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.

Pushing China's Limits On Web, If Not On Paper
Edward Wong, The New York Times | Pushing China's Limits On Web, If Not On Paper | November 7, 2011

When the novelist Murong Xuecun showed up at a ceremony here late last year to collect his first literary prize, he clutched a sheet of paper with some of the most incendiary words he had ever written. It was a meditation on the malaise brought on by censorship. “Chinese writing exhibits symptoms of a mental disorder,” he planned to say. “This is castrated writing. I am a proactive eunuch, I castrate myself even before the surgeon raises his scalpel.”...

With a Book, the Last Democrat in the White House Tries to Help the Current One
Jodi Kantor, New York Times / International Herald Tribune | With a Book, the Last Democrat in the White House Tries to Help the Current One | November 5, 2011

Last summer, as Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated the former president’s 65th birthday with a party at their rented Hamptons home, talk among their guests turned to President Obama’s travails over the debt crisis and doubts about his re-election. “I’m really trying to help him,” the white-haired former president said, shaking his head, “but he seems to have lost his narrative.” Starting Tuesday, that help will take its most public form yet, in the form of a new book by Mr. Clinton, titled “Back to Work,” that makes a case for confidence in government and Mr. Obama’s jobs bill...

Spontaneous Happiness: Our Nature-Deficit Disorder

Human beings evolved to thrive in natural environments and in bonded social groups. Few of us today can enjoy such a life and the emotional equilibrium it engenders, but our genetic predisposition for it has not changed. The term “nature-deficit disorder” has recently entered the popular vocabulary, though it has not yet made it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or been accepted by the medical community. It was coined by the author Richard Louv to explain a wide range of behavior problems in children who spend less time outdoors but now is invoked as the root cause of an even wider range of both physical and emotional ailments in people of all ages who are disconnected from nature...

Another Tibetan Nun Dies by Self-Immolation in China
Andrew Jacobs, The New York Times | Another Tibetan Nun Dies by Self-Immolation in China | November 4, 2011

A Buddhist nun in southwest Sichuan Province died Thursday after setting herself on fire, becoming the 11th Tibetan to embrace a grisly protest against Chinese rule and at least the sixth to die doing so...

Greek Farce May End In Cheers
John Cassidy, The New Yorke | Greek Farce May End In Cheers | November 4, 2011

It doesn’t seem likely now, but the Greeks, the Europeans, and even bemused Americans may well end up thanking George Papandreou, the perhaps soon-to-be-former Greek Prime Minister, for his self-destructive antics of earlier this week. In bringing the global financial markets to the brink of chaos with his call for a referendum on the latest Greek bailout plan, Papandreou, who faces a parliamentary vote of confidence later today, inadvertently provided a much-needed moment of clarity...

From a Jail Cell, Egyptian Blogger Decries Military Rule
Robert Mackey, The New York Times | From a Jail Cell, Egyptian Blogger Decries Military Rule | November 3, 2011

In an essay composed in a Cairo prison cell two days after he was detained for refusing to recognize the authority of a military prosecutor, a prominent Egyptian blogger and activist accused the country’s military rulers of “insolence.”...

Gloria Cain Stands By Her Man
Patricia Murphy, The Daily Beast | Gloria Cain Stands By Her Man | November 3, 2011

As Herman Cain struggled this week to remember, deny, and explain away allegations that he may have sexually harassed two employees as the head of the National Restaurant Association, one question has come up again and again—where is his wife?  And for that matter, who is his wife?...

War of the Economists
Michael Maiello, The Daily Beast | War of the Economists | November 3, 2011

Somebody from Norton should pass out copies of Nicholas Wapshott’s Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics at Occupy Wall Street and other similarly occupied financial hubs. It will, at the very least, help the protesters frame the debate, which is really about the relative merits of economic intervention or of sucking up the economic pain and letting the system heal itself...

Whales Putting On A Show Near Santa Cruz Beaches
Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle | Whales Putting On A Show Near Santa Cruz Beaches | November 2, 2011

A 200-pound man in a kayak has nothing on a 40-ton humpback whale hunting for breakfast, but that's not stopping dozens of sightseers from getting cozy with a pod that has strayed unusually close to shore near Santa Cruz. So far, no one's been hurt, but at least one sailboat was damaged this week when it struck a whale...

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...