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.

Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm
Jennifer Medina, The New York Times | Trigger Warnings | May 19, 2014

Should students about to read The Great Gatsby be forewarned about "a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence," as one Rutgers student proposed? Would any book that addresses racism -- like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Things Fall Apart -- have to be preceded by a note of caution? Do sexual images from Greek mythlogy need to come with a view-beware label? Colleges across the country this spring have been wrestling with student requests for what are known as "trigger warnings"...

The Mastermind Behind 'International Masturbation Month'
Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon | Masturbation Month | May 19, 2014

In honor of Masturbation Month, Salon talks to the pioneer of self-pleasuring who coined this quirky holiday...

Fox News' Divisive Race Strategy: How O'Reilly, Hannity And Coulter Intentionally Tore America Apart
Matthew W. Hughey and Gregory S. Parks | Divisive Race Strategy | May 19, 2014

False claims go unchallenged, racial fears are stoked -- and political scientists discover it helps GOP at polls...

How Barbara Walters Changed Everything
Jack Mirkinson, The Huffington Post | On Barbara Walters | May 16, 2014

Barbara Walters, who is retiring after 50 years in television today, has had the kind of career that sends writers to their thesauruses, scrabbling around to find another synonym for "legendary" or "pioneering" or "iconic." The scope of her professional life is nearly impossible to sum up coherently. But let's try...

How Cotton Balls Are Helping Darwin's Finches Fight Parasites
Sudeshna Chowdhury, The Christian Science Monitor | Helping Finches | May 15, 2014

Though famous for their ability to adapt, Darwin's finches – the roughly fourteen species of bird found on Ecuador's Galápagos Islands – cannot always cope with every threat, at least not without some help from humans. One of these threats, the nest fly Philornis downsi, is thought to be greatly contributing to the finches' decline. The adult parasites (which look like houseflies) lay their eggs in the nests of the finches, whose varied bill shapes helped inspire Darwin's theory of evolution. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the nestlings by sucking their blood...

Militiamen And Oath Keepers Drew Weapons, Threatened To Kill Each Other
David Neiwert, Southern Poverty Law Center | Weapons Drawn At Bundy's | May 15, 2014

The right-wing media tried to sell Americans on the idea that the antigovernment “Patriots”and militiamen who gathered to block the roundup of Cliven Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle in Nevada were well-meaning lovers of liberty. However, Bundy’s most ardent defenders have revealed themselves to be a volatile collection of hotheaded, paranoid men (and a few women) with big egos and even bigger guns.

The situation at the ranch, where armed militiamen and “Patriots” are camped out, has deteriorated so badly that competing factions apparently drew weapons on one another during heated arguments...

Cancer And Death By Radiation? Not From Fukushima
Jamnes Conca, Forbes | Fukushima Update | May 14, 2014

It's always amazing when a United Nations report that has global ramifications comes out with little fanfare. The latest one states that no on will get cancer or die from radiation released from Fukushima, but the fear and overreaction is harming people...

Silver Is The New Gold
Jon Nathanson, Slate | Sil Val & Boomers | May 14, 2014

Silicon Valley is finally taking notice of a $750 billion market: baby boomers.

Why Are You So Fearful, O Ye Of Little Faith?
Emily Bazelon, Slate | No Place To Hide | May 13, 2014

In the journalist Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden found a perfect match. I don't mean to slight the contributions of Laura Poltras and Barton Gellman, the other two journalists who first dug into Snowden's amazing and unprecedented trove of National Security Agency documents. Poltras was the one who realized Snowden was for real, and Gellman brought experience to the party. But Greenwald is the fighter -- the one you want in your corner when the world comes after you...

Red Wine's "Magic Ingredient" Resveratrol Has No Health Benefits
Joseph Stromberg, Vox Conversations | Resveratrol Nixed | May 12, 2014

For years, a hype machine has been pushing the chemical resveratrol, which is in red wine. Initially, resveratrol was identified as a possible explanation for the "French paradox" -- the surprising fact that, despite consuming high amounts of saturated fat, French people have much lower rates of heart disease than Americans. Soon, resveratrol was being hailed as a magic bullet against heart disease, cancer and aging...