From The New Yorker, Beware Bailouts: James Surowiecki on the Fed and the market meltdown. Should central banks act as buyers of last resort? What would Bagehot do? Look out. This crunch is serious: What to expect as Wall Street's woes spill over onto Main Street. A review of Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas. With the markets in turmoil, familiar questions arise about the bond-rating agencies. Counterfeit Nation: America’s reliance on dubious credit goes all the way back to the country’s founding. The Unforgivingness of Forgetfulness: Why did so many home buyers ignore recent lessons and start viewing real estate as such a certain and profitable bet? 

How civilisation has begun to look more vulnerable: A review of A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilisations by Clive Ponting and Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery. A review of Chris Mooney's Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle over Global Warming.  Gambling on tomorrow: Modelling the Earth's climate mathematically is hard already. Now a new difficulty is emerging (and more). Can ceramics make our air cleaner? A novel process makes fossil fuels burn cleaner. Though pricey, it's highly promising. There's just one catch. A review of The World Without Us by Alan Weisman (and the book's webpage). 

Mark Lilla on The Politics of God: After centuries of strife, the West has learned to separate religion and politics — to establish the legitimacy of its leaders without referring to divine command. There is little reason to expect that the rest of the world — the Islamic world in particular — will follow. From Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens' book tour—for God Is Not Great—takes a few miraculous turns, including the P.R. boost from Jerry Falwell's demise, a chance encounter with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and surprising support for an attack on religion. A life worth living for: Santayana’s writings provide an answer to militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens.