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.

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...

The Death Of Co-Author Of 'Three Cups Of Tea' Is Ruled Suicide
Michael Daly, The Daily Beast | The Death Of Co-Author Of 'Three cups Of Tea' Is Ruled Suicide | December 11, 2012

On Wednesday, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office reached an official determination that David Oliver Relin took his life on Nov. 15 by stepping in front of a freight train outside Portland, Ore. The 49-year-old coauthor of the bestseller-turned-controversy Three Cups of Tea is said to have driven to the Corbett Hill Road exit of Interstate 84 and left his car in a parking area beside the railroad tracks that run along the Columbia River. Nearby is a forested area where he had once read to his wife, schoolteacher Dawn Relin, the earliest pages of the book that would become a blessing before it became a blindsiding curse. “The look on her lovely fire lit face that evening in the Salmon-Huckleberry-Wilderness when I read her the first few completed chapters,” David Relin recalled in the book’s acknowledgments.


In the aftermath of his suicide, Relin’s family said through his literary agent only that he suffered from depression. That struggle could not have been made easier by seeing his first book soar on the strength of his talent and hard work and love of words and attention to detail and lifelong passion for speaking truth for the powerless only to have it all smeared by scandal in which he seemed to have played no witting part...

Jenni Rivera, Mexico's Queen Of Banda, Dies In Plane Crash
Nina Strochlic, The Daily Beast | Jenni Rivera, Mexico's Queen Of Banda, Dies In Plane Crash | December 10, 2012

Jenni Rivera may not be a household name in the United States, but in our southern neighbor, the singer was a superstar. Not only had Rivera sold an astronomical 20 million albums, but the Mexican-American singer-songwriter was the star of a hit reality show that’s in its third season, and had a comedy in the works. The 43-year-old musical powerhouse recently had been named one of People en Español’s 25 most powerful women, not to mention one of the “50 Most Beautiful” people two years in a row...

Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012 -- His Music Gave Jazz New Pop
Ben Ratliff, The New York Times | Dave Brubeck, 1920-2012 -- His Music Gave Jazz New Pop | December 9, 2012

Dave Brubeck, the pianist and composer who helped make jazz popular again in the 1950s and ’60s with recordings like “Time Out,” the first jazz album to sell a million copies, and “Take Five,” the still instantly recognizable hit single that was that album’s centerpiece, died on Wednesday in Norwalk, Conn. He would have turned 92 on Thursday...