Tag: safe

Babies Across the Globe are Being Born with Three Parents

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

In 2016, a woman gave birth to the first ever baby with three parents. Yes, you read that correctly. After a Jordanian couple lost two children to the fatal Leigh Syndrome, a disease in the mitochondrial DNA, they sought out Professor John Zhang of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York, who worked on the case in Mexico due to legal complications in his home country.

The DNA of Three Parents

Soon after, the scientist set out to produce a healthy baby for the two. But interestingly, the solution actually came from the inclusion of a third. With a process called pronuclear transfer, Zhang injected healthy mitochondria from a female donor into the mother’s egg cell. Then, he fertilized the egg and sperm, creating a genetically unique human being from three parents and their DNA.

Two years later, that child is over a year old and living a healthy life. And the mother, who believed herself to be effectively infertile due to the fatal disease she carries, is raising her own, growing baby boy.

The genetic makeup of the boy is mostly that of the two parents. Of the over 20,000 genes found in the egg cell, only 37 of them are present in the mitochondria. Thus, replacing a damaged mitochondrion with a healthy one from another woman only inputs 37 of the donor’s genes into the baby.

Not long after the Mexican success story, a number of scientists from across the globe sought to reproduce the effects. By doing so, they believed they could help women with severe mitochondrial diseases be able to still have children.

Increased Awareness and Success

Most notably, efforts began in the United Kingdom and Ukraine. In fact, Doctor Valery Zukin, head of the Ukraine based Nadiya Clinic, boasts to have already helped create four babies in this method. He believes that his efforts are helpful to humanity, especially those who are not able to have their own children.

Speaking to NPR, Zukin pondered, “If you can help these families to achieve their own babies, why must it be forbidden? It is a dream to want to have a genetic connection with a baby.”

Zukin is likely talking about the countries, including the United States, that have banned the practice. In 2017, the FDA warned against the practice, stating they must run their own clinical trial before legalizing it. In a letter to Zhang, they declared that he may not continue his practices in the U.S.

Such actions have clearly not stopped Zhang, who now partners with Zukin in their joint company, DL-Nadiya. Zukin claims that through his institute, he now has three more pregnancies.

Across the continent, United Kingdom researchers today are in the process. This year, the U.K.’s Human Fertilisation and Embreology Authority (HFEA) approved two cases for Newcastle’s Fertility Center at Life to undertake.

This move marks the first time that a country officially sanctions this procedure. In the United States, the law forced the action south of the border. Zukin, on the other hand, has yet to face either approval or rejection from the Ukranian government.

These two British babies may be born to three parents as early as this year. Though they will not be the first to be born in this manner, it appears they also will be far from the last.


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The TSA: A Threat to Transportation Security

By Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Earlier this morning, I had the great privilege of travelling through the airport. To my mild surprise, the TSA had granted me pre-check status. Walking through the security line, I did not need to remove my shoes and laptop, among other personal items. Ultimately, the line was not much faster, though this was simply due to the fact that there were not many people in either line. However, I was still through before the rest of my party, so I sat to wait for them.

Saving Americans From… The Injured?

As I sat, facing the security line, I noticed a young woman sitting in a cast near its exit. She appeared to walk with a slight limp, and clearly was in discomfort. I brushed it off as injury pain, or flight anxiety, but then, noticed the TSA agent approaching her. From a distance, I saw his face, stone-blank with apathy, as he forced her, hobbling on one foot, to remove the cast. He then met her grimace of pain with the same lack of emotion. Following this, and without assisting her, he guided the woman away from the line for a full-body pat-down.

Ultimately, the agent returned her to line shortly before the rest of my party got through. All in all, the process may have taken 5-10 minutes. Now, some may say that this is a small price to pay for American safety. But, just how safe are we?

A Not-So-Grand Success Story

Since the TSA’s conception in November of 2001, it has been profiling, flagging, and grabbing individuals in ways that they do not necessarily consent to. These often extend far beyond the incident of this morning. Without a doubt, there are some clear downfalls to the agency. Despite this, many defend it on the grounds of keeping America safe. The thing is, though, that America is not any safer. With all of the flagging and grabbing, the agency has caught a grand total of zero terrorists.

Throughout 2015, the Department of Homeland Security performed undercover tests on the TSA. Across, the country, they sent 70 different agents through security checkpoints carrying fake weapons. Of the 70, the local TSA agents successfully stopped three. Thus, the other 67 made it through the lines without any problems. With malicious intent, of course, they would have been a serious threat to security. How can an agency be imperative to national security when it cannot secure even five percent of simulated threats?

The TSA, in addition to their normal security procedure, also has a program known as SPOT. The program attempts to identify suspicious behavior in passengers, but again, simply fails. The Government Accountability Office looked into the effectiveness of this plan. Once more, the agency was entirely unsuccessful. The study found that of the many that the TSA flags, they only arrest 0.6 percent – yes, a less than 1% guilt rate. And of those arrested? The same study shows police did not designate a single one of them as related to terrorism.

Why Keep the TSA?

So, why must such a blatant failure exist? It appears that the agency has no functional purpose for the American people. Of course, it is possible that the illusion of safety may make some travelers feel more secure, and that isn’t a bad thing. However, this is no excuse to flag and grope American people. It further is not an excuse to take money out of Americans’ wallets to fund the agents’ useless work.

There are means of pacifying a nervous traveler that require less force, such as the private security that existed prior to the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001. Yes, these measures were not able to prevent those attacks. But it appears, neither is the TSA, especially considering the hijackers did not use a gun or knife, but box cutters. Though imperfect, private security did not entail the groping and flagging of innocent citizens. It also cut down on security waits, as each airline had a separate line.

The benefits of private security are evident, as are the pitfalls of the TSA. But, there’s one thing left to fuel it, the same fuel that the rest of the government uses.

Oh That’s Right. It’s Profitable.

Without a doubt, the TSA is able to obtain massive amounts of money from American travelers. Let’s look at some numbers. In 2017, 48% of Americans reported that they had flown at least once in the past year. 88% had flown in their lifetime. This means that of the 325.7 million people then in the United States, roughly 156 million of them flew in an airplane in 2017, and 287 million had done so in their lifetime. These numbers are only increasing every year.

A TSA pre-check currently costs $85 for a five year membership. A survey in 2017 found about one quarter of American flyers use the program “all the time”. So, if that is the case, then in 2017, the TSA processed 39 million pre-check passengers. Each spent $19 a year on the service, for $85 over five years, making a grand total of $663 million in annual TSA pre-check revenue.

This is no small sum of money. But by the agency’s own standards, these people are unsafe. They leave their shoes on, and leave their computers in their bags. Yet, the TSA permits this to happen, provided they pay a fee. So, is this an admission that the regular screening process is unnecessary, if anyone can dodge it by fueling the government a little bit more?

In a free society, individuals do not have to pay the government to not be flagged and groped. Thus, the TSA is a clear and direct threat to American freedom. Quite ironically, the agency for security only makes us less safe.


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Hanging Out With Larry Sharpe

By The Libertarian Curmudgeon | New York

Larry Sharpe, the Libertarian candidate for governor of New York, visited the Libertarian Party of Wisconsin Convention in Madison on Saturday, April 14, where he spoke to a real audience. But first, he granted a brief interview in the lobby.

It’s tough to stay curmudgeonly in the presence of Larry Sharpe, Libertarian Party candidate for governor of New York.

Sharpe is unremittingly optimistic, upbeat, positive – things that tend to irritate us curmudgeons, because they tend to be ill-fitting when a politician tries to wear them. You know, the twenty-minute stump speech about making America stronger together again, followed by backstage swearing at staff because the teleprompter was too dim or the podium too high, and then envelopes full of cash change hands to buy favors while bubbly young interns giggle and coo. The American people get left in the spin cycle of corruption and cronyism.

A ten-minute sit-down with candidate Sharpe at the Wisconsin Libertarian Party Convention in Madison soon turned to twenty, thirty and forty-five minutes. I witnessed no envelopes of cash or swearing at staff. No cooing interns. Sharpe is taking on Gov. Andrew Cuomo – a longshot by any calculation, considering Cuomo’s the incumbent, the Democrat in a state with a 2-1 Democratic majority and a $30 million campaign war chest.

Sharpe says his campaign has raised more money than all other candidates combined other than Cuomo, including two Republicans. The longshot isn’t as distant as it once was. Or maybe that’s just Mr. Sharpe’s optimism rubbing off.

How does a third-party candidate depose King Cuomo?

Plurality vote with multiple candidates

“Win more votes than anyone else,” Sharpe says. “New York is a plurality winner. I don’t need a majority. I only need about 25 percent to win this race.” Assuming the same 4-million- voter turnout as 2014, with four or five candidates on the ballot and an irrelevant New York Republican Party, a million votes could win this thing. Enter Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame. Because celebrities as government leaders have been so
successful.

“Nixon getting in the race is great for us.” Sharpe was downright exuberant over the prospects. “She will damage Cuomo for us in the primary and split the liberal and progressive voters.” And Cuomo may have to waste some of the war chest to fend off Miranda’s attack from his left flank. Nixon was endorsed by the Working Families Party, a far-left party that often endorses the Democratic Party nominee, including Cuomo last time. Not this year. Nixon could be on the general election ballot even if Cuomo defeats her in the Democratic primary. That could peel a substantial number of votes away from Cuomo.

Multi-party ticket

Another step higher on this uphill battle is the possibility of a fusion ticket. If Sharpe receives the endorsement of another party or two, his name could appear on the ballot multiple times, increasing visibility and the number of potential voters. Possible fusion tickets include the Reform Party and the Upstate Jobs Party.

Downsides to fusion tickets?

“It can water down the message,” Sharpe says, “but that’s not a problem for me because I never change my message. If I get another party’s endorsement, it’s because they like my message, not because I tailor my message to each party.”

From a Libertarian Party perspective, it gets trickier. “A fusion ticket can complicate ballot access. If the Libertarian Party candidate gets 50,000 votes on the Libertarian ballot line, that guarantees the party ballot access for the next four years. If people are voting for me on three different lines, that ballot access vote gets split up among the parties.”

A growing base plus niche voters

In 2014, the Libertarian candidate for governor, Michael McDermott, pulled down a whopping 17,000 votes, 0.4 percent of the total. Cuomo receive two million votes. Even if Nixon splits the Democratic vote, how does Sharpe gather a million-plus to make this a horse race?

“Gary Johnson received 175,000 votes in New York for president in 2016. That’s my base. That’s where I start.”

From there, Sharpe tackles the niche, one-issue voters no one else is pays attention to.

“Vaping. These businesses and users don’t want crushing regulation. They don’t care what else I stand for if I support the issue that’s important to them.” Okay, so there’s a couple thousand more voters. Sharpe then rattles off a few more niche voters that should support his candidacy. Single dads crushed by unfair family law. Drivers licenses revoked in perpetuity for a third DUI conviction, preventing people who have served their time and paid their dues from ever driving again in any state, which often means unemployment in perpetuity. And Utica, where abuse of eminent domain will destroy thirty businesses to make way for a hospital.

“I don’t have to change my message for any of these groups,” Sharpe says. “Break the state mandates. Return local control to local governments and away from Albany.”

The city versus upstate

Sure, some of Sharpe’s message will play well in Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and the vast expanses of rural upstate. But no one wins statewide without the city.

“Education is a statewide issue.” Sharpe makes the point that New York spends more on education than any other state with the worst results. “People in Queens care about their children’s education as much as people in Rochester. And right now, we’re failing because of state mandates. That’s an issue that bridges the divide.”

Gun control?

“There’s no winning the city with that issue.” Sharpe opposes New York’s SAFE Act, the most stringent gun control regulations in the country. He obviously doesn’t change his message to win over different voting blocs. “The SAFE Act may sound great, but it actually does more harm than good. Overnight, law-abiding citizens became criminals with the stroke of a pen.”

Sharpe has pledged to repeal the SAFE Act and pardon those who became overnight criminals.

Three keys to electoral success

Even with all that optimism and a fresh approach to state government, can a third-party candidate knock off a sitting governor from the dominant political party? Won’t it take more than a celebrity activist syphoning off some lefties and picking up the support of the vaping industry?

Sharpe listed three key turning points:

  1. Corruption. “Scandals are swirling around Cuomo and many of his key people. If one of these scandals sticks to him… voters are fed up with the corruption.”
  2. Media. “It can take a while before the statewide mainstream media start to take notice, but it’s happening at the local media level now. I’ll stop at a restaurant with twenty people, and there will be representatives from four different media outlets there. As fundraising grows, local media builds, and the momentum increases, the big media will be there.”
  3. Debate. “The top four or five candidates will debate. Cuomo will participate, and that’s where I will stand out among the crowd.”

Are the odds long?

Absolutely. Nixon, a fusion ticket, a scandal on the incumbent, a million or so voters
fed up with the Status Cuomo, and some pissed-off vapers. Combine that perfect storm with a genuine, articulate believer in people, a Marine veteran, a successful business executive and leadership guru, and New York could lead the way to liberty.


Full disclosure: This interview was facilitated by Sharpe’s communications director, who happens to be my daughter.

The Libertarian Curmudgeon, aka Robb Grindstaff, is a fiction writer, editor, and newspaper executive.

He’s lived in Phoenix, small towns in North Carolina and Texas, Washington, D.C. (also known as Fresh Hell), and five years in Tokyo, Japan.

He now resides in Wisconsin on a few acres out in the country where the only things he ever yells at to get off his lawn are possums, deer, and wild turkeys.

His critically acclaimed and modestly selling novel, Hannah’s Voice, has been called the best libertarian novel since Atlas Shrugged. Full disclosure: That was also his daughter who said that.

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