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Monday, August 1, 2022

On Our "Virtual Route 66" This Week: As the new Month is Before Us

As a new month dawns, we present a snapshot of the week that was with insights courtesy the Marshall Project , The Obama Foundation, USAFacts and the Daily Stoic:

Click here for further information on the Obama Foundation:

Ten Florida men with old felony records are charged with voter fraud for voting in 2020. Prosecutors say the former prisoners were not eligible to register or vote under the state’s new felony rechanchisement law because they had not fully paid restitution to their victims. Critics call it unfair. PROPUBLICA TMP Context: In praise of Florida’s historic Amendment 4. THE MARSHALL PROJECT A new Massachusetts law requires jails to expand voting access. BOLTS More: A Colorado man pleaded guilty last week to voting on behalf of his wife, who disappeared in May 2020. He said he voted for Donald Trump because “all these other guys are cheating.” THE NEW YORK TIMES

There aren’t meant to be laws governing these things. They’re supposed to be part of your normal medical care.” With help from social media influencers known for spreading COVID-19 disinformation, leaders of the anti-abortion movement are trying to minimize the public health impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down Roe v. Wade. MOTHER JONES Related commentary: An Indiana doctor’s view on the changed legal landscape: “I don’t want to live in a place where my government tells me that child sex abuse victims must become mothers.” THE WASHINGTON POST

Steve Bannon faces a two-year maximum sentence. It took federal jurors less than three hours to convict the Trump operative of contempt of Congress for failing to respond to a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. NBC NEWS Refusing to testify under oath on Capitol Hill, Bannon went on television Friday after his conviction. He will be sentenced in October. THE WASHINGTON POST Analysis: Should the pardon he received from the former president affect the length of Bannon’s sentence? SENTENCING LAW AND POLICY

ICE unleashed again. Resurrecting a notorious Trump-era policy, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents are once more deporting immigrants detained at routine check-ins. The change came after a federal appeals court rejected another attempt by the Biden administration to alter ICE enforcement priorities. LOS ANGELES TIMES More: Immigration judges asked the federal government last week to restore their union’s recognition, which was stripped during the Trump era. Tracy Short, the chief immigration judge, abruptly announced his resignation as well. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


Marilyn Mosby, the indicted state attorney in Baltimore, Maryland, conceded to her opponent in the Democratic primary. Ivan Bates, who worked as a prosecutor before becoming a defense attorney, will run in the general election against Roya Hanna, an unaffiliated challenger. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS TMP Context: Facing intimidation, Black women prosecutors say “enough.” THE MARSHALL PROJECT

A group of law professors have filed public complaints about 17 New York prosecutors, highlighting misconduct in criminal cases going back decades. The professors hope to energize the state’s moribund attorney discipline process. THE NEW YORK TIMES

Two recent decisions by the North Carolina Supreme Court will give minors a slightly better chance at having their “de facto life sentences” reduced. That’s likely to help incarcerated people of color who have disproportionately received such long sentences. NC POLICY WATCH TMP Context: When the U.S. Supreme Court made it easier for juveniles to get life sentences. THE MARSHALL PROJECT

A new federal lawsuit in Illinois accuses Chicago police of misusing ShotSpotter, the gunshot detection technology, and failing to follow other leads before wrongfully charging a grandfather with murdering his neighbor. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Officials in Harris County, Texas, have approved a $25 million plan to transfer people from its local jail in Houston to a prison across the state. HOUSTON CHRONICLE 

What's your inflation rate?

Consumer prices rose 9.1% from June 2021 to June 2022, the highest rate since 1981. That rate is the average of price increases for more than 200 categories of goods and services, from electricity to haircuts, daycare, rent, ice cream, and much more. Spending on these hundreds of categories depends on a person’s stage in life, meaning Americans of different ages have different inflation rates. 

This new visualization offers granular exploration of spending categories by age. 

  • Middle-age households spend the most money on gasoline, averaging around $2,300 annually in 2019 and 2020. 
  • Gasoline has been a driving force of inflation since March 2021, accounting for nearly 25% of inflation alone. Young households spend about 6% of their budgets on gasoline, while it’s less than 2% for households older than age 85.  
  • Spending on services reflects how families age: college tuition spending eventually replaces daycare and pre-school expenditures, which is then overtaken by health care spending. 
  • Televisions and phones are some of the only categories with falling prices. 

These images are just a glimpse of what’s available. Zoom in for data details in this new visualization; find your age group and see if national spending habits match your own.

Budgeting the James Webb Telescope

Images from the James Webb Space Telescope have wowed people around the globe. A successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the Webb will help scientists search for the first galaxies formed after the creation of the universe, take images of deep space, and much more.

NASA's timeline — and the budget — fluctuated throughout the telescope’s production. See how with this new article.   

  • The Webb Telescope initially had a $1 billion budget and a projected launch in 2010. Development began in 2004 — project spending passed $1.2 billion after three years.
  • Throughout the changes in its funding and launch date projections, the Webb Telescope was between 1.5% and 4.0% of NASA’s total budget. For comparison, NASA’s most expensive project, the International Space Station, which was 5.7% of its FY 2021 expenditures.

Learn about the telescope’s budget and mission right here.

Tracking new COVID-19 variants

New Omicron subvariants can replace old ones so quickly that it can be challenging to keep up with the current state of coronavirus in the US. We’ve updated this visual to help track variants and subvariants dating back to January of this year. 

The Omicron BA.5 subvariant emerged in the US in late April. As of July, it accounted for most COVID-19 cases nationwide.

Can you score 7/7?

The weekly quiz is back! See the newest articles at USAFacts, then put your nonpartisan data knowledge to the test.

One last fact

Real estate is the top contributor to GDP in 20 states, the most of any industry. Meanwhile, mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction contributes the most to GDPs in North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The sudden and undeniable rising costs of everything are painful. Housing is more expensive. Flights are more expensive. Ubers are more expensive. Takeout is more expensive. And it’s understandable that this would be annoying—even a Stoic like Seneca would have categorized lower prices as a “preferred indifferent.”

But it is interesting how we only ever seem to notice or comment on prices when they are higher and more inconvenient. As Derek Thompson recently pointed out in The Atlantic, for the last decade many goods and services have been artificially cheap—so cheap in fact that many venture-backed companies selling these things to us were deliberately losing money. Housing was cheap because of the effects of the ‘08 recession and the suppressed interest rates that followed not long after. Even the last couple years of reduced traffic and shorter lines at the airport was simply because of the pandemic.

How many of us appreciated this while it was happening? How many of us were grateful? Or understood that it couldn’t last? It’s important we realize that part of the stoic discipline of perception is not being deceived—by the negatives or the positives, by the number of green lights or the number of red lights when the law of averages reverts your traffic luck to the mean. Proper perception means never missing the fact that many of the “extra” costs of today are actually being paid for by the “savings” of yesterday.

Life has a way of evening out, not in a yin and yang, karmic sense, but in the cyclical nature of systems, processes, incentives, pressures and so on. Power changes hands, tastes elevate and the moderate, prices go up and down, markets do what they do. Perspective helps you notice these cycles and not be spun around by them—or rather be spun around by our opinions about them.

It’s our opinions about these things—the good and the bad—as the Stoics say, that upset us. And those are the only things we control.

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