Tuesday, May 31, 2022

What we know about mass school shootings in the US – and the gunmen who carry them out

  When the Columbine High School massacre took place in 1999. it was seen as a watershed moment in the United States – the worst mass shooting at a school in the country’s history.

  Now, it ranks fourth. The three school shootings to surpass its death toll of 13 – 12 students, one teacher – have all taken place within the last decade: 2012’s Sandy Hook Elementary attack, in which a gunman killed 26 children and school staff; the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed the lives of 17 people; and now the Robb Elementary School assault in Uvalde, Texas, where on May 24, 2022, at least 19 children and two adults were murdered.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Day of gratitude

  Our nation was conceived by idealistic and courageous political leaders, but it was preserved by the immense and immeasurable sacrifice of millions of soldiers who fought and died to transform the democratic principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence into a country we proudly call the United States of America.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Is intermittent fasting the diet for you? Here’s what the science says

  What if I told you that all you need to do to lose weight is read a calendar and tell time? These are the basics for successfully following an intermittent fasting diet.

  Can it be that simple, though? Does it work? And what is the scientific basis for fasting? As a registered dietitian and expert in human nutrition and metabolism, I am frequently asked such questions.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

The big exodus of Ukrainian refugees isn’t an accident – it’s part of Putin’s plan to destabilize Europe

  More than 6.3 million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia first invaded in late February 2022.

  The European Union has welcomed Ukrainian refugees, allowing them to enter its 27 member countries without visas and live and work there for up to three years.

Friday, May 27, 2022

1 in 6 US kids are in families below the poverty line

  In the United States, children are more likely to experience poverty than people over 18.

  In 2020, about 1 in 6 kids, 16% of all children, were living in families with incomes below the official poverty line – an income threshold the government set that year at about US$26,500 for a family of four. Only 10% of Americans ages 18 to 64 and 9% of those 65 and up were experiencing poverty according to the most recent data available.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

How the NRA evolved from backing a 1934 ban on machine guns to blocking nearly all firearm restrictions today

  The mass shootings at a Buffalo, New York supermarket and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, just 10 days apart, are stirring the now-familiar national debate over guns seen after the tragic 2012 and 2018 school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Parkland, Florida.

  Inevitably, if also understandably, many Americans are blaming the National Rifle Association for thwarting stronger gun laws that might have prevented these two recent tragedies and many others. And despite the proximity in time and location to the Texas shooting, the NRA is proceeding with its plans to hold its annual convention in Houston on May 27-29, 2022. The featured speakers include former President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

US child welfare system is falling short because of persistent child poverty

  Although government spending on the child welfare system totaled US$33 billion in 2018, the most recent year for which an estimate is available, it’s still failing to meet all children’s needs because of overwhelming demand.

  Abuse and neglect investigations, foster care, and the other activities and services that comprise the child welfare system can harm children and the rest of their families. Communities of color are the most susceptible to this damage: 37% of all children – including 53% of African American children – experience a child protective services investigation by the time they turn 18.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Public education is supposed to prepare an informed citizenry – elementary teachers have just two hours a week to teach social studies

  The founders of the United States were intentionally building a nation based on the ideals of the Enlightenment, a movement centered on individual happiness, knowledge, and reason. This new approach to defining a country – rather than basing it on language, ethnicity, or geographic proximity – meant the new United States would have to educate its citizenry with the ideas, skills, and values necessary to build and grow their democracy.

  As a result, the founders called for schools to be established and funded. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and others believed it was the responsibility of the government to provide that education. Jefferson believed that education would serve as the moral foundation of the nation and redress the effect of poverty because education would be available to all children.

Monday, May 23, 2022

A shrinking fraction of the world’s major crops goes to feed the hungry, with more used for nonfood purposes

  Rising competition for many of the world’s important crops is sending increasing amounts toward uses other than directly feeding people. These competing uses include making biofuels; converting crops into processing ingredients, such as livestock meal, hydrogenated oils, and starches; and selling them on global markets to countries that can afford to pay for them.

  In a newly published study, my co-authors and I estimate that in 2030, only 29% of the global harvests of 10 major crops may be directly consumed as food in the countries where they were produced, down from about 51% in the 1960s. We also project that, because of this trend, the world is unlikely to achieve a top sustainable development goal: ending hunger by 2030.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

There are two kinds of people

  There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world and those who think those who think there are two kinds of people in the world are self-righteous jerks.

  A listener called me to task concerning a story about a man who told his son there are two kinds of people: those who return their shopping carts and those who don’t.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

How media reports of ‘clashes’ mislead Americans about Israeli-Palestinian violence

  Israeli police attacked mourners carrying the coffin of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 13, 2022, beating pallbearers with batons and kicking them when they fell to the ground.

  Yet those who skimmed the headlines of initial reports from several U.S. media outlets may have been left with a different impression of what happened.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Online data could be used against people seeking abortions if Roe v. Wade falls

  When the draft of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to the press, many of us who have been studying privacy for vulnerable individuals came to a troubling realization: The marginalized and vulnerable populations whose online risks have been the subject of our attention are likely to grow exponentially. These groups are poised to encompass all women of child-bearing age, regardless of how secure and how privileged they may have imagined themselves to be.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

US schools are not racially integrated, despite decades of effort

  Nearly seven decades after the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the court’s declared goal of integrated education is still not yet achieved.

  American society continues to grow more racially and ethnically diverse. But many of the nation’s public K-12 schools are not well integrated and are instead predominantly attended by students of one race or another.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

What is fentanyl and why is it behind the deadly surge in US drug overdoses? A medical toxicologist explains

  Buying drugs on the street is a game of Russian roulette. From Xanax to cocaine, drugs, or counterfeit pills purchased in nonmedical settings may contain life-threatening amounts of fentanyl.

  Physicians like me have seen a rise in unintentional fentanyl use from people buying prescription opioids and other drugs laced, or adulterated, with fentanyl. Heroin users in my community in Massachusetts came to realize that fentanyl had entered the drug supply when overdose numbers exploded. In 2016, my colleagues and I found that patients who came to the emergency department reporting a heroin overdose often only had fentanyl present in their drug test results.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

These strategies and life hacks can help anyone with ADHD, as well as those who struggle with attention problems but don’t have a diagnosis

  Imagine that it’s 4:59 p.m., only one minute before your deadline. You swore you’d never put yourself in this position again, and yet you have. This isn’t your best work, and you’ll be lucky just to turn anything in. What would you do differently if you could turn back the clock?

  Living with ADHD can feel like this on a daily basis, but it doesn’t have to.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Legacy of Jim Crow still affects funding for public schools

  Nearly 70 years ago – in its 1954 Brown v. Board decision – the Supreme Court framed racial segregation as the cause of educational inequality. It did not, however, challenge the lengths to which states went to ensure the unequal funding of Black schools.

  Before Brown, Southern states were using segregation to signify and tangibly reinforce second-class citizenship for Black people in the United States. The court in Brown deemed that segregation was inherently unequal. Even if the schools were “equalized” on all “tangible factors,” segregation remained a problem and physical integration was the cure, the Court concluded.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Too poor to give

  When Teresa, a widow with four young children, saw a notice that members of her church would gather to deliver presents and food to a needy family, she took $10 out of her savings jar and bought the ingredients to make three dozen cookies. She got to the church parking lot just in time to join a convoy going to the home that was to receive the congregation’s help.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Elon Musk says relaxing content rules on Twitter will boost free speech, but research shows otherwise

  Elon Musk’s accepted bid to purchase Twitter has triggered a lot of debate about what it means for the future of the social media platform, which plays an important role in determining the news and information many people – especially Americans – are exposed to.

  Musk has said he wants to make Twitter an arena for free speech. It’s not clear what that will mean, and his statements have fueled speculation among both supporters and detractors. As a corporation, Twitter can regulate speech on its platform as it chooses. There are bills being considered in the U.S. Congress and by the European Union that address social media regulation, but these are about transparency, accountability, illegal harmful content, and protecting users’ rights rather than regulating speech.

Friday, May 13, 2022

When it comes to spending, Alabama is ‘bluer’ than New York and California

  When you rank states in terms of their political leanings, places like California and New York are probably near the top of the list of liberal states. And that’s certainly true in terms of social issues.

  And while Alabama may be one of the most socially conservative states, would it shock you to know that when it comes to spending and tax issues, Alabama’s state government is about as blue as it gets?

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Getting out of jury duty

  Last week, I dyed my hair orange - not red, not the subtle hue of a delicate tiger lily bloom, but bright, shiny traffic cone orange. This is actually not an unusual occurrence. I've dyed my hair various less-than-conservative shades on the color wheel, and invariably I have received contrasting responses that have ranged from "Hey, cool!" to genuine concern from those who believe that I am yet another victim of the devil's crack rock.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

How shops use psychology to influence your buying decisions

  You might think that you only buy what you need, when you need it. But whether you are shopping for food, clothes, or gadgets, the retailers are using the power of psychological persuasion to influence your decisions – and help you part with your cash.

  If you think back, I’ll bet there’s a good chance that you can remember walking into a grocery store only to find the layout of the shop has been changed. Perhaps the toilet paper was no longer where you expected it to be, or you struggled to find the tomato ketchup.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Why we can’t ‘boost’ our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic for the long term

  With yet another COVID-19 booster available for vulnerable populations in the U.S., many people find themselves wondering what the end game will be.

  The mRNA vaccines currently used in the U.S. against COVID-19 have been highly successful at preventing hospitalization and death. The Commonwealth Fund recently reported that in the U.S. alone, the vaccines have prevented over 2 million people from dying and over 17 million from hospitalization.

  However, the vaccines have failed to provide long-term protective immunity to prevent breakthrough infections – cases of COVID-19 infection that occur in people who are fully vaccinated.

Monday, May 9, 2022

I just have to outrun you

  During a camping trip, Sam and Tom saw a bear coming their way. Sam started to take off his backpack and told Tom he was going to run for it. When his surprised friend said, “You can’t outrun a bear,” Sam replied, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”

Sunday, May 8, 2022

We need to reclaim the original intent of Mother’s Day

  I vividly recall the first time my kids made me breakfast for Mother’s Day. I lay in bed patiently listening to them giggle and rustle around the kitchen … wait, was that the blender? They brought their creative concoction out to the yard, where we had an idyllic, quiet morning in the May sunshine. As a single mother, I cherished this moment of respite and respect.

  But as a sociologist, I know that my longing for the ideal Mother’s Day was cultivated by the ubiquity of Hallmark’s sentimental greeting cards, by traditional notions of the family and motherhood, and by a historical amnesia that has buried the origins of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

When are book bans unconstitutional? A First Amendment scholar explains

  The United States has become a nation divided over important issues in K-12 education, including which books students should be able to read in public school.

  Efforts to ban books from school curricula, remove books from libraries, and keep lists of books that some find inappropriate for students are increasing as Americans become more polarized in their views.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Police presence on school grounds poses potential risks to kids

  In fall 2020, I got an email from the Phoenix Elementary School District #1, a K-8 school district, requesting feedback on whether to continue using school resource officers in seven of the district’s 14 elementary schools.

  As a researcher who specializes in the policing and development of children and adolescents, I responded by sharing a summary of the research on the subject of police in schools and offering my consultation. The school board president asked me to present research to the board on the effects school resource officers had on overall student well-being, school safety, and school climate.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Americans might love Cinco de Mayo, but few know what they’re celebrating

  Many Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but how many actually know the story of the holiday?

  Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t mark Mexican Independence, which is celebrated on Sept. 16. Instead, it’s meant to commemorate the Battle of Puebla, which was fought between the Mexican and French armies in 1862.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Store credit cards generate corporate profits and disgruntled workers

  Clothing retailers sell their shoppers more than jeans and sweaters.

  Major apparel companies also sell credit, often with very high fees, like The Gap’s 21.7% starting interest rate, and US$27 to $37 late payment charge. In 2019, Macy’s store credit card revenue of $771 million accounted for more than half of Macy’s operating income.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The application of religion to work, home and your daily life

  Most Americans say they’re religious and their beliefs are important to their lives, yet I’m astonished at how many blatantly ignore the moral expectations intrinsic to their religion.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Food pantries that give away stuff people can’t or won’t cook have an ‘acorn squash problem’

  A major problem with how food donation currently works in the United States is that a lot of the calories in those boxes and bags come from items that aren’t particularly healthy, such as packaged snacks.

  This arrangement is troubling in part because of the high rates of nutrition-related illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes, among low-income people who rely on donated food.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Leading by inspiration

  Why are negative management practices so prevalent?

  They include yelling, cursing, insults (sometimes masked in sarcasm or masquerading as jokes), criticizing subordinates in front of others, threatening demotion or termination, and talking to adults as if they were children.