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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 48
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 15,680

Journal Archives

Mystery of why humans die around 80 may finally be solved

The mystery of why humans die at around 80, while other mammals live far shorter or longer lives, may finally have been solved by scientists.

Humans and animals die after amassing a similar number of genetic mutations, researchers have found, suggesting the speed of DNA errors is critical in determining the lifespan of a species.

There are huge variations in the lifespan of mammals in the animal kingdom, from South Asian rats, which live for just six months, to bowhead whales, which can survive for 200 years.

Previously experts have suggested that size is the key to longevity, with smaller animals burning up energy more quickly, requiring a faster cell turnover, which causes a speedier decline.


Case of duped Secret Service agents called an alarming agency breach

The elite protection force, meanwhile, is downplaying the severity of the case to allies, saying the potential national security threat has been overblown by prosecutors and the media.

Secret Service leaders are downplaying any risk to national security after four of its employees — including an agent assigned to protect first lady Jill Biden — were allegedly hoodwinked by two men impersonating federal agents and plying them with gifts, telling congressional committees and allies that the severity of the breach has been overblown by prosecutors and the media, according to people familiar with the conversations.

But several former Secret Service officials warn that the alleged infiltration of the elite protection agency reveals a major vulnerability extending well beyond this particular case. They said the revelations suggest that agents who had regular access to the White House and the Biden family — and who are supposed to be trained to spot scammers or spies seeking to ingratiate themselves — were either too greedy or gullible to question a dubious cover story.

“If you can compromise Secret Service personnel by cozying up to their agents and their uniformed officers, unwelcome sources can get to the president and the first family,” said Jim Helminski, a retired agency executive and former leader of Joe Biden’s vice-presidential detail.

The case is the latest in a string of embarrassing security breaches and incidents of misconduct involving the Secret Service over the past decade. The scandals have included agents getting drunk and hiring prostitutes on a trip to Cartagena, Colombia, in 2012; an incident in 2014 when a wounded veteran was able to jump the White House fence and get past dozens of armed Secret Service officers and into the executive mansion; and an officer investigated last year after posting comments on Facebook in which she accused lawmakers who formalized President Biden’s win of treason.


Anyone else getting annoyed by all the Prevagen commercials?

Can anyone explain how something derived from jellyfish -- which don't have a brain -- are supposed to help memory loss?

These commercials are popping up regularly on nightly news broadcasts, which I guess supposedly gives them some sense of legitimacy or authenticity. But geez, what a scam...

Backed-up pipes, stinky yards: Climate change is wrecking septic tanks

Lewis Lawrence likes to refer to the coastal middle peninsula of Virginia as suffering from a “soggy socks” problem. Flooding is so persistent that people often can’t walk around without getting their feet wet.

Over two decades, Lawrence, the executive director of the Middle Peninsula Planning District, has watched the effects of that problem grow, as rising waters and intensifying rains that flood the backyard render underground septic systems ineffective. When that happens smelly, unhealthy wastewater backs up into homes.

Local companies, he said, call the Middle Peninsula the “septic repair capital of the East Coast.” “That’s all you need to know,” he added. “And it’s only going to get worse.”

As climate change intensifies, septic failures are emerging as a vexing issue for local governments. For decades, flushing a toilet and making wastewater disappear was a convenience that didn't warrant a second thought. No longer. From Miami to Minnesota, septic systems are failing, posing threats to clean water, ecosystems and public health.


From DeSantis to Manafort to Eastman, GOP audacity is a marvel

A liberal, it used to be said, is someone so open-minded they won’t take their own side in an argument. Your average conservative, on the other hand, is often wrong but never in doubt. And at this intense period in the conflict between the Republican and Democratic parties, the audacity gap between the two has seldom been more striking.

Let’s start in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis just prevailed in a standoff with the Republican-run legislature over the state’s congressional districts. After the legislature drew new districts that maintained the GOP advantage (Republicans currently hold 16 of the state’s 27 seats), DeSantis decided it wasn’t good enough; he drew his own map and vetoed the legislature’s. Experts say DeSantis’s map clearly violates both the Florida Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. (Among other problems, it eliminates two majority-Black districts.) But the legislature has bent the knee to DeSantis, turning over the map-drawing process to him.

What’s he up to? According to NBC News, sources close to the governor say that “DeSantis wanted a court fight focused on provisions in the federal Voting Rights Act, as well as the state’s Constitution, that generally prohibit the dilution of minority voting strength.”

That would make this stunt like state laws that outlaw abortion, knowing that doing so is unconstitutional — for now. DeSantis, who clearly wants to be president, could be hoping that his name will be on the lawsuit the Supreme Court uses to drive a final stake through the heart of the Voting Rights Act.


Florida Legislature Rolls Over As DeSantis Pushes To Eliminate A Black Congressional District

For months, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pressured the state’s Republican-majority legislature to eliminate a plurality-Black congressional district in the state.

And on Monday, Republicans in the legislature rolled over for the governor, saying that they would do whatever he wished — even letting his office take the highly unusual step of drawing the map himself.

No, really: The legislature, after having its first proposed congressional map vetoed by DeSantis, was set to begin a special session next week to take another stab at the congressional districts.

But then, Republican leaders announced they would just do whatever DeSantis wanted.


A Tipoff By The Secret Service Blew Up The Federal Probe Of Alleged Imposter Duo

Before federal agents stormed a luxury apartment building in D.C. last week, the suspects accused of impersonating federal agents already knew they were under investigation.

They had been tipped off by the Secret Service two days earlier.

That misstep by the government has gotten its case off on the wrong foot, rushing prosecutors into a series of embarrassing errors and miscues.

Under the gun by an error of the government’s doing, prosecutors have been scrambling to recover. It hasn’t been pretty.


New York Lets 'Fearless Girl' Hold Her Ground, for Now

Officials voted to extend the sculpture’s permit but are requiring stakeholders to return in six months with plans for a permanent location.

The popular “Fearless Girl” sculpture will continue to stand outside the New York Stock Exchange after city officials voted on Monday to extend the sculpture’s temporary permit for 11 months. This decision comes with the stipulation that the city, the owner of the sculpture and the artist return in six months with a process for deciding the artwork’s ultimate fate.

While the vote has resolved worries in the short term, critics continue to question how the bronze sculpture circumvented the city’s normal public art process for five years. Critics also question why its sponsor, State Street Global Advisors, an asset management firm, they say, tried to sideline the sculpture’s creator in discussions about the sculpture’s future. (The artist is in an ongoing legal dispute with State Street.)

“To overcome cynicism about growing corporate power, New York City must defend its public spaces,” Todd Fine, a historian who rallied support for the statue, said in an interview. “The decision today was a victory for basic fairness and for artist rights.”

State Street said in a statement Monday, “We are appreciative that the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue will remain at her current location in front of the New York Stock Exchange,” adding that given the outcome of the hearing, it would work “together with the Department of Transportation, PDC and the artist regarding our desire to keep the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue at her current location for an extended period.”


I Commanded U.S. Army Europe. Here's What I Saw in the Russian and Ukrainian Armies.

The two armies at war today couldn’t be more different.

In March 2011, I began a new posting as the Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, in command of all U.S. Army forces stationed in various countries throughout Europe. It was a dream job as it was in that command – in a different time and under much different circumstances – that I had begun my career 36 years earlier as a 2nd lieutenant platoon leader, leading tanks on patrols of the then-West German border. Back then, it was our job to defend against the Soviet hordes.

But by 2011, things had changed. The size of the U.S. Army in Europe had shrunk dramatically from the quarter-million soldiers stationed there during the Cold War, and it would shrink even more during my two years in command. The Warsaw Pact countries who had been our foes during the Cold War were now our NATO allies and sovereign partners, and there was no border wall splitting Germany in two. Countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, the Baltic states, and others had transformed their governments and their militaries since the early 1990s, and a few of them were even fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Over the course of nearly four decades, I spent a lot of time either engaging or working with the two armies now engaged in a bitter struggle in Ukraine. I met their leaders, observed their maneuvers, and watched their development closely either up close or through reading intelligence reports. Strangely, one memory that stands out had more to do with trumpets and rim-shots than tanks and rifles.

It was an event I witnessed secondhand—a visit by our U.S. Army Europe band to Moscow. I had been back in the United States when, according to the band’s director, “America’s Musical Ambassadors in Europe” had “rocked Red Square in six performances.” Russia had invited military bands from a half-dozen countries to perform modern music from their respective countries, and soldiers’ from our European Army band had knocked-em-dead with a Michael Jackson medley outside the Kremlin.


The Last Big Obstacle to Electric Cars Is All in Your Mind

Making electric vehicle adoption work means rethinking our travel habits entirely. It's well worth it.

The average American drives fewer than 40 miles a day, well within the 200- to 300-mile range of most current-model electric cars. Yet electric cars still make up less than 5 percent of new motor vehicle sales. As EV technology has improved, range anxiety—the fear of running out of juice before you get where you’re going—has given way to anxiety about where you’re going to charge and how long it will take. And that may be holding people back from making the leap from gas to electric.

There’s no question that America needs more charging stations to accommodate the growth of electric vehicle sales and fuel the transition away from gasoline. If the escalating climate crisis hasn’t put a fine point on that, skyrocketing gas prices should. But it’s going to take more than infrastructure to wean Americans off the pump and get them hooked on electrons. We’ll need to reengineer the country’s car culture, learning to see the charging cord as a liberator not a tether, and changing some of our most ingrained travel habits outright.

“Right now the thinking is, ‘Build stations, we’ve got to build stations,’” John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute, a transportation energy research group, told The Daily Beast. “But once they’re built, how are we going to deal with human behavior?”

There are about 46,000 public chargers across the country, according to the Department of Energy’s latest count. The majority can give you 25 miles of range in about an hour. Fast chargers, numbering fewer than 6,000, can do it in 10 minutes or less. (These are rough estimates—it can vary a lot depending on the charger, the car, the state of the battery, and so on.) For comparison, there are around 150,000 gas stations in the U.S., most with several pumps, and all of which can fill ’er up in five minutes flat.


I'm preparing for my 11th (or 12th, I've honestly lost count) all-electric cross-country road trip next week. Finding charging stations and range anxiety are not a concern.
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