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.