Friday, June 21, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| April 23, 2021 7:00 AM

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

The End Polluter Welfare Act has been introduced in Congress by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.). If enacted, it would end — over the next decade — the $150 billion in tax loopholes, subsidies and special interest giveaways to the oil, gas and coal industries.

Wall Street is aware of the risk of doing nothing about climate change: It could get pricey, and it is likely to trigger an economic crisis, The Guardian reported. They noted that since 2015, 338 companies have already reduced their emissions by 25 percent, equal to removing 78 coal-fired power plants.

After spending $2 trillion in Afghanistan, losing 2,488 troops and personnel, and nearing the 20-year anniversary of the war’s start, President Joe Biden announced that it’s time to end the “forever war.” Withdrawal will begin May 1 and be completed by September, close to the Sept. 11 anniversary, when almost 3,000 people died on U.S. soil during the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Three U.S. presidents have tried to strengthen the Afghan government, preventing it from becoming a “staging ground” for terrorists. Responding to critics who say Afghan diplomacy depends on U.S. military presence, Biden said that line of thinking would keep the U.S. there “indefinitely.”

Since 1994 the planet has lost 28 trillion tons of ice, Mother Jones reported.

Modern pesticides are more toxic to invertebrates, bees and other pollinators. Populations of these insects are plunging, despite a decline in the amount of pesticides used (with the exception of GMO crops), the journal Science has shared. The study, based on U.S. government data, noted that some replacement pesticides, like neonicotinoids and pyrethroids, are more toxic. The European Union has banned the outdoor use of neonics, and Pesticide Action Network stated that some neonics are 10,000 times more toxic than DDT, “the most notorious insecticide in history.”

Pollinators aid a third of world food crop production. ACS Publications said neonics damage baby bee brains, weaken their immune systems and hinder bees’ ability to locate hives.

After Donald Trump and “key allies” were suspended from using a number of social media sites, online misinformation about election fraud dropped 73 percent, according to research firm Zignal Labs. Recently YouTube announced that the former president will be allowed back on its platform.

Minority rule in U.S. politics is new since World War II. It did exist before that, The Atlantic has pointed out. So far this century, two presidents failed to gain the majority of votes. Instead, they gained office via the Electoral College. And in 2020, Republicans made up the majority of seats in the Senate, but represented 20 million fewer people than the Democrats.

Historically, a party elected by a minority does not reach across the aisle, but instead works to “consolidate their power.” Based on past observation, The Atlantic said that when minority parties have been removed from power “the backlash against them was swift and strong.”

The current influence of minority rule has resulted in a Supreme Court where conservatives have a 6-3 majority, but they are likely to oppose issues the majority of Americans favor, such as health care and abortion rights, according to The Atlantic.

Novel defense: After being sued by Dominion, a voting machine company, for publicly claiming the machines used technology that could switch votes for the former president to other candidates, one-time Donald Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s attorneys are claiming that “no reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact.” The Guardian said the defamation suit seeks $1.3 billion in damages.

Before COVID-19 began in 2020, global emissions went “totally flat” in 2019, Discover magazine reported. The downward trend was attributed to significant declines in use of coal and increases in the use of renewable energy, said the International Energy Agency. There were further emissions declines in 2020, due in part to the virus altering everyday life.

Despite that downward trend, atmospheric carbon dioxide reached a new high in 2020 and will continue to rise. Emissions have to get down to zero to counterbalance the past overabundance of emissions. So, despite the decline, more diligence is needed to ward off severe impacts of climate change (deadly heat waves, severe droughts and stronger storms).

Last week the Treasury Department announced sanctions against entities and individuals working with the Russian government to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election, CNBC reported. The sanctions included expelling 10 Russian diplomats, and also prohibited U.S. banks from investing in Russian bonds. Treasury officials documented that Russian intelligence was provided with secret polling data and campaign strategy information by former partners in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Blast from the past: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” wrote Aldous Huxley, 1894-1963, author of the satirical novel “Brave New World.”