Monday, July 31, 2023

Just about anybody in America can officiate a wedding, thanks to the internet – and one determined preacher

  Wedding season is here again, and my calendar is filling up – not just as a guest.

  Over the past 15 years, I have officiated over 20 weddings for friends and family, plus nearly 200 more as a part-time professional wedding officiant. These weddings have ranged from simple elopements to fancy ceremonies before hundreds of guests. They have taken place at farms, beaches, mountaintops, hotels, wineries, and warehouses – but never at a church. They have been secular, spiritual, religious, and interfaith.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Decades of public messages about recycling in the US have crowded out more sustainable ways to manage waste

  You’ve just finished a cup of coffee at your favorite cafe. Now you’re facing a trash bin, a recycling bin, and a compost bin. What’s the most planet-friendly thing to do with your cup?

  Many of us would opt for the recycling bin – but that’s often the wrong choice. In order to hold liquids, most paper coffee cups are made with a thin plastic lining, which makes separating these materials and recycling them difficult.

  In fact, the most sustainable option isn’t available at the trash bin. It happens earlier, before you’re handed a disposable cup in the first place.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

DeSantis’ ‘war on woke’ looks a lot like attempts by other countries to deny and rewrite history

  A Florida law that took effect on July 1, 2023 restricts how educators in the state’s public colleges and universities can teach about the racial oppression that African Americans have faced in the United States.

  Specifically, SB 266 forbids professors to teach that systemic racism is “inherent in the institutions of the United States.” Similarly, they cannot teach that it was designed “to maintain social, political and economic inequities.”

Friday, July 28, 2023

Survey: Where America stands on the First Amendment in 2023

  How we view – and how much some of us support – the First Amendment is changing, and all of us ought to be concerned.

  The change is not in the actual 45 words: Those remain the same, protecting our freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Students, teachers and advocates fight against censorship in Alabama schools

  Jamiyah Brown and about 30 other Black students at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, were excited about a Black History Month program they were planning last winter.

  They wanted to use dance, song, and the spoken word to present a timeline of Black history – from enslavement to the Jim Crow era to the civil rights movement of the 1960s to the present.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Harm of anti-LGBTQ laws includes economic pain for communities, families

  Roberto Che Espinoza had been thinking about leaving Tennessee after the 2024 election, but in June they noticed that the state attorney general was seeking medical records on gender-affirming medical care, which Espinoza, a nonbinary transgender man, said included their own records.

  “Being on any kind of list … I knew after the release of those records that this is not good,” Espinoza said.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

How small wealthy suburbs contribute to regional housing problems

  The odd headlines about little towns in the San Francisco Bay Area just keep coming.

  First Woodside, a tiny suburb where several Silicon Valley CEOs have lived, tried to declare itself a mountain lion habitat to evade a new California law that enabled owners of single-family homes to subdivide their lots to create additional housing.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Why Trump’s prosecution for keeping secret documents is lawful, constitutional, precedented, nonpartisan and merited

  Donald Trump and his allies have responded with a variety of objections to his federal indictment, brought in June 2023 by special counsel Jack Smith. The federal charges – the first against a former president – listed 37 counts of obstruction of justice and wrongful retention of classified documents after Trump left office in January 2021.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Curing America’s loneliness epidemic would make us healthier, fitter and less likely to abuse drugs

  A national health advisory issued by U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on May 3, 2023, sheds light on the urgent public health issues of loneliness and isolation.

  The report reflects Dr. Murthy’s personal and professional experience with the damaging health impacts of loneliness. As surprising as it sounds, social isolation and loneliness have the same effect on human health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, which is to say, it can shorten life span by up to 15 years.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Puerto Rico has been part of the US for 125 years, but its future remains contested

  In the 125 years since U.S. troops invaded Puerto Rico on July 25, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. government has controlled the island militarily, politically, and economically – with no end in sight or, for Puerto Rico, a clear path to statehood.

  That has been an issue of contention for many Puerto Ricans living on the island and stateside.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Support for legacy admissions is rooted in racial hierarchy

  Not long after the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2023 decision to ban the use of race in college admissions, people began to ask questions once again about the fairness of legacy admissions.

  Legacy admission is a practice in which colleges give a preference to the children of graduates when deciding which students to let in.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

What you do matters

  After spending a few days in Washington, D.C. recently for an editors conference, I found myself with a few hours before my plane back to Nashville and decided to go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

  The museum opened in early 1993; two decades later, it was still packed, and that’s a good thing. The phrases “never forget” and “what you do matters” are posted in multiple places around the museum, a reminder of the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany’s regime and a caution to be alert for signs a government might be proceeding down a similar authoritarian path.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Alabama politicians want you to live in a political ad

  Imagine living your life in a political ad. 

  Not the sort of spot where the world is monochrome; the air is filled with ominous bass notes and a guttural voice accuses you of kicking puppies or flipping off military widows. No, the kind where the candidate tries to come across as a normal Alabamian. 

  You’d start your day walking through a green field, hand-in-hand with your opposite-sex spouse and your 2.5 children, nodding knowingly at the youngest.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

How the shooting of Ralph Yarl demonstrates the fiction of a colorblind society in America

  Given the gunshot wounds to his head and arm, the fact that Ralph Yarl was able to celebrate his 17th birthday on May 7, 2023, is a modern-day miracle.

  Less than a month earlier, on April 13, Yarl had gone to pick up his twin younger brothers from a play date in the Northland section of Kansas City, Kansas.

  Instead of going to NE 115 Terrace, Yarl went a block away to NE 115 Street Place, where he rang the doorbell.

  Within a few seconds after seeing Yarl at his door, the homeowner, Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old white man, fired his .32-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and struck Yarl twice, once in his forehead and once in his arm.

Monday, July 17, 2023

How climate change intensifies the water cycle, fueling extreme rainfall and flooding – the Northeast deluge was just the latest

  A powerful storm system that hit the U.S. Northeast on July 9 and 10, 2023, dumped close to 10 inches of rain on New York’s Lower Hudson Valley in less than a day and sent mountain rivers spilling over their banks and into towns across Vermont, causing widespread flash flooding. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said he hadn’t seen rainfall like it since Hurricane Irene devastated the region in 2011.

  Extreme water disasters like this have disrupted lives in countries around the world in the past few years, from the Alps and Western Europe to Pakistan, India, and Australia, along with several U.S. states in 2022 and 2023.

  The role of climate change is becoming increasingly evident in these types of deluges.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

The biggest challenge for Alabama Democrats? Alabama demographics

  If you’re an Alabama Democrat, this has been a strange year.

  On the one hand, state party leaders are back to firing guns at their feet. The people currently helming the organization think a very small number of people should call the shots. And they don’t seem to want LGBTQ individuals, young people, Native Americans, Hispanics, or Asian and Pacific Islanders included in any meaningful way. So they moved to disband their caucuses.

  It’s foolish. A minority party needs all the allies it can find. But the current leadership doesn’t appear interested in expanding the party beyond its current base, much less mounting significant challenges to Republicans who dominate Alabama government. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

US agencies buy vast quantities of personal information on the open market – a legal scholar explains why and what it means for privacy in the age of AI

  Numerous government agencies, including the FBI, Department of Defense, National Security Agency, Treasury Department, Defense Intelligence Agency, Navy, and Coast Guard, have purchased vast amounts of U.S. citizens’ personal information from commercial data brokers. The revelation was published in a partially declassified, internal Office of the Director of National Intelligence report released on June 9, 2023.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Anti-LGBTQ laws in the US are getting struck down for limiting free speech of drag queens and doctors

  Nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in the U.S. in 2023. Many of those bills seek to reduce or eliminate gender-affirming care for transgender minors or to ban drag performances in places where minors could view them.

  Most of those bills have not become law. But many of those that have did not survive legal scrutiny when challenged in court.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Science activism is surging – which marks a culture shift among scientists

  Hundreds of scientists protested government efforts to restrict educational access to Western science theories, including Darwin’s theory of evolution, in June 2023 in India. Similarly, scientists in Mexico participated in a research strike in May 2023 to protest a national law they claimed would threaten the conditions for basic research. And during the same month in Norway, three scientists were arrested for protesting the nation’s slow-moving climate policy.

  As these among many other actions show, scientists today are speaking out on a variety of political and social issues related to their own research fields and in solidarity with other social movements.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The cancer of the national-security state

  Suppose that after you visit your doctor for a physical examination, he informs you that you are suffering from the following ailments:

  1. A stiff knee, which requires six months of physical therapy.
  2. Being overweight, which requires a big change in diet.
  3. Kidney problems, which require you to give up drinking.
  4. A growing malignant tumor on your stomach that can be removed by surgery.

  The doctor recommends that you give priority to ailment 4, but you instead decide to give priority to the first three ailments. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Fiber is your body’s natural guide to weight management – rather than cutting carbs out of your diet, eat them in their original fiber packaging instead

  Fiber might just be the key to healthy weight management – and nature packages it in perfectly balanced ratios with carbs when you eat them as whole foods. Think unprocessed fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Research suggests that carbohydrates are meant to come packaged in nature-balanced ratios of total carbohydrates to fiber. In fact, certain types of fiber affect how completely your body absorbs carbohydrates and tells your cells how to process them once they are absorbed.

Monday, July 10, 2023

AI is an existential threat – just not the way you think

  The rise of ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence systems has been accompanied by a sharp increase in anxiety about AI. For the past few months, executives and AI safety researchers have been offering predictions, dubbed “P(doom),” about the probability that AI will bring about a large-scale catastrophe.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

3 myths about immigration in America

  The U.S. is – and long has been – a pluralistic society that contains large immigrant communities.

  Yet migration is an actively debated but poorly understood topic, and much of the conventional thinking and political rhetoric about migration are based on myths rather than facts.

  For these reasons, migration policies and strategies for easing acculturation – which refers to the psychological process of assimilating to a new culture – usually end up being ineffective.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

States are weakening their child labor restrictions nearly 8 decades after the US government took kids out of the workforce

  A movement to weaken American child labor protections at the state level began in 2022. By June 2023, Arkansas, Iowa, New Jersey, and New Hampshire had enacted this kind of legislation, and lawmakers in at least another eight states had introduced similar measures.

  The laws generally make it easier for kids from 14 to 17 years old to work longer and later – and in occupations that were previously off-limits for minors.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Drag and the First Amendment are fabulous together

  A deluge of headlines about state laws to restrict drag performances like drag story hours at libraries make it seem like these are recent debates.

  They are not.

  Drag and the First Amendment are part of a larger and long-running question about how far free expression extends. Free speech includes the right of free expression, which includes how people express themselves through what they wear.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Dobbs decision spurs moral injury to abortion patients, providers alike

  On June 24, 2022, the landscape of reproductive healthcare in this country took a frightening turn for the worst. The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned what had previously been a constitutional right to abortion set off a whirlwind of changes in healthcare – not only as related to abortion, but also many aspects of pregnancy and other areas of reproductive care.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Three lessons from Aristotle on friendship

  While most love songs are inspired by the joys and heartaches of romantic relationships, love between friends can be just as intense and complicated. Many people struggle to make and maintain friendships, and a falling-out with a close friend can be as painful as a breakup with a partner.

  Despite these potential pitfalls, human beings have always prized friendship. As the 4th century B.C.E. philosopher Aristotle wrote: “no one would choose to live without friends,” even if they could have all other good things instead.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Democracy is about respectful discourse

  On this 4th of July, I hope you will take time to experience pride in and appreciation for the great qualities of our country.

  One quality of our democracy is that every citizen is a public official. Thus, the passionate advocacy of political convictions is not only a right; it’s a patriotic obligation.

Monday, July 3, 2023

MLK’s vision of social justice included religious pluralism – a house of many faiths

  The life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have been the subject of ongoing debate ever since his assassination on April 4, 1968.

  Today, those invoking King’s memory range from Black Lives Matters organizers and President Joe Biden to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Educators trying to teach Black history call on his principles, even as their opponents claim that lessons about systemic racism go against King’s desire not to judge people “by the color of their skin.”

Sunday, July 2, 2023

The overlooked story of the incarceration of Japanese Americans from Hawaii during World War II

  In the months and years following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, the U.S. government incarcerated a large number of Japanese American civilians from the U.S. mainland.

  Often forgotten are the Japanese Americans who lived in Hawaii and were also forced from their homes and imprisoned in Hawaii and on the U.S. mainland.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

‘Victim blaming:’ Homeless, homeless advocates criticize new anti-loitering law

  To Heather Pritchett, she was just “sissy.” To Charles Earle, she was an extraordinary friend.

  Tiffany Denise Pritchett, a woman who experienced homelessness in Birmingham, Alabama, was a truly special person, they said. 

  “She was a good person in a bad situation,” Earle said in an interview.