Sunday, April 30, 2023

Yoga: Modern research shows a variety of benefits to both body and mind from the ancient practice

  The popularity of yoga has grown tremendously in the past decade. More than 10% of U.S. adults have practiced yoga at some point in their lives. Yoga practitioners on average spend on average US$90 a month, and the yoga industry is worth more than $80 billion worldwide.

  Yoga is now a mainstream activity in the U.S. and is commonly portrayed as a healthy lifestyle choice. I am a behavioral scientist who researches how physical activity – and specifically yoga – can prevent and help manage chronic diseases.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

What is racial battle fatigue? A school psychologist explains

  When William A. Smith, a scholar of education and culture, introduced the term “racial battle fatigue” in 2003, he used it to describe the cumulative effects of racial hostility that Black people – specifically faculty and graduate students – experience at predominantly white colleges and universities. In short, it takes a toll on their psychological, physical, and emotional well-being.

  Since then, the term has been applied by scholars to Hispanic undergraduates and women of color. Scholars have also applied the term to groups beyond the college campus, such as teachers of color and students of color at the K-12 level. Most of the research on racial battle fatigue deals with the matter within the context of education.

Friday, April 28, 2023

What’s a ‘gig’ job? How it’s legally defined affects workers’ rights and protections

  The “gig” economy has captured the attention of technology futurists, journalists, academics and policymakers.

  “Future of work” discussions tend toward two extremes: breathless excitement at the brave new world that provides greater flexibility, mobility, and entrepreneurial energy, or dire accounts of its immiserating impacts on the workers who labor beneath the gig economy’s yoke.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The safer you feel, the less safely you might behave – but research suggests ways to counteract this tendency

  Interventions designed to keep people safe can have hidden side effects. With an increased perception of safety, some people are more likely to take risks.

  For example, some vehicle drivers take more risks when they are buckled up in a shoulder-and-lap belt. Some construction workers step closer to the edge of the roof because they are hooked to a fall-protection rope. Some parents of young children take less care with medicine bottles that are “childproof” and thus difficult to open.

  Techniques designed to reduce harm can promote a false sense of security and increase risky behavior and unintentional injuries.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

How to unlock your creativity – even if you see yourself as a conventional thinker

  Do you think that creativity is an innate gift? Think again.

  Many people believe that creative thinking is difficult – that the ability to come up with ideas in novel and interesting ways graces only some talented individuals and not most others.

  The media often portrays creatives as those with quirky personalities and unique talent. Researchers have also identified numerous personality traits that are associated with creativity, such as openness to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Social media always remembers – which makes moving on from a breakup that much harder

  Before the internet, people commonly burned Polaroids and love letters in a fire as an act of closure following a breakup.

  Nowadays, it isn’t so simple. People produce and consume massive amounts of digital stuff – 33 trillion gigabytes of online data in 2018 alone, a number that has surely grown.

Monday, April 24, 2023

That annoying ringing, buzzing and hissing in the ear – a hearing specialist offers tips to turn down the tinnitus

  Not a week goes by when I don’t see someone in my clinic complaining of a strange and constant phantom sound in one of their ears, or in both ears. The noise is loud, distracting, and scary – and it doesn’t go away.

  The kind of sound varies from patient to patient: buzzing, blowing, hissing, ringing, roaring, rumbling, whooshing, or a combination thereof. But whatever the sound, the condition is called tinnitus. And one thing tinnitus patients have in common is that the sound is not an external one. Instead, the noise is literally inside their head.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Meditation and mindfulness offer an abundance of health benefits and may be as effective as medication for treating certain conditions

  Many people look to diet trends or new exercise regimens – often with questionable benefit – to get a healthier start on the new year. But there is one strategy that’s been shown time and again to boost both mood and health: meditation.

  In late 2022, a high-profile study made a splash when it claimed that meditation may work as well as a common drug named Lexapro for the treatment of anxiety. Over the past couple of decades, similar evidence has emerged about mindfulness and meditation’s broad array of health benefits, for purposes ranging from stress and pain reduction to depression treatments to boosting brain health and helping to manage excessive inflammation and long COVID-19.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Diversity of US workplaces is growing in terms of race, ethnicity and age – forcing more employers to be flexible

  Increased immigration, longer life expectancy, and a decline in birth rates are transforming the U.S. workforce in two important ways. The people powering this nation’s economy include far more people of color and workers over 55 than was the case four decades ago.

  And this diversity will keep growing in the years ahead economists predict.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Microbes in your food can help or hinder your body’s defenses against cancer – how diet influences the conflict between cell ‘cooperators’ and ‘cheaters’

  The microbes living in your food can affect your risk of cancer. While some help your body fight cancer, others help tumors evolve and grow.

  Gut microbes can influence your cancer risk by changing how your cells behave. Many cancer-protective microbes support normal, cooperative behavior of cells. Meanwhile, cancer-inducing microbes undermine cellular cooperation and increase your risk of cancer in the process.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Meet Bayard Rustin, often-forgotten civil rights activist, gay rights advocate, union organizer, pacifist and man of compassion for all in trouble

  As I began writing “Bayard Rustin: American Dreamer,” my biography of the 20th-century radical leader and activist, one of my colleagues cautioned me not to “fall in love.”

  This, of course, is good advice for any biographer, and I tried to follow it.

  But it wasn’t easy, because Bayard Rustin was America’s signature radical voice during the 20th century, and yes, I believe those voices includes that of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Rustin trained and mentored.

  His vision of nonviolence was breathtakingly broad.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Understanding mass incarceration in the US is the first step to reducing a swollen prison population

  The incarceration rate in the United States fell in 2021 to its lowest levels since 1995 – but the U.S. continues to imprison a higher percentage of its population than almost every other country.

  The U.S. incarcerates 530 people for every 100,000 in its population, making it one of the world’s biggest jailers – just below El Salvador, Rwanda, and Turkmenistan.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The women who stood with Martin Luther King Jr. and sustained a movement for social change

  Historian Vicki Crawford was one of the first scholars to focus on women’s roles in the civil rights movement. Her 1993 book, “Trailblazers and Torchbearers,” dives into the stories of female leaders whose legacies have often been overshadowed.

  Today she is the director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, where she oversees the archive of his sermons, speeches, writings, and other materials. Here, she explains the contributions of women who influenced King and helped to fuel some of the most significant campaigns of the civil rights era but whose contributions are not nearly as well known.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Secession is here: States, cities and the wealthy are already withdrawing from America

  Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, wants a “national divorce.” In her view, another Civil War is inevitable unless red and blue states form separate countries.

  She has plenty of company on the right, where a host of others – 52% of Trump voters, Donald Trump himself, and prominent Texas Republicans – have endorsed various forms of secession in recent years. Roughly 40% of Biden voters have fantasized about a national divorce as well. Some on the left urge a domestic breakup so that a new egalitarian nation might be, as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “brought forth on this continent.”

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Trashing their rights: Alabama town uses 'debtors' prison' for people who fall behind on garbage bills

  The stately Victorian cupola of the original Chambers County Courthouse casts a cold morning shadow over the statue of favorite son Joe Louis, the famed “Brown Bomber” boxer who hailed from rural LaFayette, Alabama. A few feet away, lumber trucks rumble through the town’s main drag, leaving the scent of pine and diesel drifting in their wake.

  Nortasha Jackson, 49, who lives in the nearby town of Valley, is inside the modern courthouse addition, waiting patiently for her name to be called. Her attorney told her that the charges against her were going to be dropped, ending a months-long ordeal that started when she fell behind on her trash bill.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Bad beliefs: Misinformation is factually wrong – but is it ethically wrong, too?

  The impact of disinformation and misinformation has become impossible to ignore. Whether it is denial about climate change, conspiracy theories about elections, or misinformation about vaccines, the pervasiveness of social media has given “alternative facts” an influence previously not possible.

  Bad information isn’t just a practical problem – it’s a philosophical one, too. For one thing, it’s about epistemology, the branch of philosophy that concerns itself with knowledge: how to discern truth, and what it means to “know” something, in the first place.

Friday, April 14, 2023

The cost of degrading low-wage workers

  “If you don’t shut up and pay attention, you’ll be flipping burgers for the rest of your life” was a frequent outburst from my elementary school teacher in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

  Teaching reluctant 10-year-olds how to do long division without a calculator probably wasn’t the focal point of that man’s career. However, today, I question why that former teacher repeatedly denigrated hourly wage workers by implying they were unintelligent, especially when he taught students whose parents worked those jobs and paid taxes that funded his salary.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Anyone can claim to be a journalist or a news organization and publish lies with almost total impunity

  Headlines in early March 2023 implied Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch had made a damning confession. He had affirmed that some of his most important journalists were reporting that the 2020 presidential election was a fraud – even though they knew they were propagating a lie.

  It was an admission during pretrial testimony in a libel lawsuit filed against Fox by a voting machine company that says it was defamed by the lie. For journalism practitioners and devotees, the admission should signal the end of the Fox News empire.

  Nope. It didn’t.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The workforce benefits of Medicaid expansion in Alabama

  For nearly a decade, Alabama has been outside looking in on a good deal. While hundreds of thousands of Alabamians struggle without health insurance, state leaders have failed to expand Medicaid to cover adults with low incomes. A few loud voices have politicized an issue that shouldn’t be political. And our state has paid the price in lost dollars, lost jobs, and lost lives.

  Reliable access to health care keeps people healthier and empowers them to work. That’s one reason 39 states and the District of Columbia have embraced Medicaid expansion.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Voice deepfakes are calling – here’s what they are and how to avoid getting scammed

  You have just returned home after a long day at work and are about to sit down for dinner when suddenly your phone starts buzzing. On the other end is a loved one, perhaps a parent, a child, or a childhood friend, begging you to send them money immediately.

  You ask them questions, attempting to understand. There is something off about their answers, which are either vague or out of character, and sometimes there is a peculiar delay, almost as though they were thinking a little too slowly. Yet, you are certain that it is definitely your loved one speaking: That is their voice you hear, and the caller ID is showing their number. Chalking up the strangeness to their panic, you dutifully send the money to the bank account they provide you.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Racist and sexist depictions of human evolution still permeate science, education and popular culture today

  Systemic racism and sexism have permeated civilization since the rise of agriculture when people started living in one place for a long time. Early Western scientists, such as Aristotle in ancient Greece, were indoctrinated with the ethnocentric and misogynistic narratives that permeated their society. More than 2,000 years after Aristotle’s writings, English naturalist Charles Darwin also extrapolated the sexist and racist narratives he heard and read in his youth to the natural world.

The Alabama Legislature needs to care about the prison crisis

  Something Rep. Marcel Black said has stuck with me for years.

  We spoke a decade ago about Alabama’s endless prison crisis. It seemed as far away from resolution then as it does today. I asked Black, a longtime House Judiciary Committee chair, why it proved so intractable.

  Black gave me this example. Suppose the state builds a new prison. Is an Alabama state legislator going to use it in a campaign? Will you open your mailbox and find a flyer of your representative or senator, smiling in front of fencing and barbed wire? 

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Easter traditions around the world

  Easter, the holiday surrounding Christ's death and resurrection, is celebrated in Christian communities across the world. However, not everyone celebrates in exactly the same way. Different countries have evolved very different Easter traditions, from decorating eggs to flying kites and reading mystery books. In many countries, Easter has also become more secular, creating the traditions of Easter breaks during the school year and chocolate rabbits for children. Here are five Easter traditions from around the world.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Gender-affirming care has a long history in the US – and not just for transgender people

  In 1976, a woman from Roanoke, Virginia named Rhoda received a prescription for two drugs: estrogen and progestin. Twelve months later, a local reporter noted Rhoda’s surprisingly soft skin and visible breasts. He wrote that the drugs had made her “so completely female.”

  Indeed, that was the point. The University of Virginia Medical Center in nearby Charlottesville had a clinic specifically for women like Rhoda. In fact, doctors there had been prescribing hormones and performing surgeries – what today we would call gender-affirming care – for years.

Friday, April 7, 2023

40 years ago ‘A Nation at Risk’ warned of a ‘rising tide of mediocrity’ in US schools – has anything changed?

  The National Commission on Excellence in Education’s release of a report titled “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 was a pivotal point in the history of American education. The report used dire language, lamenting that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

  Using Cold War language, the report also famously stated: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Bailing out uninsured deposits encourages bank runs

  In the failure of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, U.S. officials decided to cover all the uninsured deposits in both banks — that is, deposits that exceeded the $250,000 insurance coverage of the FDIC. The belief was that failing to cover those uninsured deposits ran the risk that bank runs could spread to more banks. Covering those uninsured deposits was intended to calm depositors in other banks, which would thereby make more bank runs less likely.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Depression too often gets deemed ‘hard to treat’ when medication falls short

  A plumber who shows up to fix a leaking toilet with a single tool is not likely to succeed. The same is true if a mental health professional offers only one approach for a complex problem like depression.

  Sadly, the number of people struggling with depression increased dramatically at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stress – from school closures to job losses to the death of loved ones – made life more challenging and increased the risk of developing emotional difficulties. For some groups that have experienced discrimination, ongoing inequities made their mental health even worse.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Democrats aren’t going to repeal Alabama’s abortion ban this year. They should still try

  In 2012, Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist in western Ireland, became pregnant. That October, she checked into a hospital suffering acute back pains.   

  Doctors determined she was suffering a miscarriage. It was terribly painful. Early in their hospital stay, Halappanavar and her husband asked for medication to induce an abortion, which seemed inevitable.

  But doctors refused. At the time, Irish law banned abortion upon detection of a fetal heartbeat. And even as Halappanavar bled, even as she suffered nausea and vomiting and chest pains and breathing problems, the doctors did not — or could not — provide her the treatment she needed.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Public radio can help solve the local news crisis – but that would require expanding staff and coverage

  Since 2005, more than 2,500 local newspapers, most of them weeklies, have closed, with more closures on the way.

  Responses to the decline have ranged from luring billionaires to buy local dailies to encouraging digital startups. But the number of interested billionaires is limited, and many digital startups have struggled to generate the revenue and audience needed to survive.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Health care workers are frazzled – and poor sleep may turn stress into poor mental health

  Health care workers often put the health and safety of their patients first, neglecting to take care of themselves. By providing continuous services around the clock, many experience short and poor-quality sleep, risking not only their own health and safety but also increasing the risk of making errors that can affect patient safety.

  I am an occupational health researcher who studies work, sleep, and health among health care workers. My research has found that emotional labor – such as using fake smiles to hide true feelings – and work-family conflict – such as clashing demands between roles at work and at home – are both linked to depressive symptoms among health care workers. And poor sleep quality can amplify the effects of these stressors, resulting in worse mental health.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

The history of April Fools' Day

  In certain countries, the April Fools' jokes must be made before noon on April 1, otherwise, it is the prankster who becomes the April Fool.


  The origin of the customs of the day is shrouded in mystery. Some believe it is likely to be a relic of festivities held to mark the vernal equinox. These celebrations of the first days of spring began on the 25th of March and ended on the 2nd of April. Certainly there is some evidence to suggest that April 1st was observed as a general festival in pagan Britain.