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?”