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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.

Decoding the Brain's Cacaphony
Benedict Carey, The New York Times | Decoding the Brain's Cacaphony | November 1, 2011

Everything was ready. The electrode was in place, threaded between the two hemispheres of a living cat’s brain; the instruments were tuned to pick up the chatter passing from one half to the other. The only thing left was to listen for that electronic whisper, the brain’s own internal code.

The amplifier hissed — the three scientists expectantly leaning closer — and out it came, loud and clear...

How the Potato Changed the World
Charles C. Mann, Smithsonian | How the Potato Changed the World | November 1, 2011

Brought to Europe from the New World by Spanish explorers, the lowly potato gave rise to modern industrial agriculture...

Cliinton Credited With Key Role in Success of NATO Airstrikes, Libyan Rebels
Joby Warrick, The Washington Post | Clinton Credited With Key Role in Success of NATO Airstrikes, Libyan Rebels | October 31, 2011

U.S. Officials and key allies are offering a detailed new defense of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's pivotal role in the approach that led to Moammar Gaddafi's fall -- both within a divided Cabinet and a fragile, assembled-on-the-fly international alliance...

'Occupy' Protest at St. Paul's Cathedral in London Divides Church
John F. Burns, The New York Times | 'Occupy' Protest at St. Paul's Cathedral in London Divides Church | October 31, 2011

In a city where demonstrations of every kind are part of the daily syncopation, there has rarely been any with quite the same potential for amplifying the protesters’ cause as the one that has settled in recently on the historic forecourt of St. Paul’s Cathedral, setting off a painful crisis of conscience for the Church of England ...

The Halloween Industry's Evolution To A $6 Billion Business
Alice Hines, AOL Daily Finance | The Halloween Industry's Evolution To A $6B Business | October 31, 2011

Looking for a last-minute costume isn't too tough these days. In strip malls across the country, temporary Halloween stores have popped up in vacant retail spaces like an orange-spotted rash. But back when Chuck Martinez was growing up in the 1970s, the idea of a store devoted entirely to Halloween was considered kind of crazy, or at best, a silly business plan...

Lunch With Donald Keene
David Pilling, Financial Times via Slate | Lunch With Donald Keene | October 30, 2011

Why the U.S. academic became a Japanese citizen...

A Sister's Eulogy for Steve Jobs
Mona Simpson, International Herald Tribune | A Sister's Eulogy for Steve Jobs | October 30, 2011

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother...

Lynda Barry Will Make You Believe In Yourself
Dan Kois, The New York Times Magazine | Lynda Barry Will Make You Believe In Yourself | October 30, 2011

Here are some details about Lynda Barry that didn’t appear in her autobiographical song. She’s a cartoonist whose weekly strip, “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” was a staple of alternative newsweeklies for almost 30 years. (Next month, the publisher Drawn & Quarterly will release “Blabber Blabber Blabber,” the first in a 10-volume retrospective series of her work.) She dips Copenhagen tobacco and fights against wind farms. She e-mails stupid YouTube links to her old buddy Matt Groening, the creator of “The Simpsons.”...

Democracy Wins in Tunisia
Rep. Jane Harman, The Daily Beast | Democracy Wins in Tunisia | October 29, 2011

From peaceful revolution to free elections in just nine months, the birthplace of the Arab Spring has achieved a stunning transition. Now we must embrace the victors and ensure strong roles for women, former representative Jane Harman says from Tunis...

Euro Bailout: An Animated Explanation
Tom Meltzer, The Guardian | Euro Bailout: An Animated Explanation | October 29, 2011

Are you confused about what the Euro bailout actually is? So were we! Tom Meltzer tries to explain with the help of his animated friends...