Sunday, December 10, 2023

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

Contributor | November 27, 2020 7:00 AM

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

The U.S. is experiencing a “stress test” regarding the recent election process, with President Donald Trump attempting to change the vote that shows more than five million more votes for President-elect Joseph Biden than for Trump. According to many news sources, Trump is supported in his effort by people like Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Lindsey Graham, but has been opposed by others in his party.

Chris Krebs, formerly of the Department of Homeland Security, announced that claims of election fraud “have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent.” (Trump fired Krebs for that.) Brad Raffensperger, who says he’s never voted for a Democrat, is defending Georgia’s election results that show Biden won that state and refusing a suggestion by a fellow Republican to toss all mail-in ballots from counties with high rates of “questionable” signatures. He has since received death threats.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has called for an end to Republicans’ threats and “perpetuating misinformation” about the election, and said, “continued intimidation tactics will not prevent me from performing the duties I swore an oath to do. Our democracy is tested constantly, it continues to prevail, and it will not falter under my watch.”

For promising new COVID-19 vaccines to be as effective as possible, they need to be affordable if not free. That’s become an issue as many people lost their insurance during the economic freefall early on during the pandemic. A low price makes sense, since taxpayers have funded “the vast majority of the research and development for these COVID vaccines,” according to John Sellers of the social media-based, leftwing group The Other98.

The economy Biden will inherit, according to the Economic Policy Institute, is not pretty. About 25.7 million were “hit” by the COVID-19 downturn; 7 million are employed but with cuts in pay and hours; 11.1 million are officially unemployed; 4.5 million dropped out of the labor force; and 3.1 million are unemployed, but misclassified as employed and are not in the labor force.

Trump is continuing with plans to take people off Social Security Disability. When the Reagan Administration took a similar action, it affected 200,000 people. Of those, 21,176 people with disabilities died before their benefits could be renewed, Social Security Works reported. To date, more than 130,000 comments have been submitted against the proposed changes, adjustments that make it more difficult to access Social Security Disability. As is, more than 50 percent of all submitted claims are denied.

The Smithsonian Institute recently completed the National Native American Veterans Memorial at the National Museum of the American Indian. The memorial was commissioned by Congress to recognize the “extraordinary service” of native men and women, dating back to the American Revolution.

What a dying democracy looks like: In Hungary, their far-right prime minister has overseen the transformation of the media into pro-government propaganda, shrunken resources for civil society groups, strictly controlled COVID-19 data and threatened those who criticize the government online with arrest. He is privatizing public universities and silencing the few remaining independent news sites, TIME magazine reports. Resources for COVID-19 go to loyalists, which causes more citizens to engage in resistance.

Dr. Thomas Lew, Stanford University School of Medicine, pointed out in USA Today that both the young and old who recover from COVID-19 can find themselves with long-term debilitating complications, including muscle wasting, asthma-like illnesses and post-traumatic stress from, in some cases, being put in a medically-induced coma during treatment. As well, Lew stated that several hundred children have required hospitalization due to the virus since March.

A Pew Research study showed that 79 percent in the U.S. think we should prioritize alternative energy sources, 80 percent support stronger restrictions on power plant emissions and 71 percent favor stronger fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said that, since taking office, Trump has accumulated more than 3,400 conflicts of interest, averaging two per day. Of particular concern is $420 million in debt coming due soon, and how that might leave the president open to influence from those who can help, like banks and patrons of his hotels, from which he has not divested during his presidency. The scenario poses a national security risk, CREW said.

Blast from the past: According to the charter that brought the first English settlers to James River, where they landed on Dec. 4, 1619, that day was to be commemorated as a day of thanksgiving. But they celebrated it earlier the next year, just glad that corn, of all their crops, had thrived. They made merry for three days, even though half of the new arrivals had not survived the winter.

President Abraham Lincoln established the fourth Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving date in 1863. In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved moving the date up a week, to accommodate a longer Christmas shopping season.