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 The current system is outdated, understaffed, overcrowded, and plagued by violence.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.