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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.

Do the Eyes Have It?
Pat Shipman, American Scientist | Do the Eyes Have It? | April 25, 2012

We all know the adage that dogs are man’s best friend. And we’ve all heard heartwarming stories about dogs who save their owners—waking them during a fire or summoning help after an accident. Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows the amazing, almost inexpressible warmth of a dog’s companionship and devotion. But it just might be that dogs have done much, much more than that for humankind. They may have saved not only individuals but also our whole species, by “domesticating” us while we domesticated them.

Get Rich U.

Stanford University is so startlingly paradisial, so fragrant and sunny, it’s as if you could eat from the trees and live happily forever. Students ride their bikes through manicured quads, past blooming flowers and statues by Rodin, to buildings named for benefactors like Gates, Hewlett, and Packard. Everyone seems happy, though there is a well-known phenomenon called the “Stanford duck syndrome”: students seem cheerful, but all the while they are furiously paddling their legs to stay afloat. What they are generally paddling toward are careers of the sort that could get their names on those buildings. The campus has its jocks, stoners, and poets, but what it is famous for are budding entrepreneurs, engineers, and computer aces hoping to make their fortune in one crevasse or another of Silicon Valley...

No Sympathy for the Creative Class
Scott Timberg, Salon | No Sympathy for the Creative Class | April 22, 2012

They’re pampered, privileged, indulged – part of the “cultural elite.” They spend all their time smoking pot and sipping absinthe. To use a term that’s acquired currency lately, they’re entitled. And they’re not – after all – real Americans.

This what we hear about artists, architects, musicians, writers and others like them. And it’s part of the reason the struggles of the creative class in the 21st century – a period in which an economic crash, social shifts and technological change have put everyone from graphic artists to jazz musicians to book publishers out of work – has gone largely untold. Or been shrugged off...

Friends for Life? Wait Till Kids enter the Picture
Judith Warner, The New York Times | Friends for Life? Wait Till Kids Enter the Picture | April 22, 2012

Nothing can sink a friendship like differences over parenting. Sometimes the areas of disagreement are stark and dramatic, leading to blowups and out-and-out breaks. Most of the time they’re subtle and unstated, a matter of dark looks and long-simmering resentments, that erode, rather than rupture, formerly close relationships. Often they arise from a vague sense of betrayal, a friend’s having changed once he or she has had children, breaking unspoken assumptions about shared values and goals, how to live and who to be...

Drone Use Takes Off on the Home Front
Andy Pasztor and John Emshwiller, The Wasll Street Journal | Drone Use Takes Off on the Home Front | April 21, 2012

With little public attention, dozens of universities and law-enforcement agencies have been given approval by federal aviation regulators to use unmanned aircraft known as drones, according to documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests by an advocacy group. The more than 50 institutions that received approvals to operate remotely piloted aircraft are more varied than many outsiders and privacy experts previously knew. They include not only agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security but also smaller ones such as the police departments in North Little Rock, Ark., and Ogden, Utah, as well the University of North Dakota and Nicholls State University in Louisiana...

My Father's War Pictures, And Mine
Colby Buzzell, The Daily Beast | My Father's War Pictures, And Mine | April 20, 2012

I asked a couple co-workers, like me, Iraq War veterans, what they think of the photographs printed this week by the L.A. Times. You know, the ones with U.S. soldiers posing with the remains of Afghanistan suicide bombers. One of my colleagues shrugs: “Who didn’t come back from Iraq with pictures like that?”...

'California, 90420': The Great Marijuana Hypocrisy
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon | 'California, 90420': The Great Marijuana Hypocrisy | April 19, 2012

During a road trip to a quasi-legal medical marijuana growing facility in the legendary cheeba-producing region around Mendocino, Calif., a couple of students from Oaksterdam University encounter a cheerful little guy in a cowboy hat known as Human (no other name given). Human assures his visitors, with an ostentatious manner of saying exactly the right thing, that he’s growing potent, high-quality “medicine,” and he knows that the “patients” are out there waiting for it because they need help. Yeah, they need help — help getting wicked high, you mean...

The Forty-Year Itch
Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker | The Forty-Year Itch | April 19, 2012

When the new season of “Mad Men” began, just a few weeks ago, it carried with it an argument about whether the spell it casts is largely a product of its beautifully detailed early-sixties setting or whether, as Matthew Weiner, its creator, insisted, it’s not backward-looking at all but a product of character, story line, and theme. So it seems time to pronounce a rule about American popular culture: the Golden Forty-Year Rule. The prime site of nostalgia is always whatever happened, or is thought to have happened, in the decade between forty and fifty years past. (And the particular force of nostalgia, one should bear in mind, is not simply that it is a good setting for a story but that it is a good setting for you.)...

If Health Insurance Mandates Are Unconstitutional, Why Did the Founding Fathers Back Them?

In making the legal case against Obamacare’s individual mandate, challengers have argued that the framers of our Constitution would certainly have found such a measure to be unconstitutional. Nevermind that nothing in the text or history of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause indicates that Congress cannot mandate commercial purchases. The framers, challengers have claimed, thought a constitutional ban on purchase mandates was too “obvious” to mention. Their core basis for this claim is that purchase mandates are unprecedented, which they say would not be the case if it was understood this power existed. But there’s a major problem with this line of argument: It just isn’t true. The founding fathers, it turns out, passed several mandates of their own...

AP's Approval of 'Hopefully' Symbolizes Larger Debate Over Language
Monica Hesse, The Washington Post | AP's Approval of 'Hopefully' Symbolizes Larger Debate Over Language | April 18, 2012

The barbarians have done it, finally infiltrated a remaining bastion of order in a linguistic wasteland. They had already taken the Oxford English Dictionary; they had stormed the gates of Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition. They had pummeled American Heritage into submission, though she fought valiantly — she continues to fight! — by including a cautionary italics phrase, “usage problem,” next to the heretical definition.

Then, on Tuesday morning, the venerated AP Stylebook publicly affirmed (via tweet, no less) what it had already told the American Copy Editors Society: It, too, had succumbed. “We now support the modern usage of hopefully,” the tweet said. “It is hoped, we hope.”...