Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The good news that Gov. Kay Ivey didn’t share

  Gov. Kay Ivey did something good last year. And as far as I can tell, she never told anyone about it.

  As Alander Rocha recently reported, the governor’s office used a plan submitted to the federal government to increase the monthly benefit paid to recipients of Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) in Alabama from $215 a month to $344.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Trump’s rhetoric after his felony conviction is designed to distract, stoke fear and ease the way for an anti-democratic strongman

  After a jury convicted Donald Trump of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to cover up a politically damaging relationship, he responded by warning viewers of his post-verdict news conference: “If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone.”

  That statement simultaneously invokes the ideal of an independent judiciary and attempts to delegitimize it.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Fixing toxic relationships

  Are there people in your life who regularly cause you to feel bad about yourself?

  Most of us care what others think of us, so knowing that someone doesn’t like or approve of the judgments we’ve made or how we look can be hurtful. And when we’re judged by someone whose approval we crave, such as a parent, spouse, teacher or boss, the criticism can cause intense distress and damage self-esteem.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers, and screening could save many lives − if more people could access it

  Many medical organizations have been recommending lung cancer screening for decades for those at high risk of developing the disease.

  But in 2022, less than 6% of people in the U.S. eligible for screening actually got screened. Compared with other common cancer screenings, lung cancer screening rates fall terribly behind. For comparison, the screening rate in 2021 for colon cancer was 72%, and the rate for breast cancer was 76%. Why are lung cancer screening rates so poor?

Saturday, June 8, 2024

How I survived nine minutes of Dick Cheney

Monday, July 22, 2002

3:07 pm:

  I tried to get out of it. Given that my employer, The Montgomery Independent, had published a lengthy prelude to this event last week, I don't see why I am baking in the mid-summer Alabama heat waiting for the man they call Dick Cheney. I've been told this man runs the great nation we live in but still only gets second billing for it. Poor guy.

Friday, June 7, 2024

Mary McLeod Bethune, known as the ‘First Lady of Negro America,’ also sought to unify the African diaspora

  When I first landed an internship as an archives technician at the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House-National Historic Site – the D.C. home of the woman who founded Bethune-Cookman University – I didn’t see a strong connection between the college founder’s life and the rest of the African diaspora.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

The hollow malevolence of Jefferson Davis

  Even Jim Crow Alabama couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for Jefferson Davis.

  When an Alabama House representative filed a bill in 1900 to make his birthday a holiday, the Birmingham Post-Herald called it “an event which the general public does not remember and has no wish to be reminded of.”

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Voting in unconstitutional districts: US Supreme Court upended decades of precedent in 2022 by allowing voters to vote with gerrymandered maps instead of fixing the congressional districts first

  For the 2022 midterm elections, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed Alabama to use congressional districts that violated the law and diluted the voting power of Black citizens.

  A 5-4 vote by the Supreme Court in February 2022 let Alabama use these illegal districts during the election while the court heard the state’s appeal on the case known as Allen v. Milligan. In that case, voters had sued Alabama, arguing that its new congressional district map violated the Voting Rights Act by unfairly reducing Black voting power. Only one of seven congressional districts on Alabama’s new map had a majority Black population despite Black residents making up a quarter of the state’s population.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Neediest areas are being shortchanged on government funds − even with programs designed to benefit poor communities

  If you live in one of the most economically deprived neighborhoods in your city, you might think the government is directing a smaller share of public funds to your community. And you would typically be right.

  This is the case even with programs that have been specifically designed to benefit low-income communities. Over the long run, federal funds tend to flow toward areas that are relatively better off.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Removing PFAS from public water will cost billions and take time – here are ways to filter out some harmful ‘forever chemicals’ at home

  Chemists invented PFAS in the 1930s to make life easier: Nonstick pans, waterproof clothing, grease-resistant food packaging, and stain-resistant carpet were all made possible by PFAS. But in recent years, the growing number of health risks found to be connected to these chemicals has become increasingly alarming.

  PFAS – perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances – are now either suspected or known to contribute to thyroid disease, elevated cholesterol, liver damage, and cancer, among other health issues.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

5 thoughts for new college grads seeking to find the right balance between meaningful work and making money

  The Class of 2024 had a college experience like no other, starting its first year during peak pandemic and graduating amid protests of the war in Gaza. Many of its graduates will be joining a working world that holds their future in its hands and that was transformed by technological advancements and changing attitudes about work while they were in school. What can they expect from the world of work today?

  As a philosopher and a psychologist who began our careers in management consulting – and now teach ethics and leadership and study why people work – we have five thoughts for new college graduates to consider as they head out into the “real world.”

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Getting out of jury duty

  Last week, I dyed my hair orange - not red, not the subtle hue of a delicate tiger lily bloom, but bright, shiny traffic cone orange. This is actually not an unusual occurrence. I've dyed my hair various less-than-conservative shades on the color wheel, and invariably I have received contrasting responses that have ranged from "Hey, cool!" to genuine concern from those who believe that I am yet another victim of the devil's crack rock.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Why are our leaders arguing for measles outbreaks?

  Measles can do a lot more than give a child a rash.

  It can start a 104 degree fever and cause eye-swelling. About 10% of kids who get measles get ear infections.

  About 20% of people who contract measles go to the hospital. Five percent develop pneumonia. (If a child dies from measles, it’s often for that reason.) In rare cases, a child can develop encephalitis, a swelling of the brain that can lead to deafness or intellectual disabilities.

  And it can spread with frightening speed, infecting 9 of 10 people.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Preying on white fears worked for Georgia’s Lester Maddox in the ’60s − and is working there for Donald Trump today

  In January 1967, after a gubernatorial election that saw neither candidate gain enough votes to win, the Georgia Legislature was faced with a vital decision: the selection of the state’s 75th governor during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

  Legislators chose the candidate who earned the least number of votes and was an ardent segregationist – Democrat Lester Maddox, owner of a chicken restaurant and a perennial candidate.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

California is about to tax guns more like alcohol and tobacco − and that could put a dent in gun violence

  Starting in July 2024, California will be the first state to charge an excise tax on guns and ammunition. The new tax – an 11% levy on each sale – will come on top of federal excise taxes of 10% or 11% for firearms and California’s 6% sales tax.

  The National Rifle Association has characterized California’s Gun Violence Prevention and School Safety Act as an affront to the Constitution. But the reaction from the gun lobby and firearms manufactures may hint at something else: the impact that the measure, which is aimed at reducing gun violence, may have on sales.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

In the Alabama Legislature, it’s culture wars first, retirees second

  As lawmakers locked in $12 billion in spending late in the recently-concluded legislative session, they discovered education retirees.

  These are the teachers and support staff who spent 20 or 30 years or more educating you and your children. They ensured the kids in their charge were fed, sheltered, and taught as best as local resources allowed.

  They haven’t seen a cost-of-living increase in their benefits since 2007.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Please don’t forget Memorial Day’s meaning

  America has undergone a lot of maturing between the Vietnam War and the conflicts of the 21st century. I know, I wore a uniform during both periods.

  On Memorial Day, let’s not regress in that maturity.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Why did Alabama ban ranked choice voting?

  Republican lawmakers this spring approved SB 186, sponsored by Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), prohibiting ranked choice voting in the state. Gov. Kay Ivey signed it a few weeks ago.

  But outside civilians and military residents living overseas, no local government in Alabama uses ranked choice voting.

  No county uses ranked choice voting, according to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. No city does, either, said the Alabama League of Municipalities. The Secretary of State’s office said last week that it does not know of any area in the state that employs ranked choice voting.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Term limits aren’t the answer

  There’s no denying that the current Congress has been one of the most chaotic in recent memory. The paralysis in 2023 and 2024 over the selection of the speaker of the House helped lead to one of Congress’ most unproductive years in history.

  And although House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, survived an effort on May 8, 2024 by far-right members of his conference to oust him, the attempt is a signal of the dysfunction in Congress. It’s also a prime example of why so few Americans have a favorable view of the job Congress is doing.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Democrat wins a House seat in Alabama

  The national media has been keenly interested that a Democrat has been elected to an Alabama House of Representatives seat. I have had several inquiries from national news and political publications asking me to explain and analyze this phenomenon. They are particularly interested in the fact that women’s reproductive rights were a central focus of this special election in Huntsville.

  Democrat Marilyn Lands indeed won a resounding victory in House District 10, a Madison County seat, in a special election last month. She made women’s reproductive rights the primary issue of her campaign. 

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Congress must take more steps on technology regulation before it is too late

  Congress has made significant progress during the Biden-Harris administration in the areas of infrastructure, health care, climate change, and record investments in the economy. Unfortunately, that progress has not extended to any significant technology regulation, a legislative disgrace that should be cause for national concern.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Future pandemics will have the same human causes as ancient outbreaks − lessons from anthropology can help prevent them

  The last pandemic was bad, but COVID-19 is only one of many infectious diseases that emerged since the turn of this century.

  Since 2000, the world has experienced 15 novel Ebola epidemics, the global spread of a 1918-like influenza strain, and major outbreaks of three new and unusually deadly coronavirus infections: SARS, MERS and, of course, COVID-19. Every year, researchers discover two or three entirely new pathogens: the viruses, bacteria, and microparasites that sicken and kill people.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Religious views on abortion more diverse than they may appear in U.S. political debate

  Lawmakers who oppose abortion often invoke their faith — many identify as Christian — while debating policy.

  The anti-abortion movement’s use of Christianity in arguments might create the impression that broad swaths of religious Americans don’t support abortion rights. But a recent report shows that Americans of various faiths and denominations believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

  According to a Public Religion Research Institute survey of some 22,000 U.S. adults released in the last few weeks, 93% of Unitarian Universalists, 81% of Jews, 79% of Buddhists, and 60% of Muslims also hold that view.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Why civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer was ‘sick and tired of being sick and tired’

  It wasn’t called voter suppression back then, but civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer knew exactly how white authorities in Mississippi felt about Black people voting in the 1960s.

  At a rally with Malcolm X in Harlem, New York, on Dec. 20, 1964, Hamer described the brutal beatings she and other Black people endured in Mississippi in their fight for civil and voting rights.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Alabama gambling debate, stuck in reruns

  The gambling debate comes back to the Alabama Legislature every year or two, like a 40- or 50-year-old rerun of a sitcom.

  The characters, all performing on a tiny, windowless set, return from the previous adventure to perform a variation on the story we’ve seen countless times before.

  A plan is made. The plan goes awry. The players make some quips and perform a few pratfalls.

  Toward the end of the show, there’s a beat where the hijinks halt, the piano and strings come up on the soundtrack, and the actors suddenly try to tie the narrative to a social concern or some issue in the news.

  Then, suddenly, the story ends. The conflicts get put aside; the status quo is restored. And nothing meaningful changes.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Arizona’s now-repealed abortion ban serves as a cautionary tale for reproductive health care across the US

  When the Arizona Supreme Court ruled on April 9, 2024, that the state’s Civil War-era law banning nearly all abortions was enforceable, it brought into stark reality the potential impacts of leaving reproductive rights up to the states to regulate and the related consequences for women’s health.

  The ruling, set to go into effect in late June 2024, will only remain active for a few months because Arizona lawmakers repealed the law on April 30. Starting in the fall, a previous state law banning abortion after 15 weeks will be reinstated.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Why not abolish all foreign aid?

  Americans who object to the Israeli government’s military campaign in Gaza rightly object to the massive amounts of money and armaments that the U.S. government has provided — and continues to provide — the Israeli government to wage its campaign. Why should American taxpayers who oppose the Israeli government’s actions be forced to fund a military campaign to which they object?

  But doesn’t that principle apply to all foreign aid? The question that every American should be asking, especially in the context of foreign aid to Israel, is: Why should American taxpayers be forced to fund any foreign regime whatsoever?

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The number of religious ‘nones’ has soared, but not the number of atheists – and as social scientists, we wanted to know why

  The number of individuals in the United States who do not identify as being part of any religion has grown dramatically in recent years, and “the nones” are now larger than any single religious group. According to the General Social Survey, religiously unaffiliated people represented only about 5% of the U.S. population in the 1970s. This percentage began to increase in the 1990s and is around 30% today.

  At first glance, some might assume this means nearly 1 in 3 Americans are atheists, but that’s far from true. Indeed, only about 4% of U.S. adults identify as an atheist.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Trump promises to deport all undocumented immigrants, resurrecting a 1950s strategy − but it didn’t work then and is less likely to do so now

  While campaigning in Iowa last September, former President Donald Trump made a promise to voters if he were elected again: “Following the Eisenhower model, we will carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” he said. Trump, who made a similar pledge during his first presidential campaign, has recently repeated this promise at rallies across the country.

  Trump was referring to Operation Wetback, a military-style campaign launched by the Eisenhower administration in the summer of 1954 to end undocumented immigration by deporting hundreds of thousands of Mexicans. “Wetback” was a widely used ethnic slur for Mexicans who illegally crossed the Rio Grande, the river dividing Mexico and the U.S.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Supporting ‘democracy’ is hard for many who feel government and the economy are failing them

  Americans, it seems, can both value the idea of democracy and not support it in practice.

  Since 2016, academics and journalists have expressed concerns that formerly secure democracies are becoming less democratic. Different measures of democracy, such as scores produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House, and the Varieties of Democracy Institute, have suggested as much based on data over the past decade.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

We need to reclaim the original intent of Mother’s Day

   I vividly recall the first time my kids made me breakfast for Mother’s Day. I lay in bed patiently listening to them giggle and rustle around the kitchen … wait, was that the blender? They brought their creative concoction out to the yard, where we had an idyllic, quiet morning in the May sunshine. As a single mother, I cherished this moment of respite and respect.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Happier, more connected neighborhoods start right in the front yard

  A salve for America’s loneliness epidemic could exist right in front of its homes.

  Front yards are a staple of many American neighborhoods. Lush plantings, porches, or trinkets can capture the attention of passersby and spark conversation. Other lawns say “stay away,” whether it’s through imposing fences or foreboding signs.

  But to what extent do yards serve as a window into the people who tend them – and how they feel about their home, neighborhood, and city?

Friday, May 10, 2024

Republicans scrutinize voting rolls and ramp up for mass challenges ahead of election

  When Scott Hoen ran to be Carson City, Nevada’s chief election official two years ago, he campaigned on “election integrity,” promising to make sure voter registration lists were accurate.

  In the chaotic aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, he believed that too many of his fellow Republicans were convinced that there was widespread voter fraud. By keeping voter rolls current, Hoen thought he could restore voter trust in his county’s election system.

  He won. And every day since he took office, he and his staff have tried to keep that focus, using data from all levels of government to remove voters who have moved or died from the active voter list.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

New EPA regulations target air, water, land and climate pollution from power plants, especially those that burn coal

  Electric power generation in the U.S. is shifting rapidly away from fossil fuels toward cleaner and lower-carbon sources. State clean energy targets and dramatic declines in the cost of renewable electricity are the most important reasons.

  But fossil fuel plants still generate 60% of the U.S. electricity supply, producing air, water, and land pollutants and greenhouse gases in the process. To reduce these impacts, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a suite of rules on April 25, 2024. They focus mainly on coal plants, the nation’s most-polluting electricity source.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

How the racist history of the filibuster lives on today

  Since the end of the 19th century, the filibuster—a political procedure used in the U.S. Senate by one or more members to delay or block legislation—has emerged as a preeminent institutional tool used to deny rights and liberties to tens of millions of Black and brown Americans. Over the past two centuries, it has been abused repeatedly during some of the darkest periods of America’s history to prevent the passage of legislation that would protect the civil rights and voting rights of Black Americans, including to block anti-lynching legislation.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Doesn’t Shelby County have actual problems to address?

  If someone handed you sheets of Census data on Shelby County, it wouldn’t take long to see how fast it’s growing.

  The population jumped 14% between 2010 and 2020. That’s a number most governments would throw an Animal House-type celebration over. But in Shelby, it represented a fall from the 36% growth of the decade before.

  I doubt anyone in Columbiana will complain, though. Growth means a healthy economy; a health economy means an expanding tax base. The median household income in Shelby is $98,000 a year, way higher than the state level of $60,000. Educational attainment is more than double Alabama’s overall rate. Unemployment and poverty are both low.

Monday, May 6, 2024

What is metabolism? A biochemist explains how different people convert energy differently − and why that matters for your health

  If you’ve spent any time scrolling through the health and wellness corners of social media, you’ve likely come across many products claiming to improve your metabolism. But what exactly is your metabolism?

  Everything you expose your body to – from lifestyle to an airborne virus – influences your physical characteristics, such as your blood pressure and energy levels. Together, these biological characteristics are referred to as your phenotype. And the biological system that most directly influences your phenotype is your metabolism.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Americans might love Cinco de Mayo, but few know what they’re celebrating

 Many Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but how many actually know the story of the holiday?

  Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t mark Mexican Independence, which is celebrated on September 16. Instead, it’s meant to commemorate the Battle of Puebla, which was fought between the Mexican and French armies in 1862.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Alabama can’t build its way out of the prison crisis

  There’s a concept in transportation called induced demand.

  Say you have a four-lane highway running through a city. It’s jammed with vehicles.

  So officials widen the road to six lanes, to ease congestion and driver stress.

  Does that relieve traffic?

  Yes. But only for a time.

  Within a few days or weeks, the roads will be crowded again.

Friday, May 3, 2024

‘Thirst trap’ and ‘edgelord’ were added to the dictionary – so why hasn’t ‘nibling’ made the cut?

  A student in my graduate seminar recently mentioned seeing her “niblings” at Thanksgiving. Some of the students in my class were clearly familiar with the term. But others frowned, suggesting that they hadn’t heard the term before, or didn’t know what it meant.

  A nibling is the child of one’s brothers or sisters. The word is a blend of the “n” in “niece” and “nephew” with “sibling,” and it was coined in the early 1950s by linguist Samuel Martin.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

A natural deception: 3 marketing myths the supplement industry wants you to swallow

  Americans seem to have quite a positive view of dietary supplements. According to a 2023 survey, 74% of U.S. adults take vitamins, prebiotics, and the like.

  The business of supplements is booming, and with all the hype around them, it’s easy to forget what they actually are: substances that can powerfully affect the body and your health, yet aren’t regulated like drugs are. They’re regulated more like food.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

High-energy laser weapons: A defense expert explains how they work and what they are used for

  Nations around the world are rapidly developing high-energy laser weapons for military missions on land and sea, and in the air and space. Visions of swarms of small, inexpensive drones filling the skies or skimming across the waves are motivating militaries to develop and deploy laser weapons as an alternative to costly and potentially overwhelmed missile-based defenses.

  Laser weapons have been a staple of science fiction since long before lasers were even invented. More recently, they have also featured prominently in some conspiracy theories. Both types of fiction highlight the need to understand how laser weapons actually work and what they are used for.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Mental fatigue has psychological triggers − new research suggests challenging goals can head it off

  Do you ever feel spacey, distracted, and worn down toward the end of a long work-related task – especially if that task is entirely a mental one? For over a century, psychologists have been trying to determine whether mental fatigue is fundamentally similar to physical fatigue or whether it is governed by different processes.

  Some researchers have argued that exerting mental effort depletes a limited supply of energy – the same way physical exertion fatigues muscles. The brain consumes energy in the form of glucose, which can run low.

  Other researchers see mental fatigue as more of a psychological phenomenon. Mind-wandering means the current mental effort is not being sufficiently rewarded – or opportunities to do other, more enjoyable activities are being lost.

Monday, April 29, 2024

AI ‘companions’ promise to combat loneliness, but history shows the dangers of one-way relationships

  The United States is in the grips of a loneliness epidemic: Since 2018, about half the population has reported that it has experienced loneliness. Loneliness can be as dangerous to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day according to a 2023 surgeon general’s report.

  It is not just individual lives that are at risk. Democracy requires the capacity to feel connected to other citizens in order to work toward collective solutions.

  In the face of this crisis, tech companies offer a technological cure: emotionally intelligent chatbots. These digital friends, they say, can help alleviate the loneliness that threatens individual and national health.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

About a third of employees have faced bullying at work – here’s how to recognize and deal with it

  The phenomenon of bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse in workplaces throughout North America is widespread and harmful to both individuals and organizations. In fact, bullying at work affects up to 30% of workers over time.

  As practitioners and researchers who study workplace violence, including bullying, harassment, and sexual abuse, we define workplace bullying as harmful acts of mistreatment between people that go beyond incivility and cross the line to intentionally causing harm.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Thinking about work as a calling can be meaningful, but there can be unexpected downsides as well

  Many Americans – especially young adults – want to do work that feels meaningful. Creating meaning for oneself may be especially important as fewer workplaces provide good pay and benefits to their employees.

  Those who are religious or spiritual often want to connect their faith to their work through a sense of calling. But there can be unexpected downsides for those who do so. People who say they feel “called” report better work and life satisfaction, but they may also be less likely to address workplace problems or unfair treatment when it arises.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Church without God: How secular congregations fill a need for some nonreligious Americans

  Shared testimonies, collective singing, silent meditation, and baptism rituals – these are all activities you might find at a Christian church service on a Sunday morning in the United States. But what would it look like if atheists were gathering to do these rituals instead?

  Today, almost 30% of adults in the United States say they have no religious affiliation, and only half attend worship services regularly. But not all forms of church are on the decline – including “secular congregations,” or what many call “atheist churches.”

Thursday, April 25, 2024

20 of the most famous protests in U.S. history

  Two First Amendment freedoms are the least known: freedom of assembly and freedom to petition. Freedom of assembly protects the right to gather peacefully. Freedom to petition protects the right to tell government officials without fear of punishment if you think a policy is good or want something to change.

  When people have a protest, march, or rally, they use freedom of assembly. They may also use the freedom to petition.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

What is resilience? A psychologist explains the main ingredients that help people manage stress

  The word resilience can be perplexing. Does it mean remaining calm when faced with stress? Bouncing back quickly? Growing from adversity? Is resilience an attitude, a character trait, or a skill set? And can misperceptions about resilience hurt people, rather than help?

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Alabama’s DEI ban underscores need for anti-bias programs, understanding

  In March, Alabama became one of at least 10 states that have signed anti-diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bills into law.

  The bill, which follows a nationwide trend, bans public institutions, such as public colleges and other state-run institutions, from maintaining DEI offices and programs. Despite DEI programs being used to correct inequities within an organization and promote anti-bias efforts, supporters of the Alabama law and similar legislation across the nation have attacked DEI programs as “divisive.”

Monday, April 22, 2024

Climate change matters to more and more people – and could be a deciding factor in the 2024 election

  If you ask American voters what their top issues are, most will point to kitchen-table issues like the economy, inflation, crime, health care, or education.

  Fewer than 5% of respondents in 2023 and 2024 Gallup surveys said that climate change was the most important problem facing the country.

  Despite this, research that I conducted with my colleauges suggests that concern about climate change has had a significant effect on voters’ choices in the past two presidential elections. Climate change opinions may even have had a large enough effect to change the 2020 election outcome in President Joe Biden’s favor. This was the conclusion of an analysis of polling data that we published on Jan. 17, 2024, through the University of Colorado’s Center for Social and Environmental Futures.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

The curious joy of being wrong – intellectual humility means being open to new information and willing to change your mind

  Mark Twain apocryphally said, “I’m in favor of progress; it’s change I don’t like.” This quote pithily underscores the human tendency to desire growth while also harboring strong resistance to the hard work that comes with it. I can certainly resonate with this sentiment.

  I was raised in a conservative evangelical home. Like many who grew up in a similar environment, I learned a set of religious beliefs that framed how I understood myself and the world around me. I was taught that God is loving and powerful, and God’s faithful followers are protected. I was taught that the world is fair and that God is good. The world seemed simple and predictable – and most of all, safe.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

We’ve been here before: AI promised humanlike machines – in 1958

  A room-size computer equipped with a new type of circuitry, the Perceptron, was introduced to the world in 1958 in a brief news story buried deep in The New York Times. The story cited the U.S. Navy as saying that the Perceptron would lead to machines that “will be able to walk, talk, see, write, reproduce itself and be conscious of its existence.”

  More than six decades later, similar claims are being made about current artificial intelligence. So, what’s changed in the intervening years? In some ways, not much.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Lead from old paint and pipes is still a harmful and deadly hazard in millions of US homes

  Lead is a potent neurotoxin that causes severe health effects such as neurological damage, organ failure, and death.

  Widely used in products such as paint and gasoline until the late 1970s, lead continues to contaminate environments and harm the health of people around the world.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Why rural white Americans’ resentment is a threat to democracy

  Rural white voters have long enjoyed outsize power in American politics. They have inflated voting power in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, and the Electoral College.

  Although there is no uniform definition of “rural,” and even federal agencies cannot agree on a single standard, roughly 20% of Americans live in rural communities, according to the Census Bureau’s definition. And three-quarters of them – or approximately 15% of the U.S. population – are white.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Yes, efforts to eliminate DEI programs are rooted in racism

  Right-wing activists who have long criticized liberalism and “wokeness” in higher education and helped force the resignation of Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s first African American president, have now set their sights on ending the diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programs that these activists claim helped place figures like Gay in her job in the first place.

  Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who played a pivotal role in forcing Gay’s resignation, stated this view bluntly on X – formerly known as Twitter– following Gay’s ouster: “Today, we celebrate victory. Tomorrow, we get back to the fight. We must not stop until we have abolished DEI ideology from every institution in America.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The Patterson Test

  Before 2017, I would have struggled to pick out Jim Patterson in the Alabama House of Representatives.

  Patterson was a Meridianville Republican elected to the chamber in 2010. In his first term, he did what most freshman representatives do: handle local legislation and vote the party line. He sponsored tax exemption bills, too, and in his second term added education and retirement legislation to his docket.

  But Patterson didn’t stand out until he took on a big project.

Monday, April 15, 2024

College athletes still are not allowed to be paid by universities − here’s why

  Ever since July 1, 2021, student-athletes have been able to pursue endorsement deals. But when it comes to getting paid by the universities for which they play, the students have been shut down. Here, Cyntrice Thomas, a professor of sport management at the University of Florida, answers questions about the hurdles that stand in the way of college athletes being compensated for their athleticism.


What stands in the way of paying college sports players?

  NCAA rules are the main obstacle.

  Not long after it was formed in 1906, the NCAA prohibited schools from compensating student-athletes for their athletic ability. In 1948, the NCAA adopted the Sanity Code, which also prohibited athletic scholarships for students who couldn’t demonstrate financial need or economic hardship.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Fetal personhood rulings could nullify a pregnant patient’s wishes for end-of-life care

  The Alabama Supreme Court handed down an unprecedented decision in February 2024, holding that stored frozen embryos created for in vitro fertilization, known as IVF, were “minor children” under a state wrongful death law.

  The impact on the medical community was immediate and acute. Fearing newfound civil or criminal legal liability if embryos were now considered “persons” under Alabama law, IVF clinics had to make an overnight choice between providing patient care and risking that liability. As a result, multiple IVF clinics across the state immediately suspended IVF procedures. And the most direct impact, of course, was on patients.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

They want silence around Rosa Parks

  The Rosa Parks statue in Montgomery’s Court Square is not what you expect from a monument. That’s why I love it.

  There’s no pedestal. No stage. Nothing separating the viewer from Parks. It’s a life-sized and human-scaled depiction of a civil rights hero.

  This is no divinely ordained messenger walking in the sky above us. This is a woman going home after a day at work – a dignified, respected citizen with a long track record of activism. She has a plan for the bus ride ahead.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Absorbing half of Mexico altered American culture

  Proponents of America’s system of immigration controls lament what they say are “invaders” crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and entering the United States. Many of them say that this “invasion” is a conspiracy to alter the culture of the United States in a Hispanic direction.

  Ironically, very few, if any, of these anti-invaders ever condemn what the U.S. government did with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. That treaty did more to change the culture of the United States in a Mexican direction than immigrant “invaders” could ever hope to do.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - Population and political power now rests in north Alabama

  Growing up as a teenager in the 1960s, I served as a page in the Alabama Legislature. One day when I was around 13 years old, I was looking around the House of Representatives and it occurred to me that north Alabama, as well as the state’s largest county, Jefferson, was vastly underrepresented. Even at that early age, I knew that the U.S. Constitution required that all people be represented equally and that the U.S. Constitution superseded our state constitution. Both Constitutions clearly state that the U.S. House of Representatives and the Alabama House of Representatives must be reapportioned every 10 years, and the representation should be based on one man, one vote. In other words, all districts should be equally apportioned. That is why the census is taken every ten years.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Is this the least productive congress ever? Yes, but it’s not just because they’re lazy

  Congress has once again been making headlines for all the wrong reasons, with multiple news outlets in recent months touting the current 118th Congress as possibly the least productive in the institution’s history. In 2023, Congress only passed 34 bills into law, the lowest number in decades.

  Congress was only recently able to pass a budget bill that will keep the government open until the fall of 2024 after months of delay and stopgap measures.

  As a result, House Speaker Mike Johnson’s gavel seems to be hanging in the balance yet again, as conservative Republicans revolt over his support for the bill.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Why vacations feel like they’re over before they even start

  When a vacation approaches, do you ever get the feeling that it’s almost over before it starts?

  If so, you’re not alone.

Monday, April 8, 2024

‘Economic development’ is another way to say ‘cheap labor’

  There’s a lot that can get an Alabama politician mad.

  Black history lessons. Voting assistance. Acknowledging the danger of firearms.

  But nothing, and I mean nothing, sets officials off like a worker who lacks an attitude of gratitude.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Solar eclipses result from a fantastic celestial coincidence of scale and distance

  On April 8, 2024, millions across the U.S. will have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to view a total solar eclipse. Cities including Austin, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and Cleveland, Ohio, will have a direct view of this rare cosmic event that lasts for just a few hours.

  While you can see many astronomical events, such as comets and meteor showers, from anywhere on Earth, eclipses are different. You need to travel to what’s called the path of totality to experience the full eclipse. Only certain places get an eclipse’s full show, and that’s because of scale.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

US democracy’s unaddressed flaws undermine Biden’s stand as democracy’s defender − but Trump keeps favoring political violence

  President Joe Biden argues that “democracy is on the ballot” in the 2024 election.

  We believe there are potential threats to U.S. democracy posed by the choices voters make in this election. But the benefits of American democracy have for centuries been unequally available, and any discussion of the current threats needs to happen against that background.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Responsibilities of management

  Modern managers often utter clichés about wanting employees to “think outside the box,” take risks, and be creative. And while I’m sure companies do appreciate break-through innovative ideas that increase profits, productivity, or quality, the fact is that most organizations are inhospitable to those who challenge old ways of doing things, even practices that are inefficient, useless, or counterproductive.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Is the National Guard a solution to school violence?

  Every now and then, an elected official will suggest bringing in the National Guard to deal with violence that seems out of control.

  A city council member in Washington suggested doing so in 2023 to combat the city’s rising violence. So did a Pennsylvania representative concerned about violence in Philadelphia in 2022.

  In February 2024, officials in Massachusetts requested the National Guard be deployed to a more unexpected location – to a high school.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

What Marilyn Lands’ win says, and what it doesn’t

  One thing is clear from Marilyn Lands’ House District 10 victory: Abortion still motivates Democrats.

  Lands turned a seven-point loss in 2022 into a 25-point romp on March 26. And for the first time since 2002 – when then-Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman almost pulled off a shocking re-election upset – Alabama Democrats came out of an election with more legislators than they had before it.

  But the obvious question is whether Democrats can replicate Lands’ win around the state.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Are private conversations truly private? A cybersecurity expert explains how end-to-end encryption protects you

  Imagine opening your front door wide and inviting the world to listen in on your most private conversations. Unthinkable, right? Yet, in the digital realm, people inadvertently leave doors ajar, potentially allowing hackers, tech companies, service providers, and security agencies to peek into their private communications.

  Much depends on the applications you use and the encryption standards the apps uphold. End-to-end encryption is a digital safeguard for online interactions. It’s used by many of the more popular messaging apps. Understanding end-to-end encryption is crucial for maintaining privacy in people’s increasingly digital lives.

Monday, April 1, 2024

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.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Sacred hares, banished winter witches and pagan worship – the roots of Easter Bunny traditions are ancient

  The Easter Bunny is a much-celebrated character in American Easter celebrations. On Easter Sunday, children look for hidden special treats, often chocolate Easter eggs, that the Easter Bunny might have left behind.

  As a folklorist, I’m aware of the origins of the long and interesting journey this mythical figure has taken from European prehistory to today.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

The roots of the Easter story: Where did Christian beliefs about Jesus’ resurrection come from?

  As Easter approaches, Christians around the world begin to focus on two of the central tenets of their faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

  Other charismatic Jewish teachers or miracle workers were active in Judea around the same time, approximately 2,000 years ago. What set Jesus apart was his followers’ belief in his resurrection. For believers, this was not only a miracle, but a sign that Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish messiah, sent to save the people of Israel from their oppressors.

  But was the idea of a resurrection itself a unique belief in first-century Israel?

Friday, March 29, 2024

Why do airlines charge so much for checked bags? This obscure rule helps explain why

  Five out of the six biggest U.S. airlines have raised their checked bag fees since January 2024.

  Take American Airlines. In 2023, it cost US$30 to check a standard bag in with the airline; today, as of March 2024, it costs $40 at a U.S. airport – a whopping 33% increase.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Working-class people rarely have a seat ‘at the legislative table’ in state capitols

  In her first few months as a Minnesota state legislator in 2021, state Rep. Kaela Berg often wondered: “What the hell am I doing here?”

  A single mother and flight attendant without a college degree or prior political experience, Berg now had a seat at the legislative table, shaping policy decisions in her home state.

  As she ran against a former two-term Republican representative — a commercial real estate agent — she also was struggling for housing and living in a friend’s basement.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

What is the ‘great replacement theory’? A scholar of race relations explains

  The “great replacement theory,” whose origins date back to the late 19th century, argues that Jews and some Western elites are conspiring to replace white Americans and Europeans with people of non-European descent, particularly Asians and Africans.

  The conspiracy evolved from a series of false ideas that, over time, stoked the fears of white people: In 1892, British-Australian author and politician Charles Pearson warned that white people would “wake to find ourselves elbowed and hustled, and perhaps even thrust aside by people whom we looked down.” The massive influx of immigrants into Europe at the time fostered some of these fears and resulted in “white extinction anxiety.” In the U.S., it resulted in policies targeting immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Inside the Statehouse: Runoffs set for new 2nd District Congressional primary races

  The most interesting and paramount race on the ballot in the March 5th primaries was the one for the new open 2nd Congressional District.

  This new district was created by the federal courts to implement a new Democratic/Black District in the Heart of Dixie. The Democratic nominee will be favored to win this seat in November. When the plaintiffs proposed their new district plan to the court, they attached a chart, which illustrated that had there been a Democratic vs. Republican congressional race on the ballot, the Democrat would have won in 16 of the 17 races. Washington insiders are handicapping this race as a Democratic pickup.

Monday, March 25, 2024

The Black history knowledge gap is widening – and GOP politicians are making it worse

  On the day of the Super Bowl, Matt Gaetz, a Republican member of Congress from Florida, publicly announced that he would not watch one of the most popular sporting events in America.

  The reason for his boycott?

  “They’re desecrating America’s national anthem by playing something called the ‘Black national anthem,’” Gaetz explained.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Yes, sexism among Republican voters helped sink Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign

  Following multiple defeats in the Republican presidential primary, including in her home state of South Carolina, Nikki Haley suspended her bid for the Republican presidential nomination on March 6, 2024.

  Barring unforeseen events, Donald Trump will be the GOP candidate in November’s election.

  Haley’s failure to pose a more serious challenge to Trump may be puzzling to some. After all, she was a formidable candidate with notable political experience in both federal and state government. She had outlasted prominent Republican officials, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, in the GOP primary.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

What families need to know about how to safely store firearms at home

  For the past few years, guns have been identified as the leading cause of death for children in the United States.

  There were 2,571 children age 1 to 17 who died in shootings in the U.S. in 2021, 68% more than the 1,531 that occurred in 2000.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Trump nearly derailed democracy once − here’s what to watch out for in reelection campaign

  Elections are the bedrock of democracy, essential for choosing representatives and holding them accountable.

  The U.S. is a flawed democracy. The Electoral College and the Senate make voters in less populous states far more influential than those in the more populous: Wyoming residents have almost four times the voting power of Californians.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Estimated 2.5 million people displaced by tornadoes, wildfires and other disasters in 2023 tell a story of recovery in America and who is vulnerable

  People often think of disasters as great equalizers. After all, a hurricane, tornado, or wildfire doesn’t discriminate against those in its path. But the consequences for those impacted are not “one-size-fits-all.”

  That’s evident in the U.S. Census Bureau’s newly released results from its national household surveys showing who was displaced by disasters in 2023.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

When public officials threaten private citizens

  Four members of Alabama’s congressional delegation attacked a private citizen last week.

  And now we’re all in danger.

  See, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville and U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt of Haleyville; Gary Palmer of Hoover, and Dale Strong of Madison went after someone who works at Space Camp.

  Not a person accused of harming anyone, much less committing a crime. Not a person who, by any rational standard, counts as a public figure.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Voices of regression

  Shut your eyes.

  Listen to the verbiage that has descended upon a citizenry whose forward, albeit gradual, movement toward mutual equality and parity was reversed — and annulled — by fear; insistence on racial hierarchy, and ignorance.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Free speech or free rein? How Murthy v. Missouri became a soapbox for misinformation advocacy

  Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Murthy v. Missouri, originally filed as Missouri v. Biden. This case is emblematic of broader debates over the role of government in regulating online platforms and the protections afforded by the First Amendment in the context of speech online. In this case, the plaintiffs—the states of Missouri and Louisiana, as well as five social media users—alleged that governmental communication with social media platforms regarding concerns about COVID-19 misinformation and election interference amounted to coercion, violating the First Amendment.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

The truth about St. Patrick’s Day

  In 1997, my students and I traveled to Croagh Patrick, a mountain in County Mayo, as part of a study abroad program course on Irish literature I was teaching for the University of Dayton. I wanted my students to visit the place where, each July, thousands of pilgrims pay homage to St. Patrick, who, according to lore, fasted and prayed on the summit for 40 days.

  While there, our tour guide relayed the story of how St. Patrick, as he lay on his death bed on March 17 in A.D. 461, supposedly asked those gathered around him to toast his heavenly journey with a “wee drop of whiskey” to ease their pain.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Warped terminology on open borders

  Seeing the large number of immigrants illegally entering the United States, proponents of immigration controls decry what they label the “open border” between the United States and Mexico.

  I live in Virginia. I sometimes enter Maryland by crossing the bridge that spans the Potomac River, which forms part of the border between the two states. There is no border-control station at which Maryland officials require me to stop and be subjected to questions and have my vehicle searched. There are also no border patrol agents patrolling the border to ensure that no one is entering Maryland illegally. 

Friday, March 15, 2024

The Russia-Ukraine War has caused a staggering amount of cultural destruction – both seen and unseen

  War doesn’t just destroy lives. It also tears at the fabric of culture.

  And in the case of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, now about to enter its third year, the remarkable destruction of Ukrainian history and heritage since 2022 hasn’t been a matter of collateral damage. Rather, the Russian military has deliberately targeted museums, churches, and libraries that are important to the Ukrainian people.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Back in the day, being woke meant being smart

  If Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had his way, the word “woke” would be banished from public use and memory.

  As he promised in Iowa in December 2023 during his failed presidential campaign, “We will fight the woke in education, we will fight the woke in the corporations, we will fight the woke in the halls of Congress. We will never, ever surrender to the woke mob.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

I’m a political scientist, and the Alabama Supreme Court’s IVF ruling turned me into a reproductive-rights refugee

  The day before the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos created and used for in vitro fertilization are children, my wife, Gabby, and I were greenlighted by our doctors to begin the IVF process. We live in Alabama.

  That Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, unaware of the ruling, Gabby started taking her stimulation medications, worth roughly US$4,000 in total. We didn’t hear about the decision until Sunday morning, Feb. 18. By then, she had taken four injections – or two doses – of each of the stimulation medications.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Katie Britt and the unreality of Alabama immigration rhetoric

  Imagine if Alabama politicians started treating geothermal energy as a crisis.

  And not just criticizing particular practices or businesses. We’re talking about a heat pump apocalypse.

  Introducing legislation to criminalize steam. Storming library board meetings and demanding the removal of any book with the phrase “hot springs.” Using Hot Springs, Arkansas as a snickering shorthand for everything wrong with the country. Putting on flak jackets and filming television ads outside Iceland’s geysers, vowing that Alabama will not become Reykjavík.

Monday, March 11, 2024

How media coverage of presidential primaries fails voters and has helped Trump

  It’s common to hear Americans complain about the media throughout presidential elections. Partisans tend to believe the press is biased against their side. These perceptions may lead people to believe the media can affect how people vote.

  Political scientists have found some evidence that media bias can push people to vote for Democrats and Republicans in presidential contests. But we theorize that media influence is actually stronger in primary elections.

  Why?

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Atlantic Ocean is headed for a tipping point − once melting glaciers shut down the Gulf Stream, we would see extreme climate change within decades, study shows

  Superstorms, abrupt climate shifts, and New York City frozen in ice. That’s how the blockbuster Hollywood movie “The Day After Tomorrow” depicted an abrupt shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean’s circulation and the catastrophic consequences.

  While Hollywood’s vision was over the top, the 2004 movie raised a serious question: If global warming shuts down the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is crucial for carrying heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes, how abrupt and severe would the climate changes be?

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Mounting research shows that COVID-19 leaves its mark on the brain, including with significant drops in IQ scores

  From the very early days of the pandemic, brain fog emerged as a significant health condition that many experience after COVID-19.

  Brain fog is a colloquial term that describes a state of mental sluggishness or lack of clarity and haziness that makes it difficult to concentrate, remember things, and think clearly.

  Fast-forward four years and there is now abundant evidence that being infected with SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – can affect brain health in many ways.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Bias hiding in plain sight: Decades of analyses suggest US media skews anti-Palestinian

  News organizations are often accused of lacking impartiality when covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In November 2023, over 750 journalists signed an open letter alleging bias in U.S. newsrooms against Palestinians in the reporting of the ongoing fighting in the Gaza strip.

  More recently, two articles in respected U.S. newspapers highlight the debate over bias.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Annual Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee highlights progress and continuing battles

  It was a good day to be in Selma, even if the misting rain kept people away until the afternoon sun broke through.

  But while the gray clouds threatened before they were vanquished, the smell of barbecue competed with the low throb of bass powering old R&B classics along Water Avenue to draw people out for the 59th Anniversary Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The weeklong event, commemorating the March 7, 1965 attack on 600 voting rights marchers, culminated March 3 with a speech from Vice President Kamala Harris before she led thousands on a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Don’t let ‘FDA-approved’ or ‘patented’ in ads give you a false sense of security

  If you’ve ever reached for a bottle of moisturizer labeled “patented” or “FDA approved,” you might want to think twice. In a recent study of hundreds of advertisements, I found that supplements and beauty products often misleadingly use these terms to suggest safety or efficacy.

  As a law professor, I suspect this is confusing for consumers, maybe even dangerous. Having a patent means only that you can stop others from making, using, selling, or importing your invention. It doesn’t mean the invention works or that it won’t blow up in your face.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The great Goat Hill stampede of 2024

  The Alabama Legislature crammed 40% of this year’s session into February.

  That’s light speed for the body. At this rate, lawmakers could finish the session in mid- to late April, over a month before the state Constitution would require them to depart.

  You might approve. The less time the legislature sits, the less time they have to pass bad laws. In recent years, the Republican supermajority has turned legislative sessions into bonfires of civil rights and voting access. If it could stop our lawmakers from throwing other freedoms into the flames, I’d end the sacrificial ritual early.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Why the United States needs NATO – 3 things to know

  Former President Donald Trump has long made it clear that he deeply resents NATO, a 75-year-old military alliance that is composed of the United States and 30 other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France.

  Trump escalated his criticism of NATO on Feb. 10, 2024, when he said that, if he is elected president again in November 2024, the U.S. would not defend any member country that had not “paid up.”

  Trump also said that he would encourage Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, “to do whatever the hell they want” with a NATO member who was “delinquent” in paying for its defense.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

11 things you can do to adjust to losing that hour of sleep when daylight saving time starts

  As clocks march ahead and daylight saving time begins, there can be anxiety around losing an hour of sleep and how to adjust to this change.

  Usually an hour seems like an insignificant amount of time, but even this minimal loss can cause problems. There can be significant health repercussions of this forcible shift in the body clock.

  Springing forward is usually harder than falling backward. Why?

Saturday, March 2, 2024

How you can tell propaganda from journalism − let’s look at Tucker Carlson’s visit to Russia

  Tucker Carlson, the conservative former cable TV news pundit, recently traveled to Moscow to interview Russian dictator Vladimir Putin for his Tucker Carlson Network, known as TCN.

  The two-hour interview itself proved dull. Even Putin found Carlson’s soft questioning “disappointing.” Very little from the interview was newsworthy.

  Other videos Carlson produced while in Russia, however, seemed to spark far more significant commentary. Carlson marveled at the beauty of the Moscow subway and seemed awed by the cheap prices in a Russian supermarket. He found the faux McDonald’s – rebranded “Tasty-period” – cheeseburgers delicious.

Friday, March 1, 2024

I went to CPAC as an anthropologist to understand Trump’s base − they believe, more than ever, he is a savior

  What is happening in the hearts of former President Donald Trump’s supporters?

  As an anthropologist who studies peace and conflict, I went to the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, to find out. I wanted to better understand the Make America Great Again faithful – and their die-hard support for Trump.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

As war in Ukraine enters third year, 3 issues could decide its outcome: Supplies, information and politics

  In retrospect, there was perhaps nothing surprising about Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

  Vladimir Putin’s intentions were, after all, hiding in plain sight and signaled in the months running up to the incursion.

  What could not be foreseen, however, is where the conflict finds itself now. Heading into its third year, the war has become bogged down: Neither is it a stalemate; nor does it look like either side could make dramatic advances any time soon.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Immigrants do work that might not otherwise get done – bolstering the US economy

  Although Congress is failing to pass laws to restrict the number of migrants arriving in the U.S., a majority of Americans – about 6 in 10 – believe there’s an immigration crisis along the Mexico-U.S. border. Politicians who want fewer people to move here often cast those arriving without prior authorization as a burden on the economy.

  As an economist who has researched immigration and employment, I’m confident that economic trends and research findings contradict those arguments.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Alabama Legislature helped Tom Parker realize his medieval dreams

  When Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker wrote a cheerleading concurrence in his colleagues’ decision to effectively end in vitro fertilization in the state, he cited Thomas Aquinas.

  Aquinas, as I learned in Father Koterski’s philosophy class, was a Dominican theologian who spent most of his life trying to synthesize Catholic Church teachings with the philosophy of Aristotle. Koterski’s class focused on Aquinas’ thoughts about existence, in particular the idea of being as an act.

Monday, February 26, 2024

IVF patient vows to fight for access to treatment in Alabama following court ruling

  Birmingham resident Hannah Miles has been trying to have a baby for more than three years, fighting obstacles like endometriosis, diminished ovarian reserve, and cancer treatment that affected her husband’s sperm. The couple is already nearly $40,000 into the in vitro fertilization process after one failed transfer into her uterus in January. Their last embryo is scheduled to be transferred on March 19.

  She messaged her IVF nurse through tears earlier this week, asking if she should continue the medication injections that cost $800 per vial out of pocket to keep her endometriosis from flaring up.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

The NetChoice cases: Will the Supreme Court turn First Amendment law on its head?

  On February 26, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases—NetChoice v. Paxton and Moody v. NetChoice—that address whether Florida and Texas can enact laws prohibiting social media platforms from moderating content posted by their users.

  The Florida law predominantly limits social media platforms’ ability to “censor”—demonetize, remove, or otherwise restrict—political candidates and certain journalistic outlets. It would also prevent the platforms from moderating harmful mis- and disinformation from several sources, even prohibiting them from attaching labels that guide users to verified information. The Texas law is far broader, preventing most widely used websites, from Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter, to Etsy and Yelp, from enforcing community standards by prohibiting the removal of nearly any content that’s based on viewpoint. This includes preventing the removal of heinous and objectionable material—Nazi propaganda, deepfakes, socially damaging conspiracy theories, etc.—from any platform unless it falls under specific narrow exceptions, particularly within the narrowly and technically legal definition of being “unlawful.”

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Alabama can’t look away from difficult history

  Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) predicted in January that a “divisive concepts” bill — which presumes exposure to hard or unflattering history will melt children into gelatin — would pass in the first or second week of the legislative session.

  And happy Black History Month to you, too. The good news is that the 2024 Alabama Legislature finished its second week last Thursday without the bill — sponsored by Oliver over the last several years — rearing its rage-choked head in the Statehouse.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Voters don’t always have final say – state legislatures and governors are increasingly undermining ballot measures that win

  Less than half of Americans trust elected officials to act in the public’s interest.

  When voters want something done on an issue and their elected officials fail to act, they may turn to citizen initiatives to pursue their goals instead. The citizen initiative process varies by state, but in general, citizens collect signatures to have an issue put directly on the ballot for the voters to voice their preferences. Nearly half the states, 24 of them, allow citizen initiatives.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

For 150 years, Black journalists have known what Confederate monuments really stood for

  In October 2023, nearly seven years after the deadly Unite the Right white supremacist rally, the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia was melted down. Since then, two more major Confederate monuments have been removed: the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and the Monument to the Women of the Confederacy in Jacksonville, Florida.

  Defenders of Confederate monuments have argued that the statues should be left standing to educate future generations. One such defender is former President Donald Trump, the likely GOP presidential nominee in 2024.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dietary supplements and protein powders fall under a ‘wild west’ of unregulated products that necessitate caveats and caution

  Dietary supplements are a big business. The industry made almost US$39 billion in revenue in 2022, and with very little regulation and oversight, it stands to keep growing.

  The marketing of dietary supplements has been quite effective, with 77% of Americans reporting feeling that the supplement industry is trustworthy. The idea of taking your health into your own hands is appealing, and supplements are popular with athletes, parents, and people trying to recover more quickly from a cold or flu, just to name a few.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Ohio v. EPA threatens the EPA’s ability to regulate air pollution nationwide

  On February 21, 2024, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for an emergency petition to postpone implementing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “good neighbor plan,” which is meant to protect downwind states from high levels of ozone pollution. Unusually, the court is holding oral argument in this matter even though it originates in the notorious emergency docket known as the “shadow docket.” Unlike in the traditional merits docket, cases heard in the shadow docket typically are decided without oral argument on a fast-tracked basis and often are procedural in nature. In Ohio v. EPA, the court has chosen to hear arguments to determine whether the good neighbor plan should be paused while litigation in the lower courts continues. A stay of the plan could allow upwind states to emit approximately 70,000 additional tons of smog-creating nitrous oxide by the peak of the 2026 summertime ozone season, causing up to 1,300 premature deaths and increased hospital visits for thousands of Americans with asthma or other respiratory problems each year. This case serves as another opportunity for this radical, right-wing Supreme Court to rule in favor of powerful industry polluters over the safety and welfare of the American people.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Mexico is suing US gun-makers for arming its gangs − and a US court could award billions in damages

  The government of Mexico is suing U.S. gun-makers for their role in facilitating cross-border gun trafficking that has supercharged violent crime in Mexico.

  The lawsuit seeks US$10 billion in damages and a court order to force the companies named in the lawsuit – including Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, Beretta, and Ruger – to change the way they do business. In January, a federal appeals court in Boston decided that the industry’s immunity shield, which so far has protected gun-makers from civil liability, does not apply to Mexico’s lawsuit.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

2023’s billion-dollar disasters list shattered the US record with 28 big weather and climate disasters amid Earth’s hottest year on record

  National weather analysts released their 2023 “billion-dollar disasters list” on Jan. 9, just as 2024 was getting off to a ferocious start. A blizzard was sweeping across across the Plains and Midwest, and the South and East faced flood risks from extreme downpours.

  The U.S. set an unwelcome record for weather and climate disasters in 2023, with 28 disasters that exceeded more than US$1 billion in damage each.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

With higher fees and more ads, streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu are cashing in by using the old tactics of cable TV

  There’s one thing that television viewers can count on in 2024: higher fees and more commercials.

  The major streaming services – Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Max – have all announced rate hikes and new advertising policies.

Friday, February 16, 2024

George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ is a story of jazz, race and the fraught notion of America’s melting pot

  February 12, 1924 was a frigid day in New York City. But that didn’t stop an intrepid group of concertgoers from gathering in midtown Manhattan’s Aeolian Hall for “An Experiment in Modern Music.” The organizer, bandleader Paul Whiteman, wanted to show how jazz and classical music could come together. So he commissioned a new work by a 25-year-old Jewish-American upstart named George Gershwin.

  Gershwin’s contribution to the program, “Rhapsody in Blue,” would go on to exceed anyone’s wildest expectations, becoming one of the best-known works of the 20th century. Beyond the concert hall, it would appear in iconic films such as Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” and Disney’s “Fantasia 2000.” It was performed during the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, and if you ever fly on United Airlines, you’ll hear it playing during the preflight safety videos.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

What Americans can learn from Danish masculinity

  When a leader cries in public, is it a sign of weakness?

  On Jan. 14, 2023, Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik was crowned King Frederik X after his mother, Queen Margrethe II, announced she would be abdicating the throne during her annual New Year’s Eve speech.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Drunk and bitter on Valentine's Day

  I'm not opposed to love. In fact, I love love, especially the sex part. It's not even that I hate Valentine's Day. But like every event in our society that contains even the slightest hint of sappy sentimentality, it has been done to death. (Can you say, "Titanic?")