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.

Face, Get Back To Work!
John Sudworth, BBC News | Face, Get Back To Work! | November 7, 2013

One year on, the BBC's Shanghai correspondent John Sudworth reports on his slow recovery from Bell's palsy, and frowns, almost symmetrically, at the lack of medical awareness about the condition.

It may have taken a whole year, but the muscles on the left hand side of my face have been slowly drifting away from the picket line and getting themselves back to work. The strike, it seems, is over.

My left eyebrow, the left side of my mouth and my left eyelid have all reported for duty again and I can now do two of the most glorious and underrated things a human can do - smile and blink...

Mystery Solved: The Etymology of 'Dude'
Arika Okrent, Slate | Mystery Solved: The Etymology of 'Dude' | November 7, 2013

or some time now, we have known the basic outline of the story of "dude." The word was first used in the late 1800s as a term of mockery for young men who were overly concerned with keeping up with the latest fashions. It later came to stand for clueless city folk (who go to dude ranches) before it morphed into our all-purpose laid-back label for a guy. What we didn't know was why the word dude was chosen in the first place.

Now, we finally have the answer...

The World's 10 Oldest Living Trees
Bryan Nelson and Mother Nature Network | The World's 10 Oldest Living Trees | November 5, 2013

There are colonies of clonal trees that have lived for tens of thousands of years, but there's something majestic about a single tree able to stand on its own for millennia. These ancient trees have bore witness to the rise and fall of civilizations, survived changing climates, and even persevered through the fervent development of human industry. They are a testament to the long view that Mother Nature takes in tending the Earth. With that in mind, consider the world's 10 oldest living trees...

The U.S. Needs A New Constitution -- Here's How To Write It
Alex Seitz-Wald, The Atlantic | The U.S. Needs A New Constitution -- Here's How To Write It | November 5, 2013

America, we've got some bad news: Our Constitution isn't going to make it. It's had 224 years of commendable, often glorious service, but there's a time for everything, and the government shutdown and permanent-crisis governance signal that it's time to think about moving on. "No society can make a perpetual constitution," Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1789, the year ours took effect. "The earth belongs always to the living generation and not to the dead .… Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years." By that calculation, we're more than two centuries behind schedule for a long, hard look at our most sacred of cows. And what it reveals isn't pretty...

Hepatitis C, A Silent Killer, Meets Its Match
Andrew Pollack. The New York Times | Hepatitis C, A Silent Killer, Meets Its Match | November 5, 2013

Determined to get rid of the hepatitis C infection that was slowly destroying his liver, Arthur Rubens tried one experimental treatment after another. None worked, and most brought side effects, like fever, insomnia, depression, anemia and a rash that “felt like your skin was on fire.”

But this year, Dr. Rubens, a professor of management at Florida Gulf Coast University, entered a clinical trial testing a new pill against hepatitis C. Taking it was “a piece of cake.” And after three months of treatment, the virus was cleared from his body at last...

HealthCare.gov: How Political Fear Was Pitted Against Technical Needs
Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post | HealthCare.gov: How Political Fear Was Pitted Against Technical Needs | November 4, 2013

In May 2010, two months after the Affordable Care Act squeaked through Congress, President Obama’s top economic aides were getting worried. Larry Summers, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, and Peter Orszag, head of the Office of Management and Budget, had just received a pointed four-page memo from a trusted outside health adviser. It warned that no one in the administration was “up to the task” of overseeing the construction of an insurance exchange and other intricacies of translating the 2,000-page statute into reality...

A Cautionary Tale For Politicians: Al Gore And The 'Invention' Of The Internet
Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post | A Cautionary Tale For Politicians: Al Gore And The 'Invention' Of The Internet | November 4, 2013

“Maybe they’ll bring in Al Gore, you know, the guy who says he invented the Internet, maybe they’ll fix the Web site [HealthCare.gov].”

–Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), on “Fox News Sunday,” Oct. 27, 2013

Jindal’s dig at the troubled Affordable Care Act  manages also to ding former Vice President Gore for a statement he made nearly 15 years ago. We’re not trying to pick on Jindal, but Gore did not actually say this, though people may differ about whether he came close to saying this.

As a lawmaker, Gore did play an important role in fostering public use of the Internet. Nevertheless, here it is, years later, and Gore is still paying penance for an offhand remark, poorly phrased. So how is it that this flub continues to resonate—and what warnings does Gore’s experience have for other politicians?...

Riding The Hashtag In Social Media Marketing
David Segal, The New York Times | Riding The Hashtag In Social Media Marketing | November 4, 2013

About once a week, Gary Vaynerchuk posts a Twitter message that reads, “Is there anything I can do for you?” He means it literally. He is inviting his roughly one million followers to send requests for any kind of help or favor. And if you respond, he will try to punch you in the face.

This will not be a conventional punch in the face, but a Vaynerchukian punch, which turns out to be the opposite of violent. Mr. Vaynerchuk, 37, is a social media marketer with some very big clients, and he’s a tireless self-promoter. Anyone fitting that description is all but required to find novel ways to win attention and coin catchphrases, and his new favorite is “jab, jab, jab, right hook.” That is also the name of his coming book, which is due out this month and is subtitled “How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy, Social World.”...

When Did Two-Strapping Get Cooler Than One-Strapping?
Forrest Wickman, Slate | When Did Two-Strapping Get Cooler Than One-Strapping? | November 2, 2013

Toward the beginning of the 2012 comedy 21 Jump Street, Officer Jenko (Channing Tatum), a onetime cool kid, gives his partner some advice as they prepare to infiltrate the ranks of the cool kids at Sagan High. “You gotta one-strap it,” Jenko chides Officer Schmidt (Jonah Hill). Schmidt, a onetime nerd, is two-strapping—wearing his backpack over both shoulders. That is not, warns Jenko, what cool kids do.

\This advice may sound obvious to all cool kids of a certain age, but when the officers make their debut at school, times have changed. Jenko’s attitude—“I don’t care about anything,” he announces—has gone out of style. The cool kids are into diversity, environmentalism, and, worst of all, trying. And symbolizing this generational sea change: “Everybody’s two-strapping it,” notes Schmidt...

Families Brace As Millions In Food Stamp Cuts Set In
Jeff Cox, CNBC.com | Families Brace As Millions In Food Stamp Cuts Set In | November 2, 2013

Benefit cuts to food stamp recipients kick in Friday, a move by Congress that will siphon $5 billion off a program that helps one in seven Americans put breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table.

As president of the Food Bank for New York City, Margaret Purvis expects those cuts will draw even more people to organizations that already provide 400,000 meals a day to hungry city folks.

"Our members are panicking," she said as time wound down before the benefit decreases go into effect. "We're telling everyone to make sure that you are prepared for longer lines."...