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:

Hope for cattle flatulence: In the U.S. cattle and other ruminants create 36% of the nation’s methane emissions; methane traps 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide, greatly accelerating climate change. According to a report in Mother Jones, research from Australia indicates that cattle fed a 2 percent diet of seaweed show a 99% reduction in methane emissions. California has 1.8 million dairy cows, and research at the University of California-Davis is exploring how best to acquire the seaweed for livestock. The World Wildlife Fund says seaweed farming for bovines can provide jobs, enhance the marine environment and produce nutritious food for people as well as farm animals. The Atlantic reports that seaweed does not impact the taste of milk.

Due to more wealth accumulated by those at the top income tier, only half of those born in the 1980s will out-earn their parents, according to University of California research. Other obstacles to getting ahead include 300% more student loan debt, stagnant wages and higher house prices. According to The Week, trends such as these have helped fuel increased membership in the Democratic Socialists of America.

New York City voters just approved instant run-off voting, a.k.a. ranked choice voting. The new voting method dodges the specter of a candidate with less than 50% of the vote winning an election.

September saw a 24% rise in U.S. farm bankruptcies, according to Bloomberg. The surge was blamed on unfavorable weather and the trade war with China. Estimates point to 40% of farmers’ profits this year coming from federal subsidies, trade aid, disaster assistance and insurance payments.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to protect the Grand Canyon from toxic uranium mining. Now parks advocates are hoping the Senate will pass the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act, which would protect 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims. Dangers posed by mining include soil and waterway contamination and radioactive sludge.

Insects are disappearing at a rate of 2.5% a year, says Business Insider. Reasons: loss of habitat, use of pesticides and fertilizers, and climate change. At this rate, researchers estimate there will be no insects left by the next century — threatening the survival of birds, fish and mammal species, as well as plants that rely on pollinators.

California legislators have banned private for-profit prisons, NBC reports. The action came following the discovery of “serious violations” during an unannounced prison investigation.

The Trump Administration has been ordered in federal court to provide mental health services to families seeking new lives in the U.S., but who were separated from one another under the “zero tolerance” policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the dean of the school of law at the University of California-Berkeley, the ruling is a recognition that government-inflicted trauma deserves remedy by the government. Estimates are that the government separated 5,500 children from their parents. What’s more, while many parents were deported their children remain under U.S. “watch,” reports The New York Times.

Legislation recently passed in California will bring an end to the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos in late 2020. Chlorpyrifos, used on food crops, has been associated with lowered IQ, autism, ADHD, and severe and permanent brain damage in young children. It has also poisoned farm workers.

Blast from the past: “When a man unprincipled in private life[,] desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper … despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’” Alexander Hamilton, U.S. statesman and political leader, having served in the cabinet of President George Washington.

And another blast: “When the speech condemns a free press, you are hearing the words of a tyrant.” Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. president, 1801-1809, a Democratic-Republican.

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