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:

•Over three billion of the planet’s 7.7 billion people currently cook over open fires, according to Solar Cookers International. SCI is helping people in 135 countries transition to carbon-free and inexpensive solar cookers. Advantages of the cookers: no long treks to gather firewood, better health from less smoke inhalation, and safer drinking water — solar cookers can pasteurize water.

•Medicare for All: the health insurance industry claims it’s unaffordable, but a Koch-funded study found it will save the American public $2 trillion over 10 years. The single-payer program, a proposal being readied for Congressional action, covers health care for everyone, has no co-pays or deductibles and provides more comprehensive benefits. Adam Gaffney, president-elect of Physicians for a National Health Program, indicates that insurance companies may have a hard time convincing people of their viewpoint, since they lack customers’ “brand loyalty” and are frequently seen as “parasitic.”

•Analysis by investment bank Lazard shows that in parts of the U.S. it is now cheaper to build new solar and wind farms than it is to operate already existing coal plants.

•In a 91-page filing, West Coat commercial fishers are suing 30 fossil fuel companies on behalf of the crab industry for losses due to climate change. Changes in planetary conditions have resulted in algae blooms which threaten the edibility of crab, Inside Climate News says.

•The term “banana Republic” is referenced in a recent Newsweek article, which says the term typically applies to an autocratic leader. Signs of banana republic “leadership” include undermining federal investigations, pardoning cronies, using office for financial gain, demonizing the press and interfering with election results.

•In the late-1990’s, a pro-chastity book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, gained popularity with far right Christian fundamentalists. The author, after recently seeking feedback from readers, says he now sees the book as flawed, he disagrees with avoiding dating, and declares the book’s publication will be stopped. Feedback from readers (over a million copies were sold) included anger with how following the book’s advice had stunted their attitudes about relationships.

•Food police? A Georgia woman has filed a lawsuit in federal court after four months in jail for having cotton candy in her car. A roadside drug test said the candy was meth; she was arrested and assigned an unaffordable $1 million bail. After three months, state lab tests confirmed the candy was not a drug. But it took another month in jail before the woman was released. According to an investigation by Fox5 Atlanta News, dozens of others have also been falsely arrested due to the faulty roadside testing. Some have suffered job losses; their arrest records have also impacted job searches.

•Neuroscientist Andrew Newburg, aided by MRI technology, has found that “the moment we encounter God, or the idea of God, our brains begin to change.” One example: by meditating 12 minutes a day for two months, Dr. Newburg found that people with memory problems showed improvement by up to 15 percent. He shares more information in the book How God Changes Your Brain.

•New stats from the FBI show a 17 percent increase in hate crimes in 2017 alone. Of those reported (some are not), 59.5 percent are related to race, ethnicity or ancestry bias, 20.7 percent stem from religious bias and 16 percent are related to gender identification bias.

•Between 2008 and 2017, 71 percent of extremist-related fatalities in the U.S. came from far right white supremacists, The New York Times reports. Islamic extremists perpetrated 26 percent of the fatalities.

•Fake science or genuine? The Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a “Disinformation Playbook” that exposes how businesses can dodge problems with their products or practices. That includes fake studies, creating uncertainty, falsely discrediting scientists, and attempting to gain respectability by partnering with universities or projects that are counter to their goals, such as a soft drink company partnering with a university program to end obesity.

•While people in California’s smoky fire zones were told to stay indoors to escape toxic air, most farm workers in southern California do not have that luxury. Some farms sped up the harvest, hoping to avoid ash damage, the Pacific Standard reported. Volunteers have distributed masks to farm workers where employers have failed to do so. But masks are awkward and can interfere with their labors. As well, staying home to stay healthy means no pay.

•Blast from the past: The European Union evolved after the end of WWII, when a French foreign minister speculated that countries sharing a trade dependency would be less likely to go to war. It started with France and Germany requiring goods from each other to make their products. Since then, for nearly three quarters of a century, there has been no major war in Europe, says Steven Pressman, professor of economics at Colorado State University.

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

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