Bits ‘n pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled Lorraine H. Marie
Contributor | July 31, 2020 8:53 AM

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

Various news accounts warn of the recent arrival of mystery seeds from China to mailboxes in the U.S. and the U.K. Some seeds looked like those of an invasive species. Recipients of unsolicited seeds from China are asked to promptly contact the Department of Agriculture.

The Trump Administration’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recently approved a request to sell chicken infected with Leukosis, according to Food and Water Action. The virus causes tumors in a chicken’s skin and organs. Previously, the government said such meat was unfit for human consumption.

COVID-19 and re-opening schools: President Donald Trump argued that children can’t get or transmit the coronavirus, and if they do, “they get better fast,” The Washington Post reported. But risk of COVID-19 transmission is higher for children, according to a paper published in Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Miami Herald said five children in Florida died from pediatric COVID-19, even though schools were closed.

A four-month moratorium on rent collection and evictions has expired, putting 19 to 23 million people at risk for eviction, the Washington Post reported. People can’t shelter in place without shelter, which can lead to even more COVID-19 cases, the Center for Public Integrity has noted. There is speculation that eviction also could mean some people’s ability to vote would be hampered.

Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland, Ore., recently took time to listen to protesters and ended up getting tear-gassed by federal agents. He told a New York Times journalist that “… I saw nothing which provoked this response … I am pissed off.” A Portland professor of history was shot in the head with impact munitions at a protest and taken to an emergency room for treatment.

NPR reported that legislation has been introduced in Congress: Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act.

On July 23, Trump said he was sending federal troops to Chicago and Albuquerque per his “Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence.” The same day, Tom Ridge, who was the first to serve as the director of the Homeland Security Department, stated that the federal agency “was not established to be the president’s personal militia … It would be a cold day in hell before I would give consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention in one of my cities.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, talking about aid for the pandemic-stricken economy, said last week he hoped to pass “something by the end of the next few weeks.” One issue: the $600-a-week unemployment benefits. Dropping the unemployment benefit to $200 a week, a McConnell proposal, could cost up to 3.4 million jobs over the coming year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Last week saw 1.4 million new unemployment claims, according to the Washington Post.

With new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. up 50 percent over recent weeks, William Hanage, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said larger numbers of cases and deaths are unavoidable. During mid-July, the U.S. had more than 75,000 new cases daily, which The Guardian said is five times that of all of Europe. With flu season approaching, health professionals are concerned that people will mistakenly decide they have a flu and not COVID-19. The two illnesses, though unrelated, share several symptoms. This could lead to failure to get help when it’s most likely to do an individual the most good.

Expect slower mail delivery if new operational changes are activated. The new postmaster general is backing away from speedy deliveries and has approved delaying mail processing to reduce overtime. According to analysts consulted by the Washington Post, the changes represent a shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a government service to that of a business. Critics argued that it is intentional: It will give a competitive edge to private sector rivals, and could also create problems for mail-in voting. Trump has said the U.S. Postal Service should quadruple package rates if they want federal financial help.

The service was authorized to get $10 billion from the Treasury Department as part of the first COVID-19 relief bill. But the money has been withheld pursuant to the turnover of significant USPS operations to the Treasury Department. The service has been hit by significant declines in marketing mail and first class mailings, The Washington Post noted.

With 36.4 million people out of a paycheck, the Economic Policy Institute disagreed with plans to cut Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes as part of a COVID-19 aid package. Another aid package bone of contention: Republicans want to grant “liability shields” for businesses whose workers or customers get COVID-19. Democrats don’t approve.

Blast from the past: Since Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, at least 6,500 people in the U.S. have been killed by law enforcement. In the same span of time, at least 843 officers died on duty.