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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.

My Mother, The Hamburger U. Professor
Julia Langbein, GILT / Salon | My Mother, The Hamburger U. Professor | August 17, 2011

Mom went from Finnish farm girl to McDonald's teacher. Only now do I realize how hard the transition must have been...

A Life Unraveled: Whistleblower Who Incurred Wrath of the Murdoch Empire

Relentless legal pursuit of ex-News Corp employee likened to 'Rambo tactics'...

Resistance Transforms a Once Mute Syrian City
Anthony Shadid, The New York Times | Resistance Transforms a Once Mute Syrian City | August 17, 2011

The narrower the streets of this city, a caldron of revolt and resistance against four decades of rule by the Assad family, the blunter the graffiti becomes. It is scrawled on walls, garbage bins, phone booths, doors and even tree trunks, as a city that was long quiescent declares these days that it will no longer stay quiet.

"We won't bow to anyone but God," says one slogan...

Untold Story of the Bay of Pigs
Robert Dallek, Newsweek Magazine | Untold Story of the Bay of Pigs | August 16, 2011

Newly declassified CIA documents reveal new blunders and how close America came to war during the failed invasion of Cuba...

Threat Resurges in Deadliest Day of Year for Iraq
Michael S. Schmidt, The New York Times | Threat Resurges in Deadliest Day of Year for Iraq | August 16, 2011

A chilling series of fatal attacks across Iraq on Monday sent a disheartening message to the Iraqi and American governments: After hundreds of billions of dollars spent since the United States invasion in 2003, and tens of thousands of lives lost, insurgents remain a potent and perhaps resurging threat to Iraqis and the American troops still in the country...

Pacific Voyagers Expedition: A Solar-Powered Journey
The Huffington Post | Pacific Voyagers Expedition; A Solar-Powered Journey | August 15, 2011

In April, seven traditional Polynesian ocean-going vessels called vakas, and their 16 member crews, set sail on a 15,000 nautical mile journey across the Pacific. Powered only by solar energy, guided solely by celestial navigation, these seafarers are on an expedition to reconnect with their ancestors and raise awareness for the environmental issues threatening the Pacific.

Each vaka has a crew made up of Pacific Islanders from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and Tonga. This is the first time in modern history that a voyage like this has been made...

Afghan Widows Form Community On Kabul Hill
Joshua Partlow, The Washington Post | Afghan Widows Form Community On Kabul Hill | August 15, 2011

The hills of this capital stand as monuments to men in battle, topped by crumbling forts and rusted tanks, ancient ramparts and gleaming tombs of kings. One is different but no less a testament to war. It is known as Tapaye Zanabad — the hill that women built.

For the past decade, war widows have converged here and built by hand their mud hovels on a slope above a cemetery in an eastern neighborhood of the Afghan capital. They came at first because the land was free and they were poor. Police would fine or beat men for raising a settlement on government land, but the widows found that they could build if they were clever...

New Drug Could Cure Nearly Any Viral Infection
Anne Trafton, MIT News | New Drug Could Cure Nearly Any Viral Infection | August 15, 2011

Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics such as penicillin, discovered decades ago. However, such drugs are useless against viral infections, including influenza, the common cold, and deadly hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.

Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection...

Virtuosos Becoming a Dime a Dozen
Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times | Virtuosos Becoming a Dime a Dozen | August 14, 2011

The latest young pianist from China to excite classical music audiences and earn raves from critics is the 24-year-old Yuja Wang, a distinctive artist with a comprehensive technique. That Ms. Wang is already a musician of consequence was made clear this year when Deutsche Grammophon released her first recording with an orchestra: performances of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Second Piano Concerto with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The conductor is Claudio Abbado, no less, a towering maestro who is extremely discriminating in his choice of collaborators. Mr. Wang's virtuosity is stunning. But is that so unusual these days? Not really...

Slowpoke: How to Be a Faster Writer
Michael Agger, Slate | Slowpoke: How to Be a Faster Writer | August 14, 2011

Hunched over my keyboard, I'm haunted by anecdotes of faster writers. Christopher Hitchens composing a Slate column in 20 minutes—after a chemo session, after a "full" dinner party, late on a Sunday night. The infamously productive Trollope, who used customized paper! "He had a note pad that had been indexed to indicate intervals of 250 words," William F. Buckley told the Paris Review. "He would force himself to write 250 words per 15 minutes. Now, if at the end of 15 minutes he hadn't reached one of those little marks on his page, he would write faster." Buckley himself was a legend of speed—writing a complete book review in crosstown cabs and the like...