Bits ‘n’ Pieces: August 13, 2020

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

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

Median farm income was negative $1,569 annually between 1996 and 2017, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. To keep their farms, many farmers have outside jobs. In 2016 farmers received 13 cents for each dollar’s worth of food sold. From the 1960s to the 1980s they received 33 cents. The squeeze on farmers can largely be attributed to the weakening of anti-monopoly laws and how corporations have taken advantage of them, according to The Nation.

World Beyond War shares figures from the U.N.:  3% of the U.S. military budget could end world hunger, 1% could provide clean drinking water for the world, and 7% could wipe out U.S. poverty.

In Eugene, Ore., non-police first responders go to disturbance areas where crimes are not being committed, freeing police for other duties. Trained responders can include medics and mental health workers; they show up to listen, empathize and discuss ways to access resources with people facing mental health crises, substance abuse problems or homelessness. Fewer than 1% of calls to Crisis Assistance Helping Out On the Streets (CAHOOTS) need police assistance, according to a report in High Country News. No guns or uniforms are used. The organization is funded at what amounts to 2% of the police department’s budget. CAHOOTS addressed 24,000 calls last year.

Heat kills farm workers at rates 20 times higher than the average of all other occupations, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. As well, heat stress increases health risks from exposure to pesticides and the stress increases when protective clothing is worn to avoid pesticides.

Politico reports the Republican National Committee filed suit against Priorities USA, an organization working to prevent voter suppression by helping voters submit absentee ballots or transporting them to polling places. The RNC said its organization aims to stop fraud and thinks transport should only occur when voters are unable to walk to vote. Voter access has become a priority issue for Democrats since COVID-19 raises the issue of avoiding polling places to avoid infection.

Meat inspectors have been sending whistleblower calls to the Government Accountability Project. GAP says the calls revolve around both the public’s safety and safety of meat plant workers, who labor in crowded conditions and have high rates of COVID-19 infection. As well, the USDA is pushing faster line speeds for poultry and pork plants, a plan in place prior to the pandemic.

A 2013 study from Penn State College of Medicine found that postpartum depression rates for new mothers is around 6%, while postpartum anxiety rates are around 17%. Author Sarah Menkedick explores the topic in her book Ordinary Insanity: Fear and the Silent Crisis of Motherhood in America.

Brazil is filing homicide charges against Vale company executives and auditors over the world’s deadliest mining disaster last year, Earthworks Journal reports. A tailings dam at Vale’s iron mine gave way and killed 300 people, destroyed a community and flooded the Paraopeba River with toxins. The disaster resulted in a group of investors with $10 trillion in assets, led by Church of England’s pension fund, to ask 680 mining companies to disclose their dam failure risks.

According to an investigation by In These Times, police kill Native Americans more than any other racial group, and Native Americans are 3.2 times more likely to be killed by police than are whites. As well, those with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by police, as compared to others.

There are those who take advantage of protests and loot, and there are those who are sanctioned to loot, says Robert Reich, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. Reich says the latter entities engage in wage theft, corporate tax havens, predatory loans, bail bonds and crooked Wall Street strategies.

Blast from the past: The World Health Organization sounded a global alert 17 years ago about SARS (Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a coronavirus strain never before seen in humans. It was an unusual pneumonia and symptoms resembled the flu. By July it was declared “contained” after killing 800 and infecting 8,000. The infection rate from that virus was 4% to 10%, as compared to 3% from the Spanish Flu. The quick demise of SARS is attributed to both international cooperation and fast moves to track and isolate those infected. George W. Bush was president in 2003.

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