Jewelry A Hit On The Baseball Diamond: Are Pearls A Player’s Best Friend?

It’s October, which can only mean one thing. Well, perhaps two. Halloween, when everyone enjoys dressing up, comes at the end of the month. October’s also MLB playoff time. Baseball players are getting all spiffed up to go to the ball park so they can slide around in the dirt and grass to try to win a championship. While they must wear a regulation uniform, players can show off some individual style with their impressive jewelry. Yes, diamonds, as well as gold and pearls, can be spotted on the baseball diamond.

Why on earth would a ball player need to wear expensive jewelry while on the field? And sometimes players are literally on the field if they slide or try to make a diving catch. Three reasons have been suggested for this head-scratching behavior. First, a religious conviction may prompt the wearing of jewelry. Cross necklaces, for example, can be worn to express one’s faith. This accessory is often accompanied by chest pounding and pointing skyward after a great play or crossing oneself before batting.

Style is a second reason to wear expensive, perhaps even gaudy, jewelry while engaging in athletics. A player wants to make a fashion statement. His uniform looks exactly like that of all the other members of the team, but he can stand out by being bedecked with bling.

Superstition could be the third reason for putting on glitzy jewelry for a game. Baseball players are well-known for being superstitious. Some won’t change socks or shave while they have a hitting or winning streak going; former Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs would only eat chicken before a game. Athletes may view a necklace as a good luck charm. Fans in the stands, however, are more likely to equate fancy jewelry with dollar signs and could be blinded by the light reflecting off that rope hanging around Mr. Pro Athlete’s neck.

The 2021 Official Rules of Major League Baseball are extremely detailed; yet, jewelry wearing by players is not addressed in Rule 3 about Equipment and Uniforms. While I did read Rule 3, I confess I had neither the time nor the inclination to read all 191 pages of the Official Rules; however, a quick review of the table of contents failed to reveal a section on diamonds on the diamond, pearls on the playing field, or gold behind the glove.

Since jewelry apparently isn’t banned, high profile baseball players often display shiny accessories. Take Los Angeles Dodgers’ right fielder Mookie Betts (whose initials spell MLB), for example. As if the nickname “Mookie” (short for Markus) didn’t make him stand out, Betts wears a sizeable gold chain to catch your eye. So the story goes, he got the necklace from a fan during a spring training game for the Boston Red Sox, his former team, in 2018. What a well-heeled fan!

But wearing expensive jewelry during a game comes with perils. The accessory can break right there on the field. In 2018 N.Y. Mets player Yoenis Cespedes broke his diamond necklace while sliding into second base. Umpires and players alike were finding diamonds in the infield (not the sky) as the game continued at Citi Field in New York. During a 2017 ALCS game between Houston and the Yankees, Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, Jr. broke his black diamond necklace requiring him to dig around in the dirt on the mound to locate the pieces.

But in 2021, the big news regarding baseball players wearing jewelry comes during the playoffs and involves Joc Pederson of the Atlanta Braves. Although just traded to the Braves from the Cubs back in July, Joc has endeared himself to Braves fans who are enjoying what they have dubbed “Joctober.” Aside from his hot bat, Joc is attracting attention for the string of pearls he first sported during a pinch hitting appearance on September 29th. Previously having worn black and gold chains, Joc probably figured something more elegant was required at this elite and elevated playing level.

What’s the reaction to Joc’s accessory? His fashion choice has hit it out of the park. When his solo homer provided the only run scored by the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Brewers, social media attributed Joc’s success to his wearing the pearls. Joc, of course, continued to wear the pearls and tweeted a photo of himself wearing them in Game 3 of that series where he hit the go-ahead homer. He captioned his picture “pearl JAM.” When the Braves clinched a NLCS spot, Joc celebrated by spraying champagne, holding a cigar in his mouth, and wearing his pearls, which he has confirmed to reporters are real.

It’s pearl pandemonium for Braves fans who were seen at Truist Field in Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS wearing replica pearls. Hey, if it’s good enough for Joc to wear to the game, it’s good enough for them to wear while cheering Atlanta on. The ever astute Braves marketing team arranged for $5 replica pearls to be available for fans to purchase at the park. To absolutely no one’s surprise, all 5,000 on hand were sold out after Sunday’s game. Yes, Joc is not only a major league ball player, but a jewelry trendsetter as well.

Why does Joc wear pearls? Is he superstitious? Is he making a style statement? Joc answered the question simply: “I like it. It looks good.” But Joc and his fellow Braves will need to do more than look good for him to sport the pearls during the World Series. They must also play well to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and advance. Even if Joc’s team goes down in defeat, he’ll look smashing as the Braves’ hopes of winning the World Series are smashed.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Have you been watching the MLB playoffs? Should athletes be allowed to wear jewelry of any kind while on the playing field? Does Joc’s wearing a string of pearls detract from the game or add to the fun?

Celebration Controversy–To Observe Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day?

People can’t seem to agree on anything these days, including what they were to celebrate on October 11, 2021. My calendar designated that day as “Indigenous People’s Day/Christopher Columbus Day.” In digenous People are referenced first because, of course, they were here first. Unfortunately, you cannot celebrate both occasions; it’s like trying to mix oil and water. Indigenous People believe Christopher Columbus did them wrong, so if someone honors Columbus, they’re basically thumbing their noses at the Indigenous People. You can’t be Switzerland; you must choose a side with whom to celebrate.

Indigenous People’s Day is actually the newest U.S. holiday. On October 8, 2021, President Biden signed a presidential proclamation formally recognizing it and declaring it a national holiday. Of course, that didn’t leave his countrymen much time to prepare for that event. Three days’ notice? But forget preparing. First you have to figure out the appropriate thing to do on such a holiday. The newspaper in my area was bereft of information about how you could observe the event.

The purpose for Indigenous People’s Day is to celebrate and honor Native American peoples and their histories and cultures. As President Biden’s proclamation noted, “On Indigenous People’s Day, we honor America’s first inhabitants and the Tribal Nations that continue to thrive today.” So, literally, Indigenous People can truly say, “We’re #1” since they were the first ones here, not that Johnny-come-lately, Christopher Columbus.

Biden’s proclamation earlier this month was the first time a U.S. president has officially recognized Indigenous People’s Day. Nevertheless, the day has been recognized and celebrated for several years. The impetus for it came from an international conference on discrimination that the United Nations sponsored in 1977. Berkeley, California instituted Indigenous People’s Day in 1992, the year marking the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Remember learning in school, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”?

Marking Indigenous People’s Day on the same day as Columbus Day arose as a counter-celebration to honoring the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. Although hailed as an explorer and discoverer by history books, he has been denounced by some, including Native Americans, as representing the violent history of colonization of the New World in the Western Hemisphere. South Dakota, in fact, went so far as to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day in 1989.

But those opposed to celebrating Columbus Day probably have no idea of the history behind how that holiday came into existence. Ironically, both Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day arose from the mistreatment of minorities. Although named for Christopher Columbus, the day wasn’t so much about him as it was about Italian Americans.

Back in 1892, on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage (still counting from the sailing of the ocean blue in 1492), President Benjamin Harrison declared Columbus Day a one-time national celebration. The impetus for this announcement? Why, the lynching in New Orleans of 11 Italian immigrants. The president’s proclamation was seen as a means to appease Italian Americans and to ease tensions with Italy.

Fast forward to 1934 when the Knights of Columbus and a New York City Italian leader lobbied for a national proclamation of October 12th as Columbus Day. Nevertheless, it took until 1971 before the day became a recognized federal holiday. Many Italian Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage as opposed to idolizing or glorifying Christopher Columbus.

While Biden’s proclamation formalized the new holiday of Indigenous People’s Day, it gave no guidelines or even suggestions for observing it. How should you appreciate those the day seeks to honor? One way to do so is to learn more about the honorees. With the internet, that activity is literally right at your fingertips. You can go to http://www.sacredspaceonlinelearning.com/ssol-categories/native-american-first-nations-and-indigenous-peoples-nafni/ to check out public online resources and webinars offered by NAFNI (Native American, First Nations and Indigenous People) to bring awareness to their ways of life and traditions.

A second way to actively enjoy the day would be to make and enjoy some Native American food. Indigenous recipes can be found at https://www.powwows.com/25-favorite-native-american-recipes/. Three Sisters Soup sounds delicious and highlights the prevalence of three ingredients in the native diet: corn, beans, and squash. Fry Bread is a familiar food of Native Americans, but making it the traditional way fried in lard may not be the healthiest choice.

Columbus Day can certainly be celebrated as a tip of the hat to Italian Americans. Columbus was, undisputedly, a famous Italian who had an impact on America. His explorations are a part of history and need to be recognized. BUT, perhaps a better way to treat the holiday is to learn ALL of the story about his discovery of the New World, including, and especially, his treatment of the Indigenous People he encountered there. While history cannot be changed, our perspective of it might if we consider the entire story. Perhaps everyone could learn from the mistakes made in the past when it comes to human relations.

As for me, I prefer not to have to choose between the two holidays. I suggest we “accentuate the positive” and honor BOTH Indigenous People and Italian Americans. Nevertheless, I have a confession to make. I didn’t have the day off, so it was a day like all days to me. No celebrating or honoring was done–just working. I’ll do better next year and recognize these two groups, of which I belong to neither. Isn’t that what makes America great though? We are not all the same. By the way, you can kiss me because I’m Irish. You don’t even have to wait until St. Patrick’s Day, which isn’t a federal holiday….

WONDER-ing Woman:

Did you celebrate either Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day this week? If so, how? Were you aware of how Columbus Day initially came to be recognized? Is it possible to honor both Italian American heritage and Indigenous People at the same time?

“No Time To Die”–It’s Time To Find Diamonds!

Excitement is at a fever pitch for the U.S. release tomorrow of the latest James Bond movie, “No Time To Die.” Apparently the British spy refuses to die as this is his 25th film spanning many decades. As an avid fan of 007, I hope the latest release is a sparkling success, with the word “sparkling” evoking memories of the 1971 Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever.” Diamonds play a role in another success, this time in real life, with the recent discovery of a diamond over 4 carats in an Arkansas state park.

Actor Daniel Craig, appearing in his final James Bond silver screen saga, had a rough and lengthy journey having “No Time To Die” see the light of day–or at least the darkness of the movie theater. Set to come out in 2019, setbacks with a change in director and the pandemic greatly delayed the movie’s release. One would think getting a James Bond movie out would be much easier than an average Jane Q. Citizen finding a large diamond in a field. But you’d be wrong!

Just as October 8th will be a red letter day for James Bond fans in the U.S., September 23rd was an epic day for a California woman traveling in Arkansas. While on the road, she decided it would be great fun to visit Crater of Diamonds, an Arkansas state park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas she’d read about. This park, located in southwest Arkansas, is the only public diamond mine in the world. Visitors to the park can search for diamonds there with a “finders, keepers” policy in effect.

Within an hour of arriving and starting her hunt for “ice,” Noreen Wredberg found a clean and shiny object sitting on top of the ground. So, she picked it up. Taking her find to the park’s Diamond Discovery Center, she learned she was the new owner of a 4.38 carat yellow diamond, the largest diamond found at the state park in the last year. The gem is described as being the size of jellybean with a pear shape and a lemonade color. (But don’t drink it!)

How could such a stunning discovery so easily and quickly have been made? Well, as they say, timing is everything. Noreen went to the park a couple of days after it had rained. Rain can uncover a larger diamond, and with the sun out, rays were hitting the gem’s reflective surface making it more noticeable.

While visiting a state park evokes visions of hiking trails, canoeing on a lake, and picnicking, searching for diamonds is unlikely to come to mind. And getting rich during a visit to a state park is even more unbelievable. But that’s what can happen at Crater of Diamonds State Park. On an average day, park visitor find one or two diamonds. During 2021, 258 diamonds have been registered at the park, together totaling around 46 carats. Since the park opened in 1972, park visitors have discovered over 33,100 diamonds. Holy Bling, Batman!

Noreen named her new bauble “Lucy’s Diamond” despite the gem having been found on the ground rather than in the sky. But “Lucy” isn’t the biggest diamond discovered at Crater of Diamonds. On Labor Day 2020, an Arkansas man came across a 9.07 carat diamond. But the MOAD (“Mother Of All Diamonds”) unearthed at the site was a 40.23 carat pink diamond located in 1924 prior to the area becoming a state park.

But what are diamonds doing in Arkansas of all places? That state is known for razorbacks, not gems. Aren’t diamonds from mines in South Africa? Well, yes. Arkansas is the first place outside of South Africa where diamonds can be found at their original volcanic source. Visitors to Crater of Diamonds State Park search a 37.5 acre plowed field which is the eroded surface of a volcanic crater. The park is situated over an eroded lamprocite volcanic pipe which formed as the result of violent eruptions of “deep-origin” volcanoes.

Not being a geology whiz, this explanation sounds like Greek to me. But in simpler terms, in order for diamonds to form, they require extremely high pressures and temperatures which can only be found deep in the earth’s mantle, the mostly solid bulk of Earth’s interior. Diamonds are brought to the surface during eruptions through relatively rare pipes which provide a conduit from down below to up above. These pipes are well known as the primary source of diamonds. I don’t know about pipes and carbon, but I am amazed at what beauty results from heat, pressure, and an eruption.

The diamonds produced from these extreme conditions and upheaval come in all colors of the rainbow. The three colors which have been found at Crater of Diamonds State Park are white, brown, and yellow. A gem’s color is dependent on trace elements captured in the diamond as it is being formed. Talk about being a product of your environment, even diamonds are in this category.

Dreaming of hitting it rich by coming across a diamond lying on the ground in a public park seems as likely to occur as James Bond not getting the girl, not bringing down the villain, and not ordering a martini “shaken, not stirred.” But 007 may experience some twists and turns accomplishing these things. I’m counting the hours until I can see the new Bond flick this weekend, but I’ll have to sit through 163 minutes, the longest Bond movie yet, to find how he manages to find success in his latest endeavors. In contrast, one lucky California women took only an hour to find a diamond to change her life forever.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Are you a James Bond fan? Were you aware diamonds can be found in the U.S.? Would you like to go to Arkansas and search for a diamond at Crater of Diamonds? Why or why not?

World Issues Mean Trouble’s Brewing For Coffee Drinkers

Even before the pandemic hit, many could only face the day with the help of caffeine in a cup or two (or more) of coffee. But perking up this way may be more difficult soon with declining supplies of coffee beans and rising prices for what is available. Trouble is brewing for coffee drinkers.

Don’t think issues with access to coffee would be a big problem in the United States? Well, think again. Seven out of ten Americans drink coffee at least once a week; approximately 64% of Americans consume the beverage daily. Americans drink around 146 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) cups of coffee annually. According to therobusttrader.com, the commodity has provided1.6 million jobs in the U.S. Clearly, American demand for coffee is high.

But unless you’ve got lots of bucks, it may become cost prohibitive to drink coffee at home much less purchase your favorite coffee drink at Starbucks. Why? The cost of coffee beans has risen more than 40% so far this year. Coffee futures DOUBLED in late July to prices not seen since 2014. For years, the price per pound was around $1, but the figure is now closer to $2. That price increase should stimulate your curiosity like caffeine does your body in the morning.

We all get prices going up, but what’s a coffee future? For those of us who are not commodities traders (raising my hand since, yes, I did have to look up the term), a coffee future is a standardized contract to buy or sell a specific quantity of an item at a presently agreed price for delivery at a specified future date. If prices are skyrocketing for such contracts for coffee, the intel must be solid that costs are going nowhere but up.

So what’s causing the cost of coffee beans to rise higher than the weight you gain imbibing a few calorie-laden Starbucks’ offerings? As is often the case, more than one factor can be blamed. Let’s start with the weather. Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, has experienced a sustained drought followed by two July frosts decreasing its coffee output. The Brazilian crop loss is estimated at between 2 million and 6 million bags of coffee, about 12% of its usual output. The frosts will significantly affect the 2022-2023 harvest because the damaged crops are about a year out from harvest.

But Brazil is just one of over 70 countries which grows coffee. The world’s coffee belt circles the globe along the equator with cultivation occurring in North America, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Can’t the other countries make up the harvest deficit? Unfortunately, they are also experiencing production problems due to climate change. Apparently, the coffee belt is tightening.

Climate change has contributed to coffee growing difficulties because of climate variability, extreme weather events, and drought. Changing temperatures and rainfall could reduce the size of coffee-growing areas. All these factors decrease yields causing supply problems. But the problem extends far beyond simply not enough beans for the coffee grinder. Recent studies show up to 60% of high-quality coffee species are at risk of extinction because of the adverse effect of climate change.

Even the coffee which is produced is negatively impacted. Higher temperatures can lead to accelerated fruit development and ripening which degrades the quality of the coffee beans. That’s a bitter pill and a bitter cup of joe to have to swallow. A warmer climate also is more conducive to pest problems. A 2011 study showed the dread hypothenemus hampei, more commonly known as the coffee berry borer, tends to thrive in warmer conditions. But wait! There’s more! Additionally, coffee is vulnerable to fungal infections called rust. Rising temperatures and extreme rainfall are blamed for a severe rust outbreak in Central America. Yuk! Keep bugs and rust away from the beans used in my coffee.

And it’s not just coffee consumers taking a blow from production problems. Coffee is important to the economies of many tropical countries. Inability to produce as much of or as good of a coffee crop as in the past will be devastating financially.

Climate change, though, is not the only cause of rising coffee prices. While half the cost of a bag of coffee is the beans themselves, production and transportation expenses play a part in the remaining cost. With supply chain issues, labor shortages, and lack of shipping containers, is it any wonder that the cost of buying beans for our breakfast beverage is bigger?

An interesting development from these coffee problems is a new growing area. While coffee is traditionally grown in tropical, humid climates, climate change has resulted in the trend for California farmers, with a Mediterranean climate, to try growing coffee. California’s drier climate makes it immune from the destructive coffee rust fungus. The state’s location further from the equator means it takes the beans longer to ripen leading to a more defined tasted.

How did farmers in the Golden State, known more for crops like almonds and avocados, decide to grow coffee? A University of California Cooperative Extension advisor looking for a crop to replace the declining production of aging avocado trees came up with the idea. And what a good idea it was. Coffee grows well in the shade of avocado trees. To date more than 100,000 coffee trees have been planted on over 70 farms in the state, mostly specialty Arabica varieties. FRINJ, a business focused on coffee production there, has as its goal to make Southern California the next specialty coffee capital of the world.

Whether coffee growers in California, an industry still in the early stages of development, will be successful remains to be seen. Climate change has negatively effected that state too as it is currently dealing with water scarcity. Due to reduced rainfall, coffee growers must rely on irrigation, and coffee is a water intensive crop, requiring almost double what it takes to grow almonds. Let’s not even get into the need for consumers to have water to make their coffee to drink.

World issues such as climate change, supply chain problems, and labor shortages, are combining to threaten the simple pleasure of enjoying a cup of coffee. Coffee prices are going up and the taste is going down. Growing areas are declining and shifting. Hopefully, California farmers will soon be able to say, “Our bottom line is in the black, so we can provide you with a cup of black coffee to drink as you please.” I’ll take mine reasonably-priced, tasty, and enhanced with half and half and sweetener. A shot of salted caramel syrup would be nice too.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Do you drink coffee? Have you noticed a rise in coffee prices? How high would prices have to go before you’d reduce your coffee-drinking?

Sacre’ Bleu! Broken Sub Contract Sinks U.S. And French Relations To Historic Low

Going down? That’s what subs do. And because of subs, relations between the U.S. and its oldest ally, France, have plummeted to the depths. France feels betrayed and has recalled its ambassador. Yikes! How did this long-standing alliance get torpedoed?

The story begins back in 2016 as Australia sought to replace its aging Collins-class, diesel-electric subs. Several bidders were in the competition for the contract which France, a major global weapons exporter, ultimately won over Germany and Japan. And this was quite the lucrative contract–90 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) Australian dollars. France’s majority state-owned Naval Group was selected to build twelve conventional diesel-electric subs for Australia, winning what has been dubbed “the contract of the century.”

While all that is interesting, note a conspicuous absence from the story. Uncle Sam is nowhere to be seen. Well, that is until mid-September 2021, some five years after the award of the sub contract to France. On the ides of September, the Australian government formally notified the French government it was cancelling the $90 billion contract. But wait, there’s more! To add insult to injury, in place of the cancelled contract was a new arrangement Australia had entered into with the U.S. and the U.K. to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

In another blow to France, President Biden revealed last week that the U.S. was entering into a new security alliance with Australia and the U.K. which included the delivery of at least eight nuclear-powered subs to the Australian fleet. The alliance is an attempt to strengthen stability in the Indo-Pacific region where China has been expanding its military might and influence. France, of course, felt left out because it sees itself as a major power in that area because of its overseas territories there, such as French Polynesia, which give it an unrivaled strategic and military foothold compared to other European nations.

What’s a snubbed country country to do? Cancel the party the other countries’ representatives had been invited to, of course. French officials in Washington, D.C. promptly called off a Friday evening gala at their compound to celebrate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes. As we all clearly recall from U.S. History class (NOTE: sarcasm font in use), this battle was a decisive naval engagement during the American Revolution in which France played a major role.

Still fuming, France fanned the diplomatic crisis flames by recalling its ambassadors from both the U.S. (au revoir, Philippe Etienne!) and from Australia. French President Emanuel Macron ordered the recall so the two ambassadors could return to the home country (Viva la France!) for “consultation.” The withdrawal of the French ambassador from the U.S. marked the first time in the history of U.S./French relations that such a step has been taken.

And, of course, there’s always name-calling to be done when someone’s angry. The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, has characterized the actions President Biden has taken in this situation as something Trump would do. Ouch! Likening Biden to Trump? Egad!

So why, five years after entering into a contract with France, did Australia suddenly ditch the French and take up with the Americans and Brits causing all this diplomatic disgruntlement? The contract cancellation will cost Australia $1.7 billion (that’s billion with a “B”), so one would assume that they have a pretty good reason for taking this step.

According to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the move was necessitated by the deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region, an area where China’s massive military buildup has increased in pace in recent years. Morrison concluded the capability of the conventional subs France was contracted to deliver would not meet Australia’s strategic needs; nuclear-powered subs were required instead to counter Chinese nuclear-powered vessels. I’m no military expert, but it seems common sense that you fight fire with fire. Morrison stressed he had to make the decision which was in the best interest of his country’s security.

While the French feel betrayed by this contract cancellation, the manner in which Australia went about it has also stirred anger. Apparently Australia was in secret talks for at least 18 months with the U.S. and the U.K. about a such a step. So much for French intelligence. But, in their defense, they were probably monitoring the Chinese, a perceived enemy, rather than their allies. Morrison has brushed off claims of the French being caught off guard by this news. He states he told French President Emanuel Macron in June about “very real issues about whether a conventional submarine capability” would address Australia’s strategic security needs. Just my two cents, but June was three months ago, and secret talks went on for over 18 months. What about the other 15 or so months?

In the meantime, the subs Australia has contracted for this time are not expected to be delivered until 2040. While these subs are being built in Adelaide in cooperation with the U.S. and the U.K., Australia will lease nuclear subs from the U.S. Hopefully, by the time the subs are completed in about 20 years, things will have settled down and the U.S. and France will be on better terms.

Australia’s sub decision has not gone over well with the Chinese either. They are angry Australia has opted to acquire nuclear-powered subs and is ticked off that Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. have formed an “extremely irresponsible” security alliance. No matter what a country decides to do, some other country will be upset about it. Making the Chinese happy is not tops on (or even close to being on) the U.S. to do list, but it is sad long-time ally France got the short end of the stick in the interest of Aussie national security.

As technologically advanced as weapons such as subs are today, they are only needed because of human failings. If we can make the scientific wonder of a nuclear-powered sub, why can’t we figure out how to get along with others? Think of the billions of dollars that could be saved on weapons contracts if nations could simply be civil neighbors. But then, what squabbles would the media have to highlight?

WONDER-ing Woman:

Is breaking a contract ever justified? If so, is national security a valid reason for doing so? Does France have a right to be angry by how its long-time ally the U.S. handled matters? Should the U.S. be taking steps to repair its relationship with France?

No, No, Nipah–Virus Scarier Than Coronavirus Lurking

Think once the coronavirus dies down we’ll be out the woods? If that’s what you believe, think again. A virus scarier than the coronavirus is lurking out there possibly aiming to start the next pandemic. Nipping at the heels of the coronavirus for being a deadly threat is the Nipah virus.

Haven’t heard of the Nipah virus? Well, there’s good reason. Since first being identified in 1999 in Malayasia, all outbreaks have occurred in South or Southeast Asia. But, hey, the coronavirus didn’t start in the U.S. either, and we see how that has affected us.

Nipah is a zoonotic illness transmitted from animals to people. (The “zoo” in “zoonotic” is there for a reason….) The first recognized outbreak in Malaysia occurred among pig farmers. Most of the human infections resulted from direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissue. (There’s yet another reason to lay off the bacon consumption.) The virus was also detected in animals other than pigs in Malaysia; sheep, goats, cats, dogs, and horses also were infected by Nipah.

Blame the bats, fruit bats specifically, for subsequent outbreaks of Nipah in India and Bangladesh. Fruit bats in the family Pteropodidae, commonly known as “flying foxes,” are natural carriers of Nipah. Scientists have determined that the most likely source of infection for those outbreaks was from fruit or fruit products contaminated by these fruit bats. In particular, the bats adore the raw sap of the date palm tree and feast on it. When humans harvested the sap for processing into fruit juice or picked fruit nibbled on by the bats, the consumer of the fruit or fruit product was at risk of contracting Nipah.

Just this month, Nipah has reared its ugly and deadly head again in Asia. The third outbreak of the virus since 2018 in the south Indian state of Kerala, known for its palm-lined beaches on the Arabian Sea, is ongoing. Hmm! Think those palms lining the beaches there are DATE palms? Yup.

On September 5th, a 12 year old boy died from the Nipah virus after experiencing a high fever and swelling of the brain. As a result, the authorities identified all those who had come in contact with the boy and sealed off a TWO MILE radius from his home. Why such a broad sweep of quarantine? Because there is no treatment or vaccine currently available for people or animals. The primary treatment for a Nipah virus patient is merely supportive care.

While the Nipah virus is not related to the coronavirus, the two may have the same originating source. Finger the bats! Bats have been identified as a possible source of the coronavirus in China. An investigation into a 2018 Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala traced infections to dead fruit bats found in a water well. In these case, they would probably rather have had bats in their belfry than in their water supply

Nipah and the coronavirus are unlike in several ways. One difference is that Nipah is not as transmissible and is less contagious than the coronavirus. The current average transmission rate for Nipah is less than one person per infection. As opposed to COVID patients, those with Nipah start spreading the virus only after symptoms set in. Accordingly, quarantine efforts can be more effective in halting the spread of the virus.

Those differences sound good for Nipah, right? But wait, there’s a big and scary downside. While only around 2% of those who contract COVID die, up to 75% of Nipah infections prove fatal. For example, in a 2018 outbreak of Nipah, only 2 of 19 infected people survived. That’s a little over a 10% survival rate. Yikes!

In addition to having a higher mortality rate, Nipah also has a longer incubation period of up to 45 days and the ability to infect a much wider variety of animals. These factors make the virus the source of significant concern for epidemiologists. In fact, the WHO (the World Health Organization and not the rock band) classifies Nipah as a “virus of concern for future epidemics.” The organization has placed Nipah on a priority list of diseases for which research and development is needed. The diseases on this list are those which pose the greatest public risk because of epidemic potential and are identified as in “urgent need” for accelerated R&D.

Of particular concern to health officials is that genetic changes to Nipah are likely. Each time a human is infected with the virus, the virus is in an environment allowing for human adaptation. New strains which appear could more effectively be transmitted person to person resulting in a devastating outbreak. Dr. Stephen Luby, a professor of infectious diseases at Stanford, believes that a mutated strain of Nipa could lead to an outbreak which is “the worst humanity has ever faced.”

Although the virus has, so far, been contained to South Asia, the potential for worldwide transmission exists. A global problem could result due to spread through international trade, foreign travel, and climate change forcing fruit bats to seek new habitats.

What exactly happens to those unfortunate people who are infected by the Nipah virus? A fever and headache develop from three days to two weeks after infection. Thereafter a cough, sore throat, and respiratory issues appear. Finally, swelling begins in brain cells which causes drowsiness, confusion, coma, and often death. While some have survived a Nipa infection, they do not always recover unscathed. Twenty percent of survivors experience persistent neurological symptoms, seizures, and personality changes.

Efforts are underway to develop a Nipah vaccine, but as we have all learned from the current COVID pandemic, vaccine development takes time. Right now such development is a headache for researchers who feel pressured to come up with a lifesaving vaccine and prevent another worldwide virus outbreak. Given the existence of COVID and Nipah, we should all feel thankful if the worst thing we are experiencing at present is a headache. And, until a Nipah vaccine is developed, let’s avoid fruit bats and date palm trees.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Had you ever heard of the Nipah virus? As technologically advanced as society is today, does the appearance of such daunting viruses make you feel humans are not as in control as they might think? Is enough focus and funding being given to R&D efforts regarding deadly diseases?

Tesla Terror–Autopilot Feature Investigated For Smashing Failures

Defensive driving used to be about awareness of what other drivers were doing. With technological “progress,” now those on the road need to be concerned about what other cars are doing. What’s the difference you ask? Well, with Tesla’s Autopilot feature, some of its cars are equipped to drive themselves resulting in collisions with stationary first responder vehicles. As a result, the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration (NHSTA) has opened an investigation into Tesla’s smashing autopilot failures.

Tesla is an American electric car company based in Palo Alto, California. The company’s name is a tribute to inventor and electrical engineer extraordinaire Nikola Tesla. Even if you aren’t familiar with Tesla, certainly you have heard of the company’s high-profile CEO, Elon Musk. Yes, he’s so high that he’s aiming for the stars, literally with his SpaceX program. Meanwhile, back on the ground, Tesla and Musk have experienced some liftoff failures with its autopilot system for Tesla electric cars.

The company’s autopilot feature enables Tesla vehicles to steer, accelerate, and brake automatically within their lane. Nevertheless, Tesla manuals instruct drivers to put their hands on the steering wheel when the vehicle is in autopilot mode. And all drivers follow their car manual’s instructions to the letter, of course. Yeah, right. When was the last time YOU even opened your car’s driver’s manual? Just as I suspected….

Demonstrative Exhibit A as to why this instruction is given comes to us from a March 2018 crash of a Tesla in the self-driving mode. Did the “driver” have his hands on the wheel? Nope. He had his hands and his eyes on his cell phone playing games while the car was rolling down the road. We don’t know the outcome of the game on his phone, but we do know that this was the last game he ever played; the “driver” was killed in the crash. In another instance, a drunk driver was found in the back seat of his Tesla as it drove him, helpfully trying to assist him in avoiding a DUI.

But human error (stupidity?) cannot be fingered in all the Tesla crashes under investigation. Tesla vehicles operating with this feature are reported to have been in repeated collisions with stationary emergency vehicles such as police cars, ambulances, or other emergency vehicles. These accidents typically occur after dark where “scene control measures” such as road cones, flares, illuminated arrow boards, and first responder vehicle lights are in use. For example, in January 2018, a Tesla in struck a parked firetruck with its lights flashing. Maybe the Teslas are being “blinded by the light.” (Cue Manfred Mann music in the background.)

Don’t blame the poor Teslas. Blame their programmers. According to experts, the likely cause of these crashes is that the autopilot systems are programmed to pretty much ignore stationary objects. Why? If this programming were included, the vehicle could react to all sorts of things on the side of the road such as signs and buildings. Methinks there needs to be some technology tweaking.

Due to the rise in collisions in autopilot situations, NHTSA issued new rules in June requiring companies like Tesla to report all incidents involving such systems. By mid-August, concern had so increased about these collisions, that NHSTA opened an investigation. In particular, its investigation is focused on twelve accidents which have occurred in nine different states.

The twelfth accident actually happened shortly after the investigation began. (Poor timing, if you ask me.) This crash took place on I-4 in Orlando shortly before 5:00 a.m. A car had broken down in a travel lane, and a highway patrol car was stopped behind the disabled vehicle with its lights flashing. The Tesla hit the police cruiser and narrowly missed hitting the trooper who had exited his vehicle to approach and render aid to the stranded motorist. Perhaps the Tesla was rubbernecking and not paying attention leading to the crash.

The NHTSA investigation is focused on Tesla’s Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) and particularly Tesla Models X, Y, S, and 3. A Model 3 Tesla was the one involved in the late August 2021 Orlando crash. To gather information on the problem, NHTSA sent a detailed 11-page letter to Tesla with numerous questions to be answered. An October 22nd deadline for a response was set. If it is determined that the Tesla autopilot system is unsafe, NHTSA could require the company to recall cars or repair them to correct safety defects. This remediation effort could affect up to 765,00 Teslas built between 2014 and 2021. Who knew there were even that many electric cars out there on the road?

In the meantime, Tesla, in light of its “success” with the autopilot feature, is moving forward to release a new and even more ambitious version of Full Self Driving (FSD) software. Currently that feature is undergoing beta testing, where the near finished product is provided to a target group of users to evaluate performance in real world conditions. Sure, that’s where Tesla needs to work the bugs out–on the road where the rest of us are innocently driving. Sounds like a great plan to me. What could go wrong with that? (See earlier paragraphs regarding crashes with current system…..)

Much is at stake, such as life and limb, when one gets in a car. I am not convinced that any convenience derived from relying on imperfect autopilot technology to drive me from point A to point B is worth putting my life and health on the line. Admittedly, human beings aren’t perfect drivers either and can make mistakes; however, we can at least usually recognize and attempt to avoid stationary first responders. While Tesla goes back to the drawing board to teach its autopilot program about parked emergency vehicles, I’ll keep my hands on the wheel. Won’t you do so as well?

WONDER-ing Woman:

Have you ever driven an electric car? Would you be comfortable in fully relying on an autopilot system to drive you on the highway? At what point should an autopilot feature be deemed safe enough for use on the road?

“It Never Rains In California,” But It Just Did Atop The Greenland Ice Sheet

This week Hurricane Ida dumped inches of rain, in some cases over a foot, along its path. While rain is part and parcel of a hurricane, it is not expected to fall at the summit of an ice sheet where below-freezing temperatures are the norm. Therefore, scientists were astounded when rain fell for several hours on August 14th at the highest elevation of the Greenland Ice Sheet– the first time such precipitation was ever recorded there. Although not as much in quantity as Hurricane Ida produced, the summit rainfall was just as disturbing.

Raindrops fell on scientists heads off and on for thirteen hours some 10,551 feet above the Greenland Ice Sheet mid-month. No one knows exactly how much precipitation came down because there are no rain gauges at the National Science Foundation’s Summit Station. Such a weather event was unprecedented since scientists have been making observations there, so who would think to install a rain gauge?

Although rain has occasionally fallen on the Greenland ice sheet itself, rainfall has never occurred on its summit–until now that is. Guess there’s a first time for everything. With below freezing temperatures, snow is the precipitation scientists anticipate. And temperatures have risen above freezing at the summit only three times previously in the last 32 years.

Timing, as they say, is everything. Scientists are unsettled not only by the rain falling on the summit but by the fact it is falling at this time of the year. Mid to late August marks a change from summer to autumn in the far north. This progression of seasons should result in lower temperatures and snow for precipitation if any is to come down.

This anomalous weather, scientists believe, is the result of global climate change. While the actual rain event did not itself have a huge impact, it illustrates the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland. You don’t have to hold an advanced science degree to understand global warming means higher temperatures which lead to ice melting, be it ice cubes in your glass or ice sitting on top of the largest island in the world.

And the Greenland Ice Sheet is a gargantuan piece of ice. It covers 660,000 square miles, around 79-81% of the surface of Greenland. Talk about ice, ice baby…Its surface area is almost as big as Alaska and over three times that of France. This ice sheet is the second largest ice body in the world with only the Antarctic Ice Sheet being bigger. From north to south the Greenland Ice Sheet extends 1,800 miles, the equivalent of stretching from Key West to a hundred miles beyond Portland, Maine. The ice is thick as well as long with the average thickness generally over 1.2 miles and around 2 miles at its thickest point. That’s one big ice cube!

With this much ice, what’s the big deal with a little bit of rain? The deal is that ice melts snow. When rain falls on the summit of an ice sheet, generally the water percolates down into the packed snow to colder temperatures where it refreezes and doesn’t drain away. On the other (hopefully mittened) hand, rain falling on the periphery of an ice sheet can generate a significant of melt water that runs off the ice sheet and into the ocean raising sea levels.

When it rained at the Greenland Ice Sheet’s summit some two miles above sea level, the precipitation coincided with a “melt event” where the temperature gets high enough that the thick ice on the ice sheet begins to melt. Northern Greenland has experienced record-setting temperatures this summer. Some areas experienced temperatures more than 18 degrees Celsius warmer than average temperatures. In fact, 2021 even saw the latest date in the year when above-freezing temperatures were recorded at the Summit Station. So, the location is high up and experiencing record high temps.

The August melt event affected 337,000 square miles and followed two major melt events in July. The later July melt event affected 340,000 square miles. Previously, there were melt events in 2019, 2012, and 1995; before those occurrences, no melt events had taken place since the late 1800’s per the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. (They have a center for everything, don’t they?)

When the ice melts, it has to go somewhere. As an ice sheet melts, global sea levels rise. Rising sea levels are a concern because nearly one-third of the world’s population lives in or near a coastal zone. Everyone likes waterfront property or being near the water, but they may get more than they bargained for if too much ice melts. The Greenland Ice Sheet contains 8% of the Earth’s fresh water. If all that ice sheet’s ice melted, global sea levels would rise 24 feet. That’s over the head of anyone reading this post.

Thankfully, the situation isn’t that dire yet, but it is still concerning. The melt event which occurred at the end of July was of such a scale that the amount of ice which melted on one day of that event alone would cover the entire state of Florida with two inches of water according to the World Meteorological Organization. Woo hoo! All Sunshine State residents could then say they lived on the water; unfortunately, there would be no dry land for sunbathing.

While too much rain, as in the case of Hurricane Ida, is a bad thing, rain where and when none is expected is also a bad thing. The Greenland Ice Sheet may not be located anywhere near us and we may never set foot on it, but what happens to that part of the Earth can and will affect all of the world’s inhabitants. Let’s hope the story of rain falling at the summit of this ice sheet will not fall on deaf ears; instead, let the weather story be a wake up call to what’s happening to the planet we call home.

WONDER-ing Woman:

Are you surprised to learn that rain fell at the summit of a massive ice sheet? What weather events have convinced you or would convince you that global warming is occurring? Have you considered the ramifications of rising sea levels on coastal communities?

Flying The Unfriendly Skies–Number Of Unruly Passengers Sky High

Aerophobia, or the fear of flying, is likely on the rise this summer due to safety concerns. Why is that since no major aviation accidents have recently occurred? Potential passengers are less concerned about a plane they are on crashing than they are about their physical safety being at risk from the actions of fellow passengers. Yes, unruly behavior by airline passengers has reached record highs up in the sky.

Airlines are doing the happy dance with the increased number of travelers filling their plane seats in recent months. But that business boom has been accompanied by rising concerns with more frequent unruly behavior by passengers. Are travelers really acting up that much? In a word, “YES!” In a typical year, the Federal Aviation Administration handles 100 to 150 formal cases of bad behavior by passengers. However, so far in 2021, with several months still to go before year’s end, the agency has received approximately 4,000 reports from the airlines of aggressive passenger behavior. Just a slight increase there….

What’s causing this bad behavior? Have people spent so much time in lockdown and away from social settings that they no longer know how to behave? Those in the aviation industry agree that current passengers are more frazzled than they have been in the past. On top of dealing with travel delays, cancelled flights, lost luggage, etc., travelers are facing these challenges in the context of a pandemic and economic uncertainty. Combined, these factors spell trouble for flight crews.

The consequences of the pandemic are especially difficult for some passengers. A federal mandate requires travelers wear masks in the airport and on the plane. And, given the surge in cases due to the delta variant, that mask requirement was just extended this month until January 18, 2022; it had been set to expire in September. But people: A. don’t like to be told what to do; and B. are uncomfortable wearing masks. To no one’s surprise, then, 71% of the reported incidents of unruly passengers in 2021 concern passengers refusing to comply with the mask mandate.

Results from a recent survey taken of approximately 5,000 flight attendants by the Association of Flight Attendants are disturbing. Eighty-five percent of the flight attendants reported they had dealt with an unruly passenger in 2021. Sixty percent claimed to have dealt with AT LEAST FIVE incidents this year. Of the incidents which occurred, 17% got physical. A particularly egregious case involved a Southwest Airlines flight attendant who was punched in the face by a 28 year old female passenger whom she asked to keep her seatbelt fastened. As a result of the assault, the flight attendant lost two teeth. The media, of course, found that to be a story they could really sink their teeth into and jumped on it.

Hearing about the behavior of some airline passengers would lead you to think that the stories were about kids on a school bus. But, no, these are adults acting badly, to say the least. Reported incidents include situations where they punched other passengers or crew members, threw items at people, and tried to break into the cockpit. On a May 24th flight from New York City bound for Orlando, a passenger threw his luggage at another passenger while lying in the aisle of the plane. Then, he proceeded to grab a flight attendant by her ankles and put his head up her skirt. Needless to say, that behavior did not fly with the captain who made an emergency landing in Richmond so the boisterous passenger could be removed from the plane. I’m betting that wherever the authorities took him in Virginia was not anywhere close to being the happiest place on earth.

A JetBlue flight in mid-May was also diverted for the removal of an unruly passenger. Not only was this individual refusing to wear a mask, but he was threatening another passenger and snorting what appeared to be cocaine. While airline passengers are supposed to be high, that high is being thousands of feet up in the air and not as the result of using illicit drugs while traveling. Clearly, the TSA baggage check wasn’t thorough enough on that passenger.

In a story which has to be labeled “use what you have on hand,” a Frontier Airlines flight crew resorted to restraining a passenger with duct tape while on a flight from Philadelphia to Miami. Why such a drastic measure? Well, after the passenger had groped two flight attendants and punched a third, the crew felt enough was enough. This unruly passenger is now facing three counts of battery.

What’s an airline line to do when faced with this troubling rise in bad behavior? One common sense action was to suspend in-flight alcohol service since a passenger’s being tipsy or intoxicated is just going to add fuel to the fire. American Airlines, for example, will have no such service until January 18, 2022. But resourceful travelers determined to imbibe while flying anyway have been sneaking alcohol onto planes. In a letter to airports in early August, the FAA warned them to monitor the serving of alcohol to passengers in bars and restaurants prior to their flights. Particularly mentioned was the practice of providing “to go cups.”

In addition to suspension of alcohol service, some airlines have revoked frequent flyer benefits belonging to disruptive passengers. While unruly travelers may not be terrorists, they do threaten safety on board, so no-fly lists for them have also been created. Thousands have reportedly been placed on such lists for failing to comply with the mask policy. Just like you can’t have your cake and eat it too, you can’t not wear your mask and fly too.

Those on the front lines of this problem, the flight attendants, have been attending self-defense training to prepare themselves for dealing with bad behavior from passengers. While they know what to do in case of a mechanical emergency, fending off physical assaults from travelers is a different emergency altogether.

The FAA is also addressing these incidents by recommending fines for unruly behavior. It announced on August 19th that over $1 million in fines have been proposed in response to cases this year. The agency’s policy for in-flight disruptions allows for fines as high as $52,500 and up to 20 years in prison. And, thankfully, the maximum fine was recommended for the “bright” passenger who thought it would be a good idea to try to open the cockpit door mid-flight. Unfortunately, the FAA itself cannot bring criminal charges itself against those who act out. Thus, local authorities will have to lend a helping hand to address the wild west situations occurring on board.

Having to fly is stressful enough without being concerned a fellow passenger is going to lose it and cause a scene. Disruptive behavior is irresponsible and often illegal. A word of advice from movie character Austin Powers to future flyers who may not be able to control themselves: “Oh, behave!”

WONDER-ing Woman:

Have you witnessed an incident of unruly behavior on a flight? Would the risk of encountering such behavior deter you from flying? Is restraining a disruptive passenger with duct tape ever justified?

Real Threat Gives Rise To Fake IDs

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic is all too true. But plenty of fake news, or at least alleged fake news (depending on whom you believe), is out there. Fake news, however, isn’t the only fake thing out there right now. Fake ID’s are a hot commodity these days. These aren’t the bogus ID’s that underage teens obtain so they can purchase alcohol. Oh, no. These are fake vaccination records which have arisen due to the real pandemic.

Folks of all ages are clamoring for such ID’s. Why would anyone want a counterfeit vaccination card? For the unvaccinated, such a card may be just the ticket to attend a large event such as a music concert, to gain access to a restricted venue such as a gym or restaurant, or to be admitted to a foreign country.

According to reports, at least 675 colleges and universities are requiring their students to show proof of vaccination to be allowed on campus. Are their students complying with this requirement? Well, let’s just say that vaccination cards are being produced, but they may not be real. Faculty and students interviewed by the Associated Press expressed concern about how easy it is to obtain fake cards.

The vaccination cards which some fraudulently seek to produce or to present are pretty low-tech here in the U.S. In December 2020, federal agencies released paper cards to be used as proof of COVID-19 vaccination. These cards are 4″ by 3″ on double-sided cardstock paper bearing the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) logo in black and white; no space is provided for a photo of the person vaccinated. Thus, they are fairly easy to replicate.

Lending credence to a literal interpretation of everything being “Made in China,” is the fact that many of the fake vaccine cards originate in China. The AP reported about a Twitter user (who in this case could truly be called a “twit”) posting that his daughter bought two fake ID’s online for $50 to use at college. And where did these cards come from? China, of course. While it is concerning but not surprising that China is doing something illegal, what is surprising is that a parent would publicly post that their child committed a felony.

A felony, you say? Yes, sir. Using a fake vaccination card is a serious mistake with serious consequences. Don’t believe me? OK. Well, go read 18 U.S.C. Section 1017; that’s the provision of the U.S. Code making unauthorized use of the seal of an official government agency a federal CRIME. Conviction of that CRIME carries a possible fine and a maximum of FIVE YEARS IN PRISON. The fake vaccination cards bear the CDC logo, so people using them are clearly breaking the law.

Folks have indeed been arrested for dealing in fake vaccination cards. A California bar owner was busted in May for allegedly selling the bogus cards for $20 each. Guess his special of the day was a shot of whiskey with a fake shot record card. July saw the first federal criminal fraud prosecution involving such cards. A physician in Napa, California was alleged to have sold fake vaccination cards indicating the Moderna vaccine had been received. Guess she had the book learning to know about viruses and vaccinations but no common sense, i.e., don’t commit a crime by selling bogus medical records. Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer on August 15th called for a harder crackdown on these fake cards. So, beware if you inclined to create, buy, or use one.

Using fake vaccination cards will get you in trouble not only in the U.S. but in other countries as well. Two Americans learned this lesson the hard (and expensive) way just this month. While traveling in Canada, these “bright” (sarcasm font in use) individuals presented fake vaccination cards and got arrested for doing so. The result? They were fined $19,720 each. Not sure what they paid for those fake records, but they could’ve saved a whole bunch by simply getting a FREE vaccine and a FREE authentic card before leaving home.

Pandemic-related fraud has been rising in recent months. Requirements for proof of vaccination have created a thriving market for counterfeit cards for the unvaccinated. In March, such concern existed about the trafficking of fake vaccine cards that the FBI issued a joint statement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saying basically “Don’t do it!” It, of course, was buying, creating, or selling bogus shot records.

In April a bipartisan group of 47 state attorneys general (the National Association of Attorneys General or NAAG) sent a letter to the CEO’s of Twitter, Shopify, and eBay to take down ads or links to sources selling fake vaccination cards. Hello? These sites have to be told that? You don’t have to have a law degree to conclude that offering fake medical records might be a bad idea generally and a crime specifically. After being nagged about this activity by NAAG, these online sites did cooperate and blacklisted certain words related to counterfeit vaccination cards. Unfortunately, such cards apparently can still be obtained on the messaging app Telegram and on the dark web. (PSA: Do NOT go to these places and attempt to make such a purchase!!!)

Customs agents are becoming busier thanks to the boom in the demand for fake vaccination cards. As of mid-August, they had seized over 121 shipments containing more than 3,000 counterfeit COVID-19 vaccine cards. These shipments were intercepted in Memphis and were bound for different cities in the U.S. Three guesses what the country of origin was for these shipments innocuously marked as being paper products or greeting cards. Ding! Ding! Ding! You’re right. It was China. Ticked off by these goings on, the Memphis Port Director remarked, “If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision. But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my officer’s time, break the law and misrepresent yourself.”

Let’s get real. The pandemic is real; bogus vaccination records are not. Sure, it is your call whether or not to be vaccinated. But all decisions have consequences. The reality is that failure to be vaccinated may impede one’s access to events, venues, and foreign destinations. Trying to get around the vaccination requirement by procuring a fake ID is not a smart move. In fact, using such fake ID’s is a federal crime and a pain felt when receiving a quick shot. And that’s not fake news.

WONDER-ing Woman: Were you aware fake vaccination records were in such demand? Is using or producing such a card an offense justifying imprisonment for up to five years? How do you feel about legitimate online sites allowing ads for or links to illegal products? Are you surprised China is the source of the shipments of fake cards seized in Memphis?