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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.

A Toast Story
John Gravois, Pacific Standard | A Toast Story | January 23, 2014

How did toast become the latest artisanal food craze? Ask a trivial question, get a profound, heartbreaking answer...

The GOP's Birth-Control Trojan Horse
Amanda Marcotte, The Daily Beast | The GOP's Birth-Control Trojan Horse | January 23, 2014

The right wants to use religion as an excuse to legally discriminate against gays and unmarried women -- and, ultimately, anyone who doesn't share their Christian faith...

...Having spent years building up the case that religion is an appropriate excuse for discrimination against sexual orientation or contraception preferences, it’s now time for the religious right to make the next move. Arizona lawmakers are trying to pass a new law that would grant the right to defend any kind of discrimination against customers, as long as religion is cited as a reason...

Literary Project Honours Baghdad's Devastated Bookselling District
Ellie Violet Bramley, The Guardian | Honoring Baghdad's Books | January 22, 2014

Hundreds of writers and artists prepare tributes to Iraq's historic books hub, Al-Mutanabbi Street, hit by car bomb in 2007.

It's said that when Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols in 1258, the river Tigris ran red one day with the blood of those killed, and black the next with the ink of their books. On 5 March 2007, many of Baghdad's books once again found themselves the victims of war when a car bomb exploded on Al-Mutanabbi Street, the city's historic literary district – home of booksellers, printers, and cafes, such as the famous Shabandar cafe, where Iraqi writers and intellectuals have been gathering for centuries...

Photo Archive Is Said To Show Widespread Torture In Syria
Ben Hubbard and David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times | Photo Archive Is Said To Show Widespread Torture In Syria | January 22, 2014

Emaciated corpses lie in the sand, their ribs protruding over sunken bellies, their thighs as thin as wrists. Several show signs of strangulation. The images conjure memories of some of history’s worst atrocities.

Numbers inscribed on more than 11,000 bodies in 55,000 photographs said to emerge from the secret jails of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, suggest that torture, starvation and execution are widespread and even systematic, each case logged with bureaucratic detail...

Fox News Has A 'Crumbling Foundation': Roger Ailes' Biographer Talks To Salon
Josh Eidelson, Salon | Roger Ailes' Biographer Talks To Salon | January 21, 2014

Gabriel Sherman’s exhaustive, inflammatory biography of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, released days ago by Random House, has already prompted network pushback. “While we have not read the book,” a Fox News spokesperson told the New York Times, “the only reality here is that Gabe was not provided any direct access to Roger Ailes and the book was never fact-checked with Fox News.” Sherman’s 538-page tome, “The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country,” is the product of three years of work and hundreds of interviews. It paints Ailes as a transformative figure in American media and politics – and includes alleged episodes of violence, paranoia, bigotry and sexual harassment.

Sherman, a contributing editor at New York magazine, spoke with Salon Friday about Ailes’ power, his myth-making about his own biography, and Fox’s future...

Martin Luther King's Nobel Speech Is An Often Ignored Masterpiece
Malcolm Jones, The Daily Beast | Martin Luther King's Nobel Speech Is An Often Ignored Masterpiece | January 20, 2014

When Martin Luther King accepted his Nobel Prize, he delivered a speech that has been unfairly ignored because his delivery was so muted. Read 50 years later, it is electrifying...

Not Dead Yet
Judy Oppenheimer, Slate | Not Dead Yet | January 21, 2014

The trials of being -- not caring for, not dealing with but BEING -- an aging parent.

The Internet is awash these days with stories about aging parents—suffering, terminal, demented, irritating, just plain old old parents. How difficult it is to care for them, how to evaluate nursing homes, how to broach important subjects like wills, funerals, power of attorney, DNR, so on into the night. A recent article urged people to use the holiday season to bring up these matters—after all, Mom and Dad will be right there, presumably eager to hear what plans you’ve made for their imminent collapse/demise...

China's Web Junkies
The New York Times | China's Web Junkies | January 20, 2014

A short documentary about a Chinese boot-camp-style treatment center for young men "addicted" to the internet...

Death Dust: The Valley-Fever Menace
Dana Goodyear, The New Yorker | Death Dust: The Valley-Fever Menace | January 18, 2014

In 1977, the San Joaquin Valley—the swath of agricultural land that runs through central California—was designated a disaster area. Record-low runoff and scant rainfall had created drought conditions. At the beginning of Christmas week, the weather was normal in Bakersfield, the city at the Valley’s southern end, but in the early hours of December 20th a strong wind began to blow from the Great Basin through the Tehachapi Mountains. Hitting the ground on the downslope, it lofted a cloud of loose topsoil and mustard-colored dust into the sky. The plume rose to five thousand feet; dust blotted out the sun four counties away...

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Launches 'HitRecord On TV' At Sundance
Logan Hill, Rolling Stone | Joseph Gordon-Levitt Launches 'HitRecord On TV' At Sundance | January 18, 2014

Last night at the Sundance Film Festival, Joseph Gordon-Levitt premiered the first three episodes of his innovative new variety show, HitRecord on TV, featuring short films, skits, songs, animations, live performances and stories that were crowd-sourced from hundreds of collaborators. But you could be forgiven for thinking that he could do it all himself: Not only does the star of Looper and (500) Days of Summer host the show with sunny, dapper, Fallonesque optimism, he plays piano and drums, tap-dances a musical number with Tony Danza, writes and sings song lyrics, is abducted by an alien Carla Gugino, interviews John Waters and does a backflip...