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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.

U.S. Empire Of Bases Grows
David Vine, The Huffington Post | U.S. Empire Of Bases Grows | July 17, 2012

...

Since the “Black Hawk Down” deaths in Somalia almost 20 years ago, we’ve heard little, if anything, about American military casualties in Africa (other than a strange report last week about three special operations commandos killed, along with three women identified by U.S. military sources as “Moroccan prostitutes,” in a mysterious car accident in Mali). The growing number of patients arriving at Ramstein from Africa pulls back a curtain on a significant transformation in twenty-first-century U.S. military strategy.

These casualties are likely to be the vanguard of growing numbers of wounded troops coming from places far removed from Afghanistan or Iraq. They reflect the increased use of relatively small bases like Camp Lemonnier, which military planners see as a model for future U.S. bases “scattered,” as one academic explains, “across regions in which the United States has previously not maintained a military presence.”...

Human Corpses Are Prize In Global Drive For Profits
Kate Wilson, Vlad Lavrov, Martina Keller, Thomas Maier and Gerard Ryle, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists | Human Corpses Are Prize In Global Drive For Profits | July 17, 2012

On Feb. 24, Ukrainian authorities made an alarming discovery: bones and other human tissues crammed into coolers in a grimy white minibus.

Investigators grew even more intrigued when they found, amid the body parts, envelopes stuffed with cash and autopsy results written in English.

What the security service had disrupted was not the work of a serial killer but part of an international pipeline of ingredients for medical and dental products that are routinely implanted into people around the world.

The seized documents suggested that the remains of dead Ukrainians were destined for a factory in Germany belonging to the subsidiary of a U.S. medical products company, Florida-based RTI Biologics...

The Chickens And The Bulls
William McGowan, Slate | The Chickens And The Bulls | July 17, 2012

The rise and incredible fall of a vicious extortion ring that preyed on prominent gay men in the 1960s:

On a sleepy Sunday morning in late July 1965, Detective 3rd Grade James McDonnell received a call in the upstairs squad room of midtown Manhattan’s 17th Precinct. There was a man at the Western Union office in Grand Central Station who might be impersonating a police detective, he was told. The man was in the company of a 14-year-old runaway and had contacted the boy’s father in Texas to wire plane fare so the son could fly home. The father had grown suspicious when the man had asked for $150—twice the needed amount. McDonnell quickly drove the 10 blocks to Grand Central, parking his unmarked black sedan on Lexington Avenue and hurrying down to the terminal’s lower level. Criminal impersonation of a police officer was an E felony—a “good collar,” as cops like to say, and if the perp had a gun, even better. There’d also been chatter on the detective grapevine about a number of recent cases of phony policemen, so McDonnell was eager to see what was up...

Terrorised Chicago Residents Please For Police Crackdown As Gang War Murders Soar

The cluster of young men hanging out on the porch of the run-down brick home cast menacing stares at the unknown car as a "spotter", a teen on a bicycle, talked into a mobile phone.

Beneath a tree across the street, burned red candle wax was the last remnant of an impromptu shrine for a 13-year-old boy, Tyquan Tyler, shot dead two weeks earlier by a killer just a few years older than him.

The assailant had run through an alleyway past a boarded-up home, mown down his victim and then disappeared back down the same route into a neighbouring street before the "ATM boys" could respond with their Glock pistols...

What Your Trash Reveals About The World Economy
Sarah Zhang, Mother Jones | What Your Trash Reveals About The World Economy | July 16, 2012

The fastest way to reduce solid waste volumes is to have a recession," writes World Bank urban specialist Dan Hoornweg in a report on the state of trash in cities. Hoornweg elegantly sums up why garbage is and will remain a vexing problem. Here in America, we hear "zero waste" and think sanctimonious yuppies. Yet much of the world's population is too poor to buy—and throw away—much stuff in the first place. But as developing countries become wealthier and adopt higher standards of living, they're also following our wasteful lead.

Here are three key takeaways from the report...

Will You Still Medal In The Morning?
Sam Alipour, ESPN The Magazine | Will You Still Medal In The Morning? | July 16, 2012

American target shooter Josh Lakatos faced a conundrum. Halfway through the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, he and his rifle-toting teammates were finished with their events, and the U.S. Olympic Committee and team officials had ordered them to turn in the keys to their three-story house and head back to the States. But Lakatos didn't want to leave. He knew from his experience four years earlier in Atlanta, where he'd won silver, that the Olympic Village was just about to erupt into a raucous party, and there was no way he was going to miss it. So he asked the maid at the emptied-out dwelling if she'd kindly look the other way as he jimmied the lock. "I don't care what you do," she replied...

Mr. Unemployment
T.M. Shine, The Washington Post Magazine | Mr. Unemployment | July 14, 2012

Let’s get one thing straight: I never wanted to be Mr. Unemployment. It’s important to clear this up because, several months after I was laid off from my job of 18 years at a large media company, I wrote a piece for this magazine headlined “Terminated.” Up to the point of its publication, I was adrift, getting nowhere. Most companies didn’t even respond to my inquiries about openings. I even applied for a job making up and distributing fliers, figuring at least I’d be writing. In a year, I thought, someone would pass me on the street and shout, “Hey, what are you doing with yourself since they fired your butt?” and I would yell across traffic, “I’m a flier writer.”

“What??!”...

A Bison So Rare It's Sacred
Peter Applebome, The New York Times | A Bison So Rare It's Sacred | July 14, 2012

If one were asked to pick a typical home where the buffalo roam, the answer probably would not be Litchfield County amid the rolling hills and understated rural chic of Northwest Connecticut.

But when Bison No. 7 on Peter Fay’s farm gave birth to a white, 30-pound bull calf a month ago, it made the Fay farm below Mohawk Mountain, for the moment at least, the unlikely epicenter of the bison universe...

Even At A Comics Event, You Can't Defy Gravitas
Michael Cieply, The New York Times | Even At A Comics Event. You Can't Defy Gravitas | July 14, 2012

The clouds never lifted at the Comic-Con International fan convention on opening day on Thursday. Inside the meeting halls, neither did the gloom.

Once a year for the last four decades, comic-book and fantasy fans dressed in Batman suits or carrying light sabers have descended on San Diego to trade collectibles, see trailers for new Hollywood movies and maybe speak a little Klingonese. But as fantasy has become big business — 7 of last year’s 10 top-grossing movies were either science fiction or comic-book-inspired, or fanciful enough to rate a spot at Comic-Con — a new anxiety has settled over the convention about the future of the business and over comics themselves...

Higgs Boson Humorists Get Mass Following
Michael Schulder, CNN | Higgs Boson Humorists Get Mass Following | July 12, 2012

I thought I'd nailed it, when I wrote what could be the first original Higgs Boson joke ever here.

 

But since this week's announcement that the Higgs particle has been found, there's been a wave of Higgs humor on Twitter, a lot of it curated by Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin, whose battle with breast cancer led her to tweet: "Gonna start calling my post-mastectomy, science-rebuilt cyberboob the "Higgs Bosom."

 

To be funny about something you usually have to understand it well. But sometimes it's the difficulty of understanding something that makes it funny.

 

From @pourmecoffee: "Higgs Boson Explainer: It's like, a particle, man."...