Friday, December 31, 2021

What I’ve learned

  It’s traditional to start the New Year with resolutions designed to help us live healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives. But it’s also useful to reflect on some of the things we’ve learned over the years, the things that make us not only smarter, but wiser.

  For instance, I’ve learned that trying to be a good person is a lifelong commitment and that it often requires me to do the right thing even when it costs more than I want to pay.

  I’ve learned that kindness is more important than cleverness and that carrying grudges is foolish and self-defeating.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Research on how self-control works could help you stick with New Year’s resolutions

  Many of us have already decided that things will be different this year. We’ll eat better, get more exercise, save more money, or finally get around to decluttering those closets.

  But by the time February rolls around, most of us – perhaps as many as 80 percent of the Americans who make New Year’s resolutions – will have already given up.

  Why does our self-control falter, so often leaving us to revert to our old ways? The answer to this question has consequences beyond our waistlines and bank balances.

Wednesday, December 29, 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?

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Can’t keep your New Year’s resolutions? Try being kind to yourself

  Many of us will start out the New Year by making a list of resolutions – changes we want to make to be happier such as eating better, volunteering more often, being a more attentive spouse, and so on. But, as we know, we will often fail. After a few failures, we will typically give up and go back to our old habits.

  Why is it so hard to stick to resolutions that require us to make effective or lasting changes?

Monday, December 27, 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.

Sunday, December 26, 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, December 25, 2021

How Charles Dickens redeemed the spirit of Christmas

  Though today regarded as the literary titan of the Victorian age, in late 1843, the 31-year-old Charles Dickens worried that his popularity was fading. His latest novel was not selling well, his finances were strained, and his wife was pregnant with their fifth child.

  Dickens had recently visited the industrial city of Manchester, an experience that left him deeply moved by the plight of the poor. He understood their circumstances on a personal level – as a boy, Dickens had been humiliated when his father was forced into debtors’ prison.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem? Why the Gospels disagree over the circumstances of Christ’s birth

  Every Christmas, a relatively small town in the Palestinian West Bank comes center stage: Bethlehem. Jesus, according to some biblical sources, was born in this town some two millennia ago.

  Yet the New Testament Gospels do not agree about the details of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Some do not mention Bethlehem or Jesus’ birth at all.

  The Gospels’ different views might be hard to reconcile. But as a scholar of the New Testament, what I argue is that the Gospels offer an important insight into the Greco-Roman views of ethnic identity, including genealogies.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

An anthropologist explains why we love holiday rituals and traditions

  The mere thought of holiday traditions brings smiles to most people’s faces and elicits feelings of sweet anticipation and nostalgia. We can almost smell those candles, taste those special meals, hear those familiar songs in our minds.

  Ritual marks some of the most important moments in our lives, from personal milestones like birthdays and weddings to seasonal celebrations like Thanksgiving and religious holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah. And the more important the moment, the fancier the ritual.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

What is a good Christmas?

  Will this be a good Christmas?

  How will you measure it?

  For lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question, “What did ya get?”

  On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

What Kwanzaa means for Black Americans

  On Dec. 26, millions throughout the world’s African community will start weeklong celebrations of Kwanzaa. There will be daily ceremonies with food, decorations, and other cultural objects, such as the kinara, which holds seven candles. At many Kwanzaa ceremonies, there is also African drumming and dancing.

  It is a time of communal self-affirmation – when famous Black heroes and heroines, as well as late family members – are celebrated.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Craig Ford: Remembering Christmas

  What does Christmas mean to you? It’s a question that will probably get a different answer from every person you ask. Every family has their own traditions and customs that make Christmas unique to them.

  Of course, certain things about Christmas are universal. For every Christian, Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. He is literally the reason for the season; the “Christ” in “Christmas.”

  But even many who aren’t Christians still celebrate Christmas and embrace its values.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Christmas around the world

  Christmas is both a religious holiday and increasingly a secular holiday heavily influenced by local culture. As a result, Christmas traditions are as diverse as the world itself.

  In the United States, for example, Christmas traditions are a literal potpourri of the Christmas traditions brought by immigrants, mostly European. For example, Yule log (English), Christmas tree (German), carols or noels (France), Santa Claus (Dutch). In more recent times, newer Christmas traditions have arrived with the most recent immigrants such as luminaries (Mexico) and the greeting, "Feliz Navidad!" (Latin America generally).

Saturday, December 18, 2021

What Americans hear about social justice at church – and what they do about it

  On June 5, 2020, it had been just over a week since a white Minnesota police officer, Derek Chauvin, killed George Floyd, an unarmed, African American man. Protests were underway outside Central United Methodist Church, an interracial church in downtown Detroit with a long history of activism on civil rights, peace, immigrant rights, and poverty issues.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Tornadoes and climate change: What a warming world means for deadly twisters and the type of storms that spawn them

  The deadly tornado outbreak that tore through communities from Arkansas to Illinois on the night of Dec. 10-11, 2021, was so unusual in its duration and strength, particularly for December, that a lot of people including the U.S. president are asking what role climate change might have played – and whether tornadoes will become more common in a warming world.

  Both questions are easier asked than answered, but research is offering new clues.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

How conspiracy theories in the US became more personal, more cruel and more mainstream after the Sandy Hook shootings

  Conspiracy theories are powerful forces in the U.S. They have damaged public health amid a global pandemic, shaken faith in the democratic process, and helped spark a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol in January 2021.

  These conspiracy theories are part of a dangerous misinformation crisis that has been building for years in the U.S.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Why is inflation so high? Is it bad? An economist answers 3 questions about soaring consumer prices

  Consumer prices jumped 6.8% in November 2021 from a year earlier – the fastest rate of increase since 1982, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data published on Dec. 10, 2021. The biggest jumps during the month were in energy, used cars, and clothing. The Conversation U.S. asked University of South Carolina economist William Hauk to explain what’s driving the recent increase in inflation and how it affects consumers, companies, and the economy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The average person’s daily choices can still make a big difference in fighting climate change – and getting governments and utilities to tackle it, too

  The average American’s everyday interactions with energy sources are limited. They range from turning appliances on or off, to commuting, to paying utility bills.

  The connections between those acts and rising global temperatures may seem distant.

  However, individuals hold many keys to unlocking solutions to climate change – the biggest challenge our species currently faces – which is perhaps why the fossil fuel industry spent decades misleading and misinforming the public about it.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Plastic trash in the ocean is a global problem, and the US is the top source – a new report urges action

  Plastic waste of all shapes and sizes permeates the world’s oceans. It shows up on beaches, in fish, and even in Arctic sea ice. And a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine makes clear that the U.S. is a big part of the problem.

  As the report shows, the U.S. produces a large share of the global supply of plastic resin – the precursor material to all plastic industrial and consumer products. It also imports and exports billions of dollars’ worth of plastic products every year.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Quitting your job or thinking about joining the ‘great resignation’? Here’s what an employment lawyer advises

  Record numbers of Americans have quit their jobs in recent months, with more than 4.4 million submitting their resignation in September alone. Millions more may be preparing to follow them to the exits – one survey found that around a third of workers wanted to make a career change.

  But one of the things I learned over the years as a lawyer and later as a professor specializing in employment law is that timing and preparation matter when it comes to quitting a job. So even if you have another job lined up, it’s worth considering a few factors that might influence whether you quit now or stay in your current role for a few weeks – or months.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Figuring out omicron – here’s what scientists are doing right now to understand the new coronavirus variant

  Scientists around the world have been racing to learn more about the new omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2, first declared a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26, 2021 by the World Health Organization. Officials cautioned that it would take several weeks before they’d know whether the recently emerged coronavirus variant is more contagious and causes more or less serious COVID-19 than delta and other earlier variants and whether current vaccines can ward it off.

  Peter Kasson is a virologist and biophysicist at the University of Virginia who studies how viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 enter cells and what can be done to stop them. Here he explains what lab-based scientists are doing to help answer the outstanding questions about omicron.

Friday, December 10, 2021

How Christmas became an American holiday tradition, with a Santa Claus, gifts and a tree

  Each season, the celebration of Christmas has religious leaders and conservatives publicly complaining about the commercialization of the holiday and the growing lack of Christian sentiment. Many people seem to believe that there was once a way to celebrate the birth of Christ in a more spiritual way.

  Such perceptions about Christmas celebrations have, however, little basis in history. As a scholar of transnational and global history, I have studied the emergence of Christmas celebrations in German towns around 1800 and the global spread of this holiday ritual.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Nuns against nuclear weapons – Plowshares protesters have fought for disarmament for over 40 years, going to prison for peace

  In July 2012, Sister Megan Rice, an 82-year-old Catholic nun, and two men walked past multiple broken security cameras and into the heart of a high-security nuclear complex. Y-12 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was the birthplace of the atomic bomb and now stores enriched uranium for nuclear warheads. Although thanked by Congress for exposing astoundingly lax contractor security, the three were also convicted and served two years in prison.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Modern-day culture wars are playing out on historic tours of slaveholding plantations

  Located on nearly 2,000 acres along the banks of the Potomac River, Stratford Hall Plantation is the birthplace of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the home of four generations of the Lee family, including two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee.

  It was also the home of hundreds of enslaved Africans and African Americans. From sunup to sundown, they worked in the fields and in the Great House. Until fairly recently, the stories of these enslaved Africans and of their brothers and sisters toiling at plantations across the Southern U.S. were absent from any discussions during modern-day tours of plantations such as Stratford Hall.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Most school shooters get their guns from home – and during the pandemic, the number of firearms in households with teenagers went up

  Four days before a 15-year-old sophomore killed four students and wounded others at a high school shooting in Michigan, his father purchased the firearm used in the attack.

  That the teenager used a weapon from home during the Nov. 30 attack is not unusual. Most school shooters obtain the firearm from home. And the number of guns within reach of high school-age teenagers has increased during the pandemic – highlighting the importance of locking firearms and keeping them unloaded in the home.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Tax cuts seem to be everywhere – except in Alabama’s future

  Kansas, one of a handful of states alongside Alabama that still fully taxes the sale of food, recently announced a bipartisan plan to “Axe the Food Tax”. 

  Just before Thanksgiving, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a budget into law that will make sweeping changes to the state’s tax code, fully repealing the corporate income tax by the end of the decade and cutting the personal income tax rate by 1.26% over the next five years.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Three major wins for workers in the bipartisan infrastructure package

  On November 15, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) into law. The new law will invest $1.2 trillion in rebuilding crumbling roads, bridges, and public transportation systems; supporting advanced energy technologies and clean water infrastructure; closing the digital divide; and modernizing the electric grid. These investments will create hundreds of thousands of good construction and manufacturing jobs that pay decent wages and benefits; are located in the United States; and have the potential to increase access for women, workers of color, and LGBTQI+ Americans.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

The concrete effects of body cameras on police accountability

  Without video evidence, it’s unlikely we would have ever heard of George Floyd or witnessed the prosecution of his killer, a Minneapolis police officer.

  The recording of Floyd’s killing echoed the documentation in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two Black men who were killed at the hands of police.

  The circulation of such videos – witness cellphones, dashcams, and police body-worn cameras – have helped awaken a protest movement centered on police accountability and systemic racism in the United States.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Want to take an online course? Here are 4 tips to make sure you get the most out of it for your career

  The “Great Resignation” has left a lot of people with time on their hands. And while this time may be a welcome respite from the daily grind, most folks will need to get back to work eventually. For many, this period is a time of reflection and a chance to pursue a new career.

  But how do you make the switch? And even if you plan to return to the same field, how do you show that you have kept current with the changes and trends that affected most industries during the pandemic?

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The most powerful space telescope ever built will look back in time to the Dark Ages of the universe

  Some have called NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope the “telescope that ate astronomy.” It is the most powerful space telescope ever built and a complex piece of mechanical origami that has pushed the limits of human engineering. On Dec. 18, 2021, after years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, the telescope is scheduled to launch into orbit and usher in the next era of astronomy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Confederate Christmas ornaments are smaller than statues – but they send the same racist message

  As Christmas approaches, many families undertake a familiar ritual: an annual sojourn to the attic, basement, or closet to pull out a box of treasured ornaments bought, created, and collected over years, even generations.

  Hanging these ornaments on the tree is an opportunity to reconnect with memories of personal milestones, holiday icons and, in many cases, destinations visited.

  But, I argue, it may be time to take some of these old travel keepsakes off the tree.