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:

A Congressional Budget Office report says a $15 an hour minimum wage would raise pay for 27 million people, and lift 1.3 million more out of poverty. Congress is considering the Raise the Wage Act legislation.

Research in Oecologia, from Teton National Forest, shows that cougars serve as unwitting food bank operators. Based on monitoring of 18 cougar-killed carcasses, scientists found that leftovers from the big cats’ meals benefited a range of animal species, including other carnivores, vultures and a variety of carrion-eating beetles.

Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour recently auctioned off his guitars in a quest to help the planet, Mother Jones reports. He raised $21.5 million and donated it to Client Earth, a climate change organization.

Two Pew research surveys show two-thirds of the public feel the 2003 invasion of Iraq, from a cost-benefit perspective, was not worthwhile. When only veterans were interviewed, the numbers were unchanged. What’s more, 60% said the 18-year war in Afghanistan has not been worth the price in lives and funding.

A Princeton University examination of Facebook news stories found seniors more often fall for fake news stories. The study, which compared links used by 1,300 Facebook users, found those over 65 shared the greatest number of fake stories.

Earlier this year the Boy Scouts of America hired a sex-crimes expert to analyze their so-called “Perversion Files.” The result: 12,254 boys reported sexual abuse from 7,800 suspects between 1944 and 2016, Time magazine recently reported. But academics in the field of child sex abuse say the real number is far bigger, since victims were either intimidated or “shamed out” of reporting their experiences.

Air pollution costs the global economy $225 billion annually, says the Environmental Defense Fund. The organization based its conclusion on a compilation of studies, including how air pollution influences the brain. Examples included a correlation between elevated air pollution and a decline in the quality of decisions made by stock traders, more mistakes made by umpires and lower test scores for students on testing days with more air pollution.

Top priority for training dogs: to respond to the command of “come,” which can save a dog’s life. For an analysis of the importance of the “come” command, see Dr. Karen S. Becker’s “teach your dog to come when called” at

President Donald Trump has signed an executive order directing federal agencies to cut back on regulations for genetically modified crops and foods, the Center for Food Safety reports. That means genetically modified livestock meat could arrive on supermarket shelves without a federal review that looks for potential harm to people or the environment, the Center stated.

The American Medical Association is suing North Dakota, which has one abortion clinic, over two of their laws regarding abortion. According to Time and the Washington Post, the AMA objects to doctors being directed by law to lie to patients about medical abortions by telling them they can be reversed when they cannot. The medical organization also object to the law forcing doctors to say that abortion ends the life of a “whole, separate, unique, living human being.” The state’s laws are scheduled to go into effect Thursday, Aug. 1.

A new Pentagon report confirms that foreign powers like Russia, Iran and China are continuing to undermine United States democracy via cyber activities while divisions at home have resulted in an underestimation of Russian aggression in a wave of “political warfare” aimed at U.S. influence abroad.  

Worldwide, 7,000 colleges and universities recently declared a climate emergency and offered a three-point action plan: commit to carbon neutrality by 2030 (2050 at the latest); mobilize more resources for action-oriented climate change resources and skills creation; and provide more environmental and sustainability education. 

A study in the journal Science says there’s room for 2.22 billion more acres of tree canopy on the planet. To plant that would cost $300 billion, but the trees would keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The youth-led Sunrise Movement says it is the least expensive proposal yet for addressing climate change and, for a fraction of the cost of U.S. tax cuts, we could “offset two-thirds of all emissions to date.”

Blast from the past: “Humankind cannot bear much reality,” from the poem Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot, essayist, playwright and publisher, 1888-1965.

And another blast, from the recent past: Trump administrators that have resigned include (but are not limited to) Tom Price, over allegations of personal use of private and military jets; Kirstjen Nielsen, over complaints about handling of migrant issues; Ryan Zinke, for complaints about meeting with lobbyists and for unethical land deals; David Shulkin, for funding personal trips with taxpayer money; Scott Pruitt, over concerns about conflicts of interest and his spending habits; Michael Flynn, for lying to the administration and FBI about his meeting with foreign governments (he awaits sentencing); and now Alexander Acosta, over concerns about his past handling of the Jeffrey Epstein plea deal regarding child sex trafficking.

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