On paper, it's a tropical paradise: What if you built an island paradise and no one came? What would the Sahara desert look like if there were no human inhabitants? An excerpt from The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. An article on Kenya and the myth of African barbarism. Despite current troubles, Africa is still progressing. Pakistan is far from the chaotic disaster many Americans assume it is. A bit faded but still bright enough: In places where vibrant hues brought down bad rulers, the future still looks good. An interview with Chris Turner on The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need. Here are a few resolutions to hope, but not necessarily expect, that the world’s top leaders will make. Election mania is gripping the US; elsewhere in the world, here are five elections to watch in 2008.

From Comment is free, a series of articles on Simone De Beauvoir (and more on a thinker in a man's world). From Forward, gender matters: The Bell Curve of girliness. It's hard to cheer about the rash of new female-centric TV shows when the characters are so blatantly superficial, manipulative and stinking rich. Proof that domesticity has become a publishing trend are these five books, all aimed squarely at women. Caitlin Flanagan on sex and the teenage girl: The unfair truth of sexuality is this: female desire can bring with it a form of punishment no man can begin to imagine. How right-wing women benefit from promoting anti-feminist values, at the rest of our expense. From The Believer, an essay on Selling Sex in Honeymoon Heaven: Femininity, Niagara Falls and the Genuine Allure of an American Fake.

From The Claremont Institute, elections are about much more than an accumulation of polling data and short term trends; the big picture revolves around a different sort of question: taking a longer view, what is the state of the parties? From Writ, an article on fixing the broken presidential nomination process. Sex, race and Gen Y voters: Why younger citizens don't share the media's obsession over the electability of a woman or an African American. Merchants of trivia: Why do the media insist on reducing one of the most exciting presidential primary seasons in American history to a simple horse race? Matt Taibbi wants to know. Blowhards and windbags: The media's myopic obsession with campaign narratives over events of real significance does a disservice to the public.

From Academe, a review of Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education's Strategic Imperative by Judith M. Gappa, Ann E. Austin, and Andrea G. Trice; a review of Privilege and Diversity in the Academy by Frances A. Maher and Mary Kay Thompson Tetreault; and a review of The Art and Politics of Academic Governance: Relations among Boards, Presidents, and Faculty by Kenneth P. Mortimer and Colleen O'Brien Sathre. A review of How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation by Marc Bousquet. From AFT On Campus, are schools of education missing from the teacher quality movement? From the latest issue of Education Next, an article on American teachers: What values do they hold?

In recent years foreign media has been praising China for opening to the West and stimulating the world economy but it has been going global for centuries. A review of Return to Dragon Mountain by Jonathan Spence. Many scholars point out that Chinese hegemony is far from assured, and that in its climb to power it has disappointed new friends and attracted unsavory allies. The first chapter from Social States: China in International Institutions, 1980-2000 by Alastair Iain Johnston. Ian Buruma on China's dark triumph: The success of its economy poses a serious challenge to liberal democracy. James Fallows on the $1.4 trillion question: The Chinese are subsidizing the American way of life — are we playing them for suckers or are they playing us?

From Wired, the untold story of how the iPhone blew up the wireless industry. A review of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr (and more and more). The fuel of the Internet: While bloggers and print journalists lock horns over media hierarchies and journalistic standards, Web 2.0 is making Google a noiseless fortune. A look at how Wiki citizens are taking on a new area: Searching. Keeping it real: Why, in an age of free information, would anyone pay millions for a document? From TED, investor and prankster Yossi Vardi delivers a careful lecture on the dangers of blogging — specifically, um, for men. A look at how Facebook ads make you the star — and you may not know it. Best face forward: An article on effective social climbing, the Facebook way.

From Salon, an interview with Jonah Goldberg on Liberal Fascism, and more on cloudy fortunes for conservatism. From The Washington Monthly, David Greenberg on why conservatives hate Bush: It's not because he's an ideological heretic — it's because he's a loser; and a look at why Rudy Giuliani loves Norman Podhoretz. A review of They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons by Jacob Heilbrunn. An interview with Christopher Hitchens, the Mick Jagger of modern letters. A review of The Second Plane by Martin Amis. A review of In a Cardboard Belt! Essays Personal, Literary, and Savage by Joseph Epstein. Paul Johnson on what great statesmen have to teach us. Roger Scruton on the decline of laughter, and a review of Culture Counts: Faith and feeling in a world besieged.

The first chapter from Physicalism, or Something Near Enough by Jaegwon Kim. A review of Artificial Consciousness. Is it possible to be too aware of our own consciousness? A review of Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic. A review of The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness by Jeff Warren. A review of The Self?, ed. Galen Strawson. Don't just stand there, think: Research suggests that we think not just with our brains, but with our bodies. A review of The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge. A review of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink. An article on John Searle on the human mind and the nature of intelligence.

A review of The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomy by Bill Hayes (and more). A review of The Naked Man: A Study of the Male Body by Desmond Morris (and more). A review of Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body by Jennifer Ackerman. A review of Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin. A couple who sailed to America from England around 1630 may be the ancestors of many in the US at higher risk of a hereditary form of colon cancer. The new hygiene hypothesis: The microbes within us could explain rising allergy rates. It’s easy to hate viruses, but they have also repaid us in ways we are just beginning to tally. Here's a list of current genetic experiments most likely to destroy humanity.

From Technology Review, an article on the genetics of language: Researchers are beginning to crack the code that gives humans our way with words. Evolution of counting is no simple operation: When it comes to tallying objects, some modern languages have become less complex. Steven Pinker on The Moral Instinct: Evolution has endowed us with ethical impulses — do we know what to do with them? Only by conceiving of evolution as acting upon entire populations rather than individual organisms can we understand eusociality — the mysterious, seemingly "altruistic" behaviors exhibited by insects who forego reproduction in order to care for a colony's young, says Edward O. Wilson.