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.

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."...

NSA Surveillance May Cause Breakup Of Internet, Warn Experts
Matthew Taylor, Nick Hopkins and Jemima Kiss, The Guardian | NSA Surveillance May Cause Breakup Of Internet, Warn Experts | November 2, 2013

The vast scale of online surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is leading to the breakup of the internet as countries scramble to protect private or commercially sensitive emails and phone records from UK and US security services, according to experts and academics.

They say moves by countries, such as Brazil and Germany, to encourage regional online traffic to be routed locally rather than through the US are likely to be the first steps in a fundamental shift in the way the internet works. The change could potentially hinder economic growth...

Ted Cruz's Dad Calls US A 'Christian Nation,' Says Obama Should 'Go Back To Kenya'

In April, Rafael Cruz, the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), spoke to the tea party of Hood County, which is southwest of Fort Worth, and made a bold declaration: The United States is a "Christian nation." The septuagenarian businessman turned evangelical pastor did not choose to use the more inclusive formulation "Judeo-Christian nation." Insisting that the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution "were signed on the knees of the framers" and were a "divine revelation from God," he went on to say, "yet our president has the gall to tell us that this is not a Christian nation…The United States of America was formed to honor the word of God." Seven months earlier, Rafael Cruz, speaking to the North Texas Tea Party on behalf of his son, who was then running for Senate, called President Barack Obama an "outright Marxist" who "seeks to destroy all concept of God," and he urged the crowd to send Obama "back to Kenya."...

Let Childhood Be
Alex Beam, The Boston Globe Opinion | Let Childhood Be | October 31, 2013

For years I wanted “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary; he’s 20 times more interesting and engaged than any columnist I read. Similarly, I wanted Bill Watterson, of “Calvin and Hobbes” fame, to win the Nobel Prize in Literature...

Who Was The Girl With The Pearl Earring?
Benjamin Binstock, Slate | Who Was The Girl With The Pearl Earring? | October 31, 2013

Johannes Vermeer’s iconic Girl With a Pearl Earring has arrived at the Frick Collection in New York, drawing unprecedented crowds. We might therefore ask: Who was she? Several authors, ranging from Marcel Proust’s friend the journalist Jean-Louis Vaudoyer to New Yorker writer Lawrence Weschler, have suggested she might be the artist’s eldest daughter, Maria. Many Vermeer scholars dismiss that notion as a Romantic anachronism, a projection onto an earlier period of a modern view of art as a reflection of the artist’s circumstances. In the wake of this denial, Tracy Chevalier’s novel Girl With a Pearl Earring provided an alternative, fictional answer: She was the family maid’s assistant, Griet (played by Scarlett Johansson in the film), who became Vermeer’s love interest.


But the evidence suggests Vermeer’s daughter Maria was his likely model and a crucial part of his art. More provocatively, I believe that Maria Vermeer was also a gifted artist who painted roughly one-fifth of the works currently assigned to her father...

Eeek, Snake! Your Brain Has A Special Corner Just For Them
Jon Hamilton, NPR | Eeek, Snake! Your Brain Has A Special Corner Just For Them | October 29, 2013

Anthropologist Lynne Isbell was running through a glade in central Kenya in 1992 when something suddenly caused her to freeze in her tracks. "I stopped just in front of a cobra," she says. "It was raised with its hood spread out."


Isbell, who is at the University of California, Davis, says she has spent the past couple of decades trying to understand how she could have reacted before her conscious brain even had a chance to think — cobra!...

The Acela Spy: The Shocking Things I've Learned By Eavesdropping On Amtrak

On Amtrak, powerful people talk loudly and spill secrets.


This is my conclusion based on five years’ field research commuting on Amtrak’s Acela between cities along the East Coast.

By now, you’ve heard about former NSA director Michael Hayden, who on Thursday talked nonstop to a reporter—on background—as the train went north from Washington, D.C. toward New York City. A few seats behind Hayden was Tom Matzzie, former Washington director of political group MoveOn.org, who started live-tweeting his eavesdropping...

Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock 'n' Roll
Ben Ratliff, The New York Times | Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock 'n' Roll | October 27, 2013

Lou Reed, the singer, songwriter and guitarist whose work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s had a major influence on generations of rock musicians, and who remained a powerful if polarizing force for the rest of his life, died on Sunday at his home in Amagansett, N.Y., on Long Island. He was 71...