Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Skipping standardized tests in 2020 may offer a chance to find better alternatives

  The Education Department is letting states cancel standardized tests. The move is a practical one: School buildings across the nation are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic even though distance learning efforts are widespread.

  As a result, 2020 is the first year without federally mandated standardized testing in nearly two decades. Washington has required all states to use these tests to evaluate students, teachers, principals, schools, and entire school systems, first in accordance with accountability measures shaped by the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act and later under the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The forgotten history of Memorial Day

  In the years following the bitter Civil War, a former Union general took a holiday originated by former Confederates and helped spread it across the entire country.

  The holiday was Memorial Day, and today's commemoration marks the 152nd anniversary of its official nationwide observance. The annual commemoration was born in the former Confederate States in 1866 and adopted by the United States in 1868. It is a holiday in which the nation honors its military dead.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

States should embrace voting by mail and early voting to protect higher-risk populations from coronavirus

  The COVID-19 pandemic poses a substantial threat to U.S. elections, as described in previous reports by the Center for American Progress. Unless officials make significant changes to state election systems before November, Americans who vote or serve as election workers will be forced to put their lives at risk in order to participate in the democratic process. And it is not just voters or election personnel who have good cause for concern. Even those who cannot cast a ballot could become ill by coming into contact with a family member, caregiver, or neighbor who contracts the coronavirus through the voting process.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

As reopening begins in uncertain coronavirus times, you need emotional protective equipment, too

  As millions across the U.S. return to work – and maybe, a level of normalcy – the phrase, “We’re all in this together,” heard constantly in the media, turns out to be both true and untrue. Yes, the pandemic is a global experience. But it’s also very much an individual enterprise.

  Your race, age, socioeconomic status, where you live, and whether or not children are in the house all have a dramatic impact on how you’re responding to the pandemic. For many, aside from the isolation, life has changed little. But others have lost family, friends, a paycheck, or a business. For some of them, any sense of security has vanished.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The evil of drafting women (and men)

  In March, a federal agency named the Commission on Military, National, and Public Service issued an official report on whether America’s system of conscription should continue and, if so, whether women (along with men) should be subject to being drafted should circumstances warrant it.

  After months of study and deliberation, the commission answered yes to both questions.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Here’s how to stay safe while buying groceries amid the coronavirus pandemic

  Here’s how to stay safe while buying groceries amid the coronavirus pandemic

  Wear a mask, but skip the gloves. Don’t sanitize the apples. And if you are older than 65, it’s probably best to still order your groceries online.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Speaker Sam Rayburn and Congressman Bob Jones

  The legendary Speaker of the U.S. House, Sam Rayburn, coined a famous phrase he used often and imparted to young congressmen when they would arrive on Capitol Hill full of vim and vigor. He would sit down with them and invite them to have a bourbon and branch water with him. The old gentleman, who had spent nearly half a century in Congress, after hearing their ambitions of how they were going to change the world, would look them in the eye and say, “You know here in Congress, there are 435 prima donnas and they all can’t be lead horses.” Then the Speaker in his Texas drawl would say, “If you want to get along, you have to go along.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

I ate lobster on food stamps and it was delicious

  I was a food stamp kid for a few years in the early 1990s when my mom started college. I remember the first time we went to the H-E-B grocery store on the south side of San Antonio with our stamps. We always drove to a store in the next neighborhood over to shop. My mom had worked at the closest H-E-B when she was pregnant with me. People she went to high school with shopped there and so did her former in-laws. There was no way my mom was going to walk into that store with a wad of food stamps. We felt enough shame that we needed the help without adding in other people’s judgment.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Celebrating the Freedom Riders

  On May 4, 1961, seven Black and six white civil rights activists known as the Freedom Riders boarded a Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C. to travel through the Deep South to test the 1960 Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia – a ruling that found segregation of interstate transportation, including bus terminals, was unconstitutional.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Essential US workers often lack sick leave and health care – benefits taken for granted in most other countries

  The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the degree to which we depend on the work of others. This is particularly true of essential workers like truck drivers, grocery store employees, and hospital nurses who are ensuring the rest of us stay safe and are able to get the supplies, food, and health care we need.

  The pandemic has also drawn attention to the fact that these workers, like all Americans, do not receive many of the basic workplace benefits and protections – like paid sick leave and basic health care – that workers in almost every other developed country in the world receive as a matter of course.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Coronavirus, ‘Plandemic’ and the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking

  The conspiracy theory video “Plandemic” recently went viral. Despite being taken down by YouTube and Facebook, it continues to get uploaded and viewed millions of times. The video is an interview with conspiracy theorist Judy Mikovits, a disgraced former virology researcher who believes the COVID-19 pandemic is based on vast deception, with the purpose of profiting from selling vaccinations.

  The video is rife with misinformation and conspiracy theories. Many high-quality fact-checks and debunkings have been published by reputable outlets such as Science, Politifact, and FactCheck.

Friday, May 15, 2020

A-lop-bam-boom: Little Richard’s saucy style underpins today’s hits

  Little Richard was washing dishes at a Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia when he wrote Tutti Frutti, Good Golly Miss Molly, and Long Tall Sally. The singer, who died May 9 at 87, sent the songs as demos to Specialty Records.

  Soon he was having lunch with talent scout Robert “Bumps” Blackwell at a New Orleans nightclub, leaping onto the piano and belting out:

Thursday, May 14, 2020

A majority of vaccine skeptics plan to refuse a COVID-19 vaccine, a study suggests, and that could be a big problem

  The availability of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus will likely play a key role in determining when Americans can return to life as usual. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on April 30 announced that a vaccine could even be available by January 2021.

  Whether a vaccine can end this pandemic successfully, however, depends on more than its effectiveness at providing immunity against the virus or how quickly it can be produced in mass quantities. Americans also must choose to receive the vaccine.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The 1965 Special Succession Session

  The Alabama Legislature meets in regular session every year for three-and-a-half months. However, an extraordinary special session can be called by the governor if he/she deems there is a dire emergency in the state government that needs addressing. This provision in the Alabama Constitution gives the governor an inherent advantage in a special session. The official proclamation calling for a special session allows the governor to set out matters for a specific purpose(s) when calling the session and requires the legislators to address those specific issues. You saw Gov. Kay Ivey use this procedure quite effectively last year.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

We call workers ‘essential’ – but is that just referring to the work, not the people?

  By this point in the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve probably heard a lot about “essential workers.” They’re the people working in hospitals and grocery stores, on farms, and in meatpacking plants. They’re keeping public transit, shipping, and utilities running.

  But is “essential” describing the workers themselves? Or only the work they do?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Building automatic and long-term economic relief during the coronavirus crisis

  The economic fallout from the coronavirus response has happened quickly, but its effects will be long-lasting. As Congress reconvenes to debate the next round of funding priorities, it must employ strategies that work in tandem to get economic relief to the wide range of people who need it: the millions who have lost jobs, small businesses that have been shuttered, states and cities facing budget shortfalls, and communities that are facing disproportionate health burdens. These policy approaches should be designed to provide significant support right away; effectively address the public health crisis; mitigate the economic harm to people; and begin to build towards an eventual equitable recovery.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Psychology behind why your mom may be the mother of all heroes

  Each May, the United States celebrates Mother’s Day, and for good reason. According to surveys I’ve conducted, over 25% of Americans cite their mother as their number one hero. Fathers come in a distant second at 16%.

  Moms are indeed the mother of all heroes.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The killing of Ahmaud Arbery highlights the danger of jogging while black

  Unsteady cellphone footage follows a jogger – an apparently young, black man – as he approaches and attempts to run around a white pickup truck parked in the middle of a suburban road. Moments later he lies dead on the ground.

  The killing of Ahmaud Arbery took place on Feb. 23 after the 25-year-old was confronted by Gregory McMichael, a 64-year-old former police officer and investigator for the Brunswick, Georgia district attorney’s office, and his 34-year-old son, Travis. It took 10 weeks to gain widespread attention with the circulation of video footage on social media, prompting revulsion and calls for justice.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1717 - A stitch in time saves nine

  A stitch in time saves nine. This old folks' saying is personal to me. As a child, I was really rough on pants. I kept ripping them in the seams. Each time it was just a little rip at first, but it would keep getting bigger and bigger. My mother, who required us to sew our own seams, urged me to sew the rip as soon as it started. That way, she said, I would have to put in just a stitch or two. But if I waited, the rip would get bigger and bigger, requiring a whole lot more stitches. Sometimes I would not put in a stitch when the rip first started. I would just hope that the seam would not rip farther. It always got bigger and bigger. A stitch in time saves nine.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Five lessons from the coronavirus about inequality in America

  The coronavirus is a global threat, but the pandemic has an uneven impact across the United States. It exacerbates existing inequalities and creates new challenges.

  I think this crisis can teach several important lessons about inequality in America: how it hurts, who it hurts the most, why that’s the case, and what can be done about it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Budgets are priority for this legislative session

  The 2020 Alabama Legislative Session has resumed after a six-week hiatus due to the coronavirus shutdown of the state and the nation. The session must end by May 18. The only thing they will do is pass barebones budgets. 

  The most important - and actually the only constitutionally-mandated act that must be accomplished - is the passage of the state budgets. In our case, we have two state budgets. We have a general fund like 45 other states, and we have a second one, the Special Education Trust Fund budget. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Americans might love Cinco de Mayo, but few know what they’re celebrating

  Many Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but how many actually know the story of the holiday?

  Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t mark Mexican Independence, which is celebrated on September 16. Instead, it’s meant to commemorate the Battle of Puebla, which was fought between the Mexican and French armies in 1862.

Monday, May 4, 2020

4 ways the Trump administration has made our air dirtier during the COVID-19 pandemic

  While the novel coronavirus has raged across the United States, infecting more than 1 million Americans, the Trump administration has failed catastrophically in its efforts to protect the public. One of these myriad failures has come in the form of continued rollbacks of critical protections for clean air across the country.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Infected with the coronavirus but not showing symptoms? A physician answers 5 questions about asymptomatic COVID-19

  Blood tests that check for exposure to the coronavirus are starting to come online, and preliminary findings suggest that many people have been infected without knowing it. Even people who do eventually experience the common symptoms of COVID-19 don’t start coughing and spiking fevers the moment they’re infected.

  William Petri is a professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Virginia who specializes in infectious diseases. Here, he runs through what’s known and what isn’t about asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Why do people believe con artists?

  What is real can seem pretty arbitrary. It’s easy to be fooled by misinformation disguised as news and deepfake videos showing people doing things they never did or said. Inaccurate information – even deliberately wrong information – doesn’t just come from snake-oil salesmen, door-to-door hucksters, and TV shopping channels anymore.

  Even the president of the United States needs constant fact-checking. As of February, he had made an average of 15 false or misleading public claims every day of his presidency, according to a tally from the Washington Post.

Friday, May 1, 2020

As businesses reopen, a salon owner finds herself ‘on the front line’ of COVID-19

  With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, Lauren Reyes is more than a little apprehensive about reopening her hair salon, located in an Atlanta shopping mall. But she said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) April 20 decision to allow some nonessential businesses in the state to reopen leaves her no choice.

  “If we choose to stay closed for the sake of our health and our families’ health, we risk losing our clientele. If we reopen for our clients, we put ourselves at risk,” she said, explaining the dilemma she and other Georgia small-business owners face.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

How to listen to your loved ones with empathy when you yourself are feeling the strain of social distancing

  COVID-19 has revealed a great many things about our world, including the vulnerabilities inherent in our economic, health care, and educational institutions. The pandemic and the resulting orders to shelter in place have also uncovered vulnerabilities in our relationships with others.

  Many of us are not just dealing with our own feelings of anxiety, anger, and sadness; we are dealing with the anxiety, anger, and sadness expressed by the people with whom we live and other loved ones with whom we’ve maintained virtual connections. How do we respond with empathy when we are feeling a host of emotions ourselves? Is it even possible?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Alabama leaders under 45 who affect the political arena

  Last week, I discussed Alabama’s outstanding leaders in the political arena. This week, allow me to share with you some of the state’s leaders under 45 who are shaping and molding our state from outside the actual pit of the political arena.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

‘Reopen’ protest movement created, boosted by fake grassroots tactics

  Many Americans have been under strict stay-at-home orders, or at least advisories, for more than a month. People are frustrated and depressed but have complied with what they’ve been asked to endure because they trust that state and local public health officials are telling the truth about the coronavirus pandemic.

  There have been passionate – and honest – arguments about how many people are likely to get sick and die under different circumstances and sets of official rules. It’s not clear how uncertain and evolving scientific findings should affect extraordinary government measures that restrict citizens’ basic freedoms.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Screens are keeping us connected now – but they’re still disruptive to in-person communication

  Digital technology has been a lifeline during the COVID-19 health crisis. Yet, its impact on human relationships remains complex. It allows for work and connection in many domains but does so in ways that are often intrusive, exhausting, and potentially corrosive to face-to-face relationships.

  The debate about technology’s effect on overall mental health rages on. Some researchers claim smartphones have destroyed a generation, while others argue screen time doesn’t predict mental health at all.

  After years of research on the topic, I have come to the conclusion that screen time can disrupt a fundamental aspect of our human experience – paying attention to one another’s eyes.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Advanced degrees bring higher starting salaries – but also higher debt

  People with a master’s degree or doctorate can bank on a much higher starting salary than those with the same major but only a bachelor’s degree. That’s according to a recent survey of employers by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Friday, April 24, 2020

I asked people why they don’t vote, and this is what they told me

  At least 40% to 90% of American voters stay home during elections, evidence that low voter turnout for both national and local elections is a serious problem throughout the United States.

  With the 2020 presidential election approaching, directives for people to “get out and vote” will be firing up again.

  Some people might be indifferent or simply not care, but many who forgo voting have legitimate reasons.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Is workplace rudeness on the rise?

  You don’t have to look hard to see uncivil behavior these days, whether in political discourse, in college classrooms, or on airplanes. One study found that rudeness is even contagious like the common cold.

  The workplace, where my research is focused, is hardly immune from this so-called incivility epidemic. Past surveys suggest virtually all workers experience rude or uncivil behavior, while over half report being treated badly at least once a week. And some researchers have claimed it’s pervasive and getting worse.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Alabama has some outstanding political leaders under 45

  Many of you have lamented to me that it appears all or most of our state political leaders are older folks. At first glance, that appears to be true. But we do, however, have some extremely talented younger stars on the horizon. In fact, they are already in the ring and making a difference.

  There are a few personalities who are worth watching. Allow me to share with you a select group of Alabama’s under-45 outstanding leaders. There are two superstars already on the scene and leading the state: Alabama state Representative Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa, and Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Can the Constitution stop the government from lying to the public?

  When regular people lie, sometimes their lies are detected, sometimes they’re not. Legally speaking, sometimes they’re protected by the First Amendment – and sometimes not, like when they commit fraud or perjury.

  But what about when government officials lie?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Humans are hardwired to dismiss facts that don’t fit their worldview

  Something is rotten in the state of American political life. The U.S. (among other nations) is increasingly characterized by highly polarized, informationally insulated ideological communities occupying their own factual universes.

  Within the conservative political blogosphere, global warming is either a hoax or so uncertain as to be unworthy of response. Within other geographic or online communities, vaccines, fluoridated water, and genetically modified foods are known to be dangerous. Right-wing media outlets paint a detailed picture of how Donald Trump is the victim of a fabricated conspiracy.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

What happens when black Americans leave their segregated hometowns

  Where someone grows up is profoundly important for their life chances. It influences things like the schools they attend, the jobs, parks and community resources they have access to, and the peers they interact with.

  Because of this comprehensive influence, one might conclude that where you grow up affects your ability to move up the residential ladder and into a better neighborhood than the one you grew up in.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The right of trial by jury

  One of the best things that our American ancestors did was to include the right of trial by jury in the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment states in part: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Craig Ford: I encourage Governor Ivey to follow the doctor's orders, not Senator Marsh's

  When a doctor prescribes a prescription, they usually tell you to take the whole thing and not to stop just because the symptoms go away. The reason is that even though the symptoms may have gone away, the illness is not necessarily dead yet.

  The same holds true for this current pandemic. Right now we are under a stay-at-home order. That is the prescription our state's medical professionals have recommended. And that prescription has gotten results!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: Observations

  Allow me to share some more observations from the year.

  One of my favorite individuals in the world and one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known is Alabama state Representative Steve Clouse of Ozark. My relationship with Clouse falls under the category of "Alabama is one big front porch".

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Emotional support animals can endanger the public and make life harder for people like me who rely on service dogs

  In 2017, Marlin Jackson boarded a cross-country flight. When he got to his row, another passenger was already in the middle seat with an emotional support dog in his lap.

  According to Mr. Jackson’s attorney, “The approximately 50-pound dog growled at Mr. Jackson soon after he took his seat…and continued as Mr. Jackson attempted to buckle his seatbelt. The growling increased and the dog lunged for Mr. Jackson’s face…who could not escape due to his position against the plane’s window.” Facial wounds requiring 28 stitches were the result.

Monday, April 13, 2020

10 ways to spot online misinformation

  Propagandists are already working to sow disinformation and social discord in the run-up to the November elections.

  Many of their efforts have focused on social media, where people’s limited attention spans push them to share items before even reading them – in part because people react emotionally, not logically, to information they come across. That’s especially true when the topic confirms what a person already believes.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Why Easter is called Easter, and other little-known facts about the holiday

  Today, Christians are celebrating Easter, the day on which the resurrection of Jesus is said to have taken place. The date of celebration changes from year to year.

  The reason for this variation is that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. So, in 2020, Easter is celebrated on April 12, and on April 4 in 2021.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Structural changes are needed to address coronavirus

  Responding to and properly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic will require structural reforms that fix underlying problems in America’s economy and democracy. Structural reforms are necessary to protect public health, mitigate the risks of future outbreaks, and ensure that the eventual recovery benefits most Americans.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Express gratitude – not because you will benefit from it, but others might

  The world is currently in the midst of a pandemic where the most useful thing many of us can do is stay at home and keep away from others. Schools, restaurants, office buildings, and movie theaters are closed. Many people are feeling disoriented, disconnected, and scared.

  At this time of soaring infection rates, shortages of medical supplies, and economic downturns, there are also examples of people looking for ways to express their gratitude to those on the front lines of fighting the epidemic. In many European countries, for example, people are expressing gratitude for the work of the medical staff by clapping from their balconies. Recently, this same practice has migrated to New York City.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

SPLC report is a wake-up call for LGBTQ people

  In its most recent report on hate groups in the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented a spike in the number of groups targeting LGBTQ people and promoting dangerous lies and misinformation, particularly about transgender people. Shockingly, the number of those groups rose from 49 in 2018 to 70 last year.

  Across the country, LGBTQ advocates have become alarmed by the Trump administration’s increasingly aggressive attempts to enshrine their anti-LGBTQ bigotry in federal law. Even as our country and the world struggle in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, LGBTQ people in the U.S. must confront another brutal reality: Our own government is seeking to harm us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Some observations

  Allow me to share some observations from the year thus far. First of all, I have never seen anything like the coronavirus shutdown of the country. Hopefully, it is a once in a lifetime disaster. 

  Gov. Kay Ivey remains popular. Even though some people consider the defeat of Amendment One a personal rejection, it was not. Alabamians just like to vote to elect their political, and in this case, education leaders.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

'Be nice' is not needed during crisis — but a free press is

  “Be nice” — two words not found anywhere among the 45 words of the First Amendment.

  Also not found: “positive,” or “get ya” or “trust.”

  All of those words are out of place in a brief statement leading off the Bill of Rights at the start of our Constitution, the document that empowers all of us to express ourselves as we wish, regardless of whether others agree with or like what we have to say or write.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Four ways companies can support their workers during the coronavirus crisis

  The coronavirus pandemic has forced tens of millions of employees across the U.S. to work from home. While this will save lives by limiting the transmission of COVID-19, it also poses significant challenges for employees’ well-being.

  How can companies support the health of their employees – many of whom have never before worked from home for a significant amount of time?

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Craig Ford: Slush fund for congressmen included in coronavirus relief bill

  Having served in the Alabama House of Representatives as opposed to the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., I usually limit my editorials to state politics rather than national politics. But I can't stay silent about the most recent piece of legislation to come out of the Congress.

  Most of what’s in that bill is good. There’s a lot of help for families that are struggling to get by during these difficult times; help that is essential for those who get paid by the hour.

  But hidden within that $2 trillion bill is a $25 million line item for Congress. No, it’s not a pay raise for congressman. But it’s almost just as bad.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Feeling overwhelmed? Approach coronavirus as a challenge to be met, not a threat to be feared

  You have a choice to make when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

  Do you treat this time as an insurmountable threat that pits you against everyone else? This option entails making decisions based solely on protecting yourself and your loved ones: stockpiling supplies regardless of what that leaves for others; continuing to host small gatherings because you’re personally at lower risk; or taking no precautions because the effort seems futile.

Friday, April 3, 2020

How the Trump administration’s deregulation agenda has worsened the coronavirus pandemic

  In 2015, Donald Trump promised: “Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.” Yet, long before news of the COVID-19 outbreak reached the United States, the Trump administration had been dismantling policies and proposing new ones that have vastly exacerbated the coronavirus pandemic.

  As the United States braces to combat a public health crisis and a severe economic downturn, it is important to note that the Trump administration’s policies have contributed to this crisis. Three years of deregulation under the Trump presidency and a botched response to the COVID-19 pandemic have in part spurred what may be one of the costliest public health crises in American history—both financially and in terms of human life. This column breaks down four of the Trump administration’s deregulatory actions that have worsened the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic is fueling fear and hate across America

  Since the first report of COVID-19 on American soil, Asian Americans, especially Chinese Americans, have endured physical and economic abuse at the hands of their classmates, neighbors, and fellow citizens. Last month, in New York City, a woman was physically assaulted while walking to the subway. For weeks, hate groups and elected officials at the highest levels of government have used racist scapegoating language to stoke fear, bias, and blame. These actions have produced a rash of hate incidents and xenophobia targeting Asian Americans. If left unaddressed, hate, like any virus, will continue to spread. Lawmakers must act now to combat misinformation, mitigate hysteria, and protect vulnerable communities.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The 1964 Goldwater landslide was the beginning of Republican dominance of the South

  Our primary runoffs have been postponed until July 14, 2020. It was a wise and prudent decision by Secretary of State John Merrill and Gov. Kay Ivey. Most voters are older, and the State of Alabama was asking them to come out and vote and at the same time stay home.

  The main event will be the GOP runoff for the U.S. Senate. The two combatants - Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville - will now square off in the middle of a hot Alabama summer. The winner will be heavily favored to go to Washington. We are a very reliably Republican state, especially in a presidential election year.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Six things you can do to cope with boredom at a time of social distancing

  More and more of us are staying home in an attempt to slow down the spreading coronavirus. But being stuck at home can lead to boredom.

  Boredom is a signal that we’re not meaningfully engaged with the world. It tells us to stop what we’re doing, and do it better – or to do something else.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Whose votes count the least in the Electoral College?

  In the days following the 2016 presidential election, many pundits and voters alike were stunned by the disparity between the popular vote, which went for Hillary Clinton, and the Electoral College, which favored Donald Trump.

  If the president were elected by popular vote, every voter’s ballot would have been given equal weight, or influence, over the outcome, and Hillary Clinton would have won. But, as evidenced by Donald Trump’s victory, the Electoral College gives different weights to votes cast in different states. What are these weights, and how can we best compare them?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

What ‘Walden’ can tell us about social distancing and focusing on life’s essentials

  Seeking to bend the coronavirus curve, governors and mayors have told millions of Americans to stay home. If you’re pondering what to read, it’s easy to find lists featuring books about disease outbreaks, solitude, and living a simpler life. But it’s much harder to find a book that combines these themes.

  As the author of three books about essayist, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, I highly recommend “Walden,” Thoreau’s 1854 account of his time living “alone” in the woods outside Concord, Massachusetts. I qualify “alone” because Thoreau had more company at Walden than in town, and hoed a bean field daily as social theater in full view of passersby on the road.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Four reasons not to buy guns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

  As Americans struggle with fear and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new disturbing trend has emerged: an increase in the purchasing of guns and ammunition. Some gun dealers and online retailers have reported an uptick in sales, and stories abound of individuals motivated to buy their first gun in response to this pandemic.

  But in a time of crisis, it is crucial to resist the impulse to make decisions driven by fear and anxiety. The threat posed by the new coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, is not the only relevant public health crisis to consider when deciding whether to buy a gun. Gun violence is already an urgent public health emergency in this country that takes the lives of nearly 40,000 people annually. Putting more guns in more hands is certain to exacerbate that problem.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1711 - Things are real bad now, so we have to be at our very best

  Times are real bad now. Therefore, I feel compelled to share my Mama’s advice. Ola Mae and Sam Sanders were not just poor, but “Po.” They lived in harsh poverty and under oppressive racial segregation. They carried the weight of a very large family, eventually growing to 13 children. But their spirits were strong. Daddy and Mama were both powerful in presence and in their work. But Mama put words to key moments and difficult situations. Things are real bad now, so I am calling on my Mama.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

How hope can keep you healthier and happier

  Hope can erode when we perceive threats to our way of life, and these days, plenty are out there. As we age, we may struggle with a tragic loss or chronic disease. As we watch the news, we see our political system polarized, hopelessly locked in chaos. The coronavirus spreads wider daily; U.S. markets signaled a lack of hope with a Dow Jones free fall. Losing hope sometimes leads to suicide.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: U.S. Senate runoff moved to July

  The GOP contest to determine who sits in our number two U.S. Senate seat has been delayed until July 14, 2020 due to the coronavirus. The winner of the battle between Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville will more than likely be our junior US. Senator for six years.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Closing polling places is the 21st century’s version of a poll tax

  Delays and long lines at polling places during recent presidential primary elections – such as voters in Texas experienced – represent the latest version of decades-long policies that have sought to reduce the political power of African Americans in the United States.

  Following the Civil War and the extension of the vote to African Americans, state governments worked to block black people, as well as poor whites, from voting. One way they tried to accomplish this goal was through poll taxes – an amount of money each voter had to pay before being allowed to vote.

Monday, March 23, 2020

4 ways to help kids relax as the coronavirus upends everyday life

  Families everywhere are adjusting to a new way of life due to social distancing measures like closed schools, workplaces, and more. Given that anxiety was already among the most common mental health problem in kids before the COVID-19 pandemic, what can parents do to help keep this problem at bay? Childhood anxiety scholar Mirae J. Fornander outlines strategies parents can follow.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Trump supporters have little trust in societal institutions

  President Donald Trump has a history of disregarding advice from experts, including diplomats, military leaders, trade experts, and scientists.

  Trump is not alone in his distrust. Our unpublished research shows that people who support Trump have lower trust in societal institutions when compared with supporters of leading Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

As I write this, I am seeking balance in an unbalanced time

  As I write this, it is mid-morning and I’ve already washed my hands multiple times. I’ve got rubber gloves in my car now. I skipped the gym in favor of a good ‘ol driveway workout, but I paid my gym dues anyway. My law firm invested in enhanced video conferencing capabilities. My wife checked on our neighbors. This is just stuff that we all do now. But having said that, I will also say that this environment of concern and social restriction should not constitute our “new normal” – just our current state of affairs.

Friday, March 20, 2020

2020 Census safe and easy, helps communities

  This month kicks off a major — and vital — process that is fundamental to the success of our Democracy.

  The 2020 U.S. Census count begins, with every household receiving an invitation to complete a simple questionnaire either online, by phone, or by mail.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Why so few young Americans vote

  The United States has one of the lowest rates of youth voter turnout in the world. The gap between 18- to 29-year-olds and those over 60, a common measuring stick, is more than twice as large here than it is in comparable democracies like Canada and Germany.

  And early evidence from the 2020 presidential race suggests that isn’t going to change this year. Youth turnout in the first states to hold primaries and caucuses has ranged from 10% in Alabama to 24% in Iowa.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: U.S. Senate race is ticking down to a runoff

Editor's note: The March 31 runoff election has been postponed until July 14. 

  We have a great race for the U.S. Senate seat. When the votes from the first primary were counted, Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville were in a virtual tie at 32% and 33%, respectively. 

  Mobile-Baldwin Congressman Bradley Byrne garnered 25% of the vote, which is significant, and Roy Moore’s 7% is nothing to sneeze at. Tuberville and Sessions will be fighting to convince Byrne and Moore voters to come to their aid. However, the most important quotient of Sessions’ and Tuberville’s missions will be to get their voters back to the polls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

10 things to know about the real St. Patrick

  Today people around the world are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by parading in green hats, sporting images of shamrocks and leprechauns – tiny, grinning, fairy men – pinned to their lapels. Patrick’s picture will adorn greeting cards: an aged, bearded bishop in flowing robes, grasping a bishop’s staff and glaring at a coil of snakes.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Lies, damn lies and post-truth

  Most politicians lie.

  Or do they?

  Even if we could find some isolated example of a politician who was scrupulously honest – former President Jimmy Carter, perhaps – the question is how to think about the rest of them.

  And if most politicians lie, then why are some Americans so hard on President Donald Trump?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The two-party system is here to stay

  The American two-party system has long been besieged. Many of the founders feared that organizing people along ideological lines would be dangerous to the fledgling nation. Alexander Hamilton called political parties a “most fatal disease,” James Madison renounced the “violence of faction,” and George Washington feared that an overly successful party would create “frightful despotism.”

Saturday, March 14, 2020

A coronavirus recession may be coming: Here’s what to do with your money

  Global markets are crashing, the price of oil is plummeting, and even entire countries are in lockdown. The odds of a recession due to the new coronavirus outbreak are rising every day.

  A question I’m often asked as a finance professor and a CFA charterholder is what should people do with their money when the economy is slowing or in a recession, which typically causes riskier assets like stocks to decline. Fear causes many people to run for the hills.

Friday, March 13, 2020

On Friday the 13th, leave the superstitions at home

  Of all the days to stay in bed, Friday the 13th is surely the best. It’s the title of a popular (if increasingly corny) horror movie series; it’s associated with bad luck, and it’s generally thought to be a good time not to take any serious risks.

  Even if you try to escape it, you might fail, as happened to New Yorker Daz Baxter. On Friday 13th in 1976, he decided to just stay in bed for the day, only to be killed when the floor of his apartment block collapsed under him. There’s even a term for the terror the day evokes: Paraskevidekatriaphobia was coined by the psychotherapist Donald Dossey, a specialist in phobias, to describe an intense and irrational fear of the date.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Don’t be fooled – most independents are partisans too

  Will Donald Trump win reelection in 2020? To find out, you’d think you could just look up whether more Americans are registered as Republicans than Democrats.

  But the truth is, it doesn’t really matter which party you register with on paper. Besides, 19 states don’t even register voters by party.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - March 3rd primaries analysis

  Allow me to share some thoughts and analysis on the results of the March 3rd primaries

  The turnout was amazingly high despite rain and inclement weather across the state. 1,168,000 Alabamians voted. 725,000 voted in the Republican Primary, and 450,000 voted in the Democratic Primary. That equates to 62% Republican and 38% Democratic voters.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

What really works to keep coronavirus away? 4 questions answered by a public health professional

  Editor’s note: The World Health Organization has declared that COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has a higher fatality rate than the flu. Brian Labus, a professor of public health, provides essential safety information for you, from disinfectants to storing food and supplies.

1) What can I do to prevent becoming infected?

  When people are sick with a respiratory disease like COVID-19, they cough or sneeze particles into the air. If someone is coughing near you, the virus could easily land on your eyes, nose, or mouth. These particles travel only about six feet and fall out of the air rather quickly. However, they do land on surfaces that you touch all the time, such as railings, doorknobs, elevator buttons, or subway poles. The average person also touches their face 23 times per hour, and about half of these touches are to the mouth, eyes, and nose, which are the mucosal surfaces that the COVID-19 virus infects.

Monday, March 9, 2020

5 ways life would be better if it were always daylight saving time

  In my research on daylight saving time, I have found that Americans don’t like it when Congress messes with their clocks.

  In an effort to avoid the biannual clock switch in spring and fall, some well-intended critics of DST have made the mistake of suggesting that the abolition of DST – and a return to permanent standard time – would benefit society. In other words, the U.S. would never “spring forward” or “fall back.”

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The House of Representatives is working to restore America’s conservation vision

  In the 14 months since Democrats gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-NY), and Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) have led congressional members in efforts to reverse a decade of legislative obstruction and stagnation in U.S. land, water, and wildlife conservation.

  In the eight years before this most recent Congress, the United States lost an estimated 19,000 square miles of natural area to urban sprawl, oil and gas fields, and other human development. In that same period—with a Congressional Republican anti-parks caucus blocking nature bills—Congress protected less than one-tenth of the amount of natural area that disappeared to development.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

An Amendment One postmortem: Idealism trumps reality

  The failure of Amendment One is a story of idealism trumping reality.

  On Tuesday, residents of Alabama denied Amendment One. The constitutional amendment, which would have shifted the State Board of Education from popularly elected positions to ones appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate, received a “YES” vote from only 25% of voters.

  The question for today is simple: “Why did it fail?”

Friday, March 6, 2020

10 years after Deepwater Horizon, oil spills and accidents are on the rise

  On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon killed 11 men and injured 17 other crew members. Over the next 87 days, an estimated 210 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, poisoning fish and wildlife, forcing the closure of beaches and fisheries, and causing billions of dollars in damage to coastal communities along the Gulf.

  After this catastrophic spill, the Obama administration enacted a series of reforms to improve oil rig safety—reforms that the Trump administration has since rolled back. A Center for American Progress review of government data finds that oil spills, injuries, and accidents from offshore drilling are now on the rise, threatening to erase the progress made in the 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Scaling back SNAP for self-reliance clashes with the original goals of food stamps

  Trump administration officials are trying to cut enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP but still sometimes called “food stamps.” They say that too many people are getting this aid in a strong economy.

  The program helped about 35 million low-income people buy food in 2019. The average recipient gets US$128.60 a month, about $1.40 per person per meal.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Chancellor Finis St. John and the University of Alabama System

  Our 1901 Alabama Constitution has been rightfully criticized as being archaic. However, it was simply a reflection of the times. The authors of our document were well-educated gentry. They appreciated and realized the importance of having a prized capstone university.

  The University of Alabama was founded in 1831 and had become one of the premier southern universities by the time of the Civil War. It was not by coincidence that one of the primary missions of the Union was to burn and raze the University of Alabama campus. They knew the importance of a state having an exemplary institution of higher learning.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Craig Ford: Every school should have a mental health counselor

  In her State of the State Address, Gov. Kay Ivey said that mental health would be a priority for both education and our prison system. Then she set the goal of having a mental health counselor in every school system.

  While I applaud the governor for recognizing the challenges our schools are facing when it comes to students’ mental health, the reality is we need a mental health counselor in every school, not just one for each school system.

Monday, March 2, 2020

7 lessons from ‘Hidden Figures’ NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson’s life and career

  Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who made critical contributions to the space program at NASA, died Feb. 24 at the age of 101.

  Johnson became a household name thanks to the celebrated book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians who Helped Win the Space Race,” which later became a movie. Her legacy provides lessons for supporting women and other underrepresented groups in mathematics and science.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Craig Ford: Vote NO on Amendment 1

  Whether you vote in the Democrat or Republican Primary Election on Tuesday, all voters will get the chance to vote on Amendment 1. This is an extremely important amendment, and I encourage every voter to vote NO on it.

  Alabama currently elects our representatives to the state Board of Education. Each member of the board represents their district, just like each Congressperson represents their district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

What are viruses anyway, and why do they make us so sick? 5 questions answered

  Editor’s Note: You may sometimes have felt like you “have come down with a virus,” meaning that you became sick from being exposed to something that could have been a virus. In fact, you have a virus – actually, many – all the time. Some viruses cause the common cold, and some are crucial to human survival. New viruses can also emerge, and they typically create illness in humans when they have very recently jumped from another species to humans. As world health leaders try to determine how to respond to the new coronavirus, virus expert Marilyn J. Roossinck answers a few questions.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1707 - They said it could not be done, but we continue to do it

  They said it could not be done, but we did it. It was 1964, and the Civil Rights Act had just been enacted by Congress and signed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders were thankful, but they were still pressing for legislation to ensure voting rights for Black people. Voting was the last legal right being clearly denied to Black people in the United States of America. The highest political officials and others said that no such legislation could possibly pass Congress on the heels of the most comprehensive civil rights legislation ever. They said it could not be done, but we did it.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Is hiring more black officers the key to reducing police violence?

  High-profile cases of officer brutality against black citizens in recent years have caused Americans to question the racial makeup of their police departments.

  Many advocates believe that diversifying these forces will help reduce police violence against people of color.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Primaries next week

  Folks, our primaries are next week! On the Democratic side, the presidential preference primary will be the big show and will be interesting to watch. On the right, the Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate seat will be the marquee event.

  In addition to the Senate race, we have two open Republican Congressional seats in the First and Second Districts. We also have some important statewide Supreme Court and Appellate Court races on the ballot.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1706 - They said it could not be done, but we did it

  They said it could not be done, but we did it. The United States of America is the only country in the world where laws were enacted to prohibit certain people from learning to read and write. Black people are the only people in the world who were prohibited from learning to read and write. Black people learned in spite of the legal prohibitions and other obstacles. They said it could not be done, but we did it.

Monday, February 24, 2020

The war in Iraq has cost the US nearly $2 trillion

  Editor’s note: The Costs of Wars project was started in 2011 to assess the long-term consequences of the post-9/11 wars. Project co-director Neta C. Crawford, professor and chair of political science at Boston University, explains the major implications of the Iraq War for the federal budget.

  Even if the U.S. administration decided to leave — or was evicted from — Iraq immediately, the bill of war to the U.S. to date would be an estimated US$1,922 billion in current dollars.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Joe Cain returned Mardi Gras to Mobile

  Though Mardi Gras had been celebrated for nearly a century and a half in both New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama, as with many things, the Civil War had nearly ended this celebration permanently. Though no one ever gets to know what might have been, one thing is certain, Mardi Gras was no longer being celebrated once the long and gruesome war had come to end.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Trump’s politicization of the justice system

  Since the vast majority of Republican senators failed in their constitutional duty to be a check on serious government corruption, President Donald Trump has repeatedly exhibited his willingness to abuse the power of his office. But involving himself in the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) recommended sentencing of Roger Stone, a convicted federal criminal—and Trump’s close political ally—was perhaps the most flagrant display of how little respect Trump’s administration has for American democracy.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Well, impeachment didn’t work – how else can Congress keep President Trump in check?

  Donald Trump’s removal of impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the White House and intervention in his friend Roger Stone’s sentencing have prompted concern that the president’s acquittal in his recent impeachment trial may embolden him to further expand executive power while avoiding accountability.

  But the conclusion of the trial in the Senate should by no means end congressional oversight of the executive branch.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1705 - They said it could not be done, but we did it!

  They said it could not be done, but she did it. She was female. She was Black. She was Southern. She was poor. People said she could not be a mathematician. Being a physicist was so beyond the possibility that they did not bother to say she could not be one. But she overcame all odds not only to be a mathematician and physicist but to be great. She became Black History. They said it could not be done, but we did it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Open seat for the 2nd Congressional District will be decided in March

  Over the course of history, the Second Congressional District has been referred to and considered a Montgomery congressional district because the Capital City has comprised the bulk of the population. In recent years, a good many Montgomerians have migrated to the suburban counties of Autauga and Elmore. Therefore, the district has been refigured to reflect this trend. Today there are more Republican votes cast in this congressional district in these two counties than from Montgomery.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Hate exercise? Small increases in physical activity can make a big difference

  A new year typically brings new resolutions. While making resolutions is easy, sticking with them is not. Exercise-related resolutions consistently make the top 10 list, but up to 80% of resolutions to be healthier, including promises to exercise more, are tossed aside by February.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Brain injuries from interventionism

  The number of U.S. soldiers who have suffered traumatic brain injuries from the Iranian missile attack last month in Iraq has now risen to more than 100. The injuries demonstrate the sheer inanity of foreign interventionism.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Trump’s K-12 education budget: Cuts for public schools, billions for private school vouchers

  For the fourth consecutive year, the Trump administration and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have proposed substantial cuts to the U.S. Department of Education’s budget. If Congress enacts their proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021, it would reduce the department’s total funding by $5.6 billion—a cut of nearly 8 percent from last year’s funding level—while dedicating $5 billion in tax credits to the administration’s private school voucher scheme.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The history of ‘coming out,’ from secret gay code to popular political protest

  You probably know what it means to “come out” as gay. You may even have heard the expression used in relation to other kinds of identity such as being undocumented.

  But do you know where the term comes from? Or that its meaning has changed over time?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Drunk and bitter on Valentine's Day

  I'm not opposed to love. In fact, I love love, especially the sex part. It's not even that I hate Valentine's Day. But like every event in our society that contains even the slightest hint of sappy sentimentality, it has been done to death. (Can you say, "Titanic?")

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Trump’s newest budget would take food away from working families

  There are dozens of programs on the chopping block in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal. Yet the administration’s most blatant attempt to gut the programs on which American families depend comes in the form of additional cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program. The proposed budget contains a devastating $182 billion cut to SNAP over the next decade, a reduction of approximately 28 percent compared with the baseline level estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Legislative priority will be resolving prison problems

  The 2020 Alabama Legislative Session, which began last week, will be the second session of Gov. Kay Ivey’s administration. For the second straight year, she and the legislature will be facing a major obstacle.

  The prison problem is the paramount issue for the year. The state must address and resolve this dilemma, or the federal authorities will take over our prisons.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

This is how ancient Rome’s republic died – a classicist sees troubling parallels at Trump’s impeachment trial

  The U.S. Senate has made its judgment in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, acquitting the president. Fifty-two of 53 senators in the Republican majority voted to acquit the president on the abuse of power charge, and all 53 Republican senators voted to acquit on the obstruction of Congress charge.

  All 47 Democratic senators voted to convict the president on both charges. Senator Mitt Romney of Utah was the only Republican voting to convict for abuse of power.

  The Republican senators’ speedy exoneration of Trump marks perhaps the most dramatic step in their capitulation to the president over the past three years.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Ignoring the Constitution

  Constitutional violations have become so commonplace in American life that when they occur, the reaction among many Americans is ho-hum.

  There are two classic examples of this phenomenon: the declaration of war requirement and gold and silver as legal tender.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Civility in politics is harder than you think

  When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tore up the text of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech in full public view, her supporters saw defiance of both his policies and his earlier refusal to shake her hand. But her political opponents cried foul, calling it “unbecoming” and “nasty.” This is yet another example of why U.S. citizens of all political stripes agree that politics has become unacceptably uncivil.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1704 - They said it could not be done, but we did it

  It was March 19, 1966. I and others huddled around the television screen. We were anxious. We were excited. We were scared. We were proud. The moment meant so much to us. The moment was pregnant with the overriding issue of race. They said it couldn’t be done, but we did it.

Friday, February 7, 2020

The Trump administration has made the United States less ready for infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus

  As coronavirus continues to spread, the Trump administration has declared a public health emergency and imposed quarantines and travel restrictions. However, over the past three years, the administration has weakened the offices in charge of preparing for and preventing this kind of outbreak.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Universal coverage, single-payer, ‘Medicare for All’: What does it all mean for you?

  Collectively, health care is our biggest industry. And, health care has long been one of the most politically contested issues. Partisan wrangling over health reform has perhaps been the most acrimonious issue in Americans politics, exemplified by the failed Clinton health reform efforts in the 1990s and the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

  Most Americans are befuddled by it, and the political debate surrounding it only makes it more confusing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Legislative session begins this week

  The 2020 Alabama Legislative Session begins this week. It will be an interesting three and a half months. There is a myriad of important issues that legislators have to address this year, as always. However, standing in the way of substantive state issues each year is the necessity to address local bills.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Mardi Gras season has arrived in the River Region

  In my youth, which was mostly expended on mindless shenanigans, I often complained about a lack of adventure, activities, and varieties of trouble to get into in the Montgomery area. 

  As I've grown older, though not in a comparable way in terms of maturity, I've come to realize that the River Region not only has a wealth of leisure activities and adventures to offer, especially in light of Montgomery's extraordinary growth downtown, but many such activities come at an affordable price, sometimes even free. Enter Mardi Gras.

Monday, February 3, 2020

What everyone should know about Reconstruction 150 years after the 15th Amendment’s ratification

  I’ll never forget a student’s response when I asked during a middle school social studies class what they knew about black history: “Martin Luther King freed the slaves.”

  Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929, more than six decades after the time of enslavement. To me, this comment underscored how closely Americans associate black history with slavery.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Must the president be a moral leader?

  The best presidents – including figures such as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington – are celebrated not only as good leaders, but as good men. They embody not simply political skill, but personal virtue.

  Why, though, should anyone expect a president to demonstrate that sort of virtue? If someone is good at the difficult job of political leadership, must they demonstrate exceptional moral character as well?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Archaeological discoveries are happening faster than ever before, helping refine the human story

  In 1924, a 3-year-old child’s skull found in South Africa forever changed how people think about human origins.

  The Taung Child, our first encounter with an ancient group of proto-humans or hominins called australopithecines, was a turning point in the study of human evolution. This discovery shifted the focus of human origins research from Europe and Asia into Africa, setting the stage for the last century of research on the continent and into its “Cradles of Humankind.”

Friday, January 31, 2020

Think twice before shouting your virtues online – moral grandstanding is toxic

  In an era of bitter partisanship, political infighting, and ostracization of those with unpopular views, Americans actually agree on one thing: 85% say political discourse has gotten worse over the last several years according to Pew Research.

  The polarization plays out everywhere in society, from private holiday gatherings to very public conversations on social media, where debate is particularly toxic and aggressive.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Laws aren’t the only barrier to abortion access. So is cost.

  When thinking of abortion access challenges in the United States, waiting periods, mandatory ultrasounds, biased pre-abortion counseling, bans on federal and some state funding, and a dwindling number of independent clinics come to mind. These challenges delay abortion care, increase medical risks, and especially hurt minors. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

First Amendment-ish

  There are some things that are obviously First Amendment issues and there are others that just as obviously aren’t. Did you get arrested for criticizing the mayor of your town? That’s a First Amendment issue. Did you get kicked out of your book club because you said Malcolm Gladwell was overrated? That’s harsh, but it’s not a violation of your constitutional rights. The First Amendment prevents the government from censoring or punishing your speech, but it doesn’t apply to private organizations.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Craig Ford: You get what you pay for

  State lawmakers will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, February 4th, and education will be one of the primary issues they will be taking on.

  Lawmakers expect an increase in both the education and general fund budgets for the coming year, and that means more resources available to address the issues facing our public schools.

Monday, January 27, 2020

‘Slow-minded and bewildered’: Donald Trump builds barriers to peace and prosperity

  The U.S. president “had no plan, no scheme, no constructive ideas whatever”, according to one of the world’s most influential economists.

  He was “in many respects, perhaps inevitably, ill-informed”. He was “slow-minded and bewildered”, and failed to remedy these defects by seeking advice. He gathered around him businessmen, “inexperienced in public affairs” and “only called in irregularly”.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1702 - Our religion is not what we say it is, but what we practice

  People keep asking me this question: "How can Evangelical Christians support Trump after all the unchristian things he has done and continues to do?" They usually give a litany of things, and the list is long. I usually reply: "I don't know, but I am a Christian. I teach Sunday School each Sunday morning on the radio and on the internet. But I know that the support for President Trump is not inconsistent with the long history of White European and American Christians. I then take the time to explain in detail again and again. Our religion is not what we say it is, but what we practice.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Public officials who betray the public trust pay the price—so should the president

  A New Jersey official sentenced to 18 months in prison for scheming to punish a local mayor deemed not loyal enough to former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). A Kentucky agriculture commissioner sentenced to 21 months for using official funds for personal gain. A Pennsylvania state treasurer sentenced to 30 months for threatening two citizens if they did not help his gubernatorial campaign.

  Public officials who break the law face real consequences. The president should be no different.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Why we are hard-wired to worry, and what we can do to calm down

  A new year brings both hopes and anxieties. We want things to be better for ourselves and the people we love but worry that they won’t be, and we imagine some of the things that might stand in the way. More broadly, we might worry about who’s going to win the election or even if our world will survive.

  As it turns out, humans are wired to worry. Our brains are continually imagining futures that will meet our needs and things that could stand in the way of them. And sometimes any of those needs may be in conflict with each other.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

The ‘bedrock principle’ of the First Amendment

  Many people recoil at the notion that the First Amendment protects the speech that they most dislike or detest. The late great Nat Hentoff captured this censorial impulse in his “Free Speech for Me, But Not for Thee.”

  But the reality is that the First Amendment protects much speech that is obnoxious, offensive, and repugnant. Justice William Brennan captured this principle eloquently in his majority opinion in the flag-burning decision Texas v. Johnson (1989):

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Three big ways that the United States will change over the next decade

  The United States has just entered the new decade of the 2020s.

  What does our country look like today, and what will it look like 10 years from now, on Jan. 1, 2030? Which demographic groups in the U.S. will grow the most, and which groups will not grow as much, or maybe even decline in the next 10 years?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

What it looks like to be hungry in college

  Over the past few years, the issue of food insecurity among college students has gained national attention—and with good reason. A study released last year by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice found that 48 percent of students at two-year institutions and 41 percent of students at four-year institutions experienced food insecurity during the 30 days preceding the survey.

Monday, January 20, 2020

MLK’s vision of love as a moral imperative still matters

  Fifty-two years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the United States remains divided by issues of race and racism, economic inequality as well as unequal access to justice. These issues are stopping the country from developing into the kind of society that Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for during his years as a civil rights activist.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

5 ways Trump’s latest anti-environmental proposal would allow fossil fuel companies to bulldoze communities

  A few weeks ago, the Trump administration released a draft of its proposed changes to the regulations that implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—the most important law that requires the federal government to consider the environmental impacts of its decisions and that gives the public a voice in federal decision-making. This is not an effort to “modernize” the environmental review process, as President Trump and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chair Mary Neumayr claim, but rather an effort to allow fossil fuel companies to quickly bulldoze communities with less public input and without disclosing harmful public health, environmental, and climate change impacts.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Craig Ford: A New Year's Resolution for Alabama

  Many people like to make a New Year’s resolution. As we start this new year and new decade, I think our state leadership needs to make a resolution: To improve our storm warning systems.

Friday, January 17, 2020

An old debate over religion in school is opening up again

  As the 2020 election approaches in the United States, President Donald Trump is adding school prayer to the list of contentious issues up for debate. At a rally in early January, he announced plans to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools.” Yesterday, the White House issued new “guidance on constitutional prayer in school.”

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Senate impeachment trial must include all important evidence

  In impeaching President Donald Trump, the U.S. House of Representatives uncovered overwhelming evidence that Trump extorted a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election. The House did so even though Trump engaged in unprecedented obstruction of Congress by blocking critically important witnesses and documents, circumstances that underlay the House’s second impeachment article. Now, as the U.S. Senate begins the trial phase of impeachment proceedings, every senator must make a crucial decision: recklessly support the president’s obstruction or uphold their oaths under the U.S. Constitution.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Trump administration has a new stealth approach to kicking people off disability

  Even though I’m a lawyer, receiving a letter in the mail from the Social Security Administration still triggers a panic attack. My heart races, I get nauseous, and my hands shake.

  Lately it’s gotten worse. A letter last month made me feel suddenly lightheaded as my vision started to fade. As I sat on the floor, my mind raced through all of the potential bad news the envelope could contain for a disabled Supplemental Security Income recipient like myself.

Monday, January 13, 2020

2020: The year to support, defend – and trust – our free press

  How about a new New Year’s resolution: To more appreciate a free press, in whatever brand, flavor, or medium you prefer.

  In that spirit, let’s start using a new term: Identifiable News Media. Time to let go of the vanilla-flavored “mainstream media” and drop the pejorative “lame stream” tag — its use as timely political snark ran out some time ago.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Why bad customer service won’t improve anytime soon

  Some of the most hated companies in the United States are also the most profitable.

  Much of this consumer resentment may stem from poor customer service. In fact, most Americans have fought with phone menus, desperately seeking a live service agent to seek a refund.

  In 2013, Americans spent an average of 13 hours disputing a purchase or resolving a problem with customer service.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Five principles for civil justice reform

  Each year, millions of civil cases are filed in courts across the United States concerning everything from family law and domestic violence matters to issues of housing and consumer debt. Unfortunately, deficiencies in the civil justice system perpetuate power imbalances; those who can hire private attorneys are much more likely to prevail in court or avoid court altogether. These power imbalances prevent people—mostly low- and middle-income people and disproportionately people of color—from prevailing in their cases, resulting in miscarriages of justice.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Cracking the mystery of the ‘Worldwide Hum’

  In the spring of 2012, when I was living near the coastal village of Sechelt, on British Columbia’s picturesque Sunshine Coast, I began hearing a humming sound, which I thought were float planes.

  The noise usually started later at night, between 10 and 11 p.m. My first clue that something unusual was happening came with the realization that the sound didn’t fade away like plane noises typically do. And the slightest ambient noise – exhaling audibly, even turning my head quickly – caused it to momentarily stop. One night after the sound started, I stepped outside the house. Nothing.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Should you avoid meat for good health? How to slice off the facts from the fiction

  More than half of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions resolve to “eat healthier.” If you’re one, you might be confused about the role meat should play in your health.

  It’s no wonder you’re confused. One group of scientists says that reducing red and processed meat is a top priority for your health and the planet’s. Another says these foods pose no problems for health. Some of your friends may say it depends and that grass-fed beef and “nitrite-free” processed meats are fine. At the same time, plant-based meat alternatives are surging in popularity but with uncertain health effects.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - What does the presidential race look like nationally?

  Our presidential primary in the Heart of Dixie is less than two months away. We vote on March 3, 2020. President Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee. It is a foregone conclusion that Trump will carry Alabama in the November general election. 

  One of the most intriguing questions will be which Democratic presidential candidate will win the Alabama Democratic Primary. Longtime Democrat kingpin, Joe Reed, who heads the Alabama Democratic Conference, will have a lot to say about the outcome. It will be interesting to see how former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s late entry into the Democratic race for president fares. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

7 science-based strategies to boost your willpower and succeed with your New Year’s resolutions

  It’s that time of year when people make their New Year’s resolutions – indeed, 93% of people set them according to the American Psychological Association. The most common resolutions are related to losing weight, eating healthier, exercising regularly, and saving money.

  However, research shows that 45% of people fail to keep their resolutions by February, and only 19% keep them for two years. Lack of willpower or self-control is the top-cited reason for not following through.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Catholic activism, not repentance for sexual abuse, is what forces clergy to resign

  The Roman Catholic bishop of Buffalo, New York, Richard Malone, became the seventh U.S. bishop since 2015 to be forced out of power for his role in covering up clergy sexual abuse cases. Malone resigned last month, stating that his departure stemmed from a recognition that “the people of Buffalo will be better served by a new bishop who perhaps is better able to bring about the reconciliation, healing and renewal that is so needed.”

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Why the race for the presidency begins with the Iowa caucus

  The first and most visible test of candidate support in the 2020 presidential election is the Iowa presidential caucus, which takes place on Feb. 3.

  While Iowa does not control who becomes the candidate of each party, Iowans’ choices almost always end up matching the rest of the nation.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Myths around mental illness cause high rates of unemployment

  Even though mental illness affects one in five adults – and depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide – secrecy and stigma around the issue continue.

  The problem is especially acute in the workplace. While individuals with mental illness often wish to work and are able to, their unemployment rates remain three to four times those of individuals without mental illness.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Why some people distrust atheists

  An ad featuring Ron Reagan, son of the Republican former President Ronald Reagan, surprised some viewers of the recent Democratic primary debates.

  In the 30-second spot, run by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Reagan expressed concern that religious beliefs have gained too much political influence in the United States.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Young people are payday lenders’ newest prey

  Payday loans have long been marketed as a quick and easy way for people to access cash between paychecks. Today, there are about 23,000 payday lenders—twice the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the United States—across the country. While payday lenders target many different Americans, they tend to go after traditionally vulnerable populations. People without a college degree, renters, African Americans, individuals earning less than $40,000 a year, and people who are separated or divorced are the most likely to have a payday loan. And increasingly, many of these payday loan borrowers are young people.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Pleasure is good: How French children acquire a taste for life

  One of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make is to lose weight by dieting. The idea is that restricting the pleasures of tasty foods will lead to greater fitness and a finer physique. But if these rewards are so valuable, why is it so hard for us to stick to our resolution? Maybe the problem is that when we try to lose weight, we also lose the pleasure of eating.

  What if we could have it all? Keep the pleasure and stick to our resolution? In the United States, we tend to compartmentalize pleasure, separating it from our daily chores and relegating it to special times. We have happy hours, not happy days. We have guilty pleasures, as if enjoying chocolate or a favorite movie is a moral failing.