The Right Move For The US And Its Allies | February 27, 2013

Overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 achieved important American strategic objectives. Our broad international coalition accomplished its military mission with low casualties and great speed, sending an unmistakable signal of power and determination throughout the Middle East and around the world. Despite all the criticism of what happened after Saddam's defeat, these facts are indisputable.

Nonetheless, relentless hostility by the war's opponents now threaten to overwhelm, in the public mind, the clear merits of eliminating Iraq's Ba'athist dictatorship...

Hate-Watchers Now
Andrew Leonard, Salon | Hate-Watchers Now | February 25, 2013

Put aside, for a second, whether Oscars host Seth MacFarlane’s comedy routine Sunday night revealed him as a sexist boor or just really, really unfunny. (Or both!) A more interesting question might be whether Twitter has evolved into a button-pushing comic’s worst nightmare. Funny or not, you will get called out on Twitter whenever you step over what anybody considers a politically incorrect line. That’s what we call a tough crowd. Maybe too tough.

A case in point: With the Twitter masses already on edge after several hours of jokes about eating disorders, domestic abuse and boobs, MacFarlane pissed off an entirely new swath of Oscar-watchers when he said, “Well, we have finally reached the point in the ceremony where either Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek comes onstage and we have no idea what they’re saying — but we don’t care because they’re so attractive.”

My primary objection to this joke was that it was lame. If you’re going to play the meta-commentary game you need to do better than that...

Why I'm Quitting Facebook
Douglas Rushkoff, CNN | Why I'm Quitting Facebook | February 25, 2013

I used to be able to justify using Facebook as a cost of doing business. As a writer and sometime activist who needs to promote my books and articles and occasionally rally people to one cause or another, I found Facebook fast and convenient. Though I never really used it to socialize, I figured it was OK to let other people do that, and I benefited from their behavior.

I can no longer justify this arrangement.

Today, I am surrendering my Facebook account, because my participation on the site is simply too inconsistent with the values I espouse in my work...

Spooky Sex: Inside The Randy Culture Of The CIA
Reuel Marc Gerecht, The New Republic | Spooky Sex: Inside The Randy Culture Of The CIA | February 25, 2013

"A cock has no shame.” That’s what it said on the little plaque on the door of the espionage instructor. He’d been discovered a few nights earlier going at it with a female junior officer on a pool table in the recreation room at “the Farm,” the Central Intelligence Agency’s training facility in the swamps of eastern Virginia. The instructor flaunted his defiance, slightly camouflaged in Gothic calligraphy. Among the students and teachers, even among the more straight-laced Mormons, few thought he’d done anything particularly wrong (except getting caught). We were all adults. Some of the female students aggressively hunted the better-looking paramilitary instructors, who welcomed the attention. In the mostly temporary couplings that occurred during training, it was sometimes unclear who was married and who was not.

What happened at the Farm wasn’t just the by-product of being stuck in the woods for months in boring espionage and paramilitary courses. During my tour of duty with the operations directorate in the 1980s and 1990s, case officers weren’t exactly models of propriety at headquarters or in the field. Unlike the U.S. military post-Vietnam, where senior officers are supposed to be moral role models, the CIA—that is, the Clandestine Service, the engine room of espionage and covert action that has always defined the agency’s ethos—has been much more relaxed about these things...

Buddhists, Reconstructing Sacred Tibetan Murals, Wield Their Brushes In Nepal
Edward Wong, The New York Times | Buddhists, Reconstructing Sacred Tibetan Murals, Wield Their Brushes In Nepal | February 24, 2013

Dozens of painters sat atop scaffolding that soared toward the roof of an ancient monastery. With a swipe of their brushes, colors appeared that gave life to the Buddha. Gold for the skin. Black for the eyes. Orange for the robes.

They worked by dim portable electric lights. Dusty statues of Tibetan Buddhist deities gazed on. From openings in the roof, a few shafts of sunlight fell through the 35 wooden pillars in the main chamber of the enormous Thubchen Monastery, the same edifice that had awed Michel Peissel, the explorer of Tibet, when he visited a half-century ago.

“In Nepal, no one knows how to do this, so we have to learn,” said Tashi Gurung, 34, a painter participating in what is one of the most ambitious Tibetan art projects in the Himalayas...

Can The Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence?
Robert Draper, International Herald Tribune | Can The Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence? | February 22, 2013

One afternoon last month, I paid a visit to two young Republicans named Bret Jacobson and Ian Spencer, who work in a small office in Arlington, Va., situated above an antique store and adjacent to a Japanese auto shop. Their five-man company, Red Edge, is a digital-advocacy group for conservative causes, and their days are typically spent designing software applications for groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Lately, however, Jacobson and Spencer have taken up evangelizing — and the sermon, delivered day after day to fellow conservatives in the form of a 61-point presentation, is a pitiless we-told-you-so elucidation of the ways in which Democrats have overwhelmed Republicans with their technological superiority...

For Music Industry, A Story Of Two Googles
Ben Sisario The New York Times | For Music Industry, A Story Of Two Googles | February 22, 2013

When it comes to the music industry, there are two Googles. And the difference between them leads to a complicated and fraught relationship.

One Google is represented by its suite of entertainment media services like YouTube and Google Play, which have licensing agreements with the major labels and music publishers, along with movie studios and other media companies. That side is slowly becoming integrated into the fabric of the entertainment industry, through deals like the one announced by Billboard magazine this week that it would start incorporating YouTube play counts into its chart formulas.

The other side of Google is its mighty search engine, the road map to the Internet, which people use to find content of all kinds — some of it preferred by the entertainment industry, but a great deal of it not. This is the side of Google that has the most frequent and public fights with the entertainment industry...

The Sequester: Absolutely Everything You Could Possibly Need To Know, In One FAQ
Dylan Matthews, The Washington Post | The Sequester: Absolutely Everything You Could Possibly Need To Know, In One FAQ | February 20, 2013

At the end of the month, the dread sequester is set to take effect. Hands up if you know what exactly that means — and be honest. Don’t worry, we’re here to set you straight. Follow along for answers to some of the most-asked questions about the impending cuts...

A Deeper Divide: The Gun Control Debate After Newtown
Matthew Kauffman, The Hartford Courant | A Deeper Divide: The Gun Control Debate After Newtown | February 20, 2013

Last fall, residents of Newtown were having a debate that could have taken place almost anywhere in America.

It was an argument over guns. The issue was fairly simple: Should amateur shooting ranges be subject to inspection and approval by the police chief? On one side were residents concerned about noise and wary of unregulated shooting. On the other were those who believe gun rights spring from essential American freedoms.

Today, Newtown is like no place in America. The killing of 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School devastated the small community. It also launched an examination of the culture, safety and legality of guns that, while occurring across the nation, is unfolding in Newtown and Connecticut with unmatched urgency...