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Oil prices have dropped to levels not seen in years. It’s not all good news. Reuters

Oil price drop offers short-term gains but long-term pains

The recent drop in crude oil and gasoline prices in the United States is a nice stocking stuffer for consumers this holiday season, but it could turn into a lump of coal. A global oil glut has caused the…
There is no such thing as an ideal flu shot. But that doesn’t mean you should skip it. Sherry Yates Young/Shutterstock

Even with mismatches flu shots can still keep you from getting sick

On December 3, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network advisory indicating a possible strain mismatch in this year’s vaccine. After the usual brief flurry…
A trade spat between India and the US was the most serious threat to the WTO in years. Reuters

Why the WTO still matters

Despite sluggishness in the world economy, global trade reached an astonishing US$23 trillion last year. The World Trade Organization has been the primary guarantor of this extraordinary growth in global…
The recent discovery of a First Folio in St. Omer, France brings the total number of known copies to 233. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, National Art Library

The strange fates of the Shakespeare First Folio

The Shakespeare First Folio (1623), the first collected edition of his plays and the sole source for half of them (including Macbeth, Antony & Cleopatra, All’s Well, As You Like It, and The Tempest…
Activists dressed as musicians and wearing masks depicting leaders of the members of the G7 protest against wealth inequality in Brussels in June. Reuters

The wealthy suffer from an ‘empathy gap’ with the poor that is feeding a rise in inequality

Wealth and income inequality have many causes, and it’s pretty much beyond dispute that any well-functioning capitalist society will have some degree of disparity between the richest and the poorest. It’s…
Wind farms like this one probably wouldn’t exist if the government didn’t provide a hefty subsidy. Shutterstock

Congress shouldn’t revive the failed policy of subsidizing wind farms

Congress passed the wind production tax credit (PTC) more than two decades ago to spur development in an industry still in its infancy. The wind sector has since matured into adulthood, prompting thousands…
A properly designed cap and trade scheme could lift Illinois out of the fog. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Cap and trade could be the answer to state budget crises

So-called cap and trade may be a solution to a problem it was not intended to solve: state budget crises. Cap-and-trade policy was designed to address climate change by putting a “cap” on carbon dioxide…
Will the feds raid this Christmas tree? Rick Wilking/Reuters

Goliath vs. 24 Davids: federalism and legal marijuana

Abraham Lincoln said that those who shape public opinion exert an even greater influence than judges and lawmakers. In recent years popular sentiment – on issues like marriage equality and legalization…
Housing First is a program that offers housing to homeless drug users – regardless of whether or not they’re drug free – with a goal of social recovery. Bryan Guilas/Flickr

Being drug free shouldn’t be a requirement to receive housing

Over the past decade, drug use in the US has risen dramatically, with heroin use reaching epidemic proportions. The country’s policy for combating abuse has involved incarceration, abstinence-only treatment…
This crowd wants their president out David W Cerny/Reuters

Prague’s velvet: wearing off 25 years later

The United States had just gone through a bruising election, but in Congress Democratic and Republican leaders gathered to unveil the bust of Vaclav Havel, the playwright and first post-Communist Czech…
Frederic Bazille’s Studio 9 Rue de la Condamine (left) and Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barber Shop (right). The computer was able to detect similarities in the composition of both paintings. Yellow circles indicate similar objects, red lines indicate composition, and the blue square represents similar structural elements.

Computer science can only help – not hurt – art historians

I was the lead of a team of computer scientists at Rutgers that published a paper this past August titled, “Toward Automated Discovery of Artistic Influence.” In that paper we reported on our research…
Hollywood’s version of Stephen and Jane Hawking. Working Title Films

Theory of Everything debunks myth of Hawking as disembodied mind

Early in The Theory of Everything, the student Stephen Hawking strides across the grounds at Cambridge University in the 1960s, his face dreamy. He is lost in thought about the nature of time. Then he…
Will this relationship get better or worse? Petar Kujundzic/Reuters

US-China: a chill in the air

Foundation essay: This article is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the US. Our foundation essays are longer than our usual comment and analysis articles and take a wider look…
The People’s Bank of China recently cut interest rates to stimulate the economy. But it probably won’t fix the real problem. Reuters

China’s interest rate cut is mixed blessing for the world economy

China’s central bank surprised most observers last month when it announced its first interest rate cut in more than two years. The move is intended to bolster growth in the world’s second-largest economy…
Rising costs, the growing difficulty of securing loans, and a lack of curating talent have made the blockbuster exhibition a hazardous enterprise. Barney Livingston/Flickr

What happened to the blockbuster art exhibition?

A blockbuster art exhibition can double the annual attendance of an art museum and pull in significant amounts of money. Bring Vermeer’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring to the Frick Collection in New York…
St Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch asked grand jury to do investigation POOL New/ Reuters

Explainer: The grand jury in the Darren Wilson case and beyond

Now that the grand jury has decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old man, there remain many questions about this grand jury and generally…