Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

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

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

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

Monday, August 29, 2022

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

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

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

Sunday, August 28, 2022

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

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

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

Saturday, August 27, 2022

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

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

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

Friday, August 26, 2022

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

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

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

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Rules about trust

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

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Alabama commission dissolves judicial seat won by Black woman

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

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

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

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

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

Monday, August 22, 2022

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

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

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

Sunday, August 21, 2022

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

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

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

Saturday, August 20, 2022

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

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

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

Friday, August 19, 2022

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

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

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

Thursday, August 18, 2022

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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

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

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

Monday, August 15, 2022

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

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

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

Sunday, August 14, 2022

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

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

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

Saturday, August 13, 2022

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2022

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

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

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

Thursday, August 11, 2022

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Listening: A vital dimension of respect

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

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 8, 2022

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

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

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

Sunday, August 7, 2022

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

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

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

Saturday, August 6, 2022

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

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

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

Friday, August 5, 2022

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

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

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

Thursday, August 4, 2022

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

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

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

The Case

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

Monday, August 1, 2022


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

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