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.

The World's Worst War
Jeffrey Gettleman, The New York Times | The World's Worst War | December 20, 2012

Last month, as I was driving down a backbreaking road between Goma, a provincial capital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kibumba, a little market town about 20 miles away, I came upon the body of a Congolese soldier. He was on his back, half hidden in the bushes, his legs crumpled beneath him, his fly-covered face looking up at the sun. The strangest thing was, four years ago, almost to the day, I saw a corpse of a Congolese soldier in that exact same spot. He had been killed and left to rot just as his comrade would be four years later, in the vain attempt to stop a rebel force from marching down the road from Kibumba to Goma. The circumstances were nearly identical: a group of Tutsi-led rebels, widely believed to be backed by Rwanda, eviscerating a feckless, alcoholic government army that didn’t even bother to scoop up its dead...

Readers Weigh In After Newtown: Why Own A Gun?
Matthew DeLuca, The Daily Beast | Readers Weigh In After Newtown: Why Own A Gun? | December 19, 2012

In the wake of a horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., lawmakers and activists have come forward to demand a serious discussion about gun control in America. The National Rifle Association has been silent, while the president has said we have an “obligation” to try to prevent another massacre at the hands of a crazed gunman.

But who actually owns guns in America—and why? Surely, they can’t all be Adam Lanzas.

To find out, we asked our readers a simple question: Why do you own a gun? And if you don’t own a gun, why not?...
So You Think You Know The Second Amendment?
Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker | So You Think You Know The Second Amendment? | December 18, 2012

Does the Second Amendment prevent Congress from passing gun-control laws? The question, which is suddenly pressing, in light of the reaction to the school massacre in Newtown, is rooted in politics as much as law.

For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause. In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon...

I Am Facebook Friends With Ryan Lanza, Which Became A Problem
Matt Bors, Bors Blog | I Am Facebook Friends With Ryan Lanza, Which Became A Problem | December 18, 2012

I woke up late Friday morning and posted my latest comic before realizing no one would be talking about it or any other issue that day except the latest massacre unfolding before our eyes – this time involving children. Not “this time.” I mean “again.” As I had done not one week earlier when there was a mass shooting a few miles from my home in Portland, I watched the real time updates, trying to wrap my mind around being a part of the human race.


CNN named Ryan Lanza as the suspect before noon based on a police source. Within minutes, journalists at several outlets were not only reporting the name, but passing around a link to Ryan’s Facebook account. And people I knew were suddenly telling me, dude, you are Facebook friends with the suspect...

'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother': A Mom's Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America
Liza Long, The Blue Review via HuffPost Parents | 'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother': A Mom's Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America | December 17, 2012

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me...

Tradition Comforts Village Widows
Jessica Heffner, Dayton Daily News | Tradition Comforts Village Widows | December 14, 2012

At 31, lifetime Yellow Springs resident Ann Miles never knew Wheeling Gaunt or his legacy. But when she suddenly became a widow, the man who died more than 100 years ago became a comfort in her life.

“You can’t plan a tragedy. It was really rough. I was a housewife (with two kids) when my husband passed,” Miles said.

When she got a call that the village’s utility department would deliver flour and sugar to her door, she didn’t know what to think. But she understood what it meant to receive kindness from a stranger — one who’s been offering it for the past 118 years.

The tradition dates back to a deal struck between Gaunt, a former slave, and the village in 1894...

Justice Antonin Scalia In Hot Water Again Over Homosexual Comments
Paul Campos, The Daily Beast | Justice Antonin Scalia In Hot Water Again Over Homosexual Comments | December 13, 2012

Back in 2004, Justice Antonin Scalia was participating in a panel discussion at NYU Law School when the subject of his famously scathing dissent in Lawrence v. Texas came up. One year earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled in Lawrence that the Constitution prohibits criminalizing sodomy between consenting adults, overturning recent precedent and saying, effectively, that gay men and lesbians couldn’t have their sex lives treated as criminal activity.

As he often is when the subject relates to gay rights, Scalia was furious, writing: “so imbued is the Court with the law profession’s anti-anti-homosexual culture, that it is seemingly unaware that the attitudes of that culture are not obviously ‘mainstream’; that in most States what the Court calls ‘discrimination’ against those who engage in homosexual acts is perfectly legal.”...

Ravi Shankar, Prolific Indian Sitarist, Dies At 92
Allan Kozinn, The New York Times | Ravi Shankar, Prolific Indian Sitarist, Dies At 92 | December 12, 2012

Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitarist and composer whose collaborations with Western classical musicians as well as rock stars helped foster a worldwide appreciation of India’s traditional music, died Tuesday in a hospital near his home in Southern California. He was 92.

Mr. Shankar had suffered from upper respiratory and heart ailments in the last year and underwent heart-valve replacement surgery last Thursday, his family said in a statement. Mr. Shankar, a soft-spoken, eloquent man whose performance style embodied a virtuosity that transcended musical languages, was trained in both Eastern and Western musical traditions. Although Western audiences were often mystified by the odd sounds and shapes of the instruments when he began touring in Europe and the United States in the early 1950s, Mr. Shankar and his ensemble gradually built a large following for Indian music.

His instrument, the sitar, has a small rounded body and a long neck with a resonating gourd at the top. It has 6 melody strings and 25 sympathetic strings (which are not played but resonate freely as the other strings are plucked). Sitar performances are partly improvised, but the improvisations are strictly governed by a repertory of ragas (melodic patterns representing specific moods, times of day, seasons of the year or events) and talas (intricate rhythmic patterns) that date back several millenniums...

In 'Zero Dark Thirty,' She's The Hero; In Real Life, CIA Agent's Career Is More Complicated

She was a real-life heroine of the CIA hunt for Osama bin Laden, a headstrong young operative whose work tracking the al-Qaeda leader serves as the dramatic core of a Hollywood film set to premiere next week. Her CIA career has followed a more problematic script, however, since bin Laden was killed. The operative, who remains undercover, was passed over for a promotion that many in the CIA thought would be impossible to withhold from someone who played such a key role in one of the most successful operations in agency history.

She has sparred with CIA colleagues over credit for the bin Laden mission. After being given a prestigious award for her work, she sent an e-mail to dozens of other recipients saying they didn’t deserve to share her accolades, current and former officials said. The woman has also come under scrutiny for her contacts with filmmakers and others...

Rising Tide Of Noise Is Now Easy To See
William J. Broad, The New York Times | A Rising Tide Of Noise Is Now Easy To See | December 11, 2012

When a hurricane forced the Nautilus to dive in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” Captain Nemo took the submarine down to a depth of 25 fathoms, or 150 feet. There, to the amazement of the novel’s protagonist, Prof. Pierre Aronnax, no whisper of the howling turmoil could be heard.

“What quiet, what silence, what peace!” he exclaimed.

That was 1870.

Today — to the dismay of whale lovers and friends of marine mammals, if not divers and submarine captains — the ocean depths have become a noisy place. The causes are human: the sonar blasts of military exercises, the booms from air guns used in oil and gas exploration, and the whine from fleets of commercial ships that relentlessly crisscross the global seas. Nature has its own undersea noises. But the new ones are loud and ubiquitous...