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.

The Student Victims Of Washington's Deficit Obsession
James Surowiecki, The New Yorker | The Student Victims Of Washington's Deficit Obsession | July 22, 2013

When, a couple of weeks ago, the interest rate on subsidized Stafford loans (the loans that the federal government offers to college students) doubled, going from 3.4 per cent to 6.8 per cent, the expectation was that Congress would reach a quick deal to reverse—or at least reduce—the increase. After all, making college more affordable is one of the rare issues on which the differences between Democrats and Republicans seem bridgeable. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle promised an immediate fix, and last week it appeared that a deal was about to be reached. Then Washington’s obsession with deficits got in the way. And that same obsession explains why, even if Congress does finally agree to a deal, college students are guaranteed to be paying more for loans, come the fall...

Inside Nike Headquarters
Winston Ross, The Daily Beast | Inside Nike Headquarters | July 22, 2013

When I got the email invite to Tuesday’s top-secret global summit at the world headquarters of Nike Corp., I gotta admit, a little part of me felt like I’d just opened a Wonka Bar and found a golden ticket inside.

Not necessarily because I thought a trip to the bowels of the Swoosh would be anywhere near as cool as visiting the Chocolate Factory and sucking on gobstoppers that last forever, but because I live in nearby Eugene, aka “Track Town USA,” where the sinewy and mustachioed Steve Prefontaine became a folk hero; where he and legendary University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman and alum Phil Knight basically turned the grunting and panting once known as “jogging” into the sleek, stylish, international obsession with “running” it is today. In Eugene, wearing Nikes passes for business attire. “Pre’s rock,” where the track star died in a car crash, is a sacred shrine. The Nike store in Eugene is a tourist attraction. If you don’t run here, there’s something wrong with you...

Minnesota's Moose Mystery
Jessica Benko, Salon | Minnesota's Moose Myster | July 22, 2013

The cell phone alert was designed to wake anyone from a deep sleep. “MORTALITY EVENT DETECTED,” the text message read, accompanied by a cacophony of drums and bells blaring from the phone’s speaker at top volume. It was near midnight on May 22nd, but David Pauly wasn’t asleep; he knew this call was coming. Already he had received five alarms like it over the past month, announcing that a female moose wearing a GPS tracking collar and ear tag #075 hadn’t moved for at least six hours.Usually, that’s enough to indicate that a moose is dead. But #075 was a survivor...

Save The Movie!
Peter Suderman, Slate | Save The Movie! | July 19, 2013

If you’ve gone to the movies recently, you may have felt a strangely familiar feeling: You’ve seen this movie before. Not this exact movie, but some of these exact story beats: the hero dressed down by his mentor in the first 15 minutes (Star Trek Into Darkness, Battleship); the villain who gets caught on purpose (The Dark Knight, The Avengers, Skyfall, Star Trek Into Darkness); the moment of hopelessness and disarray a half-hour before the movie ends (Olympus Has Fallen, Oblivion, 21 Jump Street, Fast & Furious 6).


It’s not déjà vu. Summer movies are often described as formulaic. But what few people know is that there is actually a formula—one that lays out, on a page-by-page basis, exactly what should happen when in a screenplay. It’s as if a mad scientist has discovered a secret process for making a perfect, or at least perfectly conventional, summer blockbuster.

The formula didn’t come from a mad scientist. Instead it came from a screenplay guidebook...

The Taliban's Letter To Malala Yousafzai
The Daily Beast | The Taliban's Letter To Malala Yousafzai | July 17, 2013

Not quite an apology, the open letter from a senior jihadist quotes Kissinger and British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Read the bizarre letter here...


"Why Did You Shoot Me? I Was Reading A Book": The New Warrior Cop Is Out Of Control

SWAT teams raiding poker games and trying to stop underage drinking? Overwhelming paramilitary force is on the rise.

Sal Culosi is dead because he bet on a football game — but it wasn’t a bookie or a loan shark who killed him. His local government killed him, ostensibly to protect him from his gambling habit.

Several months earlier at a local bar, Fairfax County, Virginia, detective David Baucum overheard the thirty-eight-year-old optometrist and some friends wagering on a college football game. “To Sal, betting a few bills on the Redskins was a stress reliever, done among friends,” a friend of Culosi’s told me shortly after his death. “None of us single, successful professionals ever thought that betting fifty bucks or so on the Virginia–Virginia Tech football game was a crime worthy of investigation.” Baucum apparently did...



The Enduring Rift: Understanding Our Inner Trayvons And Inner Zimmermans
Joshua DuBois, Newsweek | The Enduring Rift | July 17, 2013

By this point, all Americans know the facts. A teenager, Trayvon Martin, was pursued and killed.

The shooter, George Zimmerman, was acquitted, his claim of self-defense validated by a jury. We have lined up to state our views about what should happen next: vocal protesters and advocates (I count myself among them) think that the system failed at critical points and should be corrected, from the “stand your ground” law that empowered Zimmerman to the investigation and prosecution of the case itself. Others are assembling to protect gun rights and the right to self-defense.

In service of these goals, we will march. We will tweet. The Justice Department will investigate, talk radio will opine, and some laws and policies will hopefully, needfully, be changed.

But when it is all over—when the political debates have run their course, when the pundits have moved on—we will still be left with something else. Something harder to describe. A set of noxious gut feelings about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman—and where we all stand on the issue of race...

Why Barnes & Noble Is Good For Amazon
David Carr, The New York Times | Why Barnes & Noble Is Good For Amazon | July 16, 2013

On Thursday night in Clifton, N.J., Barnes & Noble was a way station, a third place between work and home where people sought respite and diversion. With its high ceilings, wide aisles and a large Starbucks, it is the kind of retail outlet that gives big-box stores a good name...

Lizard Fossil Found: 23-Million-Year-Old Remains Preserved in Amber In New Mexico
Meredith Bennett-Smith, The Huffington Post | Lizard Fossil Found: 23-Million-Year-Old Remains Preserved in Amber In New Mexico | July 13, 2013

A beautiful gem or a scientist's dream? You can have both, as researchers in Mexico recently discovered after finding the remains of a 23-million-year-old lizard fossil, well preserved with soft tissue samples, in a small piece of amber.

Amber often contains small remains of plants and animals, but it is rare to find complete vertebrates such as this lizard...

Hubble Telescope Spots Azure Blue Planet Where It Rains Glass

Astronomers have found a deep azure blue planet orbiting a star 63 light years away -- the first time they've been able to determine the actual color of a planet outside our solar system, NASA and the European Space Agency said Thursday...