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:

Sociologists say physically attractive workers typically earn higher incomes than “average” looking workers, and women are pressured to bridge the “grooming gap” with careful selection of clothing and makeup. Those who don’t are paid less, In These Times reports. A 2017 study showed the average female worker wears $8 worth of makeup daily, requiring an average of 55 minutes for application.

Ranchers in 1970 earned 70 cents for every dollar consumers spent on beef. Today they earn fewer than 40 cents, according to Mother Jones. Their profit margins have fallen 30% since 2016, while meat packers’ profits have risen 68%.

The Trump administration plans to eliminate environmental planning protections from projects subject to review, which would include most mines, pipelines, refineries and chemical plants, thus erasing 50 years of basic environmental rulemaking. The proposal also forbids planning for climate change. The New York Times reports that projects requiring environmental review would be exempt from addressing cumulative impacts.

In case your dog needs to know: Americans spent $75.38 billion on their pets in 2019, and 59% of pet owners said they planned to buy their pet a gift during the holidays, reports.

Top leaders in Australia have been accused of indirectly feeding the nation’s devastating fires by ignoring numerous warnings from scientists about their continent’s climate emergency. In the G20 Brown to Green Report ranking of the world’s largest economies Australia ranked as one of the worst with regards to taking action to address climate change. As reported to The Guardian, Australia’s emissions are increasing (U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped 2.1% in 2019), despite Australia having excellent solar and wind energy potential. Instead, Australian leaders have focused on building up the coal and gas industries — both drivers of climate change.

There are seven chemical food additives linked to cancer, but the Food and Drug Administration allows them to remain on the market, according to EarthJustice. The substances imitate mint, cinnamon, citrus and other flavors used in consumables like beer, candy and ice cream. EarthJustice has sued the FDA to prohibit their use in foodstuffs.

What would Colonial tea partiers think? U.S. Corporations, aided by some elected officials, have been creating laws intended to deter protesters from showing up at sites the new laws regard as “critical infrastructure”: fossil fuel, chemical, electrical utility sites and even factory farms. Protesters can be charged with “criminal interference” for getting in the way of corporate profits, and can face federal charges (up to two years imprisonment), even if there is no violence or vandalism. NPR reports nine states have adopted such legislation, which has been promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council. Four more states are exploring the idea. Initial critical infrastructure laws in the 1990s were meant to address vulnerabilities to basic transportation, cyber security concerns and power distribution. Critics say the new laws will result in violations of First Amendment rights, and point out that they target peaceful protests. Any organizations involved in such a protest can be fined up to $500,000. Advocates of the laws say they are “protecting” the protesters from harm.

Individuals afflicted with lyme disease will want to read the article Life With Lyme in September 2019 edition of The Atlantic magazine, written by Meg O’Rourke, editor of The Yale Review. She points out that fellow chronic sufferers fail to be helped when doctors dismiss their complaints, due in part to symptoms not always being the same.

Blast from the past: Ten years ago this week five of the nine the U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled in the Citizens United vs. FEC case that corporations and labor unions should be free to use their funds to engage in campaign communications. In a 90-page dissenting statement, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its [democracy’s] flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics,” and, “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.” According to Public Citizen, 80% of people want Citizens United overturned, which is the plan put forward by the Democracy for All Amendment.

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