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Hidden just beneath the surface of the ongoing heated debate about immigration in the United States lurks an often unspoken concern: language. Specifically, whether immigration from Spanish-speaking countries threatens the English language’s dominance.

Language and immigration have long been politically linked in the U.S. When Farmers Branch, Texas, passed an English-only “requirement” in 2006, then-Mayor Tim O'Hare justified it by saying that “we need address illegal immigration in our city and we need to do it now.”

The Farmers Branch city council voted unanimously to drop the controversial ordinance last November, but 31 states and hundreds of towns in the United States still have local English-only or “official English” laws.

The perception that Latino immigration has led Spanish to sideline or even overtake English in the U.S. is widespread. After all, Spanish is the second most dominant language in the country, after English. It is spoken by 48.6 million people: 34.8 million Spanish-speakers age 5 and older of various national-origin backgrounds, 11 million undocumented Latin American immigrants and an estimated 2.8 million non-Latinos who use Spanish in the home.

Census data on U.S. demographic changes project that by 2060 the Latino population in the U.S. – the group most likely to speak Spanish – will grow 115 percent, to 119 million.

But these figures don’t tell the whole story. As a linguist, I have studied Spanish-English bilingualism in Texas, California, Florida and beyond, and I can attest that Spanish is not taking over...

After the Trump administration gave states permission to impose new restrictions on Medicaid eligibility, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin wasted no time.

Within days, Kentucky instituted a new rule requiring “able-bodied” adults on the health insurance program for the poor and disabled to complete 80 hours of “community engagement” per month. Paid work, job training, volunteering or being the primary caregiver for children and the elderly all count.

Advocates for disabled and low-income people fear that this mandate, which could spread to at least 10 other states, will strip millions of insured Americans of their health coverage.

The states taking this step say it has become increasingly hard for them to cover their share of Medicaid’s costs. But, based on my health economics research, I believe that the policy is unfair to the most vulnerable and may end up not saving any money.


According to a recent report, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia have the worst health in the U.S. These states have higher rates of premature deaths, chronic diseases and poor health behaviors year after year.

Why are people in some places in the U.S. consistently less healthy than those in others? If you look to health and fitness magazines, it may seem like poor diet, lack of exercise and other bad behaviors are to blame. Genetics and access to health care are also commonly cited reasons for why some people are healthier than others.

But where a person lives, works and plays also matters. As a public health researcher interested in how society affects our health, my research shows where you live plays a powerful role on your health.

Economic distress

Public health experts often talk about the “social determinants of health”: community traits like housing quality, access to nutritious and fresh food, water and air quality, education quality and employment opportunities. These factors are thought to be among the most powerful influences on a person’s health.

Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia also share a similar economic environment. Data from the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a bipartisan public policy organization in D.C., shows that these states are the top five most economically distressed states in the U.S.

In fact, Alabama and Mississippi have the highest shares of people living in distressed zip codes.

Agricultural abundance is a pillar of the California dream. In 2016 the state turned out more than US$45 billion worth of meat, milk and crops. Long before nutritionists agreed that fresh fruits and vegetables should be the center of American diets, California farmers had planted much of their land in these products, and today they produce half of the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts.

But although fruits and vegetables are vaunted as healthy foods, their impact as crops is quite different. On many California produce farms wages are low, working conditions are poor, and farmers use enormous quantities of pesticides and precious water. This is the central contradiction of California agriculture.

For the past five years I have been studying California’s strawberry industry, which currently is the state’s sixth most important commodity in terms of the value of crops sold. Strawberries are attractive, reasonably nutritious and occasionally tasty fruits and can be grown and eaten within California nearly year-round. But the industry’s growth has relied on heavy use of toxic chemicals and now growers face heightened restrictions on some of their most favored chemicals: soil fumigants. Unfortunately, less toxic or non-chemical strategies that would allow strawberries to be grown for a mass market, maintaining affordable prices, are elusive and likely to remain so.


Republicans can’t agree on a budget.

That lack of agreement has made it necessary for Congress to pass a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government open.

There’s no budget agreement because factions within the GOP hold contradictory policy positions on almost every issue. James Madison, an author of the Federalist Papers might have framed the problem this way: The party draws on votes from – and is accountable to – diverse groups of citizens with conflicting interests. That conflict within the Republicans’ voting base means that any policy they propose would hurt at least some of the members’ key constituents.

In an era of hyperaccountability, swift electoral punishment from any negatively impacted constituency is all but inevitable. Every vote and utterance by a political incumbent is scrutinized on Facebook and Twitter. The personal electoral costs of following the party line are prohibitive for enough to break down compromise within the party and preclude any significant policy change.

The recent tax bill was a happy exception for the Republicans. It lowered – or, at least, did not raise – federal taxes for practically everyone who mattered to Republicans. In essence, it handed out money to majorities in all categories of supporters without specifying who would bear the costs.

Now with the budget, the time has come to clarify – to agree...

President Donald Trump’s decision to impose punitive duties on imported solar panels and related equipment is rankling most of the industry.

This was the final step of a process that began when two U.S. subsidiaries of foreign solar panel makers filed a rarely used kind of trade complaint with the International Trade Commission. Trump largely followed the course of action the independent U.S. agency had recommended to protect domestic manufacturers from unfair competition.

But far from protecting U.S. interests, the tariffs are bound to stifle the current solar boom, destroying American jobs and dragging down clean energy innovation. As economists who research climate and energy policies that can foster a greener North American economy, we argue the government should instead create targeted subsidies that support innovation and lower costs across the supply chain. This approach would do a better job of helping the U.S. industry fend off foreign competition without harming the industry itself.

A booming industry

The U.S. solar industry has enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years, thanks to the rapidly declining cost to install solar systems and tax breaks for homeowners, businesses and utilities that have expanded demand but are being phased out. Prices have plunged to roughly...

Mr. Smith was a 27-year-old man referred for psychological treatment after sexually offending against a 13-year-old boy. He initially denied the charge, but eventually admitted to sexually abusing multiple youth. He later admitted he’d been attracted to boys since his own adolescence.

Mr. Smith is actually a case composite from my first book on pedophilia. But the description is representative of stories I’ve heard from the hundreds of individuals I’ve talked with as a psychologist and researcher over the past 25 years.

Most men are sexually attracted to sexually mature young adults. But a small minority of men are sexually attracted to other age groups, from infants to the elderly. These age-based attractions are called chronophilias.

My research focuses on chronophilias and sexual offending against children. Recently, I’ve started to think about these age-specific attractions as sexual orientations for age, similar to how we understand sexual orientation for gender. This is quite different from the traditional way that psychologists view chronophilias, as sexual preferences that are distinct from someone’s identity.

This idea – that chronophilias can be understood as sexual orientations for age – is provocative, because it raises ethical, legal and scientific questions about how we think about sexual orientation, the etiology of sexual preferences and how we respond to sexual offenses against minors.

Attraction to an atypical age group

The best-known atypical chronophilia is pedophilia, referring to sexual...

An estimated 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. These symptoms – including mood swings, fatigue and reduced interest in activities – can make it difficult for mothers to bond with their newborns.

Early relationships between mothers and their infants can influence health across the lifespan, for better or worse. For example, adults who report more household dysfunction and abuse during their childhood are more likely to suffer disease as adults. Those with healthy and supportive relationships during early life are better at handling stress and regulating their emotions.

However, scientists do not completely understand how these environments get “under the skin” to shape health. Our latest paper, published in November, shows a possible link between increasing depression symptoms in mothers and cellular damage in their infants.

Telomeres and health

How does stress affect our cells? One area of burgeoning research focuses on telomeres.

This month’s tragic mudslides in Montecito, California are a reminder that natural hazards lurk on the doorsteps of many U.S. homes, even in affluent communities. Similar events occur every year around the world, often inflicting much higher casualties yet rarely making front-page headlines.

During my field research as a geologist, I have seen destruction from landslides firsthand in many parts of the world, including Nepal, China, Indonesia and Peru. In my view, these losses could be mitigated by improving our scientific understanding of landslides and debris flows (moving masses of mud, sand, soil, rock, and even sometimes ice), and by helping societies communicate the resulting risks more effectively – particularly in developing countries, where the damage is most severe.

Thousands killed in single events

The damage from landslides can be staggering. In the most destructive recorded cases of the 20th century, thousands of people died in single events. For example, catastrophic debris flows from Nevado Huascarán – the highest mountain peak in Peru – killed as many as 4,000 people in 1962 and another estimated 18,000-20,000 in 1970. Globally, the highest numbers of fatalities from landslides occur in the mountains of Asia and Central and South America, as well as on steep islands in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.

Wherever slopes are...

In East Asia, Buddhists celebrate the Buddha’s death and entrance into final enlightenment in February. But at my local Zen temple in North Carolina, the Buddha’s enlightenment is commemorated during the holiday season of December, with a short talk for the children, a candlelight service and a potluck supper following the celebration.

Welcome to Buddhism, American-style.

Early influences

Buddhism entered into the American cultural consciousness in the late 19th century. It was a time when romantic notions of exotic Oriental mysticism fueled the imaginations of American philosopher-poets, art connoisseurs, and early scholars of world religions.

Transcendental poets like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson read Hindu and Buddhist philosophy deeply, as did Henry Steel Olcott, who traveled to Sri Lanka in 1880, converted to Buddhism and founded the popular strain of mystical philosophy called Theosophy.

Meanwhile, connoisseurs...

We’d all like to be a little happier.

The problem is that much of what determines happiness is outside of our control. Some of us are genetically predisposed to see the world through rose-colored glasses, while others have a generally negative outlook. Bad things happen, to us and in the world. People can be unkind, and jobs can be tedious.

But we do have some control over how we spend our leisure time. That’s one reason why it’s worth asking which leisure time activities are linked to happiness, and which aren’t.

In a new analysis of 1 million U.S. teens, my co-authors and I looked at how teens were spending their free time and which activities correlated with happiness, and which didn’t.

We wanted to see if changes in the way teens spend their free time might partially explain a startling drop in teens’ happiness after 2012 – and perhaps the decline in adults’ happiness since 2000 as well.

A possible culprit emerges

In our study, we analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders that’s been conducted annually since 1991.

Every year, teens are asked about their general happiness, in addition to how they spend their time. We found that teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising,...

It was the height of Watergate and the Democratic speaker of the House, Carl Albert, needed advice. With Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation, and the Nixon presidency imperiled, Albert was suddenly next in line to become president. The vacancy continued for 58 days – between the time that Agnew resigned on Oct. 10, 1973, until Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president on Dec. 6.

Looking for advice, Albert turned to Ted Sorensen, John F. Kennedy’s alter ego and Democratic sage.

Just days after the Saturday Night Massacre on Oct. 20, 1973, when Nixon ordered the firing of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, Sorensen sent Albert a 19-page secret memo to help him prepare for the possibility of becoming president. While most of the memo addressed the logistics of setting up a new administration, Sorensen also cautioned Albert, a Democrat, that he shouldn’t think about resigning in favor of a Republican vice president.

One doesn’t need to be a history buff to grasp the significance of Sorensen’s startling advice. It implies Albert was considering resigning so that a presidential succession triggered by the removal of Nixon wouldn’t look partisan. From the vantage point of our current political tribalism, it is almost inconceivable that a Democrat would even think of forgoing the presidency in favor of a Republican.

But I...

Security vulnerabilities in technology extend well beyond problems with software. Earlier this month, researchers revealed that the hardware at the heart of nearly every computer, smartphone, tablet and other electronic device is flawed in at least two significant ways code-named Spectre and Meltdown.

Regardless of their cause, the mere existence of these significant vulnerabilities is a symptom of a much wider problem. Too few technology companies are taking proper precautions to protect every step in their supply chains, from raw materials through manufacturing and distribution into customers’ hands. Products could be altered either in the factory or en route to a user, turning, for example, an executive’s smartphone into a handy surveillance device.

I am part of a multidisciplinary team of researchers based at Indiana University studying this thorny problem. Our work has helped highlight the simple fact that better supply chain security could both prevent and make it easier to recover from accidents – as the chip flaws appear to be – and deliberate meddling.

Backdoors and secret passages

It’s common knowledge that hackers can attack software by sending users virus-infected emails or compromised links. But they can also meddle with computers by altering tiny circuits in microchips most users will never see. These weaknesses are physical, and they’re just as hard to identify as mistakes in software code.

The complex supply chains...

For the first time since 2000, a sitting American president is attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, which takes place in Davos, Switzerland, from Jan. 23-26.

The invitation-only gathering is basically a who’s who of the global elite: business heads, current and past world leaders, well-connected celebrities and academics. They make business deals in hallway meetings and at parties and hobnob in program sessions that seek to tackle global problems such as poverty, climate change and refugee crises.

In many ways, the Davos crowd and its interests are the epitome of what Donald Trump’s populist base reviles. Although the Davos neophyte is wealthy and powerful like many of the other attendees, Trump with his coarse manners and protectionist policies may find an unsympathetic audience.

Davos, already an inherent contradiction of elites purporting to change the world from which they have profited, will become even more of a paradox with Trump’s attendance. As such, the American president could surely use a primer on the gathering to prepare him for the clashes sure to come.

As a business and humanities scholar who has seen Davos up close, I recommend he pack four books for his transatlantic flight, as a strange but sure way to diminish his culture shock.


Ray was born in Mexico and moved to the United States with family members at age 10.

He told me in an interview in 2014, “I’m just a regular American like everyone else.” In middle school, Ray (a pseudonym to protect his identity) learned the Declaration of Independence and memorized all the presidents in order. His first job was replastering swimming pools in Phoenix, Arizona. Ray had a son, who was accepted to officer candidate school to attempt to earn the title of U.S. Marine.

After 29 years in the United States – attending school, working and raising a family – Ray was deported to Mexico.

As an anthropologist, I set out to understand how people like Ray become socially entwined in U.S. communities. I spent 18 months researching and living with deported adults in northern Mexico. I interviewed 56 deported...

When Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the American Enterprise Institute on Jan. 16, she began by emphasizing her role as an outsider.

“Outside Washington. Outside the LBJ building,” she said of the department’s headquarters in the nation’s capital. “Outside ‘the system.’”

“Some have questioned the presence of an outsider in the Department of Education,” DeVos conceded. “But, as it’s been said before, maybe what students need is someone who doesn’t yet know all the things you ‘can’t do.’”

She had scarcely a good word to say about previous efforts at the Education Department. Asked what lessons could be learned from the school reforms of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, DeVos suggested very little.

“We need to be honest with ourselves,” DeVos said. “The bottom line is simple: Federal education reform efforts have not worked as hoped.”

Finding little to praise, the staunch school-choice proponent instead blamed the department and the politicians who have overseen it for wasting billions of taxpayer dollars while leaving students unprepared.

Whether her analysis is on point or off base is a matter of debate. What is clear is that her anti-Washington rhetoric represents a radical departure from that of previous education secretaries. It also puts her at odds with her own department.

I make this observation as one who has studied the public comments of education secretaries going back to the...

The federal government shut down this weekend, as Congress failed to pass a stopgap spending measure. Many may wonder what this means for the nation’s public health battles against threats like the flu and the opioid crisis.

In a shutdown, contingency plans allow the federal government to meet most short-term health care needs. Most American hospitals are privately run. Public hospitals are, with very few exceptions, run by state and local governments, which aren’t directly affected. No one will be turned away at the emergency room because of the shutdown.

There are, however, plenty of federally funded programs and a few medical facilities that are immediately affected. The federal government will also likely take longer to respond to emerging health crises, as nonessential personnel are sent home.

Patient care

Most federal funding for direct patient care is appropriated separately from the budget negotiations causing the shutdown. So Medicare and Medicaid will be largely unaffected, for example.

There’s also a separate appropriation to sustain medical care for veterans. This has been in place since the 2013 shutdown, which caused Congress to change the way it funds veteran care.

The shutdown does affect the Department of Health and Human Services, where 50 percent of all public employees will be sent home on furlough, or without pay. The remaining workers are considered essential to protect life and property.

HHS provides direct patient care...

Government shutdowns are rare.

This one is unique because the U.S. has never before experienced a shutdown under a unified government, a time when the White House and Congress are controlled by the same party.

The policy consequences of this shutdown are likely to be minimal. And, the shutdown itself will also probably be short-lived.

However, the political consequences and long-term “optics” may be significant – and are more likely to negatively impact Republicans than Democrats.

Politics are key

A government shutdown occurs when Congress and the president fail to pass required annual appropriations into law, and they also fail to pass a temporary funding mechanism known as a “continuing resolution” to keep the government funded. Without these authorizations, the agencies and departments of the federal government literally have no legal authority to spend funds – even though the law allows some “essential” government functions to keep running.

This time around, the politics of federal government appropriations are tied to the fate of two other controversial issues.

The first is DACA. Trump gave Congress six months to provide a legislative fix for the approximately 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and whose legal status is in jeopardy because the Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era executive action allowing them to stay in the country. Time is ticking for these so-called Dreamers, some of whom will lose their protective status beginning on March 5,...

Infrastructure supports and facilitates our daily lives – think of the roads we drive on, the bridges and tunnels that help transport people and freight, the office buildings where we work and the dams that provide the water we drink. But it’s no secret that American infrastructure is aging and in desperate need of rehabilitation.

Concrete structures, in particular, suffer from serious deterioration. Cracks are very common due to various chemical and physical phenomena that occur during everyday use. Concrete shrinks as it dries, which can cause cracks. It can crack when there’s movement underneath or thanks to freeze/thaw cycles over the course of the seasons. Simply putting too much weight on it can cause fractures. Even worse, the steel bars embedded in concrete as reinforcement can corrode over time.

Very tiny cracks can be quite harmful because they provide an easy route in for liquids and gasses – and the harmful substances they might contain. For instance, micro-cracks can allow water and oxygen to infiltrate and then corrode the steel, leading to structural failure. Even a slender breach just the width of a hair can allow enough water in to undermine the concrete’s integrity.

But continuous maintenance and repair work is difficult because it usually requires an enormous amount of labor and investment.

So since 2013, I’ve been trying to figure out how these harmful cracks could heal themselves...

The federal government is on the brink of shutting down for the first time in a little more than four years after Republicans and Democrats appeared unable to agree on a last-minute deal to keep funds flowing for another few weeks.

The immediate and most visible impact would be in the government’s day-to-day operations. Many departments and offices, like the Department of the Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Library of Congress, would be closed, and nonessential federal employees across the government would stay home. Families hoping to take their kids to a national park would usually be out of luck in a shutdown, but the Trump administration hopes to keep some of them open. Meanwhile, the men and women who protect our food supply and national security will still be doing their jobs – without pay.

But beyond the individual workers and families affected, could a short or lengthy shutdown affect the broader U.S. economy as well?

Constantine Yannelis, a business professor at New York University, and I examined data from the last time the government shut down in 2013 to better understand its impact.

An economic speed bump

While a shutdown affects the economy in a number of ways – from delaying business permits and visas to reducing service hours at innumerable agencies – a primary channel through which a shutdown affects the economy is through withheld or foregone pay from...