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?