Thursday, June 30, 2022

What’s a bear market? An economist explains

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

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Authentic apologies

  “I’m sorry.”

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

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

Monday, June 27, 2022

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

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

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

Sunday, June 26, 2022

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

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

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

Saturday, June 25, 2022

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

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

  But Jiminy Cricket got it wrong.

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

Friday, June 24, 2022

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

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

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

Thursday, June 23, 2022

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Social stress can speed up immune system aging – new research

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

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2022

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

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

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

Sunday, June 19, 2022

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

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

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

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Money is the icing, not the cake

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

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

Friday, June 17, 2022

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

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

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

Thursday, June 16, 2022

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

  Places are not just physical, but also social.

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

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

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

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 13, 2022

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

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

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

Sunday, June 12, 2022

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

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

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

Saturday, June 11, 2022

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

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

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

Friday, June 10, 2022

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

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

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

Thursday, June 9, 2022

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

5 ways to reduce school shootings

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

1) Dramatically limit access to guns

  Gun regulation matters.

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

Monday, June 6, 2022

Grocery store ethics

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

Sunday, June 5, 2022

When parents turn children into weapons, everybody loses

  Domestic abuse can involve one parent using a child as a weapon against the other parent, which harms the child in immense ways. My research has identified how these dynamics play out and examines the damage.

  There are approximately 5.7 million cases of domestic abuse in the U.S. each year, and in some of those, mothers and fathers use children to manipulate and harm the other parent. This behavior can include directly pressuring the child to spy on the abused parent or threatening the abused parent that they will never see the child again if they leave the relationship.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Deaths and injuries in road crashes are a ‘silent epidemic on wheels’

  The COVID-19 pandemic has generated mind-numbing statistics over the past two years: half a billion cases, 6 million deaths, 1 million in the U.S. alone. But another, less-publicized global scourge preceded it and is likely to outlast it: traffic deaths and injuries.

  Around 1.35 million people die each year on the world’s roads, and another 20 million to 50 million are seriously injured. Half of these deaths and many of the injuries involve pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists – the most vulnerable users of roads and streets.

  Around the world, someone dies from a road accident every 25 seconds. The head of the United Nations Road Safety Fund has called road deaths and injuries a “silent epidemic on wheels”.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Modern-day struggle at James Madison’s plantation Montpelier to include the descendants’ voices of the enslaved

  On May 17, 2022, after weeks of negative stories on Montpelier in the national press, the foundation that operates the Virginia plantation home of James Madison finally made good on its promise to share authority with descendants of people enslaved by the man known as “the father” of the U.S. Constitution.

  This agreement is the result of a long struggle by this descendant community to make enslaved people more prominent in the history Montpelier offers the public.

  Though presidential plantation museums began addressing the topic of enslavement over 20 years ago, descendants were not given power over their ancestors’ stories.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Alabama charter schools: A slow roll-out

  When Alabama enacted its Charter School Law in 2015, did state legislators expect there to be only seven active charter schools statewide seven years later? 

  In 2015, SB45, more commonly known as the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, passed both chambers on partisan lines, with zero Democrats voting in support of the bill. The Act created the Alabama Public Charter School Commission (APCSC), which intends to provide all children in the state with high-quality education outside of the traditional public school setting.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The Cleveland Indians changed their team name – what’s holding back the Atlanta Braves?

  In October 1995, as the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves prepared to face off in the World Series, a group of Native Americans rallied outside Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to protest what they called both teams’ racist names and mascots. Some protesters carried signs, including one that said, “Human beings as mascots is not politically incorrect. It is morally wrong.”

  They marched outside the ballpark, where some vendors were selling the foam tomahawks that Braves fans wave during the “tomahawk chop” – a cheer in which they mimic a Native American war chant while making a hammering motion with their arms.