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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| May 14, 2021 7:00 AM

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

The U.S. economy is close to recovering from pandemic losses, with a growth of 1.6 percent in this year’s first three months. That growth is linked to vaccinations and federal stimulus spending, The Washington Post reported. Unemployment has fallen, but 8.4 million jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic have not returned. One issue is the supply chain, but that’s expected to improve.

With 9.7 million American seeking work, and businesses claiming a labor shortage, what gives? Slate.com points out that lack of childcare and the popularity of hybrid school schedules owing to COVID-19 remain major issues facing workers.

Deaths from COVID-19 may be approaching a million in the U.S., according to a new study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The worldwide COVID-19 deaths may be more like 7 million, compared to the reported number of 3.24 million. Researchers have discovered “dramatic” undercounts. In calculating excess mortalities, they took into account an increase in opioid deaths, health care that had been deferred due to the virus, and many other factors.

Oklahoma will get a $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine pills it bought for treating COVID-19 cases, Axios reported. The drug, now considered ineffective, was promoted by former President Donald Trump.

With just 2 percent of the population vaccinated, India saw its worst death count from the pandemic over the weekend — more than 4,000 people. COVID-19 is now spreading from India’s urban settings, where hospitals are beyond capacity and some are out of oxygen, to rural areas. Delivery of vaccinations via drones is planned for remote areas.

Close to half of COVID-19 patients found to have “altered mental status” were younger than age 60, according to The Lancet Psychiatry. It remains unknown if that “sets the stage for serious long-term cognitive decline and dementia later on,” wrote Sanjay Gupta, M.D., in AARP magazine.

After Facebook’s oversight board recently agreed that Trump should be kept off the platform, The Guardian reported that the former president has a new online communication tool. It resembles blog posts and contains Trump’s opinions on the politics of the day. Website users can post a “like” and share site contents, but cannot respond. There are options to shop and to contribute. The oversight board recommended that Facebook revisit its ban in six months.

The Biden Administration has joined more than 100 countries in supporting a waiver of intellectual property rights for the COVID-19 vaccine. That waiver is expected to end a significant vaccine shortage. The organization Public Citizen has argued that greater vaccine access worldwide will create a greater ability to dodge vaccine-resistant variants while also making everyone safer.

Despite voting with Trump 93 percent of the time, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has drawn party ire for stating the former president lost the election and for opposing the Capitol insurrection.

Asked for his thoughts on Cheney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said “100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” The White House press secretary replied by saying, “I guess the contrast for people is 100 percent of our focus is on delivering relief to the people and getting the pandemic under control.”

The tally from Axios: As of late April the U.S. experienced 139 mass shootings.

The U.S. Justice Department has raised concerns about the election recount in Maricopa County, Ariz. The count was already certified, but state Republicans asked for yet another recount by a private contractor, Cyber Ninjas. Concerns raised, according to The Seattle Times, are that audit observers are being forced to sign nondisclosure agreements. Moreover, procedures state election officials say are haphazard and contrary to regular ballot counting procedures are being employed; ballots and laptops are being left unattended; untrained workers are using varying rules for counting; there is a lack of appropriate building security; there are severe restrictions on media access; and forensic analysis is done out of public view.

The Tucson Sentinel says the technology being used was developed by an election fraud conspiracy theorist. Business Insider reports state officials have been threatened and harassed.

Blast from the past: In 1981 President Ronald Reagan declared that “government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.” What’s often excluded was the preface: “In this present crisis.” Since then there’s been a focus on tax cuts and deregulation to create “trickle-down economics.” Critics called it “get trickled-on economics” since wealth primarily moved upward, resulting in big gaps between the wealthy and the rest. President Joe Biden recently told Congress that trickle-down “has never worked, and it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”