Wolfgang Nedobity (Vienna): Casanova and the Italian Taste. The world is lousy with aspiring novelists who will probably never be published; Alix Christie offers insight into what keeps them working. From The Chronicle, apes and monkeys, dogs and cats are being unnecessarily confined, vivisected, and killed while animal advocates are ignored as a lunatic fringe; the cruelty of much animal experimentation cannot be justified on scientific grounds, because it has proved largely unproductive; and letter-writing campaigns may ease consciences, but they won't cure diseases. David Weigel on Pete Peterson's unserious campaign to get America to think seriously about the national debt. Annie Lowrey on why the deficit commission's proposal is unlikely to go anywhere. Moral judgments in social dilemmas: How bad is free riding? Die, Phone Book, Die: After a decade of obsolescence, the local phone directory is finally getting the chop as states wise up to reality. Hope, change, reality: Attorney General Eric Holder entered the Justice Department on a mission to reinvent it — unfortunately, Washington doesn't like an idealist. Year-end best-of lists can make for predictable reading — does anyone not know that Jonathan Franzen wrote the big novel of 2010? Instead, Bookforum asked the authors of our favorites to tell us what they liked reading this year. In the grip of the new monopolists: Do away with Google, break up Facebook? We can't imagine life without them — and that's the problem. Fool's Gold: Why the idea of a gold standard is best relegated to the dustbin of history (and more). Are we hardwired to love taxes? Jonah Lehrer on feeling rich, poor or overtaxed. Why conspiracy theorists think The Simpsons may have predicted 9/11. Police State 2010: A series on American MP's in Kandahar. Bringing the coffin industry back from the dead: How barcodes and touch screens are resuscitating a casket factory.

Donald R. Rothwell (ANU): Arctic Ocean Choke Points and the Law of the Sea. Wei-en Tan (National Chengchi) and Yu-tai Tsai (National Chung Cheng): After the Ice Melts: Conflict Resolution and the International Scramble for Natural Resources in the Arctic Circle. Unfreezing Arctic Assets: A bloc of countries above the 45th parallel is poised to dominate the next century — welcome to the New North. Melting and thinning ice in the Arctic has proceeded so rapidly that new sea routes are opening up, infrastructure is being imagined, and countries like Canada are working to assert their sovereignty in the north (and more). The solutions to the complex challenges of the "New Arctic" will lie in the intricate games — strategic dances — among states, companies, Indigenous peoples, NGOs, international organizations and other dynamic interests. A review of The Future History of the Arctic by Charles Emmerson and The Scramble for the Arctic: Ownership, Exploitation and Conflict in the Far North by Richard Sale. As climate change alters Greenland, the country has a chance to profit and gain independence from its longtime colonial ruler, Denmark — but at what cost? Greenland is happy to be the new oil frontier. Perhaps Canadian bellicosity is not the best posture to adopt right now, given that Canada, Russia, and all the other Arctic nations are in the process of determining the actual national boundaries of the Arctic, especially on the seabed, which holds valuable oil deposits. Thawing Fortunes: Amid disappearing ice shelves, the world's top powers fight over new territory in the Great North. Arctic politics are getting warmer: a new scramble for territory? A review of The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization's Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith. A review of The Flooded Earth: Our Future in a World without Ice Caps by Peter D. Ward.

Thomas M. McDonnell (Pace): The West's Colonization of Muslim Land and the Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism. From Al-Ahram, the Arab world's lack of democracy is not the fault of the West, writes Amr Hamzawy. From Boston Review, Jan-Werner Muller on making Muslim democracies. An interview with Kanan Makiya on books on the history of Iraq. The more we learn about how the Iraq War began the worse the story gets. From NYRB, an article on Iraq's ignored victims. Nir Rosen on what America left behind in Iraq: It's even uglier than you think. An interview with Nir Rosen, author of Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World (and more). What Arabs really think about Iran: The Arab world might have soured on President Obama, but opinion polls show that they haven't rushed to embrace Iran. We can't stop Iran from going nuclear, so stop pretending that we can. From World Policy Journal, here is a detailed analysis of Iran’s constitution (and more on a too holy constitution). The West is fascinated by the recent alleged attempt to assassinate the President of Iran, but the regime of Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei has much bigger problems. Working to educate students and policy makers alike, Abbas Milani believes the current regime in Tehran is doomed, and that its demise may come sooner than many think. Poets and writers are suffocating: What do Iranians read these days? A review of Sexual Politics in Modern Iran by Janet Afary. A review of John R. Bradley's Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East. The western myth of Arab men: Some in the west struggle to believe in the existence of secular, modern Arab men who do not oppress women. Oman Holiday: Who benefits from the growth of Middle-Eastern tourism?

Philipp Sadowski (Duke) and David Dillenberger (Penn): Ashamed to Be Selfish. Economic researchers are uncovering the chemical triggers in our brains that spark feelings of trust — and using their findings to better understand how markets work. Is it possible to save the millions of people who die from TB? Al-Qaida and the fragmented global Islamic militancy: That Roshonara Choudhry was labelled al-Qaida shows how resilient the notion of a single terrorist organisation has proved. Some may say it as a joke, others might find it offensive, but it turns out there’s some truth to the idea that people of other races “all look alike”. In the Fishlake National Forest in Utah, a giant has lived quietly for the past 80,000 years ago: The Trembling Giant, or Pando, is a enormous grove of quaking aspens that takes the “forest as a single organism” metaphor and literalizes it — the grove really is a single organism. The case against evidence: From fingerprints to high-tech CSI, forensic science plays a much smaller role than you would think. Secession and the city: It's in Albany's economic and political interests to keep New York City happy, then, so why the hell don't they? The Critic as Radical: George Scialabba on how T.S. Eliot’s conservatism was nearly as revolutionary as his poetry. Talks hosted by Zocalo draw a mostly but not exclusively young, electronically connected following; as older forums fall by the wayside, these events feed a growing hunger. From NYRB, how political was Picasso? John Richardson investigates. Slate's Jacob Weisberg was a Web pioneer, but he doesn’t much care for what works on the Web now — can Slate recover? (and a response) John Horgan on how Margaret Mead's war theory kicks butt of neo-Darwinian and Malthusian models.

Felix Salmon reviews Matt Taibbi's Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America (and more and more and more and more). All wrapped up in debt: An excerpt from Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds — Why Going Bigger Isn't Going Better by Sarah Z. Wexler. The Great Recession has put enormous strain on the American social contract, exposing not only the many holes in our social safety net but also the weaknesses in its basic design and philosophy. A review of Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State by William Voegeli. America's deepening moral crisis: The language of collective compassion has been abandoned in the US, and no politician dare even mention helping the poor. The Ghost of Full Employment: In the 1970s, Americans also faced a global recession and double-digit unemployment — but back then politicians had the courage to think big. An interview with Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (and more and more and more). Is America a plutonomy? It's dangerously unstable when 5 percent of American earners account for 35 percent of all consumer spending. Bill Moyers on the American plutocracy. Better than pay caps: Robert H. Frank concludes that even if the dramatic increase in pay can be explained by simple market dynamics, it is still corrosive to American society and should be addressed by taxing excessive pay. Who will stand up to the superrich? The issue is whether the country can afford the damage being done by the ever-growing income inequality between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else. How billionaires could race to our rescue: A modest tax on all U.S. personal fortunes over $1 billion could raise more than enough revenue from the Forbes 400 alone to erase the combined budget shortfalls of every state in the nation. A book salon on Fortunes of Change: The Rise of the Liberal Rich and Remaking of America by David Callahan.

Luigi Mazza (Politecnico di Milano): Strategic Planning and Republicanism. From Foreign Affairs, it is time to ask a fundamental question that few in an official or political position in the United States seem willing to ask: Has it been a terrible error for the United States to have built an all but irreversible worldwide system of a thousand or more military bases, stations and outposts? Waste Land: Gregg Easterbrook on the Pentagon’s nearly unprecedented, wildly irrational spending binge. The neglected book Critical Intellectuals on Writing offers insights into how prominent scholars produce their work; Scott McLemee makes a recommendation. Even economists are lost in the jungle: In the past couple of years, the reputation of economics has suffered badly, as people ask why this well-paid priesthood failed to predict the financial crunch. This is your brain on metaphors: Our brains are wired to confuse the real and the symbolic — and the implications can be as serious as war and peace. Why do people get so agitated when discussing hipsterism? Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction provides some clues. From The Atlantic Monthly, shockingly error-prone and brutally expensive, our federally funded system of dialysis care is failing — a year-long investigation reveals why and what may lie ahead for health-care reform; Carl Elliot on how to spin pharmaceutical research; and information technology is on the brink of revolutionizing health care — if physicians will only let it. The Tragedy of the Talk Show Host: Miscast in the age of viral humor, the late-night star remains eternally freaky — and oddly reassuring. Not only is National Public Radio a last bastion of calm, reliable reporting, it reaches more people than Fox News; but as NPR celebrates its 40th anniversary, it suffers from one glaring bias: against the author.

Jan Michael Nolin (SSLIS): Speedism, Boxism and Markism: Three Ideologies of the Internet. Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the Web, says everyone in the world deserves a net connection. The future of the Internet: Instead of connecting us to the world, the Web is connecting us back to ourselves in an invisible feedback loop. Why science fiction never saw the Internet coming: A review of The Man Who Invented the Computer: The Biography of John Atanasoff, Digital Pioneer by Jane Smiley. Digging up the internet's ancient history: The internet is less than 20 years old, but parts already face extinction — the first archaeological dig of the web will preserve some of its treasures. The future of cyberspace: Are technologies giving greater voice to democratic activists in authoritarian societies, or more powerful tools to their oppressors? Point-and-Click Politics: The Internet has fueled polarization and gridlock, but it's also giving us new tools for self-government. The Internet is not a tuna sandwich: An interview with digital-media expert Susan Crawford on net neutrality and policy responses to Internet freedom. Will a looming shortage of IP addresses shut down the Internet? From PC World, a look at why the Internet needs a Dewey Decimal System. The Facebook of stuff: "Thing daemon", or Thingd for short, is one-half of Joe Einhorn's plan to create the world's best database of objects. How Facebook can become bigger in five years than Google is today. What can psychology tell us about why people go to Facebook? The Great Cyberheist: Inside the mind of Albert Gonzalez, America’s most notorious computer hacker. Gratuitous: How sexism threatens to undermine the Internet. Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive by Jodi Dean brings the heavy guns of literary theory to bear on the purportedly trivial activity of blogging.

Hokky Situngkir (BFI): Exploring Ancient Architectural Designs with Cellular Automata. From Zocalo Public Square, how does design improve our well-being? A review of Architecture as Icon: Perception and Representation of Architecture in Byzantine Art by Slobodan Curcic and Evangelina Hadjitryphonos. The Town That Corbusier Built: Respect for the design of Chandigarh, India, is growing, even as the modernist city is showing wear — but who will care, if access to its most impressive monuments is restricted? A look at 5 buildings and monuments that caused a stir. Geometry of the Spirit: The Air Force Academy Chapel combines the soaring forms of Chartres with the imagery of fighter jets aloft. Something to Love Among the Ruins: Three young architects offer a beautiful alternative to modernism’s ravages. An interview with John Pawson, father of modern architectural minimalism. Architecture informs history: Clusters of ancient architecture in central China have recently been entered on the world heritage list. Architecture and our duty to beauty: We all have a responsibility to make the best of our surroundings, yet the political classes are reluctant to be arbiters of taste — that has to change. A look at the weirdest buildings in the world. God's Architect: Austen Ivereigh on the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona. With his U.S. Institute for Peace set to open in Washington, Israeli-born Moshe Safdie takes his place among the world’s leading architects. A review of American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture by Alice T. Friedman. Has New York architecture missed its moment? Cool design and environmental conscientiousness intersect in Venice, where the latest Architecture Biennale is also one of the best. A review of Architecture's Evil Empire? The Triumph and Tragedy of Global Modernism by Miles Glendinning. An interview with Owen Hatherley, author of A Guide To The New Ruins of Great Britain.

A new issue of Broken Pencil is out, including Lindsay Gibb on the secret lives of puppets. From The Hedgehog Review, does religious pluralism require secularism? A symposium, including Charles Taylor on the meaning of secularism; Rajeev Bhargava on states, religious diversity, and the crisis of secularism; and Craig Calhoun on rethinking secularism. How to mourn: Meghan O'Rourke on Roland Barthes' beautiful, private meditation on his mother's death. From The Economist, a review of Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories by Simon Winchester; and a review of A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment by Philipp Blom. Warning: You might get sticker shock from reading several recent health studies. Is democracy necessary for economic success? The Skeptic's Skeptic: In the battle for ideas, scientists could learn from Christopher Hitchens. From Ctheory, an interview with Brian Francis Slattery on the relationship between science fiction and economics, globalization, and how eerie it is to predict the future. The first chapter from The Faces of Terrorism: Social and Psychological Dimensions by Neil J. Smelser. A life beyond reason: He is not a lesson, nor a signifier — he is a severely disabled 11-year-old boy, and he is loved. A review of Caribbean Middlebrow: Leisure Culture and the Middle Class by Belinda Edmondson. A review of Jazz Icons: Heroes, Myths and the Jazz Tradition by Tony Whyton (and more). The longest home run ever: It may not come in our lifetime, but its measurements are knowable. A review of Cathedrals of Science: The Personalities and Rivalries That Made Modern Chemistry by Patrick Coffey. Germany’s Angela Merkel stirred up a hornet’s nest when she decried “multiculturalism”, but that reaction suggests the hornets hadn’t been paying attention.

From Postcolonial Text, a special issue on East African Literature. From the Journal of Pan African Studies, a special issue on Nigeria, the Giant of Africa. Benjamin R. Farley (Emory): Calling a State a State: Somaliland and International Recognition. Perceptions about civil war in Central Africa: Can war be justified or solve problems? Vice visits Kampiringisa Rehabilitation Centre, Uganda’s only juvenile-detention facility. From World Policy Journal, Jonathan Ewing on an ugly exploration. Despite the continued need for civilian protection, the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is actually in the process of shutting down. Tom Kamara is in search of "saintly" African leaders. A look at why pan-Africanism must go beyond the political. Eleven sub-Saharan countries in Africa are working together to create a "Great Green Wall" of vegetation to halt the growing of the Sahara Desert. Anas Aremeyaw Anas is a Ghanaian investigative journalist with many disguises — from addict to imam — and one overriding mission: to force Ghana’s government to act against the lawbreakers he exposes. The truth of the matter is that if the native languages of Nigeria finally move into the stage of extinction, the culture and tradition of the people will also move into a stage of forgetfulness. Somali schoolboy tells of how Islamists cut off his leg and hand: Ismael Khalif Abdulle's story provides rare insight into regime of al-Shabaab rebels trying to overthrow Somali government. From New York, London, Paris to Brazzaville, via Abidjan, Bamako, Dakar, Douala, it is becoming increasing rare to come across black women strutting their naturally strong feminine magnetism. A review of No Easy Victories: African Liberation and American Activists over a Half Century, 1950-2000. Will Africa still be immersed in deep superstition by the year 2030? The January 2011 elections could tear Nigeria apart — is there anything the Obama administration can do to help the country avoid North-South conflict or a military coup?