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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.

Madoff and his Models
Ron Chernow, The New Yorker | Madoff and his Models | October 28, 2011

In financial history, Ponzi schemes—the fraudulent enterprise of paying off old investors with money collected from new ones—are the most peculiar of crimes. Before they are detected, they seem exquisitely pleasing to perpetrators and victims alike. The fraud appears to be a bountiful gift that the confidence trickster, a generous soul and a financial wizard to boot, has bestowed upon a grateful world. Investors frequently revere the schemer, endowing him with magical properties. The schemer, in turn, may come to believe that his scheme isn’t altogether shady and that he will someday generate the sensational returns advertised. For the duration of a Ponzi scheme, it may seem like a victimless crime. Not surprisingly, when the impostor is exposed, the victims experience profound hurt and disillusionment, having trusted implicitly in the schemer against a chorus of naysayers...

The Reign of the One Percenters
Christopher Ketcham, Orion Magazine | The Reign of the One Percenters | October 28, 2011

Income inequality and the death of culture in New York City...

Libya's Sexual Revolution
Ellen Knickmeyer, Foreign Policy | Libya's Sexual Revolution | October 28, 2011

When it comes to love, Muammar al-Qaddafi's Libya was unlucky for unmarried 33-year-old truck driver Ahmed Nori Faqiar. His looks would have benefited if his parents could ever have sprung for a dentist. Lack of means forced him to live unhappily at his childhood home well into adulthood. Marriage, a home of his own, kids -- all are dreams that the wiry Libyan had long ago steeled himself to stop hoping for...

China Reins in Liberalization of Culture
Sharon Lafraniere, Michael Wines and Edward Wong | China Reins in Liberalization of Culture | October 27, 2011

Political censorship in this authoritarian state has long been heavy-handed. But for years, the Communist Party has tolerated a creeping liberalization in popular culture, tacitly allowing everything from popular knockoffs of “American Idol”-style talent shows to freewheeling microblogs that let media groups prosper and let people blow off steam. Now, the party appears to be saying "enough."...

Neil Gaiman, Gloria Steinem, and Other Writers Weigh in on Occupy Wall Street

Earlier this month, the writer Jeff Sharlet emailed novelist Salman Rushdie to suggest a petition for writers who support Occupy Wall Street. Rushdie loved the idea. So Sharlet enlisted the help of fellow journalist Kiera Feldman, plus the assistance of literary magazines n + 1 and Tin House. The website for Occupy Writers went live on October 13. At first a petition and list of signatories, the site soon began publishing: poems by Alice Walker, prose by Francine Prose, and more...

Lethal Virus From Salmon Farms Seen In Wild Sockeye
Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle | Lethal Virus From Salmon Farms Seen In Wild Sockeye | October 27, 2011

The discovery in British Columbia of an infectious virus that has devastated salmon farms on the East Coast, in Europe and Chile has alarmed conservationists, some of whom blame the aquaculture industry, but fishery scientists say it is too early to panic...

China Takes a Loss to Get Ahead in the Business of Fresh Water
Michael Wines, The New York Times | China Takes a Loss to Get Ahead in the Business of Fresh Water | October 26, 2011

Towering over the Bohai Sea shoreline on this city’s outskirts, the Beijiang Power and Desalination Plant is a 26-billion-renminbi technical marvel: an ultrahigh-temperature, coal-fired generator with state-of-the-art pollution controls, mated to advanced Israeli equipment that uses its leftover heat to distill seawater into fresh water.

Herman Cain and the Top 10 Most Bizaare Political Ads
Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post | Herman Cain and the Top 10 Most Bizarre Political Ads | October 26, 2011

The whole political world is talking about an odd political Web ad released by Herman Cain’s presidential campaign...

Occupy Oakland: Clashes Last Into Night After Pre-Dawn Radi On Encampment
Kristin J. Bender, Scott Johnson, Sean Maher and Cecily Burt and Angela Woodall, Oakland Tribune | Occupy Oakland: Clashes Last Into Night After Pre-Dawn Radi On Encampment | October 26, 2011

Occupy Oakland demonstrators clashed all over downtown Oakland on Tuesday night with police who lobbed tear gas at least three times in futile attempts to fully disperse the more than 1,000 people who took to the streets after the early-morning raid of the movement's encampment...

Papers From Iraqi Archive Reveal Conspiratorial Mind-Set of Hussein
Michael R. Gordon, The New York Times | Papers From Iraqi Archive Reveal Conspiratorial Mind-Set of Hussein | October 26, 2011

On Nov. 15, 1986, Saddam Hussein gathered his most senior aides for an important strategy session. Two days earlier, President Ronald Reagan had acknowledged in a televised address that his administration had sent weapons and spare parts to Iran. “It can only be a conspiracy against Iraq,” said Mr. Hussein...