Should Parents Be Held Accountable When Kids Get Guns?

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By Carlos Gamino

A Chicago-area shooting in March 2022 may put a man behind bars, but not the person who pulled the trigger. The father of a 3-year-old boy who accidentally shot his mother is now facing a misdemeanor gun charge, according to Dolton Police Chief Robert Collins, Jr.

The boy allegedly picked up his father’s legally owned weapon while riding in the car with his parents. His father was driving and his mother was sitting in the passenger seat; the toddler was in his car seat in the back and found the gun. The toddler began to play with the firearm, which resulted in an accidental – and fatal – gunshot to his mother’s neck.

A detective who specializes in interviewing children said that the boy was the one who fired the gun. Police do not suspect any foul play on the father’s part. The state is charging the father with illegally transporting a firearm; in Illinois, you must have a concealed carry permit to transport a firearm unlocked in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.

But should parents face other types of charges when their children get their hands on guns? Some experts think so – and it’s happening in other states. For example, James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of alleged school shooter Ethan Crumbley, were charged with involuntary manslaughter after a mass murder in an Oxford, Michigan high school.

According to a gun control advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, unintentional shootings by children under the age of 18 killed 154 people and left 244 people wounded in 2021.

What Do You Think?

Do you think parents should be charged with crimes when their children get ahold of weapons? Do you feel differently if it’s an accident or negligence? I’d love to hear your thoughts on parental responsibility for kids being able to access guns at home, so please feel free to share them on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Attorney Carlos Gamino

Would You Get an Animal Organ Transplanted in Your Body?

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By Carlos Gamino

Medical experts transplanted a heart from a genetically modified pig into a man in January 2022, marking the first time anyone has ever received one. David Bennett, the 57-year-old recipient, had no other options: He was ineligible for a human transplant, and the pig used in the experimental surgery had been bred to be an organ donor.

The donor was a one-year-old, 240-pound pig bred specifically for Bennett’s heart transplant. The pig’s genome was modified to increase the likelihood that the donation would be successful; scientists deleted four genes, including one that would prevent the heart from continuing to grow after transplantation. Scientists also added six genes to make the pig’s organ easier for human immune systems to deal with.

But the transplant raises ethical questions for some – including animal rights activists. Animal Aid, a UK-based animal rights group, issued a statement that said, “Animals have a right to live their lives, without being genetically manipulated with all the pain and trauma this entails, only to be killed and their organs harvested.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said something similar: “Animals aren’t tool sheds to be raided but complex, intelligent beings.”

Bennett, who’s so far doing fine, agreed to the surgery knowing the risks of a poor outcome. This surgery followed just months after New York doctors successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human. Doctors are still monitoring him closely, and he’ll need to remain under observation for the foreseeable future.

What Do You Think?

There are more than 100,000 people on the national transplant waiting list, which is notoriously difficult to nab a spot on – and there’s a dire shortage of organs. Around 17 people on the waiting list die every day in the United States.

Do you think it’s moral and ethical to genetically modify pigs (or any other animals) to help alleviate the shortage? Some medical experts say no one should die waiting for an organ, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to share them with me on Twitter or on my Facebook page.

Attorney Carlos Gamino

Go Ahead and Look Up: 3,400-Foot-Wide Asteroid Giving Earth Plenty of Space

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By Carlos Gamino

If you’ve been scrolling through Netflix recently, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen Don’t Look Up. On its face, it looks like a movie about a giant comet hurtling toward Earth (though it’s really about the looming climate crisis).

But in real life, there’s a 3,400-foot-wide asteroid doing a flyby in late January, and though it won’t even be a near-miss (it’ll be about a million miles away), it’s going to be moving fast at about 12 miles per second. The same asteroid, known as 7482, shows up from time to time, but it won’t be this close again for another 200 years or so. On January 17, 1933, the asteroid was about 700,000 miles away.

The asteroid is about three times as tall as the Empire State Building, and although it’s extremely far away, NASA classifies it as “potentially hazardous.” That’s because its orbit crosses ours, making a collision more likely.

So why isn’t NASA worried about Earth being on an eventual collision course with 7482? It’s all about math. There are around 25,000 near-Earth asteroids that would be devastating in the event of a crash.

Related: The billionaire space race

Don’t worry, though: The space agency is working on the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, which will collide with a 525-foot-wide space body (a moonlet, to be specific) called Dimorphos at about 15,000 miles per hour in September of this year. DART will give scientists a good idea on whether it’s possible to divert an asteroid that’s on a collision course with Earth in the future.

What Do You Think?

First, I’d love to hear whether you watched Don’t Look Up (and what you thought of it). Then, share your thoughts on 7482 and the 25,000 near-Earth asteroids – are you concerned that one of them will hit Earth sooner or later? Share your thoughts on these deep space questions on my Twitter feed or on my Facebook page to join the conversation!

Attorney Carlos Gamino

Britney Spears Conservatorship Ends in Fall 2021

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By Carlos Gamino

A Los Angeles judge ended Britney Spears’ 13-year-long conservatorship with the stroke of a pen in mid-November, freeing the former child star from her father’s control over her finances, career decisions and personal matters.

Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, had maintained that the conservatorship was necessary to protect the singer from herself. However, he eventually said that it was time for her to “retake control of her life.”

Though most Americans know about conservatorship – and most are of the belief that it’s designed to protect people from themselves – there is potential for abuse. Spears, for example, claimed that her parents ruined her life through the abuse of her conservatorship, which is a form of legal guardianship typically reserved for people who can’t make sound decisions.

Spears’ conservatorship began in 2008 following a series of unfortunate events for the singer, including a hospitalization that raised concerns about her mental health. During Spears’ time as her father’s ward, she continued to perform, holding concerts in Las Vegas and several other venues. However, Spears alleges that she wasn’t allowed to use the money she earned from those performances, that her father prevented her from seeing a doctor to remove her intrauterine device, or IUD, and that her father forced her to take lithium to treat bipolar disorder.

A handful of documentaries, including one by The New York Times entitled Controlling Britney Spears, in conjunction with the “Free Britney” movement (a collection of fans protesting for the pop star’s release from conservatorship) have drawn significant attention over the past few years.

What Do You Think?

Did you see any of the “Free Britney” documentaries or docuseries? Do you believe that Spears needs further guidance, or is she better off without a guardian? What do you think of her father’s role in the conservatorship? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them on my Facebook page or Twitter feed!

Attorney Carlos Gamino

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