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.

On Richard Thompson And Cul De Sac
R.C. Harvey, The Comics Journal | On Richard Thompson And Cul De Sac | September 24, 2012

Richard Thompson, the creator of Cul de Sac, is reluctantly retiring from daily comic stripping, effective in September. The last Cul de Sac will be published on Sunday, September 23. Lee Salem, speaking for Thompson’s syndicate, Universal Uclick, explained in a letter to subscribing newspapers:

On September 9, 2007, the remarkable talent of Richard Thompson hit the newspaper pages in the comic strip Cul de Sac. The buzz began even before the strip debuted; Bill Watterson emerged from his retirement to praise the strip’s writing, artwork and imagination. In May, 2011, Richard received the Reuben, the Cartoonist of the Year award from the National Cartoonists Society, an amazing achievement in so short a time. But the last year has been a struggle for Richard. Parkinson’s Disease, first diagnosed in 2009, has so weakened him that he is unable to meet the demands of a comic strip. For a time, he worked with another artist, but the deadlines became too much of a task. So it is with personal and professional sadness that I inform you he has decided to end Cul de Sac.

In accompanying notes and in a subsequent interview with ComicRiffs’ Michael Cavna, Thompson added some details...

America's Dangerous Tech Gap
Chelsea Clinton, The Daily Beast | America's Dangerous Tech Gap | September 24, 2012

Although the term “digital divide” is generally associated with the 1990s, multiple digital divides still exist today.

“Digital divide” first referred to the unequal distribution of personal computers and Internet access in the mid-1990s after eye-popping technology growth. Between 1991 and 1996, the number of personal computers in the U.S. grew by more than 3,000 percent, from 300,000 to more than 10 million, and access to the Internet rose by more than 1,300 percent. In 1996, 64 percent of schools had access to the Internet, but students attending schools in poorer districts and in majority-minority schools were much less likely to have access to computers or the Internet; a majority of minority students had no computer with Internet access at home (PDF)...

A Letter To My Friend Glen Doherty
Brandon Webb, The New York Times | A Letter To My Friend Glen Doherty | September 23, 2012

Glen A. Doherty, a security contractor and former member of the Navy SEALs, was killed in Libya on Sept. 12, 2012, while defending the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya. During a memorial service for Mr. Doherty and the three other Americans killed in the attack — the Ambassador J. Christopher StevensTyrone S. Woods and Sean Smith — President  Obama said of Mr. Doherty: “He believed that his life he could make a difference, a calling that he fulfilled as a Navy SEAL…in Benghazi, as he tended to others, he laid down his life, loyal as always, protecting his friends.”

Mr. Doherty’s best friend and former SEAL Team 3 comrade, Brandon Webb, has written a goodbye letter that we are publishing in full...

The Steve Jobs Of Useless Plastic Trinkets
Will Oremus, Slate | The Steve Jobs Of Useless Plastic Trinkets | September 23, 2012

Steve Jobs once told my graduating class to "stay foolish." I've rarely met anyone who embodies that advice as much as Bre Pettis, founder of the Brooklyn-based home 3-D printing startup MakerBot. If anything, Pettis embodies it more than Jobs himself, who wasn't too foolish to build Apple into the most profitable company in the world. It’s unlikely Pettis will ever do the same, but there’s still something Jobs-like about this ebullient former middle-school art teacher, puppeteer, and assistant at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in London. Pettis has now moved on to run the most influential company in the "3-D printing revolution"—whatever that might turn out to be...

Mugglemarch: J.K. Rowling Writes A Realist Novel For Adults
Ian Parker, The New Yorker | Mugglemarch: J.K. Rowling Writes A Realist Novel For Adults | September 23, 2012

The conifer hedges in front of J. K. Rowling’s seventeenth-century house, in Edinburgh, are about twenty feet tall. They reach higher than the street lamps in front of them, and evoke the entrance to the spiteful maze in the film adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the fourth volume of her fantasy series. Rowling, who, at forty-seven, is about to publish her first novel for adults—it is set in a contemporary Britain familiar with Jay-Z and online pornography, but is shaded with memories of her own, quite cheerless upbringing—lives here with her second husband, Neil Murray, a doctor, and their children. She has a reputation for reserve: for being likable but shy and thin-skinned, and not at all comfortable with the personal impact of having created a modern myth, sold four hundred and fifty million books, and inspired more than six hundred thousand pieces of Harry Potter fan fiction, a total that increases by at least a thousand stories a week. Ian Rankin, the writer of Edinburgh-based crime novels, became friendly with Joanne Rowling when they were neighbors in another part of the city; he recently described her as “quite quiet, quite introspective.”...

Lynn Zwerling's Knitting Group For Male Prisoners Opens Up Their World
Mary Wittenburg, The Christian Science Monitor | Lynn Zwerling's Knitting Group For Male Prisoners Opens Up Their World | September 21, 2012

The first warden Lynn Zwerling approached with her idea recoiled as if she might bite. The second wouldn't meet with her. The third claimed to love the idea, then fell out of touch. Outrageous, said the fourth.

The fifth, Margaret Chippendale, at a minimum-security men's prison outside Baltimore, didn't have much hope for Ms. Zwerling's plan either.

"She brought the program to me and told me: 'Your inmates will get hooked. It will relax them, empower them,' " remembers Ms. Chippendale, a 40-year veteran of Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "And my gut reaction is: 'Lynn, I'm always looking for ways to do that, but I'm not sure I'm going to get a bunch of big, macho guys to sit around a table and knit.' "...

Brown-Warren Debate: Jabs Span From Tax Policy To Personal Character
Mark Trumbull, The Washington Post | Brown-Warren Debate: Jabs Span From Tax Policy To Personal Character | September 21, 2012

One of the hottest US Senate races in the nation got hotter Thursday night, as Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren appeared both self-assured and feisty in the first of several televised debates.

Ms. Warren put pressure on Senator Brown to defend his voting record as a Republican serving one of the most Democratic states in the nation. And she sought to put the race in the context of its larger stakes: A vote for Brown could help put other Republicans, with views much more conservative than his, in charge of the US Senate...

Happy Birthday, 'The Hobbit': The History of J.R.R. Tolkinen's Book
Corey Olsen, The Daily Beast | Happy Birthday, 'The Hobbit': The History of J.R.R. Tolkinen's Book | September 21, 2012

It's the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit. Corey Olsen, author of the new book Exploring J.R.R. Tolkine's The Hobbit, tells us the history of how the story of Bilbo Baggins changed even after the book was published. Plus, see Tolkien's beautiful illustrations for The Hobbit...

In Plain View: How Child Molesters Get Away With It
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker | In Plain View: How Child Molesters Get Away With It | September 19, 2012

In a 2001 book, “Identifying Child Molesters,” the psychologist Carla van Dam tells the story of a young Canadian elementary-school teacher she calls Jeffrey Clay. Clay taught physical education. He was well liked by his students, and often he asked boys in his class to stay after school, to do homework and help him with chores. One day, just before winter break, three of the boys made a confession to their parents. Mr. Clay had touched them under their pants.

The parents went to the principal. He confronted Clay, who denied everything. The principal knew Clay and was convinced by him. In his mind, what it boiled down to, van Dam writes, “is some wild imaginations and the three boys being really close.”

The parents were at a loss. Mr. Clay was beloved. He had started a popular gym club at the school. He was married and was a role model to the boys. He would come to their after-school games. Could he really have abused them?...

Review: Joseph Anton By Salman Rushdie
Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian | Review: Joseph Anton By Salman Rushdie | September 19, 2012

"Politics and literature," Salman Rushdie wrote in 1984, in what now seems an innocent time, "do mix, are inextricably mixed, and that … mixture has consequences." Criticising George Orwell for having advocated political quietism to writers, Rushdie asserted that "we are all irradiated by history, we are radioactive with history and politics" and that, "in this world without quiet corners, there can be no easy escapes from history, from hullabaloo, from terrible, unquiet fuss."

Five years later, his novel The Satanic Verses would be abruptly inserted into a series of ongoing domestic and international confrontations in the west and Muslim countries. Sentenced to death by an Iranian theocrat, Rushdie himself would embody the perils of mixing politics and literature in an interconnected and volatile world, where, as Paul Valéry once warned, "nothing can ever happen again without the whole world's taking a hand" and where "no one will ever be able to predict or circumscribe the almost immediate consequences of any undertaking whatever."...