Sunday, September 25, 2022

Religions have long known that getting away from it all is good for the mind, body and spirit

  Summer vacations are coming to an end – though not everyone took one.

  Under federal law, U.S. companies aren’t required to offer a single paid vacation day, compared to the at least 20 required in the European Union. About 1 in 4 U.S. workers don’t receive any, and even among those who do, few make full use of them. More than half leave at least some vacation days untouched, and almost 1 in 5 say they feel guilty leaving the office, according to a 2019 survey by Priceline.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

In states where abortion is banned, children and families already face an uphill battle

  Some proponents of abortion bans and restrictions say they are concerned about “supporting not just life” but what they call “quality of life worth living,” saying they want to promote laws and policies that help families. Three authors from Brigham Young University, for instance, have noted that the overturning of Roe v. Wade provides a “genuine opportunity for pro-lifers to work with people of diverse political persuasions to seek a more just and compassionate world. This world would be not only pro-life, but also pro-child, pro-parent and pro-family.”

Friday, September 23, 2022

Refuse to be afraid

  Tim Wrightman, a former All-American UCLA football player, tells a story about how as a rookie lineman in the National Football League, he was up against the legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was not only physically powerful and uncommonly quick but a master at verbal intimidation.

  Looking young Tim in the eye, he said, “Sonny, get ready. I’m going to the left and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Military self-delusion on the U.S. Constitution

  Several former U.S. defense secretaries and retired generals recently published an open letter about the current political environment in America. The letter stated, among other things: “Military officers swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not an oath of fealty to an individual or to an office.”

  That’s just pure nonsense and self-delusion. Oh, sure, technically it’s true that military officers swear such an oath, but they don’t follow it. Instead, they faithfully and blindly follow the orders of the president, which means, as a practical matter, that their oath is one of fealty to the president, not to the Constitution.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott pull from segregationists’ playbook with their anti-immigration stunts

  As a historian of racism and white supremacy in the United States, I’ve become accustomed to callous actions like those of Republican governors who organized transportation for Latin American migrants to states run by their political opponents.

  Governors Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida are following the playbook of segregationists who provided one-way bus tickets to Northern cities for Black Southerners in the 1960s. At that time, the fight for racial equality was attracting national attention and support from many white Americans, inspiring some to join interracial Freedom Rides organized by civil rights groups to challenge segregation on interstate bus lines.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Free preventive care under the ACA is under threat again – a ruling exempting PrEP from insurance coverage may extend nationwide and to other health services

  Many Americans breathed a sigh of relief when the Supreme Court left the Affordable Care Act in place following the law’s 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, is under legal threat again by Braidwood Management v. Becerra – originally Kelley v. Becerra. The Braidwood plaintiffs are a mix of individuals and business owners who object to purchasing insurance that covers preexposure prophylaxis – or PrEP – a medicine that is almost 100% effective in preventing HIV infection. One of the plaintiffs claimed that PrEP “facilitates and encourages homosexual behavior, intravenous drug use, and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman” and that his religious beliefs prevent him from providing insurance that covers PrEP.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Building something better: How community organizing helps people thrive in challenging times

  Americans don’t agree on much these days, but many feel that the U.S. is on the wrong track and the future is bleak. In a time of unprecedented division, rising inequality, and intensifying climate change, it’s easy to feel that progress is impossible.

  In fact, models exist all around us for building safer and more equitable spaces where people can thrive.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Banned Books Week: Defending our freedom to read

  “I cannot live without books.” — Thomas Jefferson.

  Of all Jefferson’s inspiring and thought-provoking quotes, this one is among my favorites. As the First Amendment Center’s librarian, I have a special affinity for books, and as someone academically trained as a historian, I have an appreciation for the Founding Fathers and for the important words they left behind.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Supreme Court to revisit LGBT rights – this time with a wedding website designer, not a baker

  A simmering, difficult, and timely question returns to the Supreme Court this fall: What happens when freedom of speech and civil rights collide?

  The court took up similar questions four years ago in the famous “gay wedding cake” case, Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, about a baker who refused to provide services for a same-sex couple based on his religious beliefs. The justices ruled in his favor, but did so on narrow grounds, sidestepping the direct constitutional questions over freedom of religion and free speech.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Heat waves + air pollution can be a deadly combination: The health risk together is worse than either alone

  On the morning news, you see the weather forecast is for high heat, and there is an “excessive heat watch” for later in the week. You were hoping the weather would cool down, but yet another heat wave is threatening human health and increasing the chance of wildfires. On top of these warm days and nights, air quality data has been showing unhealthy levels of pollution.

  Sound familiar? This scenario is increasingly the new normal in many parts of the world.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Intense heat waves and flooding are battering electricity and water systems, as America’s aging infrastructure sags under the pressure of climate change

  The 1960s and 1970s were a golden age of infrastructure development in the U.S., with the expansion of the interstate system and widespread construction of new water treatment, wastewater, and flood control systems reflecting national priorities in public health and national defense. But infrastructure requires maintenance, and, eventually, it has to be replaced.

  That hasn’t been happening in many parts of the country. Increasingly, extreme heat and storms are putting roads, bridges, water systems, and other infrastructure under stress.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Fears of a polio resurgence in the US have health officials on high alert – a virologist explains the history of this dreaded disease

  Fears of polio gripped the U.S. in the mid-20th century. Parents were afraid to send their children to birthday parties, public pools, or any place where children mingled. Children in wheelchairs served as a stark reminder of the ravages of the disease.

  To prevent polio outbreaks, government officials used tactics now familiar in the era of COVID-19: They closed public spaces and shut down restaurants, pools, and other gathering places.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

The most cost-effective energy efficiency investments you can make – and how the new Inflation Reduction Act could help

  Energy efficiency can save homeowners and renters hundreds of dollars a year, and the new Inflation Reduction Act includes a wealth of home improvement rebates and tax incentives to help Americans secure those savings.

  It extends tax credits for installing energy-efficient windows, doors, insulation, water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, or heat pumps, as well as for home energy audits. It also offers rebates for low- and moderate-income households’ efficiency improvements, up to US$14,000 per home.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Alabama is a big front porch

  James E. “Big Jim” Folsom was one of our few two-term governors. In the old days, governors could not succeed themselves. Therefore, Big Jim was governor from 1946 to1950. He waited out four years and came back and won a second term in 1954, and he stayed through 1958.

  Big Jim was still a young man when he was first elected in 1948. He and his wife, Jamelle, had their firstborn child, James E. Folsom, Jr., in 1949 while Big Jim was governor. Therefore, Jim Folsom, Jr., who some folks refer to as “Little Jim,” was literally born in the governor’s mansion.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Moving beyond 9/11

  I’ve become increasingly ambivalent about the way we commemorate the dark days and months that began on September 11th, 2001.

  Each year, the memories and all the feelings they evoke are less vivid. Thus, the news articles, commentaries, and TV specials about the 9/11 attacks serve as important reminders, not only of the immeasurable loss of life and the permanent degradation of our sense of security, but of the lessons we should have learned from the events and its aftermath.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Parenting styles vary across the United States

  Most people agree that children should have enough to eat, not be sexually molested, and never be punished in a way that requires medical treatment. But beyond those basics, my research has found that parenting styles in the United States vary by region.

Friday, September 9, 2022

In 1953, ‘Queen-crazy’ American women looked to Elizabeth II as a source of inspiration – that sentiment never faded

  In the spring of 1953, women from across the United States traveled to Britain – for many, it was their first time abroad.

  The impetus for the trip was Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, held in Westminster Abbey on a rainy June 2nd of that year. Among those making the journey were Peggy Webber, who traveled all the way from Iowa, and Geneva Valentine from Washington, D.C. For both women, whom I learned of while researching the monarchy and gender, the coronation provided an unprecedented opportunity to be part of a momentous occasion in which a woman was at the center of the story.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Workhorses, not show horses: Five ways to promote effective lawmaking in Congress

  Americans dislike Congress, especially when it fails to act on pressing problems. They are then surprised by legislative accomplishments on climate change, gun control, and maintaining competitiveness with China.

  But Congress does much more on a daily basis than deal – or fail to deal – with high-profile issues.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

What are green jobs and how can I get one? 5 questions answered about clean energy careers

  When President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, he called it the “largest investment ever” to fight climate change. He also said it would lead to the creation of well-paying union jobs to help “reduce emissions across every sector of our economy.” These jobs are also known as “clean energy jobs,” and the number of these jobs is expected to increase in the coming years as a result of the act’s US$369 billion investment in energy security and climate change.

  Here, Shaun Dougherty, an expert in career and technical education, answers five questions about clean energy jobs, their expected growth, and what kind of education a person needs to get one.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

One way to change your life – change your expectations

  Einstein said it’s a form of insanity to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result. So, if you want something different, do something different, or change your expectations, or both.

  In my own life, I’ve found that adjusting my expectations has made a big difference in my ability to enjoy my life.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Why celebrate Labor Day?

  Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor, summed up this holiday's importance with these words: "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day... is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Low vaccine booster rates are now a key factor in COVID-19 deaths – and racial disparities in booster rates persist

  More than 450 people are dying of COVID-19 in the U.S. each day as of late August 2022.

  When COVID-19 vaccines first became available, public officials, community organizations, and policymakers mobilized to get shots into arms. These efforts included significant investments in making vaccines accessible to Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native populations. These groups experienced exceptionally high COVID-19 death rates early in the pandemic and had low initial vaccine rates.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

FTC lawsuit spotlights a major privacy risk: From call records to sensors, your phone reveals more about you than you think

  The Federal Trade Commission filed suit against Kochava Inc. on Aug. 29, 2022, accusing the data broker of selling geolocation data from hundreds of millions of mobile devices. Consumers are often unaware that their location data is being sold and that their past movements can be tracked, according to the commission.

  The FTC’s suit specified that Kochava’s data can be used to track consumers to sensitive locations, including “to identify which consumers’ mobile devices visited reproductive health clinics.”

Friday, September 2, 2022

Why virtue signaling isn’t the same as virtue – it actually furthers the partisan divide

  In a speech on July 23, 2022, before the Conservative Political Action Committee, or CPAC, Sen. Ted Cruz introduced himself to the audience with the words, “My name is Ted Cruz and my pronoun is kiss my ass.”

  In 2019, the Vermont College of Fine Arts appealed to a different group. They replaced the term alumni – which is derived from the Latin masculine plural but traditionally used to refer to all graduates of the school – with alumnx. In its statement, the college said that dropping the traditional term “alumni” was “a clear step toward exercising more intentional language, which we strive to implement in all aspects of college life.”

Thursday, September 1, 2022

4 reasons why abortion laws often clash with the majority’s preferences in the US, from constitutional design to low voter turnout

  Kansas voters opted against overturning a state constitutional right to an abortion on Aug. 2, 2022. A few days later, Indiana lawmakers banned nearly all abortions.

  Both are conservative-leaning states that supported President Donald Trump’s reelection bid by near-identical margins in 2020 - 56.1% to 41.5% in Kansas and 57% to 41% in Indiana. So what explains the different outcomes?

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Student loan forgiveness – experts on banking, public spending and education policy look at the impact of Biden’s plan

  President Joe Biden announced a program to provide student debt relief to millions of borrowers of federal loans. The plan would offer up to US$10,000 in forgiveness for people who earn less than $125,000 – $250,000 for couples – and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. Biden also extended the pause on repaying federal student loan debt through Dec. 31, 2022, and has proposed a cap on income that can be used to calculate how much borrowers repay through income-driven repayment.

  We asked three experts to explain the decision and its impact.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Bold tax reform should be at the top of Alabama lawmakers’ agenda

  “Alabama budgets are in great shape.” That was the message recently from the Alabama Legislative Services Agency’s deputy director Kirk Fulford to a joint meeting of the legislative budget committees in Montgomery. 

  If you are in favor of growing Alabama’s state government to new heights, then I suppose that is true.

Monday, August 29, 2022

New restrictions on abortion care will have psychological harms – here’s what research shows will happen in post-Roe America

  “I’m struggling a bit this morning,” a client of mine stated at the start of our session the morning of June 24, 2022. “I just heard on the news about the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. There was so much for me to process I had to turn it off.”

  While this client did not have personal experience with elective abortion, she had a complicated reproductive history that included a recent pregnancy in which she was unsure if the baby would survive. In our session that day, she recognized how privileged she was to have had a medical team that communicated with her about all available options and potential outcomes for her and the baby. Most importantly, she acknowledged the significance of having a say in the decisions about her reproductive care.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

If you thought this summer’s heat waves were bad, a new study has some disturbing news

  As global temperatures rise, people in the tropics, including places like India and Africa’s Sahel region, will likely face dangerously hot conditions almost daily by the end of the century – even as the world reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, a new study shows.

  The mid-latitudes, including the U.S., Europe and China, will also face increasing risks. There, the number of dangerously hot days, marked by temperatures and humidity high enough to cause heat exhaustion, is projected to double by the 2050s and continue to increase.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Conviction of two Michigan kidnap plotters highlights danger of violent conspiracies to US democracy

  Two of the six men facing federal charges in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020 were found guilty by a federal jury on Aug. 23, 2022.

  The verdict in the trial of co-defendants Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. comes after a previous trial ended in acquittals for two other co-defendants, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta, and mistrials for Fox and Croft. Their two other alleged accomplices, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the prosecutions against the others.

Friday, August 26, 2022

The wrongness of letting government tell us to ‘shut up – or else’

  There may be no worse assault on our freedom of speech than a law that would permit the government to tell us to “shut up” when it comes to discussion and debate on a major social issue of our time – and to punish us if we don’t.

  Freedom of speech under the First Amendment is rooted in the concept of a “marketplace of ideas,” where information and robust, uninhibited exchanges are protected to ensure all can speak and be heard.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Rules about trust

  I’ve talked about it lots of times before: The high cost of lying and deception — by politicians and police, corporate executives and clergy, even journalists, accountants, and educators — has been to weaken every major social institution.

  As each of these institutions wages its separate battle to remove the cloud of suspicion and cynicism that hovers over it, there are certain truths about trust that must be understood and dealt with.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Alabama commission dissolves judicial seat won by Black woman

  The rain was coming down in sheets the day Tiara Young Hudson won the Democratic primary for circuit court judge in the Alabama county she has long served as a public defender. Voters were undeterred.

  When the ballots were counted in Jefferson County, the most populous and most diverse in the state, they showed that more than 31,000 people had braved the storm to vote in the primary on that day in May. Fifty-four percent of them chose Hudson.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Advanced Placement courses could clash with laws that target critical race theory

  Scientific theories to justify racism. Laws and Supreme Court decisions that denied Black people equal rights. The imperialist view that Anglo-Saxons were called upon by God to civilize the “savages” of the world.

  These topics might all sound like material from a course on systemic racism or critical race theory, which includes the idea that racism is embedded in America’s legal systems and policies.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Will the Inflation Reduction Act actually reduce inflation? How will the corporate minimum tax work? An economist has answers

  The U.S. is about to spend US$490 billion over 10 years on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving health care, and reducing the federal deficit. Where’s all that money coming from?

  We asked University of Michigan economist Nirupama Rao to examine how the new law will raise enough revenue to pay for clean energy tax credits, Affordable Care Act subsidies, and incentives for manufacturers to use cleaner technologies, among other initiatives. We also wanted to know, given its name, will the Inflation Reduction Act actually bring down inflation?

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Big new incentives for clean energy aren’t enough – the Inflation Reduction Act was just the first step, now the hard work begins

  The new Inflation Reduction Act is stuffed with subsidies for everything from electric vehicles to heat pumps and incentives for just about every form of clean energy. But pouring money into technology is just one step toward solving the climate change problem.

  Wind and solar farms won’t be built without enough power lines to connect their electricity to customers. Captured carbon and clean hydrogen won’t get far without pipelines. Too few contractors are trained to install heat pumps. And EV buyers will think twice if there aren’t enough charging stations.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

College students are increasingly identifying beyond ‘she’ and ‘he’

  When students today fill out their college applications, they are not just identifying as “she” or “he.” More than 3% of incoming college students use a different set of pronouns. That’s according to my analysis of the more than 1.2 million applications submitted for the 2022-23 school year through the Common App, an online application platform used by more than 900 colleges.

  While 3% may not seem like a lot, it represents nearly 37,000 students. It is also indicative of a growing number of young people who identify outside of a gender binary – that is, they do not identify as female or male. For example, the percentage of college students who indicated that they are nonbinary on one national survey has nearly tripled from 1.4% in 2016 to 4.1% in 2021.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Next US energy boom could be wind power in the Gulf of Mexico

  With passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which contains US$370 billion for climate and energy programs, policy experts are forecasting a big expansion in clean electricity generation. One source that’s poised for growth is offshore wind power.

  Today the U.S. has just two operating offshore wind farms, off of Rhode Island and North Carolina, with a combined generating capacity of 42 megawatts. For comparison, the new Traverse Wind Energy Center in Oklahoma has 356 turbines and a 998-megawatt generating capacity. But many more projects are in development, mostly along the Atlantic coast.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

You don’t have to be a spy to violate the Espionage Act – and other crucial facts about the law Trump may have broken

  The federal court-authorized search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate has brought renewed attention to the obscure but infamous law known as the Espionage Act of 1917. A section of the law was listed as one of three potential violations under Justice Department investigation.

  The Espionage Act has historically been employed most often by law-and-order conservatives. But the biggest uptick in its use occurred during the Obama administration, which used it as the hammer of choice for national security leakers and whistleblowers. Regardless of whom it is used to prosecute, it unfailingly prompts consternation and outrage.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Faced with a rise of extremism within its ranks, the US military has clamped down on racist speech, including retweets and likes

  Less than a month after the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin took the extraordinary step of pausing all operations for 24 hours to “address extremism in the ranks.” Pentagon officials had been shaken by service members’ prominent role in the events of Jan. 6.

  Of the 884 criminal defendants charged to date with taking part in the insurrection, more than 80 were veterans. That’s almost 10% of those charged.

Monday, August 15, 2022

After Trump, Christian nationalist ideas are going mainstream – despite a history of violence

  In the run-up to the U.S. midterm elections, some politicians continue to ride the wave of what’s known as “Christian nationalism” in ways that are increasingly vocal and direct.

  GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Donald Trump loyalist from Georgia, told an interviewer on July 23, 2022 that the Republican Party “need[s] to be the party of nationalism. And I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Social media provides flood of images of death and carnage from Ukraine war – and contributes to weaker journalism standards

  Photos of civilians killed or injured in the Russia-Ukraine war are widespread, particularly online, both on social media and in professional news media.

  Editors have always published images of dead or suffering people during times of crisis, like wars and natural disasters. But the current crisis has delivered many more of these images, more widely published online, than ever before.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Pushing ‘closure’ after trauma can be harmful to people grieving – here’s what you can do instead

  From the breakup of a relationship to losing a loved one, people are often told to find “closure” after traumatic things happen.

  But what is closure? And should it really be the goal for individuals seeking relief or healing, even in these traumatic times of global pandemic, war in Ukraine, and mass shootings in the U.S.?

  Closure is an elusive concept. There is no agreed-upon definition for what closure means or how one is supposed to find it. Although there are numerous interpretations of closure, it usually relates to some type of ending to a difficult experience.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Why food insecurity among Gen Z is so much higher than for other age groups

  Adult members of Generation Z are experiencing food insecurity at over twice the rate of the average American, according to our latest consumer food survey. In fact, about 1 in 3 Americans born from 1996-2004 have had trouble affording enough food in 2022.

  That compares with fewer than 1 in 5 millennials and members of Generation X, and fewer than 1 in 10 baby boomers.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

More than 1 in 5 US adults don’t want children

   Fears about declining fertility rates have come from sources as diverse as Pope Francis and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson could force women to give birth against their wishes, while a recent British editorial even proposed a tax on people without children.

  Media outlets regularly point out that more Americans are having fewer children or forgoing parenthood altogether.

  But how many Americans want to have kids and can’t? Or are still planning to be parents down the road? How many are consciously making the choice to never have kids?

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Listening: A vital dimension of respect

  We demonstrate the virtue of respect for others by being courteous and civil and treating everyone in a manner that acknowledges and honors basic human dignity.

  An important but often neglected aspect of respect is listening to what others say. Respectful listening is more than hearing. It requires us to consider what’s being said. That’s hard when we’ve heard it before, aren’t interested, or don’t think much of the person talking. It’s even worse when we act like we’re listening but are just waiting for our turn to speak.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Fueled by virtually unrestricted social media access, white nationalism is on the rise and attracting violent young white men

  White nationalists keep showing up in the hearings of the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

  Evidence is mounting that white nationalist groups who want to establish an all-white state played a significant role in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five dead and dozens wounded.

  Thus far, the hearings “have documented how the Proud Boys helped lead the insurrectionist mob into the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C,” journalist James Risen wrote in the Intercept.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Confidence in the Supreme Court is declining – but there is no easy way to oversee justices and their politics

  Recent evidence showing that Virginia Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent at least 29 text messages to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows urging him to help overturn the 2020 election has reignited a long-simmering debate about judicial ethics and the nation’s highest court.

  Fair and impartial judges are essential to the health and legitimacy of the judicial system and are a critical component of the system of government established in the U.S. Constitution.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Alabama Department of Labor overpaid unemployment recipients by more than $164 million in 2020-21

  According to recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Alabama overpaid unemployment compensation benefit recipients by more than $164 million in 2020 and 2021. Now the Alabama Department of Labor wants some of that money back, sending bills, sometimes as high as $20,000, to citizens. Governor Kay Ivey disagrees, implying that the state should absorb the loss and move on. 

  Regardless of what you think should be done in this case, shouldn’t we expect better stewardship of our taxpayer dollars?

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Nature is the world’s original pharmacy – returning to medicine’s roots could help fill drug discovery gaps

  While humans evolved over a period of approximately 6 million years, breakthroughs in modern medicine as we know it today got going only in the 19th and 20th centuries. So how did humans successfully survive through millions of years of diseases and illnesses without modern drugs and treatments?

  This was a question I came to wonder about when the COVID-19 pandemic reached my family in India in April 2020, when there was very limited access to vaccines and treatments. All of my years working as a biomedical scientist, requiring empirical evidence and formal safety testing before using a treatment, took a back seat as I scrambled for potential therapies from any sources I could find, be it scientific papers or folklore. I was ready to try any experimental or traditional medicine that might have a chance at helping my dad.

Friday, August 5, 2022

3 reasons US coal power is disappearing – and a Supreme Court ruling won’t save it

  The U.S. coal industry chalked up a couple of rare wins this summer. First the Supreme Court issued a ruling limiting the government’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Then President Joe Biden’s climate plan stalled in Congress again.

  But while some specific threats to the industry have subsided, that doesn’t mean coal-fired power plants will make a comeback.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Feeling connected enhances mental and physical health – here are 4 research-backed ways to find moments of connection with loved ones and strangers

  A woman and her fiancé joke and laugh together while playing video games after a long day.

  A college freshman interrupts verbal harassment aimed at a neighbor, who expresses gratitude as they walk home together.

  A man receives a phone call to confirm an appointment and stumbles into a deep and personal conversation about racism in America with the stranger on the other end of the line.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Most Americans today are choosing cremation – here’s why burials are becoming less common

  The National Funeral Directors Association has predicted that by 2035, nearly 80% of Americans will opt for cremation.

  When the first U.S. indoor cremation machine was opened in 1876 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the creator and operator, Francis LeMoyne, was severely criticized by the Catholic Church. The new method of disposal was viewed as dangerous because it threatened traditional religious burial and society’s sense of morality and dignity.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Court OKs coach's on-field prayer, shifting balance for religious expression

  In its decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton, the Supreme Court strengthened First Amendment protection for religious speech by government officials.


The Case

  Public high school football coach Joseph Kennedy filed a lawsuit alleging his rights to free speech and freedom of religion were violated when he was fired for praying at the 50-yard line after each game.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Self-control

  A frazzled mother with a fussy child caught the eye of a grocery store manager. He overheard her say, “Lily, you can do this. We just have to get a few things.”

  Moments later, when the child became more upset, the mother said calmly, “It’s okay, Lily. We’re almost done.”

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Surveillance is pervasive: Yes, you are being watched, even if no one is looking for you

  The U.S. has the largest number of surveillance cameras per person in the world. Cameras are omnipresent on city streets and in hotels, restaurants, malls, and offices. They’re also used to screen passengers for the Transportation Security Administration. And then there are smart doorbells and other home security cameras.

  Most Americans are aware of video surveillance of public spaces. Likewise, most people know about online tracking – and want Congress to do something about it. But as a researcher who studies digital culture and secret communications, I believe that to understand how pervasive surveillance is, it’s important to recognize how physical and digital tracking work together.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Food expiration dates don’t have much science behind them – a food safety researcher explains another way to know what’s too old to eat

  Florida’s outbreak of listeria has so far led to at least one death, 22 hospitalizations, and an ice cream recall since January. Humans get sick with listeria infections, or listeriosis, from eating soil-contaminated food, undercooked meat or dairy products that are raw, or unpasteurized. Listeria can cause convulsions, coma, miscarriage, and birth defects. And it’s the third leading cause of food poisoning deaths in the U.S.

  Avoiding unseen food hazards is the reason people often check the dates on food packaging. And printed with the month and year is often one of a dizzying array of phrases: “best by,” “use by,” “best if used before,” “best if used by,” “guaranteed fresh until,” “freeze by” and even a “born on” label applied to some beer.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Understanding why people reject science could lead to solutions for rebuilding trust

  Rejection of science is a huge problem, with many people refusing to get vaccines and denying the existence of climate change.

  Why are so many people anti-science? As experts on attitudes, persuasion, and how humans are impacted by scientific innovations, our recent research showed that there are four key reasons people reject scientific information.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

What the Bible actually says about abortion may surprise you

  In the days since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had established the constitutional right to an abortion, some Christians have cited the Bible to argue why this decision should either be celebrated or lamented. But here’s the problem: This 2,000-year-old text says nothing about abortion.

  As a university professor of biblical studies, I am familiar with faith-based arguments Christians use to back up views of abortion, whether for or against. Many people seem to assume the Bible discusses the topic head-on, which is not the case.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Religious liberty has a long and messy history – and there is a reason Americans feel strongly about it

  At the close of its recent term the Supreme Court ruled on the cases of Carson v. Makin and Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, rekindling controversy over one of the most enduring issues in American history: religious liberty. Another of this term’s blockbuster decisions, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, underlines the fact that religious beliefs and actions in the public realm matter. Whether the issue concerns religion and education, prayer, or reproduction, Americans feel strongly about their religious liberties.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

5 ways to deal with burnout at work

  Work has become an around-the-clock activity, courtesy of the pandemic and technology that makes us reachable anytime, anywhere. Throw in expectations to deliver fast and create faster and it becomes hard to take a step back.

  Not surprisingly, many of us are feeling burned out. Burnout — which often affects women more than men — happens everywhere. Particularly challenged during the pandemic, however, are teachers and healthcare workers.

  So we know burnout happens and that a lot of us are experiencing it, but how can we get out of it?

Monday, July 25, 2022

What really drives anti-abortion beliefs? Research suggests it’s a matter of sexual strategies

  Many people have strong opinions about abortion – especially in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking a constitutional right previously held by more than 165 million Americans.

  But what really drives people’s abortion attitudes?

  It’s common to hear religious, political, and other ideologically driven explanations – for example, about the sanctity of life. If such beliefs were really driving anti-abortion attitudes, though, then people who oppose abortion might not support the death penalty (many do), and they would support social safety net measures that could save newborns’ lives (many don’t).

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Swelling grocery bills are pummeling the poorest – who spend over a quarter of their incomes on food

  The cost of eggs and bread is soaring – a trend that’s particularly punishing for the poorest Americans.

  Average food prices climbed an annualized rate of 10.4% in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on July 13, 2022. The gains were driven primarily by the cost of groceries, which jumped the most since the 1970s, by 12.2%. Overall inflation was up 9.1% from a year earlier.

  These sharp increases have startled consumers, in large part because food costs had been rising moderately for decades.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Is monkeypox a pandemic? An epidemiologist explains why it isn’t likely to become as widespread as COVID-19, but is worth watching

  Monkeypox is the latest global public health threat to make headlines. Most people who contract the monkeypox virus experience flu-like symptoms and a blistery rash that lasts two to four weeks, but a small percentage of infected people develop sepsis or other severe and potentially fatal complications.

  It is not uncommon for there to be small outbreaks of monkeypox in Central and West Africa, but in the last few weeks, dozens of countries from other world regions have reported thousands of cases of monkeypox.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Perspectives: Court sets new rules for funding religious schools

  The Supreme Court, in striking down a unique tuition assistance program in Maine, could foreshadow the future of religious freedom under the First Amendment.


The Case

  The very rural state of Maine is not able to provide a local public secondary school in every school district. To fill the gaps, it allows parents to designate a secondary school for their children to attend and, if a private school is chosen, the school district will pay the cost of the student’s tuition.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

More young voters could come out to vote in November, sparked by abortion and other hot political issues

  The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion has far-reaching personal and political implications and may help decide the midterm elections in November 2022.

  That influence extends to young people’s election participation. People ages 18 to 29 have historically been less likely to vote than older adults. But in recent years, they have been spurred to organize and vote by major national controversies, like school shootings and police violence against Black people.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

To search for alien life, astronomers will look for clues in the atmospheres of distant planets – and the James Webb Space Telescope just proved it’s possible to do so

  The ingredients for life are spread throughout the universe. While Earth is the only known place in the universe with life, detecting life beyond Earth is a major goal of modern astronomy and planetary science.

  We are two scientists who study exoplanets and astrobiology. Thanks in large part to next-generation telescopes like James Webb, researchers like us will soon be able to measure the chemical makeup of atmospheres of planets around other stars. The hope is that one or more of these planets will have a chemical signature of life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

US abortion restrictions are unlikely to influence international trends, which are largely becoming more liberal

  The Supreme Court’s June 24, 2022 ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade is already having profound effects across the United States from Florida to Wisconsin. And the ruling also bucks a clear worldwide trend. In countries from Iceland to Zambia, abortion restrictions have been lifted over the last two decades, not tightened.

  Today, only 24 countries out of 195 prohibit abortion, representing just 5% of women of reproductive age globally. Twice that many countries have made it easier to legally get an abortion in the past 20 years.

Monday, July 18, 2022

How hot is too hot for the human body? Our lab found heat + humidity gets dangerous faster than many people realize

  Heat waves are becoming supercharged as the climate changes – lasting longer, becoming more frequent, and getting just plain hotter. One question a lot of people are asking is: “When will it get too hot for normal daily activity as we know it, even for young, healthy adults?”

  The answer goes beyond the temperature you see on the thermometer. It’s also about humidity. Our research shows the combination of the two can get dangerous faster than scientists previously believed.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Militant white identity politics on full display in GOP political ads featuring high-powered weapons

  Republican Eric Greitens, a candidate for Missouri’s open U.S. Senate seat, shocked viewers with a new online political ad in June 2022 that encouraged his supporters to go “RINO hunting.”

  Appearing with a shotgun and a smirk, Greitens leads the hunt for RINOs, shorthand for the derisive “Republicans In Name Only.” Along with armed soldiers, Greitens is storming a house under the cover of a smoke grenade.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Climate change is putting food safety at risk more often, and not just at picnics and parties

  Every year, almost 1 in 6 Americans gets a foodborne illness, and about 3,000 people die from it, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. Picnics and parties where food sits out for hours are a common source, but heat waves and power outages are another silently growing threat.

  As global temperatures rise, the risk of foods going bad during blackouts in homes or stores or during transit in hot weather rises with them. Elena Naumova, an epidemiologist and data scientist at Tufts University, explains the risk and what you need to know to stay safe.

Friday, July 15, 2022

It's not easy

  Let’s be honest. Ethics is not for wimps.

  It’s not easy being a good person.

  It’s not easy to be honest when it might be costly, to play fair when others cheat, or to keep inconvenient promises.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Poll reveals white Americans see an increase in discrimination against other white people and less against other racial groups

  Despite largely holding the political, economic, and social levers of power, nearly a third of white Americans say they have seen “a lot more” discrimination against white people in the past five years – and more than half of them say they have not seen a rise in discrimination against Black and Latino Americans.

  A May 2022 University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll further found that a majority of white Americans do not believe that there has been a rise in discrimination against minority groups.

  In stark contrast, the poll found a large majority of Black Americans believe they have been on the receiving end of discrimination.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Climate change is making flooding worse: 3 reasons the world is seeing more record-breaking deluges

  Heavy rain combined with melting snow can be a destructive combination.

  In mid-June 2022, storms dumped up to 5 inches of rain over three days in the mountains in and around Yellowstone National Park, rapidly melting snowpack. As the rain and meltwater poured into creeks and then rivers, it became a flood that damaged roads, cabins, and utilities and forced more than 10,000 people to evacuate.

  The Yellowstone River shattered its previous record and reached its highest water levels recorded since monitoring began almost 100 years ago.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Supreme Court has curtailed EPA’s power to regulate carbon pollution – and sent a warning to other regulators

  In a highly anticipated but not unexpected 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on June 30, 2022 that the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

  The ruling doesn’t take away the EPA’s power to regulate carbon emissions from power plants, but it makes federal action harder by requiring the agency to show that Congress has charged it to act – in an area where Congress has consistently failed to act.

Monday, July 11, 2022

How much for an amputation or checkup? It takes a complex formula and a committee of doctors to set the price for every possible health care procedure

  Modern medicine is remarkable.

  Conditions like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C were once virtual death sentences. Both can now be treated easily and effectively.

  But for Americans, the wonders of modern medicine come at a steep cost: Total U.S. health spending exceeded US$4.1 trillion in 2020, or $12,000 per person. How those trillions of dollars are spent can seem like a mystery.

  The biggest portion of that – hospital care, which makes up 31% of total spending – is now subject to transparency rules that are supposed to make it easier for patients to understand what their treatments cost. But so far hospitals’ compliance has been minimal.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Buying into conspiracy theories can be exciting – that’s what makes them dangerous

  Conspiracy theories have been around for centuries, from witch trials and antisemitic campaigns to beliefs that Freemasons were trying to topple European monarchies. In the mid-20th century, historian Richard Hofstadter described a “paranoid style” that he observed in right-wing U.S. politics and culture: a blend of “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.”

  But the “golden age” of conspiracy theories, it seems, is now. On June 24, 2022, the unknown leader of the QAnon conspiracy theory posted online for the first time in over a year. QAnon’s enthusiasts tend to be ardent supporters of Donald Trump, who made conspiracy theories a signature feature of his political brand, from Pizzagate and QAnon to “Stop the Steal” and the racist “birther” movement. Key themes in conspiracy theories – like a sinister network of “pedophiles” and “groomers,” shadowy “bankers” and “globalists” – have moved into the mainstream of right-wing talking points.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

‘For Cruelty’s Sake’: State of Alabama diverts $400 million in COVID funds to build prisons, leaving many in dire straits

  Jenny Eisenberg is an unemployed writer – but not by choice. The market she writes for has “dried up,” and her husband, who holds a doctorate in literature, also cannot find work due to a saturation of academics pursuing few opportunities. Their financial situation is “not the best,” and providing for a family of six has led them to live off food stamps.

  At the same time, states across the country are using their share of the $350 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to support families and businesses struggling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, to maintain vital services, and to invest in communities.

  But in Alabama, rather than focusing on poverty, education equity, or affordable housing, the Alabama Legislature directed $400 million of its $2.2 billion in COVID relief to help fund the construction of three new mega-prisons, further embracing a failed system of mass incarceration that for generations has disproportionately harmed communities of color and people living in poverty.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Your body has an internal clock that dictates when you eat, sleep and might have a heart attack – all based on time of day

  Anyone who has suffered from jet lag or struggled after turning the clock forward or back an hour for daylight saving time knows all about what researchers call your biological clock, or circadian rhythm – the “master pacemaker” that synchronizes how your body responds to the passing of one day to the next.

  This “clock” is made up of about 20,000 neurons in the hypothalamus, the area near the center of the brain that coordinates your body’s unconscious functions, like breathing and blood pressure. Humans aren’t the only beings that have an internal clock system: All vertebrates – or mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish – have biological clocks, as do plants, fungi, and bacteria. Biological clocks are why cats are most active at dawn and dusk, and why flowers bloom at certain times of day.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Bill Baxley

  The 1970 Alabama governor’s race between George Wallace and Albert Brewer overshadowed every other political race in the state that year. However, one of Alabama’s legendary political figures burst onto the scene in 1970 when Bill Baxley was elected Attorney General of Alabama. The attorney general’s race was below the radar screen of the titanic war waged by Brewer and Wallace.

  Bill Baxley’s victory was a major upset. Baxley was a 28-year-old district attorney from the Wiregrass. He beat a veteran attorney general - MacDonald Gallion - in a close race. Baxley became the youngest attorney general in the nation when he was sworn in at the January inauguration. He had just turned 29. His historic rise at such a young age made him fodder for national publications like Time Magazine, which featured him as one of the brightest rising stars in the nation. His brilliance gave new meaning to the word prodigy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Was there anything real about Elvis Presley?

  In Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” there’s a scene based on actual conversations that took place between Elvis Presley and Steve Binder, the director of a 1968 NBC television special that signaled the singer’s return to live performing.

  Binder, an iconoclast unimpressed by Presley’s recent work, had pushed Elvis to reach back into his past to revitalize a career stalled by years of mediocre movies and soundtrack albums. According to the director, their exchanges left the performer engrossed in deep soul-searching.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

American gun culture is based on frontier mythology – but ignores how common gun restrictions were in the Old West

  In the wake of the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings, 70% of Republicans said it is more important to protect gun rights than to control gun violence, while 92% of Democrats and 54% of independents expressed the opposite view. Just weeks after those mass shootings, Republicans and gun rights advocates hailed the Supreme Court ruling that invalidated New York state’s gun permit law and declared that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to carry a handgun outside the home for self-defense.

  Mayor Eric Adams, expressing his opposition to the ruling, suggested that the court’s decision would turn New York City into the “Wild West.” Contrary to the imagery of the Wild West, however, many towns in the real Old West had restrictions on the carrying of guns that were, I would suggest, stricter than the one just invalidated by the Supreme Court.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Celebrating moral courage on Independence Day

  We call this patriotic holiday Independence Day, the Birthday of America, or simply the 4th of July. It celebrates a political act by 56 men who literally risked their lives and fortunes and pledged their sacred honor in issuing one of the greatest documents in human history: The Declaration of Independence.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

5 drawbacks to following your passion

  After earning bachelor’s degrees in engineering and sociology, I was determined to do what I love. I headed straight to graduate school to investigate the social problems that frightened and fascinated me.

  For almost a decade, I told everyone I encountered – students, cousins, baristas at the coffee shop I frequented – that they should do the same. “Follow your passion,” I counseled. “You can figure out the employment stuff later.”

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Only about 1 in 5 engineering degrees go to women

  Despite various efforts to encourage more women to study STEM fields in college, the percentage of engineering bachelor’s degrees earned by women in the United States hasn’t increased much in the 21st century. Specifically, it has risen from 18% in 1998 to 22% in 2018.

  Of all the fields in STEM – or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – the engineering workforce has the lowest proportion of women, at 14%.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as Supreme Court justice

  Shortly after noon on June 30, 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson took the judicial oath and officially became a Supreme Court Justice of the United States – the first Black woman to sit on the bench.

  The elevation of Jackson to the Supreme Court will not change the ideological setup of the bench – which will continue to be split 6-3 in favor of conservative justices.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

What’s a bear market? An economist explains

   A 16th-century proverb advises: “It’s unwise to sell a bear’s skin before catching it.”

  That’s one of the stories used to explain why, in modern times, Wall Street types call someone who sells a stock expecting its price to drop a “bear.” It follows that a market in which securities or commodities are persistently declining in value is known as a “bear market,” like the one U.S. stocks are experiencing now.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

State funds for students at religious schools? Supreme Court says ‘yes’ in Maine case – but consequences could go beyond

  For nearly three-quarters of a century, one issue in education has come up before the Supreme Court more than any other: disputes over religion.

  Carson v. Makin, a case about Maine’s tuition assistance program for students in districts without high schools of their own, continues the pattern – with potential consequences for schools, families, and courts across the country.

  On June 21, 2022, the court ruled that parents in rural districts lacking public high schools, but who receive state aid to send their children to private schools instead, can use that money for tuition at schools with faith-based curricula. In a 6-3 order, the court held that Maine’s requirement that tuition assistance payments be used at “nonsectarian” schools violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment because parents could not send their children to the schools of their choice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Authentic apologies

  “I’m sorry.”

  These are powerful words. Authentic apologies can work like a healing ointment on old wounds, dissolve bitter grudges, and repair damaged relationships. They encourage both parties to let go of toxic emotions like anger and guilt and provide a fresh foundation of mutual respect.

  But authentic apologies involve much more than words expressing sorrow; they require accountability, remorse, and repentance.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Here’s how to meet Biden’s 2030 climate goals and dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions – with today’s technology

  Unprecedented forest fires in the drought-stricken western United States. Tropical storms and rising seas threatening the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Sizzling heat across large swaths of the country. As climate change unfolds before our eyes, what can the U.S. do to sharply and rapidly reduce its share of the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing it?

  The Biden administration has committed to reduce those emissions 50% by 2030 below 2005 levels. That’s a critical first step of a global energy transition that must achieve net-zero emissions by midcentury to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F) and thereby avert the worst impacts of climate change.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Virginia Military Institute’s culture is forced to change — but how much?

  Graduates of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) include some of the United States’ most illustrious leaders in government, business, education, and professional sports – Nobel Prize laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners among them. Founded in 1839 as the nation’s first state military college, VMI even trained a young Mel Brooks during World War II.

  But VMI graduated the infamous, too – leaders who fought during the Civil War to preserve slavery and destroy the U.S. – men like Edward Edmonds, Confederate colonel of the 38th Virginia Infantry; John McCausland, a brigadier general who served under the “unrepentant rebel” Gen. Jubal Early; and Walter Taylor, aide-de-camp to Gen. Robert E. Lee and later a state senator and staunch defender of the Confederacy.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

How your race, class and gender influence your dreams for the future

  In Disney’s “Pinocchio,” Jiminy Cricket famously sings, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you.”

  But Jiminy Cricket got it wrong.

  We’re often taught that we are free to dream – to imagine our future possibilities.

Friday, June 24, 2022

5 things to know about the Fed’s biggest interest rate increase since 1994 and how it will affect you

  The Federal Reserve on June 15, 2022, lifted interest rates by 0.75 percentage point, the third hike this year and the largest since 1994. The move is aimed at countering the fastest pace of inflation in over 40 years.

  Wall Street had been expecting a half-point increase, but the latest consumer prices report released on June 10 prompted the Fed to take a more drastic measure. The big risk, however, is that higher rates will push the economy into a recession, a fear aptly expressed by the recent plunge in the S&P 500 stock index, which is down over 20% from its peak in January, making it a “bear market.”

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Privacy isn’t in the Constitution – but it’s everywhere in constitutional law

  Almost all American adults – including parents, medical patients, and people who are sexually active – regularly exercise their right to privacy, even if they don’t know it.

  Privacy is not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. But for half a century, the Supreme Court has recognized it as an outgrowth of protections for individual liberty. As I have studied in my research on constitutional privacy rights, this implied right to privacy is the source of many of the nation’s most cherished, contentious, and commonly used rights – including the right to have an abortion.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Social stress can speed up immune system aging – new research

  As people age, their immune systems naturally begin to decline. This aging of the immune system, called immunosenescence, may be an important part of such age-related health problems as cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as older people’s less effective response to vaccines.

  But not all immune systems age at the same rate. In our recently published study, my colleagues and I found that social stress is associated with signs of accelerated immune system aging.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

State government on pace for another record surplus; will it give Alabamians a break?

  State government continues to take more money from Alabamians than ever before. Will it use that money to continue the historic expansion of state government or finally take less taxes from citizens? 

  As first reported by Alabama Daily News, 2022 is on pace to be another banner year for state government. Through the end of May, state revenues totaled nearly $1.4 billion more than they did at this point last year. The state has already collected almost $8.7 billion in gross revenue. With four months remaining in the fiscal year, that revenue surplus will likely grow.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Juneteenth celebrates just one of the United States’ 20 emancipation days – and the history of how emancipated people were kept unfree needs to be remembered, too

  The actual day was June 19, 1865, and it was the Black dockworkers in Galveston, Texas who first heard the word that freedom for the enslaved had come. There were speeches, sermons, and shared meals, mostly held at Black churches, the safest places to have such celebrations.

  The perils of unjust laws and racist social customs were still great in Texas for the 250,000 enslaved Black people there, but the celebrations known as Juneteenth were said to have gone on for seven straight days.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Nurturing dads raise emotionally intelligent kids – helping make society more respectful and equitable

  When my oldest son, now nearly 14, was born in July of 2008, I thought I could easily balance my career and my desire to be far more engaged at home than my father and his generation were. I was wrong.

  Almost immediately, I noticed how social policies, schools, and health care systems all make it difficult for dads to be highly involved and engaged at home. Contradictory expectations about work and family life abound.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Money is the icing, not the cake

  Despite the advice of preachers and philosophers warning us of the shortcomings of money, it’s hard to argue with Gertrude Stein’s observation: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

  Although money is better at reducing suffering caused by poverty and relieving anxiety caused by debt than it is at making us happy, it can buy lots of things that make us feel good and important.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Fertilizer prices are soaring – and that’s an opportunity to promote more sustainable ways of growing crops

  Farmers are coping with a fertilizer crisis brought on by soaring fossil fuel prices and industry consolidation. The price of synthetic fertilizer has more than doubled since 2021, causing great stress in farm country.

  This crunch is particularly tough on those who grow corn, which accounts for half of U.S. nitrogen fertilizer use. The National Corn Growers Association predicts that its members will spend 80% more in 2022 on synthetic fertilizers than they did in 2021. A recent study estimates that on average, this will represent US$128,000 in added costs per farm.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

People overestimate groups they find threatening – when ‘sizing up’ others, bias sneaks in

  Places are not just physical, but also social.

  For instance, around the North Carolina campus where we met, we knew certain bars based on the students who frequented them — the “Duke bars” versus the “UNC bars.” Or, when traveling, we may try to guess whether most of the patrons at a restaurant are tourists – and if so, go elsewhere.

  This common way of thinking about our environments seemed fairly reasonable to us until a few years ago when we noticed something that gave us pause.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Immigrants are only 3.5% of people worldwide – and their negative impact is often exaggerated, in the U.S. and around the world

  Ernesto Castañeda is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at American University and the Director of the Immigration Lab. Castañeda explains why immigration is an important force counteracting population decline in the U.S. and why that matters to the economy and America’s global power. Below are highlights from an interview with The Conversation. Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

There is no one ‘religious view’ on abortion: A scholar of religion, gender and sexuality explains

  The Catholic Church’s official line on abortion, and even on any artificial birth control, is well known: Don’t do it.

  Surveys of how American Catholics live their lives, though, tell a different story.

  The vast majority of Catholic women have used contraceptives despite the church’s ban. Fifty-six percent of U.S. Catholics believe abortion should be legal in all or most circumstances, whether or not they believe they would ever seek one. One in four Americans who have had abortions are Catholic, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for reproductive health.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Decades after special education law and key ruling, updates still languish

  It has been 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court first took up a case about special education in public schools, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley. In that case, the court ruled that a deaf student didn’t qualify for a sign-language interpreter because the student was doing well enough even though an interpreter could have helped the student learn more and do better.

  In the decades since Rowley, court orders and a few adjustments to federal laws have clarified the rights of students to get accommodations for various conditions and disabilities affecting their education. But the law governing these rights, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, has not been updated significantly since its original passage in 1975 and has never gone so long without a full congressional review.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Did the assault weapons ban of 1994 bring down mass shootings? Here’s what the data tells us

  A spate of high-profile mass shootings in the U.S. has sparked calls for Congress to look at imposing a ban on so-called assault weapons – covering the types of guns used in both the recent Buffalo grocery attack and that on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

  Such a prohibition has been in place before. As President Joe Biden noted in his June 2, 2022 speech addressing gun violence, almost three decades ago, bipartisan support in Congress helped push through a federal assault weapons ban in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Biden throws US solar industry a lifeline with tariff relief, but can incentives bring manufacturing back?

  The Biden administration announced it was putting a two-year freeze on the threat of new solar tariffs, throwing a lifeline to U.S. solar installers – and likely to the country’s ability to meet its climate goals.

  The tariff threat involved imported solar panels and components from four Asian countries that supply about 80% of photovoltaic cells and modules used in the U.S. The administration also announced new plans on June 6, 2022, to use the Defense Production Act to help industries ramp up production of solar panels in the U.S. and give U.S. solar manufacturers other incentives through federal purchasing.

Friday, June 10, 2022

State auditor heading to runoff; what does the auditor do?

  Katie Britt and Congressman Mo Brooks are headed to a runoff. Most people in Alabama know that. And if they don’t, the flood of advertising that is sure to hit Alabama residents every time they turn on the radio or television will soon make it known. 

  Another statewide race that is headed to a runoff, though it will get far less attention, is the race for State Auditor.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Genetic paparazzi are right around the corner, and courts aren’t ready to confront the legal quagmire of DNA theft

  Every so often stories of genetic theft, or extreme precautions taken to avoid it, make headline news. So it was with a picture of French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting at opposite ends of a very long table after Macron declined to take a Russian PCR COVID-19 test. Many speculated that Macron refused due to security concerns that the Russians would take and use his DNA for nefarious purposes. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz similarly refused to take a Russian PCR COVID-19 test.

  While these concerns may seem relatively new, pop star celebrity Madonna has been raising alarm bells about the potential for nonconsensual, surreptitious collection and testing of DNA for over a decade. She has hired cleaning crews to sterilize her dressing rooms after concerts and requires her own new toilet seats at each stop of her tours.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Should we protect nature for its own sake? For its economic value? Because it makes us happy? Yes

  As spring phases into summer in North America, with trees flowering and birds migrating, nature seems abundant. In fact, however, the Earth is losing animals, birds, reptiles, and other living things so fast that some scientists believe the planet is entering the sixth mass extinction in its history.

  This fall, the United Nations will convene governments from around the world in Kunming, China to establish new goals for protecting Earth’s ecosystems and their biodiversity – the variety of life at all levels, from genes to ecosystems.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

5 ways to reduce school shootings

  After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, psychology professor Paul Boxer and his colleagues reviewed research to see what could be learned from what they refer to as the “science of violence prevention.” In the wake of the May 24, 2022 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Boxer has revisited that research anew – and other research conducted since then – for insights on what can be done to reduce the risk of school shootings in the future. Here he offers five policy changes – based on his findings – that can be implemented to achieve that end.


1) Dramatically limit access to guns

  Gun regulation matters.

  When my colleagues and I looked at gun regulations on a state-by-state basis, we found that more restrictive gun laws are associated with lower rates of homicides by guns.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Grocery store ethics

  You can tell a lot about people’s character by how they act at the grocery store. I remember being in a crowded store when there was a shortage of shopping carts. A prosperous-looking fellow was pushing a cart when another man stopped him.