From Christianity Today, an article on the invasion of God: The so-called Christmas wars are much larger than we imagine. Many of the "PC gone mad!" stories about Christmas cards and cribs being outlawed are little more than rumours — so why do people believe them? From New Humanist, an article on the absurdity of referring to Christmas by alternative names; and Nightmare before Christmas: When Robin Ince was invited onto TV to debate the "de-Christianisation" of Christmas, the flawed arguments of Vanessa Feltz and Stephen Green were enough to leave him foaming at the mouth. From 10 Zen Monkeys, an article on Santa’s crimes against humanity. Here is a list of 10 classic toys (and why they suck). An interview with Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman. The igloo how-to: Tame the winter blues, impress your friends — eight steps to the perfect backyard snow shelter. Schroeder's dilemma: In the final analysis, the Christmas carol is neither high art nor popular claptrap; it is neither austerely sacred nor tritely popular; it is both timeless and timely, traditional and modern. Awry in a manger: It takes a miracle to stage this play in living nativity scenes, frisky goats steal show, Joseph takes a tumble. Do suicides really peak during the holidays? The Numbers Guy investigates.

From Prospect, lucre of the Irish: For the first time in Irish history, a big, indigenous moneyed class has emerged—the product of a long economic boom and a leap in property prices — how are the new rich changing the way the Irish see themselves—and their English neighbour? A review of Britain's Lost Cities by Gavin Stamp. A review of Scotland's Books: The Penguin History of Scottish Literature by Robert Crawford; Scotland: The Autobiography by Rosemary Goring; How the Scots Created Canada by Paul Cowan; Scottish Exodus by James Hunter; and The Guynd by Belinda Rathbone. The decline of the abstract noun: What a reduction in abstraction says about the new France. It's clear that the Danes have positioned themselves to take advantage of 21st-century global capitalism without sacrificing the qualities that make their country unique (and more). Slovenia at Europe’s helm: One of the European Union smallest countries faces big challenges as it assumes the union’s six-month presidency. The Gypsies, a Romanian problem: Romanians kicked up a mighty fuss about being discriminated against by the Italians but it's the pot calling the kettle black.

From Vanity Fair, the July deaths of New York artists Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake rocked their downtown crowd. Nancy Jo Sales finds that their love for each other was rivaled by a growing fear of the world around them. From Prospect, which cultural events—books, films, television shows, operas, plays, concerts—have been most overrated and underrated this year? How a UNICEF photo makes the West's heart ache: An 11-year-old child bride sits next to her 40-year-old fiance — for UNICEF, this was the Photo of the Year. The world according to Magnum: 60 years of iconic photography are celebrated in a comprehensive new book featuring stunning images and personal insights into those behind the lenses. A review of Photographs from Havana Deco by Martino Fagiuoli. Let the Starchitects work all the angles: A big name on the blueprint doesn’t mean sellout at play — it may mean visionary at work. A review of 30,000 Years of Art. A review of Travels With Van Gogh and the Impressionists: Discovering the Connections by Lin Arison. More on A Life of Picasso, Vol. III: The Triumphant Years 1917-32 by John Richardson.

From The Economist, a look at how energy pleas ignore an important bit of economics. A review of The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea by Steve LeVine. A last major field goes online — but how long will Siberia's gas last? An article on the Malthusian energy-trap, old Europe, and new China: The world's energy crisis may lead China to save as well as shake the world. Theories abound over how best to help China embrace emissions-reducing policies, but can the emerging superpower fast-forward through the most carbon-intense phase of nation building? From Scientific American, a solar grand plan by 2050: Solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions. From Technology Review, better biofuels are years away from the gas tank — but do we really have any alternative? Was Bali a success? Open Democracy writers and environmental specialists offer a first draft of history on the Bali deal, and who gains from global warming? Kenneth Arrow on the case for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. "Economic prediction" is an oxymoron: If we should make no attempt to blunt global warming, then Gristmill is the equivalent of a theological forum on angelology. From Communalism, Peter Staudenmaier on Anthroposophy and ecofascism. A review of Earthy Realism: The Meaning of Gaia by Mary Midgley. The year's 10 craziest ways to hack the Earth: An article on the most radical geo-engineering ideas yet.

From Scientific American, our intelligence has enabled us to conquer the world, and the secret for the big brains, says biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham, is cooking, which made digestion easier and liberated more calories (and more on cooking up big brains). Locavore, get your gun: Hunters need to push a new public image based on deeper traditions: we are stewards of the land, hunting on ground that we love, collecting food for our families. Our decrepit food factories: Michael Pollan on what sustainability is really about. The deep-fried truth: We should press big food companies to find safer, healthier and more environmentally sustainable methods of supplying our dinner tables. Junk Food County: Why many rural Americans can't get nutritious foods — the unhealthy truth about country living. The day the stars fell on Tokyo: The new Michelin Guide simply confirms a local belief in Japanese food superiority. The Joy of Cookbooks: Gift ideas for the foodie on your list, from notable chefs, food writers, and more.

From Post-Autistic Economics Review, Dani Rodrik (Harvard): World Too Complex For One-Size-Fits-All Models. A review of Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization by Nayan Chanda. A review of Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade by Rachel Louise Snyder. Martin Wolf on the dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy. Economics as eugenics: Philip Jenkins reviews Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World. What pendulums do: A review of The Mind and the Market: Capitalism and Modern European Thought by Jerry Muller. From TAP, an article on the conservative origins of the sub-prime mortgage crisis: Everything you ever wanted to know about the mortgage meltdown but were afraid to ask. From LRB, Cityphilia: John Lanchester on the credit crunch. An interview with Richard Bookstaber, author of A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation. From TLS, more on Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence.

From FT, a review of The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross; The Making of Music: A Journey With Notes by James Naughtie; This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession by Daniel Levitan; and Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks. From Wired, David Byrne and Thom Yorke discuss the real value of music; and here are David Byrne's survival strategies for emerging artists — and megastars. In Marseille, rap helps keep the peace. Rocking Lolita in Tehran: Iran’s underground music scene has more followers than ever, largely because Iranian musicians are performing on a new stage: the Internet. Is disdain for Celine Dion innate or learned, and what’s wrong with liking her music anyway? Music criticism 2.0: A maturing MP3 blogosphere grapples with the ethics, responsibility as its industry value swells.

From The Global Spiral, an essay on the majesty and misery of string theory. A review of Why Beauty is Truth: The History of Symmetry by Ian Stewart. From Wired, a look at how super-precise atomic clocks will change the world in a decade. Messages sent into space directed at extraterrestrials may have been too boring to earn a reply, say two astrophysicists trying to improve on their previous alien chat lines. Research suggests the Moon is actually 30 million years younger than anyone had thought, and that it is merely a "chip off the old block" of Earth. A review of Astronautics: Book 1 – Dawn of the Space Age and Astronautics: Book 2 – To the Moon and Towards the Future by Ted Spitzmiller. From Geotimes, danger lurks deep: An article on the human impact of volcanoes and when volcanoes threaten, scientists warn. About 250 million years from now, continental plates are projected to reposition themselves again so that a single landmass dominates: Pangea Ultima. At 71, physics professor Walter H. G. Lewin is a Web star with his online lectures. 

From The Washington Monthly, China's pollution revolution: Contaminated rivers and farms trigger peasant protests, but can China clean up its environment without cleaning up its politics? High heels in the desert: As Mongolia's nomadic herders face threats to their traditional existence, women are acquiring new roles in the country's steppes — and they are finding some success. A landslide in South Korea: Does a new era beckon for the Korean peninsula? From Japan, an essay on Japan as a plutonium superpower, and a look at why Japan must prepare for war between US and North Korea. An article on Japan's foreign policy and the return of the Fukuda doctrine. From The Economist, a special report on business in Japan: After 15 years of gloom, Japan's companies have emerged with a new, hybrid model a bit closer to America's. Domo arigato, Mr Roboto: Will Japan build rather than import new citizens? "If I weren't a Diet member, I'd be a porn-video actor for sure": A look at how shock tactics of weekly magazines are losing impact on jaded Japanese.

From Campus Progress, should progressives support Rep. Barney Frank’s Employment Non-Discrimination Act? A debate. From PopMatters, it's a world of hope, it's a world of fear: GLBT persons in the West face various acts of discrimination — at least state-sanctioned murder isn't among them; and gay men have large big toes: Is there any definite way to tell if a person is gay? Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe there is. Can the anti-gay Christian Right's "sexual reorientation therapy" be stopped? So a fruit fly goes to a bar: Pop a pill and be straight or gay? It's a lot more exciting, and complicated, than that. A review of A Lesbian History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Women Since 1500 by Rebecca Jennings.  Trannies, transformation, and the gender gap: A review of Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man by Norah Vincent and The First Man-Made Man by Pagan Kennedy.