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.

Whitney Houston's Invincible Voice
Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker | Whitney Houston's Invincible Voice | February 12, 2012

With the weird blend of investment and helplessness that typifies kin, we’ve watched Whitney Houston die in front of us, slowly and unmistakably, for more than a decade. Now that she is dead at the age of forty-eight, found at the Beverly Hilton, we face a new and weirder blend: the grief you feel for someone you didn’t really know but are unable to pretend you weren’t tied to, and the awkward truth that they’ve met the end you expected...

A Voice of Triumph, the Queen of Pain
Jon Caramanica. The New York Times | A Voice of Triumph, The Queen of Pain | February 12, 2012


Whitney Houston died a cautionary tale, but all cautionary tales were heroes once. That is how she arrived in the mid-1980s, a flawless vocalist singing impeccable songs and singlehandedly inserting gospel and classic-soul theatrics into mainstream pop. She was a sunbeam — radiant, perspective-altering, impossible to touch...

Go Vest, Young Man

Rick Santorum, the GOP presidential candidate from Pennsylvania, is known—as you’ve probably heard by now—for wearing a sweater vest. That sweater vest now has its own Twitter account, Facebook page, YouTube video, and fundraising campaign. The vest is everybody’s favorite fun fact about Santorum—but nobody seems to agree on what it’s actually doing for the politician...

Alien Technology Photographed On Mars
Donna D., BuzzFeed | Alien Technology Photographed On Mars | February 9, 2012

This is it! The proof we've been waiting for that non-indigenous life forms have visited Mars...

Pentagon to East Restrictions on Women in Some Combat Roles
Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post | Pentagon to East Restrictions on Women in Some Combat Roles | February 9, 2012

The Pentagon said Thursday that it would ease some restrictions on women serving in combat roles, a step that in part codifies the reality on the ground in Afghanistan, where commanders have stretched rules to allow women to support ground combat units. After a long-delayed review that had been ordered by Congress, the Defense Department said it would open about 14,000 combat-related positions that women had previously been excluded from — but would continue to prohibit them from serving in 238,000 other slots...

Newt or Schrute: The Quiz
Asawin Suebsaeng, Mother Jones | Newt or Schrute: The Quiz | February 9, 2012

In case you haven't heard, in his younger days former House Speaker Newt Gingrich looked an awful lot like Dwight Schrute*.

But the eerie similarities surely end there, right? I mean, one of them is mercurial, despised by his colleagues, in love with animals, obsessed with pop culture mythology and modern warfare, and wrapped up in an endless subplot involving a blonde love interest.

And the other one is Dwight Schrute...

In Rediscovered Letter From 1865, Former Slave Tells Old Master To Shove It
Trymaine Lee, Huffington Post | In Rediscovered Letter From 1865, Former Slave Tells Old Masyter To Shove It | February 7, 2012


In the summer of 1865, a former slave by the name of Jourdan Anderson sent a letter to his former master. And 147 years later, the document reads as richly as it must have back then.

The roughly 800-word letter, which has resurfaced via various blogs, websites, Twitter and Facebook, is a response to a missive from Colonel P.H. Anderson, Jourdan's former master back in Big Spring, Tennessee. Apparently, Col. Anderson had written Jourdan asking him to come on back to the big house to work...


Cuckoo's Nest At 50

It was 50 years ago Wednesday that Ken Kesey’s wildly acclaimed novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” burst onto the published page, but his widow, Faye Kesey McMurtry, knows exactly how long the writing took.

“It took the same length of time that it took for my pregnancy with Zane,” one of Ken and Faye’s three children, said McMurtry, who last year married another acclaimed author and longtime family friend, Larry McMurtry of “Lonesome Dove” fame. “Ken was collating the pages (to send to the publisher) while I was in labor.”...

Bingo In Swansea: Maya Arulpragasam's World
Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker | Bingo In Swansea: Maya Arulpragasam's World | February 6, 2012

"World music" is a category that does nobody any favors. Entirely disparate performers, like the dapper Brazilian singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso and the African blues guitarist Ali Farka Toure, get lumped together in American record stores simply because they don’t sing exclusively in English. Also, European and American pop have saturated the world to such an extent that Kylie Minogue and Tupac are now more world music than, say, the Malian singer Oumou Sangare. Finally, most of what you find in the world-music section tends toward the gentle, melodious, and uplifting, as if the world were that way...

After U.N. Veto, U.S. Floats Coalition on Syria
USA Today | After U.N. Veto, U.S. Floats Coaltion on Syria | February 6, 2012

The United States proposed an international coalition to support Syria's opposition Sunday after Russia and China blocked a U.N. attempt to end nearly 11 months of bloodshed, raising fears that violence will escalate. Rebel soldiers said force was now the only way to oust President Bashar Assad, while the regime vowed to press its military crackdown...