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:

In case you missed it: South Dakota was mocked on social media for its anti-drug slogan, “Meth. We’re on it.” But, as the state’s Department of Social Services told The New York Times, the slogan has been effective in pointing out that drug abuse impacts everyone. What’s more, 200% more people have sought treatment since the launch of the slogan.

Are austerity cuts the only solution to Social Security’s future shortfall? What the wealthy don’t want you to know, says Social Security Works, is that the wealthy stopped paying into the system in the middle of this month, whereas 94% of people pay in all year long. That’s because people no longer pay in after they reach $137,700 in earnings. Remove that cap, and Social Security can even be expanded. On a daily basis 10,000 Americans turn 65, adding urgency to stabilizing the program.

Short-term health plans that were part of rollbacks to the original Affordable Care Act have increased vulnerability to COVID-19. The Miami Herald recently reported that a Florida man, after returning from business in China, developed flu-like symptoms. Due to having to pay out-of-pocket via his health insurance, he opted to first be tested for flu and sought further, more expensive testing — but only if warranted. His bill for the lesser test was $3,270; his insurer said it would be reduced to $1,400 if he provided three years of medical records showing his flu was not related to a pre-existing condition.

Earlier this week the Trump administration’s silence on COVID-19 shifted when it requested $2.5 billion in emergency funds, according to The Hill. Federal officials requested $6.5 billion when the Ebola virus made headlines in 2014. Some lawmakers are concerned that the current COVID-19 request is insufficient.

Former White House budget director and “Father of Reagonomics,” David Stockman, has authored Peak Trump, a book exploring the hazards of some types of tax cuts. The Wall Street Journal describes the book as “a welcome thrashing of the ruling classes in both parties.” After his Reagan days, Stockman admitted that the administration knew their tax cuts would not stimulate growth.

Thank the pesticide Atrazine for turning male frogs into females, courtesy of 70 million pounds of it used annually on farmlands, the Environmental Working Group says. Atrazine is linked to cancer, shortened pregnancies and hormone disruption. The current administration’s EPA appears ready to continue its sales, but is taking public input until March 1 about further use of atrazine.

Russia is already working to re-elect Trump, and working on influencing the Democratic primaries, Congress was recently informed by the acting director of National Intelligence. Regardless, this month Senate Republicans have blocked numerous bills designed to create secure elections. Those bills would have required campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Elections Commission about “help” from foreign nations, and would also ban internet-linked voting machines. But the FEC contact appears moot, since President Donald Trump has not made appointments that would provide a quorum, so they cannot meet.

The new managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, an environmental economist, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that climate change and related disasters are now getting the attention of economists. Georgieva has outlined plans for her five years with the IMF to address climate change, and says the courage to move on climate change may be the silver bullet that boosts the economy.

The entertaining side of politics: “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against. A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse faced lesbians. And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor [Mike] Bloomberg,” spoken by presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren at a recent caucus in Las Vegas. Despite his Republican history, the wealthy Bloomberg entered the race late, as a Democrat. 

Blast from the past: 78 years ago this month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, under war-time pressures, signed the order that forced Japanese-Americans to be dislodged from their homes and sent to detention camps. One of those incarcerated recently commented to the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s hard to imagine that after 75-plus years, this is still happening,” now at the nation’s southern border. Asylum seekers are being forced to wait in Mexico, homeless, under threat of violence and kidnapping, and with the slimmest of resources for accessing attorneys who can help them.

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