Robert C. Blitt (Tennessee): Russia’s "Orthodox" Foreign Policy: The Growing Influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Shaping Russia’s Policies Abroad. From Dissent, the front line in Kyrgyzstan: Who does human rights? As memories of Soviet tests fade, Kazakhstan looks to nuclear future. The state of Russia: Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin are presiding over a system that can no longer change. Will Tajikistan become the next jihadi stronghold? Abubakar Siddique on how Central Asian militants are spoiling for combat. The US is anxious to broaden its influence in Central Asia and limit that of Russia — the result, however, are questionable alliances with some of the strangest despots in the world. A review of To the Tashkent Station: Evacuation and Survival in the Soviet Union at War by Rebecca Manley. A review of Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier (and more and more and more and more). The Nazarbayev Conundrum: The West needs Kazakhstan for energy, security, and help in Central Asia, but how can it promote democracy when the autocratic president is holding all the cards? From the University of Minnesota Press blog, interviews with Alexander Vashchenko and Claude Clayton Smith, editors of The Way of Kinship: An Anthology of Native Siberian Literature. Martin Sixsmith on why Russia isn’t a democracy. The Tragic Death of the Aral Sea: Large swathes have ceded to what is now known as Aralkum desert — one of the most shocking man-made environmental calamities of the 21st century.

Robert D. Plotnick (Washington): The Alleviation of Poverty: How Far Have We Come? From Studies in Literature and Language, Zahra Khozaei Ravari (USM): Cloud Nine, As Butler Likes it. Holy Terrors: Should Christians embrace the horror film? From Plus, Eileen Magnello on Florence Nightingale, the compassionate statistician; and an article on visual curiosities and mathematical paradoxes. Meet Theo Lubke, the regulator that Goldman Sachs just hired to fight off other regulators. A review of When Doctors Kill: Who, Why and How by Joshua A. Perer and Steven J. Cina. A review of On Thinking Institutionally by Hugh Heclo. From New Geography, are developers greedy, or just misunderstood? Having a disability and surviving on a disability support pension isn’t something to be envious of — if disabled people could trade their money to have your health, they would probably do it. In this digital age, every stupid decision ends up haunting you — except, of course, in the realm of retail. Ugly animals need love too: Zoos can help save species, but are they only saving the ones we like? Lewis Lapham on Domesticated Deities: Messiahs Come to Redeem Our Country, Not Govern It (and Don’t Forget Marilyn and Elvis and Jackie O and Diana and Oprah and Brangelina and David Hasselhoff). David Barash on Hobbes vs. Rousseau: The Chilean mine showdown. A review of Ireland: A History by Thomas Bartlett.

Few issues in America, aside from war and abortion, are as polarizing as guns, but why are we so obsessed by them in the first place? The hidden life of guns: NRA-led gun lobby wields powerful influence over ATF, U.S. politics. Rangers and wildlife officers are finding they must increasingly confront people with guns. Locked and loaded: A look into the minds of the gun-toters among us. From The Nation, a symposium on rebalancing drug policy. A book salon on This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America by Ryan Grim. The introduction to Scripting Addiction: The Politics of Therapeutic Talk and American Sobriety by E. Summerson Carr. Nationalist troubles: This country is guided today not by a single set of values but by three sets, with each suffering from its own mounting internal contradictions and an uneasy relationship with the others. A review of A Question of Values by Morris Berman. A review essay on books about politics and religion published between 2004 and 2007. A review of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David Campbell (and more and more). A review of What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church by Kenda Creasy Dean. R. Georges Delamontagne on high religiosity and societal dysfunction in the United States the first decade of the 21st century. A look at the 6 most insane moral panics in American history. The NEH vs. America: PC propaganda at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

From Swans, a special issue on Perspectives on 2010. Peter Dreier on the fifty most influential progressives of the twentieth century. How the # became the sign of our times: It's called an octothorpe, and Twitter users have made it a global symbol. Kim Jong-il's political philosophy: Delivered in prose of awesome sterility, the North Korean despot's commitment to lies is unwavering. A review of Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam by Akbar S. Ahmed. A panel on Facing the Crises of our Time: The United Nations and the United States in the 21st Century by Gillian Sorensen. From Five Dials, a special issue on Quebec. Robert Farley on the pitfalls of the emerging anti-China axis. The Voice of Reason: Former FBI agent Gary Noesner set the standard for hostage negotiation. The first chapter from The Event of Postcolonial Shame by Timothy Bewes. Ho'oponopono: How Hawaiian tradition sorts out family disputes. The Noun Game: A simple grammar lesson leads to a clash of civilizations. Narcissism is no longer considered a clinical disorder — in the age of Facebook, is that really surprising? An interview with Wade Davis on mind-altering substances and the diversity of human cultures across the world. The FBI's Alert regarding "sextortion": Why cyber blackmail, though illegal, is difficult to stop and what computer users can do. A review of Talking to the Enemy: Violent Extremism, Sacred Values, and What It Means to Be Human by Scott Atran.

A review of The Extended Mind. A review of How the Mind Uses the Brain (to Move the Body and Image the Universe) by Ralph D. Ellis and Natika Newton. Albert Mobilio reviews Carl Schoonover's Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century. A review of Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain by Antonio Damasio (and more and more and more and more). Journey through the mind: Carl Zimmer on the once and future brain. An interview with Norman Doidge, author of The Brain that Changes Itself. The Human Connectome Project is a first-of-its-kind map of the brain's circuitry (and more from TED). Physicist Dani Bassett discusses the structural similarities between the human brain and that of worms — or of nearly any system that processes information. Liar, liar: Brain circuit predicts others' honesty. Brain imaging studies show different cultures have different brains. The last few decades have produced an explosion of new techniques for probing the blobby, unprepossessing brain in search of the thinking, feeling, suffering, scheming mind. Does thinking happen in the brain? Alva Noe makes sense of brain behavior. Wiring up brains: Viewed as a network of inter-connected regions, the brain faces a difficult trade-off. The Time Travelling Brain: What's the difference between walking down the street yesterday, and walking down the street tomorrow? The problem with neurotrash is that it finds its way into the culture.