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.

Jaron Lanier: The Internet Destroyed The Middle Class
Scott Timberg, Salon | Jaron Lanier: The Internet Destroyed The Middle Class | May 13, 2013

Kodak employed 140,000 people. Instagram, 13. A digital visionary says the Web kills jobs, wealth -- even democracy.

Jaron Lanier is a computer science pioneer who has grown gradually disenchanted with the online world since his early days popularizing the idea of virtual reality. “Lanier is often described as ‘visionary,’ ” Jennifer Kahn wrote in a 2011 New Yorker profile, “a word that manages to convey both a capacity for mercurial insight and a lack of practical job skills.”

Raised mostly in Texas and New Mexico by bohemian parents who’d escaped anti-Semitic violence in Europe, he’s been a young disciple of Richard Feynman, an employee at Atari, a scholar at Columbia, a visiting artist at New York University, and a columnist for Discover magazine. He’s also a longtime composer and musician, and a collector of antique and archaic instruments, many of them Asian.

His book continues his war on digital utopianism and his assertion of humanist and individualistic values in a hive-mind world. But Lanier still sees potential in digital technology: He just wants it reoriented away from its main role so far, which involves “spying” on citizens, creating a winner-take-all society, eroding professions and, in exchange, throwing bonbons to the crowd...

This week sees the publication of “Who Owns the Future?,”

Bieber vs. Beethoven: A New Twist On Battle Rap
Dawn C. Chmielewski, The Los Angeles Times | Bieber vs. Beethoven: A New Twist On Battle Rap | May 13, 2013

YouTube hit 'Epic Rap Battles of History' meshes traditional contests of wit, rhyme and raw humor with the random collisions of characters real and fictional.

Comedian Lloyd Ahlquist steps onto the stage, girded for battle. Wearing the uniform of a Soviet officer, with medals dripping from his chest, he channels dictator Joseph Stalin and prepares to deliver a rhyming smackdown on Russia's mad monk, Grigori Rasputin.

The cameras roll, the music playback reverberates through the Culver City studio — then an unexpected glitch halts production on "Epic Rap Battles of History's" second-season finale. Ahlquist's thick mustache is obscuring his mouth, making it difficult to see him snarl such insults as "All your wizard friends: shot! Anyone who sold you pirogi: shot!"...

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.”...