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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 48
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 14,919

Journal Archives

GOP Chair Wants to Probe COVID Loans--He Might Start at Home

New House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) has vowed to use his position to investigate “waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement” in federal COVID loans. But if that’s the case, he might actually find himself looking into his own role in that program—as well as his brother’s.

In 2020, Comer, a critic of government spending, co-sponsored legislation that would essentially automatically forgive COVID Paycheck Protection Program loans of $150,000 or less. After the bill passed, Comer’s brother, Chad, received about $12,000 in PPP loans at the address of a farm he appears to have co-owned with the congressman, listing one employee, according to federal data. Rep. Comer was formerly on the board of the bank that secured his brother’s loan, which has been forgiven in full, plus interest, according to ProPublica data.

Comer’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Kyle Herrig, executive director of the left-leaning Congressional Integrity Project, told The Daily Beast in a statement that Comer had “padded his brother’s pockets” and should start his investigation by “looking in the mirror.”


Florida grapples with international tourism lag

The U.S. Department of State said the delay stems from a combination of “pent-up demand” for visas, as countries have lifted COVID-19 restrictions, mixed with regular seasonal demand.

Florida tourism leaders continue to fret over a lag in international visitors as the industry anticipates tourism numbers for the final three months of 2022.

While Visit Florida, the state’s tourism-marketing agency, boasts that Florida is the top U.S. destination for overseas travelers based on market share, numbers of international visitors to the state and nation remain far below pre-pandemic totals.

Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young last week expressed concerns that global inflation and lengthy visa-processing times could affect the final numbers for 2022 and tourism in 2023.

“The wait time to get an interview for a visa in Mexico City is 693 days. In Lima, Peru, it is 831 days,” Young told members of the Visit Florida Executive Committee. “This is absolutely ridiculous, and it is impacting our international visitation.”


Of course it must be the federal government's fault that the number of international visitors to Florida is down; it can't have anything to do with DeSantis turning Florida into an open-carry cesspool that enacts legislation to discriminate against those who don't agree with MAGA orthodoxy.

New College board member floats leadership shakeup, 'terminating' all employee contracts

A new president, new board chair and new legal counsel all will be up for discussion Tuesday when the New College of Florida board meets, along with the possibility of ending faculty tenure, terminating all employee contracts and rehiring anyone who who fits into the school's "new financial and business model."

These are all ideas floated by new board member Eddie Speir in a recent Substack post. They could result in a big shakeup less than a month after Gov. Ron DeSantis reshaped New College's board in a bid to reinvent the 63-year-old Sarasota school.

Speir, a Christian school founder appointed by DeSantis to the board, wrote a Substack post over the weekend saying he wants to "Discuss need for new president and possible motion to give Pat Okker title of Interim President."

New College President Patricia Okker has been on the job for less than two years, but DeSantis' push to transform the school has led to speculation about her future at the college and that only increased when Tuesday's board agenda was released with "President Okker's Employment Agreement" as one of the discussion items.

The agenda also includes "Election of the Board Chair and Vice Chair" and "General Counsel to Board of Trustees." Speir appears to be a driving force behind some of these discussions.


The Sarasota Herald-Tribune also will be terminating reader comments to their online articles in two days. Also from the article:

Speir has a long list of motions he plans to make at Tuesday's board meeting.

Among them is a proposal to identify "wokeness" as a "set of beliefs" akin to religion. He then wants to identify aspects of wokeness that are "shared values" worth preserving, that are "dogmatic" and should be excluded from curriculum and that are "pledges of fealty" that should be actively fought against.

"One such example of a pledge of fealty is the demand that woke pronouns are used," Speir writes.

Speir also wants to explore ending faculty tenure and "terminating all contracts for faculty, staff and administration and immediately rehiring those faculty, staff and administration who fit in the new financial and business model." He wants to board to send a letter to "the new counsel" seeking a legal opinion on the feasibility of such a plan.

Another motion Speir plans to introduce would remove some media members from the meeting.

"I move that we remove USA Today and its affiliates from the list of approved media outlets until an apology is received with a commitment from USA Today to adhere to its own policies," Speir writes, referencing Herald-Tribune parent company Gannett's flagship newspaper, USA Today.

Ford Cuts Prices of EV Mustang Mach-E

The move comes after Tesla slashed prices on a number of its models in the U.S.

Ford Motor Co. said it is boosting production and cutting prices of its electric Mustang Mach-E crossover up to 8.8% on some versions. The move comes weeks after Tesla Inc. slashed prices on a number of its models.

The Dearborn, Mich., auto maker said its supply chain for its electric vehicles is coming online and it is seizing on streamlined costs to lower prices. Ford also said the price cuts are a part of the company’s plan to keep the vehicle competitive in a “rapidly changing market.”

“We are not going to cede ground to anyone,” said Marin Gjaja, chief customer officer of Ford’s electric-vehicle business. He added that the company is keeping its pricing competitive and reducing customer wait times.

Ford’s Mach-E price cuts range from 1.2% to 8.8%, depending on the configuration. In dollar terms, that is about $600 to $5,900 less than the previous sticker price on the sporty SUV, a model that hit the market in late 2020 and is a direct competitor to Tesla’s Model Y.

The price walk back is the latest sign of intensifying competition in the electric-vehicle market, which has grown rapidly in recent years, fueled by both Wall Street money and government subsidies.


Bill Barr's Image Rehab Is Kaput

Former Attorney General William Barr has spent the last year in a desperate salvage operation for what’s left of his legal and ethical reputation. During his 22 months in office, he allowed his Justice Department to become a personal protection racket for his boss, Donald Trump, and left prosecutors, the F.B.I. and other law enforcement officials subject to the worst impulses of the president. But then, in his 2022 memoir, Mr. Barr did an about-face, bashing Mr. Trump for lacking a presidential temperament and singling out his “self-indulgence and lack of self-control.”

In the book, he urged Republicans not to renominate Mr. Trump in 2024, accusing the former president of going “off the rails” with his stolen-election claims by preferring the counsel of “sycophants” and “whack jobs” to that of his real advisers. Clearly concerned that history was paying attention, he was even stronger in his videotaped testimony to the Jan. 6 committee, loosing a variety of barnyard epithets and bitter insults to describe Mr. Trump’s legal strategy. He said the president had become “detached from reality” and was doing a disservice to the nation.

The hollow and self-serving nature of this turnabout was always apparent. Mr. Barr never made these concerns public at a time when his dissent would have made a difference. Instead, he left office in 2020 showering compliments on his boss, praising Mr. Trump’s “unprecedented achievements” and promising that Justice would continue to pursue claims of voter fraud that he must have known were baseless.

But if Mr. Barr harbored any fantasy that he might yet be credited with a wisp of personal integrity for standing up for democracy, that hope was thoroughly demolished on Thursday when The Times published the details of what really happened when Mr. Barr launched a counter-investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The reporting demonstrated a staggering abuse of the special counsel system and the attorney general’s office, all in a failed attempt by Mr. Barr to rewrite the sour truths of Mr. Trump’s history.


Why More Physicists Are Starting to Think Space and Time Are 'Illusions'

A concept called “quantum entanglement” suggests the fabric of the universe is more interconnected than we think. And it also suggests we have the wrong idea about reality.

This past December, the physics Nobel Prize was awarded for the experimental confirmation of a quantum phenomenon known for more than 80 years: entanglement. As envisioned by Albert Einstein and his collaborators in 1935, quantum objects can be mysteriously correlated even if they are separated by large distances. But as weird as the phenomenon appears, why is such an old idea still worth the most prestigious prize in physics?

Coincidentally, just a few weeks before the new Nobel laureates were honored in Stockholm, a different team of distinguished scientists from Harvard, MIT, Caltech, Fermilab and Google reported that they had run a process on Google’s quantum computer that could be interpreted as a wormhole. Wormholes are tunnels through the universe that can work like a shortcut through space and time and are loved by science fiction fans, and although the tunnel realized in this recent experiment exists only in a 2-dimensional toy universe, it could constitute a breakthrough for future research at the forefront of physics.

But why is entanglement related to space and time? And how can it be important for future physics breakthroughs? Properly understood, entanglement implies that the universe is “monistic”, as philosophers call it, that on the most fundamental level, everything in the universe is part of a single, unified whole. It is a defining property of quantum mechanics that its underlying reality is described in terms of waves, and a monistic universe would require a universal function. Already decades ago, researchers such as Hugh Everett and Dieter Zeh showed how our daily-life reality can emerge out of such a universal quantum-mechanical description. But only now are researchers such as Leonard Susskind or Sean Carroll developing ideas on how this hidden quantum reality might explain not only matter but also the fabric of space and time.

Entanglement is much more than just another weird quantum phenomenon. It is the acting principle behind both why quantum mechanics merges the world into one and why we experience this fundamental unity as many separate objects. At the same time, entanglement is the reason why we seem to live in a classical reality. It is—quite literally—the glue and creator of worlds. Entanglement applies to objects comprising two or more components and describes what happens when the quantum principle that “everything that can happen actually happens” is applied to such composed objects. Accordingly, an entangled state is the superposition of all possible combinations that the components of a composed object can be in to produce the same overall result. It is again the wavy nature of the quantum domain that can help to illustrate how entanglement actually works.


Kiran Patel's 17-acre estate nearly complete after 10 years of construction

After spending nearly a decade building the largest residence in Hillsborough County, local physician and philanthropist Kiran Patel may be one step closer to completing his palatial Carrollwood home.

Patel purchased the 17-acre property off Dale Mabry Highway in 2003 for $3.2 million and broke ground in 2013. Earlier this month, Patel transferred ownership of three homes on the site to his children, Sheetal K. Patel, Shilen Patel, Sonali K. Judd and her husband, Scott Judd, according to records filed with Hillsborough County.

Patel told the Tampa Bay Business Journal that his children are “moving in gradually” and that his home should be complete by March.

Patel did not return requests for comment.

Several viral TikToks showcasing the compound’s pink archways and turrets have sparked new buzz about the highly anticipated “Surya Estates.”


Wretched excess comes to mind, but hey if he wants to live out the remainder of his life as a Mughal potentate, so be it. I'd hate to see his July electricity bill.

U.S. general warns troops that war with China is possible in two years

Gen. Michael A. Minihan, who oversees the Air Force’s fleet of transport and refueling aircraft, cited the 2024 presidential elections in Taiwan and the United States as part of his rationale

China could be at war with the United States two years from now, a top Air Force general predicted in a bombastic and unusual memo to troops under his command, asserting a shorter timeline before potential conflict than other senior U.S. defense officials.

Gen. Michael A. Minihan, who as head of Air Mobility Command oversees the service’s fleet of transport and refueling aircraft, warned personnel to speed their preparations for a potential conflict, citing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aspirations and the possibility that Americans will not be paying attention until it is too late.

“I hope I am wrong,” Minihan wrote. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025. Xi secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022. Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason. United States’ presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a distracted America. Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025.”

Minihan then directs airmen who are qualified to use a weapon to “fire a clip into a 7-meter target with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most” sometime in February.

“Aim for the head,” he said.


Sounds like a General Jack D. Ripper clone.

New study finds 6 ways to slow memory decline and lower dementia risk

A new study of more than 29,000 older adults has identified six habits — from eating a variety of foods to regularly reading or playing cards — that are linked with a lower risk of dementia and a slower rate of memory decline.
Eating a balanced diet, exercising the mind and body regularly, having regular contact with others, and not drinking or smoking — these six “healthy lifestyle factors” were associated with better cognitive outcomes in older adults, in a large Chinese study conducted over a decade and published in the BMJ on Wednesday.

While researchers have long known that there is a link between dementia and factors such as social isolation and obesity, the size and scope of the new study adds substantial evidence to a global body of research that suggests a healthy lifestyle may help brains age better.

It also suggests that the effects of a healthy lifestyle are beneficial even for people who are genetically more susceptible to memory decline — a “very hope-giving” finding for the millions of individuals around the world who carry the APOEε4 gene, a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, said Eef Hogervorst, chair of biological psychology at Loughborough University, who was not involved in the study.

Memory naturally declines gradually as people age. Some older people may develop dementia, an umbrella term that can include Alzheimer’s, and generally describes a deterioration in cognitive function that goes beyond the normal effects of aging. But for many, “memory loss can merely be senescent forgetfulness,” write the authors of the BMJ study — like forgetting the name of that TV program you used to love, or that pesky fact you wanted to look up.


How a MAGA Split With Big Business Could Break the Economy

The pro-business Republicans who were friendly with the Chamber of Commerce have slowly disappeared from Congress. Now there may not be anyone left to raise the debt limit.

When Washington was on the brink of careening off the so-called fiscal cliff in 2011, recalcitrant congressional Republicans were facing pressure from a crucial ally.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s most powerful business lobby, had a clear message to GOP lawmakers who wanted to take the debt limit hostage in order to force spending cuts: quit messing around.

They urged Republicans to extend the federal government’s borrowing authority—and in doing so helped to soothe the U.S. and global economy.

More than a decade ago, Republicans were skeptical of that message—but they were friendly with the messenger. Now, with another debt limit crisis looming, Republicans are increasingly hostile to both.

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