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Zinc Shortage May Be Exactly What Alternative Currency Movement Needed

The skyrocketing value of a mineral challenges the world's antiquated reliance on mints, metals, and mines.

photo © by Heinrich Pniok (www.pse-mendelejew.de) , license FAL

As of the start of this month, zinc prices have hit a historic three-year high. That’s the kind of headline that can make eyes glaze over—another story about price fluctuations, construction in the developing world, and mine closures that matter a whole lot to a few people and barely register for the rest. Yet zinc—found in things as common and vital as car tires, sunscreen, and even U.S. nickels and pennies—is a ubiquitous mineral that cannot be easily replaced. As zinc prices skyrocket, it’s not only forcing prices higher on consumer goods, but also squeezing the price of making currency itself, leading the U.S., for the first time in ages, to seriously search for alternatives to our current coinage. But if the history of metal variation in U.S. currency and the nature of the current zinc shortage tells us anything, it’s that simply changing the composition or denominations of our money will no longer be enough.

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What the 2.4-Cent Penny Says About America's Budget Problem

The controversy around the humble penny illustrates the challenges of getting public spending under control.


It turns out that the humble penny is a pricey coin. Specifically, each new penny coined by the government costs 2.4 cents.

My point here is not to remind you that pennies are anachronisms that ought to be dispensed with entirely—though that is true. This is actually a story about the federal budget, and why it’s so tough to manage.

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Can Zinc Really Cure a Cold?

Zinc works, if only somewhat, to cure the common cold.


Everyone knows that there is no cure for the common cold, but the The BBC reports that doctors now think that may not be true. Zinc might make a difference:

A review of the available scientific evidence suggests taking zinc within a day of the onset of cold symptoms speeds recovery. It may also help ward off colds, say the authors of the Cochrane Systematic Review that included data from 15 trials involving 1,360 people.

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