Bits ‘n’ Pieces

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:

Pay day: Sauntore Thomas, 44, of Detroit, had planned to deposit $99,000 into his bank account — money he’d been awarded in a racial discrimination suit. But the teller balked, and police were summoned. Now he’s suing for racial discrimination, again. The Washington Post said Thomas encountered no problems when he later took his funds to a different bank.

Starting in the summer of 2020, grants will go out for the use of $10 billion that world’s-richest-person Jeff Bezos says he will commit to fighting climate change.

Roundup of ag news: producers of chlorpyrifos, linked to brain damage in children, say they will stop chlorpyrifos production due to declining sales; new research from UC-Riverside links consumption of soybean oil to neurological conditions like autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimers and depression (the USDA says it’s the most consumed edible oil in the U.S.); and, according to the St. Louis Business Journal, Bayer, producers of glyphosate-laced Roundup, may stop sales of glyphosate products to home gardeners (they face 85,000 legal claims of harm and are exploring a $10 billion payout for Roundup claims).

When dicamba-based herbicides drifted onto a 1,000-acre peach farm in Missouri, it resulted in $265 million in damages recently awarded to the affected farmer, according to Reuters. The drift originated in nearby soy and cotton fields and killed peach trees, for which ag corporations BASF and Bayer are being held accountable. Dicamba herbicides are linked to various cancers, liver and heart problems, convulsions and other issues. It contaminates groundwater in 17 states, according to the Pesticide Action Network.

After campaign promises of no cuts to Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare, the Trump administration’s proposed 2021 budget cuts include $1.5 trillion to be eliminated from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, $2 billion is budgeted for the border wall.

Cuts also proposed: EPA by 27% (including elimination of 50 agency programs); Interior Department by 13%; State Department by 21% (in particular, deep cuts to foreign assistance programs that work on reducing climate change); the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy cut by 75%; elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (which worked to promote high-impact energy projects for reducing emissions) at the Department of Energy; Superfund site funding cut by 10%; and the Land and Water Conservation Fund cut by 97%. As well, significant cuts are planned for the National Park and U.S. Fish and Wildlife services.

Climate scientists are saying today’s semi-arid burned-over forests will not be “coming back as we know them.” Some of those forests may instead become bush or grasslands, InsideClimate News reports.

In the U.S., 55% of Americans don’t use all their paid time off, according to Time magazine. But quality time off has a bonus: it can increase work-place productivity. Numerous new books focus on the use of time; one of the authors, James Wallman, defines “junk” time as too much time alone with TV or Facebook. He says quality time is better spent outdoors. 

More than 2,000 former Department of Justice prosecutors — Democrats and Republicans — have signed a letter asking Attorney General William Barr to resign, USA Today reports. The signers have condemned Barr’s overruling of the seven- to nine-year sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, a close associate of President Donald Trump, after Trump tweeted that the original sentencing recommendation was unfair. Stone, the sixth Trump associate convicted of crimes, was convicted of seven charges, including lying to Congress and witness tampering regarding hacking Democrats’ emails. 

Barr has raised constitutional alarms over his appearance of working in tandem with Trump, rather than taking an attorney general’s neutral stance on justice issues. (It likely did not help Stone that after his indictment he posted on Instagram an image placing crosshairs next to the face of his trial judge.)

An emergency meeting by the Federal Judges Association intends to discuss Trump’s influence on the Department of Justice, The New York Times and USA Today report. The group’s president was appointed to a federal judgeship by President George W. Bush.

The U.S. Senate isn’t always partisan: Last week senators from both parties passed the Iran War Powers Resolution, a deterrent to unauthorized war with Iran. It faces a House vote this week.

Blast from the past: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” Maya Angelou, poet, writer, performer, activist, 1928-2014.

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