Thursday, August 31, 2023

Why somepeopletalkveryfast and others … take … their … time − despite stereotypes, it has nothing to do with intelligence

  Pop culture abounds with examples of very fast talkers. There’s the Judy Grimes character played by Kristen Wiig on “Saturday Night Live,” or that guy from the 1980s who did commercials for Micro Machines and FedEx. Of course, there are also extremely slow talkers, like the sloth in “Zootopia” and the cartoon basset hound Droopy.

  Real-life fast talkers are staples in some professions. Auctioneers and sportscasters are known for their rapid delivery, though the slower commentary in golf shows there is a range for different sports.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Have religious conservatives lost their minds?

  Although the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, the concept is based on the First Amendment, which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  Down through history, the union of church and state has resulted in great evils. Even today, in the twenty-first century, some countries have state religions or state churches. This includes not only Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia but also “Christian” countries like Norway and the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Throwing Alabama’s children and physicians to the wolves

  Three federal judges exposed Alabama physicians to felony charges last week.

  But U.S. Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa wanted everyone to know it was complicated.

  “This case revolves around an issue that is surely of the utmost importance to all of the parties involved: the safety and wellbeing of the children of Alabama,” Lagoa wrote in a 49-page majority opinion allowing Alabama to make it a crime to offer medical treatment to transgender youth under age 19. “But it is complicated by the fact that there is a strong disagreement between the parties over what is best for those children. Absent a constitutional mandate to the contrary, these types of issues are quintessentially the sort that our system of government reserves to legislative, not judicial, action.”

Monday, August 28, 2023

9 ways the Freedom to Vote Act would strengthen democracy

  On July 18, 2023, Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives jointly refiled the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 1, H.R. 11), 18 months after a previous version passed the House and had the support of 50 senators but was ultimately filibustered in the Senate. This far-reaching reform package would set baseline national standards for federal elections that would override many anti-democracy laws passed by at least 20 state legislatures in the past few years. It would also reduce the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics and end partisan gerrymandering.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Looking for a US ‘climate haven’ away from heat and disaster risks? Good luck finding one

  Southeast Michigan seemed like the perfect “climate haven.”

  “My family has owned my home since the ‘60s. … Even when my dad was a kid and lived there, no floods, no floods, no floods, no floods. Until [2021],” one southeast Michigan resident told us. That June, a storm dumped more than 6 inches of rain on the region, overloading stormwater systems and flooding homes.

  That sense of living through unexpected and unprecedented disasters resonates with more Americans each year, we have found in our research into the past, present, and future of risk and resilience.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Tipping etiquette and norms are in flux − here’s how you can avoid feeling flustered or ripped off

  Tipping has gotten more complicated – and awkward – in North America.

  The ever-growing list of situations in which you might be invited to tip includes buying a smoothie, paying an electrician, getting a beer from a flight attendant, and making a political donation.

  Should you always tip when someone suggests it? If yes, how do you calculate the right amount? And if you don’t, are you being stingy?

Friday, August 25, 2023

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Big Jim’s run for congress

  We're continuing with the saga of Alabama’s most colorful governor, the legendary Big Jim Folsom. 

  Jim Folsom, Jr. shared a story about his father’s early political life.

  Big Jim always knew that he wanted to go into politics, so he jumped right in. His hometown of Elba in Coffee County was in the sprawling old third congressional district which encompassed the southeastern part of the state. It was referred to as the “Wiregrass” district.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Black female prosecutors like Fani Willis face the unequal burden of both racist and sexist attacks

  On the day he was indicted on financial fraud charges in a New York City courtroom, former U.S. President Donald Trump launched an attack against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

  One of the handful of Black female prosecutors in the country, Willis has led a criminal investigation into Trump’s alleged campaign interference in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

  “In the wings, they’ve got a local racist Democrat district attorney in Atlanta who is doing everything in her power to indict me over an absolutely perfect phone call,” Trump said on April 4, 2023.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

As the mental health crisis in children and teens worsens, the dire shortage of mental health providers is preventing young people from getting the help they need

  The hospital where I practice recently admitted a 14-year-old girl with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, to our outpatient program. She was referred to us six months earlier, in October 2022, but at the time, we were at capacity. Although we tried to refer her to several other hospitals, they too were full. During that six-month wait, she attempted suicide.

  Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common story for young people with mental health issues. A 2021 survey of 88 children’s hospitals reported that they admit, on average, four teens per day to inpatient programs. At many of these hospitals, more children await help, but there are simply not enough services or psychiatric beds for them.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

‘Uncivil obedience’ becomes an increasingly common form of protest in the US

  When Utah legislators passed a bill requiring the review and removal of “pornographic or indecent” books in school libraries, they likely did not imagine the law would be used to justify banning the Bible.

  Utah’s H.B. 374, which took effect in May 2022, “prohibits certain sensitive instructional materials in public schools.” It joins a series of conservative book bans that supporters claim protect children but critics have argued unfairly target LGBTQ+ content and minority authors.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Five ways the EPA can strengthen carbon standards for power plants

  Power plants are an enormous source of carbon pollution, producing more than 25 percent of the United States’ total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Now—backed by the transformative power of the new clean electricity investments of the Inflation Reduction Act, which also affirmed the strength of the Clean Air Act to tackle climate change—the Biden administration has a rare opportunity to set the first-ever carbon pollution emissions standards for fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Siegelman meets Big Jim

  We are continuing with our summer series on Big Jim Folsom – Alabama’s most colorful governor. 

  Those of us who grew up in and around Alabama politics have coined a descriptive term for a person who is obsessed with seeking political office constantly without reservation or concern for their physical, mental, or financial welfare. They will run for elected office at all costs. The term we use to describe those people is named for the man who best exemplified that obsession - George Wallace. Therefore, someone who is driven by an obsession to win high public office has “George Wallace Syndrome”.  

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Beyond the brawl: Montgomery’s Black community has always fought back

  I’ve consumed much of the media spun off from the Montgomery Brawl. 

  The poolside re-enactment. The video setting the fight to the “Good Times” theme song, with associated credits. (“Created by Consequences and Repercussions.” Perfect.) 

  The national reaction to the battle in the city’s Riverfront Park has been remarkable. Even for a state that rivals Florida for footage of shirtless men embarrassing themselves. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Montana kids win historic climate lawsuit – here’s why it could set a powerful precedent

  Sixteen young Montanans who sued their state over climate change emerged victorious on Aug. 14, 2023 from a first-of-its-kind climate trial.

  The case, Held v. State of Montana, was based on allegations that state energy policies violate the young plaintiffs’ constitutional right to “a clean and healthful environment” – a right that has been enshrined in the Montana Constitution since the 1970s. The plaintiffs claimed that state laws promoting fossil fuel extraction and forbidding the consideration of climate impacts during environmental review violate their constitutional environmental right.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Older population in Alabama prisons doubled over decade, according to report

  The number of older people in Alabama’s prisons more than doubled in a little over a decade, according to a policy brief published recently by the Prison Policy Initiative, an advocacy group.

  The Institute, using numbers from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, reported that 15% of the people under Corrections’ jurisdiction, about 4,300 people, were 55 years old or older in 2019. In 2007, it was slightly more than 2,000 people, or 7% of the total population incarcerated at that time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Friends and lawyers

  We’re continuing with our series of stories about Alabama’s most colorful governor, the legendary Big Jim Folsom. 

  Big Jim was a true politician, and he was not above straddling the fence, but at least he was honest about it. When asked a tough question about a complex or difficult issue, Ole Big Jim would simply look at the inquisitive reporter with a pensive, thoughtful, and serious look and say with a straight face: “Well you know some of my friends are for it and some of my friends are against it, and I’m always on the side of my friends.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Fulton County charges Donald Trump with racketeering, other felonies – a Georgia election law expert explains 5 key things to know

  An Atlanta, Georgia grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump on Aug. 14, 2023, charging him with racketeering and 12 other felonies related to his alleged attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat in the state.

  Eighteen of Trump’s allies and associates, including former Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, were also indicted for racketeering and other felony charges for their alleged involvement in the scheme.

  This marks Trump’s fourth indictment in five months – and the second to come from his efforts to undo the election results that awarded the presidency to Joe Biden. Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, started investigating Trump’s involvement in this alleged scheme, as well as that of Trump’s colleagues, in February 2021.

Monday, August 14, 2023

So if apples are functional foods that promote health, do they really help keep the doctor away?

  We’ve all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but how true is that?

  Apples are not high in vitamin A, nor are they beneficial for vision like carrots. They are not a great source of vitamin C and therefore don’t fight off colds as oranges do.

  However, apples contain various bioactive substances – natural chemicals that occur in small amounts in foods and that have biological effects in the body. These chemicals are not classified as nutrients like vitamins. Because apples contain many health-promoting bioactive substances, the fruit is considered a “functional” food.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Report: Alabama police more likely to ticket for lack of insurance than speeding

  Traffic tickets and citations have become a heavy financial burden for low-income individuals and families living in Alabama.

  A report published by Alabama Appleseed documented the lives of people dealing with the fallout from receiving traffic citations, the associated fines, along with the additional penalties they were levied as they dealt with court proceedings stemming from the original violation.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Kamala Harris has tied the record for the most tie-breaking votes in Senate history – a brief overview of what vice presidents do

  On Jan. 20, 2021, Kamala Harris became the first African American, the first person of South Asian descent, and the first woman to serve as vice president of the United States.

  More recently, she made history again by casting her 31st tie-breaking vote in the Senate, matching only one other vice president’s record for such votes. John C. Calhoun, who was vice president from 1825 to 1832, needed all eight years of his term to reach that number. In contrast, Harris has only been in office for two and a half years.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Contacting your legislator? Cite your sources – if you want them to listen to you

  Suppose you have an issue you are really passionate about – taxes, gun control, or some other important policy. You want to do more than vent on social media, so you decide to write an email, place a phone call, or even draft a letter to your state legislator expressing your views.

  As a citizen, I would praise your sense of civic responsibility and willingness to express your opinion. As a scholar, I would encourage your efforts – they’re more consequential than many people realize.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

More adults than ever have been seeking ADHD medications – an ADHD expert explains what could be driving the trend

  As a woman in my 30s who was constantly typing “ADHD” into my computer, I had something interesting happen to me in 2021. I started receiving a wave of advertisements beckoning me to get online help for ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. One was a free, one-minute assessment to find out if I had the disorder, another an offer for a digital game that could help “rewire” my brain. Yet another ad asked me if I was “delivering” but still not moving up at work.

  The reason the term ADHD litters my digital life is because I am a clinical psychologist who exclusively treats patients with ADHD. I’m also a psychiatric researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine who studies ADHD trends across the life span.

  But these advertisements were a striking new trend.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Why Steve Marshall can’t focus on pressing Alabama problems

  Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall got sued last week over some comments he made a year ago about the state’s near-total abortion ban. 

  Marshall went on a radio show last year to suggest that assisting an Alabama woman’s efforts to get an abortion out of state was “potentially criminally actionable.”

  Physicians and clinicians say that read of the law violates their free speech, due process, and travel rights if they share any sort of information about abortion or reproductive care outside Alabama (still legal, to varying degrees, in about 35 states). 

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

How to avoid nuclear war

  The new movie Oppenheimer has caused many people to rededicate themselves to the goal of achieving an international ban on nuclear weapons. But that’s never going to happen. There is no reasonable possibility whatsoever that the U.S. national-security establishment (i.e., the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA) would ever agree to dismantle its nuclear stockpile, especially since there would be no way to guarantee that foreign regimes would do the same.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Ever-larger cars and trucks are causing a safety crisis on US streets – here’s how communities can fight back

  Deadly traffic incidents have declined in most developed countries in recent years. But in the U.S., they’re becoming more common. Deaths in motor vehicle crashes rose more than 33% from 2011 to 2021. Since 2010, pedestrian deaths nationwide have climbed a shocking 77%, compared with a 25% increase in all other types of traffic fatalities.

  Light trucks injure pedestrians more severely than passenger cars in crashes, and the size of cars and trucks sold in the U.S. continues to swell. Some current models, such as the Toyota Rav4, are one-third larger than they were 15 years ago.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Big Jim Folsom, Alabama’s most uninhibited governor

  This begins a four-part series of stories surrounding Alabama’s most legendary colorful governor, James E. “Big Jim” Folsom.

  Big Jim Folsom was the epitome of unbridled candidness. Late in his second term, he had been on a week-long trip to the Port City of Mobile with his buddies, but he had to come back to Montgomery to give a speech to the national convention of the American Textile Manufacturers Association. It was a large and distinguished crowd of executives from all over the country and they were meeting in Alabama, so the governor was scheduled to give them an official welcoming speech.  

Saturday, August 5, 2023

House Ways and Means proposal would hurt honest tax filers and reward tax avoidance

  H.R. 3937, which recently passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee on a party-line vote with Republican support, would undermine efforts to narrow the tax gap—the amount of tax that is legally owed but not paid—and would make it harder for honest tax filers to track the income that they need to report on their tax returns. It would do so by reversing changes to third-party settlement organization (TPSO) reporting requirements made by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). 

Friday, August 4, 2023

How a good intention made the Alabama Legislature less democratic

  Alabama government has many features aimed at thwarting popular will. 

  There’s gerrymandering. And the centralized nature of state government. With most state power concentrated around Goat Hill, it’s much easier for entrenched interests to influence policy. 

  But few of these features are so on-the-nose with their anti-democratic nature as a unique part of the Alabama legislative process, known as budget isolation. 

US preterm birth and maternal mortality rates are alarmingly high, outpacing those in all other high-income countries

  Every two minutes, in about the time it takes to read a page of your favorite book or brew a cup of coffee, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth, according to a February 2023 report from the World Health Organization. The report reflects a shameful reality in which maternal deaths have either increased or plateaued worldwide between 2016 and 2020.

  On top of that, of every 10 babies born, one is preterm – and every 40 seconds, one of those babies dies. Globally, preterm birth is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5, with complications from preterm birth resulting in the death of 1 million children under age 5 each year.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Adjusting jobs to protect workers’ mental health is both easier and harder than you might think

  U.S. employees are increasingly struggling with mental health challenges tied to their jobs, such as depression, anxiety, and burnout.

  We’re professors who research how employees interact and workplace well-being. After noticing that research on mental health and work had not kept up with the increasing prevalence of mental health challenges, we reviewed existing findings on mental health and work to see how scholars can best investigate these issues going forward.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The most serious Trump indictment yet – a criminal law scholar explains the charges of using ‘dishonesty, fraud and deceit’ to cling to power

  The Justice Department announced its second federal indictment of former president Donald J. Trump on Aug. 1, 2023. The charges are groundbreaking and not just because a former president is facing multiple criminal charges.

  It’s because these are the first federal charges alleging a former president effectively attempted a particular kind of coup, called an auto-coup, in which he attempted to keep himself in power by illegal means.

  The indictment lists four felony charges. All of them rely on the same facts and boil down to the same set of five allegations, many of which have been previously reported.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Extreme heat is particularly hard on older adults, and an aging population and climate change are putting ever more people at risk

  Scorching temperatures have put millions of Americans in danger this summer, with heat extremes stretching from coast to coast in the Southern U.S.

  Phoenix hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 Celsius) or higher every day for over three weeks in July. Other major cities, from Las Vegas to Miami, experienced relentless high temperatures, which residents described as “hell on earth.”