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 Decline And Fall Of The English Major
Verlyn Klinkenborg, International Herald Tribune Opinion | The Decline And Fall Of The English Major | June 26, 2013

In the past few years, I’ve taught nonfiction writing to undergraduates and graduate students at Harvard, Yale, Bard, Pomona, Sarah Lawrence and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. Each semester I hope, and fear, that I will have nothing to teach my students because they already know how to write. And each semester I discover, again, that they don’t...

Last Song For Migrating Birds
Jonathan Franzen, National Geographic | Last Song For Migrating Birds | June 26, 2013

From glue-covered sticks in Egypt hang tow lives, and a question: How can we stop the slaughter of song irds migrating across the Mediterranean?

In a bird market in the Mediterranean tourist town of Marsa Matruh, Egypt, I was inspecting cages crowded with wild turtledoves and quail when one of the birdsellers saw the disapproval in my face and called out sarcastically, in Arabic: "You Americans feel bad about the birds, but you don't feel bad about dropping bombs on someone's homeland."...

In The Badlands, A Tribe Helps Buffaloes Make A Comeback
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post | In The Badlands, A Tribe Helps Buffaloes Make A Comeback | June 24, 2013

Buffaloes stroll undisturbed, pausing occasionally to wallow in the grass and caked dirt, while prairie dogs yip intermittently as they dive into their holes and pop out again to survey the landscape. This northern stretch of the park, known as Sage Creek Wilderness, is what the Northern Great Plains used to look like.

Several miles away, in the park’s 133,300-acre South Unit, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the scene is more barren. The U.S. Army forced more than 800 Oglala Sioux families to leave their homes here in 1942 so part of the reservation could be turned into a bombing range. The land has partially recovered, but the bison have yet to return.

That could soon change. The Oglala Sioux and National Park Service are drafting legislation to create the first tribal national park...

Out Of Concrete And Drudgery Come Canoes That Float
Henry Fountain, The New York Times | Out Of Concrete And Drudgery Come Canoes That Float | June 24, 2013

It’s not easy making the unsinkable out of the unthinkable.

But at the National Concrete Canoe Competition, civil engineering students use a material that is normally the stuff of dams and parking garages to build a 20-foot-long craft that will float even if completely swamped...

Herblock's Indelible Ink
Matt Wuerker, Politico | Herblock's Indelible Ink | June 24, 2013

Editorial cartoonists are used to being given a little ink and a few square inches on the editorial pages. And for that we’re grateful.

But some ink-stained wretches take those few column inches and make a mark on history. Herblock, The Washington Post’s legendary cartoonist, was one of those fearless talents, who showed what well-honed political cartoons can do...


The Ax Falls At The Oregonian
Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review | The Ax Falls At The Oregonian | June 22, 2013

Not that long ago, The Oregonian was one of the better news organizations in the country.


In 2008, Editor & Publisher named Sandy Rowe and Peter Bhatia its Editors of the Year and reported that The Oregonian had 315 full-time journalists in its newsroom the year before. The paper, two decades earlier a backwater, had picked up five Pulitzers in eight years.

Five years later, the paper’s newsroom now has 175 employees, according to its directory. That number is about to drop dramatically, with “significant layoffs” occurring this week now that the paper is the latest to get Newhouse’d...

Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests and Wildlife
Felicity Barringer, The New York Times | Marijuana Crops in California Threaten Forests and Wildlife | June 21, 2013

It took the death of a small, rare member of the weasel family to focus the attention of Northern California’s marijuana growers on the impact that their huge and expanding activities were having on the environment.

The animal, a Pacific fisher, had been poisoned by an anticoagulant in rat poisons like d-Con. Since then, six other poisoned fishers have been found. Two endangered spotted owls tested positive. Mourad W. Gabriel, a scientist at the University of California, Davis, concluded that the contamination began when marijuana growers in deep forests spread d-Con to protect their plants from wood rats.

That news has helped growers acknowledge, reluctantly, what their antagonists in law enforcement have long maintained: like industrial logging before it, the booming business of marijuana is a threat to forests whose looming dark redwoods preside over vibrant ecosystems...

City Lights Bookstore Celebrates Its 60th Birthday
Denise Lee, The Daily Californian | City Lights Bookstore Celebrates Its 60th Birthday | June 20, 2013

Published in 1956, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems” is City Lights Bookstore’s most famous title. With its frank and vivid descriptions of drug use, “pubic beards” and people “who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists,” “Howl” garnered national attention and notoriety for Ginsberg and City Lights. The success of “Howl” and its riotous effect on literary censorship reflects the fundamental anti-authoritarian, free-speech, fuck-the-system philosophy at City Lights’ core.

City Lights is celebrating its 60th birthday this Sunday with a party in Jack Kerouac Alley...

Developer: Kansas Caverns Could Preserve Human Race
Bill Draper, The Yakima Herald | Developer: Kansas Caverns Could Preserve Human Race | June 20, 2013

After most of the world’s population is wiped off the map by a wayward meteorite or hail of nuclear missiles, the survival of the human race might just depend on a few thousand people huddled in recreational vehicles deep in the bowels of an eastern Kansas mine.

That’s the vision of a California man who is creating what he calls the world’s largest private underground survivor shelter, using a complex of limestone caves dug more than 100 years ago beneath gently rolling hills overlooking the Missouri River...

Iceland Resumes Fin Whale Hunting After Two-Year Break
John Vidal, The Guardian | Iceland Resumes Fin Whale Hunting After Two-Year Break | June 19, 2013

Iceland has resumed its commercial hunting of fin whales after a two-year suspension by landing the first of an expected 180 whales in Hvalfjördur. The first kill prompted protests from environment and animal welfare groups that the hunt is "cruel and unnecessary".

Undercover pictures taken aboard the Hvalur 8 by Greenpeace show the harpooned whale being cut up for meat that is likely to be exported to Japan. Fin whales are the second largest animal on earth after the blue whale and are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species...