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:

Cincinnati is building the nation’s largest municipal solar farm — the size of 750 football fields, with 310,000 solar panels — to honor the Ohio city’s pledge to uphold the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2018 granted funds for technical assistance, and the project was further aided by the costs of solar technology dropping up to 80% in the past decade. 

Eight million people are being helped by 50 million others in their crowdsourcing plea for assistance paying for health care costs, according to the National Opinion Research Center.

Health authorities are increasingly alarmed by President Donald Trump’s appointment of Vice President Mike Pence to head up the nation’s response to the coronavirus. In addition to his inaction to combat an AIDS outbreak in Indiana while he was governor of the state, Pence’s grasp of medical science has been called into question — in part, due to a 1998 op-ed he wrote for The New York Times claiming that tobacco doesn’t kill, despite 40 years of ample evidence to the contrary. 

Citing insufficient funds, the White House team for addressing pandemics was basically dismantled two years ago. Efforts to reconstruct it on short notice to address the coronavirus may not work, The Washington Post reports. Both the instability of positions under the current administration, and questions about reliable funding, do not encourage sudden participation by the experts who are required.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has introduced a Senate bill that would use $10 billion in funds intended for the border wall to provide sensible funding for responding to the virus.

During the past month scientists in Antarctica recorded the highest temperature there ever: 70 degrees.

Stephen Schwartz, 36, a Trump nominee to the U.S. Federal Court of Claims, which hears complaints against the federal government, has said Social Security should be abolished because economic disparity is “a natural aspect of the human condition.” He’s also said the Agriculture, Education and Transportation departments have no “constitutional basis,” and has worked to restrict voting rights.

Pew Charitable Trust survey: one-third of U.S. families have no savings, including 10% of families making more than $100,000; 70% of families are not able to cover an unexpected $2,000 expense.

The richest person on the planet, Jeff Bezos, has promised $10 billion in grants to fight climate change. Ideas for the Bezos Earth Fund, from Wired, include donating to the project to harness 1% of the 173,000 trillion watts of solar energy that would be available with a giant solar space farm — enough to meet the Earth’s clean energy needs. 

President Donald Trump says the U.S. will join the Trillion Tree Initiative, launched at the World Economic Forum. Trees pull carbon from the atmosphere, foster better air and water quality, enhance property values and, according to some studies, may even reduce crime.

“My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House,” Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, recently told an audience at the Oxford Union. “The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama was president. Then Donald Trump became president, and we’re a lot less interested as a party.The Guardian first reported Mulvaney’s comment criticizing Republican’s partisan hypocrisy on deficit spending. The New York Times later obtained a transcript that confirmed the report.

Blast from the past: The 1918-’19 flu pandemic in the U.S. saw 25.8 million people infected and 670,000 dead, with 20% of those flu deaths attributed to those aged 5 years or younger. Life expectancy dropped by 12 years and 50% of U.S. military deaths in World War I were caused by the flu, as reported in the Smithsonian magazine. 

The pandemic was further complicated by the fact that about half of physicians under age 45 were serving in the military. 

Under President Woodrow Wilson, who sought to boost wartime morale by banning criticism, lies from official sources flourished. When a Navy ship carried flu from Boston to Philadelphia, that city’s public health director was told there was nothing to worry about. The next day, 14 sailors died. The assurances of “no problem” were repeated elsewhere, with fatal results.

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