Sunday, December 31, 2023

How putting purpose into your New Year’s resolutions can bring meaning and results

  People worldwide make New Year’s resolutions every year in an attempt to improve their lives. Common resolutions are to exercise more, eat healthier, save money, lose weight, and reduce stress.

  Yet, 80% of people agree that most people won’t stick to their resolutions. This pessimism is somewhat justified. Only 4% of people report following through on all of the resolutions they personally set.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

A neuroscientist’s tips for a new year tuneup for your brain

  Unlike the effervescent bubbles that stream to the top of champagne flutes on New Year’s Eve, what I call brain bubbles are far from celebratory. These bubbles are metaphorical rather than physical, and they distort the stream of reality processed by our brains. Like a real estate bubble that reflects an inflated perception of home values, a brain bubble twists your perception of the world around you. And when either of these bubbles bursts, the results can be devastating.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Kids like to win; Adults need to win

  Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you have to acknowledge the powerful cultural influence that sports have on our culture. The values of millions of participants and spectators are shaped by the values conveyed in sports, including our views of what is permissible and proper in the competitive pursuit of personal goals.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Learn time management to make those New Year’s resolutions stick

  Does this sound familiar? You make a New Year’s resolution, like learning a new language, reading more books, or playing an instrument. You’re really excited at the beginning. You even go out and buy books or sign up for lessons. But then life happens.

  You get busy at work, you have to take care of your kids or elderly parents, and before you know it, the month is over and you’ve barely made a dent.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Why 14th Amendment bars Trump from office: A constitutional law scholar explains principle behind Colorado Supreme Court ruling

  In 2024, former President Donald Trump will face some of his greatest challenges: criminal court cases, primary opponents, and constitutional challenges to his eligibility to hold the office of president again. The Colorado Supreme Court has pushed that latter piece to the forefront, ruling on Dec. 19, 2023 that Trump cannot appear on Colorado’s 2024 presidential ballot because of his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

To have better disagreements, change your words – here are 4 ways to make your counterpart feel heard and keep the conversation going

  Your 18-year-old daughter announces she’s in love, dropping out of college, and moving to Argentina. Your yoga-teaching brother refuses to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and is confident that fresh air is the best medicine. Your boss is hiring another white man for a leadership team already made up entirely of white men.

  At home, at work, and in civic spaces, it’s not uncommon to have conversations that make you question the intelligence and benevolence of your fellow human beings.  

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas around the world

  Christmas is both a religious holiday and increasingly a secular holiday heavily influenced by local culture. As a result, Christmas traditions are as diverse as the world itself.

  In the United States, for example, Christmas traditions are a literal potpourri of the Christmas traditions brought by immigrants, mostly European. For example, Yule log (English), Christmas tree (German), carols or noels (France), Santa Claus (Dutch). In more recent times, newer Christmas traditions have arrived with the most recent immigrants such as luminaries (Mexico) and the "Feliz Navidad!" greeting (Latin America generally).

Sunday, December 24, 2023

How the American Civil War cemented modern Christmas tradition

  Shortly before Christmas Day 1864, Abraham Lincoln received an extraordinary Christmas present – Savannah, Georgia. Union General William Sherman presented the captured city to the president via telegram, noting his gift included guns, ammunition, and several thousand bales of cotton.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Five ways Christmas affects your brain

  Christmas is a time of year like no other; gifts are exchanged, little-spoken-to relatives are contacted, and appetizing treats are consumed with great gusto. Christmas can be both a time of stress and a time of relaxation. But whether you love or hate Christmas, it’s pretty difficult to avoid – and so your brain may be altered by the experience one way or another. Here are some of the main facets of the Christmas experience and how they might affect your brain.

Friday, December 22, 2023

What is a good Christmas?

  Will this be a good Christmas?

  How will you measure it?

  For lots of kids, the answer may be embedded in the response to the question, “What did ya get?”

  On the other hand, retailers and Wall Street investors will look to sales and profits.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Retail - why I hate Christmas

  I work in retail, therefore, I hate Christmas. Yes, that's what I said: I HATE CHRISTMAS. People often cluck their tongues and shake their heads in appalled disbelief when I tell them this, and then they often follow up the shaking of their heads with the same response: "I love Christmas because people are nicer to each other."

  Obviously, these people do not and have never worked in a grocery store during the holiday season. Wherever these kinder, gentler folk are, they definitely aren't anywhere near my place of employment. Of course, I work at the customer service desk, which on any given day, is overcrowded with pissed-off patrons demanding refunds and making general threats in order to get free food. During the holidays, this volatile behavior inevitably increases twofold, only to be compounded by the insane repetition of the Muzak in the background playing the 975th version of "White Christmas."

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Winter brings more than just ugly sweaters – here’s how the season can affect your mind and behavior

  What comes to mind when you think about winter? Snowflakes? Mittens? Reindeer? In much of the Northern Hemisphere, winter means colder temperatures, shorter days, and year-end holidays.

  Along with these changes, a growing body of research in psychology and related fields suggests that winter also brings some profound changes in how people think, feel, and behave.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Big-box retail chains were never a solution for America’s downtowns − and now they’re fleeing back to suburbia

  Holiday shopping is in full swing, but city dwellers may have fewer options for buying in person than they did a few years ago. That’s because many large chain stores are pulling out of central cities.

  This trend has been building for several years. Target made national headlines in 2018 when it closed its store in a predominantly Black Baltimore neighborhood after just 10 years of operation. COVID-19 sped things up by cutting foot traffic in city centers and boosting online commerce.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Find the spirit of Christmas that you once had

  Every year, the Christmas season comes earlier. It used to be that we put up our outside Christmas lights on the last weekend of November. Shortly after, we gradually transformed the inside of our house with Christmas decorations. This culminated with the purchase of a real pine tree, which we decorated shortly before Christmas, at times as late as Christmas Eve. The earliest that we went to get our tree was a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

In face of threats, election workers vow: ‘You are not disrupting the democratic process’

  Hundreds of election workers in Washington state’s second-largest county were busy opening mail-in ballots earlier this month when one of them came across a plain white envelope. As she cut it open, white powder leaked out.

  She carefully took off her gloves, put them down, backed away, and called her supervisor. Workers evacuated the building and waited for the Tacoma Fire Department to arrive. While first responders tested the substance, Democratic and Republican observers gathered at the emergency management center looking at security feeds of the election office to ensure there wasn’t any ballot tampering.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Hate Christmas? A psychologist’s survival guide for Grinches

  Two years ago, I came into work on December 1 to find a bag on my desk labeled “Karen’s Christmas Intervention”. It contained many Christmas-themed gifts and challenges – such as watching a Christmas DVD and going to a carol service. These were all designed to help me find something to like about Christmas. I tried everything – after all, someone had made a big effort. But while I enjoyed completing each challenge, it didn’t change my values. I remain a Grinch.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Health misinformation is rampant on social media – here’s what it does, why it spreads and what people can do about it

  The global anti-vaccine movement and vaccine hesitancy that accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic show no signs of abating.

  According to a survey of U.S. adults, Americans in October 2023 were less likely to view approved vaccines as safe than they were in April 2021. As vaccine confidence falls, health misinformation continues to spread like wildfire on social media and in real life.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Toforest Johnson shows who Alabama’s death penalty serves

  Toforest Johnson should not be on death row.

  I’m not the first person to think that. I doubt I’ll be the last.

  A jury convicted Johnson in 1998 of the murder of William Hardy, an off-duty Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed in a parking lot on the morning of July 19, 1995. Police arrested Johnson a few hours later.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Online ‘likes’ for toxic social media posts prompt more − and more hateful − messages

  The rampant increase of hate messages on social media is a scourge in today’s technology-infused society. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and even personal attacks on people who have the audacity to disagree with someone else’s political opinion – these and other forms of online hate present an ugly side of humanity.

  The derision on social media appears in vile and profane terms for all to see. Obviously, the sole purpose of posting online hate is to harass and harm one’s victims, right?

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Alabama’s low workforce participation rate is real. Legislators may not like the solutions.

  Alabama politicians chase so many imaginary problems that it’s worth noting when they dialogue with reality.

  For example, the recent creation by Gov. Kay Ivey and state legislators of a commission to study the state’s chronically low workforce participation rate.

  It’s a real problem.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Christmas food around the world

   The following provides just a taste of favorite festive foods from around the world:


  Austrians celebrate Christmas in grand style with a Christmas Eve supper of carp simmered in a ginger and beer-flavored sauce and seasonal vegetables, followed by Topfenpalatschinken (sweet cheese crepes topped with an apricot caramel sauce) for dessert. The traditional fare on Christmas Day is roast goose with all the trimmings.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

If Alabama wants to support crime victims, it should start by listening to us

  My little brother Arthur Sturdivant, Jr. died by homicide on June 8, 2021. I was there when he went, lying in the street in Selma. Police arrested the man who shot him, but the ambulance arrived too late. Arthur was 21 years old. I was 25.

  Arthur left behind a family who loved him, including a sweet son who I am now helping to raise.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Growing threat of political violence looms over 2024, former members of Congress warn

  Former members of Congress are deeply concerned about political violence ahead of the 2024 presidential election, former Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and former Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia said at a Thursday joint appearance sponsored by the liberal Center for American Progress and the nonpartisan McCain Institute.

  Jones, a moderate Democrat who lost reelection in 2020, and Comstock, a moderate Republican who was defeated in 2018, said increased acceptance of political violence is seen across the political spectrum. But they laid much of the blame on former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Steep physical decline with age is not inevitable – here’s how strength training can change the trajectory

  Raise your hand if you regularly find yourself walking up a flight of stairs. What about carrying heavy bags of groceries? How about picking up your child or grandchild? Most of us would raise our hands to doing at least one of those weekly or even daily.

  As people age, it can become more and more difficult to perform some physical tasks, even those that are normal activities of daily living. However, prioritizing physical fitness and health as you get older can help you go through your normal day-to-day routine without feeling physically exhausted at the end of the day.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Hanukkah celebrations have changed dramatically − but the same is true of Christmas

  Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas. Articles and op-eds in newspapers remind readers of that fact every year, lamenting that the Jewish Festival of Lights has almost become an imitation of the Christian holiday.

  These pieces exist for a reason. Hanukkah is a minor festival in the Jewish liturgical year, whose major holidays come in the fall and spring – the High Holidays and Passover, respectively. Because of its proximity to Christmas, however, Hanukkah has been culturally elevated into a major celebration.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Jingle Bell blocked: 10 holiday songs that have been censored

  A viral story once claimed that playing holiday music before Thanksgiving was a federal crime. But it was a joke. That couldn't happen thanks to the First Amendment.

  The First Amendment protects freedom of expression. That includes music. It also protects freedom of religion. That includes celebrating religious holidays with song.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

ChatGPT turns 1: AI chatbot’s success says as much about humans as technology

  ChatGPT was launched on Nov. 30, 2022, ushering in what many have called artificial intelligence’s breakout year. Within days of its release, ChatGPT went viral. Screenshots of conversations snowballed across social media, and the use of ChatGPT skyrocketed to an extent that seems to have surprised even its maker, OpenAI. By January, ChatGPT was seeing 13 million unique visitors each day, setting a record for the fastest-growing user base of a consumer application.

  Throughout this breakout year, ChatGPT has revealed the power of a good interface and the perils of hype, and it has sown the seeds of a new set of human behaviors. As a researcher who studies technology and human information behavior, I find that ChatGPT’s influence in society comes as much from how people view and use it as the technology itself.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Pollution from coal power plants contributes to far more deaths than scientists realized, study shows

  Air pollution particles from coal-fired power plants are more harmful to human health than many experts realized, and it’s more than twice as likely to contribute to premature deaths as air pollution particles from other sources, new research demonstrates.

  In the study, published in the journal Science, colleagues and I mapped how U.S. coal power plant emissions traveled through the atmosphere, then linked each power plant’s emissions with death records of Americans over 65 years old on Medicare.

  Our results suggest that air pollutants released from coal power plants were associated with nearly half a million premature deaths of elderly Americans from 1999 to 2020.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Airlines are frustrating travelers by changing frequent flyer program rules – here’s why they keep doing it

  As the U.S. holiday travel season picks up, many people are noticing that their frequent flyer benefits aren’t going as far as they used to.

  In September 2023, Delta Air Lines revamped its frequent flyer program to make it tougher to earn status — a tiered system offering travel privileges based on the reward points earned — only to partially reverse course a month later and make it easier. American Airlines also made big changes to its loyalty scheme in 2022 and minor changes in spring 2023. And British Airways recently announced that it is adjusting the way it awards points for travel.

Friday, December 1, 2023

A tortured and deadly legacy: Kissinger and realpolitik in US foreign policy

  Henry Kissinger, who died on Nov. 29, 2023, at age 100, exercised more than 50 years of influence on American foreign policy.

  I am a scholar of American foreign policy who has written on Kissinger’s service from 1969 to 1977 as national security adviser and secretary of state under the Nixon and Ford administrations. I have seen how his foreign policy views and actions played out for good and, mostly, for ill.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Being homeless means not being free − as Americans are supposed to be

  Homelessness is a state of deprivation. Those who are homeless need shelter to be safe; they don’t have it. They need a toilet for basic bodily functions; they don’t have one. They need a shower to keep clean; they don’t have that either.

  Because such deprivation dramatically affects the well-being of people who are homeless, public discussion of homelessness tends to focus on whether and to what extent the government should carry out anti-homelessness policy as a way of improving people’s overall quality of life.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

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, November 28, 2023

Lost in the coffee aisle? Navigating the complex buzzwords behind an ‘ethical’ bag of beans is easier said than done

  You’re shopping for a bag of coffee beans at the grocery store. After reading about the effects of climate change and how little farmers make – typically $0.40 per cup – you figure it might be time to change your usual beans and buy something more ethical. Perusing the shelves in the coffee aisle, though, you see too many choices.

  First up is the red tub of Folgers “100% Colombian,” a kitchen staple – “lively with a roasted and rich finish.” On the side of the tub, you see the icon of Juan Valdez with his donkey, Conchita – a fictional mascot representing the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Christmas isn’t always holly jolly – even some of its best-loved songs are bittersweet

  In American culture, Christmas is supposed to be synonymous with joy. The familiar carols proclaim this message, with “Joy to the World” resounding in thousands of churches, while its secular counterpart exhorts listeners to have “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”

  The real emotions of the season are a bit more complex. For many people, late December produces a kind of toxic brew of nostalgia and melancholy. It’s difficult not to remember loved ones missing from the holidays. People move, grow apart, pass on – all these hit home with a special poignance at this time of year, and other kinds of changes, too. Parents might even remember with nostalgic sadness a more innocent time when their children still believed in Santa. Nearly everyone has too much to do, and gift-giving can be a minefield.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Christmas tree is a tradition older than Christmas

  Why, every Christmas, do so many people endure the mess of dried pine needles, the risk of a fire hazard, and impossibly tangled strings of lights?

  Strapping a fir tree to the hood of my car and worrying about the strength of the twine, I sometimes wonder if I should just buy an artificial tree and do away with all the hassle. Then my inner historian scolds me – I have to remind myself that I’m taking part in one of the world’s oldest religious traditions. To give up the tree would be to give up a ritual that predates Christmas itself.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Forgiving without condoning or forgetting

  I suspect all of us have been hurt in deep and lasting ways by the words or acts of another. It’s normal in such situations to feel hostility toward, be angry with, and make negative judgments about the person who hurt us. If we continue to think we’re right to be offended, the tendency is to carry the hurt and resentment in the form of a grudge. Usually this causes far more unhappiness for us than the person we’re mad at.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Retail rage: Why Black Friday leads shoppers to behave badly

  The manic nature of Black Friday has at times led shoppers to engage in fistfights and other misbehavior in their desperation to snatch up the last ultra-discounted television, computer, or pair of pants.

  What is it about the day after Thanksgiving – a day meant to celebrate togetherness and shared feasting – that inspires consumers to misbehave?

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Top 25 Thanksgiving quotations

  "It is therefore recommended ... to set apart Thursday the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor ..." -Samuel Adams, father of the American Revolution on November 1, 1777 (adopted by the 13 states as the first official Thanksgiving Proclamation)

  "Gratitude is the sign of noble souls." -Aesop's Fables

  "Thanksgiving is possible only for those who take time to remember; no one can give thanks who has a short memory." -Anonymous

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Passeth the cranb'rry sauce! The medieval origins of Thanksgiving

  How and why did the dishes served at Thanksgiving dinner come to be so fixed?

  Many assume that most of them were simply eaten by the Pilgrims during the first Thanksgiving. For this reason, they continue to be eaten today. And it’s true that most of the ingredients are American in origin: the turkey, cranberries, pumpkin, sweet potatoes – even the green beans in the casserole and the pecans in the pie.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Are you as grateful as you deserve to be?

  As a physician, I have helped to care for many patients and families whose lives have been turned upside down by serious illnesses and injuries. In the throes of such catastrophes, it can be difficult to find cause for anything but lament. Yet Thanksgiving presents us with an opportunity to develop one of the healthiest, most life-affirming, and convivial of all habits – that of counting and rejoicing in our blessings.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Does chicken soup really help when you’re sick? A nutrition specialist explains what’s behind the beloved comfort food

  Preparing a bowl of chicken soup for a loved one when they’re sick has been a common practice throughout the world for centuries. Today, generations from virtually every culture swear to the benefits of chicken soup. In the U.S., the dish is typically made with noodles, but different cultures prepare the soothing remedy their own way.

  Chicken soup as a therapy can be traced back to 60 A.D. and Pedanius Dioscorides, an army surgeon who served under the Roman emperor Nero, and whose five-volume medical encyclopedia was consulted by early healers for more than a millennium. But the origins of chicken soup go back thousands of years earlier, to ancient China.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Mass shootings often put a spotlight on mental illness, but figuring out which conditions should keep someone from having a gun is no easy task

  Every time the country is shaken by a tragic mass shooting and the loss of innocent lives, mental illness and its role in the actions of the mass shooter come under scrutiny.

  Mental illness again became a central theme after the mass shooting in Maine on Oct. 25, 2023, in which records suggest that the shooter had a history of serious mental health issues. Months before the tragedy, the family of gunman Robert Card, as well as Army Reserve staffers, had contacted law enforcement expressing high levels of concern about his mental health and noting his access to guns.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Alabama needs a new statehouse. Alabamians deserve to know its cost.

  Alabamians have every right to be cynical about their state government.

  After all, there’s a long history of Montgomery politicians enriching themselves or enriching business allies while distracting voters with attacks on those least able to respond.

  It’s an old, ossified attitude. We live under a Jim Crow constitution passed in 1901. Georgia has had three different governing documents during that time.

Friday, November 17, 2023

The futility and destructiveness of the Drug War

  The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Louisiana just sent out a press release reporting that a New Orleans federal judge has sentenced a 28-year-old man, Derek Nolan, to 15 years in a federal penitentiary for drug-related crimes. 

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Gun deaths among children and teens have soared – but there are ways to reverse the trend

  Firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death among U.S. children and teens following a huge decade-long rise.

  Analyses published on Oct. 5, 2023 by a research team in Boston found an 87% increase in firearm-involved fatalities among Americans under the age of 18 from 2011 to 2021.

  Such an increase is obviously very concerning. But as scholars of adolescent health and firearm violence, we know there are many evidence-based steps that elected officials, health care professionals, community leaders, school administrators, and parents can implement to help reverse this trend.

Trends in firearm deaths

  The latest study is based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This data also provides information on whether firearm deaths were the result of homicide, suicide, or unintentional shootings.

  We have seen increases over time in all three areas. The steepest increase has been in the rate of firearm homicides, which doubled over the decade to 2021, reaching 2.1 deaths per 100,000 children and teens, or about 1,500 fatalities annually. Firearm-involved suicides have also increased steadily to 1.1 deaths per 100,000 children and teens in 2021.

  Whereas the proportion of youth firearm-involved deaths due to unintentional shootings is typically highest during childhood, the share of gun deaths due to suicide peaks in adolescence.

  In 2021, homicide was the most common form of firearm-involved deaths in almost every age group under the age of 18, with the exception of 12- and 13-year-olds, in which suicide was the leading cause of firearm fatalities.

  Racial disparities in firearm deaths, which have been present for multiple generations, are also expanding, research shows.

  Black children and teens are now dying from firearms at around 4.5 times the rate of their white peers.

  This disparity is the consequence of structural factors, including the effects of systemic racism and economic disinvestment within many communities. Addressing racial disparities in firearm-involved deaths will require supporting communities and disrupting inequity by addressing long-term underfunding in Black communities and punitive policymaking.

  More research is needed to fully understand why firearm-involved deaths are universally increasing across homicide, suicide, and unintentional deaths. The COVID-19 pandemic and its exacerbation of social inequities and vulnerabilities likely explain some of these increases.

How to reduce gun fatalities

  Reducing young people’s access to unsecured and loaded firearms can prevent firearm-involved deaths across all intents — including suicide, homicide, and unintentional shootings.

  Gun-owning parents can help by storing all firearms in a secure manner – such as in a locked gun safe or with a trigger or cable lock – and unloaded so they are not accessible to children or teens within the household.

  Data shows that only one-third of firearm-owning households with teens in the U.S. currently store all their firearms unloaded and locked.

  In addition to locking household firearms, parents should consider storing a firearm away from the home, such as in a gun shop or shooting range, or temporarily transferring ownership to a family member if they have a teen experiencing a mental health crisis.

  Families, including those that don’t own firearms, should also consider how firearms are stored in homes where their children or teens may spend time, such as a grandparent’s or neighbor’s house.

  Community-based and clinical programs that provide counseling on the importance of locked storage and provide free devices are effective in improving the ways people store their firearms. In addition, researchers have found that states with child access prevention laws, which impose criminal liability on adults for negligently stored firearms, are associated with lower rates of child and teen firearm deaths.

  Reducing the number of young people who carry and use firearms in risky ways is another key step to prevent firearm deaths among children and teens. Existing hospital- and community-based prevention services support this work by identifying and enrolling youth at risk in programs that reduce violence involvement, the carrying of firearms, and risky firearm behaviors.

  While researchers are currently testing such programs to understand how well they work, early findings suggest that the most promising programs include a combination of reducing risky behaviors – through, for example, nonviolent conflict resolution; enhancing youth engagement in pro-social activities and with positive mentors; and supporting youth mental health.

Support structures

  In addition to ongoing focused prevention efforts, hospital-, school-, and community-based interventions that support youth in advancing social, emotional, mental, physical, and financial health can reduce the risk of firearm deaths. Such measures include both creating opportunities for children and teens – building playgrounds, establishing youth programs and providing access to the arts and green spaces – and community-level improvements, such as improved public transportation, economic opportunities, environmental safety conditions, and affordable and quality housing. Allocating resources toward these initiatives is an investment in every community member’s safety.

  Over the past decade, we have seen an 87% increase in firearm-involved fatalities among children and teens in the United States. But we also have the strategies and tools to stop and reverse this troubling trend.

  About the authors: Rebeccah Sokol is an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan. Marc A. Zimmerman is a professor of public health at the University of Michigan. Patrick Carter is the co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan.

  This article was published by The Conversation.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Looking for your ‘calling’? What people get wrong when chasing meaningful work

  As a professor, I’m fortunate to teach a course called World Religions for Healthcare Professionals that prepares students for the spiritual and ethical issues they may encounter in their careers. But the class often boils down to life’s big questions: What makes life worth living, and how should we live? How do you find your “calling”?

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Why humans can’t trust AI: You don’t know how it works, what it’s going to do or whether it’ll serve your interests

  There are alien minds among us. Not the little green men of science fiction, but the alien minds that power the facial recognition in your smartphone, determine your creditworthiness, and write poetry and computer code. These alien minds are artificial intelligence systems, the ghost in the machine that you encounter daily.

  But AI systems have a significant limitation: Many of their inner workings are impenetrable, making them fundamentally unexplainable and unpredictable. Furthermore, constructing AI systems that behave in ways that people expect is a significant challenge.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Lessons for today from the overlooked stories of Black teachers during the segregated civil rights era

  My grandmother’s name was Mrs. Zola Jackson.

  As one of the handful of Black teachers in Mississippi during the Jim Crow era of racially segregated public schools, she faced a daunting challenge in providing a first-class education to students considered second-class citizens.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Entrepreneurs, beware: Owning your own business can make it harder to get hired later

  If you’ve been thinking about starting your own business lately, you’re not alone. Americans began launching ventures in record numbers during the pandemic, with an above-trend pace continuing through 2023.

  Unfortunately, many of these enterprises won’t last long: 30% of new businesses fail within two years, and half don’t last past five, according to the Small Business Administration. While some of these unlucky founders will pursue new ventures, many others will try to rejoin the traditional labor force.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Veterans Day: Crossing out war

  Armistice Day, which was first celebrated on November 11, 1918, was changed to Veterans Day when our government passed a bill to that effect on June 2, 1954. Originally, it was a celebration of the ending of World War I, but today it commemorates the service of those who fought in all wars. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could cross out war?

Friday, November 10, 2023

Tommy Tuberville is losing

  Let’s remember the stakes of Tommy Tuberville’s months-long blockade of military promotions.

  The Pentagon in February announced a new policy to help service members get abortion services, months after the U.S. Supreme Court gave states like Alabama the green light to impose draconian restrictions on the procedure.

  The policy gives members of the armed forces up to 21 days’ leave for abortion or fertility treatments. It reimburses them for travel expenses. And it prevents a health care provider from telling a commander about the nature of the person’s treatment.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Biden administration executive order tackles AI risks, but lack of privacy laws limits reach

  The comprehensive, even sweeping set of guidelines for artificial intelligence that the White House unveiled in an executive order on Oct. 30, 2023 show that the U.S. government is attempting to address the risks posed by AI.

  As a researcher of information systems and responsible AI, I believe the executive order represents an important step in building responsible and trustworthy AI.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Politicians love to cite crime data. It’s often wrong.

  When Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his presidential campaign in May, he proudly told the nation that Florida’s crime rate in 2021 had reached a 50-year low.

  But really, DeSantis couldn’t say for sure.

  That’s because fewer than 1 in 10 law enforcement agencies in his state had reported their crime statistics to the FBI. In fact, more than 40% of the Sunshine State’s population was unaccounted for in the data used by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in its 2021 statewide crime report.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Trump’s violent rhetoric echoes the fascist commitment to a destructive and bloody rebirth of society

  Former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has regularly bordered on the incitement of violence. Lately, however, it has become even more violent. Yet both the press and the public have largely just shrugged their shoulders.

  As a political philosopher who studies extremism, I believe people should be more worried about this.

Monday, November 6, 2023

Name the problem

  A few months ago, the Alabama Resilience Council convened to discuss ways to prepare the state for extreme weather events.

  Interesting ideas surfaced, especially on fortifying homes against storm and wind damage.

  What wasn’t discussed?

  Climate change.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

The complex chemistry behind America’s spirit – how bourbon gets its distinctive taste and color

  Few beverages have as rich a heritage and as complicated a chemistry as bourbon whiskey, often called “America’s spirit.” Known for its deep amber hue and robust flavors, bourbon has captured the hearts of enthusiasts across the country.

  But for a whiskey to be called a bourbon, it has to adhere to very specific rules. For one, it needs to be made in the U.S. or a U.S. territory – although almost all is made in Kentucky. The other rules have more to do with the steps to make it – how much corn is in the grain mixture, the aging process, and the alcohol proof.

Saturday, November 4, 2023

New FBI hate crime report sparks concern, prompts action

  On May 14, 2022, an 18-year-old white supremacist drove over 200 miles to Buffalo and murdered 10 Black people, injuring three others, at a supermarket. The young man had come to believe the false conspiracy theory that Jewish people and liberal politicians are leading a covert plot to replace the political power and culture of white populations in Western nations with immigrants of color.

  The act of terror was one of 11,643 hate crime incidents documented in the FBI’s new hate crime report, covering bias crimes committed in 2022.

Friday, November 3, 2023

New House Speaker Mike Johnson leads a GOP majority weakened by decades of declining party authority

  After the House of Representatives took the unprecedented step on Oct. 3, 2023 of removing its own speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, with eight Republicans joining all 208 voting Democrats to “vacate the chair,” what followed was weeks of uncertainty. Until conservative Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson was elected speaker of the House on Oct. 25, no candidate had been able to secure the necessary number of Republicans to win a vote on the House floor. And without an elected speaker, the chamber was effectively stuck.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Being humble about what you know is just one part of what makes you a good thinker

  What does it mean to be a good thinker? Recent research suggests that acknowledging you can be wrong plays a vital role.

  I had these studies in mind a few months ago when I was chatting with a history professor about a class she was teaching to first-year students here at Wake Forest University. As part of my job as a psychology professor who researches character – basically, what it means to be a good person – I often talk to my colleagues about how our teaching can develop the character of our students.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Why separating fact from fiction is critical in teaching US slavery

  Of all the debate over teaching U.S. slavery, it is one sentence of Florida’s revised academic standards that has provoked particular ire: “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

  Does this sentence constitute “propaganda,” as Vice President Kamala Harris proclaimed, “an attempt to gaslight us?”

  Or is it a reasonable claim in a discussion of a difficult topic?

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

When Halloween became America’s most dangerous holiday

   The unquiet spirits, vampires, and the omnipresent zombies that take over American streets every October 31 may think Halloween is all about spooky fun. But what Halloween masqueraders may not realize is that in the early 1970s and well into the next decade, real fear took over.

  The media, police departments, and politicians began to tell a new kind of Halloween horror story – about poisoned candy.

  No actual events explained this fear: It was driven by social and cultural anxieties. And there is a lesson in that about the power of rumors on this day of dark fantasy.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Halloween’s celebration of mingling with the dead has roots in ancient Celtic celebrations of Samhain

  As Halloween approaches, people get ready to celebrate the spooky, the scary, and the haunted. Ghosts, zombies, skeletons, and witches are prominently displayed in yards, windows, stores, and community spaces. Festivities center around the realm of the dead, and some believe that the dead might actually mingle with the living on the night of Halloween.

  Scholars have often noted how these modern-day celebrations of Halloween have origins in Samhain, a festival celebrated by ancient Celtic cultures. In contemporary Irish Gaelic, Halloween is still known as Oíche Shamhna, or Eve of Samhain.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Tracking daily step counts can be a useful tool for weight management – an exercise scientist parses the science

  Over the last decade, smartphones have become ubiquitous not just for sending texts and staying abreast of news but also for monitoring daily activity levels.

  Among the most common, and arguably the most meaningful, tracking method for daily physical activity is step counting.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Why believing in ghosts can make you a better person

  Halloween is a time when ghosts and spooky decorations are on public display, reminding us of the realm of the dead. But could they also be instructing us in important lessons on how to lead moral lives?

Roots of Halloween

  The origins of modern-day Halloween go back to “Samhain,” a Celtic celebration for the beginning of the dark half of the year when, it was widely believed, the realm between the living and the dead overlapped and ghosts could be commonly encountered.

Friday, October 27, 2023

America’s farmers are getting older, and young people aren’t rushing to join them

  On October 12, National Farmers’ Day, Americans honor the hardworking people who keep the world fed and clothed.

  But the farming labor force has a problem: It’s aging rapidly.

  The average American farmer is 57 and a half years old according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s up sharply from 1978 when the figure was just a smidge over 50.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Let the community work it out: Throwback to early internet days could fix social media’s crisis of legitimacy

  In the 2018 documentary “The Cleaners,” a young man in Manila, Philippines explains his work as a content moderator: “We see the pictures on the screen. You then go through the pictures and delete those that don’t meet the guidelines. The daily quota of pictures is 25,000.” As he speaks, his mouse clicks, deleting offending images while allowing others to remain online.

  The man in Manila is one of thousands of content moderators hired as contractors by social media platforms – 10,000 at Google alone. Content moderation on an industrial scale like this is part of the everyday experience for users of social media. Occasionally a post someone makes is removed, or a post someone thinks is offensive is allowed to go viral.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Israeli invasion of Gaza likely to resemble past difficult battles in Iraq and Syria

  Israel appears to be preparing for the next phase of its military operation: a ground campaign to “crush and destroy” Hamas, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put it.

  Israel has signaled that it might be willing to delay an invasion – but not call it off entirely – if Hamas releases more hostages. But that means an invasion is still very likely, which raises questions about how Hamas has prepared for a ground invasion and whether Israel is prepared for what could be a long, drawn-out fight.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

10 Things you didn't know about the history of Halloween

10) While today's costumes channel an inner fantasy, they started with a much more solemn purpose.

  One of the earliest examples we have of people donning costumes comes from Hallow Mass, a ceremonial mass dedicated to prayers for the dead. People appealed to their ancestors for everything from happy marriages to fertility, and costumes were a part of that.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Amish culture prizes peace − but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from a stop in Amish Country tourist towns

  Ohio’s Amish Country, located in the northeastern part of the state, draws over 4 million visitors every year – second only to Cedar Point amusement park as the Buckeye State’s most popular tourist attraction.

  October, with its cooler temperatures and spectacular colors, is the region’s peak month for tourist traffic. Hundreds of thousands of tourists descend on the area in the fall to shop for Amish-made furniture, enjoy buggy rides, and visit small towns that many Americans romanticize as bucolic escapes from the world.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

What do a Black scientist, nonprofit executive and filmmaker have in common? They all face racism in the ‘gray areas’ of workplace culture

  American workplaces talk a lot about diversity these days. In fact, you’d have a hard time finding a company that says it doesn’t value the principle. But despite this – and despite the multibillion-dollar diversity industry – Black workers continue to face significant hiring discrimination, stall out at middle management levels, and remain underrepresented in leadership roles.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

What if Alabama had never taken anyone’s vote away?

  There’s a chance — not a guarantee, but a better-than-average possibility — that two Black Alabamians will represent the state in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2025. 

  A federal court created two new congressional districts for the state, one with a Black Voting Age Population (BVAP) of 51.9% and one with a BVAP of 48.7%.

  To this point, the declared or likely candidates for the districts are nearly all Black Democrats. Because voting in Alabama is racially polarized — white Alabamians tend to support Republicans and Black Alabamians tend to support Democrats — it’s a good bet that two Black Alabamians will serve in the state’s seven-member U.S. House delegation. 

  That’s never happened before. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

As witchcraft becomes a multibillion-dollar business, practitioners’ connection to the natural world is changing

  Witches, Wiccans, and other contemporary Pagans see divinity in trees, streams, plants, and animals. Most Pagans view the Earth as the Goddess, with a body that humans must care for, and from which they gain emotional, spiritual, and physical sustenance.

  Paganism is an umbrella term that includes religions that view their practices as returning to those of pre-Christian societies, in which they believe the Goddess was worshipped along with the gods and the land was seen as sacred. Wicca focuses specifically on the practice of the British Isles.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Today’s white working-class young men who turn to racist violence are part of a long, sad American history

  In recent years, the United States has seen a surge of white supremacist mass shootings against racial minorities. While not always the case, mass shooters tend to be young white men.

  Some journalists and researchers have argued that class and ideals of white masculinity are partly to blame.

  This argument is not surprising. Throughout U.S. history, white men’s anxieties over their manhood and social class help explain many violent attacks on Black people, whom the perpetrators blame for denying them their rightful privileges.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Listen up, ladies and gentlemen, guys and dudes: Terms of address can be a minefield, especially as their meanings change

  A male colleague could be forgiven for not knowing if using “guys” to refer to female co-workers is acceptable in the modern workplace. But should he address them as “ladies,” he risks a trip to HR, or at the very least being labeled a condescending creep.

  So what in the name of Messrs Merriam and Webster is going on with what we linguists call “address terms” – that is, the words we use to address individuals – and their gender? All languages have such terms, with the most common being “you,” or the second-person pronoun.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Vaccines against COVID-19, the seasonal flu and RSV are our best chance of preventing a winter surge

  As cold and flu season ramps up, health care experts are once again on high alert for the possibility of a tripledemic, or a surge brought on by the respiratory viruses that cause COVID-19, the flu, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The good news is that this year, health officials have more tools at their disposal to combat them.

  Americans ages 6 months and older are eligible to receive the newest COVID-19 vaccine and the annual flu vaccine. In addition, this year the Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine against RSV for use in late pregnancy and adults 60 years of age and older.

Monday, October 16, 2023

How to keep your jack-o’-lantern from turning into moldy, maggoty mush before Halloween

  For many Americans, pumpkins mean that fall is here. In anticipation, coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores start their pumpkin flavor promotions in late August, a month before autumn officially begins. And shoppers start buying fresh decorative winter produce, such as pumpkins and turban squash, in the hot, sultry days of late summer.

  But these fruits – yes, botanically, pumpkins and squash are fruits – don’t last forever. And they may not even make it to Halloween if you buy and carve them too early.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Hammering Alabama elections in search of a nail

  Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen doesn’t want to make voting easier. He’s always been clear on that.

  Take an interview Alabama’s elections chief did a few weeks ago. Allen said he opposed automatic voter registration (AVR), a program where a qualified voter gets registered when they do something like renew a driver’s license.

  “Registering to vote is a First Amendment issue in my mind,” he told a conservative radio host. “You’re exercising your speech. And I think that’s a slippery slope you go down when the government just automatically tells somebody that they’re going to be registered to vote. As long as I’m secretary of state, we’re not going down that path.”

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Traffic tickets can be profitable, and fairness isn’t the bottom line in city courts where judges impose the fines

  When city governments spend more money than they take in, officials often search for ways to generate revenue. One increasingly common source of money is traffic tickets. And research shows police officers issue more traffic tickets when cities are financially in a deficit.

  But police represent only one aspect of this revenue-generating system. Judges and their courts also use traffic citations to generate money for the cities that employ them.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Why is 13 considered unlucky? Explaining the power of its bad reputation

  Would you think it weird if I refused to travel on Sundays that fall on the 22nd day of the month?

  How about if I lobbied the homeowner association in my high-rise condo to skip the 22nd floor, jumping from the 21st to 23rd?

  It’s highly unusual to fear 22 – so, yes, it would be appropriate to see me as a bit odd. But what if, in just my country alone, more than 40 million people shared the same baseless aversion?

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Calling the war in Ukraine a ‘tragedy’ shelters its perpetrators from blame and responsibility

  Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to cause unspeakable, unimaginable suffering. By now, the word “tragedy” is firmly installed in the lexicon of the war and has become almost a cliche.

  Journalists record tragedies in Ukraine in their many heartbreaking manifestations. Marking the first anniversary of the war in February 2023, U.S. President Joe Biden said, “This war was never a necessity; it’s a tragedy.”

  The label of “tragedy” is liberally applied to most every development in this war. Russia’s breach of the Kakhovka dam on June 6, 2023, and the humanitarian and ecological disaster it caused was “the latest tragedy,” according to an Associated Press headline.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Gaza Strip − why the history of the densely populated enclave is key to understanding the current conflict

  The focus on conflict in the Middle East has again returned to the Gaza Strip, with Israel’s defense minister ordering a “complete siege” of the Palestinian enclave.

  The military operation, which involves extensive bombing of residences, follows a surprise attack on Oct. 7, 2023 by Hamas militants who infiltrated Israel from Gaza and killed more than 900 Israelis. In reprisal airstrikes, the Israeli military has killed over 800 Gazans. And that figure could escalate in the coming days. Meanwhile, an order to cut off all food, electricity, and water to Gaza will only worsen the plight of residents in what has been called the “world’s largest open-air prison.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Short naps can improve memory, increase productivity, reduce stress and promote a healthier heart

  Napping during the day is an ancient custom that is practiced worldwide.

  While some people view napping as a luxurious indulgence, others see it as a way to maintain alertness and well-being. But napping can come with drawbacks as well as benefits.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Humility is the foundation to a virtuous life

  The default psychological setting for human beings is an unavoidable self-centeredness. We each stand at the center of our own thoughts, feelings, and needs, and thus experience them in a way that we cannot experience the thoughts, feelings, and needs of others.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Hell, no! Halloween is not ‘satanic’ – it’s an important way to think about death

   American televangelist Pat Robinson once claimed children who celebrate Halloween were unknowingly “worshipping Satan”.

  Despite the absurdity that a child dressing up as a witch is devil worship, the idea that Halloween is linked to something satanic continues to have purchase among some conservative Christians. However, the traditions behind this increasingly popular holiday are far more complex. It has less to do with anything satanic and more to do with superstition and our relationship with death.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

The importance of shining a light on hidden toxic histories

  Indianapolis proudly claims Elvis’ last concert, Robert Kennedy’s speech in response to Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and the Indianapolis 500. There’s a 9/11 memorial, a Medal of Honor Memorial, and a statue of former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning.

  What few locals know, let alone tourists, is that the city also houses one of the largest dry cleaning Superfund sites in the U.S.

Friday, October 6, 2023

AI disinformation is a threat to elections − learning to spot Russian, Chinese and Iranian meddling in other countries can help the US prepare for 2024

  Elections around the world are facing an evolving threat from foreign actors, one that involves artificial intelligence.

  Countries trying to influence each other’s elections entered a new era in 2016 when the Russians launched a series of social media disinformation campaigns targeting the U.S. presidential election. Over the next seven years, a number of countries – most prominently China and Iran – used social media to influence foreign elections, both in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. There’s no reason to expect 2023 and 2024 to be any different.

  But there is a new element: generative AI and large language models. These have the ability to quickly and easily produce endless reams of text on any topic in any tone from any perspective. As a security expert, I believe it’s a tool uniquely suited to internet-era propaganda.

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Athletes, activism and the First Amendment: A conversation with Nate Boyer

  When Nate Boyer sat down with Colin Kaepernick in a hotel lobby in 2016, just days before the 15-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, and suggested that the San Francisco 49ers quarterback kneel, rather than sit, during the national anthem, he couldn't have imagined the backlash that would follow.

  Seven years later, the U.S. Army veteran and former NFL player says he "would not have done anything different," and that's due in large part to one thing: The First Amendment.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Steve Marshall doesn’t know what Jim Crow was

  Last Tuesday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a “statement on redistricting to the people of Alabama.”

  It said his office would abide by a federal court order creating a second majority or near-majority Black congressional district while appealing the ruling.

  That’s a standard comment when one loses cases like these. (The office on Friday appeared to have abandoned an immediate appeal of the order.)

  But Marshall said a lot more.

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Rupert Murdoch: His Fox News legacy is one of lies, with little accountability, and political power that rose from the belief in his power

  Rupert Murdoch, 92, one of the world’s most influential modern media figures, announced on Sept. 21, 2023, that he is stepping down as chair of Fox Corp. and executive chairman of News Corp. By mid-November, he will no longer be at the helm of the multibillion-dollar media empire that has stirred so much controversy over decades.

  Through Fox News, Murdoch is leaving a lasting impression on American journalism and politics. It just may not be what most people think.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Why managers’ attempts to empower their employees often fail – and even lead to unethical behavior

  A majority of American workers right now are not feeling very motivated on the job, a new survey suggests.

  Management experts often encourage business leaders to motivate employees by empowering them. The idea is that when workers are free to make decisions and manage their workday, they become more motivated, perform better, and work more creatively.

Sunday, October 1, 2023

How do credit scores work? 2 finance professors explain how lenders choose who gets loans and at what interest rate

  With the cost of borrowing money to buy a home or a car inching ever higher, understanding who gets access to credit, and at what interest rate, is more important for borrowers’ financial health than ever. Lenders base those decisions on the borrowers’ credit scores.

  To learn more about credit scores, The Conversation consulted with two finance scholars. Brian Blank is an assistant professor of finance at Mississippi State University with expertise related to how firms allocate capital as well as the role of credit in mortgage lending. His colleague at Mississippi State, Tom Miller Jr., is a finance professor who has written a book on consumer lending, in addition to providing his expertise to policymakers.

Saturday, September 30, 2023

Alabama leads nation for arresting, punishing pregnant women, according to report

  Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina lead the nation in arresting and criminally punishing women for allegedly posing a danger to their fetuses, according to a report released by advocacy group Pregnancy Justice.

  Nationwide, nearly 1,400 people were arrested or subject to disparate bail, sentencing, and probation for conduct related to their pregnancies between 2005 and the Supreme Court decision in June 2022 dismantling abortion rights, the report found. The vast majority were poor, white women, though poor Black women were disproportionately represented.

  The report found 649 pregnant women in Alabama had been arrested in the time period, the largest in the country and more than twice the numbers of the next two states combined.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Reality TV show contestants are more like unpaid interns than Hollywood stars

  In December 2018, John Legend joined then-newly elected U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to criticize the exploitation of congressional interns on Capitol Hill, most of whom worked for no pay.

  Legend’s timing was ironic.

  NBC’s “The Voice” had just announced that Legend would join as a judge. He would go on to reportedly earn US$14 million per season by his third year on the show. Meanwhile, all of the participants on “The Voice,” save for the winner, earned $0 for their time, apart from a housing and food stipend – much like those congressional interns.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Anti-democratic moves by state lawmakers raise fears for 2024 election

  In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers are threatening to impeach both the state’s election administrator, who is highly regarded nationally, and a state Supreme Court justice despite a ruling by the state’s judicial commission that the justice had done nothing wrong — effectively nullifying a recent statewide election she won, Democrats say.

  In North Carolina, a bill that would give the legislature control of state and local election boards — potentially allowing lawmakers to overturn results — could soon become law.

  And Alabama continues to defy the U.S. Supreme Court by refusing to draw a new congressional district with a Black majority.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

EV sales growth points to oil demand peaking by 2030 − so why is the oil industry doubling down on production?

  Electric vehicle sales are growing faster than expected around the world, and, sales of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles have been falling. Yet, the U.S. government still forecasts an increasing demand for oil, and the oil industry is doubling down on production plans.

  Why is that, and what happens if the U.S. projections for growing oil demand are wrong?

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The most dangerous idea in a library? Empathy

  My 9-year-old daughter recently asked me if reading really makes you smarter.

  Put on the spot, I garbled my answer. I was driving, and we had to get to a softball practice on time.

  But here’s what I wanted to say: Reading teaches you new things. But more importantly, it makes you a more empathetic person. So, yeah.

Monday, September 25, 2023

As extreme downpours trigger flooding around the world, scientists take a closer look at global warming’s role

  Torrential downpours sent muddy water racing through streets in Libya, Greece, Spain, and Hong Kong in early September 2023, with thousands of deaths in the city of Derna, Libya. Zagora, Greece saw a record 30 inches of rain, the equivalent of a year and a half of rain falling in 24 hours.

  A few weeks earlier, monsoon rains triggered deadly landslides and flooding in the Himalayas that killed dozens of people in India.

  After severe flooding on almost every continent this year, including mudslides and flooding in California in early 2023 and devastating floods in New York and Vermont in July, it can seem like extreme rainfall is becoming more common.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Moms for Liberty: ‘Joyful warriors’ or anti-government conspiracists? The 2-year-old group could have a serious impact on the presidential race

  Motherhood language and symbolism have been part of every U.S. social movement, from the American Revolution to Prohibition and the fight against drunk drivers. Half of Americans are women, most become mothers, and many are conservative.

  The U.S. is also a nation of organizing, so conservative moms – like all moms – often band together.

  Lately, the mothers group dominating media attention is Moms for Liberty, self-described “joyful warriors … stok[ing] the fires of liberty” with the slogan “We Don’t Co-Parent with the Government.”

  Others see them as well-organized, publicity-savvy anti-government conspiracists.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Alzheimer’s disease is partly genetic − studying the genes that delay decline in some may lead to treatments for all

  Diseases that run in families usually have genetic causes. Some are genetic mutations that directly cause the disease if inherited. Others are risk genes that affect the body in a way that increases the chance someone will develop the disease. In Alzheimer’s disease, genetic mutations in any of three specific genes can cause the disease, and other risk genes either increase or decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

Friday, September 22, 2023

The high price of Alabama’s low taxes

  Say this about Alabama’s attitude toward guns: It reveals lawmakers’ priorities.

  For instance: when faced last year with a choice between gun access and funding law enforcement, Republican legislators chose gun access. 

  This came from a bill that made concealed carry permits optional. There was no mass demand for this. But the National Rifle Association threw a ball, and GOP lawmakers chased it. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Americans do talk about peace − just not the same way people do in other countries

  Americans don’t talk much about peace. But it turns out they care about it a lot – they just don’t talk about it the way people who have experienced war or civil conflict do.

  When public opinion polls in the U.S. ask people about peace, it’s either in the context of religion or world peace.

  Instead of using the word peace, Americans are more likely to say that they care deeply about safety and security and issues like terrorism, crime, illegal drugs, and immigration.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Workers like it when their employers talk about diversity and inclusion

  Many companies have made commitments toward diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in recent years, particularly since the murder of George Floyd sparked weeks of racial justice riots in 2020.

  But some of those efforts, such as hiring diversity leaders and creating policies to address racial inequality, have stalled or reversed at the same time as a growing conservative backlash is threatening to further undermine such initiatives.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

White men have controlled women’s reproductive rights throughout American history – the post-Dobbs era is no different

  More than a year after the Supreme Court ended federal protection for abortion rights in the United States, disagreements over abortion bans continue to reverberate around the country. Candidates sparred over the idea of a federal abortion ban during the Aug. 23, 2023 Republican presidential debate. And abortion is likely to figure prominently in the November 2023 contest for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

  When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, removing women’s federal constitutional right to get abortions and giving states the power to pass laws about the legality of the procedure, the 6-3 vote was by a four white men, one Black man, and a white woman majority.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Not religious, not voting? The ‘nones’ are a powerful force in politics – but not yet a coalition

  Nearly 30% of Americans say they have no religious affiliation. Today the so-called “nones” represent about 30% of Democrats and 12% of Republicans – and they are making their voices heard. Organizations lobby on behalf of atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and other nonreligious people.

  As more people leave religious institutions, or never join them in the first place, it’s easy to assume this demographic will command more influence. But as a sociologist who studies politics and religion, I wanted to know whether there was evidence that this religious change could actually make a strong political impact.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

A constitutional revolution is underway at the Supreme Court, as the conservative supermajority rewrites basic understandings of the roots of US law

  In a 2006 episode of the television show “Boston Legal,” conservative lawyer Denny Crane asserted that he had a constitutional right to carry a concealed firearm: “And the Supreme Court is going to say so, just as soon as they overturn Roe v. Wade.”

  That was a joke, an unimaginable event, when the show aired 17 years ago. Then in 2022, the court announced both changes, shifting the butt of a joke to the law of the land in a brief span of years – and signaling the start of what is sometimes called a “constitutional revolution.”

  Scholars describe a constitutional revolution as “a historic constitutional course correction,” or a “deep change in constitutional meaning.”

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The beautiful pessimism at the heart of Jimmy Buffett’s music

  With the death of Jimmy Buffett, the feathers of his loyal network of fans – affectionately known as Parrot Heads – collectively drooped.

  Over the course of his career, Buffett earned their love by transforming himself into a kind of musical shaman who offered transport from the banalities of everyday life to the bounty of a never-never land of eternal sun, endless sandy beaches, and bottomless boat drinks: Margaritaville.

Friday, September 15, 2023

That redistricting argument sounds familiar

  Three federal judges order the Alabama Legislature to draw fair districts for Black voters. 

  Lawmakers drag their feet. They submit a plan. Judges reject it for limiting the ability of Black Alabamians to choose their leaders. 

  September 2023? 

  Nope. September 1965. 

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Do unbiased jurors exist to serve at Trump’s trials in the age of social media?

  As trial dates approach for former President Donald Trump’s indictments, both he and prosecutors are already claiming it will be hard to secure an impartial jury.

  Special counsel Jack Smith has said Trump’s public statements risk contaminating the jury pool for the charges he will face in a federal court in Washington, D.C. related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

IRS is using $60B funding boost to ramp up use of technology to collect taxes − not just hiring more enforcement agents

  The Internal Revenue Service is getting a funding boost thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2022.

  That legislative package originally included about US$80 billion to expand the tax collection agency’s budget over the next 10 years. Congress and the White House have since agreed to pare this total by about $20 billion, but $60 billion is still a big chunk of change for an agency that until recently had about $14 billion in annual funding.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Trump’s mug shot is now a means of entertainment and fundraising − but it will go down in history as an important cultural artifact

  One of the most anticipated events in the summer of 2023 was former President Donald Trump’s mug shot.

  The Fulton County Sheriff’s office released Trump’s mug shot on Aug. 24, 2023, a little more than one week after a grand jury in Georgia indicted the former president and 18 associates for alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Monday, September 11, 2023

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.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

What can cities do to correct racism and help all communities live longer? It starts with city planning

  The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 76.1 years. But this range varies widely – a child raised in wealthy San Mateo County, California, can expect to live nearly 85 years. A child raised in Fort Worth, Texas, could expect to live about 66.7 years.

  Race, poverty, as well as related issues like the ability to find nearby grocery stores and easily visit clean parks, all influence health.

  This means that a person’s ZIP code is often a better predictor of their life expectancy than their genetic code.