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.

Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides For 80 Years

No, this isn't a make-believe place. It's real.

They call it "Ball's Pyramid." It's what's left of an old volcano that emerged from the sea about 7 million years ago. A British naval officer named Ball was the first European to see it in 1788. It sits off Australia, in the South Pacific. It is extremely narrow, 1,844 feet high, and it sits alone.

What's more, for years this place had a secret. At 225 feet above sea level, hanging on the rock surface, there is a small, spindly little bush, and under that bush, a few years ago, two climbers, working in the dark, found something totally improbable hiding in the soil below. How it got there, we still don't know...

3 Ultra-Orthodox Men Arrested In Confrontation At Western Wall
Jodi Rudoren, The New York Times | 3 Ultra-Orthodox Men Arrested In Confrontation At Western Wall | May 10, 2013

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews flooded the Western Wall early Friday morning, creating a tense standoff with a pluralistic group of women that has for years prayed at the holy site once a month wearing garments traditionally used by men.

Heeding calls from their rabbis, hundreds of teenage girls crammed into the women’s section in front of the wall before 6:30 a.m., forcing the group known as Women of the Wall to conduct their service farther back, in the plaza, as black-hatted Orthodox men whistled, catcalled, and threw water, candy, a rock and other items at them. But after months in which several women were detained by the police for using the traditional garments, officers on Friday protected them, after a court ruling saying they should be allowed to pray as they wish...

Merida From 'Brave' Gets An Unnecessary Makeover, Sparks Change.org Petition
Jessica Samakow, The Huffington Post | Merida From 'Brave' Gets An Unnecessary Makeover, Sparks Change.org Petition | May 10, 2013

Merida, "Brave's" red-headed heroine will be crowned Disney's 11th princess on May 11. And just in time for her royal induction, the animated character has received a head-to-toe makeover -- she's thinner, her eyes are wider and ... Is that miracle anti-frizz solution she's using? What is going on!?...

The Frog Of War
Dashka Slater, Mother Jones | The Frog Of War | May 8, 2013

When biologist Tyrone Hayes discovered that a top-selling herbicide messes with sex hormones, its manufacturer went into battle mode. Thus began one of the weirdest feuds in the history of science...

Air Force General Blames Increase In Military Rape On Hookup Culture
Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast | Air Force General Blames Increase In Military Rape On Hookup Culture | May 8, 2013

If it was possible to make a bad situation worse, that’s what Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh managed to do at a Senate hearing Tuesday morning when he blamed an increase in sexual assault in the military on the “hookup” culture prevalent among young people. Welsh said 20 percent of female recruits report being assaulted before they joined the military. “They come in from a society where this occurs,” he said...

Everest Climber: Sherpas Tried To Kill Me
Peter Miller, National Geographic News | Everest Climber: Sherpas Tried To Kill Me | May 7, 2013

Simone Moro is one of the world's most experienced alpinists. He specializes in fast and light ascents and winter climbs of 8,000-meter peaks.

Last weekend, the 35-year-old Italian was involved in a scuffle with Sherpas on Mount Everest—along with climbers Ueli Steck and Jon Griffith—that made global headlines.


In his first extended interview, Moro gives NationalGeographic.com his take on what happened.

Alternative accounts, including those claiming to represent some Sherpas, have been posted on climbing blogs and sites...

YouTube To Charge For Watching Videos
Victoria Woollaston, The Guardian | YouTube To Charge For Watching Videos | May 6, 2013

You may soon have to pay to watch videos on YouTube.

The video site, owned by Google, is set to launch a paid-for subscription service later this week that will charge users to access content on some of its specialist channels.

According to reports in the Financial Times, a single-channel subscription is expected to cost £1.28 ($1.99) a month and will apply to as many as 50 YouTube channels...

The People You Meet At McDonald's
Julie Bosman, The New York Times Magazine | The People You Meet At McDonald's | May 5, 2013

Vance Evans, a 66-year-old retiree from Bakersfield, Calif., has been eating double cheeseburgers at McDonald’s since he flipped them himself as a teenager. “I have a kindred spirit in them,” he says. “It’s the familiarity.” They don’t make the burgers as hot as they used to, he says, but he still visits once or twice a month with his wife, Nancy, who favors a fish sandwich and an iced coffee. The Evanses were among the hundreds of people photographed by Nolan Conway in a project that has taken him to dozens of McDonald’s restaurants around the country. But while the places were usually much the same, the variety of customers was a surprise. “Especially when you go to more of the rural areas, you’ll get the poor, the wealthy and everyone in between,” Conway says. “There’s nowhere else to go.”...

A Writing Coach Becomes A Listener
Dan Barry, The New York Times Book Review | A Writing Coach Becomes A Listener | May 5, 2013

The written word looms over William Zinsser. The many hundreds of books in his Upper East Side apartment stand at attention, as if awaiting instruction from this slight man in a baseball cap and sunglasses who, for a half-century, has coached others on how to write.

In newsrooms, publishing houses and wherever the labor centers on honing sentences and paragraphs, you are almost certain to find among the reference works a classic guide to nonfiction writing called “On Writing Well,” by Mr. Zinsser. Sometimes all you have to say is: Hand me the Zinsser...

I Was Swallowed By A Hippo
Paul Templer, The Guardian | I Was Swallowed By A Hippo | May 4, 2013

The hippo who tried to kill me wasn't a stranger – he and I had met before a number of times. I was 27 and owned a business taking clients down the Zambezi river near Victoria Falls. I'd been working this stretch of river for years, and the grouchy old two-ton bull had carried out the occasional half-hearted attack. I'd learned to avoid him. Hippos are territorial and I knew where he was most likely to be at any given time.

That day I'd taken clients out with three apprentice guides – Mike, Ben and Evans – all in kayaks. We were near the end of the tour, the light was softening and we were taking in the tranquillity. The solid whack I felt behind me took me by surprise.

I turned just in time to see Evans, who had been flung out of his boat, flying through the air. His boat, with his two clients still in it, had been lifted half out of the water on the back of the huge bull hippo...