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.

In A West Bank Culture Of Conflict, Boys Wield The Weapon At Hand
Jodi Rudoren, The New York Times | In A West Bank Culture Of Conflict, Boys Wield The Weapon At Hand | August 5, 2013

Muhammad Abu Hashem, 17, was sleeping in a sleeveless undershirt when the Israeli soldiers stormed into his home here at 4 a.m. on the second Monday in July. As they led him away moments later, Muhammad’s mother rushed after with a long-sleeved shirt: they both knew it would be cold in the interrogation room.

It was Muhammad’s fourth arrest in three years for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and settlers. His five brothers — three older and two younger — have all faced similar charges. Last year, three Abu Hashem boys, and their father, were in prison at the same time...

The 60-Foot-Long Jet-Powered Animal You've Probably Never Heard Of
R.R. Helm, Deep Sea News | The 60-Foot-Long Jet-Powered Animal You've Probably Never Heard Of | August 2, 2013

If the Borg and the Clone Wars had a baby it would be a pyrosome. One long pyrosomes is actually a collection of thousands of clones, with each individual capable of copying itself and adding to the colony. And unlike members of the Borg, which are  mentally connected, pyrosome members are physically connected– actually sharing tissues. And while the Borg live in a big scary ship, pyrosomes are the big scary ship. The whole colony is shaped like a giant thimble with a point on one end and an opening on the other, and in some species this opening can be up to 6 feed (2 meters) wide– large enough to fit a full grown human inside...

Why Companies Are Turning To Meditation And Yoga To Boost The Bottom Line

As a half-dozen women filter into a yoga studio on a recent afternoon, passing glowing candles and Buddhist statuary, they absorb the ethereal voice of a woman crooning praises to the earth via a boombox set on a bare wooden floor. They sit on yoga mats, gaze toward foliage outside and draw in a collective breath, echoing the instructor leading this midday meditation class.

They are not here on vacation. Nor are they at a spa or a gym. For the women gathered here, this is part of the workday at Promega Corp., a biotech company on the outskirts of this university town. They are here on company time, paying rates heavily subsidized by their employer, because the people running Promega have concluded that meditation classes -- along with yoga, ubiquitous fitness centers, workspaces infused with natural light, and healthy meals -- contribute to a happier, healthier working experience. And happier, healthier workers make for a stronger business...

BronyCon 2013 Brings Thousands of 'My Little Pony' Lovers To Baltimore
Adam Gutekunst and Dustin Levy, The Baltimore Sun | BronyCon 2013 Brings Thousands of 'My Little Pony' Lovers To Baltimore | August 1, 2013

Hundreds of "My Little Pony" collectibles cover Steve Lucia's bedroom — plush toys, comic books, trading cards and T-shirts. It is a sea of pink and purple, a shrine to a TV show originally intended for young girls.

But Lucia is a 25-year-old man, an electrician who lives in a Pasadena duplex and has what he calls a "healthy obsession."

"Being in the construction industry, there are guys who sit around and talk about women all day long," Lucia said. "I go home and wrap myself in ponies."

There are thousands of 20-somethings who share Lucia's love of the TV show "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic." Called "bronies" (a mash-up of "bro" and "pony"), they not only collect official paraphernalia from the show but also create their own characters (called cosplay), art and even music...

The Ticktock Of The Death Clock
Steven Petrow, The New York Times | The Ticktock Of The Death Clock | August 1, 2013

With every new silver hair sprouting from my scalp, I can’t help but think of the shortening arc ahead of me. Now in my mid-50s, for the first time I’m no longer looking up, over and beyond. Rather, my trajectory points downward at the approaching horizon. In this frame of mind, I recently found myself at DeathClock.com, the “Internet’s friendly” — if not scientific — “reminder that life is slipping away … second by second.” After I completed the short questionnaire, the Death Clock’s algorithm quickly did the math, concluding: “Your personal day of death is Wednesday, April 23, 2031.”..

Loner Sought A Refuge, And Ended Up In War
John M Broder and Ginger Thompson, The New York Times | Loner Sought A Refuge, And Ended Up In War | July 31, 2013

Feeling outcast and alone in Iraq, Bradley Manning, then a 22-year-old Army private, turned to the Internet for solace in early 2010, wanting to share with the world what he saw as the unconscionable horrors of war, an act that resulted in what military prosecutors called one of the greatest betrayals in the nation’s history...

Good Jill, Bad Jill: The Queen Of The New York Times
Lloyd Grove | Good Jill, Bad Jill | July 31, 2013

April was an unusual, if not the cruelest, month for New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who in September will mark two years on the job. On Monday afternoon, April 15, Abramson—who, at 59, is the first woman to serve as top editor in the Times’ 160-year history—had barely begun savoring the four Pulitzer Prizes that her staff had just won (this year’s biggest haul, by far, for any journalistic outlet) when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. Pulling an all-nighter at one point in the third-floor newsroom of the Times’ Renzo Piano–designed Manhattan skyscraper, she presided over a breathless week of “flooding the zone” (as one of her predecessors, Howell Raines, liked to say), while her reporters and editors managed to avoid the sort of embarrassing errors committed by the Associated Press, CNN, and even the Times Co.–owned Boston Globe.

Then, the night of April 23, Politico—the Washington trade paper that aims to “drive the conversation”—published a story suggesting that Abramson’s young editorship was already a failure...

Mythbusters: Obamacare Edition
David Nather, Politico | Mythbusters: Obamacare Edition | July 30, 2013

There are a lot of wild stories about Obamacare that make the debate sound like a fact-free zone.

No, the IRS isn’t going to be posting your medical tests all over the Internet. No, people’s premiums aren’t doubling in the crucial swing state of Ohio. And no, the Obamacare “data hub” isn’t like a new version of the NSA, spying on your hemorrhoids instead of your phone calls.

Those are all claims that are muddying the waters as consumers get ready to sign up for Obamacare for the first time in October. On the other hand, not all of the stories that are swirling around the health care law these days are completely far-fetched. And the Obama administration is spinning some rosy scenarios of its own...

Sexism And Abuse Isn't Only On Twitter: One Woman's Gaming Experience
Charles Arthur, The Guardian | Sexism And Abuse Isn't Only On Twitter: One Woman's Gaming Experience | July 30, 2013

While the extent of aggressive abuse on Twitter has recently hit the headlines – and led the company to issue a statement insisting it hears the complaints – the problems with outright sexism and misogyny are not limited to online blogging or social networks. One commenter on the Guardian, who uses the pseudonym TheIneffableSwede, described her experiences as a player in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)...

13th Century Alleyways And A Modern Plague Of Illegal Renovations
Sue-Lin Wong, The New York Times | 13th Century Alleyways And A Modern Plague Of Illegal Renovations | July 30, 2013

Wang Xue stood in the middle of his courtyard house, next to a pomegranate tree. It could have been a scene out of a Tang dynasty poem but for the sound of a jackhammer and a layer of construction dust that thinly caked the rows of potted plants and vine-covered awnings.

“The weather is warm, and with that comes construction season,” Mr. Wang, 53, said with a grimace at his home northeast of Tiananmen Square, in the middle of a Beijing neighborhood still filled with hutongs, or traditional Chinese alleyways.

Beijing’s courtyard homes and hutongs have been disappearing rapidly since China opened its economy in the 1980s, robbing the capital of some of its character...