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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.

Earth Music: The Great Animal Orchestra, by Bernie Krause
Jeremy Denk, The New York Times Book Review | Earth Music: The Great Animal Orchestra, by Bernie Krause | April 13, 2012

Instead of visiting the zoo, spend some time in the native habitat of your local symphony orchestra. You will meet the badgering bass player, whose disparaging wisecracks you cannot quite hear; the flustered, quivering flutist who just wishes the oboist would play in tune (the feeling is mutual); and many other creatures, docile and gruff. Bernie Krause’s new book, “The Great Animal Orchestra,” is not about this beastly symphony; it is about the symphony of beasts that surrounds us, a vast orchestra in the process of being silenced, perhaps even more endangered than our human animal orchestras.

Sweden's New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen
Mathalie Rothschild, Slate | Sweden's New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen | April 12, 2012

By most people’s standards, Sweden is a paradise for liberated women. It has the highest proportion of working women in the world, and women earn about two-thirds of all degrees. Standard parental leave runs at 480 days, and 60 of those days are reserved exclusively for dads, causing some to credit the country with forging the way for a new kind of nurturing masculinity. In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world. But for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral...

The Great Oasis
Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker | The Great Oasis | April 12, 2012

Can a wall of trees stop the Sahara from spreading?...

Georgian Billionaire Storms K Street
Anna Palmer, Politico | Georgian Billionaire Storms K Street | April 12, 2012

A Georgian billionaire has taken Washington by storm, hiring more than half a dozen lobbying and public relations firms over the past three months.

Bidzina Ivanishvili wants to become an official candidate in the country’s first prime minister race and he hopes that U.S. pressure for free and fair elections will help, since that could be a step toward Georgia’s long-held goal of being recognized by NATO...

In Poppy War, Taliban Aim to Protect a Cash Crop
Taimoor Shah and Alissa J. Rubin | In Poppy War, Taliban Aim to Protect a Cash Crop | April 12, 2012

So focused are the Taliban on securing this year’s opium poppy crop — and the support of the farmers tending it — that in the early days of their spring offensive in the south, they are targeting not only the officials trying to eradicate the plants, but also the tractors they use...

Matt Groening Reveals the Location of the Real Springfield
Claudia De La Roca, Smithsonian Magazine | Matt Groening Reveals the Location of the Real Springfield | April 11, 2012

Twenty-five years after The Simpsons made their TV debut, the show's creator talks about Homer's odyssey -- and his own...

Announcing Our Newest Hire: A Current Fox News Channel Employee

I always intended to keep my mouth shut. The plan was simple: get hired, keep my head down and my views to myself, work for a few months, build my resume, then eventually hop to a new job that didn't make me cringe every morning when I looked in the mirror.

That was years ago. My cringe muscles have turned into crow's feet. The ten resumes a month I was sending out dwindled into five, then two, then one, then zero. No one wants me. I'm blacklisted.

I work at Fox News Channel...

Obama's JOBS Act Couldn't Suck Worse
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone | Obama's JOBS Act Couldn't Suck Worse | April 11, 2012

Boy, do I feel like an idiot. I've been out there on radio and TV in the last few months saying that I thought there was a chance Barack Obama was listening to the popular anger against Wall Street that drove the Occupy movement, that decisions like putting a for-real law enforcement guy like New York AG Eric Schneiderman in charge of a mortgage fraud task force meant he was at least willing to pay lip service to public outrage against the banks.

Then the JOBS Act happened...

Bush Aide Blasts Torture
Jordan Michael Smith, Salon | Bush Aide Blasts Torture | April 10, 2012

The Bush administration hasn’t heard the last from Philip Zelikow. After the rediscovery last week of his long lost 2006 anti-torture memo, Zelikow, a former State Department official, has written arguably the most damning article yet about U.S. government’s interrogation policies from 2001 to 2009. The article, called “Codes of Conduct for a Twilight War,” will be released in a forthcoming issue of the Houston Law Journal, and was obtained exclusively by Salon. Says Zelikow in an email: “I’m not aware of other accounts that combine historical, policy and legal approaches to” the subject of the Bush administration’s interrogation methods...

Cruisin' Together: A Classicist and His Father Retrace the Steps of Odysseus
Daniel Mendelsohn, Travel & Leisure, via Slate | Cruisin' Together: A Classicist and His Father Retrace the Steps of Odysseus | April 10, 2012

In the end, we never got to Ithaca—never followed “in the wake of Odysseus,” as the brochure for the cruise had promised; at least, not all the way to this most famous of literary destinations, Ithaca (Itháki in modern Greek), the small and rocky island of which Homer sings, and where Odysseus had his famously gratifying homecoming. We saw much that he had seen: Troy, where his war ended and his wanderings began; Malta, where he was imprisoned by the nymph Calypso for seven years; Sicily, where his sailors were devoured by Scylla; the Neapolitan coast, which the ancients believed was close to the entrance to the underworld. But Ithaca turned out to be unattainable. For the hero of legend, that island was the culminating adventure; for us, on our Mediterranean cruise, there were just the inconveniences of modern politics—in this case, a strike that forced us to make a mad nighttime dash for Athens to catch our flights home...