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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.

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...

From Hunger To Fame, With A Shoestring Menu
Katrin Bennhold, The Guardian | From Hunger To Fame, With A Shoestring Menu | January 18, 2014

First she stopped heating her apartment, putting furniture in front of the radiators to try to forget they were there. She unscrewed most of the light bulbs, turned off the hot water, and sold her iPhone, her watch, her television and even her curtains to feed herself and her 2-year-old son.Then she wrote about it in a blog post titled “Hunger Hurts” that soon spread widely...

Texas Public Schools Are Teaching Creationism
Zack Kopplin, Slate | Texas Public Schools Are Teaching Creationism | January 16, 2014

An investigation into charter schools' dishonest and unconstitutional science, history, and "values" lessons.

When public-school students enrolled in Texas’ largest charter program open their biology workbooks, they will read that the fossil record is “sketchy.” That evolution is “dogma” and an “unproved theory” with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the Earth. These are all lies...

"Too Much Estrogen": The Golden Globes, Chris Christie And Men Who Don't Want To Share Culture
Soraya Chemaly, The Huffington Post | "Too Much Estrogen" | January 15, 2014

Brit Hume thinks Chris Christie is paying for a "feminized atmosphere," in which his naturally tough guy (read: male) behavior has been erroneously cast as bullying. Meanwhile, the NY Post's film critic Kyle Smith's take on the Golden Globes was that there was just "too much estrogren." These are just this weekend's examples of men having a hard time-sharing culture...

Tweeting Cancer
Meghan O'Rourke, The New Yorker | Tweeting Cancer | January 15, 2014

For good reason, the Internet lit up on Monday with debate over Bill Keller’s strange column “Heroic Measures,” in the Times, which, like a recent Guardian post by his wife, Emma Keller, addresses the ethics of publicly chronicling one’s battles with cancer. (Emma Keller’s post was taken down by the Guardian on Monday.) The occasion for both editorials are the tweets and blog posts of Lisa Bonchek Adams, who is being treated for metastatic breast cancer (Stage IV). Adams, as Emma Keller writes, has tweeted more than a hundred and sixty thousand times, often about her illness. (A recent example: “Another shoutout to the palliative team. Pain management specialists are some of my heroes @sloan_kettering.”)...

The Bitcoin-Mining Arms Race Heats Up
Ashlee Vance and Brad Xstone, BloombergBusinessweek | The Bitcoin-Mining Arms Race Heats Up | January 15, 2014

Joel Flickinger’s two-bedroom home in the hills above Oakland, Calif., hums with custom-built computing gear. Just inside the front door, in a room anyone else might use as a den, he’s placed a desk next to a fireplace that supports a massive monitor, with cables snaking right and left toward two computers, each about the size of a case of beer. Flickinger has spent more than $20,000 on these rigs and on a slower model that runs from the basement. They operate continuously, cranking out enough heat to warm the house and racking up $400 a month in electric bills. There isn’t much by way of décor, other than handwritten inspirational Post-it notes:
 
“I make money easily,” one reads.
 
“Money flows to me.”
 
“I am a money magnet.”
 
Flickinger, 37, a software engineer and IT consultant by trade, doesn’t leave the house much these days. He’s a full-time Bitcoin miner...

"We Are Terrified As A People": Nigeria's Gays Live In Fear Amid New Crackdown
Jonathan Krohn, The Daily Beast | "We Are Terrified As A People": Nigeria's Gays Live In Fear Amid New Crackdown | January 14, 2014

The country arrested dozens Tuesday as its anti-homosexual law took effect, but activists say they are prepared to fight back amid the atmospher of intimidation and persecution...

I Read You Loud And Clear
Kevin Baker, The New York Times Book Review | I Read You Loud And Clear | January 13, 2014

I love book clubs. I love reading for them, I love talking to them, and if I had my choice I’d probably do nothing but visit them to promote my books. Where else do you find people who have already made a commitment to read your book, and to read it closely enough to discuss it in a knowledgeable fashion with their friends? The best insights I’ve ever been offered about my work have come from book club members. In a world full of readings attended by the inevitable, random 5-to-10 bookstore browsers and 20-year-old assistant night managers who consistently mangle the title of your work, book clubs are an oasis of intelligent thought and discussion...