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:

A U.S. District judge in Boston has declared the search of electronic devices at border crossings unconstitutional and a violation of the Fourth Amendment, according to Business Insider. Any searches would require a warrant based on reasonable suspicion.

California is the second state to allow cities and counties to create public banks. The banks will be able to provide capital at interest rates lower than those offered by commercial banks, the Los Angeles Times reports. North Dakota began public banking in 1919 to dodge predatory lending practices.

Since 2009, euthanasia rates at animal shelters in the nation’s 20 largest cities have dropped 75%, according to The New York Times. Reasons include more spaying and neutering, higher regard for animals and efforts by shelters to nurture a more adoptable pet, such as housing pets in rooms rather than cages.

After a new outbreak of E. coli contamination in romaine lettuce, Congress has the chance to approve the Expanded Food Safety Investigation Act. According to Consumer Reports, the proposal would allow the FDA to use existing technology to quickly determine the source of contamination. If enacted, uncontaminated food could still be sold, rather than the current practice of stopping all sales of a particular food regardless if it’s contaminated. 

What oceans do: they are essential to our oxygen supply, regulate the climate and absorb CO2. But, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the oceans have already absorbed 90% of the planet’s excess heat, leading to rising water temperatures, dead zones bereft of marine life, and an acceleration of acidity levels that threaten fisheries and entire ecosystems.

Rapes have reached a crisis point in South Africa but, The New York Times reports, a survivor of sexual violence has created an effective training regimen that has cut the number of rapes in half. The program pivots around teaching school boys about consent and how to stop attacks; girls are taught self-defense and how to identify risks. The program’s advocates see it as easily replicated worldwide.

In an effort to raise money for medical bills, a quarter million Go Fund Me campaigns are launched every year, according to Public Citizen.

Move over Ukraine. The Trump administration has been withholding without explanation $105 million in military aid to Lebanon, The New York Times reports. The aid suspension prompted two people at the Office of Management and Budget to resign. When the mysterious withholding gained media attention, the funds were released. The blockage created vulnerability for Lebanon to hazardous influence from both Russia and Iran.

Due to his Republican Party ties, the latest Democratic presidential hopeful, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, is being questioned about his motives. Politico reports Trump lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (now under investigation) endorsed Bloomberg’s race for mayor of New York City. Bloomberg has spent millions on Republican congressional campaigns, during the George W. Bush years only giving to Republicans. While he does donate to some Democrats, he typically does not donate to those who support taxing the rich. 

Three U.S. Senators have introduced the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act for Congressional consideration. The Act would raise the corporate tax rate by 0.5% for companies that pay their executives 50 times more than their typical worker. For companies that pay their CEOs 500 times the pay of their median workers, the tax rate would be 5%.

Speaking of taxes, FedEx paid no taxes last year, despite showing $4.6 billion in profits, The New York Times reports. FedEx’s founder was among 7,000 corporate lobbyists who fought for corporate tax breaks in 2017. They were rewarded when their tax rate dropped from 35% to 21%. (The tax rate is 24.2% for the bottom half of taxpayers; in 1950 the tax rate for the top 400 households was 70%.)

Blast from the past: While there have been questions as to whether a sitting president can be indicted, arrested, handcuffed, etc., history shows that Civil War General and President U.S. Grant was arrested by a black police officer in Washington, D.C. for speeding in his horse-drawn buggy. The officer stopped the president in a zone where a mother and child had been run over by speeding carriages, explained the problem and encouraged Grant to set a good example. But it happened again the next evening: same officer, same president. The officer arrested Grant and other speeders and took them to the police station. A trial the next day resulted in no appearance by Grant, but did result in heavy fines following testimony from 32 “ladies of the most refined character.”

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