Friday, June 21, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| June 11, 2021 7:00 AM

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

The first case of mystery brain attacks, also known as Havana Syndrome, was observed in Cuba. Victims, all U.S. government officials, experienced concussion symptoms, headaches, dizziness and often a loud noise prior to onset of symptoms. Now 130 cases are under investigation, according to the Huffington Post. National Security Agency documents suspect a “hostile country” is possibly using a microwave weapon to “weaken, intimidate or kill an enemy over time.”

The millions paid to cyberhackers who held Colonial Pipeline (CP) hostage have been recovered, CNN reported. CP had quickly paid the ransom while following FBI instructions that allowed tracing the money trail. It appears the hackers were based in Russia but not government affiliated.

Former President Donald Trump’s Facebook account will be suspended for two years and only reinstated if “the risk to public safety has receded,” the company said. Under a new policy, Facebook says it will create suspensions based on the behavior of public figures during times of heightened violence or unrest.

President Joe Biden has called for a 90-day study to determine the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, Business Insider reported. The primary theories: animal-to-people and a Chinese laboratory leak. The latter has been doubted but not ruled out. The study plans to utilize a deep dive into text messages and emails. China has announced it will no longer cooperate with any further WHO investigation.

While coronavirus cases and deaths are down in the U.S., for the unvaccinated the rate of infection remains the same as in December, prior to vaccinations. Business Insider says there are several states, like Michigan and Florida, where the unvaccinated are 50 percent more likely to require hospitalization. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation calculates the true number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. exceeds 900,000.

CNN says the Biden administration plans to distribute 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccinations to the rest of the world by the end of the month. The goal: to save lives and hasten the pandemic’s end.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examined the House Republican’s alternative 2022 budget plan and said it proposed ending Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as repealing the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid and CHIP would be replaced with block grants at rates characterized as inadequate. States could either make up the funding shortfall or cut eligibility standards. Block grant funds could also be diverted to other purposes at the state level.

The likely result of the House Republican plan, CBPP says, would be the loss of Medicaid coverage by 17 million people due to the repeal of the ACA, and tens of millions of people either becoming uninsured or underinsured. The Republican budget proposal, according to Fox News and Social Security Works, also calls for increasing the retirement age, increasing the eligibility age for Medicare, establishing a closed-door commission to further cut Social Security and Medicaid benefits, and another $1.9 trillion in tax cuts, which would be in addition to Trump’s $2 trillion tax cuts that primarily benefited the rich.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), drew heat for his explanation of opposing the pro-voting For the People Act. Manchin claimed it lacked bi-partisan support, but numerous polls have shown some 68 percent of Americans support the bill. The real worry appears to be the bill’s limitations on secretive dark campaign money, which has prompted wealthy corporations to call for the destruction of the bill (according to a phone discussion leaked to The New Yorker). Ironically, according to Politico, in the last election cycle Democrats drew more dark money than did Republicans, but are still calling for an end to secretive donations.

Last weekend, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen convinced top international finance ministers to reverse a 40-year trend of tax cuts for corporations in favor of a 15 percent global minimum tax on multinational corporations, The Washington Post reported. Negotiators hope to expand the agreement this fall to other countries. The 1980 average global corporate tax rate was 40 percent and fell to 23 percent by 2020 as countries competed for corporate presence in what has been called a “race to the bottom.” As a result, 2017 figures show multinational firms had tucked away some $700 billion in tax-dodging havens, thereby financially blocking new domestic programs designed to improve the economy.

Blast from the past: A lesson from Frederick Douglas, for grads: in 1838 Douglas escaped slavery after 20 years of experiencing a number of good and bad slave owners. He worked in a Baltimore shipyard, earned good money for his master, and had some freedom and protection. A friend with free papers gave Douglas his papers so he could escape — as long as no one examined the papers too closely. Douglas took the risk and got on a train. If he were discovered, he would be sold “down the river” into harsh slavery. As historian Heather Cox Richardson points out, Douglas could have remain in his relatively comfortable slave position or take a chance; the chance he took resulted in

him becoming “a powerful voice for American liberty.” For new graduates, Richardson advises, “When the day comes that you have to choose between what is just good enough and what is right … find the courage to step on the train.”