Christian Von Soest and Julia Grauvogel (GIGA): How Do Non-Democratic Regimes Claim Legitimacy? Comparative Insights from Post-Soviet Countries. Stanislav Shkel (USPTU): Political Regimes of the Post-Soviet States of the Central Asia and Caucasus. Mariya Y Omelicheva (Kansas): Competing Perspectives on Democracy and Democratization: Assessing Alternative Models of Democracy Promoted in Central Asian States. Gavin Slade (FU Berlin) and Matthew Light (Toronto): Crime and Criminal Justice after Communism: Why Study the Post-Soviet Region? Sergey Abashin (EU-SPB): Migration from Central Asia to Russia in the New Model of World Order. Putin has lost plenty of friends, and is making some strange new ones. Putin to Central Asia: Let Daddy save you from the Islamic State. Samuel Buelow on how last year proved to be a turbulent year for LGBT politics in Central Asia. The Silk Road Affair: Stephanie Baker on power, pop and a bunch of billionaires.

Is Kazakhstan’s “dialogue of civilizations” all about image, or doing some real good? Marlene Laruelle on the power of soft power in Kazakhstan. Radiation, government conspiracy, mass hysteria: There are plenty of theories as to why the residents of a tiny Kazakh mining region keep falling asleep for days at a time, but no answers.

Nicolae Morar (Penn State) and Ted Toadvine and Brendan J.M. Bohannan (Oregon): Biodiversity at Twenty-Five Years: Revolution or Red Herring? Rebecca Traister on how the Planned Parenthood attack could reverse the politics of abortion. Rightbloggers: Planned Parenthood shooter wasn’t inspired by us, you baby-killers. Maya Weeks on the myth of the garbage patch: The massive plastic trash gyre isn’t an island, it’s the disaster of capital circling the globe on ocean currents. Nilita Vachani on the strange, true story of the man whose maid was worth millions. Whisper campaigns and “zipper problems”: McKay Coppins on how Jeb Bush’s allies tried — and failed — to stop Marco Rubio. Nicholas Confessore on how a wealthy governor and his friends are remaking Illinois. Exxon accuses Columbia journalism students of “ethics violations” for reporting on Exxon's own ethics violations.

From ThinkProgress, Ian Millhauser on the scary Supreme Court case that could set off a literal arms race in the United States (and more). A look at how gun traffickers get around state gun laws. What if we made gun culture uncool like we did cigarettes? This effort to prevent mass shootings is so obvious — so why aren’t we pursuing it? Rachel M. Cohen on why focusing on mass shootings won’t end gun violence in America. Mark Follman goes inside the race to stop the next mass shooter. Sarah Posner on where Joe the Plumber and Allen West’s gun control conspiracy theory comes from. Max Ehrenfreund on what liberals don’t want to admit about gun control. NRA commentary admits the odds of needing a gun to defend yourself are infinitesimal. The NRA will fall, and it’s inevitable — just look at the demographics. People with concealed carry permits have committed at least 29 mass shootings since 2007 — it’s hard to be a good guy with a gun. There have been 334 days and 351 mass shootings so far this year.

Ravinder Kaur (Copenhagen): Writing History in a Paperless World: Archives of the Future. Let’s not whitewash George W. Bush’s actual, heinous record on Muslims in the U.S. Who are you calling a radical terrorist? When the killer is a Christian, it seems, the rules are different (and more). Elizabeth Bruenig on the roots of pro-lifers’ dangerous rhetoric: There is a better way to talk about abortion. Koch brothers’ budget of $889 million for 2016 is on par with both parties’ spending. Donald Trump is not a liar, but something worse: A bullshit artist. Holiday season is time for compassion for billionaires: Dean Baker and Evan Butcher on the case of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. The return of Werner Erhard, father of self-help: The creator of EST resurfaces as a kinder, gentler purveyor of self-actualization. Roberto A. Ferdman on why people think total nonsense is really deep.

From Mother Jones, a chart shows where all the candidates stand on the world’s biggest issue. China ruins Republicans’ favorite excuse for ignoring climate change. First EPA chief William Ruckelshaus accuses Republicans of ignoring science for political gain. Amanda Marcotte on how conspiracy-theorist nutbags run House GOP, pulling the #Benghazi trick on scientists who believe in global warming — harassing with subpoenas. How Republican “thought police” enforce climate-science denial. Meet the 97 percent climate truthers: How Ted Cruz and other Republicans are even denying the scientific consensus. Rebecca Leber on how conservatives think “ice melts in summer!” is a convincing argument against climate change; and on the planet’s worst nightmare: A Republican White House. They’re not scientists: The Republican Party could be the single greatest impediment to global efforts to slow climate change — but cracks are forming in the conservative wall of denial.

How long can the GOP deny climate change? As Obama pushes climate deal, Republicans move to block emissions rules. Ben Adler on the GOP’s plan to thwart the Paris climate conference. Jonathan Chait on the Republican plot to destroy an international climate agreement. Could a GOP president scuttle a global climate deal? Yes, but it would be anything but easy.