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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| December 17, 2021 7:00 AM

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

NBC reports that federal resources were authorized after 35 tornadoes and severe weather recently tore through southeastern and midwestern states. Total deaths have yet to be determined. Kentucky’s governor said it was “the most devastating, most deadly tornado event” in that state’s history. FEMA officials said the massive event may become a “new normal” for December.

The U.S. House has approved raising the debt ceiling with a simple majority vote, CBS reported. Republicans have resisted raising the ceiling, which pays for existing — not new — bills. Under former President Donald Trump the debt ceiling was raised three times. Failure to raise the ceiling jeopardizes Social Security payments and risks calamity for the economy and national security. The Senate followed suit on Dec. 14.

A New York Starbucks location recently unionized, the first of Starbucks’ 8,953 stores. Columnist Robert Reich, a former labor secretary, said in the first nine months of 2021 Starbucks profits rose $3.6 billion. The CEO made nearly $15 million last year. Average hourly wages for employees: $14.

New autism numbers were recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and show that, among 8-year-olds, one in 44 has an autism diagnosis.

Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, has ended his cooperation with the House’s Jan. 6 investigation committee. The committee recently learned his private cell phone records were not transferred to the Records Administration as required by law. Info already submitted by Meadows included an e-mail about a 38-page Power Point presentation, which detailed various options for scrapping the valid election results and allowing Trump to retain power. It was shared with various members of Congress prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Hopes for then-Vice President Mike Pence to help skew election results were denied. (The day concluded with protesters chanting, “hang Mike Pence.”) Pence’s chief of staff is cooperating with the committee.

In a televised meeting, committee members read aloud Jan. 6 text messages to Meadows, wherein Republican lawmakers and Fox News personalities begged Trump to stop the out-of-control protestors, saying the mob looked bad for the Republican Party and that “someone could get killed.” (Five people ultimately died.) The committee has indicated they have a vast trove of information that includes names of lawmakers and staff involved with the day’s events.

Historian and author Heather Cox Richardson commented: “The fact that members of the president’s inner circle actually prepared a presentation for an audience about how to overturn an election crystallized just how close the nation came to a successful coup on Jan. 6.”

The committee released a 51-page document last weekend, indicating Trump said only pro-Trump protesters should be protected by law enforcement and including Jan. 6 texts with members of Congress about how to undermine election results.

A recent “War Room” podcast presented by former Trump Chief of Staff Steve Bannon explored actions to be taken if Trump is elected in 2024. Bannon said teams of “shock troops” would take over about 4,000 government positions. “This is Trumpism in power,” Bannon stated. “Get them ready now.”

In Illinois a bill was introduced to require those not vaccinated against COVID-19 to pay their own medical expenses if they contract the virus. NBC said the bill was pulled due to violent threats. Similar approaches are being considered elsewhere. In Nevada, non-vaccinated workers face a monthly $55 surcharge if they are enrolled in an insurance plan. (There have now been 800,000 U.S. COVID deaths.)

Of the nation’s reported 43 omicron COVID-19 variant cases, the CDC says 80 percent were fully vaccinated. Their ages ranged from 18 to 39 and 14 had travelled internationally. Symptoms were mostly mild, but some also experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell.

The Joint Committee on Taxation says if Build Back Better is passed, millionaires will see their tax rate go up 3.2 percent next year and 6.4 percent by 2031. Shifting the tax burden to the wealthy and corporations is expected to raise over $600 billion when offshore tax loopholes are closed. A proposed millionaires surtax would raise $228 billion from those with the highest incomes. Closing two significant loopholes for rich business owners would raise another $412 billion. An additional $400 billion would be raised when wealthy tax cheats pay what they owe, American for Tax Fairness stated.

The nation’s highest deficit, $3.13 trillion, occurred in 2020. This year it is $2.77 trillion and this year the government collected $627 billion more in tax revenues than it did in fiscal year 2020, for a record high of $4.05 trillion, according to The New York Times.

Inspired by Texas’ new abortion law, California’s governor said he’s preparing a similar law to allow people in his state to sue manufacturers and sellers of assault weapons. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, tweeted: “If TX can ban abortion and endanger lives, CA can ban deadly weapons of war and save lives.”

Blast from the past: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” wrote Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning American author, William Faulkner, 1897-1962.