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.

Thousands Mourn Former King Sihanouk In Cambodian Capital
Thomas Fuller, The New York Times | Thousands Mourn Former King Sihanouk In Cambodian Capital | October 17, 2012

Tens of thousands of mourners packed the roadsides of here in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to witness the final return of Norodom Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who was a pivotal figure through much of the country’s troubled recent history.

The body of King Sihanouk, who died on Monday in China, arrived from Beijing on Wednesday aboard an Air China jumbo jet and was driven through the streets of Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, under a scorching tropical sun.

“He was the father, and we are the children,” said Pich Ravy, a vegetable seller who traveled to the Royal Palace, where King Sihanouk’s body will lie in state for the next three months. “He was one of Cambodia’s greatest kings.”...

Understanding Owls
David Sedaris, The New Yorker | Understanding Owls | October 16, 2012

Does there come a day in every man’s life when he looks around and says to himself, “I’ve got to weed out some of these owls”? I can’t be alone in this, can I? And, of course, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Therefore you keep the crocheted owl given to you by your second-youngest sister and accidentally on purpose drop the mug that reads “Owl Love You Always” and was sent by someone who clearly never knew you to begin with. I mean, mugs with words on them! Owl cocktail napkins stay, because everyone needs napkins. Ditto the owl candle. Owl trivet: take to the charity shop along with the spool-size Japanese owl that blinks his eyes and softly hoots when you plug him into your computer...

Former Sen. Arlen Specter, 82, Prioritized Law, Policy Over Party Affiliation

Arlen Specter served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 30 years, during which he served as a Democrat and Republican. As a moderate, he frequently ignored party lines, speaking his mind on issues from judicial appointments to health care reform and stimulus spending. Kwame Holman remembers Specter, who died from cancer at age 82..,

The Blackberry As Black Sheep
Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times | The BlackBerry As Black Sheep | October 16, 2012

Rachel Crosby speaks about her BlackBerry phone the way someone might speak of an embarrassing relative.

“I’m ashamed of it,” said Ms. Crosby, a Los Angeles sales representative who said she had stopped pulling out her BlackBerry at cocktail parties and conferences. In meetings, she says she hides her BlackBerry beneath her iPad for fear clients will see it and judge her...

Winsor McCay: Google's Amazing Doodle Celebrates 'Little Nemo In Slumberland' Cartoonist

Google has created its greatest animated Doodle ever to celebrate one of the greatest newspaper cartoonists and film animators ever.

The beautiful and brilliant interactive Doodle marks Monday’s 107th anniversary of the birth of “Little Nemo in Slumberland,” the visually unmatched fantasy strip created by Winsor McCay.

McCay’s genius has inspired a century of cartoonists -- everyone from Walt Disney to Maurice Sendak to Bill Watterson -- yet his accomplishments with the pen are appreciated by far too few. Comic Riffs can only hope that this Doodle causes millions to become curious to learn more.

“Unlike any comic strip before or since...,” wrote McCay’s biographer, John Canemaker, “Little Nemo” “represented a major creative leap, far grander in scope, imagination, color, design, and motion experimentation than any previous McCay comic strip” or those of his peers...

Damien Hirst Condemned For Killing 9,000 Butterlies In Tate Show
Roya Nikkah, The Telegraph | Damien Hirst Condemned For Killing 9,000 Butterflies In Tate Show | October 15, 2012

Even by Damien Hirst’s standards it was an unusual artwork – two windowless rooms swirling with live butterflies.

Visitors to the exhibit at the Tate Modern in London observed the insects close-up as they flew, rested, and fed on bowls of fruit.

But whilst the work, In and Out of Love, was praised by many art critics when it featured in the gallery’s Hirst retrospective earlier this year, it has now landed the artist in a row with the RSPCA.

Figures obtained from the Tate reveal that more than 9,000 butterflies died during the 23 weeks that the exhibition was open.

24 Miles, 4 Minutes and 834 M.P.H., All in One Jump
John Tierney, The New York Times | 24 Miles, 4 Minutes and 834 M.P.H., All in One Jump | October 15, 2012

A man fell to Earth from more than 24 miles high Sunday, becoming the first human to break the sound barrier under his own power — with some help from gravity.

The man, Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian daredevil, made the highest and fastest jump in history after ascending by a helium balloon to an altitude of 128,100 feet. As millions around the world experienced the vertiginous view from his capsule’s camera, which showed a round blue world surrounded by the black of space, he stepped off into the void and plummeted for more than four minutes, reaching a maximum speed measured at 833.9 miles per hour, or Mach 1.24...

Ryan's Biggest Debate Lie
Andrew Leonard, Salon | Ryan's Biggest Debate Lie | October 12, 2012

If the gods punished political candidates for chutzpah, there was one moment during the vice-presidential debate when a dozen lightning bolts from the hand of Zeus should have instantly fried Paul Ryan into cinders.

In the middle of an exchange on tax policy, Ryan looked at Biden and said, “You know, I understand you guys aren’t used to doing bipartisan deals…”

We’re all accustomed to unlimited portions of self-serving cant from our politicians, Democratic or Republican, but to hear a currently serving Republican member of Congress accuse the Obama administration of being insufficiently bipartisan...

The Backscratcher: Bob Woodward's Anti-Obama Bias
Noam Scheiber, The New Republic | The Backscratcher: Bob Woodward's Anti-Obama Bias | October 11, 2012

The most vivid scene in Bob Woodward’s new book has almost nothing to do with his central narrative, but reveals a lot about the narrator. The scene takes place in February of 2009, as Congress is laboring to ward off an economic collapse. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker, is hunkered down in her office with Harry Reid, her Senate counterpart, to negotiate a stimulus bill that can pass both chambers. This is no easy task. The bill must be modest enough to survive a Republican filibuster, but ambitious enough to satisfy Pelosi’s liberal caucus. But, then, these are veteran legislators—born deal-makers at that. They get to work with all the seriousness you’d expect....

In "Glittering" Return, Palia Lets Loose
Kerry Lauerman, Salon | In "Glittering" Regturn, Paglia Lets Loose | October 11, 2012

Camille Paglia, art historian, culture critic, founding Salon columnist and expert provocateur, has a new book out, “Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars” that looks closely at 29 wide-ranging works — paintings to sculpture to performance art to digital art — that she sees as defining works of art. And for the voluble and volatile Paglia, the lean precision of the book is a marvel...