Sunday, September 19, 2021

Tariffs are never a good idea, those on aluminum are especially bad

  Aluminum prices are up 59% from a year ago, and America’s 10% tariffs on the metal are not relieving any headaches at beer and non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers.

  The tariffs were originally put in place in 2018, ostensibly to protect domestic aluminum producers. The theory was that China and other foreign producers were “dumping” aluminum into the U.S. at low prices below cost to capture market share and supposedly drive American producers of aluminum out of business.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Remove white supremacy from state’s Jim Crow-era constitution

  Like their counterparts in other Southern states, Alabama lawmakers adopted a new constitution during the early stages of the Jim Crow era with the explicit intent to deny Black citizens access to the ballot and to establish white supremacy and racial segregation as the law of the land.

  That 1901 constitution – which legalized discrimination against Black citizens for more than six decades – is still in effect today. And even though many of its provisions have been shredded by federal court decisions and civil rights laws, its racist language and other harmful effects remain.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Revealing census results

  Well, folks, the final census figures are in from last year’s 2020 nose count. The census is taken every 10 years to determine the lines and boundaries of congressional and legislative districts. However, the census reveals a lot more information about us as a state and nation than just how many of us there are. It paints a picture of who we are as people and what we look like.

  The most recent census unveils an America much different than those of us who were born in the 1950s and are referred to as the “Baby Boomer” generation. We are one diverse country. Indeed, we are a true melting pot. The United States is now less than 60% white/Caucasian – 57% to be exact. The black/African-American population has basically remained the same at about 12% of the population. The most remarkable figure is that 20% of our population identifies as Hispanic. The Asian population has doubled over the 10 years from 3% to 6% percent. It is a new America.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Jim Crow tactics reborn in Texas abortion law, deputizing citizens to enforce legally suspect provisions

  The new Texas law that bans most abortions uses a method employed by Texas and other states to enforce racist Jim Crow laws in the 19th and 20th centuries that aimed to disenfranchise African Americans.

  Rather than giving state officials, such as the police, the power to enforce the law, the Texas law instead allows enforcement by “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state.” This enforcement mechanism relies solely on citizens, rather than on government officials, to enforce the law.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

How ‘engagement’ makes you vulnerable to manipulation and misinformation on social media

  Facebook has been quietly experimenting with reducing the amount of political content it puts in users’ news feeds. The move is a tacit acknowledgment that the way the company’s algorithms work can be a problem.

  The heart of the matter is the distinction between provoking a response and providing content people want. Social media algorithms – the rules their computers follow in deciding the content that you see – rely heavily on people’s behavior to make these decisions. In particular, they watch for content that people respond to or “engage” with by liking, commenting, and sharing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Biden’s proposed tenfold increase in solar power would remake the US electricity system

  President Joe Biden has called for major clean energy investments as a way to curb climate change and generate jobs. On Sept. 8, the White House released a report produced by the U.S. Department of Energy that found that solar power could generate up to 45% of the U.S. electricity supply by 2050, compared to less than 4% today. We asked Joshua D. Rhodes, an energy technology and policy researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, what it would take to meet this target.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Dealing with North Korea’s dangerous cyberthreat

  North Korea appears to have restarted its nuclear reactor, enabling it to augment its ongoing production of approximately seven or more nuclear weapons per year. Pyongyang’s missiles and nuclear weapons have long garnered fear, international condemnation, and tough sanctions.

  The regime’s cyber activities, however, have elicited less response despite their repeated attacks on governments, financial institutions, and industries.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Medicaid coverage gap requires permanent closure

  Inequities and disparities in U.S. health care access have had insidious impacts on communities for centuries and will require robust and long-term action to remedy. As of March 2020, 13 million people had gained Medicaid coverage in states that implemented the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion. However, in 11 of the remaining states that have not expanded the program, 2.2 million people are stuck in the “coverage gap”: Despite having incomes below the federal poverty level (FPL), they do not qualify for Medicaid and are also ineligible for financial assistance for marketplace coverage. As a result, millions of low-income individuals—who are disproportionately Black and Latino—are unable to access the coverage they need.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - 20th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks

  Today marks the 20th anniversary of the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation. It was a day in your life where you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first heard of the attacks on the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It changed our world.

  Like most people, I thought the first plane that flew into the towering Trade Center was an accident. However, when the second plane hit, you knew it was not pilot error. It was traumatic and terrifying. I asked several of our state leaders about their memories of that fateful day. Allow me to share some of their experiences.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The next attack on the Affordable Care Act may cost you free preventive health care

  Many Americans breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court left the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in place following its third major legal challenge in June 2021. This decision left widely supported policies in place, like ensuring coverage regardless of preexisting conditions, coverage for dependents up to age 26 on their parents’ plan, and removal of annual and lifetime benefit limits.

  But the hits keep coming. One of the most popular benefits offered by the ACA, free preventive care through many employer-based and marketplace insurance plans, is under attack by another legal domino, Kelley v. Becerra. As University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley sees it, “[t]his time, the law’s opponents stand a good chance of succeeding.”

Thursday, September 9, 2021

A new lawsuit illustrates the problem of U.S. guns in Mexico

  Last month, the Mexican government filed a lawsuit against major U.S. arms manufacturers and distributors in a U.S. federal court, suing the companies for damages caused by the illegal flow of their guns into Mexico. The lawsuit not only looks for compensation—with some damages estimated at $10 billion—but also to change the commercial practices of U.S. gun companies that facilitate the flow of guns. Regardless of how the lawsuit ends—considering existing U.S. laws offer gun companies broad immunity from civil litigation—it is important to acknowledge the huge impacts of the flow of U.S. guns into Mexico. It is equally important to address disinformation surrounding this flow and recognize that America can and should do more to stop it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Removing the propaganda

  In the 1860s, Robert Mills Lusher served as a Confederate tax collector and then as Louisiana’s superintendent of education following the Civil War. The Reconstruction-era educator wrote in his journal that the chief goal of education was to “vindicate the honor and supremacy of the Caucasian race.”

  In the last decade of his life, Lusher edited his Louisiana Journal of Education, where he called for “manual training” for Black students and the removal of rights from Black citizens. He filled the pages of his unfinished memoir by reminiscing over a lifetime of advocacy for white supremacy. 

  Simply put, Lusher did not believe in educating Black people. But today, a K-12 public school in New Orleans – one with a majority Black student population – bears his name.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Lessons about 9/11 often provoke harassment of Muslim students

  Near the start of each school year, many U.S. schools wrestle with how to teach about 9/11 – the deadliest foreign attack ever on American soil.

  In interviews I conducted recently in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area – one of three places where hijacked planes crashed on Sept. 11, 2001 – I found that Muslim students are often subjected to ridicule and blame for the 9/11 attacks.

  “Even if they’re joking around, they’ll say ‘terrorist’ and stuff like that,” one student told me. “That used to trigger me a lot.”

Monday, September 6, 2021

Have we forgotten the true meaning of Labor Day?

  Labor Day is a U.S. national holiday held the first Monday of every September. Unlike most U.S. holidays, it is a strange celebration without rituals, except for shopping and barbecuing. For most people, it simply marks the last weekend of summer and the start of the school year.

  The holiday’s founders in the late 1800s envisioned something very different from what the day has become. The founders were looking for two things: a means of unifying union workers and a reduction in work time.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Amid calls to #TaxTheChurches – what and how much do US religious organizations not pay the taxman?

  The hashtag #TaxTheChurches began trending on Twitter in mid-July.

  The spark was allegations about the wealth of celebrity pastor Joel Osteen. But it wasn’t the first time that “tax the churches” has circulated. In fact, it is slogan that long predates social media – Frank Zappa was singing it back in 1981, and Mark Twain expressed similar sentiments many decades before that.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

These 3 energy storage technologies can help solve the challenge of moving to 100% renewable electricity

  In recent decades, the cost of wind and solar power generation has dropped dramatically. This is one reason that the U.S. Department of Energy projects that renewable energy will be the fastest-growing U.S. energy source through 2050.

  However, it’s still relatively expensive to store energy. And since renewable energy generation isn’t available all the time – it happens when the wind blows or the sun shines – storage is essential.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Data privacy laws in the US protect profit but prevent sharing data for public good – people want the opposite

  In 2021, an investigation revealed that home loan algorithms systematically discriminate against qualified minority applicants. Unfortunately, stories of dubious profit-driven data uses like this are all too common.

  Meanwhile, laws often impede nonprofits and public health agencies from using similar data – like credit and financial data – to alleviate inequities or improve people’s well-being.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

An old soldier’s denial on Afghanistan

  In a letter to the Los Angeles Times regarding the Afghanistan debacle, Stephen Sloane, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy who served in the Vietnam War, is a perfect demonstration of how so many people, especially in the military, live lives of denial when it comes to foreign interventionism.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Is it a crime to forge a vaccine card? And what’s the penalty for using a fake?

  Schools, businesses, the military, and local governments are requiring proof of vaccination. Yet, unlike the European Union and Australia, which have secure digital proof of vaccination, the United States has not created a systematic way to track vaccinations around the nation. Most places in the U.S. instead rely on paper cards with handwritten notes, which can be easily forged.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The history of the Taliban is crucial in understanding their success now – and also what might happen next

  The rapid takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban left many surprised. To Ali Olomi, a historian of the Middle East and Islam at Penn State University, a key to understanding what is happening now – and what might take place next – is looking at the past and how the Taliban came to prominence. Below is an edited version of a conversation he had with editor Gemma Ware for our podcast, The Conversation Weekly.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The U.S. government vs. the United States

  Advocates of empire and interventionism are saying that even given the debacle in Afghanistan, America should not “retreat” from the world. Even though our nation has lost “credibility” in the world, they say, it is imperative that the United States continue to project power and influence around the world. To do otherwise, they say, would create a “vacuum” into which would flow Russia, China, Iran, the terrorists, or some other adversary, opponent, or enemy. Some of them are even bringing up the dreaded "I" word — isolationism! 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Biden’s new arms transfer policy must balance security and values

  U.S. arms transfer policy strives to strike a balance between promoting human rights and the need to develop strong security partners. President Biden’s arms transfer policy will reportedly increase the emphasis on human rights. Exactly how much this will change the status quo remains to be seen.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

How Aretha Franklin asserted control over her career, paving the way for female musicians

  “I need a change,” Aretha Franklin says at one point in “Respect,” the new film starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul. “I want to sing what I want to sing.”

  For all her talent, Franklin’s rise to superstardom wasn’t easy. When she left the world of gospel music to try to become a mainstream pop star, it meant a move into a segment of the industry that was dominated by men who had very specific assumptions about how a woman should sing – and what she should sing about.

Friday, August 27, 2021

The oil and gas industry’s dangerous answer to climate change

  No one is immune to the effects of the climate crisis—not even those responsible for its causes. Rising sea levels, record heat, unprecedented extreme weather disasters, and increasingly unstable environmental conditions are making it costlier and more difficult for oil and gas companies to operate in environments that their own destructive practices have altered. The same ecological fallout that hurts communities is hitting the industry’s bottom lines.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

I studied people who think leisure is a waste of time – here’s what I found

  When I first took my now-husband to Turkey, I tried to prepare myself for anything that could go wrong – delayed flights, language difficulties, digestion issues.

  But I wasn’t ready when, as we walked into a beautiful beach club on the Aegean coast, he grumbled, “What are we going to do?”

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Climate change is an infrastructure problem – map of electric vehicle chargers shows one reason why

  Most of America’s 107,000 gas stations can fill several cars every five or 10 minutes at multiple pumps. Not so for electric vehicle chargers – at least not yet. Today the U.S. has around 43,000 public EV charging stations, with about 106,000 outlets. Each outlet can charge only one vehicle at a time, and even fast-charging outlets take an hour to provide 180-240 miles’ worth of charge; most take much longer.

  The existing network is acceptable for many purposes. But chargers are very unevenly distributed; almost a third of all outlets are in California. This makes EVs problematic for long trips, like the 550 miles of sparsely populated desert highway between Reno and Salt Lake City. “Range anxiety” about longer trips is one reason electric vehicles still make up fewer than 1% of U.S. passenger cars and trucks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

What does full FDA approval of a vaccine do if it’s already authorized for emergency use?

  Thirty percent of unvaccinated American adults say they’re waiting for the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use to be officially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has since granted that approval for those age 16 and older for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Aug. 23, 2021. What had to happen for the FDA to advance from emergency use authorization, or EUA, to full approval?

Monday, August 23, 2021

Hospitals often outsource important services to companies that prioritize profit over patients

  Hospitals have long embraced the practice of outsourcing some services to specialized companies. Much of this outsourcing is for nonclinical tasks such as laundry, information technology, and cybersecurity, and outsourcing those types of services can boost efficiency and quality.

  However, over the past few years, there has been a fast-growing trend of hospitals outsourcing clinically relevant services – like anesthesiology and emergency medicine – to companies separate from the hospital. When that happens, hospitals relinquish some of the control they have over quality of care.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The story of Nearest Green, America’s first known Black master distiller

  When you hear the name Jack Daniel, whiskey probably comes to mind.

  But what about the name Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green?

  In 2016, The New York Times published a story about the distiller’s “hidden ingredient” – “help from a slave.” In the article, the brand officially acknowledged that an enslaved man, Nearest Green, taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey. Since then, scholars, researchers, and journalists have descended upon Lynchburg, Tennessee hoping to learn more about a man who, until then, had appeared as a mere appendage in the story of the country’s most popular whiskey brand.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

The peculiar concept of “ethics laws”

  Cynicism about the ethics of elected officials may be at an all-time high, continually fueled by new 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.

  Thus, it’s no surprise that news media are continually shining light on real and perceived improprieties and putting the heat on federal, state, and city legislatures to pass new and tougher ethics laws to restore public trust.

Friday, August 20, 2021

The US is taking a bite out of its food insecurity – here’s one way to scrap the problem altogether

  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is set to permanently increase the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits by 25% above pre-pandemic levels in October 2021.

  It’s the biggest change since 1979 to this anti-hunger program, commonly known as SNAP, which currently helps over 40 million Americans.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Can health insurance companies charge the unvaccinated higher premiums? What about life insurers? 5 questions answered

  The current COVID-19 wave in the U.S. is mostly affecting unvaccinated Americans, who represent more than 95% of current cases of hospitalization and death.

  Given the average cost of a COVID-19 hospitalization in 2020 ran about US$42,200 per patient, will the unvaccinated be asked to bear more of the cost of treatment, in terms of insurance, as well?

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

A century after the Appalachian Trail was proposed, millions hike it every year seeking ‘the breath of a real life’

  The Appalachian Trail, North America’s most famous hiking route, stretches over 2,189 mountainous miles (3,520 kilometers) from Georgia to Maine. In any given year, some 3 million people hike on it, including more than 3,000 “thru-hikers” who go the entire distance, either in one stretch or in segments over multiple years.

  The AT, as it’s widely known, is a national icon on par with conservation touchstones like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone’s Old Faithful geyser, and the Florida Everglades. It symbolizes opportunity – the chance to set out on a life-altering experience in the great outdoors, or at least a pleasant walk in the woods.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Organic food has become mainstream but still has room to grow

  Organic food once was viewed as a niche category for health nuts and hippies, but today it’s a routine choice for millions of Americans. For years following the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established national organic standards, consumers had to seek out organic products at food co-ops and farmers markets. Today over half of organic sales are in conventional grocery store chains, club stores, and supercenters; Walmart, Costco, Kroger, Target, and Safeway are the top five organic retailers.

Monday, August 16, 2021

How religious fervor and anti-regulation zealotry laid the groundwork for America’s $36 billion supplement industry

  Spend any time watching television or scrolling through social media and you’ll inevitably see advertisements for pills, powders, and potions that promise to grow muscle, shed body fat, improve your focus, and resurrect your youth.

  Most of us have used them. At last count, the National Center for Health Statistics found that over 50% of all adults in America have used a supplement in the past 30 days. The center used data from 2017 and 2018, but more recent polls suggest this figure to be closer to over 70%.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Paradoxical Commandments

  In 1968, when Kent M. Keith was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard University, he wrote “The Paradoxical Commandments” as part of a booklet for student leaders. He describes the Commandments as guidelines for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity:

Saturday, August 14, 2021

New documentary tells truth about Confederacy, tracks root of ‘Lost Cause’ myth

  Living in New Orleans in 2015, CJ Hunt was frustrated that Confederate symbols still occupied the city’s common spaces – or “neutral grounds” – intended for all citizens, which he called “absurd.” At the time, the nation was reeling from the deadly attack at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine Black people were killed by a young white supremacist who had posted a picture of himself with a Confederate flag.

  But when the state of South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its capitol, Hunt could tell a powerful movement was brewing to remove Confederate symbols nationwide. In New Orleans, the organizers of Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a grassroots organization that has fought for the removal of Confederate monuments, were already marching in the streets, and the mayor took the calls to remove those statues seriously when he demanded the removal of four monuments. The backlash, Hunt said, was intense.

Friday, August 13, 2021

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, August 12, 2021

The water cycle is intensifying as the climate warms, IPCC report warns – that means more intense storms and flooding

  The world watched in July 2021 as extreme rainfall became floods that washed away centuries-old homes in Europe, triggered landslides in Asia, and inundated subways in China. More than 900 people died in the destruction. In North America, the West was battling fires amid an intense drought that is affecting water and power supplies.

  Water-related hazards can be exceptionally destructive, and the impact of climate change on extreme water-related events like these is increasingly evident.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Millions of kids get suspended or expelled each year – but it doesn’t address the root of the behavior

  Each school year, nearly 3 million K-12 students get suspended and over 100,000 get expelled from school. The offenses range from simply not following directions, to hitting or kicking, to more serious behaviors like getting caught with drugs or a weapon.

  And it starts early in students’ education – it’s not uncommon for preschoolers as young as 3 years old to be suspended or expelled from their childcare program.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Why refusing the COVID-19 vaccine isn’t just immoral – it’s ‘un-American’

  Decades ago, I helped organize a conference that brought together vaccine skeptics and public health officials. The debate centered on what governments can and cannot demand from citizens, and what behaviors one can rightly expect from others.

  It took place many years before the current coronavirus pandemic, but many things that happened at that conference remind me of our circumstances today. Not least, as a political theorist who also studies social ethics, it reminds me that arguments grounded in self-interest can often be correct – but still deeply inadequate.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Forget the American Dream – millions of working Americans still can’t afford food and rent

  The Biden administration is likely celebrating a better-than-expected jobs report, which showed surging employment and wages. However, for millions of working Americans, being employed doesn’t guarantee a living income.

  As scholars interested in the well-being of workers, we believe that the economy runs better when people aren’t forced to choose between paying rent, buying food, or getting medicine. Yet too many are compelled to do just that.

Sunday, August 8, 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.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Making peace between Israelis and Palestinians – is now the time for a different approach?

  The violence in May 2021 between Israelis and Palestinians was the latest deadly eruption of a decadeslong conflict that has proved immune to attempts at forging a comprehensive peace. We asked two Middle East experts to assess what can be done now to promote peace. Scholars Raslan Ibrahim, assistant professor of political science and international relations at the State University of New York at Geneseo, and David Mednicoff, chair of the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, both imagine there’s a way forward, though their scenarios are very different.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Understanding evangelicalism in America today

  A precipitous decline in the number of Americans identifying as white evangelical was revealed in Public Religion Research Institute’s 2020 Census on American Religion. In 2006, almost a quarter of the American population identified as white evangelical, but only 14.5% the population does so today.

  Evangelical is an umbrella category within Protestant Christianity. The category of evangelical is complicated; unlike Catholics, who have a centralized authority, evangelicals do not maintain a single spokesperson or institution. Instead, evangelicalism in the United States today is composed of several institutions, churches, and a network of largely conservative spokespersons.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Is lying necessary to success?

  What do you think? In today’s society, does a person have to lie or cheat at least occasionally to succeed?

  The question isn’t whether occasional liars and cheats sometimes get away with dishonesty; we all have to agree with this. The question is whether you believe people can succeed if they're not willing to lie or cheat.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Four ways extreme heat hurts the economy

  Summer 2021 will likely be one of the hottest on record as dozens of cities in the West experience all-time high temperatures. The extreme heat being felt throughout many parts of the U.S. is causing hundreds of deaths, sparking wildfires, and worsening drought conditions in over a dozen states.

  How does all this broiling heat affect the broader economy?

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

What the pandemic can teach us about vulnerabilities in our defense supply chain

  You only have to go back to March 2020, when grocery store shelves were stripped bare and toilet paper became a scarce commodity, to understand how vulnerable people are when supply doesn’t meet demand. Unfortunately, the U.S. military can easily be put in the same position.

  America’s defense supply chain—that is, the large network of manufacturers who produce our weapons platforms and equipment—is neither reliable nor secure. Defense production is vital in maintaining a strong national defense, and such fragility in our supply chains is an enormous liability. It directly hinders our ability to win the next war.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Freeing Britney requires reconsidering how society thinks about decision-making capacity

  Britney Spears’ impassioned remarks in court have raised many questions about conservatorships, including when they’re necessary and whether they effectively protect someone’s best interests.

  When one loses the capacity to make decisions for oneself, the court appoints a guardian, or conservator, to make those decisions. Appointing someone to make decisions about personal and financial matters on another’s behalf has been part of civil society since the ancient Greeks. Today, all jurisdictions in the U.S. have conservatorship laws to protect people who lack the ability to make their own decisions.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1781 - A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

  "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” This quote is attributed to Alexander Pope. The full statement from his 1709 An Essay On Criticism, is as follows: “A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain. And drinking largely sobers us again” I was reminded of this saying when I read several striking facts concerning vaccinations for COVID-19. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Kay Ivey, second governor from Wilcox County

  Kay Ivey is doing a good job as governor. She is a strong and decisive leader who has done more than steady the ship of state. She is getting things done. She is making her mark as a good governor.

  She did a good day’s work when she got Jo Bonner to be her chief of staff. They make quite a team. This duo from Wilcox County was cut out for leadership.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Craig Ford: What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine

  There are a lot of people out there who have legitimate and understandable concerns about getting the coronavirus vaccine. Questions about the long-term effects of the vaccine and whether having already had COVID is enough to protect you are reasonable questions, and I completely understand why some people feel that this is a personal choice that they shouldn’t feel pressured over.

  But with the delta variant now spreading like wildfire and deaths and hospitalizations back on the rise, there are a lot of people who are reconsidering whether they should get the vaccine.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

How to avoid food-borne illness – a nutritionist explains

  Summer means cookouts, picnics, and backyard barbecues. But a generous spread of food eaten outside raises some serious health questions. Nobody wants food poisoning – or to make their guests sick. But how do you know when you’ve kept the potato salad or fruit medley out too long?

  As a professor and chair of the Food Science and Human Nutrition program at Iowa State University, I’ll answer those questions by starting with the basics of food safety.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Screentime can make you feel sick – here are ways to manage cybersickness

  Do you ever feel like the light of your computer screen is burrowing into your eyes and making your head pulse? Or feel dizzy or nauseous after looking at your phone? While you might think these sensations are just eye strain or fatigue from looking at your screen for too long, they’re actually symptoms of a condition called cybersickness.

  These issues may seem like a necessary evil with the rise of work from home, remote learning, and days spent endlessly scrolling online. But I can assure you as a researcher in human-computer interaction specializing in cybersickness that there are ways to anticipate and avoid feeling sick from your screens.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1780 - The Year of the Black Woman

  The year of the Black woman. Sometimes things happen in bunches. The old folks say, "When it rains, it pours." It may not be pouring for Black women, but recognitions of excellence are coming in bunches. The Year Of The Black Woman.

  No segment of our society has been sacrificed more than the Black Woman. No segment of our society has given more to others. No segment has been less appreciated. But the past 12 months have been different, very different for some.

Monday, July 26, 2021

We are all propagandists now

  The U.S. is in an information war with itself. The public sphere, where Americans discuss public issues, is broken. There’s little discussion – and lots of fighting.

  One reason why: Persuasion is difficult, slow, and time-consuming – it doesn’t make good television or social media content – and so there aren’t a lot of good examples of it in our public discourse.

  What’s worse, a new form of propaganda has emerged – and it’s enlisted us all as propagandists.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Why the US won’t be able to shirk moral responsibility in leaving Afghanistan

  The majority of the remaining American troops in Afghanistan were withdrawn recently, with the rest due to leave by the end of August 2021. This withdrawal marks the end of nearly 20 years of American military presence in Afghanistan.

  Support for the withdrawal is widespread in the United States, with the majority of Americans – regardless of political affiliation – in favor of ending American military operations in Afghanistan. The war has been, and would continue to be, costly, both in financial terms and in terms of American lives.

  But the present regime in Afghanistan is unstable, and some experts estimate that it may collapse within the year. If it does so, the resulting power gap would likely be filled by the Taliban, whose history of human rights abuses include violence against women and children.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The story of Charles Henderson

  Since I hail from Troy, Alabama, allow me to share with you the story of our only governor. Charles Henderson was not only the 35th governor of Alabama, but he may also be one of the most profound philanthropists in Alabama history. He is unquestionably the greatest philanthropist to grace Pike County.

Friday, July 23, 2021

US is split between the vaccinated and unvaccinated – and deaths and hospitalizations reflect this divide

  In recent weeks, one piece of data has gotten a lot of attention: 99.5% of all the people dying from COVID-19 in the U.S. are unvaccinated.

  We are two researchers who work in public health and study immunity, viruses, and other microbes. Since the start of the pandemic, public health experts have been concerned about what might happen if large sections of the U.S. population, for whatever reason, did not get vaccinated. Over the past few weeks, the answer to that question is starting to emerge.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Hank Sanders: Sketches #1778 - Big guns, big problems

  Big guns, big problems. Guns are pervasive in America. More pervasive than any other country in the world. And more are being sold and bought each day. Big guns, big problems.

  There is a place for guns in America: to protect our homes; to protect our persons; to protect our loved ones; to engage in sport; to engage in war; etc. There is a place for guns. However, all guns do not have the same place in America.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Bibb Graves, the education governor

  Most states have one General Fund Budget.  We are only one of five states that have two.

  Some of you have asked why we have two budgets – one for the General Fund and one for Education. Here is why.

  During the era of the Great Depression and even afterward, education in Alabama was woefully underfunded, and that is really being generous to simply say underfunded. Our schools were similar to those of a third-world country. We had two separate systems, one for white students and one for black students. Many rural schools were one-room shanties like folks used in the 1800s, like Blab schools - no air conditioning and wood-burning stoves for heat. There were no buses to transport children, so they really did walk to school - barefoot - many times miles to and from. This was for the white schools. You can only imagine what an abysmal education was afforded to black kids. Many times teachers were not even being paid. They were given script notes in hopes of getting paid in the future.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

How ‘In God We Trust’ bills are helping advance a Christian nationalist agenda

  City vehicles in Chesapeake, Virginia, will soon be getting religion.

  At a meeting on July 13, 2021, city councilors unanimously voted in favor of a proposal that would see the official motto of the U.S., “In God We Trust,” emblazoned on every city-owned car and truck, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of US$87,000.

  Meanwhile, the state of Mississippi is preparing to defend in court its insistence that all citizens, unless they pay a fee for an alternative, must display the same four-word phrase on their license plates. Gov. Tate Reeves vowed last month to take the issue “all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court should we have to.”

Monday, July 19, 2021

Why some younger evangelicals are leaving the faith

  The extent to which the number of white evangelicals has declined in the United States has been laid bare in a new report by the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2020 Census on American Religion.

  The institute’s study found that only 14% of Americans identify as white evangelical today. This is a drastic decline since 2006, when America’s religious landscape was composed of 23% white evangelicals, as the report notes.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Biden targets noncompete agreements, which restrict the job opportunities of millions of low-wage workers

  Most American workers are hired “at will”: Employers owe their employees nothing in the relationship except earned wages, and employees are at liberty to quit at their option. As the rule is generally stated, either party may terminate the arrangement at any time for a good or bad reason, or none at all.

  In keeping with that no-strings-attached spirit, employees may move on as they see fit – unless they happen to be among the tens of millions of workers bound by a contract that explicitly forbids getting hired by a competitor. These “noncompete clauses” may make sense for CEOs and other top executives who possess trade secrets but may seem nonsensical when they are applied to low-wage workers such as draftsmen in the construction industry. A 2019 business survey found that 29% of companies paying an average wage of less than $13 an hour required all their employees to sign noncompete agreements.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

America’s founders believed civic education and historical knowledge would prevent tyranny – and foster democracy

  The majority of Americans today are anxious; they believe their democracy is under threat.

  In fact, democracies deteriorate easily. As was feared since the times of Greek philosopher Plato, they may suddenly succumb to mob rule. The people will think they have an inalienable right to manifest their opinions – which means to state out loud whatever passes through their minds. They will act accordingly, often violently. They will make questionable decisions.

Friday, July 16, 2021

3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet

  The COVID-19 pandemic has caused price spikes for corn, milk, beans, and other commodities, but even before the pandemic, about 3 billion people could not afford even the cheapest options for a healthy diet.

  Recent analysis of global food price data reveals that as of 2017, the latest available year, around 40% of the world’s population was already forced to consume poor-quality diets by a combination of high food prices and low incomes. When healthy items are unaffordable, it is impossible for people to avoid malnutrition and diet-related diseases like anemia or diabetes.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

New wave of anti-protest laws may infringe on religious freedoms for Indigenous people

  Over four days in June 2021, thousands of protesters attended the Treaty People Gathering in opposition to Line 3, a crude oil pipeline slated to be built across traditional homelands of the Ojibwe peoples in northern Minnesota.

  To begin the gathering, Indigenous elders led a public religious ceremony. They said prayers and sang songs that blessed and sanctified the headwaters of the Mississippi River. They also prayed for the people involved in the protest – over 100 of whom were later arrested for trespassing and other acts of civil disobedience.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Getting more out of defense dollars

  Imagine you have credit card points expiring at the end of the month but not enough to get the item at the top of your wish list. You’d probably be willing to use them to get something less desirable.

  Why watch, empty-handed, as those points vanish? If you don’t have enough for the cast-iron skillet you wanted, better to settle for a waffle iron than wind up with nothing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Twitter has failed to address its use by far-right extremists and was a major tool in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection

  Six months after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Twitter continues to be a major tool for far-right extremists, facilitating and boosting their efforts, and – if left unchecked – will likely enable politically motivated violence again, according to a report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Fungal infections worldwide are becoming resistant to drugs and more deadly

  Say “fungus” and most people in the world would probably visualize a mushroom.

  But this fascinating and beautiful group of microbes has offered the world more than just foods like edible mushrooms. Fungi are also a source of antibiotics – for example, penicillin from Penicillium – as well as the yeasts and other fermentation agents that make bread rise, give cheese its flavor, and put the alcohol in wine and beer.

  Many people may also not realize that some fungi can cause disease. However, athlete’s foot, thrush, ringworm, and other ailments are caused by fungi, and some are serious risks to health and life. That’s why the rise of antifungal resistance is a problem that needs more widespread attention – one equal to the better-recognized crises of multidrug-resistant microbes like the bacteria that cause tuberculosis.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

A medical moonshot would help fix inequality in American health care

  COVID-19 has put the American health care system’s deeply entrenched inequities into high relief. The social, economic, and political structures that predated the pandemic’s public health crisis and resulting recession have meant that Black and Latino people are more likely than white people to be exposed to, hospitalized for, and die from COVID-19. But Black and Latino people also died at higher rates than whites from non-COVID-19 causes in 2020, underscoring the harm of delays in medical care generally.

  Simply put, inequity kills.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Pentagon UFO report: No aliens, but government transparency and desire for better data might bring science to the UFO world

  On June 25, 2021, the Pentagon released a much-anticipated report on UFOs to Congress. The military has rebranded unidentified flying objects as unidentified aerial phenomena –UAPs – in part to avoid the stigma that has been attached to claims of aliens visiting the Earth since the Roswell incident in 1947. The report presents no convincing evidence that alien spacecraft have been spotted, but some of the data defy easy interpretation.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Let’s reject foreign interventionism entirely

  Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, interventionists are learning the wrong lesson from their ongoing debacle in Afghanistan. They are coming up with all sorts of reasons why this particular intervention has gone bad. Undoubtedly, they will promise to do better in the future.

  That’s not the lesson Americans should learn from this forever-war disaster. The lesson everyone should be learning is that America’s founding heritage of non-interventionism is the way to go in the future. 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Critical race theory: What it is and what it isn’t

  U.S. Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana sent a letter to fellow Republicans on June 24, 2021, stating: “As Republicans, we reject the racial essentialism that critical race theory teaches … that our institutions are racist and need to be destroyed from the ground up.”

  Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor and central figure in the development of critical race theory, said in a recent interview that critical race theory “just says, let’s pay attention to what has happened in this country, and how what has happened in this country is continuing to create differential outcomes. … Critical Race Theory … is more patriotic than those who are opposed to it because … we believe in the promises of equality. And we know we can’t get there if we can’t confront and talk honestly about inequality.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Separate school and state

  For the life of me, I just cannot understand why so many Americans favor public (i.e., government) schooling. Everyone knows that government produces the worst of everything and that the free market produces the best of everything. So, why leave something as important as the education of one’s child in the hands of the government? 

  It’s not a matter of whether public school teachers and administrators are dedicated, competent, and passionate about their work. It’s about a bad system. When you have a bad system and good teachers, the bad system is ultimately going to win out. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

America and the march toward modern conflict

  There is no better example of how history is enlisted to fight future wars than the “principles of war.” This laundry list of how to fight, incorporated in American military doctrine, has been around for centuries. The principles are based entirely on past military experience, yet despite their ancient origins, they retain their relevance for contemporary conflicts. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Climate will test whether America is truly ‘back’

  The final week of European summitry was a big diplomatic success for President Joe Biden. Gone was the tension and conflict of the Trump era and back was an America that respects its allies and seeks to work with them to solve global problems. America certainly looked like it was “back.” And yet, lurking beneath the surface are growing doubts in Europe about U.S. leadership. After all, how can Europe trust America when commitments from one administration can be so easily undone by the next?

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Why some Americans seem more ‘American’ than others

  In the United States and many other countries, nationality is defined by a set of legal parameters. It may involve birthplace, parental citizenship, or a circumscribed set of procedures for naturalization.

  Yet, in many Americans’ minds, these more objective notions of citizenship are a little fuzzy around the edges as social and developmental psychologists like me have documented in our research. Psychologically, some people may just seem a little more American than others based on unrelated factors like race, ethnicity, or language.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Declaration of Independence wasn’t really complaining about King George, and 5 other surprising facts for July 4th

Editor’s note: Americans may think they know a lot about the Declaration of Independence, but many of those ideas are elitist and wrong, as historian Woody Holton explains.

  His forthcoming book “Liberty is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution” shows how independence and the Revolutionary War were influenced by women, Indigenous and enslaved people, religious dissenters, and other once-overlooked Americans.

  In celebration of the United States’ 245th birthday, Holton offers six surprising facts about the nation’s founding document – including that it failed to achieve its most immediate goal and that its meaning has changed from the founding to today.

Friday, July 2, 2021

The neuroscience behind why your brain may need time to adjust to ‘un-social distancing’

  With COVID-19 vaccines working and restrictions lifting across the country, it’s finally time for those now vaccinated who’ve been hunkered down at home to ditch the sweatpants and reemerge from their Netflix caves. But your brain may not be so eager to dive back into your former social life.

  Social distancing measures proved essential for slowing COVID-19’s spread worldwide – preventing upward of an estimated 500 million cases. But, while necessary, 15 months away from each other has taken a toll on people’s mental health.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Science denial: Why it happens and 5 things you can do about it

  Science denial became deadly in 2020. Many political leaders failed to support what scientists knew to be effective prevention measures. Over the course of the pandemic, people died from COVID-19 still believing it did not exist.

  Science denial is not new, of course. But it is more important than ever to understand why some people deny, doubt, or resist scientific explanations – and what can be done to overcome these barriers to accepting science.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Privatization of ABC stores fails again

  Alcohol was on the minds of many Alabama lawmakers this year as the legislature considered an abnormally high number of alcohol-related bills. Several of the bills passed. Most notable was legislation that made it possible for Alabama businesses to deliver beer, wine, and liquor to customers’ homes, and separate legislation that allows state residents to order wine directly from wineries, even if those producers are out of state.

  One piece of legislation that did not pass was Sen. Arthur Orr’s perennial bill to privatize ABC liquor stores. There are a number of reasons for Alabamians to be thankful this legislation did not pass.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Hank Sanders: Sketches# 1776 - Juneteenth will never be a national holiday

  They will never make Juneteenth a national holiday. These were the words of a young Black man. He stated this conclusion with such certainty and authority. We were in a meeting of the Dallas County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition. One person said that we needed to make Juneteenth a national holiday. That’s when the young man made his statement. He also said, in so many words, that we did not know what we were doing and needed to do things his way. I did not know anything of note he had done. Juneteenth will never be a national holiday.

Monday, June 28, 2021

A cruel legacy: Alabama anti-immigrant law remembered

  Ten years ago this month, countless Latinx community members wanted to know what happened to their home, a state whose highway signs welcome visitors to “Alabama the Beautiful.”

  They ultimately marched in the streets, wearing shirts with slogans saying, “We love Alabama. We are Alabama.” Their faces were marked with worry, panic, and tears amid an atmosphere of uncertainty.

  The state had just enacted what lawmakers proudly proclaimed the nation’s toughest anti-immigrant law, one that “attacks every aspect” of an undocumented immigrant’s life. The Beason-Hammon Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act – better known as House Bill 56 (HB 56) – was modeled after an Arizona law that granted police the authority to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or legal status during routine traffic stops. HB 56 was signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley on June 9, 2011.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Why it’s such a big deal that the NFL’s Carl Nassib came out as gay

  The video was short and simple, but for America’s gay community, it was a blockbuster event.

  In an Instagram post, Las Vegas Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib announced from his yard in West Chester, Pennsylvania, that he’s gay and that, while he’s a private person, he feels “representation is so important.” He added that he would donate US$100,000 to the Trevor Project, which offers suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Free-speech ruling won’t help declining civil discourse

  A Supreme Court decision saying a school district could not punish a student for profane complaints made on a weekend and off school grounds will not stem the torrent of crude, disrespectful speech in American society.

  In 2017, high school sophomore Brandi Levy tried out for and failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad at Mahanoy Area High School in Pennsylvania. She made the junior varsity team instead.

  The angry 14-year-old turned to social media to vent her frustration. She posted to Snapchat a photo of herself with a middle finger raised and a caption that read, “F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything.”

Friday, June 25, 2021

Planned abandonment

  Management guru Peter Drucker advocated a practice he called planned abandonment. He stressed how important it is that managers develop the wisdom and courage to regularly review what their organization is doing and determine whether it’s worth doing. He urged executives to note and resist the systemic and emotional forces that make it difficult to abandon activities that drain resources, detract from central goals, or otherwise impede progress.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the State House - Legislative session essentially successful

  The 2021 Alabama Legislative Session ended last month with an impressive slate of legislative accomplishments.

  A goodly amount of the credit for the success of the session goes to the leadership of the new President Pro Tem, Sen. Greg Reed of Jasper, who just completed his first session in this role.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

As urban life resumes, can US cities avert gridlock?

  Traffic is so ubiquitous in U.S. cities that until recently, imagining urban life without it meant looking to other nations for examples. Then, in 2020, COVID-19 closures and lockdowns took drivers off the roads. The thought experiment became real.

  The main impacts are clear. First, public transit ridership plummeted by 80%, leaving mainly lower-income workers in jobs declared essential riding buses, subways, and commuter trains.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Young people are eager to have sex, but will post-pandemic hookups bring happiness or despair?

  As an associate teaching professor who teaches a very large human sexuality class at the University of Washington, I benefit from frequent access to young people’s inner thoughts and desires surrounding relationships and sex.

  Recently, I administered an online poll asking my students what they predicted fall quarter would be like when everyone returns to campus. Nearly three-fourths – or 73% – said that they expected to engage in more hookups and casual sex themselves, and 94% agreed that there would be more hookups among other students in general than there were prepandemic.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Conservative hard-liner elected as Iran’s next president – what that means for the West and the nuclear deal

  Iran’s conservative rulers’ effort to orchestrate the outcome of the June 18 presidential election triggered a voter boycott – but the result may still bode well for ongoing negotiations over the lapsed 2015 nuclear deal.

  Iran’s Interior Ministry on June 19 announced that the winner is Ebrahim Raisi, chief of Iran’s judiciary and close ally of the supreme leader. He was all but assured of victory after the candidates who could have posed a serious challenge to him – including three reformists – were disqualified and prevented from participating in the election.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Fighting back against cyber attackers

  “There is no way that this winter is ever going to end as long as this groundhog keeps seeing his shadow. I do not see any other way out. He’s got to be stopped. And I have to stop him.”

  Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” comes to mind as we witness the recurring spate of ransomware, cyberattacks, and cyber espionage that have targeted U.S. agencies and businesses in recent years. From the ransomware attacks on the Colonial oil pipeline, which caused consumer panic and gas shortages along the East Coast, and on JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, the problem is only getting worse.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Racial bias makes white Americans more likely to support wars in nonwhite foreign countries – new study

  The effects of American racial bias and anti-Asian sentiment do not end at the nation’s borders. The racial attitudes of white people also influence their support for American military intervention abroad according to our working paper on U.S. foreign policy and racism.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Biden’s Supreme Court commission probably won’t sway public opinion

  In late 2020, President Donald Trump nominated conservative jurist Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. She was quickly confirmed to fill the seat previously held by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

  Many liberals feared the court was becoming too conservative and called on then-candidate Joe Biden to “pack the court” by adding new seats and filling them with liberal justices.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Why the Second Amendment protects a ‘well-regulated militia’ but not a private citizen militia

  When a federal judge in California struck down the state’s 32-year-old ban on assault weapons in early June 2021, he added a volatile new issue to the gun-rights debate.

  The ruling, by U.S. District Court Judge Roger Benitez, does not take effect immediately, because California has 30 days to appeal the rejection of its assault weapons ban. Most coverage has focused on Benitez’s provocative analogy between an AR-15 and a Swiss army knife. But the case raises troubling questions about the meaning and proper role of “militias” under the Second Amendment.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Property disputes in Israel come with a complicated back story – and tend to end with Palestinian dispossession

  The threat of violence in Israel is never far from the surface. It is sustained and fueled by what is at the core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: land and property ownership.

  A key component in the most recent violence – 11 days in which 282 Palestinians were killed by Israeli bombs or bullets and 13 Israelis killed by Hamas rockets from Gaza – was tension following efforts by Jewish settlers to evict Palestinians from their homes in the urban neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Prison issue unresolved

  There were two major issues not resolved during the just-completed regular legislative session. Gambling and prisons were left on the table.

  It is foolish to not garner some revenues for the state from gambling. However, it is not imperative that the problem be solved.

  The prison problem is another question. It has to be addressed. The federal courts will take over Alabama’s prisons and tell the governor and legislature what to do to resolve the crisis. The federal courts will win that fight every day of the week. They will act and give the legislature the bill for the expenses.

Monday, June 14, 2021

What are ‘ghost guns,’ a target of Biden’s anti-crime effort?

  It’s not expensive or difficult to produce large numbers of untraceable firearms in the United States. Whether for private use, sale on the criminal market, or arming violent extremists, it’s actually startlingly cheap and easy to mass-produce firearms that police can’t track – what are often called “ghost guns.”

  For just over US$2,000, I can buy a machine – not much bigger than a desktop laser printer – that will do the trick. If I’m feeling handy, I can get it done with just simple power tools.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Humane policies, not harmful propaganda, will improve quality of life for everyone

  Let’s focus on human rights, not hate.

  The national conversation on immigration has suffered in recent months, hijacked by lies and misinformation about families seeking protection on our shores.

  It’s a tired tactic that ignores our moral and legal obligations toward people fleeing danger. We cannot allow those with large platforms to so carelessly mislead the public on policies that directly impact citizens’ and non-citizens’ safety and livelihoods.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - George Wallace stories

  A good many of you enjoyed the George Wallace story I shared with you a while back. Allow me to reminisce and share two more funny Wallace-era stories.

  I became acquainted with Governor Wallace when I was a young page in the Alabama Legislature.  

  I was elected to the legislature in 1982. Ironically, my district was comprised of my home county of Pike and also the portion of Barbour County that was Wallace’s home, including Clayton and Clio.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Congress considers future of the military draft, while Supreme Court holds off

  The Supreme Court has declined to hear arguments in the case of National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System. In doing so, it acceded to the Biden administration’s wishes that it not address the question of whether women should join the millions of young men required to register each year with the Selective Service – the federal agency responsible for the draft. It will now be up to Congress to decide what, if anything, to do with the law governing registration and the draft.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Trans kids in the US were seeking treatment decades before today’s political battles over access to health care

  In 1942, a 17-year-old transgender girl named Lane visited a doctor in her Missouri hometown with her parents. Lane had known that she was a girl from a very young age, but fights with her parents over her transness had made it difficult for her to live comfortably and openly during her childhood. She had dropped out of high school, and she was determined to get out of Missouri as soon as she was old enough to pursue a career as a dancer.

  The doctor reportedly found “a large portion of circulating female hormone” in her body during his examination and suggested to Lane’s parents that he undertake an exploratory laparotomy – a surgery in which he would probe her internal organs in order to find out more about her endocrine system. But the appointment ended abruptly after her father refused the surgery, feeling “the doctor did not know what he was talking about.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Opposing Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic

  Defenders of the Israeli government’s policies in the Middle East, especially with respect to the Palestinians, are increasingly going on the attack by pointing out that some critics of the Israeli state are also anti-Semitic. A good example is the May 24 article “Anti-Zionism Isn’t Anti-Semitism? Someone Didn’t Get the Memo” by New York Times columnist Bret Stephens. Stephens cites example after example of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Can people vaccinated against COVID-19 still spread the coronavirus?

  When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidelines about mask-wearing on May 13, 2021, plenty of Americans were left a little confused. Now anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.

  Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, said the new guideline is “based on the evolution of the science” and “serves as an incentive” for the almost two-thirds of Americans who are not yet fully vaccinated to go ahead and get the shot.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Sick of dangerous city traffic? Remove left turns

  To reduce travel times, fuel consumption, and carbon emissions, in 2004, UPS changed delivery routes to minimize the left-hand turns drivers made. Although this seems like a rather modest change, the results are anything but: UPS claims that per year, eliminating left turns – specifically the time drivers sit waiting to cut across traffic – saves 10 million gallons of fuel, 20,000 tons of carbon emissions, and allows them to deliver 350,000 additional packages.

  If it works so well for UPS, should cities seek to eliminate left-hand turns at intersections too? My research suggests the answer is a resounding yes.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Are companies that support Pride and other social causes ‘wokewashing’?

  Consumers increasingly want companies to address society’s big problems such as climate change and crumbling infrastructure. And polls suggest more than half say they want to buy from brands that take stands on social issues.

  At the same time, consumers are increasingly skeptical about these partnerships – such as corporate sponsorships of LGBTQ Pride Month – and instead see them as marketing stunts rather than acts of genuine activism. This is called “wokewashing.”

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Why it matters that 7 states still have bans on atheists holding office

  Tennessee’s Constitution includes a provision that bars three groups from holding office: atheists, ministers, and those engaging in duels. Efforts are under way in the state legislature to remove this exclusion for ministers, but not for duelists – or atheists.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Weight stigma is a burden around the world – and has negative consequences everywhere

  Lazy. Unmotivated. No self-discipline. No willpower.

  These are just a few of the widespread stereotypes ingrained in American society about people who have a higher body weight or larger body size. Known as weight stigma, these attitudes result in many Americans being blamed, teased, bullied, mistreated, and discriminated against.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Gambling left on the table

  The 2021 Alabama Legislative Session is in the books. I would rate it a success. When you pass budgets that are balanced, any session is a success. In fact, the only constitutional mandate given to the legislature is that they pass the two budgets.

  The amazing revelation that is almost difficult to comprehend is the fact that both the General Fund and the Educational Fund budgets were not only status quo but were flush with growth coming out of a year of the COVID-19 pandemic. State employees and teachers both received raises in the budgets.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Celebrating Pride Month: Honoring the movement to end discrimination against LGBTQ people amid record-breaking year for anti-trans laws

  June is Pride Month – a time set aside to honor the Stonewall uprising, which launched the movement to end discriminatory laws against LGBTQ people – and to remember the many important cultural and legislative victories since that pivotal summer in 1969.

  This year, the celebration occurs under the cloud of more than 125 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in state legislatures, many targeting children who identify as transgender by denying them access to lifesaving medical treatment, banning them from participating in sports or using the restroom. This is up markedly from last year when more than 40 such bills were introduced.

  In fact, 2021 has set a record for the number of anti-trans legislative efforts.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

A year after George Floyd’s murder, nation reckons with history of racism, police brutality

  He died in less than nine minutes, gasping for air before lying motionless on the concrete without a pulse.

  People across the country, especially in the Black community, recoiled in horror as video evidence of the police brutality careened across the internet and TV screens. Thousands of protesters would soon surge into the streets, powering up a movement that had been brewing for years.   

  The murder of George Floyd was nothing new; this one had simply been laid bare for the world to see. And the nation cried out for justice. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

1 in 4 unvaccinated people may not comply with CDC guidelines to wear masks indoors, survey suggests

  The revised guidelines on when and when not to wear masks came as a surprise to many Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced May 13, 2021 that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely enter many indoor settings, such as grocery stores and restaurants, without wearing a mask.

  The CDC’s updated guidelines also ask that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people continue to wear a mask – even in establishments like bars and restaurants, where doing so may no longer be required.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Suit seeks to limit anti-Muslim speech on Facebook but roots of Islamophobia run far deeper

  A civil rights group is suing Facebook and its top executives in federal court over the company’s failure to crack down on hate speech against Muslims.

  Muslim Advocates, a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on discrimination against American Muslims, alleges in the suit that Facebook has violated a series of local and federal consumer protection laws. The suit points out that the company itself, in a July 2020 internal audit, found that “Facebook has created an atmosphere where ‘Muslims feel under siege’” on the platform.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Why is paper money constitutional?

  The official money of the United States today is paper currency. But that’s clearly not what the U.S. Constitution says. It says that gold and silver coins shall be the nation’s currency. 

  How is that possible? I thought the Constitution was supposed to be the highest law of the land. I also thought that it was the responsibility of the U.S. Supreme Court to enforce the Constitution. Why then are Americans living under a paper-money monetary system rather than the system stipulated in the Constitution?

Friday, May 28, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Status of 2022 U.S. Senate race

  When Sen. Richard Shelby announced he would not run for reelection to a sixth six-year term in 2022, speculation immediately began as to who would run for our iconic senior senator’s seat. Numerous names were floated as to who might line up for the coveted seat. It is expected to be a fairly large field.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The typical child care worker in the US earns less than $12 an hour

  The American Families Plan, announced by President Joe Biden in April 2021, aims to make child care more affordable for parents. Importantly, it also seeks to ensure caregivers are paid a living wage – enough to meet basic needs given the local cost of living. If passed, all workers in child care and pre-K programs that receive federal subsidies would earn at least US$15 per hour. Preschool teachers and child care workers with similar qualifications as kindergarten teachers would be paid in line with what kindergarten teachers earn.

  Currently, child care workers who care for infants and toddlers tend to earn much less than those who care for older children.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Employees are feeling burned over broken work-from-home promises and corporate culture ‘BS’ as employers try to bring them back to the office

  As vaccinations and relaxed health guidelines make returning to the office a reality for more companies, there seems to be a disconnect between managers and their workers over remote work.

  A good example of this is a recent op-ed written by the CEO of a Washington, D.C., magazine that suggested workers could lose benefits like health care if they insist on continuing to work remotely as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes. The staff reacted by refusing to publish for a day.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Domestic violence isn’t about just physical violence – and state laws are beginning to recognize that

  Three or more U.S. women are murdered every day by their current or former intimate partner.

  That may in part be due to a failure of state laws to capture the full range of behavior that constitutes domestic abuse. The law continues to treat intimate partner violence like a bar fight – considering only what happened in a given incident and not all the prior abuse history, such as intimidation and entrapment.

  Research shows, however, that domestic abuse is not about arguments, short tempers, and violent tendencies. It’s about domination and control.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Striking a balance between fairness in competition and the rights of transgender athletes

  In a majority of U.S. states, bills aiming to restrict who can compete in women’s sports at public institutions have either been signed into law or are working their way through state legislatures.

  Caught up in this political point-scoring are real people – both trans athletes who want to participate in competitive sports and those competing against them.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Ban paternalistic government

  What is it about paternalists that prevent them from minding their own business? They are obsessed with minding everyone else’s business and, even worse, using the power of government to force people to live their lives the way paternalists want them to live them.

  Look at the war on drugs. For our entire lives, paternalists have used the force of government, at both the federal and state level, to punish people for putting substances into their mouths that haven’t been approved by our federal and state masters. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine? 7 questions answered by a pediatric infectious disease expert

  The Food and Drug Administration expanded emergency use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents 12 to 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed with recommendations endorsing use in this age group after their advisory group meeting on May 12. The American Academy of Pediatrics also supports this decision.

  Dr. Debbie-Ann Shirley is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Virginia specializing in pediatric infectious diseases. Here she addresses some of the concerns parents may have about their teen or preteen getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Here’s how much your personal information is worth to cybercriminals – and what they do with it

  Data breaches have become common and billions of records are stolen worldwide every year. Most of the media coverage of data breaches tends to focus on how the breach happened, how many records were stolen. and the financial and legal impact of the incident for organizations and individuals affected by the breach. But what happens to the data that is stolen during these incidents?

  As a cybersecurity researcher, I track data breaches and the black market in stolen data. The destination of stolen data depends on who is behind a data breach and why they’ve stolen a certain type of data. For example, when data thieves are motivated to embarrass a person or organization, expose perceived wrongdoing, or improve cybersecurity, they tend to release relevant data into the public domain.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - How will Alabama fare in Washington after Richard Shelby?

  Some of you have inquired how Alabama will fare in Washington after Senator Shelby retires at the end of 2022. The answer is that it will be nothing less than devastating for the Heart of Dixie. The amount of federal dollars that Senator Shelby has brought home is incalculable and irreplaceable. Alabama is going to be in the proverbial boat without a paddle in 20 short months. We will have negligible power in Washington, and for a state that depends on federal dollars, that is not going to be a good position to be in for Alabama.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Both Israel and Hamas are aiming to look strong instead of finding a way out of their endless war

  Israel and Hamas are locked in ever-escalating rounds of violence.

  This is not new. Every few years, large-scale violence erupts for a few days or weeks and ends with a temporary ceasefire that essentially returns the situation to the same depressing status quo: The Gaza Strip besieged and devastated and the adjacent Israeli population in constant fear of the next attack as well.

  Though this is far from a symmetric conflict – Israel has vastly more military resources than Hamas – it is traumatic on both sides.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

New US climate pledge: Cut emissions 50% this decade, but can Biden make it happen?

  President Joe Biden announced an ambitious new national climate target at the world leaders’ climate summit on April 22. He pledged to cut U.S. carbon emissions in half by the end of this decade – a drop of 50-52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels – and aim for net zero emissions by 2050.

  The new goal is a big deal because it formally brings together the many different ideas on infrastructure, the budget, federal regulatory policy, and disparate actions in the states and industry for transforming the U.S. economy into a highly competitive, yet very green giant. It also signals to the rest of the world that “America is back” and prepared to work on climate change.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Police academies dedicate 3.21% of training hours to ethics and other public service topics – new research

  Police academies provide little training in the kinds of skills necessary to meet officers’ growing public service role, according to my research.

  Highly publicized cases of police violence – such as the 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – often raise questions about police training and whether officers are prepared to do the job that is expected of them.