Thursday, December 31, 2020

How to use habit science to help you keep your New Year’s resolution

  More than 80% of people who make New Year’s resolutions have already given up on their goals by February.

  While there’s a lot of resolution advice on the internet, much of it fails to highlight the crux of behavioral change.

  To make individual decisions – whether it’s what to wear or which gift to buy for someone – you draw on brain systems involving executive control. You make the decision, add a shot of willpower and, voilà, it’s done.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Being basically honest

  After a workshop, a fellow came up to me and complained that I had made him feel uncomfortable. “I’m not perfect,” he said, “But I’m basically honest.” His implication was that it’s unfair to expect people to be honest all the time.

  His comment reminded me of a cartoon where one fellow confided to another, “I admire Webster’s honesty, but his insistence on being scrupulously honest is really annoying.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A neuroscientist’s tips for a new year tuneup for your brain

  Unlike the effervescent bubbles that stream to the top of champagne flutes on New Year’s Eve, what I call brain bubbles are far from celebratory. These bubbles are metaphorical rather than physical, and they distort the stream of reality processed by our brains. Like a real estate bubble that reflects an inflated perception of home values, a brain bubble twists your perception of the world around you. And when either of these bubbles bursts, the results can be devastating.

Monday, December 28, 2020

How putting purpose into your New Year’s resolutions can bring meaning and results

  People worldwide make New Year’s resolutions every year in an attempt to improve their lives. Common resolutions are to exercise more, eat healthier, save money, lose weight, and reduce stress.

  Yet, 80% of people agree that most people won’t stick to their resolutions. This pessimism is somewhat justified. Only 4% of people report following through on all of the resolutions they personally set.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Confused about what to eat? Science can help

  Do you feel like nutritionists are always changing their minds? Do you want science-based information about diet but don’t know whom or what to believe?

  If you’re nodding in agreement, you’re not alone: More than 80% of Americans are befuddled.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Why your New Year’s resolution to go to the gym will fail

  Come January, 40% of Americans will make New Year's resolutions and nearly half of them will aim to lose weight or get in shape.

  But 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February, and gyms will experience a decrease in traffic after the first and second months of the year as those who made New Year’s resolutions to get in shape lose steam.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Can your heart grow three sizes? A doctor reads ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’

  At the beginning of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the green, pot-bellied, feline-faced Grinch is a bitter, foul-tempered misanthrope whose heart is “two sizes too small.” In the middle of the story, he plots to steal all the Christmas gifts in Whoville and toss them from a cliff. At the end, having learned that stealing the presents does not destroy the Whos’ fellowship and joy, he begins to see the deeper meaning of the holiday. He has a change of heart, and when he returns their gifts, his heart grows three sizes.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Five ways Christmas affects your brain

  Christmas is a time of year like no other; gifts are exchanged, little-spoken-to relatives are contacted, and appetizing treats are consumed with great gusto. Christmas can be both a time of stress and a time of relaxation. But whether you love or hate Christmas, it’s pretty difficult to avoid – and so your brain may be altered by the experience one way or another. Here are some of the main facets of the Christmas experience and how they might affect your brain.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Foreign policy is Biden’s best bet for bipartisan action, experts say – but GOP is unlikely to join him on climate change

  Republicans and Democrats may have more common ground than it seems, a new survey finds.

  Our survey – conducted in August and September in partnership with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the University of Texas at Austin – asked more than 800 government officials, congressional staffers, researchers, journalists, and advocates to assess the likelihood of unified American efforts to address critical international challenges by 2022. They identified several foreign policy issues where building bipartisan policies was “more likely than not.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was a record-breaker, and it’s raising more concerns about climate change

  It was clear before the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season started that it was going to be busy. Six months later, we’re looking back at a trail of broken records, and the storms may still not be over even though the season officially ended on Nov. 30.

  This season had the most named storms, with 30, taking the record from the calamitous 2005 season that brought Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans. It was only the second time the list of storm names was exhausted since naming began in the 1950s.

Monday, December 21, 2020

What winter solstice rituals tell us about indigenous people

  On the day of the winter solstice, many Native American communities hold religious ceremonies or community events.

  The winter solstice is the day of the year when the Northern Hemisphere has the fewest hours of sunlight and the Southern Hemisphere has the most. For indigenous peoples, it has been a time to honor their ancient sun deity. They passed their knowledge down to successive generations through complex stories and ritual practices.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

New electoral districts are coming – an old approach can show if they’re fair

  When the results of the 2020 U.S. Census are released, states will use the figures to draw new electoral district maps for the U.S. House of Representatives and for state legislatures. This process has been controversial since the very early days of the nation – and continues to be so today.

  Electoral district maps designate which people vote for which seat, based on where they live. Throughout history, these maps have often been drawn to give one party or another a political advantage, diluting the power of some people’s votes.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Your brain’s built-in biases insulate your beliefs from contradictory facts

  A rumor started circulating back in 2008 that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. At the time, I was serving as chair of the Hawaii Board of Health. The director and deputy director of health, both appointed by a Republican governor, inspected Obama’s birth certificate in the state records and certified that it was real.

  I would have thought that this evidence would settle the matter, but it didn’t. Many people thought the birth certificate was a fabricated document. Today, many people still believe that President Obama was not born in the U.S.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Masks and mandates: How individual rights and government regulation are both necessary for a free society

  I’ve been thinking a lot about the tension between demanding “individual rights” – in the sense of deciding whether or not to wear a mask – and calling for more action on the part of our government to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic.

  I’m a political theorist, which means I study how communities are organized, how power is exercised, and how people relate to one another in and between communities. I’ve realized – through talking to friends and thinking about the protests against COVID-19-related restrictions that have taken place around the country – that many people do not understand that individual rights and state power are not really opposites.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

During the holidays, giving gifts to the dead can help you cope with grief

  Every December, my family decorates two Christmas trees: one for our living room and one for the cemetery, where my sister is buried.

  She died when she was 15 years old. Twenty years later, we still buy a new ornament each year to place on her mini graveside Christmas tree.

  The ritual might seem a bit strange, but my family isn’t alone. If you drive past a cemetery during the holidays, you’ll likely see graves festooned with holiday decorations and seasonal trinkets.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Biden’s ambitious energy plan faces headwinds, but can move the U.S. forward

  President-elect Joe Biden calls climate change an existential threat to America’s environment, health, national security, and economy and has promised a clean energy revolution to counter it. Biden has pledged that on his first day in office, he will bring the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Agreement. He also is expected to restore numerous environmental protections that the Trump administration has weakened or revoked, and to cancel oil and gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

  Beyond damage repair, Biden has big plans for American energy. In my view, not all of them are realistic. Yet their actual purpose may be as starting points for negotiation. Based on my experience analyzing the U.S. energy industry, I see three factors that will influence what his administration can achieve.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

How do you know when it’s time to break up? Here’s the research

  Christmas may be a time of giving, but it’s also a peak time for break-ups. Facing the prospect of spending yet another festive season with their romantic partner, many people start having doubts about their relationship in the run-up to Christmas. This is even the case for marriages, with formal divorce applications tending to peak in January.

  But knowing whether it is time to break up can be extremely difficult. Should you try harder to make the relationship work, or have you wasted too much energy on it already?

Monday, December 14, 2020

Laughing is good for your mind and your body – here’s what the research shows

  Amusement and pleasant surprises – and the laughter they can trigger – add texture to the fabric of daily life.

  Those giggles and guffaws can seem like just silly throwaways. But laughter, in response to funny events, actually takes a lot of work, because it activates many areas of the brain: areas that control motor, emotional, cognitive, and social processing.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

What psychiatrists have to say about holiday blues

  This time of the year brings a lot of changes to the usual day-to-day life of hundreds of millions of people: The weather is colder, trees are naked, snowy days become plentiful, and friendly critters are less visible around the neighborhood. Especially in the Western Hemisphere, this time of the year is also linked to a lot of joyous celebrations and traditions. Most children and many adults have been excited for this time of the year to come for months, and they love the aura of celebrations with their gatherings, gifts, cookies, emails, and cards.

  Alas, there are also millions who have to deal with darker emotions as the world literally darkens around them.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Eight foods to fight stress

  Under stress - whether it is work, study, or a relationship - dietary habits change substantially. Some people lose their hunger when under stress while others tend to overeat - most often fatty, sugary, and junk foods. Always blaming stress for making poor food choices is not the right approach. In fact, making the right food choices will help stabilize blood sugar levels and your emotional response. Good nutrition helps in balancing your stress hormones, relieving stress, and boosting your mood.

Friday, December 11, 2020

How to survive annoying relatives this holiday season

  Social allergies are a lot like seasonal allergies. They’re annoying, exhausting, and hard to avoid. They’re also especially common around the holidays. That’s because the holidays put you at a high risk of exposure. Swap the dander and ragweed for your not-so-favorite acquaintances and relatives, and there you have it — a full-blown case of social allergies.

  Maybe it’s the way your aunt constantly complains about frivolous things. Or perhaps it’s how your father-in-law smacks his lips and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand when he eats. Or could it be the way your cousin can’t have a conversation without droning on about himself?

Thursday, December 10, 2020

How Hanukkah came to America

  Hanukkah may be the best known Jewish holiday in the United States. But despite its popularity in the U.S., Hanukkah is ranked one of Judaism’s minor festivals, and nowhere else does it garner such attention. The holiday is mostly a domestic celebration, although special holiday prayers also expand synagogue worship.

  So how did Hanukkah attain its special place in America?

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Three reasons for information exhaustion – and what to do about it

  An endless flow of information is coming at us constantly: It might be an article a friend shared on Facebook with a sensational headline or wrong information about the spread of the coronavirus. It could even be a call from a relative wanting to talk about a political issue.

  All this information may leave many of us feeling as though we have no energy to engage.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

How to choose the right Christmas gift: tips from psychological research

  Christmas is a time of celebration, relaxation, and gift giving.

  But choosing gifts can also make it a time of stress and anxiety. The wrong gift can actually do more harm than good.

  Here is some advice, based on decades of research, on how to side-step such pitfalls.

  Why do we give gifts?

Monday, December 7, 2020

Feeling guilty about drinking? Well, ask the saints

  Each year the holidays bring with them an increase in both the consumption of alcohol and concern about drinking’s harmful effects.

  Alcohol abuse is no laughing matter, but is it sinful to drink and make merry, moderately and responsibly, during a holy season or at any other time?

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Single doesn’t mean being lonely or alone

  As the holidays transition to the New Year, singles may face questions from friends and family: “When are you getting serious about dating?

  In many families, seasonal festivities draw lines between who’s coupled and who’s not. Romantic partners are invited to holiday meals, included in family photographs, and seen as potential life mates – while "mere” friends are not. These practices draw a line between relationships seen as significant – and those that aren’t.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

10 ways to indulge and stay healthy this holiday season

  Before the holidays ruin your wellness plan and make you turn as green as the Grinch, try these 10 ways to help you stay on track and keep your festive spirit.

  Often we feel that if we can’t stick to our regular routine, then why bother? As researchers in nutrition and physical activity behaviors, we know that maintaining wellness over the holidays is easier than starting over again in the new year.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Thursday, December 3, 2020

It’s past time for Congress to extend financial relief as new COVID-19 cases spike

  As the country enters the winter with promising news of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon but cases spiking in the meantime, Congress must buy time for public health by passing financial support measures for households and businesses. A growing number of local and state officials—without the support of a national strategy—are taking action to reduce transmission by pausing indoor dining and other high-risk activities. Federal lawmakers must also prioritize financial supports for businesses, such as bars and restaurants, and households as part of their public health strategy in the lead-up to the distribution of a vaccine.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Decking the halls of history

  The idea of hanging up decorations in the middle of winter is older than Christmas itself. Decorations are mentioned in ancient descriptions of the Roman feast of Saturnalia, which is thought to have originated in the 5th century BC.

  Some 900 years later, a Christian bishop in Turkey wrote disapprovingly about members of his congregation who were drinking, feasting, dancing, and “crowning their doors” with decorations in a pagan fashion at this time of year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

To save nature, we must protect 30 percent of U.S. ocean

  Long before she alerted the world to the danger of the pesticide DDT, marine biologist Rachel Carson wrote in her book, The Sea Around Us, “It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.” Today, in the face of a mass extinction of the plants, animals, and microorganisms that keep our air clean, our water pure, and our food supplies plentiful, her words ring even truer. The planet has lost 60 percent of its wildlife since 1970. Two-thirds of wetlands have disappeared, and nearly 33 percent of reef-forming corals and more than a third of marine mammals are threatened with extinction. Three-quarters of the planet’s lands and two-thirds of its ocean areas have been significantly altered by human activities. All this is happening while climate change is making the ocean hotter, more acidic, and less habitable for fish and wildlife.

Monday, November 30, 2020

FBI reports an increase in hate crimes in 2019: Hate-based murders more than doubled

  Continuing a trend in the Trump era, reported hate crimes across America rose by 3% in 2019 – to 7,314, the highest number recorded since 2008, according to the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics report, released November 16.

  The report, which includes both violent attacks and nonviolent hate crimes such as vandalism, documented 51 hate crime murders. That was the most recorded since the FBI began collecting this data in 1991 and more than double the 24 recorded last year – previously the highest documented figure.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Four myths about the public option

  The idea of a public option for health insurance has become increasingly politicized. Insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and powerful hospital systems—all groups that profit from the status quo—are attempting to stir up fears about a plan that would actually help American families. In reality, a public option would lower costs, save American families money, and allow private insurance plans to continue to compete. The public option also remains a popular path for reform with growing support: A recent survey shows that 2 in 3 voters support a public option. In this column, the Center for American Progress sets the record straight on what a public option would do and discusses four common misconceptions about the plan.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Hoarding, stockpiling, panic buying: What’s normal behavior in an abnormal time?

  Symptoms of depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorders have emerged or worsened for many during the pandemic. This is no surprise to clinicians and scientists, who have been increasing worldwide access to mental health information and resources.

  But what effect has the pandemic had on another common but often misunderstood problem – hoarding? The issue first received attention when people piled up paper towels, toilet tissue, and hand sanitizer in their shopping carts at the start of the pandemic, leading some people to wonder whether they or a loved one were showing signs of hoarding disorder.

Friday, November 27, 2020

What to do with those Thanksgiving leftovers? Look to the French

  It’s the day after Thanksgiving, the tryptophan has worn off, and there are towers of Tupperware filled with turkey, stuffing, and potatoes in your fridge.

  If you rely on your microwave, you might simply resign yourself to eating the same meal, over and over again, until the leftovers run out.

  But you don’t have to get stuck in a cycle of nuke and repeat. This Thanksgiving, take inspiration from the French, who saw leftovers as an outlet for creativity.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Are you as grateful as you deserve to be?

  As a physician, I have helped to care for many patients and families whose lives have been turned upside down by serious illnesses and injuries. In the throes of such catastrophes, it can be difficult to find cause for anything but lament. Yet Thanksgiving presents us with an opportunity to develop one of the healthiest, most life-affirming, and convivial of all habits – that of counting and rejoicing in our blessings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

How advertising shaped Thanksgiving as we know it

  I have always been intrigued by Thanksgiving – the traditions, the meal, the idea of a holiday that is simply about being thankful.

  For my family, Thanksgiving is all about the food. Some foods, like turkey and mashed potatoes, may be familiar. But there are a few twists. Since I grew up in the Caribbean, I’m allowed a Caribbean dish or two. The reliability of the menu – with a little flexibility sprinkled in – seems to unite us as a family while acknowledging our different cultural backgrounds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Joseph O. Patton: Taking back Thanksgiving!

  I am genuinely elated to report that I have survived another Thanksgiving… or rather what remains of this rapidly deteriorating national holiday. I ate, I watched football, I napped. God ordained back in the Plymouth Rock days that we adhere to this sacred ritual, right? And doing so enables me to show my Turkey Day pride, get my festive gobble-gobble swerve thang on, but mostly just suffer from indigestion as a result of all that sweet, blessed gluttony.

  But increasingly each year something else is ominously creeping into the view from my yam-tinted glasses, vulgarly tinkling on my Thanksgiving joy and ruthlessly pushing all the pilgrim imagery to the side - its name: Christmas.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Why we have globalization to thank for Thanksgiving

  As Americans sit down to their Thanksgiving Day feasts, some may recall the story of the “Pilgrim Fathers” who founded one of the first English settlements in North America in 1620 at what is today the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

  The history we know is one of English settlers seeking religious freedom in a New World but instead finding “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men.”

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The complicated legacy of the Pilgrims is finally coming to light 400 years after they landed in Plymouth

  The 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ voyage to Plymouth will be celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic with a “remembrance ceremony” with state and local officials and a museum exhibit in Plymouth, England. IBM has even outfitted a replica of the Mayflower with an AI navigating system that will allow the ship to trace the course of the original journey without any humans on board.

  Yet as a scholar of early 17th-century New England, I’ve always been puzzled by the glory heaped on the Pilgrims and their settlement in Plymouth.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Why the Pilgrims were actually able to survive

  Sometime in the autumn of 1621, a group of English Pilgrims who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and created a colony called New Plymouth celebrated their first harvest.

  They hosted a group of about 90 Wampanoags, their Algonquian-speaking neighbors. Together, migrants and Natives feasted for three days on corn, venison, and fowl.

  In their bountiful yield, the Pilgrims likely saw a divine hand at work.

Friday, November 20, 2020

‘A New Dawn’: How four young Black activists powered a movement to remove Confederate emblem from Mississippi flag

  On the day of the demonstration, Jarrius Adams stood in front of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion in Jackson, where the state flag bearing an image of the “rebel flag” of the Confederacy flew to his left. Scores of people lined the street, eager to hear Adams speak as they marched elbow to elbow in solidarity for Black lives. Drones circled overhead, and supporters held signs, one reading “Racism is a Virus.” The demonstration would be called one of the largest in Mississippi’s history. Its success would bring historic change that had long eluded civil rights activists.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

On environmental protection, Biden’s election will mean a 180-degree turn from Trump policies

  The Trump administration has waged what I and many other legal experts view as an all-out assault on the nation’s environmental laws for the past four years. Decisions at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and other agencies have weakened the guardrails that protect our nation’s air, water, and public lands and have sided with industry rather than advocating for public health and the environment.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Once a symbol of desegregation, Ruby Bridges’ school now reflects another battle engulfing public education

  On Nov. 14, 1960, after a long summer and autumn of volleys between the Louisiana Legislature and the federal courts, Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old Black girl, was allowed to enroll in an all-white school. Accompanied by federal marshals, Bridges entered William Frantz Public School – a small neighborhood school in New Orleans’ Upper Ninth Ward.

  If that building’s walls could talk, they certainly would tell the well-known story of its desegregation. But those same walls could tell another story, too. That story is about continued racism as well as efforts to dismantle and privatize public education in America over the past six decades.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Matrix is already here: Social media promised to connect us, but left us isolated, scared and tribal

  About a year ago, I began to follow my interest in health and fitness on Instagram. Soon I began to see more and more fitness-related accounts, groups, posts, and ads. I kept clicking and following, and eventually, my Instagram became all about fit people, fitness and motivational material, and advertisements. Does this sound familiar?

  While the algorithms and my brain kept me scrolling on the endless feeds, I was reminded of what digital marketers like to say: “Money is in the list.” That is, the more customized your group, people, and page follows, the less time and money is needed to sell you related ideas. Instead, brand ambassadors will do the work, spreading products, ideas, and ideologies with passion and free of charge.

Monday, November 16, 2020

60 years after JFK, Biden as second Catholic president offers a refresh in church’s political role

  Running to become the first Catholic president of the United States in 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy told an audience of wary Protestant ministers that “if the time should come … when my office would require me to violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office.”

  Sixty years later, Joe Biden has become the second Roman Catholic to win the White House, and some prominent Catholics and bishops now appear to believe that the only way a Catholic should hold office is if putting conscience before what the law says about culture war issues like abortion. Five decades of abortion politics have taken a toll.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Jim Martin, father of the modern Republican Party in Alabama

  Three years ago, Jim Martin passed away in Gadsden at 99 years old. His beloved wife of 60 years, Pat, was by his side. He was a true Christian gentleman. Martin was one of the fathers of the modern Republican Party in the south.

  In 1962, John Kennedy was president. Camelot was in full bloom. The Congress was controlled by Democrats only because the south was solidly Democratic. The southern bloc of senators and congressmen were all Democrats. Because of their enormous seniority, they controlled both houses of Congress. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

How to host a safe holiday meal during coronavirus – an epidemiologist explains her personal plans

  Like many people in this unusual year, I am adjusting my family’s holiday plans so that we can all be safe during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

  I am an epidemiologist and mother of four with a large extended family. Given the serious nationwide resurgence of COVID-19 infections, gatherings of family and friends over the upcoming holidays have the potential to amplify the spread of the virus. Several recent studies have further confirmed that indoor socializing at home carries a significantly higher risk of viral transmission than outdoor activities. Health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have warned that much of the transmission this fall is happening across all age groups at small indoor gatherings.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Why Republicans and others concerned about the economy have reason to celebrate Biden in the White House

  On day one, a newly inaugurated President Joe Biden will have to address a devastated economy – much like he and former President Barack Obama did a decade ago.

  What can the country expect?

  Forecasting how the economy will perform under a new president is generally a fool’s errand. How much or how little credit the person in the White House deserves for the health of the economy is a matter of debate, and no economist can confidently predict how the president’s policies will play out – if they even go into effect – or what challenges might emerge.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Conservatives backed the ideas behind Obamacare, so how did they come to hate it?

  The Affordable Care Act is back before the U.S. Supreme Court in the latest of dozens of attacks against the law by conservatives fighting what they now perceive to be a government takeover of health care.

  Yet, in an odd twist of history, it was Newt Gingrich, one of the most conservative speakers of the House, who laid out the blueprint for the Affordable Care Act as early as 1993. In an interview on “Meet the Press,” Gingrich argued for individuals’ being “required to have health insurance” as a matter of social responsibility.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

What is moral injury in veterans?

  On Nov. 11 each year, Americans honor military veterans who have transitioned to civilian status from active duty.

  The cultural transition back to civilian life goes smoothly for some, but for others, it is a challenging and sometimes lengthy process. Those who have deployed overseas or spent a substantial amount of time in the military may even deal with “reverse culture shock” – that is, upon return, their home culture can feel distant and disorienting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

7 tips for staying safe as COVID-19 cases rise and colder weather heightens the risk

  As temperatures fall, people are spending more time indoors. That heightens the risk of the coronavirus spreading, but there are some simple steps you can take to help protect yourself and everyone around you.

  It’s easy to get tired of wearing masks and practicing social distancing. There has even been some talk from the White House about herd immunity – the idea that if enough people get infected, the virus won’t be able to spread.

  But the U.S. isn’t anywhere close to herd immunity for SARS-CoV-2, estimated to be reached when about 60% to 70% of the population has been infected – likely more than 200 million people. Without a vaccine, hospitals would be overwhelmed by the illnesses and hundreds of thousands more people would die. We also don’t know how long immunity lasts.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Studies link COVID-19 deaths to air pollution, raising questions about EPA’s ‘acceptable risk’

  The pandemic is putting America’s air pollution standards to the test as the COVID-19 death toll rises.

  The U.S. government sets limits on hazardous air pollutants to try to protect public health, but it can be difficult to determine where to draw the line for what is considered “acceptable risk.” Power plants, factories, and other pollution sources release hundreds of million pounds of hazardous pollutants into the air every year.

  As the coronavirus spreads, the pattern of deaths suggests there are serious weaknesses in the current public safeguards.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Poor U.S. pandemic response will reverberate in health care politics for years, health scholars warn

  Much has been written about the U.S. coronavirus response. Media accounts frequently turn to experts for their insights – commonly, epidemiologists or physicians. Countless surveys have also queried Americans and individuals from around the world about how the pandemic has affected them and their attitudes and opinions.

  Yet little is known about the views of a group of people particularly well qualified to render judgment on the U.S.‘s response and offer policy solutions: academic health policy and politics researchers. These researchers, like the two of us, come from a diverse set of disciplines, including public health and public policy. Their research focuses on the intricate linkages between politics, the U.S. health system, and health policy. They are trained to combine applied and academic knowledge, take broader views, and be fluent across multiple disciplines.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

On screen and on stage, disability continues to be depicted in outdated, cliched ways

  The #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements have forced Hollywood and other artists and filmmakers to rethink their subject matter and casting practices. However, despite an increased sensitivity to gender and race representation in popular culture, disabled Americans are still awaiting their national (and international) movement.

  “Disability drag” – casting able-bodied actors in the roles of characters with disabilities – has been hard to dislodge from its Oscar-worthy appeal. Since 1947, out of 59 nominations for disabled characters, 27 won an Academy Award – about a 50% win rate.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Why gender reveals have spiraled out of control

  Over Labor Day weekend, two expectant parents didn’t get the viral hit they had hoped for.

  During a gender reveal party in Southern California, a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” was supposed to simply reveal a color – pink for a girl, blue for a boy – before a crowd of onlookers.

  Instead, it sparked a wildfire that has scorched more than 10,000 acres of land.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Arctic hasn’t been this warm for 3 million years – and that foreshadows big changes for the rest of the planet

  Every year, sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean shrinks to a low point in mid-September. This year, it measures just 1.44 million square miles (3.74 million square kilometers) – the second-lowest value in the 42 years since satellites began taking measurements. The ice today covers only 50% of the area it covered 40 years ago in late summer.

  As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has shown, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than at any time in human history. The last time that atmospheric CO2 concentrations reached today’s level – about 412 parts per million – was 3 million years ago, during the Pliocene Epoch.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Feeling disoriented by the election, pandemic and everything else? It’s called ‘zozobra,’ and Mexican philosophers have some advice

  Ever had the feeling that you can’t make sense of what’s happening? One moment everything seems normal, then suddenly the frame shifts to reveal a world on fire, struggling with the pandemic, recession, climate change, and political upheaval.

  That’s “zozobra,” the peculiar form of anxiety that comes from being unable to settle into a single point of view, leaving you with questions like: Is it a lovely autumn day, or an alarming moment of converging historical catastrophes?

  It is a condition that many Americans may be experiencing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Americans aren’t worried about white nationalism in the military – because they don’t know it’s there

  White nationalist groups, who make up some of the most serious terror threats in the country, find new members and support in the U.S. military. These groups believe that white people are under attack in America.

  In their effort to create an all-white country where nonwhites do not have civil rights protections, these groups often instigate violent confrontations that target racial and religious minorities. Since 2018, white supremacists have conducted more lethal attacks in the United States than any other domestic extremist movement.

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Trump administration treats seniors as expendable

  Amid a pandemic in which seniors have been disproportionately infected and killed, the Trump administration and its allies continue to fail at protecting seniors’ health care access. By downplaying the COVID-19 pandemic and failing to act, and discounting the impact of the coronavirus on seniors with preexisting conditions, the Trump administration and its allies are letting down older adults and those who love them. Meanwhile, the administration continues to push for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would cause seniors’ out-of-pocket premiums and prescription drug costs to soar, and to punt on prescription drug pricing reform. In the middle of a historic health crisis, the Trump administration has left seniors behind.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Refugees don’t undermine the US economy – they energize it

  The Trump administration announced in September plans to cut the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States to the lowest level in 40 years. This year’s cap of 18,000 admissions is well below the average annual limit of about 95,000 refugees in the years before the Trump administration.

  This drastic cut typifies the Trump administration’s overall anti-immigration stance, reflected in a series of executive orders aimed at reducing undocumented and legal migration channels in the past four years.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Why is it fun to be frightened?

  Audiences flock to horror films. They get a thrill from movies like “Halloween,” with its seemingly random murder and mayhem in a small suburban town, a reminder that that picket fences and manicured lawns cannot protect us from the unjust, the unknown, or the uncertainty that awaits us all in both life and death. The film offers no justice for the victims in the end, no rebalancing of good and evil.

  Why, then, would anyone want to spend their time and money to watch such macabre scenes filled with depressing reminders of just how unfair and scary our world can be?

Friday, October 30, 2020

Inaction on prisons comes at a great financial and societal cost

  At a time when political discord is at a high, there’s one thing that Alabamians should be able to agree on: Alabama’s prison system needs immediate reforms. The current system is outdated, understaffed, overcrowded, and plagued by violence.

  The problem is that state leaders can’t agree on what those reforms should be. The consensus is that new facilities are a must, but the legislature has missed numerous opportunities to put a plan into action. In 2019, Gov. Kay Ivey took control, announcing that the state would contract with private companies to build three new men’s prisons.

  But as that plan moves forward, questions remain. Ivey’s plan isn’t popular with citizens, legislators are concerned about the cost, and some residents oppose the selected prison sites.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Day of the Dead: From Aztec goddess worship to modern Mexican celebration

  Day of the Dead might sound like a solemn affair, but Mexico’s famous holiday is actually a lively commemoration of the departed.

  The nationwide festivities, which include a massive parade in Mexico City, typically begin the night of Oct. 31 with families sitting vigil at gravesites. Mexican tradition holds that on Nov. 1 and 2, the dead awaken to reconnect and celebrate with their living family and friends.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Sick of COVID-19? Here’s why you might have pandemic fatigue

  As the pandemic drags on, following COVID-19 prevention guidelines can feel like more and more of a challenge.

  This kind of fatigue is not unique to pandemic precautions like sticking with social distancing, masking up, and keeping your hands washed. With all kinds of health-related behavior changes – including increasing physical activity, eating healthy, and decreasing tobacco use – at least half of people relapse within six months.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Hell, no! Halloween is not ‘satanic’ – it’s an important way to think about death

  American televangelist Pat Robinson once claimed children who celebrate Halloween were unknowingly “worshipping Satan”.

  Despite the absurdity that a child dressing up as a witch is devil worship, the idea that Halloween is linked to something satanic continues to have purchase among some conservative Christians. However, the traditions behind this increasingly popular holiday are far more complex. It has less to do with anything satanic and more to do with superstition and our relationship with death.

Monday, October 26, 2020

If Obamacare goes away, here are eight ways your life will be affected

  More than 10 years after its passage, the Affordable Care Act once more hangs in the balance. There have been plenty of near misses before, including previous Supreme Court appearances and Congressional votes. Yet in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, this time around Republicans may finally be successful in undoing the Obama Administration’s signature achievement. Hearings before the Supreme Court are scheduled to begin on Nov. 10 on whether a change in tax law makes the ACA unconstitutional.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

How might the campaign’s endgame be disrupted? Here are five scenarios, drawn from the history of election polling

  The storyline of the presidential campaign seems to be solidifying, as polls show Joe Biden maintaining a sizable lead over President Donald J. Trump.

  But the lead may not be insurmountable, and the election is not over.

  The history of polling in modern elections suggests that the endgame could yet be altered by a number of disruptive scenarios.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Craig Ford: This year’s ballot has 6 statewide amendments. Here’s what they do.

  Whether you choose to vote absentee this year or you decide to wait until Election Day to cast your ballot, every voter in Alabama will have the chance to vote on several statewide amendments to the Alabama Constitution.

  Because these amendments are written in “legalese” language, they can often be difficult to understand. And most people are more focused on doing their jobs and taking care of their families rather than spending their time researching these amendments and what they would do. 

  So I’d like to take a few moments to explain as honestly as possible what these amendments would do, and after each explanation, I will give my thoughts on each amendment.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Trump’s ideological judges have led to politicized courts

  President Donald Trump has made clear that he values personal loyalty to himself above all other traits in those around him, both when it comes to his political aides and who he calls “his” judges. He has personally attacked judges who rule against his administration’s interests while promising that those he nominates will carry out his administration’s policy goals. Those goals chiefly include eliminating the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—as he is currently urging the U.S. Supreme Court to do in a lawsuit—and dismantling Roe v. Wade.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Votes cast in November will shape Congress through 2030

  When voters cast their ballots in November, they won’t just decide who will be president in 2021 – they will also have a voice in determining the partisan makeup of Congress until 2030. Following each census, which happens every 10 years, states are required to adjust their congressional district boundaries to keep district populations equal.

  District boundaries can profoundly shape election results – most notably when they are drawn in ways that benefit one political party or the other.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

For Love of Country: Black veterans join movement to rid military installations of Confederate names and symbols

  When Daniele Anderson was a student at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, she posted flyers around the campus about Black History Month events she was organizing, but they were repeatedly torn down.

  At the lunch table where they all had to sit together, her white male colleagues asked her – one of the few Black women attending the academy – why there was not a white heritage or history month.

  “There were these microaggressions,” she said. “There were these things that sort of happened because people kind of thought you were there not of your own merit.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

When politicians use hate speech, political violence increases

  Politicians deepen existing divides when they use inflammatory language, such as hate speech, and this makes their societies more likely to experience political violence and terrorism. That’s the conclusion from a study I recently did on the connection between political rhetoric and actual violence.

  President Donald Trump is not the only world leader who is accused of publicly denigrating people based on their racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Trump continues the never-ending war on Cuba

  If it’s presidential election time, then, like clockwork, it’s time for Republicans to continue the U.S. national-security establishment’s 60-year-long attack on Cuba. That’s because Republican presidential candidates feel the need to pander to Cuban-American voters in Florida as a way to show how “tough” they are on communism.

  Well, not all communism. The U.S. government, especially the Pentagon, loves the communist regime in Vietnam, the one that killed some 58,000 American men in the Vietnam War. Today, the U.S. and Vietnamese regimes are living in peaceful and friendly co-existence, exactly what the national-security establishment said was impossible during the Cold War.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Tricking and treating has a history

  Over the past few decades, Halloween celebrations have gained in popularity, not only with children and families but with all those fascinated with the spooky and scary.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The illusion of success

  Reach for the stars. Pursue goals beyond your grasp. These are good life strategies. We never know how much we can accomplish until we try.

  But what happens when we’re told we must reach the stars or suffer consequences?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Reduce stress at work and prevent burnout – a psychologist explains how

  Stress, and more chronic exhaustion such as burnout, is commonplace within the modern workplace. People are sinking under the pressure of an attendance culture that glorifies being present at work at the expense of their health. But why exactly does this happen and what can you do to prevent it?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The peculiar concept of “ethics laws”

  Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by news stories of outright corruption or bad judgment. At every level of government, there are politicians who can’t seem to recognize or resist conflicts of interest, inappropriate gifts, improper use of the power or property entrusted to them, or the discrediting impact of shameful private conduct.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Zombie flu: How the 1919 influenza pandemic fueled the rise of the living dead

  Zombies have lurched to the center of Halloween culture, with costumes proliferating as fast as the monsters themselves. This year, you can dress as a zombie prom queen, a zombie doctor – even a zombie rabbit or banana. The rise of the living dead, though, has a surprising link to another recurring October visitor: the influenza virus.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Why more places are abandoning Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples Day

  Increasingly, Columbus Day is giving people pause.

  More and more towns and cities across the country are electing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day as an alternative to – or in addition to – the day intended to honor Columbus’ voyages.

  Critics of the change see it as just another example of political correctness run amok – another flashpoint of the culture wars.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Trump’s appeals to white anxiety are not ‘dog whistles’ – they’re racism

  President Donald Trump’s rhetoric is often referred to as “dog whistle politics.”

  In politician speak, a dog whistle is language that conveys a particular meaning to a group of potential supporters. The targeted group hears the “whistle” because of its shared cultural reference, but others cannot.

  In 2018, The Washington Post wrote that “perhaps no one has sent more dog whistles than President Trump.”

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Defending the 2020 election against hacking: 5 questions answered

  Editor’s note: Journalist Bob Woodward reports in his new book, “Rage,” that the NSA and CIA have classified evidence that the Russian intelligence services placed malware in the election registration systems of at least two Florida counties in 2016 and that the malware was sophisticated and could erase voters. This appears to confirm earlier reports. Meanwhile, Russian intelligence agents and other foreign players are already at work interfering in the 2020 presidential election. Douglas W. Jones, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Iowa and co-author of the book “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?,” describes the vulnerabilities of the U.S. election system in light of this news.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The case of Biden versus Trump – or how a judge could decide the presidential election

  Imagine the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. Given the unprecedented number of mail-in votes this election, Americans may wake up and still not know who won the presidential contest between Republican President Donald J. Trump and Democratic challenger Joseph Biden.

  The contest could be so close that a result can’t be known until mail-in ballots in several key states, perhaps Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Florida, can be fully counted.

  It’s conceivable that either candidate will refuse to accept the result, whether before or after the counting of absentee or mail-in ballots. That could lead to several lawsuits to stop the counting, to keep counting, or to force a recount.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Good nutrition can contribute to keeping COVID-19 and other diseases away

  The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The Dixiecrats and the 1948 Truman election

  The year 1948 was an interesting and momentous year in southern politics. World War II had just ended. The king of American politics, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had passed away in Warm Springs, Georgia.  

  FDR had reigned omnipotently as president from 1932-1945. His vice president was an obscure, peculiar-looking Missourian named Harry Truman. Truman had been a haberdasher in Independence, Missouri who had gone broke selling men’s clothing. The legendary St. Louis Pendergrass political machine took Truman in and made him a U.S. Senator.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Angry Americans: How political rage helps campaigns but hurts democracy

   As the 2020 presidential election draws near, one thing is clear: America is an angry nation. From protests over persistent racial injustice to white nationalist-linked counterprotests, anger is on display across the country.

  The national ire relates to inequality, the government’s coronavirus response, economic concerns, race, and policing. It’s also due, in large part, to deliberate and strategic choices made by American politicians to stoke voter anger for their own electoral advantage.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Why female bosses get different reactions than men when they criticize employees

  Imagine that your boss Ethan calls you into his office. He expresses disappointment in your recent performance and lack of commitment. How would you react? Would you accept the feedback and put in more effort? Or would you pout in your office and start looking for a new job? Now, would your reaction be different if your boss was not named Ethan but Emily?

  I’m a professor of economics, and my research investigates this very question.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Far from being anti-religious, faith and spirituality run deep in Black Lives Matter

  Black Lives Matters (BLM) has been portrayed by its detractors as many things: Marxist, radical, anti-American. Added to this growing list of charges is that it is either irreligious or doing religion wrong.

  In late July, for instance, conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan tweeted that BLM was “incompatible” with Christianity.

  He isn’t alone in that belief. Despite receiving the backing of diverse faith leaders and groups, BLM has been attacked by sections of the religious right. One evangelical institution felt compelled to issue a statement warning Christians about the movement’s “Godless agenda.” Other evangelicals have gone further, accusing BLM founders of being “witches” and “operating in the demonic realm.”

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Inclusion starts with better management – here’s what employees say about making diversity work

  Since the death of George Floyd in May, dozens of companies such as Apple, Estee Lauder, and Facebook have vowed to increase diversity and inclusion in their workplaces.

  The diversity part seems straightforward enough. But what’s meant by inclusion?

Friday, October 2, 2020

4 ways to protect yourself from disinformation

  You might have fallen for someone’s attempt to disinform you about current events. But it’s not your fault.

  Even the most well-intentioned news consumers can find today’s avalanche of political information difficult to navigate. With so much news available, many people consume media in an automatic, unconscious state – similar to knowing you drove home but not being able to recall the trip.

  And that makes you more susceptible to accepting false claims.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Why you really should start your Christmas shopping now

  It has begun. Shops are – already – starting to put out their Christmas displays. I can hear many of you groaning already. Who wants to think about Christmas this early, right?

  Well, before you get your tinsel in a tangle, you may wish to consider that there are benefits to starting your Christmas shopping early.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Alabama’s budget year begins this week; COVID-19 has played havoc

  The new fiscal year begins this week for Alabama's government. We have two budgets, a General Fund and an Education Budget. Both budgets have experienced a devastating loss in revenues due to the coronavirus. The Education Budget was drastically reduced from what was originally expected at the beginning of the calendar year in January.

  The Education Budget receives the revenues generated from our sales and income taxes in the state. Therefore, the downturn in the economy is especially heartbreaking for educators, teachers, schools, and universities.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Pessimists have been saying America is going to hell for more than 200 years

  Pessimism looms large in America today. It’s not just because of Donald Trump, the vicar of fear and violence. It’s COVID-19, a faltering economy, the growing power of Russia, and China, fires, and climate change – you name it.

  Journalists and analysts have launched warnings: American democracy is about to end; the American century is about to end; the American era is about to end. If Trump loses, there’s no certainty that the U.S. will make it to the other side of potential political chaos.

Monday, September 28, 2020

6 ways mail-in ballots are protected from fraud

  Voter fraud is very rare whether people vote in person or by mail. That much is clear from a large body of research.

  One of us is a political scientist at the University of Washington, and the other is a former elections commissioner who now studies voting laws. We can explain why voter fraud is so rare – especially for mail-in ballots, which have drawn both the interest and concern of many people this year.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The truth about President Trump’s track record on child care

  On January 20, 2017, reporters at The Washington Post interviewed people who attended President Donald Trump’s inauguration. One of the attendees was a single mother of two from Maryland who worked as a massage therapist; she said that she hoped Trump would follow through on his pledge to make child care more affordable. Yet four years later, as the coronavirus crisis enters its seventh month in the United States, parents are struggling to find child care as they work essential jobs or attempt to work from home while supervising children.

  Not only has Trump failed to deliver on his promise of making child care affordable for families, his administration’s inability to control the COVID-19 pandemic and provide adequate funds to safely reopen and fund child care has threatened the collapse of the entire industry. Due to these policy failures, many child care providers have been forced to shut their doors for good—and many more will follow suit if they do not receive federal help soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

19 years after 9/11, Americans continue to fear foreign extremists and underplay the dangers of domestic terrorism

  On a Tuesday morning in September 2001, the American experience with terrorism was fundamentally altered. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six people were killed as the direct result of attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Thousands more, including many first responders, later lost their lives to health complications from working at or being near Ground Zero.

  Nineteen years later, Americans’ ideas of what terrorism is remain tied to that morning.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Foreign investors were big winners from Trump’s tax law

  Three years ago this month, President Donald Trump promised to enact a “pro-American tax reform.” But the tax overhaul that he signed into law late 2017 was anything but “pro-American.” In fact, as the Center for American Progress pointed out when the tax cut passed, some of its biggest winners were wealthy foreign investors. Recent estimates show that the Trump tax law has given larger tax cuts to foreign investors over the past three years than it has to middle- and working-class Americans in all of the states that Trump carried in 2016—combined.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1737 - Whatever you count, that’s what you will have the most of

  My mother, Ola Mae Sanders, was a very wise woman. She had a seventh-grade education, but she was wise way beyond her schooling. She was a poor person, but she was wise way beyond her poverty. She had a bunch of children, but she was wise way beyond her huge family of fifteen. She was just a very wise woman with many wise sayings. One such saying was, Whatever you count, that’s what you will have the most of.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - All politics is local

  With it being a presidential election year, an election for one of our United States Senate seats, and all of the interest that goes along with those high-profile contests, it has gone under the radar that most of our cities in the state had elections for mayor and city council seats last month. Mayors serve four-year terms, and to most Alabamians, they are the most important votes they will cast this year.  

  The job of mayor of a city is a difficult and intricate fulltime, 24-hours-a-day dedication to public service. They make more decisions that affect the lives of their friends and neighbors than anyone else. The old maxim, “All politics is local,” is epitomized in the role of mayor. Folks, being mayor of a city is where the rubber meets the road.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Can Trump and McConnell get through the 4 steps to seat a Supreme Court justice in just 6 weeks?

  United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18, thrusting the acrimonious struggle for control of the Supreme Court into public view.

  President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have already vowed to nominate and confirm a replacement for the 87-year-old justice and women’s rights icon.

  This contradicts the justification the Republican-controlled Senate used when they refused to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s pick for the Court after the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped shape the modern era of women’s rights – even before she went on the Supreme Court

  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, the Supreme Court announced.

  Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement that “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.”

  Even before her appointment, she had reshaped American law. When he nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, President Bill Clinton compared her legal work on behalf of women to the epochal work of Thurgood Marshall on behalf of African-Americans.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Vaccine mandates vs. religious beliefs – the legal arguments for the upcoming coronavirus lawsuits

  The longer COVID-19 rages on, the more the United States appears to be hanging its hopes on the development and rapid, mass distribution of a vaccine.

  Getting a safe and effective vaccine out to the public could be a game-changer health experts believe. But stopping the virus’s spread will only happen if enough people choose – or are required – to get vaccinated.

  But while some people may see it as their “patriotic duty” to get vaccinated, others won’t.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bridging America’s divides requires a willingness to work together without becoming friends first

  Amid two crises – the pandemic and the national reckoning sparked by the killing of George Floyd – there have been anguished calls for Americans to come together across lines of race and partisanship. Change would come, a USA Today contributor wrote, only “when we become sensitized to the distress of our neighbors.”

  Empathy born of intimacy was the pre-pandemic solution to the nation’s fractured political landscape. If Americans could simply get to know one another, to share stories and appreciate each other’s struggles, civic leaders argued, we would develop a sense of understanding and empathy that would extend beyond the single encounter.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Faith and politics mix to drive evangelical Christians’ climate change denial

  U.S. Christians, especially evangelical Christians, identify as environmentalists at very low rates compared to the general population. According to a Pew Research Center poll from May 2020, while 62% of religiously unaffiliated U.S. adults agree that the Earth is warming primarily due to human action, only 35% of U.S. Protestants do – including just 24% of white evangelical Protestants.

  Politically powerful Christian interest groups publicly dispute the climate science consensus. A coalition of major evangelical groups, including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, launched a movement opposing what they describe as “the false worldview” of environmentalism, which supposedly is “striving to put America, and the world, under its destructive control.”

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Trump’s law-and-order campaign relies on a historic American tradition of racist and anti-immigrant politics

  The Republican Party made it clear in its national convention that it intends to make restoring “law and order” central to this fall’s presidential campaign.

  As he did when he first ran in 2016, President Donald Trump highlighted law and order in his 2020 acceptance speech.

  “Your vote,” Trump said, “will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans and whether … we will defend the American way of life or allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The presidential race is underway

  Now that the national political party conventions are over and the nominees have been coronated, the battle royale for the White House is in full throttle. The nominees, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, will shatter the age barrier. Whoever is elected will be the oldest person ever elected president. If Donald Trump is reelected, he will be 75 when sworn in.  If Joe Biden wins, he will be close to 79.  When I was a young man, folks at that age were in the nursing home... if they were alive. By comparison, 60 years ago when John Kennedy was elected, he was 42.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Monuments ‘expire’ – but offensive monuments can become powerful history lessons

  Historical monuments are intended to be timeless, but almost all have an expiration date. As society’s values shift, the legitimacy of monuments can and often does erode.

  This is because monuments – whether statues, memorials, or obelisks – reveal the values of the time in which they were created and advance the agendas of their creators.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The white supremacist origins of modern marriage advice

  When I was conducting research for my new book on the destructive aspects of modern heterosexual relationships, I started looking into the archives of early 20th-century books about courtship and marriage written by physicians and sexologists.

  In the process, I made a discovery that would radically alter my understanding of why so many parts of heterosexual culture remain mired in violence and inequality.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Judicial tyranny in the drug war

  If you still have any doubts about the tyranny of the federal government’s beloved “war on drugs,” perhaps the case of Juan Carlos Seresi, Vahe Andonian, and Nazareth Andonian will remove them.

  Back in 1991, a federal judge named William D. Keller sentenced these three men to 500 years in jail for a non-violent drug offense—i.e., laundering drug money.

  Yes, you read that right — 500 years!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever because of COVID-19

  With the coronavirus still spreading widely, it’s time to start thinking seriously about influenza, which typically spreads in fall and winter. A major flu outbreak would not only overwhelm hospitals this fall and winter but also likely overwhelm a person who might contract both at once.

  Doctors have no way of knowing yet what the effect of a dual diagnosis might be on a person’s body, but they do know the havoc that the flu alone can do to a person’s body. Public health officials in the U.S. are therefore urging people to get the flu vaccine, which is already being shipped in many areas to be ready for vaccinations this month.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Moving beyond 9/11

  I’ve become increasingly ambivalent about the way we commemorate the dark days and months that began on September 11th, 2001.

  Each year the memories and all the feelings they evoke are less vivid. Thus, the news articles, commentaries, and TV specials about the 9/11 attacks serve as important reminders, not only of the immeasurable loss of life and the permanent degradation of our sense of security, but of the lessons we should have learned from the events and its aftermath.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

How to read coronavirus news and learn what you actually need to know about staying safe in the pandemic

  With COVID-19, a news story that may be 100% accurate can still unintentionally mislead readers about the greatest threats of the pandemic. The unintended outcome results from a lesson taught to every journalism student: Use “real people” to “humanize” the news.

  The “real person” in COVID-19 stories may be a mom concerned about her child getting sick in the classroom, used as an example in an article about schools reopening. It may be the family member of a person who died from COVID-19 who gives a moving account for a story about the virus’s effects on young adults.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 1960 presidential race marked beginning of television as premier political medium

  The 1960 presidential race between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy is considered by many political historians to be a landmark presidential contest. This race for the White House, exactly 60 years ago, marked a pivotal change in presidential election politics when the advent of television became the premier medium for political candidates.  

  John Kennedy was a 42-year-old, charismatic, Democrat U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Richard Nixon was a veteran politico who was vice president under the popular war hero President General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

When police stop Black men, the effects reach into their homes and families

  While much of the world was sheltering in place in the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans’ undivided attention was focused squarely on Minneapolis, Minnesota, where George Floyd was killed at the hands – and knees – of the police.

  Floyd’s murder evoked memories of other murders by the police, including those of Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and Samuel DuBose. Most recently, another unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Why are there so few women CEOs?

  Women comprise about 47% of the U.S. workforce yet they make up barely a quarter of all senior executives at large U.S. public companies. Even worse, only about 5% of Standard & Poor’s 500 companies have female CEOs.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Trump’s foreign policy is still ‘America First’ – what does that mean, exactly?

  At the Republican National Convention, supporters of President Trump’s reelection bid have celebrated his attempts to build a Mexico border wall, his promise to “bring our troops home”, and his pledge to end U.S. “reliance on China.”

  All are components of the “America First” agenda Trump ran on in 2016. Back then, he promised to “shake the rust off America’s foreign policy.”

Saturday, September 5, 2020

How to talk to vaccine skeptics so they might actually hear you

  An estimated 24,000 to 62,000 people died from the flu in the United States during the 2019-20 flu season. And that was a relatively mild flu season, which typically starts in October and peaks between December and February.

  The latest computer model predicts 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 by Dec. 1.

Friday, September 4, 2020

While the U.S. is reeling from COVID-19, the Trump administration is trying to take away health care

  The death toll from COVID-19 keeps rising, creating grief, fear, loss, and confusion.

  Unfortunately for us all, the pain only begins there. Other important health policy news that would ordinarily make headlines is buried under the crushing weight of the coronavirus. Many have not had time to notice or understand the Trump administration’s efforts to wreck health care coverage.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

It’s time to stop the deadly rhetoric and the dangerous dodge of "both-siderism"

  The fatal shooting of a man reported to be affiliated with the far-right group Patriot Prayer last Saturday night on the streets of Portland should not have happened.

  I’m angry that Aaron “Jay” Danielson’s life was taken from him. I’m angry about every one of the lives taken in the 100 days since George Floyd’s murder. Whether the victims are Trump supporters, Black Lives Matters protesters, or law enforcement officers, the deaths that have occurred in this time of upheaval are wrong. We mourn each of these lives, regardless of ideology. And we mourn the lost futures of those who were convinced that taking the life of another human being is how we solve our societal problems.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Labor Day

  Labor Day is upcoming on Monday. In bygone days, it was the benchmark day for campaign season to start. Historically, Labor Day barbecues were events where political campaigns had their roots. Camp stew and barbecued pork were devoured while folks listened to politicians promise how they were going to bring home the pork.

  The most legendary political Labor Day barbecues have been held in the Northwest corner of the state. There were two legendary barbecue events in that neck of the woods that were a must-go-to event for aspiring and veteran politicians, both locally and statewide.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Police solve just 2% of all major crimes

  As Americans across the nation protest police violence, people have begun to call for cuts or changes in public spending on police. But neither these nor other proposed reforms address a key problem with solving crimes.

  My recent review of 50 years of national crime data confirms that, as police report, they don’t solve most serious crimes in America. But the real statistics are worse than police data show. In the U.S., it’s rare that a crime report leads to police arresting a suspect who is then convicted of the crime.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Higher education’s market reckoning

  Want to buy a college campus? Maybe you’d like to commission the services of a psychology department. Perhaps you’re hoping to hire an associate provost for diversity initiatives.

  If so, you’re in luck! It’s a buyer’s market.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mail-in voting does not cause fraud, but judges are buying the GOP’s argument that it does

  The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee filed lawsuits recently against New Jersey and Nevada to prevent expansive vote-by-mail efforts in those states.

  These high-profile lawsuits make the same argument that Republicans have made in many lesser-known lawsuits that were filed around the country during the primary season. In all of these lawsuits, Republicans argue that voting by mail perpetuates fraud – an argument President Donald Trump makes daily on various media platforms.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Trump’s dictatorial tendencies

  We have seen President Trump’s dictatorial tendencies in the past, such as when he diverted Pentagon slush money to build his Berlin Wall along the border, or when he launched his vicious and destructive trade war against China, or when he raised taxes (i.e., tariffs) on the American people. All of these actions were done without congressional authorization, which is what dictatorship is all about.

Friday, August 28, 2020

4 science-based strategies to tame angry political debate and encourage tolerance

  “Climate change is a hoax,” my cousin said during a family birthday party. “I saw on Twitter it’s just a way to get people to buy expensive electric cars.” I sighed while thinking, “How can he be so misinformed?” Indeed, what I wanted to say was, “Good grief, social media lies are all you read.”

  No doubt my cousin thought the same of me, when I said Republican senators are too afraid of the president to do what’s right. Not wanting to create a scene, we let each other’s statements slide by in icy silence.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

It’s past time to grant D.C. statehood

  For more than 200 years, the residents of Washington, D.C. have been subjected to systemic inequality and denied the full rights of citizenship that the residents of states enjoy—including voting representation in Congress.

  The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 51 to remedy this imbalance and make Washington the 51st state. This column explores the history underlying D.C. residents’ fight for their full rights as Americans, including efforts to both advance and suppress statehood. The district’s more than 700,000 residents deserve not only to have a vote in Congress but also to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship without being subjected to the uneven and punitive oversight of the federal government and Congress in particular.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Legendary U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black was from Alabama

  The most enduring legacy a president will have is an appointment to the United States Supreme Court. A lifetime appointment to the high tribunal is the ultimate power. The nine Justices of the Supreme Court have omnipotent, everlasting power over most major decisions affecting issues and public policy in our nation. President Trump has had two SCOTUS appointments and confirmations. This is monumental. These appointments may be his lasting legacy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

9 reasons you can be optimistic that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be widely available in 2021

  As fall approaches rapidly, many are wondering if the race for a vaccine will bear fruit as early as January 2021.

  I am a physician-scientist and infectious diseases specialist at the University of Virginia, where I care for patients and conduct research into COVID-19. I am occasionally asked how I can be sure that researchers will develop a successful vaccine to prevent COVID-19. After all, we still don’t have one for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

  Here is where the current research stands, where I think we will be in five months, and why you can be optimistic about the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Trump’s war on the Postal Service hurts all Americans

  Donald Trump has declared war on the U.S. Postal Service in order to make it harder for people to vote by mail. The pandemic has placed financial strains on the post office—and when coupled with a 2006 law requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund retirees’ health care benefits, a requirement that exists for no other public or private entity, it is no surprise that the Postal Service is facing significant economic burdens. Yet Trump has repeatedly refused to provide it with the necessary funding to continue effective operations, noting that “they need that money in order to make the Postal Service work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.”