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.

Inside Groupon: The Truth About The World's Most Controversial Company
Nicholas Carlson, Busines Insider | Inside Groupon: The Truth About The World's Most Controversial Company | November 2, 2011

It's August 2011, and Andrew Mason is agitated.

He's at his desk in the middle of Groupon's wide open, call center-style office in Chicago. His headphones are on. His brow is furrowed.

His company had been the darling of the business press for the past two years. Suddenly it's not. 

He can't hang on to a COO. The SEC is asking questions. Industry executives are calling him a ponzi schemer.  Early employees are demanding six-figure pay for 9 to 5 hours. One even filed a lawsuit. Merchant customers are screaming. And Mason and his board, having helped themselves to $900 million of cash that could have gone to the company, are are now being blasted for incompetence and greed.

What a turnabout from a few months earlier, when Groupon was the talk of Wall Street...

This Is How You Toast Misfortune
David Beaudette, Salon | This Is How You Toast Misfortune | November 2, 2011

In 2008, I was laid off from my job as a contractor and didn't know how I'd pay the bills. Then came my bright idea...

America's 'Oh Sh*t!' Moment
Niall Ferguson, The Daily Beast | America's 'Oh Sh*t!' Moment | November 1, 2011

In my view, civilizations don’t rise, fall, and then gently decline, as inevitably and predictably as the four seasons or the seven ages of man. History isn’t one smooth, parabolic curve after another. Its shape is more like an exponentially steepening slope that quite suddenly drops off like a cliff. If you don’t know what I mean, pay a visit to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas...

Decoding the Brain's Cacaphony
Benedict Carey, The New York Times | Decoding the Brain's Cacaphony | November 1, 2011

Everything was ready. The electrode was in place, threaded between the two hemispheres of a living cat’s brain; the instruments were tuned to pick up the chatter passing from one half to the other. The only thing left was to listen for that electronic whisper, the brain’s own internal code.

The amplifier hissed — the three scientists expectantly leaning closer — and out it came, loud and clear...

How the Potato Changed the World
Charles C. Mann, Smithsonian | How the Potato Changed the World | November 1, 2011

Brought to Europe from the New World by Spanish explorers, the lowly potato gave rise to modern industrial agriculture...

Cliinton Credited With Key Role in Success of NATO Airstrikes, Libyan Rebels
Joby Warrick, The Washington Post | Clinton Credited With Key Role in Success of NATO Airstrikes, Libyan Rebels | October 31, 2011

U.S. Officials and key allies are offering a detailed new defense of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's pivotal role in the approach that led to Moammar Gaddafi's fall -- both within a divided Cabinet and a fragile, assembled-on-the-fly international alliance...

'Occupy' Protest at St. Paul's Cathedral in London Divides Church
John F. Burns, The New York Times | 'Occupy' Protest at St. Paul's Cathedral in London Divides Church | October 31, 2011

In a city where demonstrations of every kind are part of the daily syncopation, there has rarely been any with quite the same potential for amplifying the protesters’ cause as the one that has settled in recently on the historic forecourt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, setting off a painful crisis of conscience for the Church of England ...

The Halloween Industry's Evolution To A $6 Billion Business
Alice Hines, AOL Daily Finance | The Halloween Industry's Evolution To A $6B Business | October 31, 2011

Looking for a last-minute costume isn't too tough these days. In strip malls across the country, temporary Halloween stores have popped up in vacant retail spaces like an orange-spotted rash. But back when Chuck Martinez was growing up in the 1970s, the idea of a store devoted entirely to Halloween was considered kind of crazy, or at best, a silly business plan...

Lunch With Donald Keene
David Pilling, Financial Times via Slate | Lunch With Donald Keene | October 30, 2011

Why the U.S. academic became a Japanese citizen...

A Sister's Eulogy for Steve Jobs
Mona Simpson, International Herald Tribune | A Sister's Eulogy for Steve Jobs | October 30, 2011

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother...