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.

India's Pink Sari Vigilantes
Amana Fontanella-Khan, The Daily Beast | Indian's Pink Sari Vigilantes | August 6, 2013

Amana Fontanella-Khan's new book, Pink Sari Revolution, delves into the astounding success of India's gang of fearless women, who have taken it upon themselves to protect the poor and call out the country's most corrupt officials.

...For all the dreariness of Bisanda Road that morning, Sampat felt a certain pride when she looked at the road, for it did not exist before her arrival here in 2005. Before, a rocky, rutted path made the axels of wooden carts jolt out of their wheels and doubled the journeying time of anyone who took it. “See this road?” people in Atarra will say. “It’s thanks to Sampat Pal that it got laid.” One day in 2006 she and a group of disgruntled women had convened on the road and, with wooden hoes in their hands, proclaimed loudly, “This is a road, what? Looks like a field to me! Come on, let’s grow vegetables here, at least we can eat them!” They started sowing seeds, tilling the stony dirt road and blocking the traffic. Passersby stopped and stared. People got off their carts, or gearless Atlas bicycles, to get a better look. Sampat had called the district magistrate to show him the state of the roads and made him make a promise in front of the crowds: “Yes, Sampat-ji. We’ll fix the road. Definitely.”...

The Mystery Of Bee Colony Collapse
Tom Philpott, Mother Jones | The Mystery Of Bee Colony Collapse | August 5, 2013

What's tipping honeybee populations into huge annual die-offs? For years, a growing body of evidence has pointed to a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids, widely used on corn, soy, and other US crops, as a possible cause of what has become known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Rather than kill bees directly like, say, Raid kills cockroaches, these pesticides are suspected of having what scientists call "sub-lethal effects"—that is, they make bees more vulnerable to other stressors, like poor nutrition and pathogens. In response to these concerns, the European Union recently  suspended most use for two years; the US Environmental Protection Agency, by contrast, still allows them pending more study...

Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker | Taken | August 5, 2013

Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven't been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we're losing?

On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”...


In A West Bank Culture Of Conflict, Boys Wield The Weapon At Hand
Jodi Rudoren, The New York Times | In A West Bank Culture Of Conflict, Boys Wield The Weapon At Hand | August 5, 2013

Muhammad Abu Hashem, 17, was sleeping in a sleeveless undershirt when the Israeli soldiers stormed into his home here at 4 a.m. on the second Monday in July. As they led him away moments later, Muhammad’s mother rushed after with a long-sleeved shirt: they both knew it would be cold in the interrogation room.

It was Muhammad’s fourth arrest in three years for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and settlers. His five brothers — three older and two younger — have all faced similar charges. Last year, three Abu Hashem boys, and their father, were in prison at the same time...

The 60-Foot-Long Jet-Powered Animal You've Probably Never Heard Of
R.R. Helm, Deep Sea News | The 60-Foot-Long Jet-Powered Animal You've Probably Never Heard Of | August 2, 2013

If the Borg and the Clone Wars had a baby it would be a pyrosome. One long pyrosomes is actually a collection of thousands of clones, with each individual capable of copying itself and adding to the colony. And unlike members of the Borg, which are  mentally connected, pyrosome members are physically connected– actually sharing tissues. And while the Borg live in a big scary ship, pyrosomes are the big scary ship. The whole colony is shaped like a giant thimble with a point on one end and an opening on the other, and in some species this opening can be up to 6 feed (2 meters) wide– large enough to fit a full grown human inside...

Why Companies Are Turning To Meditation And Yoga To Boost The Bottom Line

As a half-dozen women filter into a yoga studio on a recent afternoon, passing glowing candles and Buddhist statuary, they absorb the ethereal voice of a woman crooning praises to the earth via a boombox set on a bare wooden floor. They sit on yoga mats, gaze toward foliage outside and draw in a collective breath, echoing the instructor leading this midday meditation class.

They are not here on vacation. Nor are they at a spa or a gym. For the women gathered here, this is part of the workday at Promega Corp., a biotech company on the outskirts of this university town. They are here on company time, paying rates heavily subsidized by their employer, because the people running Promega have concluded that meditation classes -- along with yoga, ubiquitous fitness centers, workspaces infused with natural light, and healthy meals -- contribute to a happier, healthier working experience. And happier, healthier workers make for a stronger business...

BronyCon 2013 Brings Thousands of 'My Little Pony' Lovers To Baltimore
Adam Gutekunst and Dustin Levy, The Baltimore Sun | BronyCon 2013 Brings Thousands of 'My Little Pony' Lovers To Baltimore | August 1, 2013

Hundreds of "My Little Pony" collectibles cover Steve Lucia's bedroom — plush toys, comic books, trading cards and T-shirts. It is a sea of pink and purple, a shrine to a TV show originally intended for young girls.

But Lucia is a 25-year-old man, an electrician who lives in a Pasadena duplex and has what he calls a "healthy obsession."

"Being in the construction industry, there are guys who sit around and talk about women all day long," Lucia said. "I go home and wrap myself in ponies."

There are thousands of 20-somethings who share Lucia's love of the TV show "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic." Called "bronies" (a mash-up of "bro" and "pony"), they not only collect official paraphernalia from the show but also create their own characters (called cosplay), art and even music...

The Ticktock Of The Death Clock
Steven Petrow, The New York Times | The Ticktock Of The Death Clock | August 1, 2013

With every new silver hair sprouting from my scalp, I can’t help but think of the shortening arc ahead of me. Now in my mid-50s, for the first time I’m no longer looking up, over and beyond. Rather, my trajectory points downward at the approaching horizon. In this frame of mind, I recently found myself at DeathClock.com, the “Internet’s friendly” — if not scientific — “reminder that life is slipping away … second by second.” After I completed the short questionnaire, the Death Clock’s algorithm quickly did the math, concluding: “Your personal day of death is Wednesday, April 23, 2031.”..

Loner Sought A Refuge, And Ended Up In War
John M Broder and Ginger Thompson, The New York Times | Loner Sought A Refuge, And Ended Up In War | July 31, 2013

Feeling outcast and alone in Iraq, Bradley Manning, then a 22-year-old Army private, turned to the Internet for solace in early 2010, wanting to share with the world what he saw as the unconscionable horrors of war, an act that resulted in what military prosecutors called one of the greatest betrayals in the nation’s history...

Good Jill, Bad Jill: The Queen Of The New York Times
Lloyd Grove | Good Jill, Bad Jill | July 31, 2013

April was an unusual, if not the cruelest, month for New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who in September will mark two years on the job. On Monday afternoon, April 15, Abramson—who, at 59, is the first woman to serve as top editor in the Times’ 160-year history—had barely begun savoring the four Pulitzer Prizes that her staff had just won (this year’s biggest haul, by far, for any journalistic outlet) when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. Pulling an all-nighter at one point in the third-floor newsroom of the Times’ Renzo Piano–designed Manhattan skyscraper, she presided over a breathless week of “flooding the zone” (as one of her predecessors, Howell Raines, liked to say), while her reporters and editors managed to avoid the sort of embarrassing errors committed by the Associated Press, CNN, and even the Times Co.–owned Boston Globe.

Then, the night of April 23, Politico—the Washington trade paper that aims to “drive the conversation”—published a story suggesting that Abramson’s young editorship was already a failure...