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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.

Mystery Over The Seven-Mile Long 'Super Mega-Pod' Of 100,000 Dolphins Spotted Off The Coast Of San Diego

A group of over 100,000 dolphins spotted off the coast of San Diego caused a spectacle for nature watchers as they traveled together in an enormous pack.

'They were coming from all directions, you could see them from as far as the eye can see,' Joe Dutra said after seeing the spectacle first hand.

Mr Dutra, who captains Hornblower Cruises, was out on his daily tour with a boat full of nature watchers when he spotted the massive group of dolphins...

We Talk With God: What Evangelical Christians Hear
T.M. Luhrmann, The Daily Beast | We Talk With God: What Evangelical Christians Hear | February 18, 2013

Many evangelical Christians say they speak to God and he responds. Anthropologist M Luhrmann on what she learned about people who converse with the divine -- and how she came to hear his voice too.

I know what it is like to hear God speak. I am not a Christian. I am not even sure what I mean, speaking for myself, by the word “God.” But for 10 years I have been doing anthropological research among the sort of evangelical Christians who experience God as interacting with them. They believe that prayer is a conversation in which they talk to God and God talks back. They will say that God “told” them to do something—to talk to the stranger next to them on the bus, or move to Los Angeles. To other Christians, this can seem incomprehensible, even dangerous...

Cosmic Rays: Fermi Telescope Settles Mystery Of Origin
Jonathan Amos, BBC News | Cosmic Rays: Fermi Telescope Settles Mystery Of Origin | February 18, 2013

Scientists have conclusive proof that many cosmic rays raining down on Earth come from distant exploded stars.

Cosmic rays - mostly ultra-fast proton particles - would threaten life if not for the shielding of our planet's atmosphere and magnetic field. Nasa's Fermi telescope was used to study the very distinctive light that is produced when these protons crash into other particles in space. This allowed researchers to trace their source directly to ancient supernovas.

The study was led by Stefan Funk from Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory...

Meteorite Explodes Over Russie: Key Questions Answered
Stuart Clark, The Guardian | Meteorite Explodes Over Russia: Key Questions Answered | February 16, 2013

Hundreds of people in Chelyabinsk have been injured after a huge meteorite flared in the sky above the city, but what is it?...

Elizabeth Warren Strikes Fear Into Wall Street
Ben White, Politico | Elizabeth Warren Strikes Fear Into Wall Street | February 16, 2013

Some bankers hoped that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the liberal firebrand who helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would be subdued in her first term as she learned the ways of the Senate. Warren’s avoidance of the Beltway media appeared to stoke these hopes.

Well, forget it.

Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, came out blazing Thursday in her first high-profile appearance as a member of the Senate Banking Committee, ripping into regulators and starkly suggesting banks might be cooking their books...

"To get the gold, they will have to kill every one of us"
Alexander Zaitchik, Salon | "To get the gold, they will have to kill every one of us..." | February 16, 2013

The most-storied tribe in Ecuader prepares to fight as the government sells gold-laden land to China...

Of the thousands of “Avatar” screenings held during the film’s record global release wave, none tethered the animated allegory to reality like a rainy day matinee in Quito, Ecuador.

It was late January 2010 when a non-governmental organization bused Indian chiefs from the Ecuadorean Amazon to a multiplex in the capital. The surprise decampment of the tribal congress triggered a smattering of cheers, but mostly drew stares of apprehension from urban Ecuadoreans who attribute a legendary savagery to their indigenous compatriots, whose violent land disputes in the jungle are as alien as events on “Avatar’s” Pandora.

The chiefs — who watched the film through plastic 3-D glasses perched beneath feathered headdress — saw something else in the film: a reflection. The only fantastical touches they noticed in the sci-fi struggle were the blue beanstalk bodies and the Hollywood gringo savior. “As in the film, the government here has closed the dialogue,” a Shuar chief told a reporter after the screening. “Does this mean that we do something similar to the film? We are ready.”

In India, 'One Billion Rising' Resonates With Many
Niharika Mandhana, The New York Times | In India, 'One Billion Rising' Resonates With Many | February 13, 2013

The protests in Delhi demanding justice after the Dec. 16 gang rape may have wound down, but many women here, including Reecha Upadhyay, a 34-year-old filmmaker, continue to feel a “deep sense of outrage.”

“We can’t be on the streets physically every day, but surely there’s something we can do,” Ms. Upadhyay said in an interview Wednesday. “I felt the need to continue the movement to demand safety for women.”

On Thursday, as India participates in One Billion Rising, a global campaign that uses dance to call for an end to violence against women, Delhi will have a full day of events, including a flash mob, organized by Ms. Upadhyay and her small crew, at 5 p.m. on Parliament Street.

The international reaction to One Billion Rising, spearheaded by Eve Ensler, the author of “The Vagina Monologues,” has been strong: nearly 200 countries are expected to participate, and dance troupes are expected to pop up on street corners and at public squares around the world...

"Where Is Matt Damon?"
Erin Faulk, Slate | "Where Is Matt Damon?" | February 13, 2013

As the blizzard snowed in much of the northeast this past weekend, many of those stuck in their homes turned to Twitter for information, virtual company, and entertainment. In that last category, we especially enjoyed the story below, told by Erin Faulk. It's a self-consciously silly tale, presented here with all its digressions and interruptions. Just as Elliott Holt persuaded us that fiction could work on Twitter, we think this shaggy dog story shows hos hospitable the medium is to old-fashioned front-porch (or bar-room) storytelling...

The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden... Is Screwed
Phil Bronstein, Esquire | The Man Who Killed Osama Bin Laden... Is Screwed | February 12, 2013

The Shooter and the rest of the team made one last night run on the mock-up of the compound in North Carolina, then drove back to their homes and headquarters in Virginia for a brief break.

There were goodbyes to his wife and sleeping children. Normally she'd say, 'I'm fine, just go.' This time there was nothing fine about her. Like this would be the last time we'd see each other.

Saying goodbye is just horrible. I don't even want to talk about it... this is the last time I'm going to see these children.

The Shooter had bought himself $350 Prada sunglasses over the weekend, and much less expensive gifts for his kids. Which makes me a horrible father. But really, he just figured he'd die with some style on...

Ex-Virginia Executioner Becomes Opponent Of Death Penalty
Justin Jouvenal, The Washington Post | Ex-Virginia Executioner Becomes Opponent Of Death Penalty | February 11, 2013

Jerry Givens executed 62 people.

His routine and conviction never wavered. He’d shave the person’s head, lay his hand on the bald pate and ask for God’s forgiveness for the condemned. Then, he would strap the person into Virginia’s electric chair.

Givens was the state’s chief executioner for 17 years — at a time when the commonwealth put more people to death than any state besides Texas.

“If you knew going out there that raping and killing someone had the consequence of the death penalty, then why are you going to do it?” Givens asked. “I considered it suicide.”

As Virginia executed its 110th person in the modern era last month, Givens prayed for the man, but also for an end to the death penalty. Since leaving his job in 1999, Givens has become one of the state’s most visible — and unlikely — opponents of capital punishment...