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:

Sociologists say physically attractive workers typically earn higher incomes than “average” looking workers, and women are pressured to bridge the “grooming gap” with careful selection of clothing and makeup. Those who don’t are paid less, In These Times reports.

A 2017 study showed the average female worker wears $8 worth of makeup daily, requiring an average of 55 minutes for application.

The polar vortex, as explained in the Old Farmer’s Almanac, is a jet stream circling 20 miles above the North Pole. When the vortex is strong, the cold air remains in the area, and temperatures elsewhere remain relatively mild. If the vortex is weakened, the cold air can head south and trigger winter weather extremes. Due to the new milder northern temps, possibly owing to declines in sea ice and accelerated warming, weakened arctic winds allows the polar air to head south and create exceptionally cold weather, the Almanac said. This is regardless of an overall global trend of warming temperatures.

In 1970 ranchers earned 70 cents for every dollar consumers spent on beef. Today they earn fewer than 40 cents, according to Mother Jones. Their profit margins have fallen 30 percent since 2016, while meat packers’ profits have gone up 68 percent.

Proposed: The Trump Administration plans to eliminate environmental planning protections from projects subject to review, which would include most mines, pipelines, refineries and chemical plants, thus erasing 50 years worth of basic environmental reviews. The proposal also forbids planning for climate change. The New York Times reported that projects requiring environmental review would be exempt from addressing cumulative impacts.

In case your dog needs to know: Americans spent $75.38 billion on their pets in 2019 and 59 percent of pet owners said they planned to buy their pet a gift during the holidays, Fortune.com reported.

Australia’s top leaders have been accused of indirectly feeding the nation’s devastating fires, despite warnings from scientists about their continent’s climate emergency. In the G20 Brown to Green Report ranking of the world’s largest economies in regard to taking action to address climate change, Australia was ranked one of the worst. As reported to The Guardian, Australia’s emissions are increasing (U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped 2.1 percent in 2019). This is despite Australia having excellent solar and wind energy potential.

Instead, Australian leaders have focused on building up the coal and gas industries, both drivers of climate change.

There are seven chemical food additives linked to cancer, but the Food and Drug Administration allows them to remain on the market, reported EarthJustice. The substances imitate mint, cinnamon, citrus and other flavors used in consumables like beer, candy and ice cream. EarthJustice sued the FDA to try and force them to follow federal law.

What would Colonial-era tea partiers think? U.S. corporations, aided by elected officials, have created laws intended to deter protesters from showing up at sites regarded as “critical infrastructure.” This includes fossil fuel, chemical, and electrical utility sites and even factory farms. Protesters can be charged with criminal interference for getting in the way of corporate profits. They can face federal charges (up to two years imprisonment), even if there is no violence or vandalism.

NPR reported that nine states have adopted such legislation, which has been promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council. Four more states are exploring the idea. Initial critical infrastructure laws in the 1990s were meant to address vulnerabilities to basic transportation, cyber concerns and power distribution.

Critics argue the new laws will result in violations of First Amendment rights, pointing out that it targets peaceful protests. Any organizations involved in such a protest can be fined up to $500,000. Advocates of the laws say they are protecting the protesters from harm.

Readers challenged by Lyme Disease will want to see the article “Life With Lyme” in The Atlantic magazine, written by Meg O’Rourke, editor of The Yale Review. She pointed out that fellow chronic sufferers fail to be helped when doctors dismiss their complaints, owing in part to symptoms not always being the same

Blast from the past: 10 years ago this week five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled in the Citizens United vs. FEC case that corporations and labor unions should be freed up to use their funds to engage in campaign communications.

In a 90-page dissenting statement, Associate Justice John Paul Stevens said “few outside the majority of this Court would have thought [democracy’s] flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” He also argued “a democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

According to Public Citizen, 80 percent of people want Citizens United overturned.

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