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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.

Whales' Grandeur and Grace, Up Close
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, The New York Times | Whales' Grandeur and Grace, Up Close | April 19, 2011

On a warm summer afternoon in 2005, Bryant Austin was snorkeling in the blue waters of the South Pacific by the islands of Tonga, looking through his camera at a humpback whale and her calf swimming less than 50 yards away. As he waited for the right moment, the playful calf swam right up to him, so close that he had to lower his camera. That’s when he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. Turning around, Mr. Austin found himself looking straight into the eye of the mother whale...

World's Best Blogger?
Jesse Kornbluth, Harvard Magazine | World's Best Blogger? | April 19, 2011

It was noon in Washington, D.C., when the shooting began in Tucson. Across the country, reporters and media executives rushed to cover the story of the gunman, the Congresswoman he shot at close range, and the 14 other victims. But the news couldn’t reach one of the Internet’s most important writers. For Andrew Sullivan, M.P.A. ’86, Ph.D. ’90, the editor of a blog called TheDish.com, the weekend is a time for rest, and having teed up on Friday afternoon a half-dozen evergreen posts for Saturday, he had turned off his communication devices and was sleeping in...

In This Fairy Tale, Not One, But Two Queens In Waiting
John F. Burns, The New York Times | In This Fairy Tale, Not One, But Two Queens In Waiting | April 19, 2011

When 1,900 invited guests take their coveted places in Westminster Abbey next week for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, one of the most uneasy seats in the 13th-century Gothic church may be the one occupied by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the longtime lover of Prince Charles, and since her marriage to the heir to the throne in 2005, the stepmother to William, Charles’s older son...

Dear Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary
Paul Collins, Slate | Dear Editors of the Oxford English Dictionary | April 18, 2011

In my more hopeful moments, I like to think that drunken frat brothers everywhere are quoting Beat poetry to each other. It would be a fine vindication of our educational system. And it seems to be the implication of the definition of shit-faced—which, along with the other shit compound words, lives in the OED between shish-kebab and shiv...

Eerie Hush Descends on Japan's Nuclear Zone
Daisuke Wakabayashi, The Wall Street Journal | Eerie Hush Descends on Japan's Nuclear Zone | April 18, 2011

n the Coin Laundry, a dryer is still loaded with clothes: an orange hooded sweatshirt, a green worker's vest and two pairs of jeans, damp and smelling of mildew. At Joe's Man restaurant near the train station, a menu lists the lunch specials, starting with bacon-and-eggplant pasta in a tomato-cream sauce. A flyer on the open doors of the Nishio clothes shop promotes a five-day "inventory clearance" sale. Over the road that runs through the town center, a white-and-blue sign proclaims: "Understanding Nuclear Power Correctly Will Lead to an Abundant Life." But life, by and large, is what is absent in this town, just a few miles away from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant...

After Storms, a Widespread Path of Death and Damage
Kim Severson, The New York Times | After Storms, a Widespread Path of Death and Damage | April 18, 2011

The terrified look in one of her employee’s eyes was the first clue Terri Rodriguez had that something was terribly wrong Saturday afternoon...

Christa McAuliffe: How Her Legacy Lives On
Nancy Atkinson, The Christian Science Monitor | Christa McAuliffe: How Her Legacy Lives On | April 17, 2011

Christa McAuliffe never had the chance to fulfill her dream of teaching from space and in the aftermath of the accident, her lesson plans were filed away by NASA with sadness and grief...

Smithsonian's 'Made in America' Mandate Not Easy To Achieve
Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post | Smithsonians's 'Made in America' Mandate Not Easy To Achieve | April 17, 2011

Virginia craftsman Byron Whitehurst designs the polystone busts of American presidents that line the shelves of a gift shop at the National Museum of American History. Priced at $20 each, the trinkets are a favorite among tourists, who buy about 1,200 a year. But that was before a visiting senator picked up one of Whitehurst’s busts and noticed a small tag proclaiming “Made in China.” His angry reaction touched off a firestorm that has forced the Smithsonian to clear its shelves of many souvenirs and rethink how it stocks its popular gift shops...

Ten Die In Afghanistan Army Base Bombing

A Taliban suicide bomber wearing a military uniform hit an Afghan army base near the city of Jalalabad, the Afghan defence ministry said...

David Foster Wallace: The Last Audit
Tom McCarthy, The New York Times Book Review | David Foster Wallace: The Last Audit | April 15, 2011

It seems to me there are two ways of understanding the document assembled from a jumble of boxes, disks and printed or handwritten papers that, at the time of David Foster Wallace’s suicide in 2008, ran into the high hundreds of pages — a document that, conscientiously and intelligently whittled down by Wallace’s editor Michael Pietsch to 500-odd pages, is now being published under the title “The Pale King,” and, just as significantly, the subtitle “An Unfinished Novel.”...