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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.

Elizabeth Warren Strikes Fear Into Wall Street
Ben White, Politico | Elizabeth Warren Strikes Fear Into Wall Street | February 16, 2013

Some bankers hoped that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the liberal firebrand who helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would be subdued in her first term as she learned the ways of the Senate. Warren’s avoidance of the Beltway media appeared to stoke these hopes.

Well, forget it.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, came out blazing Thursday in her first high-profile appearance as a member of the Senate Banking Committee, ripping into regulators and starkly suggesting banks might be cooking their books...

"To get the gold, they will have to kill every one of us"
Alexander Zaitchik, Salon | "To get the gold, they will have to kill every one of us..." | February 16, 2013

The most-storied tribe in Ecuader prepares to fight as the government sells gold-laden land to China...

Of the thousands of “Avatar” screenings held during the film’s record global release wave, none tethered the animated allegory to reality like a rainy day matinee in Quito, Ecuador.

It was late January 2010 when a non-governmental organization bused Indian chiefs from the Ecuadorean Amazon to a multiplex in the capital. The surprise decampment of the tribal congress triggered a smattering of cheers, but mostly drew stares of apprehension from urban Ecuadoreans who attribute a legendary savagery to their indigenous compatriots, whose violent land disputes in the jungle are as alien as events on “Avatar’s” Pandora.

The chiefs — who watched the film through plastic 3-D glasses perched beneath feathered headdress — saw something else in the film: a reflection. The only fantastical touches they noticed in the sci-fi struggle were the blue beanstalk bodies and the Hollywood gringo savior. “As in the film, the government here has closed the dialogue,” a Shuar chief told a reporter after the screening. “Does this mean that we do something similar to the film? We are ready.”

In India, 'One Billion Rising' Resonates With Many
Niharika Mandhana, The New York Times | In India, 'One Billion Rising' Resonates With Many | February 13, 2013

The protests in Delhi demanding justice after the Dec. 16 gang rape may have wound down, but many women here, including Reecha Upadhyay, a 34-year-old filmmaker, continue to feel a “deep sense of outrage.”

“We can’t be on the streets physically every day, but surely there’s something we can do,” Ms. Upadhyay said in an interview Wednesday. “I felt the need to continue the movement to demand safety for women.”

On Thursday, as India participates in One Billion Rising, a global campaign that uses dance to call for an end to violence against women, Delhi will have a full day of events, including a flash mob, organized by Ms. Upadhyay and her small crew, at 5 p.m. on Parliament Street.

The international reaction to One Billion Rising, spearheaded by Eve Ensler, the author of “The Vagina Monologues,” has been strong: nearly 200 countries are expected to participate, and dance troupes are expected to pop up on street corners and at public squares around the world...

"Where Is Matt Damon?"
Erin Faulk, Slate | "Where Is Matt Damon?" | February 13, 2013

As the blizzard snowed in much of the northeast this past weekend, many of those stuck in their homes turned to Twitter for information, virtual company, and entertainment. In that last category, we especially enjoyed the story below, told by Erin Faulk. It's a self-consciously silly tale, presented here with all its digressions and interruptions. Just as Elliott Holt persuaded us that fiction could work on Twitter, we think this shaggy dog story shows hos hospitable the medium is to old-fashioned front-porch (or bar-room) storytelling...

The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden... Is Screwed
Phil Bronstein, Esquire | The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden... Is Screwed | February 12, 2013

The Shooter and the rest of the team made one last night run on the mock-up of the compound in North Carolina, then drove back to their homes and headquarters in Virginia for a brief break.

There were goodbyes to his wife and sleeping children. Normally she'd say, 'I'm fine, just go.' This time there was nothing fine about her. Like this would be the last time we'd see each other.

Saying goodbye is just horrible. I don't even want to talk about it... this is the last time I'm going to see these children.

The Shooter had bought himself $350 Prada sunglasses over the weekend, and much less expensive gifts for his kids. Which makes me a horrible father. But really, he just figured he'd die with some style on...

Ex-Virginia Executioner Becomes Opponent Of Death Penalty
Justin Jouvenal, The Washington Post | Ex-Virginia Executioner Becomes Opponent Of Death Penalty | February 11, 2013

Jerry Givens executed 62 people.

His routine and conviction never wavered. He’d shave the person’s head, lay his hand on the bald pate and ask for God’s forgiveness for the condemned. Then, he would strap the person into Virginia’s electric chair.

Givens was the state’s chief executioner for 17 years — at a time when the commonwealth put more people to death than any state besides Texas.

“If you knew going out there that raping and killing someone had the consequence of the death penalty, then why are you going to do it?” Givens asked. “I considered it suicide.”

As Virginia executed its 110th person in the modern era last month, Givens prayed for the man, but also for an end to the death penalty. Since leaving his job in 1999, Givens has become one of the state’s most visible — and unlikely — opponents of capital punishment...

Frank Ocean Can Fly
Jeff Himmelman, The New York Times Magazine | Jeff Himmelman, The New York Times Magazine | February 11, 2013

Frank Ocean did not want to ride in my rented Ford Fusion; that much was clear. After I parked the car, he met me outside his modernist apartment building in Los Angeles and led me to the garage where he rents three parking spots for three different BMWs. He was dressed casually — gray hoodie, jeans, high-top Vans with red laces, baseball cap — and he jumped lightly from the curb to the parking blocks as we walked toward his late-model blue BMW M3. Ocean no longer had driving privileges as a result of some recent violations, on top of which he was cited for marijuana possession a few weeks earlier. “You can drive,” he said, though I could tell that it was killing him.

At our first official interview earlier in the day, Ocean spent the first five minutes staring down at his phone. He didn’t so much as look up at me, as I made small talk with his managers and awaited his attention. Eventually he said, “Here’s what I think about music and journalism: The most important thing is to just press play.” He followed that with, “All in all, I just don’t trust journalists — and I don’t think it’s a good practice for me to trust journalists.”...

Sir Geoffrey Hill Is Our Greatest Living Poet
Peter Popham, New Statesman | Sir Geoffrey Hill Is Our Greatest Living Poet | February 11, 2013

It was in Afghanistan nearly 11 years ago that Geoffrey Hill came back to me. The war was the biggest story in the world: I was the Independent’s south Asia correspondent and, as the Taliban fled Kabul, I filed seven days a week. Meanwhile, colleagues were dropping like flies – four killed with the Northern Alliance, a personal friend and three others butchered on the road from Jalalabad. And all this among the untended debris of earlier wars, the blocks of buildings so shattered and hollowed by bombs and mortars that only their skeletons remained.

Everything – the treeless hills, the hovels in which people lived, the smashed-up university, the ubiquitous weapons – compounded the impression of a land degraded and debased by centuries of abuse by mischievous foreigners. And here we were, glad forward party for the next lot.

In all my years out of England, I had never been homesick but now I got it bad. And nostalgia attacked me in an odd way – peppering my brain with snippets of half-remembered verse by the poet who, with blazing eyes, had lectured us on Shakespeare when I was an undergraduate at the University of Leeds...

Japanese Flying Squid's Abilities Confirmed, Speed Measured By Scientists
Jacqueline Howard, The Huffington Post | Japanese Flying Squid's Abilities Confirmed, Speed Measured By Scientists | February 9, 2013

There have been numerous sightings of a certain type of Japanese squid "flying" above the ocean's surface, and now scientists have offered an explanation.

How does the Japanese flying squid catch air? It releases a high-pressured water jet for propulsion, and then spreads its fins like wings to glide above the water, according to a new study from marine biologists at Hokkaido University...

Pakistani Militant, Price On Head, Lives In Open
Declan Walsh, The New York Times | Militant, Price On Head, Lives In Open | February 7, 2013

Ten million dollars does not seem to buy much in this bustling Pakistani city. That is the sum the United States is offering for help in convicting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, perhaps the country’s best-known jihadi leader. Yet Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.

“I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.”

Mr. Saeed is the founder, and is still widely believed to be the true leader, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 160 people, including six Americans, were killed. The United Nations has placed him on a terrorist list and imposed sanctions on his group. But few believe he will face trial any time soon in a country that maintains a perilous ambiguity toward jihadi militancy, casting a benign eye on some groups, even as it battles others that attack the state...