Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Why North Korea unleashed a flurry of missile tests

  Pyongyang continues to augment and diversify its threat to U.S. allies in Asia with mobile missiles more difficult to detect and more adept at evading missile defenses. In September, North Korea revealed three new offensive missiles, a new rail-based launch system, and claimed to have developed a quicker missile fueling system.

  The regime is rapidly implementing Kim Jong-un’s January directive to develop and test numerous new missiles. Pyongyang may yet test two new submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and a massive multi-warhead ICBM revealed during recent parades. Doing so would significantly escalate tensions in the region and push North Korea to the top of the Biden administration’s security agenda.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Is social distancing unraveling the bonds that keep society together?

  With birthday celebrations being downsized, religious services moving back online, and indoor playdates getting canceled, millions of Americans are having fewer social interactions because of persistently high case numbers and high rates of transmission.

  It’s not just interactions with friends and families that are getting cut. Routine yet beneficial interactions with people at fitness and child care centers and volunteer organizations are also being eliminated.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Why charter schools are not as ‘public’ as they claim to be

  Proponents of charter schools insist that they are public schools “open to all students.” But the truth is more nuanced. As an education policy researcher – and as an author of a new book about charter schools I wrote with fellow researcher Wagma Mommandi – I have discovered that charter schools are not as accessible to the public as they are often made out to be.

  This finding is particularly relevant in light of the fact that charter school enrollment reportedly grew at a rapid rate during the pandemic. Specifically, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, enrollment increased 7% from 2019-20 to 2020-21. The organization says that is the biggest enrollment jump in a half-decade.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The brutal trade in enslaved people within the US has been largely whitewashed out of history

  For my recently published book, “The Ledger and the Chain,” I visited more than 30 archives in over a dozen states, from Louisiana to Connecticut. Along the way, I uncovered mountains of material that exposed the depravity of the men who ran the largest domestic slave trading operation in American history and revealed the fortitude of the enslaved people they trafficked as merchandise.

  But I also learned that many Americans do not realize that a domestic slave trade existed in the U.S. at all.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Halloween isn’t about candy and costumes for modern-day pagans

  This Halloween, there are likely to be fewer pint-sized witches going door to door in search of candy. Concerns over the coronavirus have meant that in many places, trick-or-treating is off the menu. Even in Salem, Massachusetts, the place associated with the infamous witch trials of 1692 and the epicenter of Halloween gatherings, festivities are expected to be subdued.

  But for members of the minority religion of Wicca and witchcraft, part of contemporary paganism, Halloween has never been primarily a children’s holiday. As a sociologist doing research on contemporary pagans for over 30 years, I have observed how it is marked as a sacred day known as Samhain in which death is celebrated.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Cherry-picking the Bible and using verses out of context isn’t a practice confined to those opposed to vaccines – it has been done for centuries

  A devout evangelical Christian friend of mine recently texted to explain why he was not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. “Jesus went around healing lepers and touched them without fear of getting leprosy,” he said.

  This story that St. Luke tells in his gospel (17:11-19) is not the only Bible verse I have seen and heard evangelical Christians use to justify anti-vaccine convictions. Other popular passages include Psalm 30:2: “Lord, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”; 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?”; and Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of a creature is in the blood.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

How education reforms can support teachers around the world instead of undermining them

  World Teachers’ Day, held on October 5 each year since 1994, is an annual event to reflect on the progress teachers have made.

  But in many countries, including the United States, the professional status of teachers has declined in the last decade.

  For example, studies in Britain, Japan, and Hong Kong show an erosion of teacher autonomy and public confidence in teachers, which leads to teachers feeling disempowered and demoralized. Job satisfaction has also deteriorated among teachers in the U.S., where teacher education itself has become a target of policymakers who think it requires higher standards and greater state control.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The ultimate drug-war crackdown

  Throughout the long sordid history of America’s war on drugs, drug-war proponents have claimed that if only government officials would really crack down on drug use and drug distribution, the decades-old war on drugs could finally — finally! — be won. 

  But one big problem is that throughout the decades of drug warfare, there have been crackdowns — big crackdowns. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

‘Imagine’ at 50: Why John Lennon’s ode to humanism still resonates

  Fifty years ago, John Lennon released one of the most beautiful, inspirational, and catchy pop anthems of the 20th century: “Imagine.”

  Gentle and yet increasingly stirring as the song progresses, “Imagine” is unabashedly utopian and deeply moral, calling on people to live, as one humanity, in peace. It is also purposely and powerfully irreligious. From its opening lyric, “Imagine there’s no heaven,” to the refrain, “And no religion too,” Lennon sets out what is, to many, a clear atheistic message.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

More Americans couldn’t get enough to eat in 2020 – a change that hit the middle class hardest

The big idea

  Americans in households with annual incomes from $50,000 to $75,000 experienced the sharpest increase in food insufficiency when the COVID-19 pandemic began – meaning that many people in the middle class didn’t have enough to eat at some point within the previous seven days, according to our peer-reviewed study that will soon be published in the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

  We also found that food banks, food pantries, and similar emergency services helped reduce food insufficiency, especially for middle-income Americans, by the end of 2020.