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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| September 3, 2021 7:00 AM

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

If you have a medical bill that surprises you, The New York Times wants to review it. Hospitals were ordered to share a complete list of prices they negotiate with private insurers. The Times reported that many are ignoring the order. What has been shared shows “wildly different amounts” for basic procedures. Example: A Pennsylvania hospital charges $18 for a pregnancy test, but for the state’s Blue Cross customers it’s $58. Meanwhile, Blue Cross patients from New Jersey pay $93. With no insurance, it’s $10.

Exactly 16 years after the devastating Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida descended upon Louisiana, Mother Jones reported. With winds at almost 157 miles per hour and up to 15 inches of rain, there was vast destruction. Recovery is expected to take months. But a $14 billion levee system designed to prevent massive flooding held, reducing risk to lives. In 2005, 1,800 lives were lost.

The U.S.’s 20-year war with Afghanistan ended Aug. 31, culminating with the world’s largest airlift — more than 120,000 people — removed in 17 days. ISIS-K’s disruption of the airlift killed 13 Americans.

COVID-19 and the brain: The National Institutes of Health estimates as many as 30 percent of survivors will experience lingering neurological or psychiatric symptoms. That can include fatigue, vision issues, compromised attention and brain fog. Many sufferers were not hospitalized and, National Geographic reported, it is not known if these people will fully recover.

Calls to poison control centers about use of ivermectin have increased five-fold and emergency rooms are seeing increased use by those using the livestock de-wormer, Business Insider reported. Excessive use of ivermectin can cause stomach upset, hallucinations, confusion, drowsiness, rapid breathing and tremors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said one person drank an injectable version of ivermectin. Another took five tablets daily for five days and experienced “altered mental status.” A Georgia police officer, an activist advocate for ivermectin, died from COVID-19, The Independent reported. That article noted that other problems associated with the use of ivermectin can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, allergic reactions, dizziness, seizures, coma and sometimes death.

A third COVID-19 vaccination skeptic and radio host, Marc Bernier, has died from the disease, Slate.com reported. Bernier had stated he thought the virus was a hoax.

Protections against COVID-19, including the delta variant, from Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines decline over time, Nature.com reported. The Pfizer vaccine showed 92 percent protection two weeks after the second dose, falling to 90 percent after 30 days, 85 percent after 60 days and 78 percent after 90 days. Both vaccines are currently “doing well” against the Delta variant, by keeping viral loads lower. Still, it’s now thought that a vaccinated person can be a transmitter. Protection of the vaccinated can be enhanced with masks and “other precautions,” according to research reported in The Washington Post. More COVID-19 cases are likely when people feel fully protected and therefore abandon earlier protection efforts.

Bounty hunting in Texas: Not only is Texas seeking to ban abortions at six weeks, before most women are aware they are pregnant, but SB 8, which went into effect Sept. 1, allows anyone to sue an abortion provider and collect at least $10,000 per abortion. The ACLU is challenging it as unconstitutional.

Voter restriction efforts are well-funded and backed by organizations whose ultra-conservative boards of directors include the upper echelons of wealth, according to Jane Mayer, author of “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” The billionaires’ strong push has so far resulted in 18 states passing voting rights restrictions.

In Mayer’s research for her New Yorker article, “The Big Money Behind the Big Lie,” she discovered that the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation provided a primary money stream for enabling voting restrictions. Harry Bradley was a John Birch Society founding member. Another plan would sidestep voters with claims of fraud and was supported by True the Vote, the Public Interest Legal Foundation and the Heritage Foundation’s Election Reform Initiative. After investigating the organizations’ claims of massive voter fraud, Mayer said their arguments fell apart with careful scrutiny.

Were the people she interviewed proud of their election subversion work? Mayer told NPR that most declined to talk to her. The anti-vote organizations’ main goal is creating distrust in the voting process, Mayer believes, setting the stage for a situation where the majority vote could be cast aside.

Blast from the past: “We stand for a living wage. Wages are subnormal if they fail to provide a living for those who devote their time and energy to industrial occupations. The monetary equivalent of a living wage varies according to local conditions, but must include enough to secure the elements of a normal standard of living — a standard high enough to make morality possible, to provide for education and recreation, to care for immature members of the family, to maintain the family during periods of sickness, and to permit a reasonable saving for old age,” said Republican Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. president, 1901-1909.