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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.

The Most Comma Mistakes
Ben Yagoda, The New York Times Opinion | Most Comma Mistakes | May 22, 2012

Rules and conventions about when to use and not to use commas are legion. But certain errors keep popping up. Here are a few of them...

Chen Guangcheng's New Life In America: A Day In Greenwich Village
Melinda Liu, The Daily Beast | Chen Guangcheng's New Life In America: A Day In Greenwich Village | May 21, 2012

Feeling the warm sun on his face, blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng relaxed in an outdoor playground with his family Sunday, basking in perfect spring weather—and not having to worry about being beaten or harassed for the first time in years...

In Streets And Online, Campaign Fever In Egypt
David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheik, The New York Times | In Streets And Online, Campaign Fever In Egypt | May 21, 2012

“Good morning! Who are you going to vote for?”

That is the new standard Egyptian salutation, said Shafiq Abdel Khaleq, 50, an engineer playing chess at a streetside cafe in the working-class Cairo neighborhood of Sayeda Zeinab.

“There isn’t anyone left who doesn’t talk about politics,” he added, moving a piece.

“But no one knows anything!” replied his opponent, Hussein Zayed, a 53-year-old importer, who then called checkmate...

White House Visitor Logs Provide Window Into Lobbying Industry
T.W. Farnam, The Washington Post | White House Visitor Logs Provide Window Into Lobbying Industry | May 21, 2012

Before 9 a.m., a group of lobbyists began showing up at the White House security gates with the chief executives of their companies, all of whom serve on President Obama’s jobs council, to be checked in for a roundtable with the president.

At 1 p.m., a dozen representatives from the meat industry arrived for a briefing in the New Executive Office Building. At 3 p.m., a handful of lobbyists were lining up for a ceremony honoring the 2011 World Series champions, the St. Louis Cardinals...

Ancient Life, Potentially Millions of Years Old and Barely Alive, Found Beneath Ocean Floor

 

 

Call it survival of the slowest: Extraordinarily old, bizarrely low-key bacteria have been found in sediments 100 feet below the sea floor of the Pacific Ocean, far removed from sunlight, fresh nutrients and what humans would consider anything interesting to do.

Some of these organisms, scientists say, could be at least 1,000 years old. Or maybe millions of years.

Their strategy for staying alive is to be barely alive at all. Their metabolism is dialed down to almost nothing, an adaptive advantage in a place with so few resources...

Cataloging Wounds of War to Help Heal Them
C.J. Chivers, The New York Times | Cataloging Wounds of War to Help Heal Them | May 18, 2012

To those unfamiliar with a battlefield’s bleak routine, Col. Michael D. Wirt’s database could be read like a catalog of horrors. In it, more than 500 American soldiers are subjected to characteristic forms of violence of the Afghan war. Faces are smacked with shrapnel, legs are blasted away near knees, bullets pass through young men’s abdomens. Vehicles roll over, crushing bones. Eardrums rupture. Digits are severed. Dozens of soldiers die. Hundreds more begin journeys home, sometimes to treatment that will last the rest of their lives.

Each was listed in a small but meticulous computer entry by Colonel Wirt, a doctor intent on documenting how soldiers were wounded or sickened, how they were treated and how they fared...

Questioningly: Give Us Your Best Literary Facebook Status Update
Ben Greenman, The New Yorker | Questioningly: Give Us Your Best Literary Facebook Status Update | May 18, 2012

At least two things are happening this week. One is close to home: on Tuesday, The New Yorker relaunched its books blog, which is now titled Page-Turner. The second is also an online event, happening now: Facebook’s I.P.O. In light of these events, we’d like to propose a question that combines technology, literature, and social networking, and ask you to write a Facebook-style status update for any fictional character in literary history...

Coffee Drinking Linked To Longer Life
Amanda Gardner, Health.com | Coffee Drinking Linked To Longer Life | May 17, 2012

Drinking a daily cup of coffee -- or even several cups -- isn't likely to harm your health, and it may even lower your risk of dying from chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests...

Census: Minority Babies Are Now Majority In United States
Carol Morello and Ted Mellnik, The Washington Post | Census: Minority Babies Are Now Majority In United States | May 17, 2012

For the first time in U.S. history, most of the nation’s babies are members of minority groups, according to new census figures that signal the dawn of an era in which whites no longer will be in the majority.

Population estimates show that 50.4 percent of children younger than 1 last year were Hispanic, black, Asian American or in other minority groups. That’s almost a full percentage point higher than the 49.5 percent of minority babies counted when the decennial census was taken in April 2010. Census Bureau demographers said the tipping point came three months later, in July...

Regina Spektor Has Piano, Will Travel
Wyatt Mason, The New York Times | Regina Spektor Has Piano, Will Travel | May 17, 2012

Regina Spektor had warned me that she wouldn’t let me hear her sing. Now we were sitting outside the L.A. studio of her producer, Mike Elizondo, where she’d been laying down initial tracks of piano and voice for her sixth solo record, “What We Saw from the Cheap Seats.” And still she wouldn’t budge.

“Everybody who’s ever made records feels that way,” Spektor explained. “You’re in a room and you’re working on it and it’s just an engineer and a producer. And then someone comes over, and you play the song for them. The way you hear it in that instant is very different than how you’ve been listening to it. If you do it really early you interrupt the process with other frequencies. It’s almost like a certain kind of coat of color. You can’t take it off once you’ve listened to something with a stranger in the room. And at that point everybody’s a stranger. It could be your mom.”...