Saturday, December 14, 2019

Schnapps, whipping and sacks: How Christmas traditions evolved around the world

  Christmas has become a cultural event, associated with the giving of gifts and lavish meals with friends and family.

  But the traditional understanding of Christmas is that it’s a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus.

  The idea of giving gifts may be traced to the Bible, in which the infant Jesus was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh by the Three Wise Men, named in apocryphal texts as Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Russian flags over an American base

  President Donald Trump’s erratic policy shifts on Syria this fall have planted the seeds for new security threats to the United States and its allies—and Americans are noticing.

  The zigs and zags of Trump’s approach to Syria—announcing a full withdrawal of U.S. troops one week then sending U.S. troops back to “secure the oil” the next—opened the door to new security threats, including the revival of ISIS, a humanitarian crisis, and a continued expansion of Russia’s destructive role in Syria and the broader Middle East. In addition to these immediate concerns, there are the long-term effects that will play out for years to come, such as the doubt cast on America’s reliability as a security partner and the troubling signal that U.S. foreign policy prioritizes protecting oil over human life.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Craig Ford: Building new prisons is not the answer

  Alabama should be building better schools, not better prisons. It’s as simple as that. And the truth is if we had done that from the beginning we probably wouldn’t have the overcrowded prisons we have today.

  It’s a statistical fact that if a child can’t read at a third-grade level by the time they graduate the third grade, then they are far more likely to end up in prison. And here’s another statistical fact: A non-violent offender who completes some sort of education training (like a trade such as carpentry or welding) while they are in prison has only a 20 percent chance of going back to prison, while an offender who does not get that training has an 80 percent chance of going back to prison.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Some Henry County stories

  One of the really good guys in Alabama government took over the reins as President of the Alabama Association of County Commissioners this summer. Henry County Probate Judge and County Commission Chairman, David Money, is an extremely outstanding and quality leader for his beloved county. He is revered by his folks in Abbeville, Headland, and throughout his home county. 

  Henry County is one of the friendliest counties you will ever enter. David Money is their boy, or maybe you might say, their David. You can see a look of admiration and reverence for their David in the eyes of his people when they look at him. He was raised in Henry County and therefore, he knows most of the folks there. His best buddy is his neighbor and friend, Jimmy Rane, the Yellow Fella. Some say this big ole Henry County boy is one of the wealthiest men in the state. Rane still lives in Abbeville and has his business center there. Rane and Money visit over coffee several times a week.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Hate Christmas? A psychologist’s survival guide for Grinches

  Two years ago, I came into work on December 1 to find a bag on my desk labeled “Karen’s Christmas Intervention”. It contained many Christmas themed gifts and challenges – such as watching a Christmas DVD and going to a carol service. These were all designed to help me find something to like about Christmas. I tried everything – after all, someone had made a big effort. But while I enjoyed completing each challenge, it didn’t change my values. I remain a Grinch.

  In many parts of the world, we are expected to love Christmas and embrace all things about it. Anyone who doesn’t is quickly labeled a Grinch and advised to keep their views to themselves so that they don’t ruin a magical time for others. But how reasonable is this? And if you are a Grinch, how can you survive the yuletide season?

Monday, December 9, 2019

Five ways Trump and his supporters are using the same strategies as science deniers

  While watching the House impeachment hearings, I realized my two decades of research into why people ignore, reject, or deny science had a political parallel.

  From anti-evolutionists to anti-vaccine advocates, known as “anti-vaxxers,” climate change deniers to Flat Earthers, science deniers all follow a common pattern of faulty reasoning that allows them to reject what they don’t want to believe – and accept what they favor – based on a misunderstanding of how science deals with evidence.

  As I’ve been watching the hearings, I’ve noticed that a number of characteristics of this type of reasoning are now being embraced by President Donald Trump and his congressional supporters.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Why support for the death penalty is much higher among white Americans

  Sentencing a person to die is the ultimate punishment. There is no coming back from the permanence of the death penalty.

  In the United States, the death penalty is currently authorized by the federal government, the military, and 29 states. The primary rationale for using the death penalty is deterrence.

  As public policy, I believe that capital punishment has largely not proved to be an effective deterrent.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

How the American Civil War cemented modern Christmas tradition

  Shortly before Christmas Day 1864, Abraham Lincoln received an extraordinary Christmas present – Savannah, Georgia. Union General William Sherman presented the captured city to the president via telegram, noting his gift included guns, ammunition, and several thousand bales of cotton.

  An unusual gift, but the tale hints at how traditions bend during wartime. By the time the war broke out, the majority of Christmas traditions that we would recognize – and indeed celebrate today – were in place in America. Many of these built upon traditions from Europe. But the way these were upheld during the war went a long way towards cementing aspects of the American Christmas that has since been commercialized and exported around the globe.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Rick Perry’s belief that Trump was chosen by God is shared by many in a fast-growing Christian movement

  In a recent interview with Fox News, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry stated that Donald Trump was chosen by God to be president. He said that throughout history God had picked “imperfect people” such as King David or Solomon to lead their people.

  Perry is not alone. A large number of evangelical Christians in the United States believe that God has chosen Donald Trump to advance the kingdom of God on Earth. Several high-profile religious leaders have made similar claims, often comparing Trump to King Cyrus who was asked by God to rescue the nation of Israel from exile in Babylon.

  Many of these Christians are part of a movement that we call “Independent Network Charismatic,” or “INC Christianity” in our 2017 book.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

How to tell if your digital addiction is ruining your life

  The fear that digital distractions are ruining our lives and friendships is widespread.

  To be sure, digital addiction is real. Consider the 2,600 times we touch our phones every day, our panic when we temporarily misplace a device, the experience of “phantom vibration syndrome”, and how merely seeing a message alert can be as distracting as checking the message itself.

  This can have real consequences. For example, other people do take it personally if you stop talking to them to answer a message. And taking a break from a task to look at your cell phone precludes deep thinking on whatever you were doing.