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.

Japanese Flying Squid's Abilities Confirmed, Speed Measured By Scientists
Jacqueline Howard, The Huffington Post | Japanese Flying Squid's Abilities Confirmed, Speed Measured By Scientists | February 9, 2013

There have been numerous sightings of a certain type of Japanese squid "flying" above the ocean's surface, and now scientists have offered an explanation.

How does the Japanese flying squid catch air? It releases a high-pressured water jet for propulsion, and then spreads its fins like wings to glide above the water, according to a new study from marine biologists at Hokkaido University...

Pakistani Militant, Price On Head, Lives In Open
Declan Walsh, The New York Times | Militant, Price On Head, Lives In Open | February 7, 2013

Ten million dollars does not seem to buy much in this bustling Pakistani city. That is the sum the United States is offering for help in convicting Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, perhaps the country’s best-known jihadi leader. Yet Mr. Saeed lives an open, and apparently fearless, life in a middle-class neighborhood here.

“I move about like an ordinary person — that’s my style,” said Mr. Saeed, a burly 64-year-old, reclining on a bolster as he ate a chicken supper. “My fate is in the hands of God, not America.”

Mr. Saeed is the founder, and is still widely believed to be the true leader, of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which more than 160 people, including six Americans, were killed. The United Nations has placed him on a terrorist list and imposed sanctions on his group. But few believe he will face trial any time soon in a country that maintains a perilous ambiguity toward jihadi militancy, casting a benign eye on some groups, even as it battles others that attack the state...

Phillip Lopate's Book Bag: The Essay Tradiiton
Phillip Lopate, The Daily Beast | Phillip Lopate's Book Bag: The Essay Tradiiton | February 7, 2013

I did not come to essay writing immediately, but fell in love with the form after fiddling around with fiction and poetry, even publishing books in those two genres. In time I came to see the essay as so capacious and flexible that it could accommodate the storytelling impulse of fiction and the associative, quicksilver moves of poetry, enabling me to draw on my training in both. But this is how it first came about. By chance I happened on a Selected Essays of William Hazlitt in the bookcase of a summer bungalow I was renting in Wellfleet, and the passionate, hot-headed Hazlitt turned me on to his gentle, humorous friend Charles Lamb and their literary forerunner, Michel de Montaigne, and by then I was hooked. Virginia Woolf came next, with her dazzling, sensuous essays and literary criticism. She too wrote about Montaigne and Hazlitt, because all the great essayists seem to refer to, draw strength from, and converse with one another...

The NRA vs. America
Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone | The NRA vs. America | February 6, 2013

Eleven days after the massacre, Wayne LaPierre – a lifelong political operative who had steadied the National Rifle Association through many crises – stood before an American flag and soberly addressed the nation about firearms and student safety: "We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, period," LaPierre said, carving out a "rare exception" for professional law enforcement. LaPierre even proposed making the mere mention of the word "guns" in schools a crime: "Such behavior in our schools should be prosecuted just as certainly as such behavior in our airports is prosecuted," LaPierre said.

This speech wasn't delivered in an alternate universe. The date was May 1st, 1999, at the NRA's national convention in Denver. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's rampage at Columbine High School in nearby Littleton, Colorado, had just killed 13 students and teachers, shocking the conscience of the nation...

All US Farms Now Have Superweeds
Tom Philpott, Mother Jones | Nearly Half Of All US Farms Now Have Superweeds | February 6, 2013

Last year's drought took a big bite out of the two most prodigious US crops, corn and soy. But it apparently didn't slow down the spread of weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), used on crops engineered by Monsanto to resist it. More than 70 percent of all the the corn, soy, and cotton grown in the US is now genetically modified to withstand glyphosate.

Back in 2011, such weeds were already spreading fast. "Monsanto's 'Superweeds' Gallop Through Midwest," declared the headline of a post I wrote then. What's the word you use when an already-galloping horse speeds up? Because that's what's happening. Let's try this: "Monsanto's 'Superweeds' Stampede Through Midwest."...

Football's Death Spiral
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon | Football's Death Spiral | February 5, 2013

If baseball is, or at least used to be, a languidly paced sport played on an asymmetrical greensward that recalls America’s agrarian past, football is an industrial product of the modern age. Confined to a precisely measured rectangle that mimics the electronic screen, football plays out in staccato bursts of violence, interrupted by commentary and meta-commentary, near-pornographic slow-motion replays and scantily clad young women selling you stuff. Though I’m not sure that the commercials during the Super Bowl, or any lesser football game, really have much to do with consumer products as such. Instead, they’re selling an idea, the idea of the sort of person you must be if you’re watching the game: Funny, alert, sexually alive, a bit self-mocking, surrounded by friends and endlessly loyal to football, to America and to television.

Also, you’re apparently the kind of person who enjoys watching men do irreversible damage to each other’s brains. A bit of a buzzkill, I know...

Moon Man: What Galileo Saw
Adam Gopnik | Moon Man: What Galileo Saw | February 5, 2013

Although Galileo and Shakespeare were both born in 1564, just coming up on a shared four-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday, Shakespeare never wrote a play about his contemporary. (Wise man that he was, Shakespeare never wrote a play about anyone who was alive to protest.) The founder of modern science had to wait three hundred years, but when he got his play it was a good one: Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo,” which is the most Shakespearean of modern history plays, the most vivid and densely ambivalent. It was produced with Charles Laughton in 1947, during Brecht’s Hollywood exile, and Brecht’s image of the scientist as a worldly sensualist and ironist is hard to beat, or forget. Brecht’s Galileo steals the idea for the telescope from the Dutch, flatters the Medici into giving him a sinecure, creates two new sciences from sheer smarts and gumption—and then, threatened by the Church with torture for holding the wrong views on man’s place in the universe, he collapses, recants, and lives on in a twilight of shame...

Raid Of The Day: The 39th & Dalton Edition
Radley Balko, The Huffington Post | Raid Of The Day: The 39th & Dalton Edition | February 5, 2013

"This is war."

And with that, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates launched "Operation Hammer" in the spring of 1988. Like a lot of overly aggressive anti-crime initiatives, the plan was a response to a real problem. Gang violence had swept Los Angeles. The rising popularity of crack cocaine had created a new black market. The main thing new markets do is unsettle existing markets. With legal goods, the new order eventually gets established with innovation, customer service, efficiency, and the quality of the competing products. With illicit goods, the new order is established with violence...

Super Bowl Commercials 2013
The Huffington Post | Super Bowl Commercials 2013 | February 4, 2013

Super Bowl commercials are no longer merely filler between the plays. Oreo, Doritos and the rest of the Super advertisers all may have felt like they had as much on the line as the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers when Super Bowl XLVII kicked off.

The trend of early releases and teases continued this year, with Kate Upton RSVPing to your Super Bowl party days before the Harbaugh brothers arrived at the Superdome on Sunday. Despite getting a sneak peek at several ads, Super Bowl viewers eagerly turned their attention -- and Twitter commentary -- toward the television at each stoppage in play yet again this year...

WATCH below to see this year's slate of Super Bowl commercials...

Remains Of King Richard III Identified
Eliza Mackintosh, The Washington Post | Remains Of King Richard III Identified | February 4, 2013

A team of archaeologists confirmed Monday that ancient remains found under a parking lot belong to long-lost King Richard III, successfully ending a search that sparked a modern-day debate about the legacy of the reputed tyrant.

Details of the findings were released hours after DNA tests came in late Sunday. The 500-year-old remains were discovered five months ago, using ancient maps and records to uncover the ruins of the old friary where Richard III was laid to rest...