Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Despite one good verdict in the murder of George Floyd, the Black community still ‘can’t breathe’ as police killings continue

  Nearly a week before the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd by placing a knee on his neck for over nine minutes, I, Tafeni, was conducting an interview in front of the Civil Rights Memorial Center and was asked what my expectations regarding the pending verdict would be.

  At the time, there was no verdict, and closing arguments were set to begin the following day. I paused. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it. But as I reflected on this moment, I realized my expectations weren’t high at all. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1769 - Memories are so powerful

  It was 74 years ago. I wish I had not done what I did. Every time I think about it, I squinch up inside. Even after so many years. Memories are so powerful.

  It was the first day of school. I was supposed to go into the primer classroom. My oldest brother, Sam Arthur Sanders, had been to primer and was now going on to the first grade. I did him very wrong. I know before I share this experience that most will not see the wrong. However, I remember the wrong I did and squinch up inside more than seven decades later. Memories are so powerful.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The rise of female UFC fighters obscures profound exploitation, inequality

  The mixed martial arts pay-per-view event UFC 261 features two bouts that would have been unheard of just 10 years ago.

  Russian-born Valentina Shevchenko will fight Jessica Andrade, a Brazilian and an out lesbian, for the women’s flyweight title on April 24, 2021. That same night, Rose Namajunas, an American of Lithuanian descent, will square off against Zhang Weili, who has caused the popularity of the UFC to surge in her native China, for the women’s strawweight title.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Anti-transgender bills are latest version of conservatives’ longtime strategy to rally their base

  On April 6, 2021, despite Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto, Arkansas became the first state to prohibit physicians from providing gender-affirming medical care like hormone treatments designed to delay puberty in transgender youth. So-called “puberty blockers” are used to delay the physical changes associated with puberty and provide time for transgender young people to consider their options.

  Arkansas physicians now face criminal penalties if they prescribe puberty blockers or other forms of cross-gender health care to transgender youth. Twenty other states are considering similar bills. Some would classify puberty blockers and other gender-affirming medical treatments as child abuse or would revoke the medical licenses of physicians prescribing these therapies.

Friday, May 7, 2021

How Biden’s paid leave proposal would benefit workers, their families and their employers too

  The Biden administration is proposing a massive expansion of federal benefits through a 10-year US$1.8 trillion package that includes new spending on child care, the continuation of the expanded child tax credit, and more robust nutrition programs. Notably, it would introduce a new federal paid family leave benefit costing an estimated $225 billion over the next decade. If it is fully phased in as proposed, workers could get up to $4,000 a month for a total of 12 weeks in paid leave to care for a newborn, another loved one or themselves.

  The Conversation U.S. asked Joya Misra, a sociologist who studies how public policies influence inequality, four questions about paid leave in the U.S.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Clean slate is critical for a healthy democracy

  Widespread civic engagement is the bedrock of a healthy democracy. Yet Americans with criminal records face severe consequences that dramatically limit their ability to fully participate in their communities. These restrictions not only harm those with records but also weaken the strength of American democracy writ large, as critical perspectives are left out of community engagement and advocacy. To improve this state of affairs, the United States must embrace policies for those with past criminal records that encourage both a culture of rights restoration and participation. As a baseline, this effort must involve the widespread adoption of policies that ensure the automatic expungement of eligible criminal records.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The managed economy destroys the First Amendment

  The First Amendment guarantees people the right of free speech. It is a restriction on the power of the federal government to punish people for criticizing federal officials or for saying things that the government doesn’t like. 

  Why did our ancestors want the Constitution amended in that way? Because they were certain that the federal government would end up attracting people who would have the desire and the inclination to do bad things to people who criticized them or said things that public officials didn’t like. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Biden administration is fulfilling its conservation promises in the first 100 Days

  With the passage of a massive economic rescue bill, more than 200 million vaccines distributed, a historically diverse Cabinet in place, and a pledge to cut carbon emissions upward of 50 percent, it’s clear that the Biden administration has wasted no time during its first 100 days. As part of its effort to take a whole-of-government approach to solving the overlapping health, economic, racial justice, and climate crises, the administration has also been rapidly fulfilling its conservation commitments to the American public.

Monday, May 3, 2021

How exercise keeps your brain healthy and protects it against depression and anxiety

  As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active. Over the years, as I picked up boxing and became more active, I got firsthand experience of positive impacts on my mind. I also started researching the effects of dance and movement therapies on trauma and anxiety in refugee children, and I learned a lot more about the neurobiology of exercise.

  I am a psychiatrist and neuroscientist researching the neurobiology of anxiety and how our interventions change the brain. I have begun to think of prescribing exercise as telling patients to take their “exercise pills.” Now knowing the importance of exercising, almost all my patients commit to some level of exercise, and I have seen how it benefits several areas of their life and livelihood.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

5 ways parents can help kids avoid gender stereotypes

  In the last century, significant progress has been made in advancing gender equity in the United States. Women gained the right to vote, fathers have become more involved parents, and more people and institutions recognize gender identities beyond the binary categories of male and female.

  However, persistent gaps remain. Women hold only a quarter of U.S. congressional seats, only a handful of states mandate paid paternity leave, and state legislatures are introducing bills that discriminate against transgender people.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

How I survived nine minutes of Dick Cheney

  Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the August 2002 edition of the Capital City Free Press.

Monday, July 22, 2002

3:07 pm

  I tried to get out of it. Given that my employer, The Montgomery Independent, had published a lengthy prelude to this event last week, I don't see why I am baking in the mid-summer Alabama heat waiting for the man they call Dick Cheney. I've been told this man runs the great nation we live in but still only gets second billing for it. Poor guy.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Responsibilities of management

   Modern managers often utter clichés about wanting employees to “think outside the box,” take risks, and be creative. And while I’m sure companies do appreciate break-through innovative ideas that increase profits, productivity, or quality, the fact is that most organizations are inhospitable to those who challenge old ways of doing things, even practices that are inefficient, useless, or counterproductive.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Getting out of jury duty

  Last week, I dyed my hair orange - not red, not the subtle hue of a delicate tiger lily bloom, but bright, shiny traffic cone orange. This is actually not an unusual occurrence. I've dyed my hair various less-than-conservative shades on the color wheel, and invariably I have received contrasting responses that have ranged from "Hey, cool!" to genuine concern from those who believe that I am yet another victim of the devil's crack rock.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The intimidating power of integrity

  A teacher once wrote me to, telling me that a parent with a great deal of clout at her school asked her to change attendance records to make her child’s record look better. The teacher said she thought long and hard about the request but eventually refused, knowing it would make the parent angry.

  I commended her moral courage. I wish it didn’t take courage to do the right thing, especially in such a clear case as this. But in the real world, people with power often retaliate when they don’t get what they want. This can make our lives difficult.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Interview with an angry drag queen

  Author’s note: Perhaps I’ve become rusty in the realm of interviewing subjects, but this was just plain traumatic all around. Nonetheless, here’s my interview with the upstart drag queen (female impersonator) Miss Fallopiana Fontaine Fabrege.

JP: So how are you doing, Miss Fabrege?

  FF: I’m good… all good. Thank you very much.

JP: I’m great… um, thanks for asking….

  FF: Well, now to be truthful, I do have a little gas. (Fontaine then lifted her leg like a gymnast far past her prime and attempting to contort her ample frame, giggled like a drunk frat boy and smiled. It kind of sounded like a beaver stuck in a mousetrap… and it did not sound pleased to be there.)

Monday, April 26, 2021

Are you examining your life?

  Today, Socrates is thought of as one of the world’s great philosophers, but to the leaders of Greece, he was annoying and dangerous.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: Reapportionment and gerrymandering

  Hopefully you participated in the census last year. It is vitally important for each state that every person is counted.

  One of the first premises set out by our nation’s founding fathers is that there be a census taken every 10 years. The reason for the United States census is to determine how many seats each state is appropriated in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is based on the democratic principle of one man, one vote. Each state shall be equally represented based on the number of people they have within their state borders.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A concept from physics called negentropy could help your life run smoother

  Life is full of small decisions: Should I pick up that sock on the floor? Should I do the dishes before bed? What about fixing the leaky faucet in the bathroom?

  Leaving a sock on the ground is a manifestation of a concept from physics you may have heard of: entropy. Entropy is a measure of how much energy is lost in a system. If a system loses too much energy, it will disintegrate into chaos. It takes only a little bit of energy to pick up one sock. But if you don’t take care of your yard, let pipes stay clogged, and never fix electrical problems, it all adds up to a chaotic home that would take a lot of energy to fix. And that chaos will leach away your time and ability to accomplish other things.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Christian nationalism is a barrier to mass vaccination against COVID-19

  While the majority of Americans either intend to get the COVID-19 vaccine or have already received their shots, getting white evangelicals to vaccination sites may prove more of a challenge – especially those who identify as Christian nationalists.

  A Pew Research Center survey conducted in February found white evangelicals to be the religious group least likely to say they’d be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Nearly half (45%) said they would not get the COVID-19 shot compared with 30% of the general population.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Sports remain hostile territory for LGBTQ Americans

  For all of the gains LGBTQ people have made over the past few decades, sports remain a highly visible reminder that homophobia and transphobia persist.

  In recent years, more professional athletes, from U.S. women’s soccer team player Tierna Davidson to Olympic gymnast Danell Leyva, have come out of the closet. However, locker rooms remain less inclusive of LGBTQ people than places like schools or workplaces. And though many sports teams and figures have publicly campaigned against homophobia and transphobia, half of LGBTQ respondents in our recent study said that they’d experienced discrimination, insults, bullying, or abuse while playing, watching, or talking about sports.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

CBD, marijuana and hemp: What is the difference among these cannabis products, and which are legal?

  New York recently became the 15th U.S. state to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

  While 67% of U.S. adults support marijuana legalization, public knowledge about cannabis is low. A third of Americans think hemp and marijuana are the same thing, according to the National Institutes of Health, and many people still search Google to find out whether cannabidiol – a cannabis derivative known as CBD – will get them high, as marijuana does.

  Hemp, marijuana, and CBD are all related, but they differ in significant ways. Here’s what you need to know about their legality, effects, and potential health benefits.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Montgomery-made documentary "Remembering Anarcha" set for May 4 release

  On April 5, Terrible Masters Films announced that Gravitas Ventures - a Red Arrow Studios company - had acquired the North American rights to the locally-filmed documentary, "Remembering Anarcha". The film, directed by Josh Carples of Montgomery, Ala., explores the controversial history of Dr. James Marion Sims and the enslaved African women who were the involuntary subjects of his gynecological experiments.

  "Remembering Anarcha" will be released on multiple video-on-demand outlets on May 4. For iTunes users, the film can be pre-ordered here. It will also be released on DVD and Blu-ray.

Unwanted weight gain or weight loss during the pandemic? Blame your stress hormones

  If you have experienced unwanted weight gain or weight loss during the pandemic, you are not alone. According to a poll by the American Psychological Association, 61% of U.S. adults reported undesired weight change since the pandemic began.

  The results, released in March 2021, showed that during the pandemic, 42% of respondents gained unwanted weight – 29 pounds on average – and nearly 10% of those people gained more than 50 pounds. On the flip side, nearly 18% of Americans said they experienced unwanted weight loss – on average, a loss of 26 pounds.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Wallace: Political genius and legislative master

  As the Alabama Regular Legislative Session evolves, I recall years past when George Wallace was governor. Wallace was definitely a political genius and a master of the legislative process. You might say that he was so successful because he had a lot of experience with being governor and dealing with the legislature. That is true, but it went deeper than that. He worked at it.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

US museums hold the remains of thousands of Black people

  Among the human remains in Harvard University’s museum collections are those of 15 people who were probably enslaved African American people. Earlier this year, the school announced a new committee that will conduct a comprehensive survey of Harvard’s collections, develop new policies, and propose ways to memorialize and repatriate the remains.

  “We must begin to confront the reality of a past in which academic curiosity and opportunity overwhelmed humanity,” wrote Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Investing in clean electricity to build back better

  Now that Congress has enacted immediate COVID-19 relief, it is time to lay the foundation for a sustained economic recovery through major federal investments in clean energy jobs, environmental justice, and a stable climate. No sector is better positioned for swift decarbonization than the power sector. The right package of tax incentives will drive a rapid transformation, putting the United States immediately onto the path toward carbon-free electricity.

Friday, April 16, 2021

3 ways employers could help fight vaccine skepticism

  Ending the pandemic depends on achieving herd immunity, estimated at 70% or even 80% to 90% of a population. With some 30% of Americans telling pollsters they have no interest in getting vaccinated, that’s cutting it a bit close. The numbers are even worse in many other countries.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

No, you are not addicted to your digital device, but you may have a habit you want to break

  Imagine that you’re a typical middle school student having dinner with your family. Your mother takes your smartphone away and puts it in a lock-box that won’t open for an hour.

  Would you: (a) go ahead and eat dinner with your family? (b) try to pry open the box? or (c) smash the box with a heavy tool when your family is sufficiently distracted?

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The pandemic recession has pushed a further 9.8 million Americans into food insecurity

  The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed hardship on millions of vulnerable Americans through unemployment and reduced work hours. And this has increased food insecurity across the nation.

  There is no official figure yet for how many more families are struggling to provide regular meals around the table – the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s next annual report on food insecurity, defined as a lack of access to sufficient food due to limited financial resources, won’t be out until the fall.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

After prolonged period of press-bashing, a more constructive form of media criticism is now flourishing

  Over the past several years, and maybe even longer, it seems as if every day brings a new round of attacks on the American press.

  Some of these attacks come under the guise of criticism: accusations of being “fake news”; arguments that journalists are biased. But some more seriously threaten journalists themselves. Just recently, Fox News host Tucker Carlson unleashed what was described as a “calculated and cruel” verbal assault against New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz repeatedly on his show. Some rallies for Donald Trump even saw attendees displaying threats of lynching reporters on a T-shirt.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 2022 big election year as Alabama chooses Shelby’s successor

  I previously alerted you to the fact that next year will be a banner year in Alabama politics. The governor, lieutenant governor, and all other statewide constitutional offices are up for election. All 140 members of the Alabama Legislature are up for election and will be running under new lines. Our entire congressional delegation is up for reelection, and they, too, will be running under new lines drawn by the legislature. All 67 sheriffs in the state are also on the ballot.

  This slate in and of itself would make this a marquee year. However, what will render this upcoming 2022 election year momentous is that we will have a very important U.S. Senate seat to fill. Richard Shelby will retire after 36 years in the United States Senate. It will be impossible to replace Senator Shelby. The amount of federal dollars he has secured for the Heart of Dixie is incomprehensible and irreplaceable. He will be remembered as the greatest senator in Alabama history.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

What the American Rescue Plan says about President Biden’s health care priorities – and what they mean for you

  As millions of Americans receive COVID-19 vaccines, the Affordable Care Act just got a booster shot of its own.

  After 11 years of existential threat and months after an argument before the Supreme Court, the ACA has been strengthened under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the US$1.9 trillion economic relief package. This means greater access to health insurance at lower costs for millions of Americans.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

How to improve public health, the environment and racial equity all at once: Upgrade low-income housing

  During a presidential election debate on Oct. 22, 2020, former President Donald Trump railed against Democratic proposals to retrofit homes. “They want to take buildings down because they want to make bigger windows into smaller windows,” he said. “As far as they’re concerned, if you had no window, it would be a lovely thing.”

  What a difference five months makes. While replacing your big windows with small ones is not on the Biden-Harris administration’s agenda, increasing home energy efficiency is. Addressing these and other housing issues is critical for three of the new administration’s immediate priorities: ending the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing climate change, and tackling racial and economic inequality.

Friday, April 9, 2021

When can kids get the COVID-19 vaccine? A pediatrician answers 5 questions parents are asking

  A big question among parents and teachers right now is whether their kids will be vaccinated against COVID-19 in time for the fall school semester. Some have wondered whether the vaccine is even necessary for children. Dr. James Wood, a pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases, explains what doctors know today about the risk children face of getting and spreading the coronavirus and when vaccines might be available.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Why remembering matters for healing

  Today marks Holocaust Remembrance Day. Each year, communities and schools plan various events such as reading the names of Holocaust victims and survivors, forums of Holocaust survivor speakers, or panel discussions with historians. These events run through an entire week of remembrance.

  Such formal days of remembrance are important. As a sociologist who studies grief and justice, I have seen how these events and permanent memorials can be both healing and inspirational. I will share four reasons why remembrance activities are important.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

How effective is the first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine?

  As the COVID-19 vaccines reach more people across the country, some people have asked: Could we delay the second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to allow more people to be vaccinated more quickly? And, how safe am I after my first dose?

  As an immunologist, I hear this question frequently. The answer is that a single dose is very effective – but I would add that you should still get both doses. The issue is important, however, not only for your personal health but also for the country’s health as leaders figure out how to ensure there’s enough vaccine for everyone who wants one.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Chivalry is not about opening doors, but protecting society’s most vulnerable from attack

  Modern society is in dispute over the value of chivalry. Chivalry originally referred to the medieval knight’s code of honor but today references a range of – usually male – behaviors, from courtesy to overprotectiveness. Some see it as the mindset of elite warriors, glorifying violence and demeaning women. Others see it as necessary and desirable to protect groups under attack.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Living with a disability is expensive – even with government assistance

  Edward Mitchell is 34 years old and lives in Jackson, Tennessee with a spinal cord injury caused by a hit-and-run accident that happened when he was 17. He has plenty of expenses that all Americans have, like groceries and utilities. But to maintain his independence, he also has to pay for home modifications to accommodate his wheelchair, personal nursing care, dictation tools to help him write, and adjustments to his car so he can drive himself to work.

  He is just one of the 20 million working-age adults living with disabilities in the U.S. for whom it takes more money to make ends meet because of the additional expenses they face every day.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

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

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

  The reason for this variation is that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 2022 will be a big year for Alabama politics

  All signs point to a Titanic political year in 2022. In fact, as I look back over the last six decades of my observations of Alabama politics, next year may be the most momentous.

Friday, April 2, 2021

7 ways to avoid becoming a misinformation superspreader

  The problem of misinformation isn’t going away. Internet platforms like Facebook and Twitter have taken some steps to curb its spread and say they are working on doing more. But no method yet introduced has been completely successful at removing all misleading content from social media. The best defense, then, is self-defense.

  Misleading or outright false information – broadly called “misinformation” – can come from websites pretending to be news outlets, political propaganda, or “pseudo-profound” reports that seem meaningful but are not. Disinformation is a type of misinformation that is deliberately generated to maliciously mislead people. Disinformation is intentionally shared, knowing it is false, but misinformation can be shared by people who don’t know it’s not true, especially because people often share links online without thinking.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The history of April Fools' Day

  In certain countries, the April Fools' jokes must be made before noon on April 1, otherwise, it is the prankster who becomes the April Fool.


  The origin of the customs of the day is shrouded in mystery. Some believe it is likely to be a relic of festivities held to mark the vernal equinox. These celebrations of the first days of spring began on the 25th of March and ended on the 2nd of April. Certainly there is some evidence to suggest that April 1st was observed as a general festival in pagan Britain.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Women frequently experience sexual harassment at work, yet few claims ever reach a courtroom

  Sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including at least three from current or former aides, are a reminder of just how commonplace unwanted touching, propositioning, and other inappropriate behavior is in the workplace.

  My recent research explores the prevalence of toxic work environments – like the one described in Albany, New York – and just how startlingly common sexual harassment at work is.

  I discovered that even when women try to find justice by suing their alleged abusers, their cases rarely see a courtroom.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

U.S. needs to be prepared for increasing nuclear threats to homeland

  In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Glen VanHerck, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, brought some necessary attention to the growing nuclear threats to the U.S. homeland.

  Russia was at the top of his concerns. To match a more assertive nuclear doctrine, Russia is undertaking a massive nuclear modernization effort. This includes a first-of-its kind heavy intercontinental ballistic missile that can carry a hypersonic glide vehicle that is able to evade U.S. early warning systems.

Monday, March 29, 2021

‘Doing nothing’ is all the rage – is it a form of resistance, or just an indulgence for the lucky few?

  The pandemic has either created too much free time or too little. Kitchen-table commutes and reduced social obligations expand mornings and weekends for some, while caretakers and gig workers are exhausted by the constant, overlapping demands of home and work.

  It’s no surprise, then, that idleness is trending. Concepts like “niksen,” Dutch for “doing nothing,” and “wintering,” resting in response to adversity, have entered the wellness lexicon. Doing nothing is even being called a new productivity hack, aligning the practice with an always-on culture that seeks to optimize every waking minute.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

How the quest for significance and respect underlies the white supremacist movement, conspiracy theories and a range of other problems

  President Joe Biden’s fundamental pitch to America has been about dignity and respect. He never tires of repeating his father’s words that “a job is about more than a paycheck, it is about … dignity … about respect … being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Everything is going to be OK.’”

  In strikingly similar language, Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton affirm that “jobs are not just the source of money.” When jobs are lost, they wrote in 2020, “it is the loss of meaning, of dignity, of pride, and of self respect … that brings on despair, not just or even primarily the loss of money.”

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Voting Rights Impaired: Alabama man fights voter suppression of people with disabilities

  Eric Peebles can do so many things.  

  He runs his own successful consulting business with a nationwide reach. He held a university faculty job and holds seats on two statewide boards. He gives advice to health care and consumer officials across his home state of Alabama, even though he struggles to breathe when he talks because of a condition called spastic cerebral palsy. 

  For all the things he can do, there is one important thing he cannot, and that is to vote – at least not easily, simply, and privately. Especially during a pandemic. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

4 crucial steps to make July 4th an Independence Day with much greater freedom from COVID-19

  President Joe Biden set a goal for the U.S. to have COVID-19 under enough control by summer that Americans can celebrate July 4th with family and friends, at least in small gatherings. Important in achieving this goal is another presidential request: that all U.S. adults be made eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations by May 1.

  We are public health deans who lead a variety of COVID-19 response efforts and are involved in public policy discussions. At a time when the nation is weary of hearing “no, you can’t,” we believe that thinking in terms of harm reduction – offering safer but not necessarily risk-free alternatives – is crucial.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Making it easier to vote does not threaten election integrity

  As state legislators consider hundreds of bills on election policies this spring, false claims of voter fraud are being repeated as justification for proposals to claw back recent advances that have made voting easier for Americans.

  In debates about election policy, making it easier to vote and election integrity are frequently presented as opposing goals. Increasing one, it is argued, means decreasing the other.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

After the insurrection, America’s far-right groups get more extreme

  As the U.S. grapples with domestic extremism in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, warnings about more violence are coming from the FBI Director Chris Wray and others. The Conversation asked Matthew Valasik, a sociologist at Louisiana State University, and Shannon E. Reid, a criminologist at the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, to explain what right-wing extremist groups in the U.S. are doing. The scholars are co-authors of “Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White,” published in September 2020; they track the activities of far-right groups like the Proud Boys.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

When Americans recall their roots, they open up to immigration

  Which was the first generation in your family to arrive in America? Do you know why your family came to the United States?

  Members of President Joe Biden’s administration – and key nominees – have answered these questions in their first days in office.

  Upon his nomination as Biden’s secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, a native of Cuba, tweeted: “When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge.”

Monday, March 22, 2021

US could save tens of thousands of lives and tens of billions of dollars with 3 weeks of strict COVID-19 measures

  President Joe Biden commemorated the COVID-19 pandemic’s one-year anniversary by giving Americans an ambitious goal: Return to a semblance of normalcy by the Fourth of July.

  “But to get there we can’t let our guard down,” he added.

  Unfortunately, many states already have. Falling numbers of new coronavirus cases and accelerating vaccination rates have prompted Texas and a growing number of other states to ease more restrictions or drop them altogether. Their governors argue the economic costs are just too high and the measures no longer necessary.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The government’s war on free speech

  “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” — George Washington

  It’s a given that the government is corrupt, unaccountable, and has exceeded its authority.

  So what can we do about it?

  The first remedy involves speech (protest, assembly, speech, prayer, and publicity), and lots of it, in order to speak truth to power.

  The First Amendment, which is the cornerstone of the Bill of Rights, affirms the right of “we the people” to pray freely about our grievances regarding the government. We can gather together peacefully to protest those grievances. We can publicize those grievances. And we can express our displeasure (peacefully) in word and deed.

  Unfortunately, tyrants don’t like people who speak truth to power.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Racism is behind anti-Asian American violence, even when it’s not a hate crime

  Over the past year, attacks on Asian Americans have increased more than 150% over the previous year, including the March 16 murders of eight people, including six Asian American women, in Atlanta.

  Some of these attacks may be classified as hate crimes. But whether they meet that legal definition or not, they all fit a long history of viewing Asian Americans in particular ways that make discrimination and violence against them more likely.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Women used to dominate the beer industry – until the witch accusations started pouring in

  What do witches have to do with your favorite beer?

  When I pose this question to students in my American literature and culture classes, I receive stunned silence or nervous laughs. The Sanderson sisters didn’t chug down bottles of Sam Adams in “Hocus Pocus.” But the history of beer points to a not-so-magical legacy of transatlantic slander and gender roles.

  Up until the 1500s, brewing was primarily women’s work – that is, until a smear campaign accused women brewers of being witches. Much of the iconography we associate with witches today, from the pointy hat to the broom, may have emerged from their connection to female brewers.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Gambling and budgets are priority for Alabama Legislature

  The Alabama Legislature is at the midway point of the 2021 Regular Legislative Session. They have used 15 days of their allotted 30-day legislative session.

  The Senate has been consumed with attempting to pass a constitutional amendment to allow Alabamians the right to vote on whether to have a state lottery along with some casinos and sports betting. The legislature in and of itself cannot authorize this expansion of gambling in the state. Their only authority is to vote to place it on the ballot in order to give citizens the opportunity to allow the state to reap the financial windfall now only afforded the Poarch Creeks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The truth about St. Patrick’s Day

  In 1997, my students and I traveled to Croagh Patrick, a mountain in County Mayo, as part of a study abroad program course on Irish literature I was teaching for the University of Dayton. I wanted my students to visit the place where, each July, thousands of pilgrims pay homage to St. Patrick, who, according to lore, fasted and prayed on the summit for 40 days.

  While there, our tour guide relayed the story of how St. Patrick, as he lay on his death bed on March 17 in A.D. 461, supposedly asked those gathered around him to toast his heavenly journey with a “wee drop of whiskey” to ease their pain.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

3 medical innovations fueled by COVID-19 that will outlast the pandemic

  A number of technologies and tools got a chance to prove themselves for the first time in the context of COVID-19. Three researchers working in gene-based vaccines, wearable diagnostics, and drug discovery explain how their work rose to the challenge of the pandemic, and their hopes that each technology is now poised to continue making big changes in medicine.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Vaccinated and ready to party? Not so fast, says the CDC, but you can gather with other vaccinated people

  If you’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19, is it safe to gather with friends and loved ones in person? According to guidelines issued March 8 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, yes, fully vaccinated people can gather in small groups with other fully vaccinated people. And you can do that without the encumbrance of a mask or social distancing.

  More than 30 million people in the U.S. are now fully vaccinated against coronavirus, meaning that a fraction of the population is immune to COVID-19. This is because vaccination with the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines offers very high levels of protection against the coronavirus. However, there is still a small risk that vaccinated people could transmit the disease to others.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

How urban planning and housing policy helped create ‘food apartheid’ in US cities

  Hunger is not evenly spread across the U.S., nor within its cities.

  Even in the richest parts of urban America, there are pockets of deep food insecurity, and more often than not, it is Black and Latino communities that are hit hardest.

  As an urban planning academic who teaches a course on food justice, I’m aware that this disparity is in large part through design. For over a century, urban planning has been used as a toolkit for maintaining white supremacy that has divided U.S. cities along racial lines. And this has contributed to the development of so-called “food deserts” – areas of limited access to reasonably priced, healthy, culturally relevant foods – and “food swamps” – places with a preponderance of stores selling “fast” and “junk” food.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

A year into the pandemic, the coronavirus is messing with our minds as well as our bodies

  COVID-19 has hijacked people’s lives, families, and work. And, it has hijacked their bodies and minds in ways that they may not even be aware of.

  As we see it, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a sort of zombie virus, turning people not into the undead but rather into the unsick. By interfering with our bodies’ normal immune response and blocking pain, the virus keeps the infected on their feet, spreading the virus.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Most US states don’t have a filibuster – nor do many democratic countries

  As the U.S. Senate proceeds with its business, split 50-50 between Republicans on one side and Democrats and independents on the other, lawmakers and the public at large are concerned about the future of the filibuster.

  Under the rules of the U.S. Senate, if just one lawmaker doesn’t want a bill to progress, they can attempt to delay its passage indefinitely by giving a principled speech, or even just reading “Green Eggs and Ham,” as Ted Cruz did in 2013. A supermajority of three-fifths of the senators, or 60 of the 100, is required to stop the filibuster – or signal that one would not succeed – and proceed to a vote.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The oil industry says it might support a carbon tax – here’s why that could be good for producers and the public alike

  The oil industry’s lobbying arm, the American Petroleum Institute, suggested in a new draft statement that it might support Congress putting a price on carbon emissions to combat climate change even though oil and gas are major sources of those greenhouse gas emissions.

  An industry calling for a tax on the use of its products sounds as bizarre as “man bites dog.” Yet, there’s a reason for the oil industry to consider that shift.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tobacco killed 500,000 Americans in 2020 – is it time to control cigarette-makers?

  Tobacco use killed an estimated 500,000 Americans in 2020, about the same number the pandemic killed in one year. Although education efforts by government and nonprofits have helped to curb tobacco use, 14% of American adults still smoke, even with warning labels on the packages. Tobacco deaths are so high that the World Health Organization calls smoking an epidemic.

  A potential solution to tobacco-related deaths is a corporate “death penalty” – otherwise known as judicial dissolution – when a judge revokes a corporation’s charter for causing significant harm to society. The legal procedure forces the corporation to dissolve; it ceases to exist. Both management and employees lose their jobs.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Alabama governor and voters have little input into public health system

  Alabama legislators are taking a look at how their branch has set up our state’s public health system.

  Currently, Alabama is the only state in the nation where the top health organization is not led by someone appointed by the governor or by a board that is appointed by the governor. This would be fine, perhaps even good, if in fact the State Board of Health was elected by a vote of the people.

  The problem is, however, that this is not how we decide who is on the State Board of Health. In fact, “we”–the people of Alabama–don’t really decide much about the state’s public health system at all.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Why repressive Saudi Arabia remains a US ally

  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman “approved an operation … to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” according to a scathing report from the Biden administration. Yet President Joe Biden says the U.S. will not sanction the Saudi government, calculating that any direct punishment could risk Saudi Arabia’s cooperation in confronting Iran and in counterterrorism efforts.

  Like his predecessors, Biden is grappling with the reality that Saudi Arabia is needed to achieve certain U.S. objectives in the Middle East.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

COVID-19 revealed how sick the US health care delivery system really is

  If you got the COVID-19 shot, you likely received a little paper card that shows you’ve been vaccinated. Make sure you keep that card in a safe place. There is no coordinated way to share information about who has been vaccinated and who has not.

  That is just one of the glaring flaws that COVID-19 has revealed about the U.S. health care system: It does not share health information well. Coordination between public health agencies and medical providers is lacking. Technical and regulatory restrictions impede theuse of digital technologies. To put it bluntly, our health care delivery system is failing patients. Prolonged disputes about the Affordable Care Act and rising health care costs have done little to help; the problems go beyond insurance and access.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Will legislature allow Alabamians to vote on gambling revenue?

  In 1998, Don Siegelman ran for Governor of Alabama on a platform of proposing that his administration would enact legislation creating a state lottery. It would be patterned after Georgia’s lottery, which gives the bulk of the proceeds to an educational fund. That was over two decades ago.  

  Our neighboring state of Georgia has reaped billions of dollars from their lottery in the last three decades, which has allowed them to outdistance us by a country mile in educating their children. A good many of those Georgia students attend college in their state free under the Hope Scholarship Program funded with these lottery dollars. A substantial amount of these funds going to Georgia students come from Alabamians who buy Georgia lottery tickets.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Just as in the civil rights movement, Black women are leading the way in today’s social justice activism

  Women’s History Month, celebrated in March, was established by Congress to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women over the course of American history.

  Typically during this month, the Civil Rights Memorial Center (CRMC), where I am the director, produces a website feature and social media postings dedicated to honoring women who have shaped the civil rights movement.

  We do this because we firmly believe that women’s stories – which are often overlooked – must continue to be shared. Their contributions aren’t widely discussed in the historical context of the movement.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Perhaps we can ease up on the disinfecting

  A lot has happened over the past year, so you can be forgiven for not having a clear memory of what some of the major concerns were at the beginning of the pandemic.

  However, if you think back to the beginning of the pandemic, one of the major concerns was the role that surfaces played in the transmission of the virus.

  As an epidemiologist, I remember spending countless hours responding to media requests answering questions along the lines of whether we should be washing the outside of food cans or disinfecting our mail.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

It’s time to retire the word ‘addict’

  “The mother and father are both on drugs. The mother is a heroin addict. The father uses heroin and crystal meth.” This description was cut and copied repeatedly on official documents pertaining to my child services case, beginning with the April 2018 shelter petition, the mechanism by which my two young daughters were first taken from me. That handful of paragraphs, written out by an inexperienced Broward County Sheriff child services investigator, followed me for the next two years.

  My husband, on the other hand, was never referred to as an addict, even though he was actually being accused of using one more illicit substance than me — methamphetamine in addition to heroin. It may be hard to understand why something like this matters. After all, don’t people use the word “addict” all the time?

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Biden’s Cabinet of many women shows other world leaders that US takes gender equality seriously

  President Joe Biden’s Cabinet is the most diverse in U.S. history.

  It has five women, including the first female treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, and Deb Haaland, who will become the first Native American Cabinet member if confirmed as interior secretary. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is the first openly gay man to win Senate confirmation and lead a Cabinet department.

  Four of Biden’s 15 Cabinet nominees identify as Latino or Black. They also span generations, ranging in age from 39 to 74.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Has accountability for Big Tech come too late?

  As the turmoil of the Trump era drew to a close with an attack on the U.S. Capitol, planned on both mainstream and fringe digital platforms, tech companies found their policies governing extremism tested like never before. 

  Former President Trump’s efforts to discredit the 2020 presidential election put our democracy under tremendous strain, using technology as a cudgel. In so doing, he followed in the footsteps of authoritarians throughout the world who use technology, including social media platforms, as a weapon. These efforts were on full display before and during the presidential transition, when Trump and his allies weaponized social media to spread lies and conspiracy theories about the election being rigged. His baseless allegations of fraud culminated in an attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five people dead and 140 law enforcement officers injured. The supporters who coordinated the insurrection did so using a combination of mainstream social media platforms and fringe apps catering to and favored by the far right.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

6 important truths about COVID-19 vaccines

  One of the biggest barriers standing in the way of ending the pandemic isn’t medical or logistical. It’s the misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines.

  Demand for vaccine currently exceeds supply, but there are many people who are either unsure whether they should take the vaccine or staunchly against it. This is often because they have heard incorrect information about the vaccine or its effects.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Corporate concentration in the U.S. food system makes food more expensive and less accessible for many Americans

  Agribusiness executives and government policymakers often praise the U.S. food system for producing abundant and affordable food. In fact, however, food costs are rising, and shoppers in many parts of the U.S. have limited access to fresh, healthy products.

  This isn’t just an academic argument. Even before the current pandemic, millions of people in the U.S. went hungry. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that over 35 million people were “food insecure,” meaning they did not have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Now food banks are struggling to feed people who have lost jobs and income thanks to COVID-19.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1757 - The spirit of Emmett Till is still rising

  Emmett Till's spirit is still with us. It began to rise in August 1965. Fourteen-year-old Emmett was on summer school vacation from Chicago, Illinois. He was brutally lynched on August 28, 1955. He would die an ugly brutal death. But his spirit would rise. And the spirit of Emmett Till is still rising.

  It all started with a Big Lie. Even if the Big Lie were true, there was no reason for Emmett Till to die. Big Lies are usually excuses to do terrible things. What was the Big Lie? It was that this 14-year-old Black boy whistled at a White woman in a grocery store or said something out of the way to her. Like most Big Lies, it grew and got bigger and more destructive. By the time of the trial, the Big Lie was that he grabbed the White woman around her waist and spewed forth obscenities. Whatever the size of the lie or the truth, there was absolutely no reason for Emmett Till to die. The spirit of Emmett Till is still rising.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Benefactor or ideologue

  Over the years, I have discussed my observations and concepts of the two different roles or routes taken by a U.S. Senator or Congressman during their tenure in Washington.

  One clearly chooses one of two postures in their representation of you in Washington. Our delegates in D.C. are either benefactors or ideologues.

  The role of benefactor is much better for any state, especially Alabama. This public figure is not only a benefactor but also a facilitator and a statesman. In other words, this person is interested and diligent in bringing home the bacon to the Heart of Dixie.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

They don’t come as pills, but try these 6 underprescribed lifestyle medicines for a better, longer life

  They don’t come as pills, but try these 6 under-prescribed lifestyle medicines for a better, longer life

  The majority of Americans are stressed, sleep-deprived, and overweight and suffer from largely preventable lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Being overweight or obese contributes to the 50% of adults who suffer high blood pressure, 10% with diabetes and additional 35% with pre-diabetes. And the costs are unaffordable and growing. About 90% of the nearly $4 trillion Americans spend annually for health care in the U.S. is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions. But there are new lifestyle “medicines” that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Why are so many 12th graders not proficient in reading and math?

  Math and reading scores for 12th graders in the U.S. were at a historic low even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a massive shift to remote learning, according to results of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress released in late 2020. We asked three scholars to explain why so many high school seniors aren’t proficient in these critical subjects.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Why ocean pollution is a clear danger to human health

  Ocean pollution is widespread, worsening, and poses a clear and present danger to human health and wellbeing. But the extent of this danger has not been widely comprehended – until now. Our recent study provides the first comprehensive assessment of the impacts of ocean pollution on human health.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Alabama will miss Richard Shelby immensely

  In only 21 short months, at the close of 2022, Alabama will lose the greatest senator in our state’s history. Those of us who are political historians will acknowledge Richard Shelby as Alabama’s most pronounced political emissary in Washington.

  In my 2015 book, Six Decades of Alabama Political History, I have a chapter titled “Alabama’s Three Greatest Senators”, which features Lister Hill, John Sparkman, and Richard Shelby. Lister Hill and John Sparkman were icons but, if I were writing that chapter today, Richard Shelby would be alone as the premier “Giant of Alabama”.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Talking politics in 2021: Lessons on humility and truth-seeking from Benjamin Franklin

  The previous year in the United States was a turbulent one, filled with political strife, protests over racism, and a devastating pandemic. Underlying all three has been a pervasive political polarization, made worse by a breakdown in civic – and civil – discourse, not only on Capitol Hill but around the nation.

  In a new year, with a new president and a new Congress, there appears to be an opportunity. Americans, starting with the president, are talking about turning away from the division of the recent past and choosing a different direction: talking civilly and productively about the problems the country faces.

Friday, February 19, 2021

The Biden administration can eliminate food insecurity in the United States – here’s how

  The Biden administration faces many challenges, some of which may prove to be intractable. But in one key area affecting tens of millions of Americans, it is well-positioned to attain a truly monumental achievement – the near-total elimination of food insecurity in the U.S.

  This may at first glance seem a little far-fetched. After all, despite numerous efforts from the administration of John F. Kennedy through that of Donald Trump, the achievement of a hunger-free American has been elusive.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Think U.S. evangelicals are dying out? Well, define evangelicalism…

  The death spiral of evangelicalism has long been written about in both the religious and mainstream press.

  The assumption is that evangelicalism has weathered the storms of secularization and politicization poorly. Journalist Eliza Griswold, writing for The New Yorker, chalks this up to the theological rigidity of evangelicals: that they have been structurally incapable of changing course quickly enough to stem the tide.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

How to stay safe with a fast-spreading new coronavirus variant on the loose

  A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in at least 20 states, and people are wondering: How do I protect myself now?

  We saw what the new variant, known as B.1.1.7, can do as it spread quickly through southeastern England in December, causing case numbers to spike and triggering stricter lockdown measures.

  The new variant has been estimated to be 50% more easily transmitted than common variants, though it appears to affect people’s health in the same way. The increased transmissibility is believed to arise from a change in the virus’s spike protein that can allow the virus to more easily enter cells. These and other studies on the new variant were released before peer review to share their findings quickly.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Mardi Gras: A traditional celebration!

  Celebrated in Paris since the Middle Ages, Mardi Gras began long before Europeans came to the New World, but came to America in 1699. French explorer, Iberville, having sailed into the Gulf of Mexico, launched an expedition up the Mississippi River. On March 3 (the day Mardi Gras was being celebrated in France) of 1699, Iberville had set up a camp on the west bank of the river about 60 miles south of where New Orleans is today. In honor of this important day, Iberville named the site Point du Mardi Gras.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Three under-the-radar executive actions for the Biden administration’s criminal justice reform agenda

  President Joe Biden began his administration with a barrage of executive orders designed to undo his predecessor’s most dangerous and harmful policies, including those relating to criminal justice reform. With the goal of advancing racial equity throughout federal policies and institutions, President Biden reinstated an Obama-era policy that prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from entering into new and renewed contracts with private prison companies. Additionally, acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson reinstated the DOJ policy that prosecutors should use individualized assessments when making charging and sentencing decisions instead of automatically prosecuting cases to obtain the lengthiest and harshest sentences possible.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The ‘real’ St. Valentine was no patron of love

  Sweethearts of all ages will exchange cards, flowers, candy, and more lavish gifts in the name of St. Valentine today. But as a historian of Christianity, I can tell you that at the root of our modern holiday is a beautiful fiction. St. Valentine was no lover or patron of love.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

3 ways Black people say their white co-workers and managers can support them and be an antidote to systemic racism

  President Joe Biden committed the U.S. government to racial equity by issuing four executive orders on Jan. 26 that seek to curb systemic racism. In the orders, he cited the killing of George Floyd in 2020, which sparked months of protests and prompted many U.S. companies to likewise commit themselves – and hundreds of billions of dollars – to helping Black Americans overcome institutional discrimination.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Marjorie Taylor Greene and the death of the public political apology

  When Georgia representative and sometimes QAnon enthusiast Marjorie Taylor Greene met with fellow House Republicans on Feb. 3, she may have apologized. Or she may not have.

  During the closed-door meeting in which Greene’s conspiracy theory beliefs came up, we don’t know exactly what went down because, well, it was behind closed doors.

  Speaking after the event, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy described Greene’s remarks as an apology, saying that Greene had denounced her previous statements and social media postings – which included the idea that mass school shootings are “false flag” operations and that California forest fires were started by Jewish space lasers – and that “she said she was wrong.”

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Gun violence prevention priorities for a new Congress and a new administration

  The need for federal action to address gun violence is more urgent than ever. 2020 was a devastating year for gun violence, with early data showing that there were more than 19,000 gun-related homicides, including 612 mass shootings in which four or more people were shot. According to one analysis, homicides increased 36 percent across 28 major cities, and communities of color bore a disproportionate burden of that violence. At the same time, there was an unprecedented surge in gun sales in 2020, with an estimated 20 million guns sold.

  After four years of a presidential administration that was hostile toward efforts to address gun violence, the start of a new Congress and a new presidential administration presents an opportunity for serious action to address the many gaps and weaknesses in our nation’s approach to this public health crisis.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: Big issues facing Alabama Legislature

  The 2021 legislative session has begun. It will be a monumental and difficult session. Due to COVID restrictions, the logistics of simply meeting will be a task. House members will be spread out all over the Statehouse to adhere to distancing requirements. It is still uncertain as to how the press' and lobbyists' accommodations will be handled.  

  A new virtual voting console system has been installed to allow House members to vote since all will not be on the House floor. There is a myriad of issues that have to be addressed. Last year’s session was abbreviated and adjourned before the halfway point due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Therefore, it has been almost a year since the legislature has met.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Why the next major hurdle to ending the pandemic will be about persuading people to get vaccinated

  Today, more Americans hope to receive a COVID-19 vaccine than the current vaccine supply will allow. Consequently, although President Joe Biden’s initial promise to dole out 100 million vaccine doses in 100 days would require a ramp-up in vaccine allocation, some consider the promise to be insufficient to meet current levels of demand and put the pandemic’s spread into decline.

  The current mismatch between vaccine demand and supply, however, may be short-lived. Despite concerns about lagging vaccine allocation for front-line health care workers and other vulnerable groups, health experts are optimistic that public demand for a COVID-19 vaccine will remain high in the coming months as more vaccine doses become available.

Monday, February 8, 2021

U.S. could face a simmering, chronic domestic terror problem, warn security experts

  After President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, 2021 without any violent incidents, many in the United States and worldwide breathed a sigh of relief.

  The respite may be brief. The ingredients that led an incensed pro-Trump mob to break into the Capitol and plant pipe bombs at other federal buildings on Jan. 6 remain.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Biden has pledged to advance environmental justice – here’s how the EPA can start

  On his first day in office, President Joe Biden started signing executive orders to reverse Trump administration policies. One sweeping directive calls for stronger action to protect public health and the environment and hold polluters accountable, including those who “disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.”

  To lead this effort, Biden has nominated Michael Regan to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Regan, who currently heads North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, would be the first Black man to serve as EPA Administrator in the agency’s 50-year history. His appointment has fueled expectations that the agency will make environmental justice a top priority.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: Legislative session begins

  As the 2021 Alabama Regular Legislative Session begins, you will see new leadership in the Alabama Senate. Republicans dominate both chambers, overwhelmingly. They have a super-majority and dominate all issues and the budgeting process. They acknowledge the handful of Democrats but really never give them any say in decision-making. Therefore, the leadership is determined within the Republican caucus.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Harriet Tubman: Biden revives plan to put a Black woman of faith on the $20 bill

  The Biden administration has revived a plan to put Harriet Tubman on the US$20 bill after Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary delayed the move.

  That’s encouraging news to the millions of people who have expressed support for putting her face on the bill. But many still aren’t familiar with the story of Tubman’s life, which was chronicled in a 2019 film, “Harriet.”

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Voters are starting to act like hard-core sports fans – with dangerous repercussions for democracy

  During Donald Trump’s presidency, the American electorate became more divided and partisan, with research suggesting that the ongoing division is less about policy and more about labels like “conservative” and “liberal.”

  Essentially, voters increasingly see themselves in one of two camps – a “red team” and “blue team,” each with a faction of hard-core members.

  The dangerous extent of this devotion was on display when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, convinced that the election had been stolen despite no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

With Kamala Harris, Americans yet again have trouble understanding what multiracial means

  News that Sen. Kamala Harris was Joe Biden’s choice for the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee drove speculation and argumentation about her identity. The big question appeared to be, “Is Kamala Harris truly African American?”

  There were numerous articles and opinion pieces about whether Harris can legitimately claim to be African American; the authenticity of her Black identity if she has an Indian mother; what it means for her to be biracial; and other articles opining and speculating about her racial, ethnic, and even national identity.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Raising the minimum wage would boost an economic recovery—and reduce taxpayer subsidization of low-wage work

  President Joe Biden included a long overdue pay raise for millions of America’s minimum wage workers in his $1.9 trillion rescue plan rolled out last month. Its inclusion immediately came under fire by those who argue it is extraneous to an economic recovery and divisive. However, research from the Center for American Progress and many economists shows that getting money into the hands of those who are most likely to spend it will boost their communities and the national economy and also reduce federal spending.

Monday, February 1, 2021

5 ways Biden can help rural America thrive and bridge the rural-urban divide

  It’s no secret that rural and urban people have grown apart culturally and economically in recent years. A quick glance at the media – especially social media – confirms an ideological gap has also widened.

  City folks have long been detached from rural conditions. Even in the 1700s, urbanites labeled rural people as backward or different. And lately, urban views of rural people have deteriorated.

  All three of us are law professors who study and advocate intervention to assist distressed rural communities. The response we often hear is, “You expect me to care about those far-off places, especially given the way the people there vote?”

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Biden can transform the US from a humanitarian laggard into a global leader – here’s how

  Even after the Trump administration’s repeated efforts to slash foreign aid and global partnerships, the United States remains the world’s largest source of official development assistance for low-income countries.

  Still, based on what I’ve learned during a career straddling academia and government service in jobs that involved international development and climate change, I believe that the United States lost prestige, influence, and capacity during President Donald Trump’s time in office.

  Nearly all my close former colleagues at the United States Agency for International Development – the development agency known as USAID – have left the agency out of frustration, and those still working there are reportedly suffering from generally low morale.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

White supremacists who stormed US Capitol are only the most visible product of racism

  Among the Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were members of right-wing groups, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters.

  The increasing violence and visibility of these groups have turned them into symbols of white supremacy and racism. They were involved in the deadly Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and street clashes with racial justice protesters in Portland, Oregon last year. At a Trump rally in Washington, D.C., in December, Black Lives Matter banners were torn from two historically Black churches and destroyed. The Proud Boys’ leader has been criminally charged in those acts.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Outstanding class of freshman state senators

  The 2021 Alabama Regular Legislative Session begins next week. Over the years, I have observed some outstanding classes of freshman legislators. Some stand out more than others, and occasionally you have a very stellar class. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Biden is inheriting a wrecked economy, but Democrats have a record of avoiding recession and reducing unemployment

  The newly inaugurated President Joe Biden has to manage a devastated economy – much as he and former President Barack Obama did 12 years 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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Steve Flowers - Inside the Statehouse: Prison issues continue

  As the 2021 Regular Legislative Session looms, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is the prison issue. The situation has grown more dire because the U.S. Justice Department has now filed suit against the State of Alabama. 

  When Gov. Kay Ivey took office in January of 2019, she and the new legislature knew that they were going to have to address the prison problem in the state. Fixing prisons is not a popular issue. It wins you no votes to fix a broken prison system. Prisoners do not vote. However, victims of crime generally are voters, and they are adamant and vociferous in their belief that those who committed crimes should be put behind bars, locked up, and the keys thrown away.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Two-thirds of Earth’s land is on pace to lose water as the climate warms – that’s a problem for people, crops and forests

  The world watched with a sense of dread in 2018 as Cape Town, South Africa counted down the days until the city would run out of water. The region’s surface reservoirs were going dry amid its worst drought on record, and the public countdown was a plea for help.

  By drastically cutting their water use, Cape Town residents and farmers were able to push back “Day Zero” until the rain came, but the close call showed just how precarious water security can be. California also faced severe water restrictions during its recent multi-year drought. And Mexico City is now facing water restrictions after a year with little rain.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Alabama CARES Act funding feeds government, not its people

  In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the United States, impacting the lives of all Americans. In response, Congress passed a massive health and economic relief bill, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).

  The CARES Act included $150 billion in direct aid to state and local governments. Money that was intended to help support state governments as they responded to the healthcare and financial hardships faced by citizens.

  Thus far, Alabama has missed the mark in using CARES funds to provide direct assistance to struggling Alabamians in an effective and timely manner, choosing instead to feed government and provide narrowly targeted aid to private organizations. With the CARES Act state spending deadline extended through 2021, the state should use the more than $270 million left to help its people, not further grow government.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The need for a White House Office of Democracy Reform

  The United States has just emerged from an election that former National Security Adviser and incoming Director of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice described as “our democracy’s near-death experience.” The outgoing president, with the complicity of many congressional Republicans, engaged in an effort to undermine the results of that election with bad-faith, unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Their lies culminated in an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building—led by conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, and other right-wing extremists intent on preventing Congress from certifying the electoral votes. While that effort failed, it sent a stark message: American democracy can no longer be taken for granted.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Racial bias in U.S. policing is a national security threat

  The events of Jan. 6, 2021 made unmistakably clear that racial bias is a national security threat.

  The events of 2020 – George Floyd’s extrajudicial killing played out over eight minutes and 46 seconds on millions of screens, Breonna Taylor shot to death in her home by police, among far too many others – finally moved Americans to a reckoning with the racism that has always been a mortal threat to the lives of Black people in this country.

  Now the rest of the story has been unmasked. Racism threatens not just the lives of the Black, Indigenous, and people of color who are its obvious targets. Racism threatens the survival of our democracy and our security as a nation.

Friday, January 22, 2021

5 strategies for cultivating hope this year

  The raging coronavirus pandemic, along with political turbulence and uncertainty, have overwhelmed many of us.

  From almost the start of 2020, people have been faced with bleak prospects as illness, death, isolation, and job losses became unwelcome parts of our reality. Many of us watched in horror and despair as insurgents stormed the U.S. Capitol.

  Indeed, all through these times, both the dark and bright sides of human nature were evident as many people engaged in extraordinary compassion and courage when others were committing acts of violence, self-interest, or greed.