Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

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

• The U.S. has almost 70 million pet dogs, who serve multiple functions. A study in Scientific Reports shows that dog companions can reduce cardiovascular risk as well as enhance owners’ sense of well-being. Further, they can lower blood pressure and, for 33% of those in single-person households, decrease risk of premature death. So, the family dog advises letting it sit under the Thanksgiving table.

• Bureau of Justice stats for 30 states show 56% of released prisoners are arrested in the first year out, and within the next three years 67.8% are back behind bars. But intervention efforts are showing half as much recidivism when prisoners are allowed to earn a GED, take career skills classes, engage in drug rehab, receive faith-character-based services and get follow-up assistance after release.

• The WEEK says private prisons cost taxpayers less in the short term, but, due to shareholder commitments, there is no incentive to rehabilitate prisoners to reduce recidivism. A 2016 Justice Department report said private prisons have more security violations, more inmate-on-inmate assaults, and more inmate-on-staff assaults. Three-quarters of border detainees are kept at private prisons, for $159 a day, compared to $4 for alternative detention and $100 a day for local jails.

• The last six woodland caribou living in the U.S. will be relocated to join a B.C. herd 200 miles to the north. The Selkirk Mountain herd (northeast Washington and northern Idaho) had 2200 members in the 1980’s. But between 2009 and 2016 the population dropped from 46 to 12. The Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife says there have been numerous challenges to the herd: predators, disturbances by humans’ winter time recreation, highway collisions and climate change. Current plans are to eventually, in five to 10 years, try to restore the caribou to their native South Selkirk habitat.

• A football stadium full of food -- that will never be eaten. That’s how much food is wasted daily in America, according to Feeding America. Reasons for the waste can include growing too much or labeling mistakes. In 2017 the non-profit “rescued” 3.3 billion pounds of food, and speculates there is at least 22 times that amount which could also be salvaged and given to those in need.

• The herbicide Atrazine, banned in Europe contaminates the drinking water of nearly 30 million Americans. It can turn male frogs into females. Environmental Working Group says the EPA hopes to allow its continued use, despite studies showing harms to developing fetuses and links to cancer.

• While Americans re-enact immigrants’ first dinner of thanksgiving, immigrants continue to seek life in the U.S. Teen Vogue has written about that journey in their article A Day in the Life of the Migrant Caravan, which includes an on-the-road interview with a Honduran woman and her baby escaping gang death threats. Her crime, in the eyes of the gang? Calling police due to domestic violence; responding officers also apprehended some of the local gang members.

• Social scientists behind the American National Election Study found that those raised by authoritarian parents are more likely to vote for authoritarian-style candidates; those candidates tend to not support constitutionally-protected minority rights. Study authors said education, income, gender, age, ideology and religiosity are not inclined to influence how an authoritarian-raised child votes as an adult. Authoritarian upbringings focus on punitive manipulations, obeying, ignoring feelings, not allowing dissent, and valuing external impressions over moral substance. As reported by Salon, in an exploration of how Germans could support authoritarian Hitler, between 18 to 30% of Americans have authoritarian leanings.

• Between 2012 and 2016 newspapers lost an average of 24% of their workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Why? There’s been a trend for corporations, with no background in journalism (journalism requires dedication to civic responsibility, not just profit), to snatch up papers and impose a bare-bones business model on them, as reported in The American Prospect. A paper can go from 225 journalists to 25. And it can experience big losses in subscribers and advertisers. That has been further complicated by upheavals in the ad industry, due to competition from on-line advertising.

• Blast from the past: You didn’t get the real Thanksgiving story in school. The first Thanksgiving dinner occurred in 1598 in San Elizario, in what is now Texas, when a Spanish explorer led hundreds of settlers through the Mexican dessert. They gratefully celebrated the end of that trek with a dinner of gratitude. Then, 21 years later, and two years before the Pilgrims’ celebrated dinner, Thanksgiving was observed on Dec. 4, 1619, by 38 English settlers at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. According to the History News Network, the ingredients of today’s Thanksgiving Day dinner were popularized in the Victorian era, and may not be what Pilgrims ate.

Lorraine H. Marie is a writer based in Colville, Washington.

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