From NBER, research suggests welfare reform has led to more work but less education, and a look at how changes in Social Security have affected retirement. Zac Bissonnette on why college is a waste of money. From Forbes, a writer and reader on why book publishers fail. Making books: A veteran editor offers a year-end report on the mood in the book publishing industry. Three new books offer competing versions of J.F.K.'s assassination. Le Grand Old Party? What the Republicans can learn from France's Socialist Party. God must have parachuted him to Earth: These days Lech Wałesa is a non-person even if his face pops up on television from time to time. Plato was a backpacker: Frank Bures looks a long way back to fellow traveler Plato and the seeds of wisdom. More on Rose George’s The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. More on 2666 by Roberto Bolano. The Real Community Organizer: Craig Newmark on Craigslist, libertarianism, online democracy, and nerd values. Footprint of the Fittest: Can we identify how cultures evolve — and if so, can we change our collective course for the good of the planet? Satirists thick and thin: From Juvenal to Armando Iannucci, satire is an ancient and necessary art. As 2008 turns to 2009 at the end of this month, an extra second will be added to every clock — but who decides exactly what time it is?

From Carnegie Council, a panel on Network Power: The Social Dynamics of Globalization by David Singh Grewal; and a panel on Creative Capitalism: A Conversation with Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Other Economic Leaders, ed. Michael Kinsley (and an interview). An excerpt from The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes by Avraham Burg. From Newsweek, an interview on how to steal ships. Now comes a completely revised version of The Joy of Sex, written, for the first time, for women as much as for men. Future schlock: PJ O'Rourke on Disney's new, furiously unimaginative House of the Future. A review of Trouble with Strangers: A Study of Ethics by Terry Eagleton. A review of books about humanitarian intervention. A look at how the recession is good for Barack Obama's green agenda.  A review of Liberty by Garrison Keillor (and more). Sex and the single cerebrum: The best smut engages the body and the mind; co-founder Rufus Griscom talks about controversy, confession and, of course, arousal. Abolish the Dept. of Homeland Security: Six years on, it's still a catastrophe. Here are the top twelve insights of prominent conservatives in 2008. A review of Shakespeare's Ideas: More Things in Heaven and Earth by David Bevington. A review of Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare and Modern Culture

From Taki's Magazine, an article on The Old Right and the Antichrist. The Old New Right: Conservative grandee Richard Viguerie looks to the future of a right-wing coalition that operates outside the Republican Party. Greek to Us: An article on the death of classical education and its consequences. From Slate, an article on the media divas who refuse to appear with other guests; and how to blog: Advice from Arianna Huffington, Om Malik, and more of the Web's best pundits. The Web may be hazardous to your health: How to figure out what's ailing you without becoming a cyberchondria. eBay and the brain: What psychology teaches us about the economic downturn. How a woman described so sparingly in the Bible became Mary, the global icon. The Hope for Audacity: Todd Gitlin assesses the difference between Obama's outlook and that of FDR and LBJ. French Guiana, the overseas sliver of France, offers a bit of insight into the shifting fortunes of the United States in at least one corner of the evolving world economy. End of the book? Publishing houses are struggling with tough times and changing technology. A review of The Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment by Peter Dauvergne. A review of Music Quickens Time by Daniel Barenboim. A review of Thinking Popular Culture: War, Terrorism and Writing by Tara Brabazon. 

From The New Yorker, I love novels: Young women develop a genre for the cellular age. You never know what you’ll find in a book: Books can be handy places to stow cash, swizzle sticks, rejection letters, even leftover breakfast meats. How foreign car factories have transformed the American South. A review of The Age of Aging: How Demographics are Changing the Global Economy and Our World by George Magnus. A review of A Philosophy of Fear by Lars Svendsen. Here are some very strange portraits of Barack Obama. Eric Rauchway on learning from the New Deal's mistakes. Miss Venezuela: Experiencing what may be the most serious beauty pageant in the world. Philip Zimbardo on how ordinary people become monsters or heroes. Who lives by the road, dies by the road: More people die each month on American roads than were killed in the September 11 attacks, but where is the war on cars? (and more on Autophobia). Do Mozart and Mick Jagger really have anything in common? wonders Noel Malcolm. An essay on the epistemological status of belief. Literary noisemakers: In shift, publishers issue heavyweights for the New Year. Tony Perrottet, author of Napoleon's Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped, on the pervert's grand tour. Some people don’t have “miracle” in their vocabulary, though, so we have to ask: “Are virgin births possible?”

From The Atlantic, Joshua Kucera is spooked: The spies who loved him; a street brawl in India brings down a global kidney-transplant ring; and a rooster crows in Portland: The heartbreak of urban chicken husbandry. Dani Rodrik on letting developing nations rule. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul is a scheme made famous by Charles Ponzi; who was this crook whose name graces this scam? Slate goes inside the world's most annoying economic crisis; a look at Tim Geithner's daunting to-do list at the Treasury Department; and here's an interactive guide to the bailout trillions. How the crisis gives the US new financial power. A Democratic Love Story: Why the party's fractious economic experts have finally united. More on Geoff Nicholson's The Lost Art of Walking. From The New York Times, a look at the Buzzwords of 2008. The Internet will be tamed: A recent conference between three of the country’s most prominent scholars examined how individual accountability may eventually settle the online Wild West. Getting away with murder: Why Rafiq al-Hariri's assassins may never be caught. An excerpt from Borges and the Eternal Orangutans by Luis Fernando Verissimo. A review of The Crime of Reason and the Closing of the Scientific Mind by Robert B. Laughlin. A review of Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America by Gustav Niebuhr (and more).

From Vanity Fair, George W. Bush defended harsh interrogations by pointing to intelligence breakthroughs, but a surprising number of counterterrorist officials say that, apart from being wrong, torture just doesn’t work; and here are four letters you won't find in the George W. Bush Library. From ResetDOC, Mahmoud Belhime on the slaves of oil. Lessons from the Great Inflation: Paul Volcker and Ronald Reagan's forgotten miracle created a quarter century of prosperity — and a dangerous bubble of complacency. A review of The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home by Jane Brocket. Can the ho’s speak? Black sex workers and the politics of deviance, defiance and desire. How to land a job in Obamaland: TNR's guide to beating the Washington feeding frenzy (and more on climbing the social ladder in Obama's Washington). Christopher Hitchens on the moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas. Dahlia Lithwick on Dick Cheney's unique gift for making hard questions easy and vice versa. Good readers are cannibals: Kurt Flasch's Kampfplatze der Philosophie strides across the battlefields of philosophy from Augustine to Voltaire. From Secular Web, from fundamentalist to freethinker: It all began with Santa. Group Think: Tel Aviv professor Yuval Shavitt melds math and sociology of the Internet to predict the next big thing in music

From Skeptic, an article on how to be psychic in ten easy steps. A review of The Plot to Kill God: Findings from the Soviet Experiment in Secularization by Paul Froese. A look at how lesser-known appointments can have great impact. What’s happening to the adult-entertainment industry is exactly what’s happening to its Hollywood counterpart — only worse. More and more on Left in Dark Times by BHL. Jack Shafer has unsolicited advice for David Gregory, upon taking the wheel at "Meet the Press". A review of Scarface Nation The Ultimate Gangster Movie and How It Changed America by Ken Tucker. A review of Suicide: The Hidden Side of Modernity by Christian Baudelot and Roger Establet Polity. Prostitution vs. war crimes: As Dick Cheney heads off into a luxury-filled and respectable retirement, outrage continues to be directed at the petty transgressions of Eliot Spitzer. Another great writer secretly collaborated with the Stalinists — a lasting poison explained. No matter how bad your holiday is, rest assured that it could have been far worse. Santa (tm): Does Father Christmas live in Finnish Lapland? What really killed the office party? Admit it: You’re feeling pretty jolly that you don’t have to suffer through one of life’s grimmest annual rituals. (Don't) keep your shirt on: Sexing the action hero, wherein putting all that enticing musculature on display isn’t just the cost of doing business.

From Newsweek, a cover story on The Story of Power: The study of power is not only diverting (which Homer and Shakespeare knew), but illuminating. From NYRB, a review of books on the war we don't want to see. Anatomy of a breakdown: Concerted government policy helped trigger the financial meltdown — and will almost certainly extend it. More and more and more on Panic! The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis. From The Immanent Frame, Akbar Ganji interviews Charles Taylor, author of Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited. Dark days ahead: Why Republicans need Xmas vacation. What happens in Washington when no one is afraid of anyone else? From The Atlantic, Henry Blodget on why Wall Street always blows it — and why we never learn from the last bubble; pop psychology: Why asset bubbles are a part of the human condition that regulation can’t cure; and “be nice to the countries that lend you money”: James Fallows interviews Gao Xiqing, America's Chinese banker (and more and more). The case for keeping score: A democracy index could push states toward more ambitious electoral reforms. and Emily Bazelon, David Iglesias, Dahlia Lithwick, Joseph Rich, and Stuart Taylor Jr. set the table for Obama's Justice Department. A report finds post-Katrina, white vigilantes shot African-Americans with impunity.

From Open Democracy, Daniele Archibugi describes an agenda to return the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to relevance; and why is Russia romanticising the memory of Stalinism, when its defining feature was the use of terror? A review of American Therapy: The Rise of Psychotherapy in the United States by Jonathan Engel. The DSM-V is at least three years away from publication, but it is already stirring bitter debates over a new set of possible psychiatric disorders. Some point to Alan Greenspan, but his hands-off approach to the economy originated with Ayn Rand. It’s a novel! It’s a philosophy! It’s the instruction manual for a crazy cult! Atlas Shrugged could be all of those things. Whether the fairy tale has flourished in popular culture, or been diluted and diminished by global branding, is a question raised by a range of new books on the genre. Independent bookstores have been struggling to survive ever since the advent of the chain stores — but now, even the chains are under threat. An excerpt from Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. An excerpt from Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom. A review of The Star as Icon: Celebrity in the Age of Mass Consumption by Daniel Herwitz. When celebs take charge: Today's politicians have to know what narrative the world wants to hear. An article on Deep Throat's legacy to journalism.

From New Scientist, an article on Archimedes and the 2000-year-old computer; and did our cosmos exist before the big bang? Anil Ananthaswamy investigates. From First Principles, an essay on Augustine’s Confessions and Voegelin’s philosophy (and more). What's the difference between a search engine and a browse engine? A look at the top 10 migration issues of 2008. According to new research, a man’s desirability depends on how he achieved his high status. More and more and more and more on A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam. A review of How Jesus Became Christian: The Early Christians and the Transformation of a Jewish Teacher into the Son of God by Barrie Wilson. A review of Adorno and Heidegger: Philosophical Questions. A review of Slackonomics: Generation X in the Age of Creative Destruction by Lisa Chamberlain. From Fronesis, is migration a lever for union renewal? Newspapers can’t keep distributing content for free on Web. The first chapter from The Deaths of Louis XVI: Regicide and the French Political Imagination by Susan Dunn. The Great Mumble: A new generation slouches toward nukes. Robert Carroll plots an escape on foot from the  where we spend our days. Are romantic comedies a hazard to kids' emotional health? (and more)