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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

On the Town and the long march for civil rights in performance

As we celebrate the golden anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a significant aspect of the struggle for racial equality often gets ignored: racial activism in performance. Actors, singers, and dancers mobilized over the decades, pushing back against racial restrictions that shifted over time, and On the Town of 1944 marked an auspicious but little-recognized moment in that history.

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How video may influence juror decision-making for police defendants

In recent years, these videos [depicting police brutality] have become increasingly available to the public and widely disseminated, fueling the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement demanding justice for minority victims of police violence. Yet, little research has explored how video is impacting juries when police actually go to trial as defendants.

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Plato’s mistake

It started innocently enough at a lunch-time event with some friends at the Randolph Hotel in the centre of Oxford. ‘The trouble with Islam …’ began some self-opinioned pundit, and I knew where he was going. Simple. Islam lends itself to fanaticism, and that is why Muslims perpetrate so much violence in the name of religion. The pundit saw himself as Christian, and therefore a man of peace, so I had my cue. ‘Look out of the window. Over there in the fork of the road you see the Martyr’s Memorial. In 1555 the Wars of Religion were in full spate, Catholics were burning Protestants at the stake, Protestants were no less fanatical when their turn came, and things got even worse with the Civil War. So why are Muslims any worse?’

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A better way to prevent the spread of HIV

HIV prevention is now focused on finding at least 90% of the existing cases, putting at least 90% of those people in HIV treatment, and keeping the virus from multiplying in the body among 90% of those people retained in care (known as durable viral suppression). Despite these admirable goals, known as the United Nations’ “90-90-90” programme, HIV transmission rates have not declined since 2011.

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Place of the Year 2018 contenders [quiz]

Before we announce the 2018 Place of the Year, we are looking back at the diverse places that topped the shortlist. Myanmar, North Korea, Mexico, the International Space Station, and the Pacific Ocean all have unique histories and have topped international headlines this year. Take this quiz to see how well you know each of our contenders.

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Travels with “gorse” in search of its kin

In the long history of this blog, I have rarely touched on the origin of plant names, but there have been posts on mistletoe (December 20, 2006) and ivy (January 11, 2017). Some time ago, a letter came with a question about the etymology of gorse, and I expect to devote some space to this plant name and its two synonyms.

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The politics of “political” – how the word has changed its meaning

Over the course of history, the word “political” has evolved from being synonymous with “public sphere” or “good government” to meaning “calculating” or “partisan.” How did we get here? This adapted excerpt from Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary explains the evolution. The problems posed by political result from a combination of the term’s semantic shift over the last several centuries and the changing face of post-national politics that have become so important since mid-twentieth century.

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National Day of Listening [podcast]

In 2008, StoryCorps created World Listening Day for citizens of all beliefs and backgrounds to record, preserve, and share the stories of their lives. This year, we invite you to celebrate by listening to our podcast, The Oxford Comment.

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What is the role of a doctor in 2018?

The winner of the Clinical Placement Competition 2018 is Binay Gurung. We asked Binay to tell us more about the inspiration behind his entry, and about his time in the Nepalese hospital featured in his picture.

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The politics of food [podcast]

Gearing up for Thanksgiving and the holiday season brings excitement for decorations and holiday cheer, but it can also bring on a financial burden – especially where food is concerned. The expectation to host a perfect holiday gathering complete with a turkey and trimmings can cause unnecessary pressure on those who step up to host family and friends.

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Plant lore: gorse

In the long history of this blog, I have rarely touched on the origin of plant names, but there have been posts on mistletoe (December 20, 2006) and ivy (January 11, 2017). Some time ago, a letter came with a question about the etymology of gorse, and I expect to devote some space to this plant name and its two synonyms.

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It’s time to raise the retirement age again

Since the election, we Americans have engaged in a healthy debate about the Electoral College. My instincts in this debate are those of an institutional conservative: Writing our Constitution from scratch today, we would not have designed the Electoral College as it has evolved. However, institutions become embedded in societies. To further this debate, consider these three contentions often heard today about the Electoral College.

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What is “toxic” about anger?

What is anger? In essence, anger is a subjective feeling tied to perceived wrongdoing and a tendency to counter or redress that wrongdoing in ways that may range from resistance to retaliation. Like sadness and fear, the feeling of anger can take the form of emotion, mood, or temperament.

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What Matthew Shepard’s interment taught us about religion

On 26 October 2018, twenty years after two men in Wyoming brutally murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard, the Washington National Cathedral hosted a service to inter Shepard’s ashes in a permanent memorial. More than four thousand people attended the service that was co-led by the Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly-gay elected bishop of […]

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A lesson in allegorical storytelling [podcast]

National Novel Writing Month challenges writers from all over the world to complete a 50,000-word novel within the month of November. To help guide our readers who have taken on the challenge, we reached out to three-time National Jewish Book Award winner Howard Schwartz. Howard offers a deeper reading of “The Lost Princess,” and his analysis demonstrates the power of allegories as literary devices.

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