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Economic trends of 2015

Economists are better at history than forecasting. This explains why financial journalists sound remarkably intelligent explaining yesterday’s stock market activity and, well, less so when predicting tomorrow’s market movements. And why I concentrate on economic and financial history. Since 2015 is now in the history books, this is a good time to summarize a few main economic trends of the preceding year.

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In memoriam: Sidney Mintz

Professor Sidney Mintz passed away on 26 December 2015, at the age of 93. “Sid” as he was affectionately called by his acquaintances, taught for two decades at Yale University and went on to found the Anthropology Department at Johns Hopkins. His best-known work, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, was published in 1985.

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The music parenting tightrope

Walking the music parenting tightrope isn’t easy for music moms and dads. Figuring out how to be helpful without turning into an overbearing nag can be tricky, especially during a youngster’s early adolescent years. Those often-turbulent years can upend many aspects of a child’s life, including music.

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The Department of Labor awakens

At President Obama’s urging, the US Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed a new regulation condoning state-sponsored private sector retirement programs. The proposed DOL regulation extends to such state-run programs principles already applicable to private employers’ payroll deduction IRA arrangements. If properly structured, payroll deduction IRA arrangements avoid coverage under the Employee Retirement Income Security […]

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The art of conversation

On 28 November 2015, I had a reading and panel discussion at Médiathèque André Malraux, a library and media centre in Strasbourg, the main city of the Alsace region of France, adjoining Germany, traditionally one of the Christmas capitals of the continent, and currently the site of the European Parliament.

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The problems with democracy – continuing the conversation into a new year

An invitation from the British Library to give the first in a new public lecture series called ‘Enduring Ideas’ was never a request I was going to decline. But what ‘enduring idea’ might I focus on and what exactly would I want to say that had not already been said about an important idea that warranted such reflection? The selected concept was ‘democracy’ and the argument sought to set out and unravel a set of problems that could – either collectively or individually – be taken to explain the apparent rise in democratic disaffection.

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Traveling to provide humanitarian aid: lessons from Nepal

Just before noon on 25 April 2015, a violent 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal, killing almost 9,000 people and injuring more than 23,000. Hundreds of aftershocks followed. Entire villages were razed, destroying communities and leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless.

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Beyond the rhetoric: Bombing Daesh (ISIS)

Last week, I wrote about the presidential campaign rhetoric pledging to “carpet bomb” Daesh (ISIS), focusing on what it really means and why it is now generally irrelevant to the problems at hand. Today, I want to return to the present problems in more detail: What can be bombed? To what lasting end? And how has Daesh responded to our bombing thus far?

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The continuing conundrum of shared sanitation in slums

In an ideal world, each household would have their own toilet for privacy, practicality, and a sense of ownership—you’re much more likely to clean and maintain the facility if the toilet is yours. A toilet, latrine, or sanitation facility—these are several words to describe the same thing, namely the safe disposal of human waste, whilst providing privacy, dignity, and easy accessibility to all that need it (including young children or less abled individuals).

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Why have we normalized Islamophobia?

The horrific attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have captured headlines and triggered responses from journalists, politicians, and religious leaders. Some Western heads of government have once again threatened a global war against terrorism, while some political commentators have even invoked World War III.

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Mythology redux: The Force Awakens once again

For some time now, I have been among those who have argued that the fandom associated with the Star Wars franchise is akin to a religion. There are those who will quarrel with the word choice, but it is hard to gainsay the dedication of fans to the original films

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Climate change poses risks to your health

When heads of state and other leaders of 195 nations reached a landmark accord at the recent United Nations COP21 conference on climate change in Paris, they focused primarily on sea level rise, droughts, loss of biodiversity, and ways to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in order to reduce these consequences. But arguably the most serious and widespread impacts of climate change are those that are hazardous to the health of people.

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Can history help us manage humanitarian crises?

People frequently ask whether the study of history can help in managing humanitarian crises. This question is particularly timely given the massive outflow of refugees from Syria and the problems of admitting large numbers of refugees to other countries, including the United States.

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White and Baker-Economics and the Virtues

The Big Picture and The Big Short: How Virtue helps us explain something as complex as the Financial Crisis

The star-studded new film The Big Short is based on Michael Lewis’s best-selling expose of the 2008 financial crisis. Reviewers are calling it the “ultimate feel-furious movie about Wall Street.” It emphasizes the oddball and maverick character of four mid-level hedge fund managers in order to explain what it would take to ignore the rating agencies’ evaluations and bet against the subprime industry—that is, their own industry.

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