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.

Poet-Bashing Police
Robert Hass, The New York Times Opinion | Poet-Bashing Police | November 20, 2011

Life, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies.  The deputy sheriffs, all white men, except for one young woman, perhaps Filipino, who was trying to look severe but looked terrified, had black truncheons in their gloved hands that reporters later called batons and that were known, in the movies of my childhood, as billy clubs...

Scientists Invent Lightest Material on Earth. What now?
Deborah Netburn, The Los Angeles Times | Scientists Invent Lightest Material on Earth. What now? | November 18, 2011

Scientists have invented a new material that is so lightweight it can sit atop a fluffy dandelion without crushing the little fuzzy seeds.

It's so lightweight, styrofoam is 100 times heavier...

Teaching Good Sex
Laurie Abraham, The New York Times Magazine | Teaching Good Sex | November 18, 2011

“First base, second base, third base, home run,” Al Vernacchio ticked off the classic baseball terms for sex acts. His goal was to prompt the students in Sexuality and Society — an elective for seniors at the private Friends’ Central School on Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line — to examine the assumptions buried in the venerable metaphor. “Give me some more,” urged the fast-talking 47-year-old, who teaches 9th- and 12th-grade English as well as human sexuality. Arrayed before Vernacchio was a circle of small desks occupied by 22 teenagers, six male and the rest female — a blur of sweatshirts and Ugg boots and form-fitting leggings...

Andrew Sullivan, American by Choice
Mark Warren, Esquire | Andrew Sullivan, American by Choice | November 18, 2011

A Catholic British intellectual becomes a revolutionary American...

Armed Groups Are on Rise in Syria, as Are Civil War Fears
Nada Bakri, The New York Times | Armed Groups Are on Rise in Syria, as Are Civil War Fears | November 18, 2011

For the second day in a row, deserters from the Syrian Army carried out attacks on symbols of the Assad government’s centers of power, targeting the youth offices of the ruling Baath Party on Thursday after firing rocket-propelled grenades on a military intelligence base on Wednesday, activists said...

A Moment of Beauty
Ron Rosenbaum, Slate | A Moment of Beauty | November 18, 2011

Consider this a public service. My gift to you, devoted readers. You will thank me! I’m offering a few precious moments of pure pleasure--one single song—that will take your mind off a world gone wrong. For all those starving for something to feel hopeful about...

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone | How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests | November 16, 2011

I have a confession to make. At first, I misunderstood Occupy Wall Street.

The first few times I went down to Zuccotti Park, I came away with mixed feelings. I loved the energy and was amazed by the obvious organic appeal of the movement, the way it was growing on its own. But my initial impression was that it would not be taken very seriously by the Citibanks and Goldman Sachs of the world...

Syria: Arab League Gives Syria Three Days
BBC News | Arab League Gives Syria Three Days | November 16, 2011

The Arab League has given Syria three days to "stop the bloody repression" of protesters and allow in teams of observers. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani said Syria faced sanctions if it did not co-operate. At a meeting of the Arab League in Morocco, he said diplomatic efforts were "close to the end of the road"...

Novelist Fights the Tide by Opening a Bookstore
Julie Bosman, The New York Times | Novelist Fights the Tide by Opening a Bookstore | November 16, 2011

After a beloved local bookstore closed here last December and another store was lost to the Borders bankruptcy, this city once known as the Athens of the South, rich in cultural tradition and home to Vanderbilt University, became nearly barren of bookstores. A collective panic set in among Nashville’s reading faithful. But they have found a savior in Ann Patchett, the best-selling novelist who grew up here...

Recruiting Veterans, Columbia Finds an Impressive Applicant Pool
Michael Winerip, The New York Times | Recruiting Veterans, Columbia Finds an Impressive Applicant Pool | November 15, 2011

Two years ago, in an effort to attract more veterans to Columbia, Curtis Rodgers, a dean of admissions, began recruiting at military bases. Almost immediately he noticed differences between the Marines and the typical 18-year-old Ivy League applicant. Marines are less aggressive. When Mr. Rodgers asked Sgt. Tiffani Watts at the end of a recent interview if she had any questions, the Marine answered, “I do, sir, but I don’t want to make you late for your next interview, sir.”...