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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| April 30, 2021 7:00 AM

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

New Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told the Storm Lake Times there’s been a significant shift toward conservation agriculture. He favors new markets that pay farmers and foresters to sequester carbon in the soil. It would be funded by credits bought by carbon generators. Vilsack also favors assistance to disadvantaged farmers, improvements in U.S. Forest Service management for climate-driven wildfires, increases in food benefits, turning biomass into energy and smaller meat processing plants.

After you chew on that, consider this: After a Daily Mail article speculated President Joe Biden would combat climate change by limiting meat consumption the manufactured outrage quickly overran the airwaves. Fox Business promptly predicted a dearth of burgers on Independence Day and no steaks to barbecue during the summer months.

In reality, the only aspect remotely related to diet in Biden’s climate plans — thus far — is that of “deploying cutting edge tools to make soil of our Heartland the next frontier in carbon innovation.” Research shows those tools could include the use of cattle.

In 2020, the U.S. had 22 weather and climate events that cost more than $1 billion each, as compared to 16 such events the year before, TIME magazine reported.

Biden’s new executive orders prioritize climate repair coupled with good-paying jobs. The orders include creation of a Climate Conservation Corps; a buying order for federally owned vehicles to be electric vehicles (as well as made in the USA); an environmental justice advisory council; a council of advisors on science and technology; and a directive to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Last week’s virtual international climate leadership meeting saw Biden pledging to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions up to 52 percent, relative to 2005 levels, by 2030. That doubles the nation’s commitment made at the Paris Climate Agreement in 2005.

Earlier in the month 400 business leaders signed a letter asking Biden to do exactly that, writing, “new investment in clean energy, energy efficiency and clean transportation can build a strong, more equitable and more inclusive American economy.”

Biden pointed out that with just 15 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. is the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter. His stance was in contrast to China’s, which has non-specifically pledged to reduce coal consumption and get to zero-net emissions by 2060. The U.K. announced a commitment to reduce emissions 78 percent by 2035 (as compared to 1990 levels), which would take the nation three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050, The Washington Post said.

Reducing emissions will be a significant driver of a post-COVID economy. Due to past political and corporate foot-dragging that has sped up climate change damages, Vox pointed out that making climate goals will be increasingly difficult, and Biden’s pledge is inadequate but “a good start.”

The market for coal is declining in favor of less expensive alternative energy, despite past efforts to prop up coal. Recently, the United Mine Workers of America, the largest coal miners’ union, backed Biden’s plan to transition away from coal, if there is government support for workers to plug abandoned oil and gas wells, clean up mining sites and receive training for jobs in new energy technologies.

A triple-mutated COVID-19 virus is overwhelming health resources in India. Researchers there say it has the potential to be more infectious than the double-mutant version. But the evidence for that is not “concrete” at this time, Business Insider reported. India is experiencing a second wave of the viral infections and many hospitals exhausted their oxygen supplies over the weekend. At that point the nation had more than 16 million COVID-19 cases, coming in behind the U.S.’s 32 million cases.

Democrats will be able to use the reconciliation process (a simple majority of Senate voters) at least one more time during the 117th Congress, according to the Senate Parliamentarian. That process dodges the threat of a bill-killing filibuster and a need for 60 votes — a super majority — to pass legislation, according to The New York Times. Currently, the Senate is divided 50-50, with the vice president serving as a tiebreaker. Republicans have shown no indication of making compromises that would pass legislation shown by polling to be popular with voters.

Psychedelic drugs are getting consideration for help with mental health issues, The Week reported. Psilocybin or LSD, when used with trained supervisors, can avoid unwanted effects. Neuroscientists found that the drugs can stimulate new brain cell growth and help parts of the brain communicate better. There’s also the impact of dissolving the ego, resulting in a sense of oneness with the universe.

Benefits are said to be “profound and wide-ranging,” including giving up smoking. In one experience, an atheist said he felt “bathed in God’s love.” Others have said their fear of death leaves them. The FDA now regards psilocybin as “breakthrough therapy” for anxiety and depression.

Blast from the past: In 1929 Chicago’s Valentine’s Day Massacre saw a gang massacre seven members of a rival gang, which led to legislation prohibiting automatic weapons in the U.S.