Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| August 12, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

Last week Hungary’s autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orban got a standing ovation when he spoke to thousands of admirers in Texas at the Conservative Political Action Conference, The Guardian said.

Right Wing Watch observed that right-wing leaders love Orban for the same reason they love Vladimir Putin: they embrace Christian nationalism, are not averse to strongman tactics, and want to enforce their idea of traditional values about family and sexuality.

Kentucky’s flooding, which has taken at least 37 lives, is linked to coal mining, The New York Times found. Lack of trees, removed by mountain top and other coal mining practices, meant that when heavier-than-normal rains came (caused by climate change from coal burning) flooding was worse.

The first person to be convicted at trial for his participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was given a seven-year sentence, Business Insider reported. The man’s daughter objected, saying the lengthy sentence was unfair since more powerful people involved with the riot remain free.

The Labor Dept. says U.S. employers added 528,000 jobs in July, over twice what was expected.

Kansas shocked anti-abortionists last week when state voters, who had rallied for Trump in 2020, voted to protect abortion rights in their state.

Conspiracy theorist and Info Wars host Alex Jones is in the hot seat, The New York Times reported: A Texas jury last week said Jones must pay $49.3 million in a case brought by parents of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook, Connecticut school shooting for Jones’ spreading of disinformation (20 young children and six teachers died). He’d claimed the shooting was staged and not real.

Jones’ fabricated stories about the school shooting led to parents being harassed: gunshots were fired at a home, and they experienced an onslaught of threats. Testimony said the parents suffered “complex PTSD.” Jones financial records indicated he was again fabricating when he said under oath he was bankrupt: he earns about $800,000 daily from sales of gun paraphernalia, diet supplements and survivalist gear advertised in his broadcasts.

Parents suing Jones say their primary goal is to alert people to the harms from disinformation, and to warn disinformation dispensers that there will be consequences. Jones plans to appeal, AP said. More trials brought by Sandy Hook parents are scheduled.

As well, the Jan. 6 House Committee plans to explore Jones’ involvement with planning and promoting the attempted coup. Earlier this year Jones was virtually deposed by the committee; AP said he used the Fifth Amendment “almost 100 times.”

The U.S. Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Sunday. The vote was 50 Republicans against and 50 Democrats for; the vice president broke the tie. Next, the House vote this week.

If that flies, various sources say the IRA will authorize $300 billion for working on climate change, (the EPA says it will save families on average $500 a year on energy costs, while creating new jobs); the IRA will see a three-year extension of healthcare subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (it will cap insulin costs at $35 a month for Medicare users, but 43 Republicans voted against it for private insurance plans); it allows Medicare a limited ability to negotiate prices on prescription drugs (which will also provide savings for the government), $100 billion will go to the IRS for audits on large accounts (which is expected to offset the expense due to new revenue from corporate tax shirkers); corporations making $1 billion or more will pay a 15% minimum tax; and, stock buybacks will be taxed at 1%.

Savings from the various measures will enable investing $300 billion to reduce the deficit.

Courtesy of Congress’ conservative elements, gone are President Joe Biden’s original ideas about investments in home health care, universal pre-K, funding for community college tuition, and other measures.

Republicans labeled the IRA as “tax and spend,” but, non-partisan government committee evaluations showed, pre-vote, that the bill will raise $70 billion over the next decade. And, due to new credits and other incentives for lower-energy sources, there will be a net tax cut for some corporations.

Rather than adding overall to spending, measures in the bill would show a reduction in federal spending by decade’s end. The president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the IRA is superior to Build Back Better: it “manages to push against inflation, reduce the deficit and, once fully phased in…would actually cut net spending without raising taxes.”

Historian Heather Cox Richardson commented on the IRA that, “At a time when authoritarians are trying to demonstrate that democracies cannot function nearly as effectively as the rule of an elite few, he [Biden] is proving them wrong.”

The IRA faces the final House vote this week, and Big Pharma lobbyists have been pressuring lawmakers to kill the bill, says Social Security Works. Lobbyists want four Dems to vote “no.”

Blast from the past: U.S. law disqualifies a person from holding office if they “willfully and unlawfully” conceal, remove, mutilate, obliterate, falsify or destroy records, documents or items filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court, or in any public office.