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1. Minding your stems and crowns

Since evolution became the primary framework for biological thought, we have been fascinated—sometimes obsessed—with the origins of things. Darwin himself was puzzled by the seemingly sudden appearance of angiosperms (flowering plants) in the fossil record. In that mid-Cretaceous debut, they seemed to be diversified into modern families already, with no evidence of what came before them. This was Darwin’s famous “abominable mystery.”

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2. Cyber won’t protect us: the need to stand behind the Iranian nuclear framework agreement

After two years of negotiations, Israel throwing whatever they can against any possible agreement, and the Republicans in the US Congress doing what they can to scuttle the deal, we finally have a framework for an agreement between Iran and its negotiating partners. It is not a perfect deal, but it is likely the best the West can get and given the other options, it is literally the only hope standing between a rational dialogue with Iran and outright conflict.

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3. The “Blurred Lines” of music and copyright: Part two

The infrequency of two high-profile songsters or their representatives going all the way to trial over claims of copyright infringement means that such a case usually receives heightened public scrutiny. This is especially so when mere sampling of the plaintiff's song is not at issue. In recent years, few cases have drawn more public attention than the dispute between the Marvin Gaye estate and singer/songwriter Robin Thicke and song producer Pharrell Williams, over whether the song "Blurred Lines" infringed Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit, "Got to Give It Up."

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4. Keep the Cadillac tax

The Obamacare “Cadillac tax” is currently scheduled to go into effect in 2018. However, last week, sixty-six members of the House of Representatives, including both Republicans and Democrats, proposed to repeal the Cadillac tax before it becomes effective. The Cadillac tax will be imposed at a 40% rate on the cost of health care insurance, exceeding statutorily-established thresholds. Unions and many of their Democratic stalwarts, otherwise supportive of Obamacare, oppose the Cadillac tax because generous union-sponsored health care plans will trigger the tax.

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5. May the Fourth be with you!

May the Fourth be with you! Playing off a pun on one of the movie’s most famous quotes, May the 4th is the unofficial holiday in which Star Wars fans across the globe celebrate the beloved blockbuster series. The original Star Wars movie, now known as Star Wars IV: A New Hope, was released on 25 May 1977, but to those of us who waited in line after line to see it again and again in theaters, it will always be just Star Wars.

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6. In memoriam of M.H. Abrams

My first encounter with M.H. Abrams involved a bicycle. In a Beckettian scene in Goldwin Smith Hall at Cornell, I stopped a gentleman in shorts one spring morning with a bicycle. “Excuse me, do you know a Professor Abrams?” Removing a pipe from his mouth, he smiled and said “Follow me.” I did, and he stopped at an office door, asked me to hold the bike, fished out a key, and directed me to bring the bike in and sit down. “But what about Professor Abrams? I’m to be his new assistant,” I added nervously. The cyclist sat down among the piles of books, relit his pipe, and said through a grin, “Let’s get started.”

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7. How many of these famous political quotes have you heard before?

The week of the UK general election has finally arrived. After suffering weeks of incessant sound-bites, you will soon be free of political jargon for another few years. Phrases like “long-term economic plan” have been repeated so often that they have ceased to mean anything. From Margaret Thatcher to Harold Wilson, from Benjamin Disraeli to Winston Churchill, British prime ministers and politicians have uttered phrases that have echoed throughout history. How many of these famous political quotes do you remember?

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8. Five years of Labour opposition

The 7 May 2015 marks the conclusion of a long and challenging five years for Ed Miliband as leader of the opposition. After one of the worst defeats in the party’s history in May 2010, he took over as the new leader of the Labour party with the mission to bring the party back into power after only one term in opposition. A difficult task at the best of times, but made even harder due to internal tensions between Blairites and Brownites, Blue Labour and New Labour as well as many voters blaming the previous Labour government for the economic state of the country immediately after the 2010 election.

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9. Fig leaves and fairy tales: political promises and the Truth-O-Meter

The Tampa Bay Times is a very fine newspaper. One of its most insightful features -- indeed, a feature that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 -- is its PolitiFact website. This is an independent on-line platform through which a legion of reporters and editors fact-check every statement, promise and half-hearted mumble ever made by a politician, political candidate, political party, or campaign group.

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10. Destination India

What would it be like driving overland from London -- East of Suez and over the Khyber Pass -- to India ? Day by day and mile by mile, we found out, recording our impressions and experiences of people, landscape and encounters as we drove a 107" wheel base Land Rover from London to Jaipur.

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11. Reference and the election of the new Italian President

After three inconclusive rounds in the preceding days, in which nobody secured the two-thirds majority needed to win, on the morning of 31 January 2015 a fourth round of voting was held in the Italian Parliament to elect the country’s President. This time, a simple majority of the 1,009 eligible voters (the members of both Chambers of the Parliament plus some delegates from the Regions) was enough to decide the election.

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12. What is the history of the Green Berets?

With Memorial Day fast approaching, it is worth examining the history of our armed services, including the modernization of the military during the Cold War. This excerpt from The U.S. Special Forces: What Everyone Needs to Know® by John Prados, explains how the Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, evolved during President John F. Kennedy's term.

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13. Authors for Indies: Oxford University Press celebrates Canada’s independent bookstores

This year, Authors for Indies Day takes place on Saturday, 2 May. To celebrate, the staff at Oxford University Press Canada have decided to highlight some of their favourite independent bookstores. Here are some of Canada’s favourite literary hangouts, and where you can find them. * * * Novel Idea 156 Princess Street, Kingston, Ontario […]

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14. What has been your most memorable election experience?

We asked three OUP authors to describe their most memorable election experience in the build up to next week's general election in the UK. Their stories range from Press Association mishaps to covering elections in New Zealand to the importance of voting. What is your most memorable election experience? Let us know in the comments below.

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15. Later interviews as counter narratives: Treblinka and the ardent lover

Oral historians differ on the utility of retrieving participants’ full life stories, but we agree that “full” is a relative term. There is always much unsaid in any life’s retelling, and for a wide range reasons. Drawing on forty years of interviewing Holocaust survivors, I emphasize here that what is unsaid in early interviews often emerges in later ones. Indeed, later interviews may even become counter narratives to earlier recounting—a way for participants to tell us not to “peg” them too easily or too soon.

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16. Cultural origins of residency training

Given the highly scientific and technical nature of medical practice, it is tempting to assume that the system of residency training developed in response to intellectual forces within medicine. There is much truth to this. After all, the need to learn scientific concepts and principles, to develop skills of critical reasoning, to acquire the capacity to manage uncertainty, to master technical procedures, and to learn how to assume responsibility for patient care all reflected powerful professional demands.

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17. Making plans for Nigel (Dodds): the General Election and Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s part in the General Election, often seen as peripheral, has already attracted more interest than usual. The Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) status as Westminster’s fourth largest party has not gone unnoticed – except perhaps by television broadcasters anxious to clinch election debates involving the leaders of much smaller parliamentary parties.

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18. 6 things you didn’t know about light

Light occupies a central place in our understanding of the world both as a means by which we locate ourselves in nature and as a thing that inspires our imagination. Light is what enables us to see things, and thus to navigate our surroundings. It is also a primary means by which we learn about the world – light beams carry information about the constituents of the universe, from distant stars and galaxies to the cells in our bodies to individual atoms and molecules.

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19. Man’s best friend: companion or animal?

Most scientific inquires, referring to animals en masse, neglect the idea of individuality among animals. However, disregarding this academic approach, many people view their animal companions as family members. Dogs, often called 'man's best friend,' are no exception. Despite this old saying, science had generally neglected research on dogs until the end of the 19th century.

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20. Nature vs. nurture: genes strongly influence survival to the oldest ages

In our study analyzing data from the New England Centenarian Study, we found that for people who live to 90 years old, the chance of their siblings also reaching age 90 is relatively small – about 1.7 times greater than for the average person born around the same time.

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21. Monthly etymology gleanings for April 2015

Last month was a disaster: I confused the Wednesdays and then wrote 2014 for 2015. A student of the Middle Ages, I often forget in which millennium I live, so plus or minus one year does not really matter. We say: “The migration happened six or seven thousand years ago.” This is the degree of precision to which I am accustomed.

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22. Does a person’s personality change when they speak another language?

During the first run of my Coursera course on the bilingual brain, a student asked whether changing languages leads to people changing personalities. Considerable discussion ensued about this on the forums. My initial answer was that language was a marker of a set of circumstances and as such was likely to be accompanied by a shift in context.

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23. Which Shakespeare performance shocked you the most?

Inspired by Stanley Wells' recent book on Great Shakespeare Actors, we asked OUP staff members to remember a time when a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play shocked them. We discovered that some Shakespeare plays have the ability to surprise even the hardiest of Oxford University Press employees. Grab an ice-cream on your way in, take a seat, and enjoy the descriptions of shocking Shakespeare productions.

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24. Kurt Cobain, making comedy of commercialism

The release of Brett Morgen’s documentary Montage of Heck has inspired new discussions of the legacy of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman who upended popular music before committing suicide in 1994. Few artists have straddled the line between nonconformity and commercialism like Cobain. Consider the three-album arc of his band’s life: though Nirvana boasted of producing its debut album Bleach for $600, Cobain became a Generation X icon by releasing its follow-up, Nevermind, on a major label, and by having a hit single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” that dominated MTV.

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25. Making sense of mathematics

Mathematics is used in increasingly sophisticated ways in modern society, explicitly by experts who develop applications and implicitly by the general public who use technological devices. As each of us is taught a broad curriculum in school and then focuses on particular specialisms in our adult life, it is useful to ask the question ‘what does it mean to make sense of mathematics?’.

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