Bits ‘n’ Pieces: July 15, 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 Delta COVID-19 variant is spreading among unvaccinated individuals in Missouri, with some hospitals now overwhelmed, a variety of news sources have reported. 

Two decades later, after spending more than $1 trillion, 2,448 American lives lost and another 20,722 wounded, President Joe Biden said the nation’s military presence in Afghanistan will end Tuesday, Aug. 31. Meanwhile, the conflict has claimed as many as 40,000 civilian lives. Some have urged staying longer. Instead of sending another generation to Afghanistan, “with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” Biden has pursued other avenues: sanctions on Pakistan to stem money laundering for the Taliban and sanctions on Russia for backing the Taliban’s attempts to assassinate military personnel. According to the U.S. attorney general and the secretary of Homeland Security, the current primary danger from terrorism in the U.S. is that of “homegrown” terrorists that are “violent extremists.”

Biden recently signed an executive order “promoting Competition in the American Economy.”  He said items like hearing aids, prescription drugs, internet services and ag supplies are overpriced due to lack of competition, and said capitalism without competition is actually exploitation. He plans to use 72 specific actions to enforce antitrust laws, stop abusive monopolies and put an end to “bad mergers that lead to mass layoffs, higher prices, fewer options for workers and consumers alike.” 

In recent months, hundreds of water protectors have been arrested for civil disobedience (barricading roads and chaining themselves to equipment) at Enbridge Line 3 site in Minnesota. The Canadian company is transporting tar sands oil from Alberta to Wisconsin via pipeline, and is attempting to rebuild its leaky infrastructure. Protesters want no transport at all, citing severe threats to the climate (tar sands extraction emits up to three times more global warming pollution, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council), risk of water-contaminating spills and treaty rights violations. 

Michigan’s governor ordered Enbridge’s Line 5 be shut down due to threats to water, but Enbridge defied the order. Minnesota’s public utilities commissioner, a Republican, stated he was not impressed with the response to protesters in North Dakota, and said, “This is the United States of America. Citizens of Minnesota have a right to protest.” Biden is being urged to cancel the pipeline.

The Guardian: More than 1 billion marine animals on Canada’s Pacific Coast are estimated to have died from the recent heat dome climate event. Similar reports have been made about the Puget Sound area in Washington. Affected creatures included oysters, clams, sea anemones, starfish and rockfish. 

After they filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn 2020 presidential election results, a federal judge in Michigan may impose sanctions (possibly disbarment) against attorneys who insist former-President Donald Trump won the 2020 election. A ruling on a request for disciplining the attorneys is expected in coming weeks, The Washington Post reported. The judge was disturbed that affidavits filed by the attorneys had obvious errors, speculation and a lack of understanding of how Michigan conducts elections. 

After refusing a request to resign, Biden fired Andrew Saul, appointed commissioner for Social Security by the Trump administration. Saul has been faulted for delaying stimulus payments, inappropriately denying disability benefits, and poor handling of COVID-19 safety measures for Social Security employees.

Blast from the past: The first atomic bomb was tested July 16, 1945. Weeks later the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Plans were considered to follow the atomic bombs in Japan with conventional bombs; the Americans behind that idea were unaware of the toxic threat that would have posed to the pilots. Historian Peter Watson, in Fallout, wrote that bombing Japan was not necessary: Japan was on the verge of surrender. But there was a movement to display to Russia, at that time a U.S. ally, the U.S.’s capabilities. According to Watson, Russia’s atomic bomb capabilities may have prevented the Korean conflict from developing into World War III: U.S. General Douglas MacArthur wanted to use 26 atom bombs on Korea. It was knowledge of the Russian’s atomic bomb capabilities that led to restraint.

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