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.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

5 facts to know about Medicare drug price negotiation

  For far too long, pharmaceutical companies have set astronomically high prescription drug prices in the United States, resulting in millions of Americans being unable to access the medications they need. In 2023, more than 80 percent U.S. adults believe the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable, with roughly 1 in 3 older Americans reporting that they cannot afford to take their medications as prescribed. The Inflation Reduction Act empowered the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), for the first time, to directly negotiate prices for select Medicare drugs. On August 29, 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the first 10 Medicare Part D drugs that will be subject to price negotiation, with negotiated prices to take effect in 2026.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Alabama unions grapple with right-to-work laws

  Alabama occupies an unusual place when it comes to unions.

  The state’s unionization rate is low compared to the rest of the nation. In 2022, about 7.2% of Alabama’s workforce (149,000 workers) belonged to a union, with 8.4% (173,000 workers) represented by one, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That was lower than the 10.1% rate nationwide.

  The number of unionized workers in the state has also fallen in the last decade. In 2014, about 10.8% of Alabama’s workforce (208,000 workers) belonged to a union.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

How did the US presidential campaign get to be so long?

  Four hundred and forty-four days prior to the 2024 presidential election, millions of Americans tuned into the first Republican primary debate. If this seems like a long time to contemplate the candidates, it is.

  By comparison, Canadian election campaigns average just 50 days. In France, candidates have just two weeks to campaign, while Japanese law restricts campaigns to a meager 12 days.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Governors may make good presidents − unless they become ‘imperial governors’ like DeSantis

  Many people believe governors make good presidents. In fact, a 2016 Gallup Poll found that almost 74% of people say that governing a state provides excellent or good preparation for someone to be an effective president. As a result, many political commentators have tried to explain why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is stumbling in his campaign for president.

  Some say it is because he is stiff or awkward on the campaign trail, or his path to the nomination is not really to the political right of former President Donald Trump, or he needs to step up and directly confront the former president.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

To steal today’s computerized cars, thieves go high-tech

  These days, cars are computer centers on wheels. Today’s vehicles can contain over 100 computers and millions of lines of software code. These computers are all networked together and can operate all aspects of your vehicle.

  It’s not surprising, then, that car theft has also become high-tech.

Monday, September 4, 2023

Why celebrate Labor Day?

  Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor, summed up this holiday's importance with these words: "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day... is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

Sunday, September 3, 2023

A carbon tax on investment income could be more fair and make it less profitable to pollute – a new analysis shows why

  About 10 years ago, a very thick book written by a French economist became a surprising bestseller. It was called “Capital in the 21st Century.” In it, Thomas Piketty traces the history of income and wealth inequality over the past couple of hundred years.

  The book’s insights struck a chord with people who felt a growing sense of economic inequality but didn’t have the data to back it up. I was one of them. It made me wonder, how much carbon pollution is being generated to create wealth for a small group of extremely rich households? Two kids, 10 years, and a Ph.D. later, I finally have some answers.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Big Jim, “Just spell my name right!”

  Alabama has never had a more colorful governor than Big Jim Folsom. He also was a brilliant politician who understood the importance of name identification. 

  My ninth-grade civics teacher was Miss Mary Lamb. She had taught school for many years and, in fact, had taught my mama and daddy in high school. Besides our civics lesson, she would impart wisdom upon us in the way of old sayings. One she particularly liked was, “Fools’ names, fools’ faces, always found in public places.”  

Friday, September 1, 2023

Why guys who post a lot on social media are seen as less manly

  For better or worse, much of life is categorized along gendered lines: Clothing stores have sections for men and women, certain foods are considered more manly or more feminine, and even drinks can take on a gendered sheen (“manmosa,” anyone?).

  Our newly published research finds that even social media is a canvas for rigid gender stereotyping.