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.

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...

Send This Hurricane Sandy Victim A Card, Please
Michael Daly, The Daily Beast | Send This Hurrican Sandy Victim A Card, Please | December 9, 2012

Take a moment and write a card to 87-year-old Patsy Roberts, the saintly matriarch of Rockaway, who saved the thousands of cards she received over the decades with the hope of reading them in her final hours—only to lose them all in Hurricane Sandy...

Nine Beers Americans No Longer Drink
Michael B. Sauter and Alexander E.M. Hess, 247 Wall St. | Nine Beers Americans No Longer Drink | December 9, 2012

After three years of declining sales, shipments of domestically sold beer are up by more than 1% in the United States this year. Sales of light beer and specialty beer, such as Budweiser Light Platinum, Shock Top, and Blue Moon, have been the driving force in the resurgence of U.S. breweries. While sales of specialty, craft, and small-market beers have improved dramatically, many of the traditional, full-calorie beers that were once the staples of most breweries have fallen behind. In the five years ending in 2011, sales of Budweiser, which was once the top-selling beer in the country for years, have fallen by 7 million barrels. Sales of Michelob are down more than 70%. Based on data provided by Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the nine large — or once-large — beer brands with a five-year decline in sales of 30% or more...

Hipsters Who Hunt
Emma Marris, Slate | Hipsters Who Hunt | December 6, 2012

I think the evolution of the new lefty urban hunter goes something like this:

2006: Reads Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, about the ickyness of the industrial food complex. Starts shopping at a farmer’s market.
2008: Puts in own vegetable garden. Tries to go vegetarian but falls off the wagon.
2009: Decides to only eat “happy meat” that has been treated humanely.
2010: Gets a chicken coop and a flock of chickens.
2011: Dabbles in backyard butchery of chickens. Reads that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to only eat meat he killed himself for a year.
2012: Gets a hunting permit, thinking “how hard can it be? I already totally dominate Big Buck Hunter at the bar.”

Hunting is undeniably in vogue among the bearded, bicycle-riding, locavore set. The new trend might even be partly behind a recent 9 percent increase from 2006 to 2011 in the number of hunters in the United States after years of decline. Many of these new hunters are taking up the activity for ethical and environmental reasons...