Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| July 16, 2021 7:00 AM

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

At 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a lightning bolt is four times hotter than the sun’s surface and causes a shock wave, which we know as thunder. Hitting a human, it sends 300,000 volts of electricity across the body in three milliseconds, and can disrupt or short-circuit the body’s electrical system.

It can cause cardiac arrest, brain damage, severe burns and a disconnect between the brain and bodily movement. Victims may end up contemplating suicide. There’s now a Lightning Shock and Electric Shock Survivors Support Group.

The delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading among the unvaccinated in Missouri, with some hospitals now strained, according to multiple media sources, including PBS.

After two decades, more than $1 trillion spent, 2,448 American lives lost and another 20,722 servicemen and women wounded, President Joe Biden said the nation’s military presence in Afghanistan will end Aug. 31. There have been up to 40,000 civilian deaths.

Some voices have urged staying longer. Instead of sending another generation to Afghanistan, “with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” Biden will pursue other avenues.

According to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the current primary danger from terrorism in the U.S. is that of “homegrown” terrorists that are “violent extremists.”

Biden recently signed an executive order “promoting Competition in the American Economy. He said that some goods, like hearing aids, prescription drugs, Internet services and agricultural supplies, are overpriced owing to a lack of competition in the marketplace. Capitalism without competition is actually exploitation, Biden said.

He plans to use 72 specific actions to enforce antitrust laws, stop abusive monopolies and put an end to “bad mergers that lead to mass layoffs, higher prices, fewer options for workers and consumers alike.” He noted that “the good news” is that the U.S. has successfully trod this path before.

In recent months, hundreds of water protectors have been arrested for civil disobedience (barricading roads and chaining themselves to equipment) at Enbridge Line 3 site in Minnesota. Canada-based Enbridge is transporting tar sands and crude from Alberta to Wisconsin via a pipeline, and is attempting to rebuild its leaky infrastructure. Protesters want no transport at all, citing severe threats to the climate (tar sands extraction emits up to three times more global warming pollution, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council), risk of water-contaminating spills and treaty rights violations. Michigan’s governor ordered Enbridge’s Line 5 be shut down (due to threats to water), but Enbridge defied the order. Biden is being urged to cancel the pipeline.

According to The Guardian, more than a billion marine animals on Canada’s Pacific Coast are estimated to have died from the recent heat dome climate event. Similar reports have been made about the Puget Sound area in Washington. Creatures impacted included oysters, clams, sea anemones, starfish and rockfish.

After they filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn 2020 presidential election results, a federal judge in Michigan may impose sanctions (possibly disbarment) against attorneys who insist Donald Trump won the 2020 election. A ruling on a request for disciplining the attorneys is expected in coming weeks, The Washington Post reported. The judge was disturbed that affidavits filed by the attorneys had obvious errors, speculation and a lack of understanding of how Michigan conducts elections.

After refusing a request to resign, the president fired Andrew Saul, appointed commissioner for Social Security by the last administration. Saul has been faulted for delaying stimulus payments, inappropriately denying disability benefits, and poor handling of COVID-19 safety measures for Social Security Administration employees.

Blast from the past: The first atomic bomb was tested July 16, 1945. Weeks later the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Plans were considered to follow the atomic bombs in Japan with conventional bombs; the Americans behind that idea were unaware of the risk that would have posed to the pilots. Historian Peter Watson, in “Fallout,” argues that bombing Japan unnecessary. Japan, he writes, was on the verge of surrender.

But there was a push to show the Soviet Union — at that time an ally — the U.S.’s capabilities. Initially work on the bomb began because it was thought German scientists were developing one. But spy work revealed that not to be the case. U.S. atom bomb scientists were not made aware of that, so work continued on the project.

At the time, it was not known that one of the project’s top scientists was passing atomic bomb secrets to the Soviets, who wasted no time developing their own bomb. It was detonated after World War II, and proved more powerful than the bombs used on Japan.

Watson argues that the USSR’s atomic bomb capabilities may have prevented the Korean conflict from developing into a World War III.

For example, Gen. Douglas MacArthur wanted to use 26 atom bombs on Korea. It was knowledge of the Russian’s atomic bomb capabilities that led to restraint.