Friday, June 30, 2023

How pardoning extremists undermines the rule of law

  In the past 10 years, there has been an increase in far-right political violence in the United States. While scholars have pointed to several possible reasons – and often, combinations of explanations – the trend is clear.

  This violence has coincided with the growing influence of far-right state and federal political candidates, who collectively have excited and mobilized extremist communities both online and in person.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

US national parks are crowded – and so are many national forests, wildlife refuges, battlefields and seashores

  Outdoor recreation is on track for another record-setting year. In 2022, U.S. national parks logged more than 300 million visits – and that means a lot more people on roads and trails.

  While research shows that spending time outside is good for physical and mental health, long lines and gridlocked roads can make the experience a lot less fun. Crowding also makes it harder for park staff to protect wildlife and fragile lands and respond to emergencies. To manage the crowds, some parks are experimenting with timed-entry vehicle reservation systems and permits for popular trails.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Passengers whose flights are canceled or delayed may soon get better treatment in the US – where airlines have long set their own rules

  U.S. airline passengers in early 2023 faced the highest rate of flight delays since 2014. That heightened level of delays came shortly after December 2022, when Southwest Airlines experienced an epic meltdown, canceling 71% of its flights.

  In response, on May 8, 2023, the Biden administration proposed new rules that would require airlines to compensate passengers whose flights are canceled or significantly delayed because of causes – unlike bad weather – that are under the control of the airlines. Under the new rules, the airlines would need to offer meal vouchers, overnight accommodations, and ground transportation to and from a hotel when customers are stranded.

Monday, June 26, 2023

The cruelty, the decency, and the unfinished work of the 2023 Alabama Legislature

  The 2023 session of the Alabama Legislature stood out for two reasons: major pieces of legislation passed, and there was very little drama. 

  To hear House leaders explain it, that was deliberate. House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said in separate interviews that they worked together to keep the most controversial bills off the floor.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

The anti-communist crusade

  A central feature of the Cold War racket was the anti-communist crusade. At the behest of the U.S. national-security establishment, the entire nation became obsessed with the commies, both foreign and domestic. The Reds were coming to get us. They were everywhere. They were in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Russia, China, Guatemala, Chile, Indonesia, Brazil, and most everywhere else. They were in Congress, the military, the executive branch, the political system, the universities, and  Hollywood. In the 1950s, people were even being exhorted to look under their beds for communists. 

  In the foreign realm, the anti-communist crusade led the U.S. national-security establishment to sacrifice almost 100,000 U.S. soldiers in U.S. interventions in civil wars in Korea and Vietnam. More than 250,000 U.S. soldiers were wounded in those conflicts.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Time to wean ourselves from Chinese semiconductors

  Relying on an adversary to supply critical components in equipment that our nation deems mission-essential is, to put it mildly, foolish. But that is exactly what the United States has been doing when it comes to China and semiconductors.

  The expansion and robust implementation of a Zero China Chips policy, originally introduced in the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), would help change this equation. It would mitigate the risks associated with depending on China, while simultaneously boosting semiconductor production domestically and among our allies and partner nations—a reliable path towards removing the PRC’s leverage over the U.S. and the globe.

Friday, June 23, 2023

“Intentionally erased:” Invisible Histories Project cofounder speaks on Alabama’s LGBTQ+ history

  The challenge in documenting LGBTQ+ history in the South, said Maigen Sullivan, co-founder of the Invisible Histories Project, is that much of it has been purposely destroyed. 

  In her work with the project, a nonprofit based out of Birmingham, she once went to archive items of a recently deceased man who was gay. But a family member rid his house of his belongings.

  “The biggest thing is it’s not that we’ve hidden all this, or we forgot about it,” she said during a talk at the Alabama Department of Archives and History on June 15. “It’s that it has been intentionally erased.” 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

How the exposure of highly classified documents could harm US security – and why there are laws against storing them insecurely

  When Donald Trump pled not guilty on June 13, 2023, to federal criminal charges related to his alleged illegal retention of classified documents, it was his first opportunity to formally answer charges that he violated the Espionage Act.

  The Justice Department alleges that, after his presidency, Trump held, in an unsecure location, documents about some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, including information about U.S. nuclear programs as well as U.S. and allies’ defense and weapons capabilities and potential vulnerabilities to military attack and that he repeatedly thwarted efforts by the National Archives to retrieve them.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Alabama’s new transparency law is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done

  Following years of pressure by good government advocates, the Alabama Legislature just passed a bill to create better transparency around the state’s use of economic development incentives. 

  This is a major victory for those concerned about government transparency and accountability. 

  The recently enacted Transparency in Incentives Act requires the state Department of Commerce to disclose online names of companies that receive economic development incentives. Up to this point, none of Alabama’s state subsidy programs were transparent, despite costing taxpayers billions of dollars. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Communities fight back against hate groups and far-right extremism

  Over the last five decades, the Southern Poverty Law Center has researched, documented, and tracked far-right extremist groups that espouse white supremacy, antisemitism, anti-LGBTQ+ hate, and other often-intersecting ideologies.

  During that time, there have been ebbs and flows in the number of groups spouting virulent philosophies and hate. Old trends repeat, new faces appear, but the underlying harm remains the same.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Juneteenth celebrates just one of the United States’ 20 emancipation days – and the history of how emancipated people were kept unfree needs to be remembered, too

  The actual day was June 19, 1865, and it was the Black dockworkers in Galveston, Texas who first heard the word that freedom for the enslaved had come. There were speeches, sermons, and shared meals, mostly held at Black churches, the safest places to have such celebrations.

  The perils of unjust laws and racist social customs were still great in Texas for the 250,000 enslaved Black people there, but the celebrations known as Juneteenth were said to have gone on for seven straight days.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Fathers need to care for themselves as well as their kids – but often don’t

  If you had to choose, which would you rather have: a healthy father or a good father?

  Studies suggest men often choose being a good father over being healthy.

  Becoming a father is a major milestone in the life of a man, often shifting the way he thinks from being “me focused” to “we focused.” But fatherhood can also shift how men perceive their health. Our research has found that fathers can view health not in terms of going to the doctor or eating vegetables but how they hold a job, provide for their family, protect and teach their children, and belong to a community or social network.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

What the Supreme Court’s surprise voting rights decision could mean for Alabama

  The Supreme Court surprised me. 

  You see, it’s become distressingly easy to predict how the nation’s high court will rule on issues. 

  The Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade? Horrifying. Insulting. Deadly to women. But we knew that this bench was going there. 

  I’ve spent way too many nights waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether to allow an execution in Atmore to proceed. Whatever the merits of the condemned person’s appeal, they almost always allow the machinery of death to roll forward.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Anti-trans bills and political climates are taking a significant mental health toll on trans and nonbinary people – even during Pride

  Pride month is a time of celebration for the LGBTQ+ community, with parades and events that bring people together in joyful moments of connection. In 2023, as the LGBTQ+ community is facing unprecedented legislative attacks, I am especially reminded of the history of protest and activism that is inherently a part of Pride and its origins.

  There have been almost 500 bills proposed this legislative cycle seeking to limit the rights of LGBTQ+ people and their access to essential resources like medical care, nearly 12 times as many as there were in 2018. Many of these bills target transgender and nonbinary people, particularly youth access to gender-affirming medical care, falsely claiming that they are protecting children from abuse.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Trump indictment unsealed – a criminal law scholar explains what the charges mean, and what prosecutors will now need to prove

  Federal prosecutors on June 9, 2023, unsealed the indictment that spells out the government’s case against former President Donald J. Trump, who is accused of violating national security laws and obstructing justice.

  The 49-page document details how Trump kept classified government documents – including papers concerning U.S. nuclear capabilities – scattered in boxes across his home at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, long after his presidency ended in 2021 and the government tried to reclaim them.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Why a federal judge found Tennessee’s anti-drag law unconstitutional

  The drag shows will go on. At least for now.

  On June 2, 2023, Judge Thomas Parker, a Trump-appointed federal district court judge in western Tennessee, ruled that Tennessee’s “Adult Entertainment Act” violated the First Amendment’s free speech protection.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Trump charged under Espionage Act – which covers a lot more crimes than just spying

  Former President Donald Trump’s indictment by a federal grand jury in Miami includes at least one charge under the Espionage Act of 1917, according to Trump’s attorney and reports in The New York Times.

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

Monday, June 12, 2023

Supreme Court rules in favor of Black voters in Alabama and protects landmark Voting Rights Act

  In a surprising ruling on June 8, 2023, the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court threw out Republican-drawn congressional districts in Alabama that a lower court had ruled discriminated against Black voters and violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

  At issue in the case that was before the court, Allen v. Milligan, was whether the power of Black voters in Alabama was diluted by dividing them into districts where white voters dominate. After the 2020 census, the Republican-controlled Alabama legislature redrew the state’s congressional districts to include only one out of seven in which Black voters would likely be able to elect a candidate of their choosing.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Balance declines with age, but exercise can help stave off some of the risk of falling

  My wife and I were in the grocery store recently when we noticed an older woman reaching above her head for some produce. As she stretched out her hand, she lost her balance and began falling forward. Fortunately, she leaned into her grocery cart, which prevented her from falling to the ground.

  Each year, about 1 in every 4 older adults experience a fall. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injuries in adults ages 65 and older. Falls are the most common cause of hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

How building more backyard homes, granny flats and in-law suites can help alleviate the housing crisis

  To many people, the image of a nuclear family in a stand-alone house with a green lawn and white picket fence still represents a fulfillment of the American dream.

  However, this ideal is relatively new within a broader history of housing and development in the U.S. It’s also a goal that has become increasingly unattainable.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Blockchain is a key technology – a computer scientist explains why the post-crypto-crash future is bright

  People hear a lot about blockchain technology in relation to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which rely on blockchain systems to keep records of financial transactions between people and businesses. But a crash in public trust in cryptocurrencies like TerraUSD – and, therefore, a massive drop in their market value – doesn’t mean their underlying technology is also worthless.

  In fact, there are plenty of other uses for this type of system, which does not rely on centralized storage and where many people can participate securely, even if they don’t all know each other.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Five fast facts about the FAMILY Act and paid leave

  Recently, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced the FAMILY Act for the 118th Congress. This bill, which has been reintroduced in every Congress since 2013, would guarantee workers the right to paid, job-protected time off for serious health and caregiving needs.

  This column lists five fast facts on the FAMILY Act.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Food forests are bringing shade and sustenance to US cities, one parcel of land at a time

  More than half of all people on Earth live in cities, and that share could reach 70% by 2050. But except for public parks, there aren’t many models for nature conservation that focus on caring for nature in urban areas.

  One new idea that’s gaining attention is the concept of food forests – essentially, edible parks. These projects, often sited on vacant lots, grow large and small trees, vines, shrubs and plants that produce fruits, nuts, and other edible products.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Farmers face a soaring risk of flash droughts in every major food-growing region in coming decades, new research shows

  Flash droughts develop fast, and when they hit at the wrong time, they can devastate a region’s agriculture.

  They’re also becoming increasingly common as the planet warms.

  In a new study published May 25, we found that the risk of flash droughts, which can develop in the span of a few weeks, is on pace to rise in every major agriculture region around the world in the coming decades.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Gen Z goes retro: Why the younger generation is ditching smartphones for ‘dumb phones’

  There is a growing movement among Gen Z to do away with smartphones and revert back to “less smart” phones like old-school flip and slide phones. Flip phones were popular in the mid-1990s and 2000s but now seem to be making a comeback among younger people.

  While this may seem like a counter-intuitive trend in our technology-reliant society, a Reddit forum dedicated to “dumb phones” is steadily gaining in popularity. According to a CNBC new report, flip phones sales are on the rise in the U.S.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

The thinking error that makes people susceptible to climate change denial

  Cold spells often bring climate change deniers out in force on social media, with hashtags like #ClimateHoax and #ClimateScam. Former President Donald Trump often chimes in, repeatedly claiming that each cold snap disproves the existence of global warming.

  From a scientific standpoint, these claims of disproof are absurd. Fluctuations in the weather don’t refute clear long-term trends in the climate.

  Yet many people believe these claims, and the political result has been reduced willingness to take action to mitigate climate change.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

The unbearable allure of cringe

  Why can’t you stop watching TV shows, movies, or viral videos that make you cringe?

  Cringe is the feeling you get when your boss cracks a joke in a meeting and no one laughs. It’s when your kid shoots a soccer ball and it misses the net by … a lot. It’s when you watch Kendall Roy from “Succession” awkwardly rap on stage at a celebration honoring his dad’s 50 years at the helm of the family company.

Friday, June 2, 2023

More than two dozen cities and states are suing Big Oil over climate change – they just got a boost from the US Supreme Court

  Honolulu has lost more than 5 miles of its famous beaches to sea level rise and storm surges. Sunny-day flooding during high tides makes many city roads impassable, and water mains for the public drinking water system are corroding from saltwater because of sea level rise.

  The damage has left the city and county spending millions of dollars on repairs and infrastructure to try to adapt to the rising risks.

  Future costs will almost certainly be higher. More than US$19 billion in property value, at today’s dollars, is at risk by 2100 from projected sea level rise, driven by greenhouse gas emissions largely from the burning of fossil fuels. Elsewhere in Honolulu County, which covers all of Oahu, many coastal communities will be cut off or uninhabitable.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Trans joy and family bonds are big parts of the transgender experience lost in media coverage and anti-trans legislation

  Since the beginning of 2023, 49 U.S. state legislatures have introduced over 500 anti-trans bills. While mainstream media increasingly cover violence and legislative attacks against trans people, many scholars and activists worry that focusing just on violence and discrimination fails to capture the full experience of being trans.

  Drawing on the success of movements like the Black Joy Project, which uses art to promote Black healing and community-building, trans activists are challenging one-dimensional depictions of their community by highlighting the unique joys of being transgender.