FDA Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11

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By Carlos Gamino

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as five in mid-November, prompting the company to issue a statement saying that it won’t be able to produce the vaccines until sometime during the first half of 2022.

The vaccine, widely available to teens and adults, has been under rigorous safety testing to ensure that “it doesn’t interfere with immunity generated by routine childhood vaccinations – and that standard vaccination protocols are not interfering with the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Moshe Arditi, Academic Director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

Though children are less likely to contract serious cases of the coronavirus, Pfizer’s Chief Executive Officer, Albert Bourla – along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA – believe that protecting them is the next step in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

“We are working with the U.S. government to help ensure communities across the country have access to pediatric doses as soon as possible. The introduction of doses for young children will be another critical milestone in addressing this public health crisis,” Bourla said.

The kids’ COVID-19 shot contains the same ingredients as the adult version, but it’s given as a smaller dose. In fact, children in the 5 to 11 age group receive about a third of the adult-sized dose.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky issued a statement saying, “There are children in the second grade who have never experienced a normal school year. Pediatric vaccination has the power to help us change all of that.”

What Do You Think?

Will your children be getting the vaccine when it becomes available? Why or why not? Have your children experienced a normal school year, or is COVID all they know? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the vaccine and whether your family will be getting it, so please share them on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed!

Attorney Carlos Gamino

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Child’s State Fair Display Triggers Federal Investigation

By Carlos Gamino

A child in Kansas tipped off federal authorities about a dangerous invader – but it’s not what you think. The boy, who found a spotted lanternfly at his home in Thomas County, Kansas, added it to his bug collection – and then entered the collection in the 4H competition of the Kansas State Fair.

One of the fair’s entomology judges recognized the lanternfly as an invasive species and reported it to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The boy told authorities that he found it on his patio in May, and experts believe it may have died sometime last year after hitching a ride on an agricultural shipment.

The lanternfly is an invasive species that poses a threat to several crops, including apples, grapes, hops and walnuts. It’s also dangerous to hardwood trees, because the waste it excretes encourages sooty mold – a fungal growth that kills plants. If spotted lanternflies continue to spread, they may severely harm the grape, orchard and logging industries all over the country. So far, the invasive pest has spread throughout eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Virginia.

USDA officials don’t currently believe that there’s an infestation in Kansas, but they are on the lookout for more of the pests. Working with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the USDA says it will work quickly to contain and destroy any spotted lanternflies that may be in the area to threaten crops and trees.

What Do You Think?

Would you recognize a dangerous pest if you found one – or have you ever before? My team and I would love to hear your story, so share them on my Facebook page or my Twitter feed.

By Attorney Carlos Gamino

Massachusetts Asks National Guard to Drive School Buses

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By Carlos Gamino

The state of Massachusetts has activated its National Guard to… drive school buses. The state has made as many as 250 Guard members available to address staffing shortages in some school districts, according to the office of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. In fact, 90 Guard members are already training for service across four cities.

So why is this happening? Like much else this year, we can chalk it up to the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a national shortage of bus drivers due to battles over masks and vaccines.

In a recent national survey, as many as half of student-transportation coordinators described their area’s bus driver shortages as “severe” or “desperate.” Those shortages are occurring everywhere from New York to Oregon – and one district in Montana is offering hefty bonuses for new bus drivers.

Could this happen in Wisconsin? Absolutely. Though our state hasn’t yet activated its National Guard troops to drive kids to school, the shortages are here. Many drivers were furloughed during the beginning of the pandemic, when schools shut down; some took the opportunity to retire, and others chose not to come back to work in a public setting. Still others are willing to quit if vaccine mandates are put in place.

Hiring new bus drivers isn’t easy, either. A person must have a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, in order to drive a school bus. To make matters more complicated, many motor vehicle departments have been closed or operating under limited hours for the past year-and-a-half; that means people who wanted new CDLs or to renew existing CDLs had a hard time doing so. Road tests and updated qualifications have been tough to come by over the past 18 months.

Some cities, such as Chicago, are talking about using ride-share companies to fill the gaps; others are talking about offering parents financial incentives to drive their kids to school. Private bus contractors and school districts are trying to recruit as much as they can, but there’s reason to believe that Wisconsin will have to take drastic measures to get kids to school in the near future.

What Do You Think?

Would you become a bus driver for a Wisconsin school district as the pandemic rages on, or do you know bus drivers who don’t want to work during this time? Share your story on my Facebook page or Twitter feed!

By Attorney Carlos Gamino

The Billionaire Space Race

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By Attorney Carlos Gamino

Billionaire Richard Branson – the first of a group of mega-rich adventurers who made it to… well, almost-space in a privately owned craft – said on his trip, “If we can do this, imagine what else we can do.” And it’s not just Branson, though he led the charge out of Earth’s atmosphere. Two other billionaires, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, are also planning their own journeys into the great beyond.

But is this more than just billionaires doing billionaire things that most of us can only dream about, or is it something more?

Some experts believe that civilians forging their way into space will have incredible benefits for the rest of us (though there are plenty of naysayers who want to point out the things these guys aren’t doing with their massive stacks of cash). Sure, space flight may not appear very useful – particularly when we’re in the throes of a fresh round of coronavirus infections thanks to the delta variant, huge parts of the American West are on fire and QAnon members are running for school boards and local offices to spread conspiracy theories – but that’s only looking at the short-term.

If you look at the big picture, where would we be if our ancestors never built huge ships to explore beyond their own shores? Where would we be if Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, Andre Citroen and Henry Ford never dove feet-first into the automobile business? Though Branson, Bezos and Musk have smaller ambitions than NASA does, their space flights could have the same results as the Wright Brothers’ earliest box kite flights did: to further public interest and maintain government funding for space travel, which our descendants may actually need to escape if Earth becomes much more inhospitable.

What Do You Think?

Do you think that Branson, Bezos and Musk are doing the right thing by pouring their near-infinite resources into space travel, or do you think they’re wasting time and money? Perhaps more importantly, would you jump at the chance to hitch a ride into space if you could? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Attorney Carlos Gamino

The Nationwide Surge in Coronavirus Cases Thanks to the Delta Variant

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By Carlos Gamino

If you’ve spent more than five minutes watching the news in the past couple of weeks, you’ve likely heard all about the coronavirus’s latest iteration: the deadly and highly contagious delta variant. First discovered in India, the highly transmissible mutation of COVID-19 is present in all 50 states. In fact, the variant – at least as of this writing – accounts for 51.7 percent of all new infections in the U.S.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, “Although we expected the delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling.” In some places – including Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa, the delta variant may account for around 80 percent of cases.

In Springfield, Missouri, they thought the worst was over – but now the hospitals there are seeing more than 130 COVID-19 patients every day. That’s more than they had during the height of the nationwide pandemic. Local Fire Chief David Pennington tweeted, “This is a mass casualty event, happening in slow motion. EMS resources are depleted, and the hospital systems are overwhelmed. Our community is in crisis.” It’s not just in the middle of the country, either; there are massive spikes in Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, Wyoming and Utah, too.

Though just under 50 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, there are those who have already decided that they’ll never get the shot – and still others who can’t, such as children under the age of 12 and those with compromised immune systems or who are allergic to some of the formulations’ ingredients. That totals too few Americans to generate herd immunity to the virus, which requires somewhere between 70 percent and 90 percent of the population to become immune and kill it off once and for all.

But is it really something to worry about? Medical experts say it is – but you have less to worry about if you’re vaccinated. Data from overseas (primarily Britain) suggest that the spread of the delta variant will continue to create large outbreaks and significant numbers of deaths in areas where vaccine rates are lower than average; that’s mainly due to how easily it spreads.

What Do You Think?

Are you concerned about the delta variant here in Wisconsin, or are you less worried than you were before? COVID-19 has been a hot topic for more than a year now, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter to join the conversation!

Carlos Gamino

The Constant Hum Beyond Our Solar System

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By Attorney Carlos Gamino

If you’re like many people, your curiosity was piqued when news broke that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had detected a faint humming sound in interstellar space – but what is it?

NASA’s Discovery of a Distant Humming in Space

Faint but constant vibrations were first detected by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has been in space for more than 40 years. It’s currently the most distant human-made object in space, and it’s feeding data to NASA that nobody ever expected to receive; the craft was only supposed to last five years – long enough to study Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn’s rings, and the larger moons of the two planets.

Voyager 1 currently hangs out in a region of space called the heliosphere – a protective bubble that encloses all the planets in our solar system. It’s essentially the only tool we Earthlings have to directly sampling interstellar space.

And nobody knows where the humming is coming from. It was measured through ripples of plasma in the interstellar medium – a mix of gases, radiation and the same particles that make up the space between stars. It’s operating on a narrow frequency bandwidth, and a lot of scientists are excited because it may be able to tell us how our solar system interacts with everything beyond it.

Scientists have distinguished this hum from other things Voyager 1 has detected, and they know for sure that it’s not from the sun. The sun has its own, distinctive signature when it makes ripples in outer space – and this humming isn’t that.

What Do You Think?

Have you been following Voyager 1 and its discoveries? I’d love to hear your theories on what this deep-space hum is coming from, so please share your thoughts on my Twitter feed or Facebook page!

Carlos Gamino

How Much Dogecoin Do You Have?

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By Attorney Carlos Gamino

If you’re like most people, you’ve heard of Dogecoin – but what is it, what does it do (and what is it good for), and will you lose all your money if you invest in it? Here’s a quick run-down on this meme-based cryptocurrency.

What is Dogecoin?

Dogecoin is a cryptocurrency that started out as a meme – a funny photo of a Shiba Inu. As a cryptocurrency, you can’t hold it in your hand; it exists only in the cloud. And as a cryptocurrency, you can only spend it by giving it to people who believe in its feasibility (at least enough to accept it as payment). Though not nearly as many big-money investors take Dogecoin as seriously as its larger, much more valuable counterpart, Bitcoin, it’s steadily gained popularity during the first half of 2021.

What Does Dogecoin Do?

You can spend Dogecoin at a handful of retailers. You can use these digital coins to buy fan swag from the Dallas Mavericks’ online store, on plane tickets from the Latvian airline AirBaltic, and with several smaller websites, restaurants and retailers. You can also sell it to others. As of right now, it doesn’t have much value – but it’s like a stock: You buy it when the price is low and sell it when the price is high to make a profit.

Will You Lose All Your Money if You Invest in Dogecoin?

You may – or may not – lose all your money if you invest in Dogecoin. Again, it’s like a stock, and nobody can predict how it’s going to perform. It could take off and become the next Bitcoin, which trades at over $55,000 per coin, or everyone could jump ship and abandon the idea, leaving you holding the bag. It’s very volatile, with the price sometimes fluctuating by as much as $0.30 per day, so your mileage may vary.

What Do You Think?

Do you own Dogecoin, or are you thinking about buying it? Did you have some and sell it when it was trading over $0.70? I’d love to hear your experience and what you think about this meme-based cryptocurrency, so please share your thoughts on my Twitter feed or Facebook page.

Carlos Gamino

Military Leaders Lash Out at Popular News Host

By Attorney Carlos Gamino

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is no stranger to controversy – but he’s decidedly unfamiliar with criticism from top military leaders. Carlson drew strong rebuke from each military branch in mid-March when he said that China’s military was becoming “more masculine” while “our military needs to become, as Joe Biden says, more feminine.” Carlson went on to say, “We’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits. Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. military. The bottom line is: It’s out of control, and the Pentagon’s going along with this.”

Officials from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force quickly responded in support of women in the ranks, with some even correcting Carlson’s remark about pregnant women fighting in wars; pregnant women are non-deployable, and the maternity uniforms are used for daily work. Additionally, as some military news outlets noted, the hairstyle regulations haven’t been updated in decades. Previous regulations prohibited women from wearing ponytails in uniform, bangs that touched their eyebrows, and braids; the new regulations across the Army and Air Force simply changed with the times.

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston, who’s quick to defend troops on Twitter and elsewhere, tweeted, “Women lead our most lethal units with character. They will dominate ANY future battlefield we’re called to fight on. Tucker Carlson’s words are divisive, don’t reflect our values. We have THE MOST professional, educated, agile, and strongest NCO Corps in the world.”

Major General Patrick Donahoe, the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning tweeted, “This is me, yesterday, conducting a re-enlistment for one of the tens of thousands of women who serve in our Army. Just a reminder that Tucker Carlson couldn’t be more wrong.”

Department of Defense Spokesman John Kirby said that the U.S. military is working on becoming more inclusive and more respectful of everyone, especially women. He said, “We pledge to do better, and we will. What we absolutely won’t do is take personnel advice from a talk show host, or the Chinese military. Maybe those folks feel like they have something to prove. That’s on them.”

Master Gunnery Sergeant Stalker of U.S. Space Command, Command Senior Enlisted Leader, tweeted an entire video response that said, “His opinion, which he has a right to, is based off of actually zero days of service in the Armed Forces… the bottom line is that we value women in our Armed Forces.”

What Do You Think?

Do you believe that the U.S. military should become more inclusive and adjust its standards from time to time, or do you think it’s becoming “more feminine”? I’d love to hear your opinions, so please share them on my Facebook page or my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino

Wisconsin Hits Vaccine Milestone in Mid-March

By Carlos Gamino

Wisconsin state health officials announced that they’ve administered nearly 2,000,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines during March with the number still climbing – even as some people refuse to get the shot and others are part of “Vaccine Hunters” groups that look for leftover vaccines to distribute to those who want them. (You can track COVID-19 vaccine data in Wisconsin here.)

What About Wasted Doses?

More than 1,800 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been wasted across Wisconsin, according to the Department of Health Services. That number does not include the 500 vaccines that were allegedly intentionally sabotaged by a pharmacist in December. Generally, the waste is accidental; because the vaccines need to be kept at extremely low temperatures, things can easily go wrong.

“St. Nicholas Hospital learned that 28 vials of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine were unintentionally left out unrefrigerated on the night of Feb. 8, 2021. Upon immediate review of the situation, the hospital concluded that these vials were set aside while sorting vaccine; and as a result of human error, the 28 vials were inadvertently left out rather than placed back in the refrigerator as is standard protocol,” a spokesperson from St. Nicholas Hospital said. “HSHS St. Nicholas Hospital firmly believes this situation was a result of human error and not intentional. The hospital has taken this incident very seriously and used it to improve processes and put additional measures in place to ensure it will not happen again.”

Vaccine Hunters on the Prowl

Facebook groups have popped up all over Wisconsin to enable people to find vaccines that would otherwise go to waste.

“We don’t advocate line skipping but we don’t want a dose to go to waste,” said Bob Orech, an organizer of one such group.

Pharmacists and medical professionals are doing their best not to waste vaccine doses. In fact, Dr. Hashim Zaibak of Hayat Pharmacy says they waste fewer doses by going on an as-needed basis. “It’s really difficult because if you mix 100 vaccines and only 50 people show up, then you’re left with 50 doses, then you have to find volunteers or find patients to get,” says Zaibak.

What Do You Think?

Will you get the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s available to you, or are you waiting – or not planning to get it at all? I’d love to hear what you think of the vaccine and your reasoning, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or my Twitter feed.

Attorney Carlos Gamino

Dumbest Criminals of 2020

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By Carlos Gamino

You might be able to argue that breaking the law isn’t the smartest choice a person could ever make – but you could argue that if you’re going to break the law, you could at least be smart about it. Someone should’ve told these people that before they were nabbed in some of the wildest situations of 2020.

She’s No David Copperfield

An Ohio inmate, after being arrested for breaking into a senior citizen’s home, decided she could break out of jail… by crawling through the ceiling. As you might expect, the police station’s ceiling was fairly flimsy, causing her to come crashing through the reception area. She landed head-first in a trash can, and police simply picked her up, cuffed her and took her back to her cell.

When You Gotta Go…

A Michigan man was nabbed mid-stream by police officers as he urinated on a police car in St. Petersburg, Florida. The police cuffed him while he continued to urinate, and the police said he was “uncooperative with questioning” as they charged him with disorderly conduct.

Never Leave Your ID at a Crime Scene

A lot of thieves are careful about leaving anything behind while they’re “on the job” – many won’t even leave fingerprints. But a pair of guys in Marion County, Florida, weren’t so concerned. They left behind a shoe, some tools and even a wallet with a driver’s license in one of the stores they’d broken into as they lifted cigarettes and lottery tickets.

Banks Only Take U.S. Currency

A Jefferson County, Colorado man went to make a deposit at the drive-through of his local bank and put a little more than cash in the pneumatic tube – he deposited two bags of cocaine, too. The local sheriff’s office said, “After further investigation it turns out the customer didn’t mean to deposit his cocaine.”

Don’t Leave Your Undies Unattended at the Laundromat

If you visit the laundromat, you probably don’t think you need to monitor the dryers while they’re running – but if you don’t, someone else might. In fact, a Wisconsin man stole several pair of underwear and a handful of bras from laundromats all over Fond du Lac County… and then used them to start fires in both vacant and occupied buildings.

What Do You Think?

Do you have any out-of-the-ordinary crime stories to share? I’d love to read them, so feel free to share them on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed!

Carlos Gamino