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.


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.