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.’ ”