Bits ‘n’ Pieces: June 10, 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 millions of dollars paid to cyberhackers who held Colonial Pipeline hostage have been recovered, CNN reported. CP had quickly paid the ransom while following FBI instructions that allowed tracing the money trail. It appears the hackers were based in Russia but not affiliated with the government.

Former-President Donald Trump’s Facebook account will be suspended for two years and only reinstated if “the risk to public safety has receded,” the company said. Under a new policy, Facebook said it will create suspensions based on behavior of public figures during times of heightened violence or unrest.

President Joe Biden has called for a 90-day study to determine origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Business Insider reported. The primary theories: animal-to-people and a Chinese laboratory leak. The latter has been doubted but not ruled out. The study plans to utilize a deep dive into text messages and emails. China has announced Beijing will no longer cooperate with any further World Health Organization investigation. 

While COVID-19 cases and deaths are down in the U.S., for the unvaccinated the rate of infection remains the same as in December 2019 — prior to when vaccinations became widely available. Business Insider reported there are several states, including Michigan and Florida, where the unvaccinated are 50% more likely to require hospitalization. The Institute for Health Metrics calculates the true number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. exceeds 900,000.

CNN says the Biden administration plans to distribute 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations to the rest of the world by month’s end. The goal: to save lives and hasten an end to the pandemic.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examined House Republicans’ alternative 2022 budget plan and said it proposed ending Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as repealing the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid and CHIP would be replaced with block grants at rates characterized as inadequate. States could either make up the funding shortfall or cut eligibility standards. Block grant funds could also be diverted to other purposes at the state level. The likely result of the House Republican plan, CBPP says, would be loss of Medicaid coverage by 17 million people due to repeal of the ACA, and tens of millions of people either becoming uninsured or underinsured. As well, the Republican budget proposal, according to info from Fox News and Social Security Works, also calls for increasing the retirement age, increasing the eligibility age for Medicare, establishing a closed-door commission to further cut Social Security and Medicaid benefits, and another $1.9 trillion in tax cuts, which would be in addition to Trump’s $2 trillion tax cuts that primarily benefited the rich.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently convinced top international finance ministers to reverse a 40-year trend of tax cuts for corporations in favor of a 15% global minimum tax on multinational corporations, The Washington Post reported. Negotiators hope to expand the agreement this fall to other countries. 

The 1980 average global corporate tax rate was 40% and fell to 23% by 2020 as countries competed for corporate presence in what has been called a “race to the bottom.” As a result, 2017 figures show multinational firms had tucked away some $700 billion in tax-dodging havens, thereby financially blocking new domestic programs designed to improve the economy.

Blast from the past:  A lesson from Frederick Douglass, for grads: Douglass escaped slavery in 1838, after 20 years of experiencing a number of slave owners — some more humane than others. He worked in a Baltimore shipyard, earned good money for his master, and had some freedom and protection. A friend with free papers gave Douglass his papers so he could escape — as long as no one examined the papers too closely. Douglass took the risk and got on a train. If he had been discovered, he would be sold “down the river” into regions of the South where the harshest forms of slavery were practiced. As historian Heather Cox Richardson points out, Douglass could remain in his relatively comfortable position or take a chance — the chance he took resulted in him becoming “a powerful voice for American liberty.” For new graduates, Richardson advises, “When the day comes that you have to choose between what is just good enough and what is right… find the courage to step on the train.”

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