Friday, July 31, 2020

Research on voting by mail says it’s safe – from fraud and disease

  As millions of Americans prepare to vote in November – and in many cases, primaries and state and local elections through the summer as well – lots of people are talking about voting by mail. It is a way to protect the integrity of the country’s voting system and to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus, which continues to spread widely in the U.S.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Black deaths matter: The centuries-old struggle to memorialize slaves and victims of racism

  In an open lot just a block or so from where George Floyd was killed while being detained by officers, 100 plastic headstones were carefully placed.

  Created by artists Anna Barber and Connor Wright, the “Say Their Names Cemetery” sprung up in south Minneapolis in early June as protests over police brutality prompted a more wide-ranging conversation over the legacy of slavery and racism in the United States.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Conventions will be anticlimactic

  The presidential race is on. It will be incumbent Republican Donald Trump vs. former Vice President and 36-year veteran Democrat, Delaware U.S. Senator Joe Biden in the November 3rd General Election.

  Both men have clinched their parties’ nominations. Therefore, the Democratic National Convention, July 31-August 2, and the Republican National Convention set for August 25-28, will be anticlimactic. It is doubtful that either convention will break any television rating records.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Three principles for reopening schools safely during the COVID-19 pandemic

  For months, parents and educators have worried about whether or not schools will be able to reopen safely this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. State and local officials have struggled to balance competing priorities and answer complicated logistical, educational, and public health questions. For the safety of students, families, and educators, science must drive these decisions. Yet recently, President Donald Trump began a politically-driven pressure campaign to force schools to physically reopen across the country. Over the past several months, the Trump administration should have been providing resources and assistance to local leaders that would help them implement social distancing, provide personal protective equipment, and plan for a safe reopening. Instead, President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have undermined guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an apparent attempt to deflect criticism over the administration’s failure to contain the COVID-19 crisis.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Russian cyberthreat extends to coronavirus vaccine research

  A Russian cyberespionage group that hacked into election networks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now attempting to steal coronavirus vaccine information from researchers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. The governments of those three countries issued a warning on July 16 saying that the group known as APT29 or “Cozy Bear” is targeting vaccine development efforts. The group, which is connected with the FSB, Russia’s internal security service, had gotten inside the Democratic National Committee networks prior to the 2016 election.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Constitution doesn’t have a problem with mask mandates

  Many public health professionals and politicians are urging or requiring citizens to wear face masks to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

  Some Americans have refused, wrongly claiming that mask decrees violate the Constitution. An internet search turns up dozens of examples.

  “Costco Karen,” for instance, staged a sit-in in a Costco entrance in Hillsboro, Oregon after she refused to wear a mask, yelling “I am an American … I have rights.”

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Rural broadband: It’s past time

  As it turns out, we just thought we understood how much we needed better broadband accessibility in Alabama. Rural farmers, hospitals, and schools have been telling us for years that the inequality of our broadband infrastructure created two classes of Alabamians: internet haves and have-nots. State leaders mostly agreed and promised to address it… eventually.

  But in a state with many pressing needs, rural broadband initiatives never pushed their way to the front of the line until a global pandemic upset our entire economy and educational system overnight.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Why ‘I was just being sarcastic’ can be such a convenient excuse

  After President Donald Trump said during his June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma that increased testing was responsible for the surging number of infections, the condemnation of the inaccurate claim was swift.

  Six days later, during a Fox News town hall, Sean Hannity asked Trump about those remarks on increased testing.

  “Sometimes I jokingly say, or sarcastically say, if we didn’t do tests, we would look great,” he replied.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

From preaching to the chickens to preaching to the angels

  News of the passing of Congressman John Lewis hit me hard. I have never met a more extraordinarily kind and generous man. He was a true testament to the goodness to be found in each of us. I never grew tired of hearing him tell his story.

  Congressman Lewis grew up just outside of Troy, Alabama, not far from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s headquarters in Montgomery. He was a wonderful storyteller in the tradition of Black family stories of struggle and triumph. And he was funny. I’ve heard the congressman’s story of “preaching to the chickens” dozens of times, and each time, I could see a young John Lewis preaching to the family chickens as he dreamed of becoming a minister one day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - GOP primary over, fall elections begin

  The field is set for the November General Election and more than likely, the races were decided on July 14. We had some good races, including the race for our junior U.S. Senate seat as well as two open Congressional seats.

  Tommy Tuberville won an impressive 60-40 victory over Jeff Sessions in the GOP primary runoff for U.S. Senate. The tea leaves portend that Tuberville, the Republican, will defeat the Democrat Doug Jones by that same 60-40 margin. He will win for one reason. He is a solid Republican in a solidly Republican state.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Life on welfare isn’t what most people think it is

  When Americans talk about people receiving public assistance – food stamps, disability, unemployment payments, and other government help – they often have stereotypes and inaccurate perceptions of who those people are and what their lives are like.

  Statistics can help clarify the picture by challenging false stereotypes of undeserving people gaming the system, but people’s stories about their own experiences can be more memorable and therefore more effective in changing minds.

Monday, July 20, 2020

School buildings need more space to safely reopen

  When COVID-19 first arose, the battle cry was “flatten the curve.” As states make plans to reopen, get ready for another important strategy: “de-densify.”

  Simply put, to make it safer to go to schools, restaurants, and other places where people have to go in big groups, these places will have to become less crowded than they used to be.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

How fake accounts constantly manipulate what you see on social media – and what you can do about it

  Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram started out as a way to connect with friends, family, and people of interest. But anyone on social media these days knows that it’s increasingly a divisive landscape.

  Undoubtedly you’ve heard reports that hackers and even foreign governments are using social media to manipulate and attack you. You may wonder how that is possible. As a professor of computer science who researches social media and security, I can explain – and offer some ideas for what you can do about it.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

5 ways eating in a pandemic is improving your relationship with food – and why you should stick with them

  It’s 5 p.m. on who-can-tell-which-day, and instead of rushing from work to kids’ activities, I’m unpacking a box of produce while my 7-year-old peels carrots beside me. Rather than grab what we can from the fridge on the way to soccer practice, my family is all sitting down together to a homemade vegetarian meal. On the menu tonight: cauliflower lentil tacos.

Friday, July 17, 2020

A restart of nuclear testing offers little scientific value to the US and would benefit other countries

  July 15, 2020 marked 75 years since the detonation of the first nuclear bomb. The Trinity Test, in New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto desert, proved that the design for the Nagasaki Bomb worked and started the nuclear era.

  The U.S. tested nuclear bombs for decades. But at the end of the Cold War in 1992, the U.S. government imposed a moratorium on U.S. testing. This was strengthened by the Clinton administration’s decision to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although the Senate never ratified the treaty and it never entered into force, all 184 countries that signed the test ban, including the U.S., have followed its rules.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Don’t expect Biden’s VP pick to make or break the 2020 election

  As presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gets set to pick his vice presidential candidate, here’s a reality check: Running mates have very little direct effect on voters. When people go to the polls, they are primarily expressing a preference for the presidential candidate, not the second person on the ticket.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Even very young children can become prejudiced, but schools can do something about it

  Racism has negative consequences for children’s health. It harms the kids who experience it personally and those who witness it, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization that represents 67,000 doctors who treat children.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Del Marsh wants you to get coronavirus. State senators should remove him from leadership!

  I couldn’t believe it when I saw Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) – the leader of the Alabama Senate – say he wants to see more people get the coronavirus!

  During an interview with CBS42 News, Senator Marsh was asked if he was concerned about the growing number of confirmed cases of people infected with COVID-19 in Alabama. His response was, and these are his exact words: “I’m not as concerned so much as the number of cases, in fact, quite honestly, I want to see more people because we start reaching an immunity as more people have it and get through it.”

Monday, July 13, 2020

5 COVID-19 myths politicians have repeated that just aren’t true

  The number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has jumped to around 50,000 a day, and the virus has killed more than 130,000 Americans. Yet, I still hear myths about the infection that has created the worst public health crisis in America in a century.

  The purveyors of these myths, including politicians who have been soft-peddling the impact of the coronavirus, aren’t doing the country any favors.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Developing resilience is an important tool to help you deal with coronavirus and the surge in cases

  We’re all exhausted and pushed to the limit by months of social distancing, and the recent news that cases are climbing in many states is especially scary.

  While you may feel like ripping off your mask and heading for a bar, there are more productive ways to deal with the challenges we face. And in fact, staying home may be the best course of action in the next couple of weeks, some experts have said. It’s also a good time to learn and practice resilience.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

President Trump revives J. Edgar Hoover’s tyrannical playbook

  Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has denounced his critics for the same claims made against him, attacking their credibility, and portraying himself as a victim of conspiracies.

  His lies are well documented, yet he accuses reporters of perpetual deception. He was impeached for obstruction of Congress and abuse of power, yet he accuses Joe Biden of corrupt practices in Ukraine.

  By employing these tactics, Trump is lifting freely from former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s playbook. Hoover, for example, lived a closeted gay life yet networked with Nazis who murdered people for being gay, and he blackmailed gay people to amass power.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Voting rights advocates prep for perfect storm in 2020

  Carla Duffy and Janet Savage waited nearly three hours in the hot sun outside the George Ford Center in Powder Springs, Georgia to cast ballots in the state’s June 9 primary. Masked up to ward off the coronavirus, they were determined to vote despite lines that snaked down the street.

  After about 90 minutes in line, voters at the predominately Black precinct were told the state’s new voting machines were not working. In a scene that played out across the state, they were given paper ballots. The ordeal left Duffy and Savage with little confidence in Georgia’s ability to conduct a fair election in November’s presidential contest. The primary, for example, was originally scheduled for May 19 but was pushed back due to concerns about the pandemic, a delay that appeared to have little effect on the state’s readiness once voters arrived at the polls.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Why do libertarians support school vouchers?

  For the life of me, I simply cannot understand why some libertarians still support school vouchers. Libertarianism, after all, is about achieving a free society. What do school vouchers have to do with freedom? They are the very antithesis of freedom.

A genuinely free society necessarily entails getting government out of education entirely. That includes ridding our nation of the federal Department of Education. Most libertarians know that and advocate it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Senate and Congressional runoffs next week

  Believe it or not, coronavirus notwithstanding, we have three important GOP runoffs next Tuesday to nominate two U.S. House candidates and a United States Senate candidate.

  It will be interesting to see how the turnout is on July 14. Older folks, like me, are the ones that vote in all elections and we have been told for four months not to congregate or gather with other people. There could be some concern among older voters about getting out and going to the polls. Also, most of the poll workers are retired volunteers. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Police bigotry and the drug war

  To suggest that all cops and all judges are racial bigots would obviously be ridiculous. But it would be equally ridiculous to suggest that there are no racial bigots within law enforcement or even the judiciary.

  In fact, the DEA, the state police, and local law enforcement all serve as a magnet for racial bigots. There is a simple reason for that. The enforcement of drug laws attracts racial bigots. End the drug war, and you get rid of that magnet.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Three moral virtues necessary for an ethical pandemic response and reopening

  The health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are not equally felt. From the United States to Brazil and the United Kingdom, low-wage workers are suffering more than others, and communities of color are most vulnerable to the virus.

  Despite the disparities, countries are reopening without a plan to redress these unequal harms and protect the broader community going forward. Our ethics research examines the potential for using virtues as a guide for a more moral coronavirus response.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1725 - We must rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge “The Bridge To Freedom”

  The Edmund Pettus Bridge is a powerful symbol all over the world. The bridge is a symbol of voting rights, a symbol of struggle, and a symbol of freedom. The name of the bridge must be consistent with this powerful symbolism. We must rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge as The Bridge To Freedom.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Celebrating moral courage on Independence Day

  We call this patriotic holiday Independence Day, the Birthday of America, or simply the 4th of July. It celebrates a political act by 56 men who literally risked their lives and fortunes and pledged their sacred honor in issuing one of the greatest documents in human history: The Declaration of Independence.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Craig Ford: Solving Alabama’s unemployment crisis is a matter of patriotism

  Patriotism is at the top of my mind these days as we prepare for this weekend’s Fourth of July celebrations. I feel a great sense of pride in our nation, even though I often disagree with political leaders at various levels of government.

  You can love your country and love many things about your country but still see problems and areas where we can do better as a city, state, or nation. And one of the areas where we seem to be struggling in Alabama is with our unemployment situation.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

How racism in the US health system hinders care and costs lives of African Americans

  As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the U.S., the virus hit African Americans disproportionately hard. African Americans are still contracting the illness – and dying from it – at rates twice as high as would be expected based on their share of the population.

  In Michigan, African Americans are only 14% of the population but account for one-third of the state’s COVID-19 cases and 40% of its deaths.

  In some states, the disparities are even more stark. Wisconsin and Missouri have infection and mortality rates three or more times greater than expected based on their share of the population.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - GOP Senate Runoff in less than two weeks

  Folks, we are less than two weeks away from the election contest for the U.S. Senate seat. The runoff between former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville may be close and will definitely be interesting.

  The two conservatives were in a virtual dead heat in the March 3rd GOP Primary. Congressman Bradley Byrne (1st District) finished a strong third.