Bits ‘n’ Pieces

From east, west and beyond

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Sales of CBD, the non-high form of cannabis, have tripled in the past three years, reports Time magazine. While the Food and Drug Administration has declared CBD safe, regulators say the science is slow to find benefits. An editorial comment in Scientific American recommends using a portion of CBD taxes to support CBD research.

Russia belatedly admitted to a nuclear accident at a missile test site not far from Finland and Sweden. According to U.K.-based The Guardian, the explosion appears to have occurred Aug. 8 when an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile exploded. Because information was delayed, there’s been concern the incident could be a “major nuclear accident” comparable to Chernobyl. At least seven were killed, and for 30 minutes, nearby cities experienced a radiation spike 20 times higher than the norm.

The U.S. House passed legislation for a $15 an hour minimum pay by 2025, which could lift 1.3 million out of poverty. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell states he will ignore it, The Washington Post reports.

A heat wave last summer caused European potatoes to grow smaller. To compensate: “we will all be eating smaller fries,” Belgium’s Walloon Potato Growers’ Association stated.

Several news organizations have seen a leaked draft executive order calling for the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to create guidelines for controlling internet social media content. Some speculate the EO is in response to allegations that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are biased against conservatives. An independent study of the topic by The Economist showed that bias is toward virality and attention, not political ideology. PEN America, an organization that defends free speech by the media, said the draft is contrary to the First Amendment, and, “It’s regrettable that the [Trump] Administration doesn’t seem to know that.” CNN reports that Libertarians object to the FCC being involved and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has worked on legislation to get rid of “slime and hate” online says the order is too reminiscent of “speech police.”

Rumors abound about the demise of Social Security, but Congress has ways to mend current problems. One is by passing the $350 “benefit bump” legislation, which was recently reintroduced by Rep. John B. Larson, D-Conn. It outlines how to enhance and stabilize Social Security, (while also expanding benefits and cutting taxes on those benefits), by making billionaires pay their fair share into the program.

Climate change, translated: In the summer of 2050, temperatures are likely to be 10.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in London, 7.2 F warmer in New York City, 3.6 F warmer in Tokyo and 11 F warmer in Seattle, the journal PLOS One reports. Cities in tropical zones could become uninhabitable.

In response to the March 2019 massacre of 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, that country’s prime minister recently released more plans for deterring mass shootings: mandatory registry of all guns and no gun purchases by foreigners. After Christchurch, the nation banned the sale and possession of semi-automatic firearms. The additional laws will affirm that firearm ownership is a privilege, not a right, the prime minister said.

People with serious mental illnesses are responsible for about .3% of violent crimes, says the American Psychological Association. While the rate of mental illness is similar worldwide, the U.S. is the only country with an ultra-high rate of mass shootings. The Association says a characteristic held in common by mass shooters is problems with self-esteem and “perceived social rejection.”

Old growth trees in southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest hold 8% of all carbon stored in U.S. forests. Plans to log in the Tongass would result in carbon emissions, once sequestered by the trees, equal to 4 million vehicles. Research shows it can take 200 years for regrown forests to capture as much carbon as logging releases, Earthjustice reports.

Blast from the past: Prior to American Independence, New World slave-holders had patrol systems to regulate slaves and deter uprisings. The Georgia militia, for example, had a requirement that they inspect slave quarters monthly in search of arms and ammunition, and also be alert for signs of uprisings. Historian Thom Hartmann explains that the Second Amendment took its current form when, at the 1788 Virginia Ratifying Convention, slave owner Patrick Henry raised the issue of protecting Virginian slave patrols. For more, read “Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas,” by Sally Hadden, Harvard University Press.

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