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:

Prices going up? Time magazine suggests consumer prices have risen due to a 15% tariff rate imposed by the Trump administration on $125 billion worth of Chinese imports. More tariff increases are expected in October and December, calculated to cost American households up to $970 this year.

Between 7,000 and 9,000 years ago, in an area of what is now Utah, a unique potato helped ingienous people survive amid climate changes. According to High Country News, archaeologists discovered the role of the potato Solanum jamesii, which has twice the protein and calcium of today’s grocery store variety (Solanum tuberosum) and three times as much zinc, iron and manganese.. 

Fifty legal experts, drawn from across the political spectrum, recently signed a letter of support for creating a 28th Amendment that would undo the contentious Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared that political spending counts as free speech. Bills in the House and the Senate would create the amendment, “put[ting] us back on a strong foundation of free speech for all Americans, not just those with unlimited wealth,” stated Jeff Clements, president of America’s Promise, a non-profit seeking to undo the 2010 “money is speech” ruling.

Dealing with domestic terrorists is further complicated by funding cuts: Just two years ago, the Homeland Security office that deals with domestic terrorism had 16 full-time employees and 25 contractors, responsible for a $21 million budget; now that office is down to eight employees, no contractors and a budget of $2.6 million, NBC News reports. 

In the U.S., transportation accounted for 29% of all emissions in 2017 — in particular, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Those wanting to make amends for their carbon footprint can purchase carbon offsets. But ProPublica, in a May report, said a review of two decades-worth of forest carbon offset organizations found that some accomplish very little. If uncertain how to select an offset organization, consider instead making a donation to your favorite environmental protection group.

Poverty can be a disease, according to Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute for Health Equity at University College in London. It’s complex, but reversible: While U.S. poor are rich compared to the poor in other countries, the U.S. poor die sooner. Marmot’s research indicates that, along with lack of resources, the poor also suffer from a “sense of marginalization in society.” That causes feelings of deprivation, which creates stress and declines in health. Add in variations in parenting skills, such as 20% of mothers in a UK study who found no significant need to talk to and cuddle their kids. A UK parenting program, which encouraged more interaction with offspring, showed children from participating low-income families performed better academically and behaviorally, helping them later on with employment. 

Archaeologists now enjoy the benefits of LiDAR — Light Detection And Ranging, which uses radar for surveying large areas quickly and accurately. Using LiDAR, a Mayan site was found to encompass an unexpected 67 square miles and would have taken 25 years to survey and excavate. LiDAR drawback: While it’s easier to locate archaeological sites, it’s also easier to loot them, reports American Archaeology. Other LiDAR uses include surveying glacier melt and preventing self-driving cars from crashing

EPA has proposed cutting back on rules that reduce methane leaks from oil and gas companies. Methane makes up 10% of all greenhouse gasses. According to The New York Times, various members of the fossil fuel industry are objecting to EPA’s rule-cutting plan, saying regulations should instead be tightened. Why? The industry says tighter regulations would be good for the country — and their reputations.

Green-washing: When electrified travel became popular in Los Angeles, a fossil fuel advocacy group began a campaign to classify natural gas-powered buses as “zero emissions” vehicles. But, Earthjustice reports, natural gas does generate carbon dioxide and also emits methane during its production. L.A. has voted to transition to an electric bus fleet by 2030.

Blast from the past: “You don’t have to be great at something to start, but you have to start to be great at something.” Zig Ziglar, 1926-2012, American author, salesman and motivational speaker. 

Another blast: Electric cars are not so new. The first one is credited to Scottish inventor Robert Anderson, whose vehicle was completed sometime between 1832-1839.

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