From World Policy Journal, Nina L. Khrushcheva (New School): Russia’s Rotting Empire; Mira Kamdar (WPI): India: Richer, Poorer, Hotter, Armed; Francois Heisbourg (IISS): Five Days in December: The Iran Crisis 25 Years Hence; and Mona Eltahawy on The Middle East’s Generation Facebook. The burgeoning field of astrobiology has a less well-known offshoot: The search for a "shadow biosphere", a second, independent form of life unrelated to sort we know (and more and more). Michael Lind reviews Fighting Identity: Sacred War and World Change by Michael Vlahos. A review of Obelisk: A History by Brian A. Curran, Anthony Grafton, Pamela O. Long and Benjamin Weiss. Who's the Divider? Ronald Brownstein investigates. From Air & Space Power Journal, a review of Warheads: Cable News and the Fog of War by Kenneth Allard. Stompin' in my Air Force One: How will Obama's presidency change hip-hop? From Black Commentator, can hip-hop save an illiterate generation? An interview with Joan Wallach Scott, author of The Politics of the Veil (and more). Where to Now: 2008 was a spectacular year for women in politics — but the sober reality is that the race has just begun. A review of Theaters of Madness: Insane Asylums and Nineteenth-Century American Culture by Benjamin Reiss.Clean and Virtuous: When physical purity becomes moral purity. A review of Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West by Anthony Grafton.

Rich Gibson (SDSU): How Shall We Live as Lambs Among Wolves? Reason-Passion-Power and Organization. Is it time to retrain business schools? Anthony Giddens on recession, climate change and the return to planning. Daniel Gross on why Obama should ignore the Dow. Dame-Ren (No Good People): A glimpse into Japan’s embrace of Western-style capitalism. A number of reports on the state of democracy and freedom around the world promote the notion of a "democratic recession" in the 2000s — their own methods and conclusions deserve scrutiny. A review of Tapping the Riches of Science: Universities and the Promise of Economic Growth by Roger L. Geiger and Creso M. Sa. On the one hand society at large relies on moral and theological arguments to ban suicide; on the other our world is plagued with destructive wars and suicidal conflicts. From Wired, here's the untold story of the world's biggest diamond heist. Is it safe? The first company with a plan — and a rocket — to send humans to orbit answers the existential question. Does dark energy really exist, or does Earth occupy a very unusual place in the universe? Suzanne Menghraj on what a pirate festival, and dancing alone to Calypso, can teach us about the here and now. The mysterious ailment called colony collapse disorder has wiped out large numbers of the bees that pollinate a third of our crops; the causes turn out to be surprisingly complex, but solutions are emerging.

Joseph W. Bendersky (VCU): Horkheimer, "Militant Democracy", and War. From The Atlantic Monthly, for some people, spending just doesn’t come naturally, especially in a recession — behavioral economists have a solution; and Christopher Hitchens on Edward Upward, one of the only writers of the ’30s to deal with Britain’s elephant in the room — fascism — but his career was forever warped by his communism. Organised queuing? It's a drastic solution to what can seem to be a mysterious art — getting served at a busy bar. Obama's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, has a complex faith in market initiatives — but sometimes a "nudge" is not enough. AskMeFi: When the hive mind works, it's a beautiful thing. Revenge of the Nerd: An interview with Rachel Maddow. All in the Game: Inside the mind of Barack Obama as he sets forth on his first term as President. From American Heritage, of steadycams and skycams: Filmmakers have long sought the means to add a little kinetic energy to their moving images. The other porn addiction: Why are ordinary women exposing themselves online? An article on the legacy of Modernism: Celebrating 90 years of Bauhaus. A review of Max Weber: A Biography by Joachim Radkau. Aren’t there a lot of other people with ostensibly respectable academic credentials who have reason to suspect that they may be uncultured oafs?

From The American Scholar, purpose-driven life: Evolution does not rob life of meaning, but creates meaning — it also makes possible our own capacity for creativity; the Terminator comes to Wall Street: How computer modeling worsened the financial crisis and what we ought to do about it. A review of Meltdown: A Free Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse by Thomas E. Woods Jr. Bankers vs. Economists: Who deserves more blame for the global economic collapse? One of America’s most-read bloggers is Catholic, conservative, gay, pro-Obama — and from East Grinstead; Johann Hari profiles Andrew Sullivan, a writer with an extraordinary tale to tell. Here are 20 things you didn't know about money. Songs for the Deaf: Benjamin Bartlett Sigerson goes inside the music industry's "loudness wars", including the leading opposition movement that may be our only hope. Frederick Seidel has been called crass, disturbing, a name-dropping, upmarket sinner — and that’s what may make him America’s greatest living poet. Some well-meaning but overpriced utopian futurology: A review of Politics of Fear, Practices of Hope by Stefan Skrimshire. A review of Stealing MySpace: The Battle To Control the Most Popular Website in America by Julia Angwin (and more).