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.