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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| August 27, 2021 7:00 AM

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

Student debt will be automatically erased for borrowers with total and permanent disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education has announced. An estimated 300,000 people will be affected. The Debt Collective calculates the average debt for those people at $18,000.

Annually, international governments provide up to $1 trillion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Oil Change International reported that in the U.S. that’s typically $20.5 billion, but “credible estimates” say it can be as high as $52 billion. So, while the price of fuel could be higher at the pump, taxpayers are still paying one way or another. OCI said at least 75 percent of known fossil fuels must stay in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

In Tennessee, 25 percent of the state’s annual rainfall recently fell in one morning, causing massive floods, destruction and the loss of at least 22 lives, USA Today reported.

According to multiple news outlets, commercial airlines have been pressed into service to help evacuate people in the wake of the Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban. By early Monday 37,000 had been flown out.

A bipartisan group of U.S. governors is offering to take Afghan citizens, NBC News reports.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has now been fully approved by the FDA.

On Monday some 75 Florida doctors, pre-shift, staged a protest about having to treat unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. Florida leads the nation in daily number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and had 150,000 new cases in the past week, according to Business Insider.

At least 81 children died of COVID-19 between March and July, the CDC reported. A senior health scholar at John Hopkins University told NBC the childhood infections are due to lack of precautions, by both leaders and others, including parents.

More police officers have died of COVID-19 than from all work-related causes combined, Vice reported. Two main contributing factors: Police interact daily with the public and law officers have low vaccination rates. Some police departments are now requiring vaccination for officers to keep their jobs.

With a 37 percent vaccination rate, Mississippi is averaging over 3,500 new COVID-19 cases per day and more than 20,000 students have been quarantined after exposure, The Washington Post reported. Another problem: People are purchasing the animal de-wormer ivermectin in an attempt to treat COVID-19. About 70 percent of the state’s poison control center calls are regarding ingesting ivermectin.

The de-wormer can cause rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, neurological disorders and hepatitis, which requires hospitalization. The state’s health officer says ivermectin is approved for some uses in humans, but needs to be doctor-prescribed and the veterinarian version should not be used. Merck, producer of ivermectin, does not support its use for COVID-19 purposes. Tennessee radio host Phil Valentine took ivermectin after getting the disease, but it did not save his life.

Close to a half million first-time doses of COVID-19 vaccine are now being administered daily, Bloomberg.com reported. That level was last seen at the end of May. It appears to be driven by awareness of how the delta variant is more easily transmitted.

COVID-19 booster shot primer: Free boosters may soon be available, pending Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approval, The Washington Post said. So far, those fully vaccinated can expect strong protection against hospitalization. Israel began offering Pfizer boosters to those over 60 and to the severely immuno-compromised last month. Germany France, Hungary, Spain, Italy and England are also preparing to offer boosters.

Poorer countries are faulting wealthier ones for offering a third shot while so much of the world hasn’t had any vaccination at all. The World Health Organization is suggesting a moratorium on boosters until the rest of the world catches up on vaccinations. The Post said the U.S. has donated more vaccines than all other nations combined.

Blast from the past: In the mid-1930s, a doctor in California witnessed elderly women scavenging garbage for food. He devised a plan that would help the economy and provide dignity for the elderly: Retired people over age 60 would get $200 a month from the government. The idea reached Congress, where the clout of senior voters gave it pull. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins led Congress in moving forward on what would become today’s Social Security Administration. The Social Security committee made little progress until Perkins locked the door on a session, provided “a couple of bottles of something or other” (in Perkins’ words) and did not unlock the doors until they had a final plan — at 2 a.m.

It passed 371 to 33 in the House and was approved in the Senate, 77 to 6. It became law in August 1935.