Saturday, December 31, 2022

Learn time management to make those New Year’s resolutions stick

  Does this sound familiar? You make a New Year’s resolution, like learning a new language, reading more books, or playing an instrument. You’re really excited at the beginning. You even go out and buy books or sign up for lessons. But then life happens.

  You get busy at work, you have to take care of your kids or elderly parents, and before you know it, the month is over and you’ve barely made a dent.

Friday, December 30, 2022

A call for more civility

  When George Washington was 16, he discovered a booklet of 110 maxims describing how a well-mannered person should behave. He was so convinced that these maxims would help him become a better person that he set out to incorporate them into his daily living. Among Washington’s many virtues, his commitment to civility marked him as a gentleman and helped him become a universally respected and enormously effective leader.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

A neuroscientist’s tips for a new year tuneup for your brain

  Unlike the effervescent bubbles that stream to the top of champagne flutes on New Year’s Eve, what I call brain bubbles are far from celebratory. These bubbles are metaphorical rather than physical, and they distort the stream of reality processed by our brains. Like a real estate bubble that reflects an inflated perception of home values, a brain bubble twists your perception of the world around you. And when either of these bubbles bursts, the results can be devastating.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Establishing a culture of kindness

  Though intensive media attention on bullying has died down, the problem persists in many forms, and it continues to diminish the lives of tens of thousands of young people every day. According to a recent survey, roughly half of all high school students said that in the past year they were bullied in a manner that seriously upset them. A similar number said they had bullied someone else.

  That’s an awful lot of meanness.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

4 New Year’s resolutions for a healthier environment in 2023

  When many people think of New Year’s resolutions, they brainstorm ways to improve themselves for the year ahead. What if we expanded those aspirations to include resolutions that benefit our communities, society, and the planet, too?

  It might not be a typical approach, but it can broaden your horizons to show ways you can also be of service to others.

Monday, December 26, 2022

We are what we think

  In the early 1900s, a little-known philosopher named James Allen wrote a powerful essay called “As a Man Thinketh” in which he argued that we are what we think, that a person’s character is the sum of his thoughts. He declared that the power to control our thoughts (whether we use that power or not) is the ability to mold our character and shape our destiny.

  This is a profound insight, making us personally responsible not only for our conduct but for our circumstances.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

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.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas food around the world

  The following provides just a taste of favorite festive foods from around the world:


  Austrians celebrate Christmas in grand style with a Christmas Eve supper of carp simmered in a ginger and beer-flavored sauce and seasonal vegetables, followed by Topfenpalatschinken (sweet cheese crepes topped with an apricot caramel sauce) for dessert. The traditional fare on Christmas Day is roast goose with all the trimmings.

Friday, December 23, 2022

The road to significance

  The most traditional way to measure the quality of one’s life is to evaluate success by listing accolades, achievements, and acquisitions. After all, in its simplest terms, success is getting what we want, and most people want wealth and status.

  Yet, as much pleasure as these attributes can bring, the rich, powerful, and famous usually discover that true happiness will elude them if they do not have peace of mind, self-respect, and enduring, loving relationships.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

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 "Feliz Navidad!" greeting (Latin America generally).

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

About one-third of the food Americans buy is wasted, hurting the climate and consumers’ wallets

  You saw it at Thanksgiving, and you’ll likely see it at your next holiday feast: piles of unwanted food – unfinished second helpings, underwhelming kitchen experiments, and the like – all dressed up with no place to go except the back of the refrigerator. With luck, hungry relatives will discover some of it before the inevitable green mold renders it inedible.

  U.S. consumers waste a lot of food year-round – about one-third of all purchased food. That’s equivalent to 1,250 calories per person per day, or US$1,500 worth of groceries for a four-person household each year, an estimate that doesn’t include recent food price inflation. And when food goes bad, the land, labor, water, chemicals, and energy that went into producing, processing, transporting, storing, and preparing it are wasted too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Hate Christmas? A psychologist’s survival guide for Grinches

  Years ago, I came into work on December 1 to find a bag on my desk labeled “Karen’s Christmas Intervention”. It contained many Christmas-themed gifts and challenges – such as watching a Christmas DVD and going to a carol service. These were all designed to help me find something to like about Christmas. I tried everything – after all, someone had made a big effort. But while I enjoyed completing each challenge, it didn’t change my values. I remain a Grinch.

Monday, December 19, 2022

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.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

What Hanukkah’s portrayal in pop culture means to American Jews

  When I was growing up in suburban New York, Hanukkah was not grounded in religious observance. Having no clue that there are traditional Hebrew blessings that accompany the kindling of the Hanukkah candles, we invented our own wishes, awkwardly voiced out loud, for happiness and peace.

  Then again, the festival of Hanukkah demands the performance of fewer religious rituals than most other Jewish observances. Even the most pious Jews do not take off from work during the eight-day festival. After all, the holiday is never mentioned in the Bible since the events that it commemorates occurred hundreds of years after the Bible was written.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

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?”

Friday, December 16, 2022

What’s the point of holiday gifts?

  Whether it’s the dread of a trip to an overcrowded shopping mall, the challenge of picking out the right gifts, the frustration over delivery delays, or the hit to the wallet, shopping for holiday gifts can be stressful.

  What’s the point of it all? Shouldn’t the holiday season simply be about family, friends, and food? And wouldn’t everyone just be better off spending their own money on things they know they want?

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Surviving critical relatives at family gatherings

  I realize that not everyone lives in a Norman Rockwell world where family gatherings are sources of warmth and good memories. For some, the prospect of holiday get-togethers generates dread and anxiety; they are something to endure, not enjoy.

  One reason is that family members can be tactless and downright cruel when expressing their opinions about perceived foibles, flaws, and failures of their relatives, especially in-laws. Often comments are so laden with negative judgment that they could make the Grinch wince. Whether motivated by well-intentioned, but misdirected, love and concern, or by malice, insensitive or unkind words are like spears to the heart.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

What psychiatrists have to say about holiday blues

  This time of the year brings a lot of changes to the usual day-to-day life of hundreds of millions of people: The weather is colder, trees are naked, snowy days become plentiful, and friendly critters are less visible around the neighborhood. Especially in the Western Hemisphere, this time of the year is also linked to a lot of joyous celebrations and traditions. Most children and many adults have been excited for this time of the year to come for months, and they love the aura of celebrations with their gatherings, gifts, cookies, emails, and cards.

  Alas, there are also millions who have to deal with darker emotions as the world literally darkens around them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

‘Twas the night before Christmas’ helped make the modern Santa – and led to a literary whodunit

  The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known by its opening line “‘Twas the Night before Christmas,” has a special place among Christmas traditions, right alongside hot chocolate, caroling, and bright lights. It has also inspired the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly old man sporting red and a round belly.

  But this poem has been steeped in controversy, and debate still looms over who the true author is. Traditionally, Clement C. Moore – a 19th-century scholar at the General Theological Seminary in New York, where I work as a reference librarian – has been credited with writing the poem in 1822 for his children. Every December, library staff shares our multiple copies of the poem in an exhibit to celebrate the holiday season.

  No matter who wrote it, the poem is a fascinating object that has shaped Christmases past, present – and maybe yet to come.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Retail... why I hate Christmas

  I work in retail, therefore, I hate Christmas. Yes, that's what I said: I HATE CHRISTMAS. People often cluck their tongues and shake their heads in appalled disbelief when I tell them this, and then they often follow up the shaking of their heads with the same response: "I love Christmas because people are nicer to each other."

  Obviously, these people do not and have never worked in a grocery store during the holiday season. Wherever these kindler, gentler folk are, they definitely aren't anywhere near my place of employment. Of course, I work at the customer service desk, which on any given day, is overcrowded with pissed-off patrons demanding refunds and making general threats in order to get free food. During the holidays, this volatile behavior inevitably increases twofold, only to be compounded by the insane repetition of the Muzak in the background playing the 975th version of "White Christmas."

Sunday, December 11, 2022

317,793 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2020 despite the growing legalization movement

  More than 300,000 people were arrested for cannabis possession in 2020, FBI records show. Meanwhile, the drug is being legally sold for a profit in 19 states.

  That arrest number may sound high, but arrests have actually been going down each year since 2010 as more states legalize medical or recreational use of the drug. In 2019, for example, more than 500,000 marijuana possession arrests were reported, so the 2020 arrest numbers represent a single-year decline of 36%.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Making resolutions of principle

  The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions reflects one the very best qualities of human nature – the ability to reflect on and assess our lives in terms of the goals we set for ourselves and the principles we believe in.

  It’s still not too late to formulate a self-improvement plan to make our outer lives and inner selves better by adopting more positive attitudes, living up to our highest values, and strengthening our relationships.

Friday, December 9, 2022

The best way to follow through on your New Year’s resolution? Make an ‘old year’s resolution’

  If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, your plot for self-improvement probably kicks into gear sometime on Jan. 1, when the hangover wears off and the quest for the “new you” begins in earnest.

  But if research on habit change is any indication, only about half of New Year’s resolutions are likely to make it out of January, much less last a lifetime.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Character is an essential part of competence

  If you were hiring a new CEO, what are the most important qualities you’d look for?

  Surely you’d want a high level of demonstrated competence – knowledge, experience, intelligence, vision, communication, and relationship skills and the ability to motivate, manage, and solve problems. But what about qualities such as honesty, moral courage, accountability, and fairness?

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

The 4 biggest gift-giving mistakes, according to a consumer psychologist

  A good gift can elicit a surge of happiness and gratitude in the recipient. It also feels great to give, with psychologists finding that the joy of giving a gift is more pronounced than the pleasure of receiving one.

  Unfortunately, there are times when you receive a gift and you have to force a smile and fake your gratitude.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Taking back their power: Black veterans seek recognition, recompense for generations of racial inequity

  When Richard Brookshire finished his tour as a combat medic in Afghanistan in 2011, he couldn’t wait to get on with his life. He enrolled in Fordham University and earned a degree in political science, graduating magna cum laude and going on to earn a master’s degree in public policy at Columbia University.

  Brookshire had been out of graduate school only a few months when, in 2017, amid a rising tide of violence against Black communities in the U.S., a white supremacist brutally killed a 66-year-old Black man in New York City. The murderer was also an Army veteran. And, chillingly, he had gone through basic training with Brookshire, deployed in the same brigade, and even left Afghanistan at the same time.

  For Brookshire, who is Black and gay, the realization – at a moment of increasing racist rhetoric and violence across the United States – that he served alongside someone who harbored such rage unearthed painful memories of racist aggressions during his service, plunging him into a frightening mental health crisis.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Access to sports betting in the US has exploded since 2018 – and we’re just starting to learn about the effects

  For most of U.S. history, sports betting was rare.

  Some people certainly bet on sports illegally via a bookie, or placed bets in the few places where it was legal, such as Nevada.

  However, gambling policy took a sharp turn in 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that each state had the right to legalize or prohibit sports wagering as they saw fit.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

How the news media – long in thrall to Trump – can cover his new run for president responsibly

  Now that he’s in the 2024 presidential race, the media circus that is Donald Trump is returning for a new season.

  Trump is still newsworthy. He’s been weakened by his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, his attempt to overthrow its result, and the underperformance of Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms. Nevertheless, Trump is more than a party leader. “Make America Great Again,” known colloquially as “MAGA,” is a political movement. Trump has a legion of diehard followers.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

How Mrs. Claus embodied 19th-century debates about women’s rights

  Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” redefined Christmas in America. As historian Steven Nissenbaum explains in “The Battle for Christmas,” Moore’s secular St. Nick weakened the holiday’s religious associations, transforming it into a familial celebration that culminated in Santa Claus’ toy deliveries on Christmas Eve.

  Nineteenth-century writers, journalists, and artists were quick to fill in details about Santa that Moore’s poem left out: a toy workshop, a home at the North Pole, and a naughty-or-nice list. They also decided that Santa Claus wasn’t a bachelor; he was married to Mrs. Claus.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Why do we feel bad when our beliefs don’t match our actions? Blame ‘cognitive dissonance’

  Have you ever been out and about, perhaps tackling the Christmas shopping list, and felt a bit thirsty? You buy a drink – say, one that comes in a plastic bottle – and quench your thirst, only to find there’s no recycling nearby. What do you do?

  You could hang on to the empty bottle, or throw it in with general rubbish. If you are particularly passionate about recycling, the latter option may feel quite distressing.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Give good memories

  In a society preoccupied with the quest for material possessions, it’s easy to overlook the fact that our most valuable possessions are our best memories.

  Good memories are a form of wealth. They are not simply something we own, they become part of who we are. Through our memories we can literally re-live and re-experience past pleasures.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Insurance fraud costs $309 billion a year – nearly $1,000 for every American

  What would you do with an extra US$932.63 in your pocket?

  That’s how much insurance fraud costs every American a year – $309 billion in total, according to the findings of a recent research study that I led. For a family of four, that adds up to nearly $3,800 – about enough to finance a small family vacation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Golden Rule as the road of honor

  Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Confucius was asked, “Is there one word that may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?”

  He answered, “Reciprocity. What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” This basic principle, now called the Golden Rule, can be found in every major religion and philosophy.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Signatures of alien technology could be how humanity first finds extraterrestrial life

  If an alien were to look at Earth, many human technologies – from cell towers to fluorescent light bulbs – could be a beacon signifying the presence of life.

  We are two astronomers who work on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence – or SETI. In our research, we try to characterize and detect signs of technology originating from beyond Earth. These are called technosignatures. While scanning the sky for a TV broadcast of some extraterrestrial Olympics may sound straightforward, searching for signs of distant, advanced civilizations is a much more nuanced and difficult task than it might seem.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Don’t brag, but be proud

  Today, after winning a big game, it’s common for athletes and fans to chant, “We’re number one,” in a classless display of self-praise that comes off as conceit and disrespectful taunting. I sometimes feel that way about materials praising America. Still, national pride is important. Reminders about the high principles on which this nation was based are essential to keep our idealism alive.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

How to survive annoying relatives this holiday season

  Social allergies are a lot like seasonal allergies. They’re annoying, exhausting, and hard to avoid. They’re also especially common around the holidays. That’s because the holidays put you at a high risk of exposure. Swap the dander and ragweed for your not-so-favorite acquaintances and relatives, and there you have it — a full-blown case of social allergies.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Authentic apology

  “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.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Taking back Thanksgiving!

  I am genuinely elated to report that I have survived another Thanksgiving… or rather what remains of this rapidly deteriorating national holiday. I ate, I watched football, I napped. God ordained back in the Plymouth Rock days that we adhere to this sacred ritual, right? And doing so enables me to show my Turkey Day pride, get my festive gobble-gobble swerve thing on, but mostly just suffer from indigestion as a result of all that sweet, blessed gluttony.

  But increasingly each year, something else is ominously creeping into the view from my yam-tinted glasses, vulgarly tinkling on my Thanksgiving joy and ruthlessly pushing all the pilgrim imagery to the side - its name: Christmas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Improve the world — be nice!

  Marta was a hard-working single mother.  Last week, at church, her minister urged the congregation to improve the world by doing more to help others. He’s got to be kidding, she thought, I can barely make ends meet and provide my children with basic necessities. Still, she felt guilty – “maybe I should be doing more.” So, on the bus to work she started thinking of things she could do to help others, but she felt sad and defeated by the idea of adding more obligations to her life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Another reason to exercise every day during the holidays

  Yes, of course, we all know we should exercise every day during the holiday season to help counter the onslaught of excess calories that starts on Thanksgiving and will mercifully end with a New Year’s toast.

  We may even tire of hearing about exercise and weight from family, friends, and the media. But an equally important reason to exercise every day is related to blood pressure, not waistline.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Appreciating appreciation

  There’s a song called “Thank God for Dirty Dishes” that makes the point that if you’re lucky to have enough food to make dirty dishes, you should be grateful.

  So instead of grousing about your property taxes, be thankful you own property. When you have to wait in line at the bank or are stuck in traffic, just be grateful you have money in the bank and a car to drive.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

What the first Thanksgiving dinner actually looked like

  Most Americans probably don’t realize that we have a very limited understanding of the first Thanksgiving, which took place in 1621 in Massachusetts.

  Indeed, few of our present-day traditions resemble what happened almost 400 years ago, and there’s only one original account of the feast.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

American workers feel alienated, helpless and overwhelmed – here’s one way to alleviate their malaise

  First it was the “Great Resignation.” Then it was “nobody wants to work anymore.” Now it’s “quiet quitting.”

  Yet it seems like no one wants to talk about what I see as the root cause of America’s economic malaise – work under contemporary capitalism is fundamentally flawed.

  As a political philosopher studying the effects of contemporary capitalism on the future of work, I believe that the inability to dictate and meaningfully control one’s own working life is the problem.

  Democratizing work is the solution.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Why magical thinking is so widespread – a look at the psychological roots of common superstitions

  Growing up in Greece, I spent my summers at my grandparents’ home in a small coastal village in the region of Chalkidiki. It was warm and sunny, and I passed most of my time playing in the streets with my cousins. But occasionally, the summer storms brought torrential rain. You could see them coming from far away, with black clouds looming over the horizon, lit up by lightning.

  As I rushed home, I was intrigued to see my grandparents prepare for the thunderstorm. Grandma would cover a large mirror on the living room wall with a dark cloth and throw a blanket over the TV. Meanwhile, Grandpa would climb a ladder to remove the light bulb over the patio door. Then they switched off all the lights in the house and waited the storm out.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Grocery and other permanent tax cuts ‘on the table’ in 2023, but lawmakers should think bolder

  The talk of the legislature pursuing meaningful tax cuts during the 2023 regular session continues to pick up momentum. That is good news for Alabamians, though state lawmakers continue to hedge their bets as to whether the talk will become reality.

  The fact that tax relief beyond one-time rebates is being openly discussed is a step in the right direction, albeit a much-delayed step. State government has had ample resources and opportunities to reduce the tax burden on citizens over the past two years and made only limited progress.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

What is inflammation? Two immunologists explain how the body responds to everything from stings to vaccination and why it sometimes goes wrong

  When your body fights off an infection, you develop a fever. If you have arthritis, your joints will hurt. If a bee stings your hand, your hand will swell up and become stiff. These are all manifestations of inflammation occurring in the body.

  We are two immunologists who study how the immune system reacts during infections, vaccination, and autoimmune diseases where the body starts attacking itself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Do a little more

  In 1964, a young woman named Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment building in Queens, New York. She was attacked repeatedly over the course of an hour and despite her screams, none of the 38 neighbors intervened or called for help. Some were afraid. Some didn’t want to get involved. Some thought someone else would do it.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Why inequality is growing in the US and around the world

  U.S. income inequality grew in 2021 for the first time in a decade, according to data the Census Bureau released in September 2022.

  That might sound surprising since the most accurate measure of the poverty rate declined during the same time span.

  But for development experts like me, this apparent contradiction makes perfect sense.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

8 billion humans: How population growth and climate change are connected as the ‘Anthropocene engine’ transforms the planet

  At first glance, the connections between the world’s growing population and climate change seem obvious. The more people we have on this planet, the larger their collective impact on the climate.

  However, a closer look with a longer time horizon reveals relationships between population size and climate change that can help us better understand both humanity’s predicament as the global population nears 8 billion people – a milestone the United Nations expects the world to hit on about Nov. 15, 2022.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Political violence in America isn’t going away anytime soon

  A warning about the threat of political violence heading into the 2022 midterm elections was issued to state and local law enforcement officials by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Oct. 28, 2022.

  The bulletin was released the same day that Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s husband was hospitalized after a home invasion by a lone right-wing extremist seeking to harm her.

  This incident is the latest in an increasing stream of extremist confrontations taking place across the United States in recent years. These incidents have primarily targeted Democrats, including a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020. But threats from both sides of the political spectrum are up significantly.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Commemorating the ‘Great War,’ America’s forgotten conflict

  World War I was still a living memory for most Americans when I was growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s.

  Aging doughboys who had fought on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 still marched on Veterans Day. These World War I enlisted men often referred to this holiday by its original name, Armistice Day.

  My mother invariably bought and wore an artificial red poppy on Veterans Day. I learned much later the poppy signified the blood and sacrifice of those who died on Flanders Field, a Belgian battle site that was the subject of the war’s most famous poem.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Lawmakers must use historic surplus to protect Alabamians, not protect government

  Over the past month, there has been increased discussion amongst Alabama lawmakers about what state government should do with the historic $2 billion revenue surplus it amassed heading into fiscal year 2023. So far, the two main proposals have been using a fraction of the surplus to provide a one-time tax rebate to Alabamians or providing a rebate in combination with some form of targeted tax relief.

  Much of the surplus would go back into government and not be used to provide generational tax relief to all citizens.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Democracy - respectful discourse

  One quality of our democracy is that every citizen is a public official. Thus, the passionate advocacy of political convictions is not only a right, it’s a patriotic obligation.

  What worries me, however, is the tendency of many basically good people to be overcome with self-righteous certainty that they’re right and that those who disagree with them are wrong.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Democratic and Republican voters both love civility – but the bipartisan appeal is partly because nobody can agree on what civility is

  When former Vice President Mike Pence declared, in a speech to a conservative group, that “democracy depends on heavy doses of civility,” several attendees stood up and walked out of the Georgetown University auditorium.

  That speech came just three weeks before the midterm elections as commentators and candidates around the country were calling for greater civility in politics.

  This is no surprise.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Congressional delegation will be reelected

  Our Alabama Congressional delegation will all be reelected, as usual. We are no different than any other state when it comes to the incumbency advantage of being a congressperson. When someone is elected to the U.S. Congress, they are usually there for life unless they run for higher office. They probably would not be defeated unless they killed someone and that probably would not be enough. It would probably depend on who they killed. The Congress is so divided and acrimonious along party lines that if they killed another member of Congress from a different party, it would probably help them and enshrine them in their seat for life. The reelection rate for members of the U.S. Congress is over 93%. That is similar to the Communist Russian Politburo. Our Congress is more akin to the British Parliament where they quasi-own their seat.  

Saturday, November 5, 2022

The important role played by secretaries of state in administering fair elections is changing – and not in a good way

  The state officials who administer fair, accessible, and secure elections have historically operated quietly without garnering much public attention. Elections happen, votes are counted, the winners are declared, and democracy moves on.

  But since 2020, secretaries of state and other state officials who oversee elections have come under increasing scrutiny and been exposed to increasing abuse.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Corporate spending in state politics and elections can affect everything from your wallet to your health

  Political spending by corporations is big business.

  As one corporate executive with experience in business-government relations says, “A company that is dependent on government that does not donate to politicians is engaging in corporate malpractice.”

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Georgia’s GOP overhauled the state’s election laws in 2021 – and critics argue the target was Black voter turnout, not election fraud

  In the rash of election reform laws enacted after former President Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud during the 2020 presidential election, few were tougher than SB 202 – the Election Integrity Act – passed in 2021 in Georgia, a state long known for its history of suppressing the Black vote, especially in response to growth in Black political influence.

  Media attention focused on SB 202’s shortened runoff periods from nine to four weeks, limits on who can turn in absentee ballots, and a partial ban on offering food or water while waiting in line to vote.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Intellectual humility and the pursuit of wisdom

  This is a reminder of the need to be as rigorously honest, informed, and objective about our own ideas as we are when we evaluate those of others.

  Wisdom requires courage and humility to receive and consider new facts, opinions, and perspectives, even when they challenge long and deeply held beliefs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

New survey of Americans’ views on Confederate monuments shows strong link to political and religious affiliations

  When Lecia Brooks, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s chief of staff and culture, first moved from Los Angeles to Alabama in 2004 and was suddenly confronted with pervasive symbols of the Confederacy, she understood that white people were sending her a stark message.

  “I thought, ‘Oh, my God, what are you trying to tell me? What is the message when I would see these images everywhere?’ And the message I received, as a Black person, was, ‘OK, we are still here, and we are watching.’ ”

Monday, October 31, 2022

Tricking and treating has a history

  Over the past few decades, Halloween celebrations have gained in popularity, not only with children and families but with all those fascinated with the spooky and scary.

  As a scholar of myth and religion in popular culture, I look at Halloween with particular interest – especially the ways in which today’s Halloween tradition came to evolve.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Halloween isn’t about candy and costumes for modern-day pagans – witches mark Halloween with reflections on death as well as magic

  For members of the minority religion of Wicca and witchcraft, part of contemporary paganism, Halloween has never been primarily a children’s holiday. As a sociologist doing research on contemporary pagans for over 30 years, I have observed how it is marked as a sacred day known as Samhain in which death is celebrated.

  This Halloween they might have something to teach us – both about the acceptance of death and staying safe.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Why has Halloween become so popular among adults?

  Halloween used to be kid stuff. To quit dressing up was an important rite of passage. It meant you were one step closer to becoming an adult.

  Not anymore. Today adults have become avid Halloween revelers, especially young adults.

Friday, October 28, 2022

What is Fog Reveal? A legal scholar explains the app some police forces are using to track people without a warrant

  Government agencies and private security companies in the U.S. have found a cost-effective way to engage in warrantless surveillance of individuals, groups, and places: a pay-for-access web tool called Fog Reveal.

  The tool enables law enforcement officers to see “patterns of life” – where and when people work and live, with whom they associate, and what places they visit. The tool’s maker, Fog Data Science, claims to have billions of data points from over 250 million U.S. mobile devices.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The disease of low expectations

  The serious damage done to our economy, social institutions, and personal relationships by widespread cheating and dishonesty is bad enough. But widespread acceptance of such behavior as inevitable threatens to make our future a lot worse. In effect, our culture is being infected by a disease: the disease of low expectations.

  The disease is manifested by the corrosive assumption that human nature can’t be expected to withstand pressures or temptations. In other words, when there’s a conflict between self-interest and moral principles, self-interest – in fact, short-term self-interest – will generally prevail.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Why the US House of Representatives has 435 seats – and how that could change

  As the population of the U.S. has grown over the past century, the House of Representatives has gotten worse at being representative of the people it serves. That doesn’t have to happen – and it wasn’t always the case.

  The House is the one segment of the federal government that was created from the beginning to directly channel the views of the people to Washington, D.C. But over the past century, the ability of any individual members of the House to truly represent their constituents has been diluted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Alex Jones got what he deserved

  Whatever one might think about Alex Jones, it’s difficult for me to understand how anyone can question the rightfulness of the multimillion damage awards that juries in Connecticut and Texas recently assessed against him. In my opinion, Jones got exactly what he deserved.

  For limited-government libertarians, a proper role of government is to provide a judicial forum in which people can resolve their legal disputes. If someone commits a wrong — a “tort” in legal language — against another person, the latter has the right to file suit against the former for damages. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

With the movie ‘Till,’ Mamie Till-Mobley’s quest to educate the world about her son’s lynching marches on

  After 14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped, severely beaten, and killed in the Mississippi Delta on Aug. 28, 1955, his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, made the courageous decision to reveal her son’s corpse for all to see.

  Till-Mobley’s choice allowed audiences to bear witness to an act of racial violence, and the new film “Till” promises to unveil the complete story of how she responded to her son’s brutal death.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Why is it fun to be frightened?

  Audiences flock to horror films. They get a thrill from movies like “Halloween,” with its seemingly random murder and mayhem in a small suburban town, a reminder that picket fences and manicured lawns cannot protect us from the unjust, the unknown, or the uncertainty that awaits us all in both life and death. The film offers no justice for the victims in the end, no rebalancing of good and evil.

  Why, then, would anyone want to spend their time and money to watch such macabre scenes filled with depressing reminders of just how unfair and scary our world can be?

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Good faith and the honor of partisan election officials used to be enough to ensure trust in voting results – but not anymore

  As the U.S. moves closer to the 2022 midterm elections, a sizable number of Americans express a lack of confidence in the accuracy of the vote count.

  That distrust is built largely on the widespread – and false – assertion that Donald Trump was re-elected in the 2020 presidential election and that Joe Biden’s win was based on fraud. Despite the 2020 election being the most secure in American history, and the courts and U.S. Department of Justice uncovering no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome, consistently about 70% of Republican voters suspect election fraud, and overall mistrust in the neutrality of the election process remains high.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Challenges to voters are growing before the midterms – and have a long history as a way of keeping down the Black vote

  Voters who want to cast their ballot on Election Day this November may be in for an unpleasant surprise – the very real possibility that they will be unable to vote.

  That’s because any registered voter can challenge the right of another voter, or group of voters, to cast a ballot by alleging that they are not qualified to do so.

  Potential challenges range from the wrong address on a voter’s registration to not being old enough to vote to having been barred from voting as a felon. Once a challenge is made, election officials have to determine whether it is valid and whether a voter should be removed from the list of eligible voters.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Responsibilities of management

  Modern managers often utter clichés about wanting employees to “think outside the box,” take risks, and be creative. And while I’m sure companies do appreciate break-through innovative ideas that increase profits, productivity, or quality, the fact is that most organizations are inhospitable to those who challenge old ways of doing things, even practices that are inefficient, useless, or counterproductive.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Quiet quitting and the great resignation have a common cause – dissatisfied workers feel they can’t speak up in the workplace

  U.S. workers have been at the forefront of three big trends in recent months.

  First, there was the “great resignation,” in which record numbers of workers were quitting their jobs. That coincided with a flurry of unionizing efforts at major U.S. companies, including Starbucks and Apple. Most recently, you’ve probably heard about “quiet quitting,” an often-misunderstood phrase that can mean either doing your job’s bare minimum or just not striving to overachieve.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

How the dead danced with the living in medieval society

  In the Halloween season, American culture briefly participates in an ancient tradition of making the world of the dead visible to the living: Children dress as skeletons, teens go to horror movies, and adults play the part of ghosts in haunted houses.

  But what if the dead played a more active, more participatory role in our daily lives?

Monday, October 17, 2022

Black women endure legacy of racism in homeownership and making costly repairs

  Yolanda, 61, owns a home in the predominantly Black 7th Ward neighborhood in New Orleans.

  To fix her leaking roof in 2020, she had to borrow money.

  “It’s one of them credit card loans,” she said. “Like interest of 30% and all that, you know. I was kind of backed up against the wall, so I just went on and made the loan, a high-interest loan.”

Sunday, October 16, 2022

The big reason Florida insurance companies are failing isn’t just hurricane risk – it’s fraud and lawsuits

  Hurricane Ian’s widespread damage is another disaster for Florida’s already shaky insurance industry. Even though home insurance rates in Florida are nearly triple the national average, insurers have been losing money. Six have failed since January 2022. Now, insured losses from Ian are estimated to exceed US$40 billion.

  Hurricane risk might seem like the obvious problem, but there is a more insidious driver in this financial train wreck.

  Finance professor Shahid Hamid, who directs the Laboratory for Insurance at Florida International University, explained how Florida’s insurance market got this bad – and how the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance, now carrying more than 1 million policies, can weather the storm.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

12 hard-won life changing insights

  Perhaps the only major advantage of getting older is the prospect of getting wiser. I think I’ve learned a great many things over the years but here are a dozen of my most treasured insights.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Why you really should start your Christmas shopping now

  It has begun. Shops are – already – starting to put out their Christmas displays. I can hear many of you groaning already. Who wants to think about Christmas this early, right?

  Well, before you get your tinsel in a tangle, you may wish to consider that there are benefits to starting your Christmas shopping early.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Butter, garage doors and SUVs: Why shortages remain common 2½ years into the pandemic

  Shortages of basic goods still plague the U.S. economy – 2½ years after the pandemic’s onset turned global supply chains upside down.

  Want a new car? You may have to wait as long as six months depending on the model you order. Looking for a spicy condiment? Supplies of Sriracha hot sauce have been running dangerously low. And if you feed your cat or dog dry pet food, expect empty shelves or elevated prices.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Hurricane Ian capped 2 weeks of extreme storms around the globe: Here’s what’s known about how climate change fuels tropical cyclones

  When Hurricane Ian hit Florida, it was one of the United States’ most powerful hurricanes on record, and it followed a two-week string of massive, devastating storms around the world.

  A few days earlier in the Philippines, Typhoon Noru gave new meaning to rapid intensification when it blew up from a tropical storm with 50 mph winds to a Category 5 monster with 155 mph winds the next day. Hurricane Fiona flooded Puerto Rico, then became Canada’s most intense storm on record. Typhoon Merbok gained strength over a warm Pacific Ocean and tore up over 1,000 miles of the Alaska coast.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Holocaust comparisons are frequent in US politics – and reflect a shallow understanding of the actual genocide and the US response

  Robert Keith Packer, a 57-year-old Virginian, achieved a measure of infamy at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot when he was photographed wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with a skull and crossbones along with the words “Camp Auschwitz.” “Work Brings Freedom,” the front said, a translation of the notorious motto “Arbeit macht frei” that appeared on the gates of Auschwitz and several other Nazi concentration camps. On the back was the word “Staff.”

  Packer was sentenced to 75 days in prison on Sept. 16, 2022 for his role in the riot – he was tried for his actions, not his clothing. But his sweatshirt was far from the only Holocaust reference on Jan. 6 or in its aftermath.

Monday, October 10, 2022

A teacher's dilemma over grades

  When I was a law professor, I administered multiple choice tests that I corrected by hand. One day, Ron came to my office informing me that I made a scoring error – in his favor.

  I was impressed with his honesty and told him so as I was changing my records. Ron was horrified. “You’re going to lower my grade?” he sputtered. “Of course” I said, “I’m entering the correct score.”

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Ron DeSantis and “waste, fraud, and abuse”

  Republicans and conservatives are still celebrating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s immigration antic with respect to his shipping and dumping immigrants in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. They are convinced that what DeSantis did was a brilliant political move because it supposedly exposed the hypocrisy of rich, elite progressives/liberals/Democrats who say they favor immigrants but then won’t take them into their homes to live.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Native Americans’ decadeslong struggle for control over sacred lands is making progress

  Who should manage public land that is sacred to Native Americans?

  That is the question that the United States government and some states hope recent policy changes will address by giving Indigenous people greater input into managing such land. Co-management, as the policy is called, might alleviate the friction that emerges when sacred landscapes are managed without Native American input.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - New fiscal year begins, teachers and state employees looking good

  The new state fiscal year begins October 1, and the two state budgets are flush. Both the General Fund and the State Special Education Budgets will be the largest in state history.  

  The General Fund Budget is a record-breaking $2.7 billion. It increases the revenue to mental health and prisons. Medicaid continues to be a money-eating monster. State employees are getting a 4% cost of living raise. This is the third time in recent history that state workers have gotten a back-to-back pay raise. In addition, retired state employees will get a bonus. State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Escambia) and Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), the budget chairmen, deserve accolades.  

Thursday, October 6, 2022

A seismic change has taken place at the Supreme Court – but it’s not clear if the shift is about principle or party

  In the summer of 2022, the U.S. witnessed a dramatic change in how the majority of Supreme Court justices understand the Constitution.

  At the end of a single term, the court rejected the long-standing constitutional right to abortion, expanded gun rights, and ruled that religion can have a bigger role in public institutions.

  These outcomes reflect a seismic shift in U.S. law and policy, but scholars of the court dispute what kind of change it was, exactly – a principled or partisan one. As a close observer of constitutional politics, I believe this is an important debate with deep consequences for the perceived legitimacy of the court.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

‘There’s only so far I can take them’ – why teachers give up on struggling students who don’t do their homework

  Whenever “Gina,” a fifth grader at a suburban public school on the East Coast, did her math homework, she never had to worry about whether she could get help from her mom.

  “I help her a lot with homework,” Gina’s mother, a married, mid-level manager for a health care company, explained to us during an interview for a study we did about how teachers view students who complete their homework versus those who do not.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

When should you get the new COVID-19 booster and the flu shot? Now is the right time for both

  At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly everyone has experienced the panic and uncertainty that come with having mild COVID-like symptoms – such as a cough and sore throat – only to test negative day after day. With cold and flu season just around the corner, that state of frustrating uncertainty is likely to strike most of us again.

  Both COVID-19 and the flu are contagious respiratory illnesses that have similar symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish between the two viral infections without a lab test. Testing is the only way to know which virus is causing your symptoms. In fact, labs are working to create one test that can detect both COVID-19 and the flu.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Halloween, home haunts, and horror movies are about escaping reality

  What is it about horror movies and Halloween that get me (and millions of other people) excited each fall? Is it the crisp autumn air or the candy corn that puts sparkles in our eyes? Is it classic horror movies, such as Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street, that get us excited? Not exactly. It is the sense of escape that Halloween brings that gets us excited.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Loopholes and slippery slopes

  As a former law professor, I know all about loopholes.

  I trained students to find omissions and ambiguities in wording — a perfectly legal way to evade the clear intent of laws and agreements. After all, that’s what lawyers are paid to do. And, despite commonly expressed disdain when lawyers do this, that’s precisely what most clients want and expect when they hire a lawyer.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

When it comes to First Amendment rights, do we want a sword or a shield?

  When it comes to your core freedoms, which would you rather wield to protect them: a sword or a shield?

  The 45 words of the First Amendment haven’t changed since it was adopted in 1791, but how those five freedoms are interpreted and applied is shifting — alarming some even as it empowers others.

  For much of our history, the amendment’s core freedoms have served as a shield. Our individual rights were protected from government overreach and persecution, defending what University of Virginia professor G. Edward White decades ago called “oppressed mavericks and despised dissenters.”

Friday, September 30, 2022

Suitability versus capability

  A critical maxim of management is: “Suitability is as important as capability.” Capability asks, “Can they do the job?” Suitability asks, “Are they right for the job?”

  If the job isn’t a good fit, it’s not a good job.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

When you’re questioning your faith after being hurt by your religious community, here are three ways to cope

  For the past few months, religion has never been far from U.S. headlines.

  The Supreme Court has overturned constitutional abortion rights. Congress is debating whether to codify protections for same-sex marriage. Courts have been asked to decide whether religious schools and business owners have to hire, serve, or acknowledge LGBTQ members and organizations.

  Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Southern Baptist Convention after a consultant’s report revealed a history of sexual abuse and cover-ups – and new lawsuits alleging abuse in the Catholic Church continue to appear.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Is the pandemic over? We asked an economist, an education expert and a public health scholar their views

  President Joe Biden’s declaration that “the pandemic is over” raised eyebrows and the hackles of some experts who think such messaging could be premature and counterproductive.

  But to many Americans who have long since returned to pre-COVID 19 activities and are now being forced back into the office, the remark may ring true.

  The problem is that what “back to normal” feels like may differ from person to person, depending on the individual’s circumstances and by what criteria they are judging the pandemic to be over. The Conversation asked three scholars of different parts of U.S. society affected by the pandemic – public health, education, and the economy – to evaluate just how “over” the pandemic is in their worlds. This is what they said:

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Americans think they know a lot about politics – and it’s bad for democracy that they’re so often wrong in their confidence

  As statewide primaries continue through the summer, many Americans are beginning to think about which candidates they will support in the 2022 general election.

  This decision-making process is fraught with difficulties, especially for inexperienced voters.

  Voters must navigate angry, emotion-laden conversations about politics when trying to sort out whom to vote for. Americans are more likely than ever to view politics in moral terms, meaning their political conversations sometimes feel like epic battles between good and evil.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - The decibel level story

  Those of us who served a long time in the Alabama Legislature have a lot of stories. I served 16 years from 1982 to 1998, representing my home county of Pike. I chose not to run again in 1998. However, I missed the comradery and friendships of other legislators who became lifelong friends.

  It was apparent that those of us who hailed from smaller towns and rural counties knew our constituents better and were better known by our constituents than those from urban areas.

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.