A Few Answers To Questions You Always Wondered About

July 18, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Answers

witness protection

How does the witness protection program work exactly?

You have different levels of witness protection, but I assume you are talking about the most advanced, which would be WITSEC run by the Department of Justice and the US Marshals service.

Before the person testifies, USMS would be responsible for protecting the person and in coordinating with the local police agencies, would be responsible for getting them to and from trial to testify.

After they testify, USMS will relocate them to a different location and will provide them with back stopped identifications. These are not fake IDS, they are real IDs issued by people within the Federal and State agencies that assist with the program. Basically, those agencies add this new identity to their databases and may backstop it (create archived information to show the person has existed and wasn’t just created out of thin air) this way nobody, even other people from that agency, would know it was a fake identification. they would obviously then be issued legitimate documents under that created identitity such as social security cards, birth certificates, maybe driver’s licenses, and even some other stuff such as high school diplomas and other stuff possibly needed to help them get work, get their kids into school, etc.

They would be coached by their coordinator regarding their and their families new identifications. Basically, name, date of birth, and their new identities history. Practicing signing and writing their new name so they don’t accidentally sign their old identity on a credit card receipt or something.

The majority of these people are criminals themselves and about one if five of them are subsequently arrested again in WITSEC which causes a problems for the program and may require intervention from WITSEC. The most infamous example of this was mob gangster associate Henry Hill (goodfellas), who was arrested after spending years in WITSEC.

A person can leave WITSEC at anytime, the program is completely voluntary.

The persons family is often allowed, and encouraged, to join the person in WITSEC.



gun silencer

Why are gun silencers not used extensively among criminals?

  1. They don’t “silence” weapons that effectively – Despite what you see in films, the best quality firearms suppressors shave only 20-40 dB off of the sound of a firearm discharging. It’s often not worth the time,nor the effort to obtain one since it doesn’t suppress the sound that well.
  2. They are expensive – Sound suppressors purchased legally aren’t cheap; those bought on the street are sold for very high amounts of money. Most criminals steal the weapons they use or they purchase them stolen from street sources. A weapon is a high dollar acquisition, leaving little for accessories.
  3. Weapons rarely have integral suppressors – Most of the time the suppressor has to be attached prior to the weapon being fired. Since that takes time and most street shootings aren’t well-planned affairs, it would be impractical for criminals to carry or use suppressors.
  4. It brings higher sentences – Using a firearm with a suppressor to commit to crimes is a federal offense in the United States. Also, possessing one without the proper documentation can result in a ten year sentence. Most criminals want to avoid getting harsh penalties and if they used a suppressor, they would likely do so in situations where there would no possible chance that they would be caught doing as such.

– Jon Mixon



Why are drug prices so high?

Drug development is the most high risk/high reward industry possible. It costs roughly 2 billion USD to take a drug from conception to market. The vast majority of drugs never make it to market. Each of those failures costs some fraction of 2 billion USD. Many of those failures are weeded out only at the end when all of that investment has already been made. For those failures, the company makes back 0 of it’s investment. It’s not like a phone that doesn’t sell as spectacularly well as hoped. It’s no product at all. You can’t even learn much from those failures. It’s years of people lives (sometimes 10 or more) and huge amounts of money that just evaporate. It’s crushing.

This is why the drugs that work have to be expensive. They have to pay the company back and more for all the failures. Interestingly, most companies making drugs aren’t huge. Most are quite small:

Here’s an anecdote that represents a typical trajectory of a drug in development. It’s an entirely true story but the numbers are best approximations:

Small company starts with idea, raises 10 million from venture capital, hires 5 people. 99 of 100 of those investments go nowhere, so the investors want a HUGE stake to make it worthwhile. At least 51%. You’d be reckless to ask for less. But hey, you now have a company doing innovative science where before you had nothing. So anywho, they lease lab space and equipment and develop the idea and it shows promise. Round 2 of financing comes in, another 50 million at the cost of another 30% stake, they hire 30 more people, lease a larger space and buy more necessary equipment. It’s getting to be an expensive company to run and it so far has nothing to sell. It starts to ‘burn’ money at a rate that means the doors can only stay open for maybe another year. The idea continues to show promise. It works in cells, it works in mice, it works in primates, it’s time for clinic. Round 3 of funding comes in with 100 million, and that costs 15% of the remaining stake. Company hires 20 more people, this time mostly bureaucrats to set up a proposal for an ‘Investigational New Drug’ application. This is what you need to convince the FDA to allow you to start clinical trials on humans. Right now, the original owners retain only 4% of the original stake.

So, time for clinical trials. Phase 1 begins with 30 healthy adults. This is just to show that the drug is safe. It costs 10 million USD. The company has zero profits so far and has been paying 60 people for years, so it has to pay for this cost by leveraging 3% of the final stake. Eventually, the ‘burn’ rate means that it has to fire 90% of their scientists as they can’t afford salaries anymore. That’s OK though, because this startup has succeeded. You see, Phase 1 clinical trial pass (the drug is safe) and it’s onto phase 2 (which asks ‘is it effective?). This costs 40 million USD more but no more money is left. What to do? Only one option. The investors who now control 99% of the company decide to sell everything to a company like Novartis/Merck/GSK, etc. The company sells for 500 million USD on the expected promise of the new drug. Original founders walk away with 5 million USD due to having a 1% stake. Everyone else is out on their ass looking for a new startup. This is considered a HUGE success in the startup world. It’s what everyone hoped for.

Now, Merck or whoever takes over development of drug X. Drug passes Phase 2 but fails in Phase 3 Trials.

And that’s how you lose 1 billion USD over 10 years with 100s of cumulative years of human work down the drain.

THIS is why developing drugs is expensive and THIS is why the drugs that work are expensive.

To anyone saying that Universities should make drugs instead of industry: There are very, very few universities that could afford this. Harvard maybe. Most universities would spend their entire endowment on a 9 to 1 shot. Universities like bonds for a reason. You don’t play roulette with your endowment. This is a job for people willing to risk billions. And this, my friends is why drug development is so centralized in the US. Fucking cowboy investors are the best route forward here.

And for those who think this is cynical, please recall that for the actual people who founded this company and for the scientists doing the research, they are most often driven by a desire to cure horrific diseases and change the world. The money aspect is a necessary evil that good people need to navigate. Consider that a typical PhD scientist makes about 1/4 as much as a physician and spends a similar amount of time in education (13 years for me from BS to end of postdoc). The people actually researching new drugs are doing it because they are passionate about human health. Not because they are ‘shills’.



If humans evolved from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?

1. There is nothing in evolution that states, insinuates, or infers that the entire population of a species must evolve in unison so that once the evolved animal (whatever it is) has evolved, it is all that remains. All species on Earth evolved from bacteria, but bacteria have not gone anywhere, now have they? Lower-order animals from which higher-order animals have evolved from are not required to then do or die. Those lower-order animals, if they still have the required adaptions to survive will do exactly that: survive. If the ecological niche remains, so will species adapted to that niche.

2. is that natural selection by random mutation is the gradual process on long time scales of small parent/child genetic differences that add up over thousands, millions, and billions of years. The most significant factor in natural selection by random mutation is the natural selection part. The environment punishes those that are ill-adapted to it and rewards those with beneficial mutations. As such, differential environmental conditions imposed on an identical species group will, given enough time, yield enormous differences.

Picture an example: a group of primates has adapted to live in the African rain-forest. A group of said primates, for whatever reason, become separated and stranded hundreds of kilometers away on the Savannah. Somehow, by some fluke of nature, they manage to eke out an existence. The former group is not subjected to any new selective (environmental) pressures; the latter group stranded in an environment to which they have not had time to adapt face new environmental pressures. Those pressures reward certain members, and their future offspring (those with beneficial mutations), with increased success in surviving and passing on those mutations. Eventually, beneficial mutations such as tallness and more upright walking (ability to spot predators from further away), tool-making (increases strength/efficiency which contributes to hunting success), and finer motor control (increases tool-making and tool-yielding ability) are adaptations that the environment selects for and rewards. After a million years, the Savannah group are taller, bigger, and possess fine motor control (and perhaps intelligence as a result). The rain-forest group, having no selection pressures out of the ordinary remain, more or the less, the same (although gene flow would be likely to change them somewhat also). The latter group can be said to have evolved form the former group, yet the former group persists.



Why should you never co-sign a loan?

In 2011, when I was young and dumb, my older sister asked me to sign for a car loan for her and her husband for a 2011 Infiniti QX56 totaling about $60,000. At the time, her husband was the sole earner while my sister didn’t work for religious reasons even though she has like 2 masters degree. I had pretty good credit while they had very bad credit. At the time, I was saving money along with my then girlfriend to buy a home. I initially turned down the request from my sister but my family pressed me and I stupidly relented and signed the contract which cost me my relationship with my then girlfriend. At the same time, I also signed a contract to rent a home in Texas for them (i lived in DC at the time and now Seattle) because of their bad credit. They kept up with the payments on the car and home until about 19 months ago. Due to financial issues, they started slipping up in their payments eventually leading up to them being evicted (and I only found out about the eviction after the fact due to an alert on my credit report). The landlord sued them (me) and got a default judgment against me for about $5000. In addition, the financial institution I got the car loan for contacted me today trying to repossess the car. My sister and her husband failed to inform me that they were 96 days past due to the tune of $4,000. I had to pay $4000 to have the repossession activity halted.

My sister and her husband can’t make payments so I have to now. The car loan is valued at $29000 with a monthly car note of $1054.

–  redshrek