Editor's note

Churches and other nonprofits by law must be nonpartisan – at least for now. The House’s version of the tax package pending in Congress includes a provision that would leave religious and secular charities alike suddenly free to engage in political speech. Susan Anderson, who teaches nonprofit taxation at Elon University, argues “this significant change deserves vigorous public debate and is too big to bury in tax legislation.”

Yesterday’s brutal attack on a Sufi mosque in northern Sinai left at least 235 people dead and more than 100 wounded. It is the deadliest assault on civilians in modern Egyptian history and the country’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, vowed to respond with “brute force.” But why did extremists target this particular mosque? Wesleyan University’s Peter Gottschalk explains why Sufis and their traditions are so threatening to Islamic extremists.

When American cultural anthropologist Alma Gottlieb lived in Côte d'Ivoire doing ethnographic fieldwork she had a realization: childrearing practices vary around the world, but the kids typically grow into healthy, happy adults regardless. Here she uses the example of diverse toilet-training practices to show there’s more than one path to raising a well-adjusted child.

Emily Schwartz Greco

Philanthropy + Nonprofits Editor

Top stories

If a House provision gets enacted, churches will be able to endorse – not just pray for – political candidates. Andrew Cline/Shutterstock.com

How the tax package could blur the separation of church and politics

Susan Anderson, Elon University

A provision in the House's pending tax bill would let religious and secular nonprofits engage in political speech without facing a penalty.

Injured people are evacuated from the scene of a militant attack on a mosque in northern Sinai, Egypt on Nov. 24, 2017. Associated Press

Who are the Sufis and why does IS see them as threatening?

Peter Gottschalk, Wesleyan University

A new attack on a Sufi mosque in Egypt drives home the hatred of Islamic State and other some other Muslim groups for the Sufi traditions of inclusiveness and mystical worship.

Chill: There’s no one right way. David D

Diapers, potties and split pants: Understanding toilet training around the world may help parents relax

Alma Gottlieb, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Opening the minds of worried new parents to other ways of raising children may assuage fears that if they fail to 'do the right thing,' their children will be doomed.

Arts + Culture

A backlash against 'mixed' foods led to the demise of a classic American dish

Helen Zoe Veit, Michigan State University

In the 19th century, puddings were as popular and widespread as pasta dishes are today.

Can withering public trust in government be traced back to the JFK assassination?

Ryan Kellus Turner, St. Edward's University

In the minds of many, the assassination remains a tragedy cloaked in mystery. How does this lack of closure – and the general distrust it fomented – resonate in American culture and politics today?

Economy + Business

'Hot potato' shows why workers won't benefit from Trump's corporate tax cut

Steven Pressman, Colorado State University

The House just passed its version of the tax plan, which includes about US$1 trillion in cuts for corporations. The question, who will be left holding the potato?

Companies need confidentiality clauses – but not to muzzle sexual abuse victims

Elizabeth C. Tippett, University of Oregon

Nondisclosure agreements are getting a bad rap these days because they've been used to prevent victims of sexual harassment and abuse from speaking out. But not all are nefarious.

Environment + Energy

Storms hit poorer people harder, from Superstorm Sandy to Hurricane Maria

Chris Sellers, Stony Brook University (The State University of New York)

Five years after Superstorm Sandy, we see how disadvantaged social groups suffered more from the storm before and after – much as we're seeing in Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.

Jet fuel from sugarcane? It's not a flight of fancy

Deepak Kumar, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Stephen P. Long, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Vijay Singh, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Scientists have engineered sugarcane to increase its oil content and are developing renewable jet aircraft fuel from the oil. The engineered sugarcane could become a valuable energy crop.

Trophy hunting: 5 essential reads

Jennifer Weeks, The Conversation

Is trophy hunting wholesome sport or pointless violence? The Trump administration moved last week to allow imports of trophy parts from African elephants, but met heavy protest and is reconsidering.

To succeed, large ocean sanctuaries need to benefit both sea life and people

Rebecca Gruby, Colorado State University; Lisa Campbell, Duke University; Luke Fairbanks, Duke University; Noella Gray, University of Guelph

Scientists call large marine protected areas effective tools for conserving sea life. But do they benefit countries that create them? Scholars explain how Palau's huge marine protected area seeks to protect resources for Palauans.

Health + Medicine

The dangers and potential of 'natural' opioid kratom

C. Michael White, University of Connecticut

The herb kratom has a large following and is so popular that it is sold in vending machines. The FDA recently issued a public warning about the herb, which contains low levels of opioids.

Anniversary of Konrad Reuland tragedy reminds us of the toll of brain aneurysms

Brian Hoh, M.D., University of Florida

Konrad Reuland's death shocked sports fans and, famously, gave new life to baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew. But how is it that a young athlete in top shape could suddenly develop a deadly condition?

Science + Technology

No, turkey doesn't make you sleepy – but it may bring more trust to your Thanksgiving table

Kevin Bennett, Pennsylvania State University

Remember that story about the molecule found in turkey that makes you drowsy? Research shows it's a myth – tryptophan doesn't cause you to nod off, but it may be connected to cooperation.

Why the FCC's proposed internet rules may spell trouble ahead

David Choffnes, Northeastern University

How do internet companies decide which network traffic to slow down and which to charge against users' data plans? And what can we learn about net neutrality from the answers?

Understanding net neutrality: 10 essential reads

Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

Trump's FCC chairman Ajit Pai has proposed a major change in internet regulation, doing away with the Open Internet Order. Experts describe what's at stake, and why it matters.

Millions, billions, trillions: How to make sense of numbers in the news

Andrew D. Hwang, College of the Holy Cross

Today's news can often involve mind-bogglingly large numbers. A math professor shares some tricks for understanding it all.

Politics + Society

Will Puerto Ricans return home after Hurricane María?

Alexis R. Santos-Lozada, Pennsylvania State University

A demographer at Penn State surveyed Puerto Ricans on the mainland to see if they had plans to return to the island.

Rebuilding the Caribbean will be pricey, but some are vying to finance its recovery

Masaō Ashtine, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus

Tesla, China and Richard Branson are among those offering to help Caribbean nations rebuild – and do so in a greener, more resilient way – after the devastating 2017 hurricane season.

Who will bury Charles Manson?

Tanya D. Marsh, Wake Forest University

If no one claims the remains of cult leader and killer Charles Manson, it's unclear what will happen to his body. Will it find an anonymous California grave or face dissection in an anatomy lab?

The way we tell the story of Hollywood sexual assault and harassment matters

Sarah L. Cook, Georgia State University

This story typically has two acts. First come the women's reports of harassment – followed by the inevitable dismissal and undermining of them. Could this time be different?