Sunday, February 25, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| September 28, 2021 7:00 AM

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

Last Friday, 318 days after the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump via letter asked the Georgia secretary of state to decertify their election results “or whatever the correct legal remedy is” so he could reclaim the presidency. Trump did not claim fraud, according to The Washington Post, but did claim a violation chain of custody rules, which he said would make 43,000 ballots invalid.

According to a recent U.K. study, those who are vaccinated have half the risk of experiencing long-haul symptoms from a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new study shows evidence that unvaccinated people who already beat COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to get the disease again, as compared to those fully vaccinated.

It took 19 months for the nation to reach one in 500 people having died from COVID-19, The Washington Post reported. The death toll from the disease exceeded 663,000 last week. The figure in low-vaccinated Mississippi was 1 in 320, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Worldwide, Reuters reported that 58 percent of the population has yet to receive even one vaccination dose, creating a vibrant playground for COVID-19 to form variants.

Worker shortage: It used to be (in the early 20th Century) that the average age in the U.S. was 23. It’s 38 today, according to Ben Waddell, associate professor of sociology, and a contributor to Writers On the Range. That has narrowed the pool of potential employees. But Waddell highlighted there are other deterrents: unaffordable rent due to the hot real estate market and fewer immigrant workers. The latter reflects a 44 percent drop in temporary and permanent worker visas, and the fact that more Mexicans are going home rather than coming to the U.S. One problem faced by immigrant workers is wage theft, according to Pacific Media Workers. Some communities have ordinances against wage theft. The National Association of Home Builders said in 2020 that close to one in four construction workers was foreign born.

The left-right political divide in the U.S. was further demonstrated when, at a Republican political gathering in Dallas, the audience applauded when a speaker said President Joe Biden would not be meeting his 70 percent vaccination goal.

The plan for Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices via the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBB Act) hit a snag: all Republicans and two Democrats are resisting, joined by the pharmaceutical industry. The New York Times said high drug prices are a top voter concern. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, prices for some drugs would fall by more than half, and the federal government would save over $450 million over 10 years if the BBB Act language is passed into law.

Compromises taken in order to pass the BBB Act (that aims to invest in childcare, education, paid family leave, healthcare and care of the climate) are compromises for the wrong reason, wrote Robert Reich, former U.S. labor secretary, in The Guardian. While it’s normal for Republicans to make decisions based on campaign donations, he said the practice is holding sway over some Democrats, such that initial plans to tax the wealthy has instead morphed into a 3 percent surtax on incomes over $5 million. Reich pointed out that most wealthy people don’t live off of an income.

The departure from plans to tax extreme wealth and to tax certain incomes instead also includes retaining some corporate loopholes and special tax breaks for oil and gas companies. Added to lawmaker’s fear of losing campaign donations is the fear they’ll be targeted with expensive and misleading ads about “job-killing” taxes, Reich stated.

Republican resistance to the BBB Act has been aided by Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.). Manchin, according to Open Secrets, founded two coal companies and is a top recipient of campaign funding from the oil and gas industry. He also chairs the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Blast from the past: 159 years ago this month soldiers from the U.S. and the Confederacy fought at Antietam Creek in Maryland. The Confederates hoped to pull Maryland into the rebellion as well as affect the 1862 election. And U.S. commanders hoped for a decisive victory against the rebels.

It earned a reputation as the bloodiest single day in American history with about 23,000 men killed or wounded. The conflict also marked the first time photographs were taken at the battlefield. When shared with the public in a New York City studio, the stills of dead soldiers brought the war to life in a new way. Both sides had initially thought the war would be over after a few battles.

The North’s narrow victory in Maryland prompted President Abraham Lincoln to declare that as of Jan. 1, 1863, all people held in slavery would be forever free, and the U.S. government would “maintain the freedom of such persons.” By the end of 1863, Lincoln redefined the war as that of protecting the nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all me are created equal.”

The Confederates were defeated in 1865.