From The Atlantic, Joshua Kucera is spooked: The spies who loved him; a street brawl in India brings down a global kidney-transplant ring; and a rooster crows in Portland: The heartbreak of urban chicken husbandry. Dani Rodrik on letting developing nations rule. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul is a scheme made famous by Charles Ponzi; who was this crook whose name graces this scam? Slate goes inside the world's most annoying economic crisis; a look at Tim Geithner's daunting to-do list at the Treasury Department; and here's an interactive guide to the bailout trillions. How the crisis gives the US new financial power. A Democratic Love Story: Why the party's fractious economic experts have finally united. More on Geoff Nicholson's The Lost Art of Walking. From The New York Times, a look at the Buzzwords of 2008. The Internet will be tamed: A recent conference between three of the country’s most prominent scholars examined how individual accountability may eventually settle the online Wild West. Getting away with murder: Why Rafiq al-Hariri's assassins may never be caught. An excerpt from Borges and the Eternal Orangutans by Luis Fernando Verissimo. A review of The Crime of Reason and the Closing of the Scientific Mind by Robert B. Laughlin. A review of Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America by Gustav Niebuhr (and more).

From Vanity Fair, George W. Bush defended harsh interrogations by pointing to intelligence breakthroughs, but a surprising number of counterterrorist officials say that, apart from being wrong, torture just doesn’t work; and here are four letters you won't find in the George W. Bush Library. From ResetDOC, Mahmoud Belhime on the slaves of oil. Lessons from the Great Inflation: Paul Volcker and Ronald Reagan's forgotten miracle created a quarter century of prosperity — and a dangerous bubble of complacency. A review of The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home by Jane Brocket. Can the ho’s speak? Black sex workers and the politics of deviance, defiance and desire. How to land a job in Obamaland: TNR's guide to beating the Washington feeding frenzy (and more on climbing the social ladder in Obama's Washington). Christopher Hitchens on the moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas. Dahlia Lithwick on Dick Cheney's unique gift for making hard questions easy and vice versa. Good readers are cannibals: Kurt Flasch's Kampfplatze der Philosophie strides across the battlefields of philosophy from Augustine to Voltaire. From Secular Web, from fundamentalist to freethinker: It all began with Santa. Group Think: Tel Aviv professor Yuval Shavitt melds math and sociology of the Internet to predict the next big thing in music

From Skeptic, an article on how to be psychic in ten easy steps. A review of The Plot to Kill God: Findings from the Soviet Experiment in Secularization by Paul Froese. A look at how lesser-known appointments can have great impact. What’s happening to the adult-entertainment industry is exactly what’s happening to its Hollywood counterpart — only worse. More and more on Left in Dark Times by BHL. Jack Shafer has unsolicited advice for David Gregory, upon taking the wheel at "Meet the Press". A review of Scarface Nation The Ultimate Gangster Movie and How It Changed America by Ken Tucker. A review of Suicide: The Hidden Side of Modernity by Christian Baudelot and Roger Establet Polity. Prostitution vs. war crimes: As Dick Cheney heads off into a luxury-filled and respectable retirement, outrage continues to be directed at the petty transgressions of Eliot Spitzer. Another great writer secretly collaborated with the Stalinists — a lasting poison explained. No matter how bad your holiday is, rest assured that it could have been far worse. Santa (tm): Does Father Christmas live in Finnish Lapland? What really killed the office party? Admit it: You’re feeling pretty jolly that you don’t have to suffer through one of life’s grimmest annual rituals. (Don't) keep your shirt on: Sexing the action hero, wherein putting all that enticing musculature on display isn’t just the cost of doing business.

From Newsweek, a cover story on The Story of Power: The study of power is not only diverting (which Homer and Shakespeare knew), but illuminating. From NYRB, a review of books on the war we don't want to see. Anatomy of a breakdown: Concerted government policy helped trigger the financial meltdown — and will almost certainly extend it. More and more and more on Panic! The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis. From The Immanent Frame, Akbar Ganji interviews Charles Taylor, author of Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited. Dark days ahead: Why Republicans need Xmas vacation. What happens in Washington when no one is afraid of anyone else? From The Atlantic, Henry Blodget on why Wall Street always blows it — and why we never learn from the last bubble; pop psychology: Why asset bubbles are a part of the human condition that regulation can’t cure; and “be nice to the countries that lend you money”: James Fallows interviews Gao Xiqing, America's Chinese banker (and more and more). The case for keeping score: A democracy index could push states toward more ambitious electoral reforms. and Emily Bazelon, David Iglesias, Dahlia Lithwick, Joseph Rich, and Stuart Taylor Jr. set the table for Obama's Justice Department. A report finds post-Katrina, white vigilantes shot African-Americans with impunity.