Bits ‘n’ Pieces: April 22, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

The End Polluter Welfare Act has been introduced to Congress by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. If enacted, it would end, over the next decade, the $150 billion in tax loopholes, subsidies and special interest giveaways to the oil, gas and coal industry.

Wall Street is aware of the risk of doing nothing about climate change: it could get pricey, and it is likely to trigger an economic crisis, The Guardian reported. The paper noted that since 2015, 338 companies have already reduced their emissions by 25%, equal to removing 78 coal-fired power plants.

After spending $2 trillion in Afghanistan, losing 2,488 troops and personnel and nearing the 20-year marker for when the war began, President Joe Biden announced that it’s time to end the “forever war.” Withdrawal will begin May 1 and be completed by September, close to the Sept. 11 date when almost 3,000 people died on U.S. soil after the 2001 terrorist attack. Three U.S. presidents have tried to strengthen the Afghan government so it would not be a “staging round” for terrorists. Responding to those who say Afghan diplomacy depends on the presence of U.S. troops, Biden said that line of thinking would keep us there “indefinitely,” and, given there is no clear answer on when is the right time to leave, there is no clear mission in staying. Info gleaned from numerous news sources.

Since 1994 the planet has lost 28 trillion tons of ice, Mother Jones reported.

Modern pesticides are more toxic to invertebrates, bees and other pollinators, and populations of these insects are plunging, despite a decline in the amount of pesticides used (with the exception of GMO crops), the journal Science has shared. The study, based on U.S. government data, noted that some replacement pesticides, like neonicotinoids and pyrethroids, are more toxic. The European Union has banned the outdoor use of neonics, and Pesticide Action Network states that some neonics are 10,000 times more toxic than DDT, “the most notorious insecticide in history.” 

Pollinators aid one-third of world food crop production. According to ACS Publications, neonics damage baby bee brains, weaken their immune systems and hinder bee’s ability to locate their hives.

After former-President Donald Trump and “key allies” were suspended from using a number of social media sites, online misinformation about election fraud dropped 73%, according to research firm Zignal Labs. Recently YouTube announced that the ex-president will be allowed back on its platform.

Minority rule in U.S. politics is new since World War II, but did exist before that, The Atlantic has pointed out. This century two presidents did not get elected by the majority; they gained office via the Electoral College. And in 2020 Republicans made up the majority of seats in the Senate, but represented 20 million fewer people than the Democrats, who made up the minority of Senators. Historically, a party elected by a minority does not reach across the aisle, but instead works to “consolidate their power.” Based on past observation, The Atlantic said that when minority parties have been removed from power “the backlash against them was swift and strong.” The current influence of minority rule has resulted in a Supreme Court where conservatives have a 6-3 majority, but, says The Atlantic, they are likely to oppose issues the majority of Americans favor, such as health care and abortion rights.

Novel defense: After being sued by Dominion, a voting machine company, for publicly claiming the machines used technology that could switch Donald Trump votes away from him, former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s attorneys are claiming on her behalf that “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact.” The Guardian says the defamation suit seeks $1.3 billion in damages.

The U.S. Treasury Department last week announced sanctions against entities and individuals working with the Russian government to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election, CNBC reported. The sanctions included expelling 10 Russian diplomats, and also prohibiting U.S. banks from investing in Russian bonds and making it harder for Russia to borrow money. The department documented that Russian intelligence services were provided with secret polling data and campaign strategy information by former partners in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Blast from the past: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Aldous Huxley, 1894-1963, author, including the satirical novel Brave New World.

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