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:

Federal minimum wage today would be $22 an hour, rather than $7.25, if it had kept pace with inflation and productivity since 1968, TIME magazine recently reported.

A new book explores external interference in elections — in particular, how the U.S. left its mark on elections in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, the Congo in 1961 and Chile in 1973. The author of Courage Grows Strong at the Wound, Robert Koehler, points out that the U.S. has thwarted the will of the people in numerous countries. That typically occurs when corporate and military interests that find democracy inconvenient.

With bird populations in North America declining by a third in the past 40 years, there are ways to reduce the mortality rate. One is to reduce birds colliding with buildings, which claim up to 1 billion birds every year. The Atlantic notes that the environmental impact of a billion fewer bird deaths annually would affect the movement of pollen and seeds across the planet. The Bird-Safe Building Act before Congress would limit to 10% the amount of glass in a building’s lower-most 40 feet (since most birds hit glass below the third story); using patterned glass, which birds more easily detect and avoid; and reducing nighttime lighting that can be confusing and fatal to night-flying birds.

New Jersey just became the first state to require severance pay in the case of mass layoffs, according to The New York Times. As well, corporations in the state are now required to provide advance notice of layoffs. The legislation came on the heels of the firing of some 2,000 people employed by five big corporations in the state — those let go received either minimal or no compensation.

Of active duty military donations, more than $185,000 have gone to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. For Donald Trump: $113,000, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Trending: Legal rights for nature. The Yurok Tribe has declared rights of personhood for the Klamath River, the White Earth Band of Ojibway has granted rights to wild rice, and tribes in New Zealand have adopted Rights for the Whanganui River. In Ohio voters approved of personhood rights for Lake Erie. Rights of nature have also been created in Colombia, Ecuador and India. In a marked departure from human-centric laws, the new rights see nature as transcending the value of merely being a resource, High Country News reports. 

An international data assessment from MIT Technology Review has found that classroom technology, like online learning and use of laptops, may actually lower learning outcomes for students.

Trump administration senior officials were required to sign non-disclosure agreements about their time during and after serving in the White House under Trump. A copy of one agreement, which stated there would be a $10 million penalty for every violation, was reviewed by the Washington Post. Legal experts say that, even if signed, it is not enforceable since officials were working not for Trump, but for the American people. 

Mislabeled: two thirds of imported woods. A portion comes from illegal logging operations, according to a study by World Wildlife Fund, World Resources Institute and the U.S. Forest Service.

While natural gas has been promoted as an essential bridge to a clean energy future, a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shared satellite data showing that a methane “blowout” last February in Ohio, where hydraulic fracking is used, was an “extreme” methane leakage event — one of the largest recorded in the U.S. The EPA says methane, over a 20-year period, is up to 87 times more potent in its greenhouse impact than carbon dioxide.

One of the Democratic presidential contenders has a plan to address corporatization of farming: stop constant overproduction of commodities; strengthen and enforce antitrust laws to instead prevent ag-monopolies that hurt farmers; cut the billions in farm subsidies that typically go to wealthy agribusiness players; create hands-on programs that free farmers from dependence on multinational food giants; expand opportunities for those regarded as non-traditional farmers, such as women; and, create incentives for farmers to engage in practices that deter climate change.

Blast from the past: Sixty years ago this month, four African-American students ordered coffee at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina. They were denied service. More students joined them in the following days, leading to a Woolworth’s boycott across the nation. The chain store opted to rescind their segregation policies.

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