Fugitive teen Ethan Couch, captured in a Mexico resort city after violating terms of his court-ordered probation. (Agence France-Presse)
Texas prosecutors asked a judge on Tuesday to move to adult court the case of a teenager given probation in juvenile court for killing four people while driving drunk, a sentence critics say was too lenient and influenced by the family's wealth.
Ethan Couch, derided for an "affluenza" defense for the 2013 fatal crash, fled to Mexico in December with his mother in likely violation of the probation deal that kept him out of prison after being convicted in juvenile court of four counts of intoxication manslaughter.
Lawyers for Couch, who is being held at an immigration detention facility in Mexico, want the proceedings in Fort Worth to come to a halt, arguing the case should not go forward because their client is not there.
Tarrant County prosecutors contended Couch is responsible for his own absence by fleeing to Mexico and fighting his deportation.
If Couch is found to have violated his probation and his case in transferred, he could face about four months in an adult prison. Another probation violation could bring up to 40 years in prison, legal sources said.
Couch was 16 when he was tried in 2013 with a psychiatrist testifying the boy had "affluenza" and his family's wealth had left him so spoiled that it impaired his judgment to tell right from wrong.
The affluenza diagnosis, which is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, was widely ridiculed.
Couch and his mother, Tonya Couch, 48, fled to Mexico in early December after a social media video emerged showing him in possible violation of his probation by being at an alcohol-laden party.
Mother and son drove a pickup truck to Puerto Vallarta shortly after that, where they were caught by Mexican authorities after a manhunt lasting more than two weeks.
Tonya Couch was charged this month in Tarrant County with a third-degree felony for helping her son flee. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
(Reporting by Marice Richter and Jon Herskovitz; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott and Alden Bentley)
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has yet to jump into the race for the Republican party's 2024 presidential nomination, and there are growing indications that he may not be able to pull away a substantial segment of Donald Trump supporters that would allow him to not only beat the former president in the GOP primaries but also win in a general election.
According to a report from Politico's Steven Shepard, DeSantis is going through all of the motions of running for president, without actually announcing, but he is running into speedbumps when it comes to rallying conservative voters to his camp.
Put simply by Shepard, DeSantis' presidential drive has "hit the skids."
What should be of concern to the DeSantis camp is the inability to pull away what are now being called "beer track" voters, described as having "lower incomes and levels of educational attainment," who have strongly allied themselves with the former president.
As the Politico report notes, it's getting worse for the high-profile Florida governor.
"While DeSantis is still the preferred candidate of high-income voters and those with college degrees, he is showing signs of bleeding there, too. In recent weeks, Trump’s numbers have been rising among all Republicans, including with GOP voters most skeptical of his candidacy in the so-called 'wine track,'" Shepard is reporting.
"It’s obviously still early in the 2024 contest: DeSantis isn’t even a declared candidate yet, and most of the new polls were conducted prior to the news that Trump may soon face criminal charges in New York related to an alleged hush-money payment he made during his 2016 campaign to hide an extramarital affair. Other potential legal troubles loom on the horizon," he continued before adding, "But even if the campaign hasn’t officially started, the recent polling trends do provide positive data for Trump and troubling numbers for DeSantis."
"For now, however, the greatest divide with potential to define the 2024 Republican primary is class. Don’t expect the most educated Republicans to fall in love with Trump, or the 'beer track' to abandon him en masse. But any marked shifts among these groups in the coming months could make the difference," he predicted.
The modern world runs on electricity, and wires are what carry that electricity to every light, television, heating system, cellphone and computer on the planet. Unfortunately, on average, about 5% of the power generated at a coal or solar power plant is lost as the electricity is transmitted from the plant to its final destination. This amounts to a US$6 billion loss annually in the U.S. alone.
To see why these recent advances are so exciting and what impact they may have on the world, it’s important to understand how superconducting materials work.
Most materials offer resistance when electricity runs through them and heat up. Resistance is how filaments in an incandescent lightbulb produce light Ulfbastel/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
A resistance-free material
A superconductor is any material that conducts electricity without offering any resistance to the flow of the electric current.
This resistance-free attribute of superconductors contrasts dramatically with standard conductors of electricity – like copper or aluminum – which heat up when current passes through them. This is similar to quickly sliding your hand across a smooth, slick surface compared to sliding your hand over a rough rug. The rug generates more friction and, therefore, more heat, too. Electric toasters and older-style incandescent lightbulbs use resistance to produce heat and light, but resistance can pose problems for electronics. Semiconductors have resistance below that of conductors, but still higher than that of superconductors.
Superconductive materials repel magnetic fields, making it possible to levitate a magnet above a superconductor.
Another characteristic of superconductors is that they repel magnetic fields. You may have seen videos of the fascinating result of this effect: It is possible to levitate magnets above a superconductor.
How do superconductors work?
All superconductors are made of materials that are electrically neutral – that is, their atoms contain negatively charged electrons that surround a nucleus with an equal number of positively charged protons.
If you attach one end of a wire to something that is positively charged, and the other end to something that is negatively charged, the system will want to reach equilibrium by moving electrons around. This causes the electrons in the wire to try to move through the material.
At normal temperatures, electrons move in somewhat erratic paths. They can generally succeed in moving through a wire freely, but every once in a while they collide with the nuclei of the material. These collisions are what obstruct the flow of electrons, cause resistance and heat up the material.
The nuclei of all atoms are constantly vibrating. In a superconducting material, instead of flitting around randomly, the moving electrons get passed along from atom to atom in such a way that they keep in sync with the vibrating nuclei. This coordinated movement produces no collisions and, therefore, no resistance and no heat.
The colder a material gets, the more organized the movement of electrons and nuclei becomes. This is why existing superconductors only work at extremely low temperatures.
If scientists can develop a room-temperature superconducting material, wires and circuitry in electronics would be much more efficient and produce far less heat. The benefits of this would be widespread.
If the wires used to transmit electricity were replaced with superconducting materials, these new lines would be able to carry up to five times as much electricity more efficiently than current cables.
The speed of computers is mostly limited by how many wires can be packed into a single electric circuit on a chip. The density of wires is often limited by waste heat. If engineers could use superconducting wires, they could fit many more wires in a circuit, leading to faster and cheaper electronics.
Finally, with room-temperature superconductors, magnetic levitation could be used for all sorts of applications, from trains to energy-storage devices.
With recent advances providing exciting news, both researchers looking at the fundamental physics of high-temperature superconductivity as well as technologists waiting for new applications are paying attention.
According to MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin, under normal circumstances, the former president would have drug out a legal fight over attorney-client privilege that would have kept attorney Evan Corcoran from testifying under oath about Trump's possession of government documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort that led to the FBI showing up with a warrant.
As Rubin notes, the fact that Trump let Corcoran testify over three hours raised eyebrows.
"For one, yes, it is indeed unusual, if not unheard of, for a lawyer to be litigating against a party one day and then testifying under court-ordered examination by that same party the next one," she wrote before suggesting Trump and his legal team were looking at the long game when he might need the predominately conservative Supreme Court to lend him a helping hand.
Writing, "Trump has made clear he believes this Supreme Court — controlled by conservative justices, three of whom he appointed — owes him one," she added, "My hunch is that Trump’s team let Corcoran’s testimony happen because of what’s likely involved in any request to pause, much less, review a crime-fraud-related ruling: the evidence."
"Put another way, if Trump had petitioned the Supreme Court to stay Corcoran’s testimony and document production, the justices would have seen some, if not all, of what Judge Howell and the three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit have already reviewed: proof that Trump misled Corcoran and engaged in criminal conduct," she elaborated.
Rubin went on to note that Trump would likely appeal any conviction to the Supreme Court, writing, "And for someone whose one last hope, if he is ultimately charged or tried by any of the multiple entities now investigating him, is that same Supreme Court, letting the justices see evidence of his alleged crimes now would be a bridge too far."
"Trump can’t afford to lose the Supreme Court yet," she suggested.