weasels

Stone marten weasel.

A gentle etiquette reminder — how are those thank-you notes coming? Now that the whirlwind of the holidays is over, the gifts have been opened and everyone is turning the focus back to work and daily life, we would remind our readers not to forget to write those all important letters of gratitude. Whether you are thanking a friend, dear Aunt Mae or even thanking a professional for a recent job interview, take the time to sit down and hand write — not type — a short missive expressing your appreciation. Not only is the practice still socially expected, it turns out that spending a few minutes on handwritten notes also provides numerous benefits to the writer. Research done by the University of Chicago in 2018 shows that the practice of expressing gratitude can actually make people mentally and physically healthier. And, writing thank-you notes also does wonders to bolster one’s image in the eyes of the recipients. We’d call that a win-win. In fact, we can’t think of a better return on a 5-minute investment of one’s time.

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Population shifts are good news for Republicans — or is that for Democrats? Last month, the Census Bureau released state population estimations for the year that ended July 1. New state totals, which are used to allocate congressional seats and electoral votes, show 456,000 Americans left Northern and Midwestern states for the South and Southwest. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, eight states — Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia and California — have lost so many residents they each stand to lose a congressional seat. Texas, on the other hand, will likely gain two seats and Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will probably each pick up one seat. Although the determinations won’t affect this November’s elections, they will impact elections in 2021. The question is, how? Kimball Brace of the bipartisan political consulting firm Election Data Services Inc. told The Journal that he expects the population shifts from big Democratic states to benefit the Republican Party. But Democrats say otherwise, noting how the influx of Democrats in several states, including Virginia and Colorado, have turned those states solidly blue. As The Journal notes, “The exact shift of political power also will depend on who wins control of state legislatures in 2020 elections, since those officials will help redraw districts and legislative maps.” In other words, the power will go to the party that turns out the most voters.

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In fiscal year 2019, defense contract spending in Virginia reached a whopping $39 billion. The commonwealth ranks second only to California in terms of defense spending, although Virginia tops the list for defense spending as a share of the state’s gross domestic product at 8.9%. While there are hundreds of military outposts and bases of all sizes scattered throughout the state, no region is as dependent upon military dollars as is Hampton Roads. According to a report from the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic (the coordinator for all shore-based naval personnel and shore activities in the 20-state region), in fiscal year 2018, the U.S. Navy’s economic impact in the region was more than $16 billion, an increase of nearly $2 billion over fiscal year 2017. Economic numbers were even higher, led by a $1.5 billion increase in the procurement of goods and services. Payrolls also saw an increase from nearly $11.4 billion to $11.7 billion. There’s good reason that Rear Adm. Charles Rock, the commander of the Mid-Atlantic organization, calls Hampton Roads “America’s Navy Town.” But, while a well-funded defense budget benefits the Navy and the region, it’s important to remember flush times won’t last forever. A little diversification would be good for the area.

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Germany recently launched a war — against weasels. The stone marten is a species of weasel found throughout Europe. It is cute, smart and mischievous. It is also wrecking havoc in German motor vehicles. The little varmint, whose population has exploded in recent years, seems to have developed a fondness for snuggling up inside the engines of parked German-made cars and munching away on plastic auto parts. Seems the little critters have discerning taste buds and much prefer German car parts to autos from other nations. According to The Wall Street Journal, weasel damage is the fourth most frequently cited cause for non-collision auto insurance claims in Deutschland. Drivers filed nearly 200,000 claims last year — a 42% increase from 2005. For years, researchers and auto owners have searched for a successful defense against the destructive little critters. Manufacturers have tried, with little success, everything from weasel repellent to protective netting and even decoy cables that shock the animals when they bite. We pity the Germans — not only do they, like every other country, have to deal with weasels in politics, now they have them in their cars as well.

— Robin Beres

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