Wednesday, March 31, 2021

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

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

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

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

Monday, March 29, 2021

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

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

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

Sunday, March 28, 2021

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

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

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

Saturday, March 27, 2021

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

  Eric Peebles can do so many things.  

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2021

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

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

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

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Making it easier to vote does not threaten election integrity

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

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

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

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

When Americans recall their roots, they open up to immigration

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

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

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

Monday, March 22, 2021

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The government’s war on free speech

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

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

  So what can we do about it?

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

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

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

Saturday, March 20, 2021

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

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

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

Friday, March 19, 2021

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

  What do witches have to do with your favorite beer?

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

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

Thursday, March 18, 2021

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The truth about St. Patrick’s Day

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

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

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

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

Monday, March 15, 2021

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

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

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

Sunday, March 14, 2021

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 13, 2021

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

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

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

Friday, March 12, 2021

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

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

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

Thursday, March 11, 2021

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Alabama governor and voters have little input into public health system

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

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

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

Monday, March 8, 2021

Why repressive Saudi Arabia remains a US ally

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

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

Sunday, March 7, 2021

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

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

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

Saturday, March 6, 2021

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

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

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

Friday, March 5, 2021

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Perhaps we can ease up on the disinfecting

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

It’s time to retire the word ‘addict’

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

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 1, 2021

Has accountability for Big Tech come too late?

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

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