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:

Mammoth for dinner: While preparing a landfill site, excavators in the suburbs of Mexico City recently found a 15,000-year-old man-made pit used to trap wooly mammoths. It was six feet deep, almost seven feet wide, and held more than 800 bones from about 14 mammoths, The New York Times reported.

How to keep a healthy economy if robots eat most of the jobs: As outlined in a Mother Jones report, the options include free national health care and a basic sum for food and housing; a modest or substantial universal basic income; no time limits on unemployment benefits; a tax on robots (endorsed by Bill Gates); and/or, socialization of robots, meaning they’ll be owned by the government, with their services auctioned out to raise revenue.

The Audubon Society points out that focused efforts on reviving declining wildlife numbers can pay off. Bald eagles were scarce decades ago but their numbers have since rebounded. Yet, today there are 2.9 billion fewer birds as a whole when compared to 50 years ago, the journal Science has reported. Three factors are cited by the Audubon Society as problems: use of toxic pesticides; habitat loss; and the effects of climate change, such as fires, heat waves, rising sea levels and harsh weather.

The progressive action group, Sum of Us, faces libel charges from PayPal after protesting outside PayPal headquarters. The protesters disagreed with PayPal doing business with a German neo-Nazi group, Pro Chemnitz. Sum of Us says the neo-Nazis have attacked Jewish restaurants and engaged in refugee hunts. Though PayPal filed suit, pressure from Sum of Us worked: The company suspended the Pro Chemnitz account in late November.

There is hope for battling agricultural runoff into the Gulf of Mexico, of which 70% comes from agricultural nitrogen and has created an aquatic dead zone. Farmers can now access the Environmental Defense Fund’s NutrientStar guide, which assesses the use of nutrient management, cover crops, no-till practices, natural buffers and wetlands — all of which can reduce fertilizer waste and improve water quality.

A recent study in the journal Nature says ice in Greenland is melting seven times faster than it did in the 1990s and, by the end of the century, will expose 400 million people worldwide to risks from rising seawater. While climate negotiators want to limit the rise to 6.5 feet, there are studies that show a 65-foot increase is inevitable.

TIME magazine says the number of physicians supporting single-payer health care has gone up: it was 42% 10 years ago and rose to 56% in 2017. The stats also say that physicians spend 23% of their time on paperwork and 66% say third-party authorizations, treatment protocols and electronic records hurt patient care.

Meanwhile, Wendell Potter, a former vice president for corporate health care communications, and now president of Business for Medicare for All, says the medical industry will attack presidential candidates’ plans for health care for all using deception. Potter says numerous employers are now aware that private insurers can’t and don’t want to control escalating health care costs. “[Business leaders] are fed up with being hit year after year with double-digit premium increases and having to push their workers into high-deductible plans,” which he says has led to serious interest in overhauling the health care industry.

The Senate is being asked to enact the Native American Seeds Protection Act. Over the past century, the United States has lost 935 of its food seed varieties. The Act would determine ways to preserve authentic American seeds and traditional foods, and work to deter fraudulent claims of “wanna-be” products. Native American seeds are valued for their genetic diversity, nutritional superiority to genetically modified foods and ability to stand up to extreme weather.

Blast from the past: “Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and scientist, 1706-1790.

Blast from the past: Republican President Richard Nixon resigned from office rather than be impeached. How he differed from the current president, who was recently impeached by the House: Nixon was interested in universal health care, which would have been similar to the Affordable Care Act. Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in response to environmental and health threats from industrial toxins. The current president has overseen dismantling some 75 components of environmental protection. Nixon expanded Social Security and Medicare; the current administration encourages privatizing both.

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